Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 28 March 1781

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: American Philosophical Society

L’Orient March 28. 1781

Dear & honoured sir

I arrived here last Evening & agreeable to my Expectation found every thing that I had to do relative to the Marquis de la Fayette very well executed by my Clerk & the ship in the Stream all ready for Sea, as she has been some Days.

I have no Instructions relative to the final Departure of this ship & I should suppose your Dispatches necessary, it is for this Reason that I could not take upon myself either to order her to Sea or to Brest for should any misfortune happen to her in consequence of my giving such Orders I should never recover the Confidence of my Country nor perhaps rise out of the Censure which I should incur; Capt Barré has however saved me from this Apprension by making use of the Authority vested in him by Congress & absolutely ordering the ship to sea with him, she would in consequence have sailed to day but, the Wind being so very Strong, the Pilot would not venture to go through the Pass; Tomorrow will be the last Day so if the wind does not Change you may suppose her at sea with the Alliance.2 The Franklin & the Aurora will sail in eight or 10 days at farthest so that I think it would be well to send on immediately whatever Dispatches you may have.

I shall write what more occurs in the meantime remain as ever Yours most dutifully & affectionately

Jona Williams J

Addressed: a monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / Ministre Plenipotentiaire / des Etats Unis de / l’amerique septentrionale / en son Hotel a Passy / pres Paris

Endorsed: Ship to sail under Convoy of the Alliance.

Notation: J. Williams Mar 28 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The Alliance and Marquis de Lafayette had made their first attempt to leave the previous day, March 27, but were prevented by a sudden windshift. When Capt. Barry returned to shore, JW evidently introduced him to Moylan. JW expressed concern that the Lafayette had taken on more freight than he had authorized, and Barry promised to keep an eye on Galatheau, and to examine the cargo when it arrived. Barry tried again to sail in the afternoon of March 28, once the rain and hail had subsided, but Galatheau ignored his signal. On March 29 Barry’s two signals, one just after dawn and another in the early afternoon, were likewise ignored. Furious, he boarded the Marquis de Lafayette and had words with Galatheau. The two ships were under way from the Isle de Groix before dusk. William Bell Clark, Gallant John Barry 1745–1803: the Story of a Naval Hero of Two Wars (New York, 1938), pp. 209–10.

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