Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from John Paul Jones, 24 August 1778

From John Paul Jones

ALS: American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): National Archives; copies: United States Naval Academy Museum, Library of Congress

Brest August 24th. 1778.

Honored and Dear Sir

Had I indulged my inclination since my return here I should have already troubled you with sundry letters. I must not however abuse the indulgent liberty which you gave me at parting. And I have therefore been the more troublesome to my good Friend Doctor Bancroft.7

I wish not to be thought too impatient, but you know my dear Sir, that this is the nice moment when I ought either to be in search of Marine Knowlidge with Count D’Orvilliers or in search of honor in attempting some private Enterprize. Before I was at liberty to go the good old Count pressed me much to Accompany him. But since Doctor Bancroft has informed me that it would be agreeable to the Minister that I should go I have been precluded from following the Fleet, as the present Commandant has no Orders for that purpose.

Thus circumstanced, without Employment and in appearance cast off, I have written the within letter to the Prince De Nassau, which I leave open for your perusal.8 Should you find the whole, or any part of it improper I beg of you to withhold it.

After all my disappointments I am yet persuaded that the Court had from the beginning and still have intentions in my favor, since you know the connection is not of my seeking. I am with the highest sense of your Friendship and Goodness Honored and Dear Sir Your truely Obliged very Obedient very humble Servant

Jno P Jones

NB. I have engaged part of the porter and will send some round to Havre de Grace for you & for Mr. Adams.9

His Excellency Doctor Franklin

Endorsed: Augt 24 78 de Brest. Capt Jones

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Three surviving letters to Bancroft of Aug. 14, 21, and 24, are summarized in Charles Henry Lincoln, comp., A Calendar of John Paul Jones Manuscripts in the Library of Congress (Washington, 1903), pp. 45, 47, 48–9.

8Jones’s friend Charles-Henri-Nicolas Othon, prince de Nassau-Siegen, has been identified above, XXVI, 558 n. The letter repeats Jones’s litany of complaints and begs the prince to use his influence with the King to secure him a ship. It is printed in John Henry Sherburne, The Life and Character of John Paul Jones … (2nd ed.; New York, 1851), pp. 72–3.

9Largely invisible in our documents, the story of this prize porter which Jones freely offered to BF, JA, JW and Bancroft illustrates another aspect of his frustration and reflects the power struggles among the American factions in France. Before the Lord Chatham’s cargo was sold on Aug. 17, Thomas Lee had promised to reserve Jones 100 hhds. of its porter. After the sale, Jones was told he could have only half that amount. For the next three weeks, the captain made repeated applications for its delivery, to no avail. Finally on Sept. 6 Berubé de Costentin, acting for Schweighauser, told Jones his credit was worthless and the porter would not be delivered unless paid for in cash. The same day, an indignant Jones demanded that Schweighauser explain to JW his position regarding Jones’s prize property and, in particular, the porter. The answer came on Sept. 13 via Thomas Lee: Berubé de Costentin had that day been ordered to deliver the porter whenever convenient. Jones to Schweighauser, Sept. 6, and to JW, Sept. 11, 1778, National Archives; Thomas Lee to Jones, Sept. 13, 1778, U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

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