Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Pottar, 27 October 1778

From Thomas Pottar3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Havre de Grace prison October 27th. 1778

May it plase your Excellency

To pardon the Liberty I take in trubling your honor to aquaint you that in the year Sevnty Six I left Amerca with Capt. Sheffild in the whale fishen and was bound to Holland with Our Oil4 but had the Misfortin to be takin in the English Chanel by the gray hound Cutter,5 whar I was Kept til I Run a way up to London, and Could get no Opurtunity of geting home to my father and was a bleched to hide for a long time from the Press, till I got on Bord of a Brig which Belonged to the frinds of Amerca, The Owner name which I make no dout you Know, is Mr. Williams,6 in wappin [Wapping] and Mr. Powel,7 that what Ever Monny I had to Spar I Gave to Relive my Contry men, the brig was Command by our Capt. Clark,8 who is an Amerca, but this Voydge had the Missfortin to be takin, by a french prvter and brought in har, would for Ever be thankful to your honor to Remove me to Amerca or on bord Aney Amercan priveteer, my broth is now Captain of an Amerca privateer and my fathr is well known to the Congres his nam is Capt. Jams Potter, now in Amerca. I Rest your honors most Obedgent Humble Servant

Thos. Pottar

would be thankful to your honr to make one of your Sarvants Send me an Ancer

Addressed: To / His Excellency Benn. Franklin / Paris

Notation: Thos Potter Whaleman 27 Octr. 1778

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3He wrote again April 7, 1779, from the same prison with the same request; that time his name was spelled Potter. APS. Thomas was probably the son (b. 1756) of Rhode Island Captain James Potter. His brothers were James C. (1754–90) and Joseph Wanton (1762–1846): Charles E. Potter, Genealogies of the Potter Families … (Boston, 1888), [pt. 4], 21, and James N. Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island … (21 vols., Providence, 1891–1912), IV, [pt. 2], 110; XIV, 193.

4Grinnell’s letter of Oct. 7 speaks of a whaling ship, the George, commanded by Aaron Sheffield bound for Holland, although there is a discrepancy in dates of departure. See also Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 319, for a mention of Sheffield.

5The Greyhound cutter, under the command of Lt. John Bazeley, was ordered in November, 1775, to cruise between Dover and Calais: Naval Docs., III, 358.

6For whom see his letters of Oct. 2 and 30.

7Thomas Powell appears in Griffith Williams’ “Friends to American Liberty are friends to Mankind,” an undated list at the Hist. Soc. of Pa. which also includes Aaron Sheffield.

8Probably Elisha Clark of the Columbus, captured in the Channel when returning from a whaling voyage to Brazil and taken into Havre de Grace, according to Griffith Williams, below, Oct. 30. Clark is also listed among “Friends to American Liberty.”

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