Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Digges, 17 November 1780

From Thomas Digges

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Novr. 17. 1780

Dr Sir

I wrote You by a frd the 14th Inst.1 which I suppose will reach you before or abot the same time with [this]. I mentiond the defection & going over of Genl Arnold to the British. For this noble action He has found many advocates here, & the ministry are mightily elated therewith; putting it upon defection in the American Army, strong discontents &ca &a. They brag of four other Generals & several officers being also in their Interest & gone over; nay they go as far as to mention the names of Knox, Skuyler, Maxwell, & another wch I forget—2 but this is all in their own way meerly held out to these thick-heads (who believe every thing the ministry tell them) in order to cover the disgrace & ignominy of the Transaction with Arnold, for whom no doubt they have given quite His worth in British Guineas. This has been an old plan, & Arnold was certainly got at before He left Phia. to take a Command nearer Washington— Tryon & Genl Patterson3 certainly brought over, a month ago, the whole outline of the plan, & ministers were so sure of its success, that I am confident it has been this & this alone which has made them so unaccountably impudent of late & so prone to brag of a certainty they had of yet doing well in Ama.— The Refugee cry now is—that if the plan had succeeded The Amn. Army would have been cut up & the game woud have been ours—it is now all over we must begin the work again, appearances are bad &ca &ca. ha! ha! ha!

They are confident still that Ternays fleet is to be destroyd & Rhode Island retaken. Much expectation from the Southern Expedn. wch had saild from N York before the last packet saild. If the accots. in the inclosd paper may be beleivd (and Capn Smith the relater of them is a man of veracity) this Expedition may probably arrive in Chesapeak after the southern army has driven Cornwallis into Cha Town [Charleston], and then a fig for their Virginia Expedition.4

It may be necessary to inform You for your better understanding the inclosd paper, that it is written by the Secy to Mr Hy L——ns, who, with the Captain of the Ship in wch. Mr L was taken have left at St Johns to come to England in Capt Berkely.— Mr Young writes to Mr L——ns from Spithead supposing He was not a Close prisoner—the letter just now found its way to me & I thought a copy might be acceptable to You.5 No new move as to Mr L——ns Confinement.

I am very respectfully Yrs—


Endorsed: Nov. 17. 80

Addressed: Monsr. B F— / Passy

1I.e., Nov. 13: XXXIII, 524–9.

2The rumor was reported facetiously in the Nov. 18 issue of the London Courant, and Westminster Chronicle, naming Generals Knox, Howe, Sullivan, and Maxwell.

3Former Gov. of New York William Tryon and Maj. Gen. James Pattison, the former commandant of New York City (for whom see Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution [New York, 1966], p. 835), had returned to England in September: London Courant, and Westminster Chronicle, Sept. 27.

4Digges’s prediction proved to be accurate. The retreat of Cornwallis to South Carolina after learning of the British defeat at Kings Mountain made ineffectual the 2,500–man expedition to Virginia led by Maj. Gen. Alexander Leslie: Willcox, Portrait of a General, pp. 349–50. See also Lafayette to BF, Nov. 19.

5The enclosure was a copy of a letter to Henry Laurens written aboard H.M.S. Vestal on Nov. 14 by his former secretary Moses Young (XXXIII, 363n). The Vestal, Capt. James Barclay, while en route from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to England, had captured the brigantine Fair American, Capt. Hugh Smith; the American captain furnished information about the Battle of Camden (XXXIII, 281–2, 396), which Young detailed in his letter and which was reported in the Nov. 18 issue of the London Courant, and Westminster Chronicle.

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