Nathaniel Dowse to the Commissioners
Bordeaux 5th May 1778
On the 14th April 1777 I sailed from Virginia Commander of the Ship Mercer belonging to Messrs. Mercer and Schenck of Boston, with a Cargo of 450 Hogsheads Tobacco for Account of the Honorable Continental Congress, to the Address of Messrs. S. and J. H. Delap of Bordeaux. On the fourth of May following I had the Misfortune of being risen upon by my Crew and carried with my Vessel into Whitehaven,1 where I remained Prisoner ’till I found the opportunity of escaping on board a Hamburgh Vessel bound from New Castle to this Port, which arrived yesterday. I think it my Duty to inform you thereof, and if you judge I can be of any use to my Country either in a Publick or private Station, I most heartily make you a tender of my best Services. I have had proposals from several Merchants at this place, but have deferred treating with any ’till I know if you have Employ for me. I have the Honor of being personally known to the Honorable John Adams Esqr. who will be able to give you Satisfaction to any Enquiries you may think it necessary to make about me, and begging the favor of your reply as speedily as possible, I have the Honor of being with utmost respect Gentlemen, Your most obed. hble Servant
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “To The Honorable Benjamin Franklin Arthur Lee & John Adams, Esqrs. Plenipotentiaries from the United States of America—at the Court of Versailles"; docketed: “C Nath. Dowse 5. May 1778.”
1. According to a report in the Liverpool General Advertiser of 30 May (reprinted in 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 , 8:878), the Mercer sailed from Cape Henry on 14 April 1777. Sixteen members of its crew of 18 were reportedly English, Scotch, or Irish, former prisoners in America. Taking advantage of the situation, that group rose against Dowse on 5 May and took the vessel into Whitehaven on the 21st. Whitehaven is on the west coast of England and was raided by John Paul Jones on 23 April 1778 (Jones to the Commissioners, 27 May, below).
2. When or how Nathaniel Dowse, a ship’s captain from Charlestown, became known to JA is undetermined (William Bradford Homer Dowse, Lawrence Dowse, Boston, 1926, p. 176). Evidently the Commissioners made no response to this letter.