Benjamin Franklin Papers
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John Paul Jones to the American Commissioners, 9 December 1778: résumé

John Paul Jones to the American Commissioners1

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: National Archives

<Lorient, December 9, 1778: I forward the enclosed memorial from gentlemen who were taken prisoner under my command.2 They observe that “I am well acquainted with their situation.”3 Their present treatment is incompatible with reason, law, and humanity. Of the two hundred prisoners on board the Patience, only one hundred thirty remain. I cannot believe that you have ordered any of them back home, or set them at liberty without parole, when others of their rank are still imprisoned and you are awaiting the exchange with London. Rïou, who is in charge of the prisoners, menaces them if they dare complain; he is the scoundrel who sowed discord on the Ranger.4

If the exchange of prisoners does not occur immediately, I recommend transferring the men ashore. They ask that you return an answer through Rev. Father John, professor of English and chaplain to comte d’Orvilliers.5>

1Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII, 270–2.

2The memorial, dated Nov. 20 and published in the Adams Papers, VII, 228–9, was signed by John Walsh, captain of the Drake, Jno. Wardell and Saml. Hill, purser and surgeon on the Drake, William Moore, captain of the Patience, Archd. Borland, captain of the Tryall, and John Douglas, captain of the Sally: they have been placed amongst the foremast men and deprived of exercise and the freedom to walk the quarter deck. Inadequate anchors and frayed cables pose a danger of the ship being dashed against the rocks in bad weather. The men lack sufficient clothing, have no beds, and Rïou gives them short rations, which are often spoiled. The sea is too treacherous for supply ships to risk bringing provisions in the winter gales, which can last three weeks; only three days’ provisions are stored on board at a time. They beg the commissioners to release them on parole. APS.

3Jones quotes from the prisoners’ covering letter to him of Nov. 20, which he also forwarded to the commissioners. APS.

4Pierre Rïou, interpreter at Brest: XXVI, 419.

5Having heard nothing, Father John Mehegan wrote Jones on Dec. 19; Jones assured him, on the 23rd, that he had sent the prisoners’ memorial and would do everything he could to effect an exchange. Library of Congress.

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