Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Davison, 5 July 1779

From Samuel Davison5

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Masterland6 Sweden July 5th. 1779.

Honord. Sr.

I having saild from Norfolk Virginia the first of may with the Sloop Phianix Burthen 80 tons mounting 8 carrige Guns 20 men I purpose mounting four more & Shipping as many hands here as is necessary to fight her. She is ownd By Saml Cad Morris of Phila. henry & thos. of Norfolk7 Mr. Brown having applyd at williamsburg for a commissn the Governor not having any Blanks by him from congress was obligd to Sail without a commission. If you can send me a commissn per post so as to arrive here by Middle of August Youll oblige Sr. your Most Obdt. humble Servt.8

Saml Davison

Addressed: To / The Honorible / Benjamin Franklin / Paris

Notation: Davison Saml. July 5. 1779.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Quite likely the Samuel Davison of Philadelphia who had served as a commodore in the Pa. Navy: Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 85.

6Marstrand, a free port on an island off the coastal city of Gothenburg. American vessels had been trading at the two ports since at least mid–1777: H.A. Barton, “Sweden and the War of American Independence,” W&MQ, 3rd ser., XXIII (1966), 410–11. A consul there named Pierre Eckstrom forwarded the present letter with one of his own dated July 6, volunteering to relay to Davison any papers or documents BF might send him. APS.

7Samuel Cadwalader Morris (1743–1820) was a Philadelphia merchant and political figure, as well as a former militia officer: Robert C. Moon, The Morris Family of Philadelphia (3 vols., Philadelphia, 1898), II, 437–41. Henry and Thomas Brown (whose full names are given in the next Davison letter, cited below) were prominent merchants and patriots from Portsmouth, Virginia: William J. Van Schreeven et al., eds., Revolutionary Virginia: the Road to Independence (7 vols., Charlottesville, 1973–83), II, 89; IV, 353.

8In a letter of July 10 (APS) Davison explained that on the 10th of June he had removed four casks of indigo and some provisions from the brig Robert, en route from London to New York. His disgruntled second mate reported this to the British consul at Marstrand, who demanded the return of the indigo. Davison wished BF to send a commission by the first post, addressing it to Henry Greg, a merchant at Gothenburg. The merchant, who spelled his name Greig, wrote a covering letter of the same date with more particulars on the case (APS). The want of a commission had prevented Davison’s taking the whole ship as a prize. Now the British consul had petitioned the governor of the province to sequester the Phoenix as a pirate. Greig planned to supply Davison with more men, guns, and ammunition and believed him worthy of a commission. In a later undated letter (APS) Greig reported that the governor had granted sequestration of the ship into Greig’s hands until he received the king’s orders. We have no record of any response from BF to these letters.

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