Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Alexander Ewing, [after 21 March 1778]

From Alexander Ewing4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

[After March 21, 17785]

Honored Sir

I take the liberty to inform your Excellency of my present distresses and to claim your protection which considering the Services I have rendred to she America I hope you will not refuse me. You will be pleased to recolect that from 1769 to 1775 I was master of the Ship Jupiter constantly Employed Carrying Emigrants from Ireland to America of which at least, a thousand Entred into the Contentil Service.6 I was therefore Obliged to Stop this trade when by a resolve of Congress the 10 September 1775 all the ports ware [shut] in America and the Communication with Ireland intirely Stoped from that period till the month of february following Mr. Andw. Caldwell of Philadelphia by order of Congress got a privateer of 22 guns put on the Stocks of which I was to take the comand7 but on Some falls reports made to the Commtee of Safty I was Suplanted the Comand of the Sade Vessell. As thereby I was out of Employ, I took my passage to Ireland to See my wife and famely leaving the management of my Estate in america to a freind. Since then heaving no opportunity of returning to the continent with my Wife and Children in order to help to Support them I have brought [bought] the brig Catharine which I chartred to Mr. Cochran Merchant [of] Strabane to Come to Dunkirk to take in a cargo of Conterband goods to be Clandestently imported for Ireland. I arived here the 20th March, and the next day by order of the Court of France all the English and Irish Vessels were Stopt in this harbour Except Smuglers8 Mine being brig rigd was Included in the Arrest, thow I have Since given Sufficient proof By Mr. Cochrans letters to his Correspondent Mr. Robt. Murdoch of this place that my real Destination was Smugling. Notwithstanding my vessell Still remains under arrest and unless by your Excelences Obliging Interssion I Obtain an order to have it Delivred up to me, I am Exposed with my wife and famely to ruien, as I canot Enjoy the revinue of my Estate in america for want of a proper Conveance to remit it. Your Excellincy I hope will remember me and Consider the Sarvices I have rendred to America. My attachment to the cause is Still the Same, and I will cherfuly Embrace every Opportunity to be Usefull as my intentions are to return to America as soon as I can find a Safe passage for my Self and famely. Mr. Jonathan Neisbitt whoe I here is now at Paris knows me perfitly well, and will be able to tell you more about me then I can write.9 I am concious that his testimony will make me merit your protection and the favour of an answer will put an End to my present Distress. I have the honour to Subscribe my Self your Excelinces most obedient Humble Servant

Alexr Ewing

Your Excellincy will be pleased to observe that in order to avoid Suspisons in Ireland on my Destination I Entred the Vessell in the Name of my mate Archd. Stephenson

Addressed in another hand: A Monsieur, / Monsieur Benjn. Franklin Esqr. Député / Des états unis de L’amerique Septentrionale / a La Cour de France, en Son hotel / A Passy. / pres de Paris

Notation: Alex. Ewing

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4He makes clear that he was of Irish extraction, but we have been unable to identify him further. On May 1 he wrote again (APS) to repeat the tale of his misfortunes, to which he now added shipwreck on the N.C. coast in September, 1775; this time he asked BF to “Spake to the prime Minester in my favour.”

5The latest date he gives in his letter.

6The Jupiter made at least four voyages under his command, and was advertised as being fast and well managed; see Robert J. Dickson, Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718–1775 (London, [1966]), pp. 240, 249, 259, 269.

7For the closing of the ports see above, XXII, 199 n. Ewing apparently means that he had no prospect of employment from then until February. In his May letter, however, he said that during this period he had commanded a Pa. galley, and explained that he had been turned down for Caldwell’s privateer because “not having my famely in america thy thought I Could not be well Eanouf attachd to the Caus.” Caldwell, a fellow Irishman, was a merchant prominent in Philadelphia politics, and was appointed commodore of the Pa. flotilla in January, 1776: John H. Campbell, History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick . . . (Philadelphia, 1892), pp. 101–2; James Haltigan, The Irish in the American Revolution . . . (Washington, D.C., 1908), pp. 173–4.

8The embargo was on all British shipping in French ports, with the announced exception not of smugglers but of packet boats carrying passengers: Public Advertiser, March 27, 1778.

9For Nesbitt see the note on Coffyn to the commissioners above, March 2.

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