Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from John Paul Jones, 19 October 1778

From John Paul Jones

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copies: Library of Congress, United States Naval Academy Museum

Brest Octr. 19th. 1778.

Honored and Dear Sir

I hope you will find the within letters entirely free from asperity or ill Nature.2 I have been and am, in the Eyes of Brest and of the French Fleet, considered as having incurred your Displeasure and being consequently in Disgrace. The Commissioners’ refusal of my Bill, my Journey to Paris without any Visible reason, the Cabals and ungrateful misrepresentations of Mr. Simpson, and my present inactivity, are held as so many circumstantial Proofs; and my Dishonor is now so firmly beleived everywhere, that it is in Vain for me to assert the contrary. Such a Situation Destroys my Peace of Mind, and is incompatible with my Sensibility: Yet I am far more affected, beleive me, by the Indignity that has been shewn thro’ me to yourself and to America, than on my own Account. I think it now beneath your Character to ask an explanation from M. De Sartine; but you are the best Judge. Had I been unconnected with him, I should this Day have Commanded more than a Frigate, without asking it, in America: And his giving me a single Frigate now after having done me so much Dishonor, and after so many Opportunities have been lost, is no recompense either to myself or to my Country. He ought now by the Laws of Hospitality, and a regard to Truth, to Do more than he at first proposed; instead of merely promising, to do less. My Heart cannot forgive him till he makes whole my injured Honor by a direct Apology and Atonement for the Past.3

My letter to the King cannot I think do Harm; and, unless you disapprove of it, I beg that it may have Course. The Duchesse De Chartres will I am persuaded undertake to deliver it into the Kings Hands: And, as you may not think fit at present to appear in the Business, either the Duc De Rochefocaulte or your Grandson will oblige me by waiting on her at the Palais Royal.4 The Duc De Rochefocaulte, as he understands the English so well and is acquainted with circumstances, would oblige me much if he could be present when the letter is presented to the King.

I do not wish to trouble the Duc De Chartres about this affair; as that Brave Prince has met with Vexations of his own, in my opinion, very undeservedly.5

Let not your Delicacy prevent my having the Honor of hearing from you: For, so far am I from blaming you as the cause of my present Unhappiness, that I am entirely convinced that you had no other Motive than my Honor and Promotion, as consistent with the Public Good. I am consequently with the Veneration of a Son who ardently wishes to render himself worthy of your Regard, Honored and Dear Sir Your very Obliged very Obedient very humble Servant

Jno P Jones

His Excellency Doctor Franklin.

Endorsed: Capt Jones Brest Oct. 19. 78

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The enclosures, dated Oct. 19, were to Louis XVI and the duchesse de Chartres. To the King, Jones outlined his activities and frustrations since Sartine first promised him the Indien through a letter from BF, June 1 (XXVI, 558–9). Ever since then, his life has been a series of humiliations; he appeals to the King because all other channels have been exhausted. To the duchess, Jones condensed the same story and begged her to present in person his letter to Louis. APS.

3Jones had begun this campaign in a letter to Bancroft, Oct. 7 (U.S. Naval Academy): if Sartine did not apologize and prove his good intentions, Jones would have to “make his perfidy public.” Bancroft’s answer of Oct. 10 claimed that Sartine was ashamed of his behavior, blaming it on the cabals and intrigues of French marine officers, and was more determined than ever to secure Jones a ship. The captain would not be mollified. “If he does not make me a direct apology and attonement for the past,” he apparently wrote Chaumont on Oct. 13, “painful as it will be, in Vindication of my sacred Honor I must Publish in the Gazettes of Europe the Conduct which he has held towards me.” Jones sent this letter, now missing, through WTF, whom he asked to translate and forward it (Oct. 13, APS). It, as well as Bancroft’s of Oct. 10, are paraphrased in Jones to JW, Oct. 20 (U.S. Naval Academy).

4“If my letters of the 19th are delivered,” Jones wrote WTF on Oct. 28, “I beg you to attend the Princess at Versailles.” APS. He presumably meant the duchess.

5The duc de Chartres had been criticized for the handling of his division of ships at the Battle of Ushant. See E. Chevalier, Histoire de la marine française … (Paris, 1877), pp. 92 ff.

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