Ebenezer Smith Platt to the Commissioners
Paris 21st. April 1778
To the Honorable Commissioners of the United States of America.
The humble Petition of Ebenezer S. Platt Most Respectfully Sheweth,
That your Petitioner is a Native of America, and was a resident in the Province of Georgia, in the year 1775, And was Chosen a Member of the Parochial Committee of Savannah,1 in said Province.
That in the month of July 1775, A Certain Ship Called the Philippa, whereof one Richard Maitland, was Master, Arrived off Savannah Harbour (Laden with Dry Goods, together with Nine Tons of Gunpowder, Four Hundred Stand of Arms, and some Lead, and Musket Balls) Where she was met by an Armed schooner, fitted out by Congress for that Purpose, who Boarded said ship at Sea, and took out all the Gunpowder, and Deposited it safe in the Magazine at Savannah. The Arms, and Musket Balls still remaining onboard, and for fear they should fall into the hands of People who were Inimicable to the Liberty of America—The Provintial Congress of said Place, (then sitting) thought Proper to send Persons Onboard to Protect the same, And accordingly your Petitioner, with two others of said Committee, were by them appointed and received a Written Order therefor Signed by the President.
That in the month of Jany. 1776 Your Petitioner Freighted two Vessels for Cape Nicholas Mole,2 With Intent to Purchase War-like Stores, and by Permission of Congress, Embarked onboard one of them himself, which unfortunately was taken within a few Leagues of her Destined Port, by his Majestys Ship Maid-stone Capn. Gardner, and Carried into Kingston in Jamaica. Where she was restored to your Petitioner again on Account of her being English Property; tho’ they obliged him to sell his Cargo.
That your Petitioner in Consequence thereof sold his Cargo, and Purchased a Vessel with Intent, to Proceed back to America, When on the 28 day of March as your Petitioner was Proceeding to Sea, his Vessel was Boarded, and Taken, by a Boat from Onboard the Antelope, Ship of War,—Your Petitioner Carried onboard said Ship, and Confined in Irons, upon an Information laid by Capn. Maitland, of his having been onboard his Ship at Savannah in Georgia by Order of Congress.
That your Petitioners Ship in Consequence thereof was Sold Without any Account being given thereof to your Petitioner. After which your Petitioner was removed by Habeas Corpus, before the Court at Kingston, Tryed, and Acquited, but for fear of his recovering Damages of the Admiral, was again remanded by the Cheif Justice onboard the Antelope as an Able Bodied Seaman.
That your Petitioner remained three months longer onboard the Antelope, in Irons, and then was Removed onboard the Boreas, Frigate, And from thence onboard the Palas, Frigate, in which he was Caried to England,3 and sent onboard the Centaur, and from thence to the Barfleur, and from the Barfleur back again to the Centaur, And from onboard the Centaur sent onshore, and up to London, and Committed to Clerkenwell Bridewell, for two Days, When he was Caried before Sr. John Fielding, and One Justice Addington, and by them Committed on the 23 of Jany. 1777 to Newgate, where he remained fourteen Months in Irons—Destitute of every Family Friend or Connection, and Depending for his Daily support, upon the Charity of a few Humane People.
That at length through the Interposition of the Committee for the Support of American Prisoners4 Your Petitioner was set at Liberty, in a Strange Country, Destitute of Money, and every Means of returning to his Native Country. And was by said Committee sent to Paris, Relying upon the Commissioners of America, for Assistance to Enable him to Return Home.
Your Petitioner therefore hopes you will be Pleased to take his hard Case into Consideration And allow him such Assistance as you in Your Wisdom shall think Fit.5
Ebenezer Smith Plat
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Platt”; in another hand: “Ebenr platts petition Paris 21 Apl. 78.”
1. In 1775, with the breakdown of the royal government, the Parochial Committee of Savannah had assumed the powers and functions of local government for the town and surrounding parish. Among other things, it enforced the Association, embargoed locally needed merchandise, and appointed a lay preacher when the local Church of England minister was banned by the Provincial Congress (Kenneth Coleman, American Revolution in Georgia, 1763–1789, Athens, Ga., 1958, p. 63). Although Platt, as a shopkeeper and supporter of the Revolution, would have been a logical choice for membership on the Parochial Committee, no mention of him in that capacity has been found (Ronald G. Killion and Charles T. Waller, Georgia and the Revolution, Atlanta, 1975, p. 219).
2. Cape St. Nicholas Môle is at the northwest corner of St. Domingue (now Haiti).
3. For additional information about Platt’s detention at Jamaica and subsequent transportation to England, see Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. description begins William Bell Clark, William James Morgan (from vol. 5), and others, eds., Naval Documents of the American Revolution, Washington, 1964-. description ends , 4:588–589, 761, 794; 5:517–520; 7:807–808. The index of vol. 5 gives Platt’s forename erroneously as William.
4. No specific reference to a committee of this name has been found. Functions like that described by Platt were, however, performed by such bodies as the relief committee headed by Rev. Thomas Wren and a London committee which, in December 1777 and January 1778, raised £3,700 for the support of American prisoners (Catherine M. Prelinger, “Benjamin Franklin and the American Prisoners of War in England during the American Revolution,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 32:264, 268 [April 1975]; NEHGR description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends , 30 :348, note 1).
5. On 26 Aug. 1777 the congress had, in response to a letter from Platt from Newgate Prison, voted to supply him with £100 and seek his exchange, and in Dec. 1777 Platt had apparently received money from Benjamin Franklin (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 8:676; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 1:326; Prelinger, “Franklin and the American Prisoners of War,” p. 265–266). Platt probably never received the former sum, but, as a result of this petition, the Commissioners gave him 30 guineas for his return to America. Platt’s passage was not uneventful, for the New Friends of Charleston, on which he and his wife sailed from France, was captured by the British privateer Leveller. On 6 March 1780, after finally reaching his destination, Platt petitioned congress for the £100 voted him in 1777 as compensation for his “exertions and sufferings” (K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783, Shannon and Dublin, 1972– , 13:321; London Chronicle, 30 July–1 Aug. 1778; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 16:230; PCC, No. 41, VIII, f. 100).