Benjamin Franklin Papers
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Abraham Whipple to the American Commissioners, 19 August 1778: résumé

Abraham Whipple to the American Commissioners6

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: National Archives

<On board the Providence, Brest, August 19, 1778: I wrote you from Paimboeuf on July 31; since then the Boston joined me and on Aug. 8 we proceeded in company to Brest, delayed by unfavorable winds until the 14th. I found here that Lt. Simpson had obeyed my orders of July 24th in quickly preparing for sea. But I was surprised to find that none of the Ranger’s prizes had yet been sold, nor had the crew received a single sou for all the time they had been in France; I allowed them a day or two to try and settle the matter. This might have been sufficient had not Capt. Jones interfered in an extraordinary manner, blocking the sale and producing obstacles “as frivolous in their natures as hurtful in their effects.”7 When a man is blinded by self-interest and acts in opposition to the interests of his country, it is my duty to represent his conduct with candor and leave the determination of its pernicious tendency to my superiors.

I enclose a copy of a letter Capt. Jones sent me yesterday, along with my answer.8 Tomorrow I shall sail, wind and weather permitting, with or without the Ranger, although I shall try to settle her unhappy affairs as best I can.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VI, 381–3.

7Jones told another story. Berubé de Costentin had informed him on the evening of Aug. 16 that the Drake and Lord Chatham, with their merchandise, would be sold the following afternoon. Since the Patience was still being used to confine prisoners, she was exempt. National Archives. Jones attended the sale, he wrote Bancroft on the 21st, despite his strong objections because it had not been sufficiently advertised; the Lord Chatham and her cargo were sold separately, he heard, for 50,000 l.t. The Drake’s stores had previously been plundered—he had even seen officers’ uniforms publicly sold on shore and worn by sailors—and her sale was postponed. His personal items had been thrown ashore from a boat and left broken in the dirt. U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

8Jones asked Whipple to summon a court martial for Thomas Simpson. Whipple’s refusal, dated Aug. 19, was unequivocal: Jones could not muster the three necessary captains since Hinman, who was awaiting his own court martial in America, declined to sit; furthermore, Simpson had been released from his parole by Jones’s own letter of July 16, and was therefore not subject to examination. Copies of both letters are in the APS.

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