From Benjamin Franklin
M. Adams, after having perused the inclosed Papers, is desired to give his Opinion on the following Questions.1
1st. Whether Captain Landais, accused as he is, of Capital Crimes, by his Senior and late Commanding Officer, after having apparently relinquished the Command of the Alliance frigate, by with drawing his Effects from the same, after having asked and received money by Order of the Minister Plenipotentiary, in order to transport himself to America, and take his Trial there, upon the said accusation, and after having for that Purpose, in writing, requested a passage to be procur’d for him, was intituled, at his pleasure, to retake the Command of the Alliance, (contrary to the positive order of the Minister Plenipotentiary, whose orders the said Landais was by the Navy Board instructed to obey),2 and to dispossess his successor, the oldest naval officer of the United States, in Europe, who had commanded the said frigate near eight months, and brought her to the Port where she now is?
2dly. Whether the Conduct of Captain Landais, at L’Orient in exciting the Officers and Seamen of the Alliance, to deny the Authority of Captain Jones under whose Command they had voluntarily come, and remained there, and encouraging the said Seamen to make unlawful Demands on the Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States, and to enter into a mutinous Combination, not to put to Sea with the Alliance until the said Demands should be complied with, thereby retarding the Departure of the said frigate and of the Public Stores, on board, be not highly Culpable?
3dly. Whether after Captain Landais’s late Conduct and the manner in which he has retaken the Command of the frigate Alliance, it be consistent with good order, Prudence, and the Public Service, to permit him to retain the Direction of her, and of the Public Stores intended to be sent with her, accused as he is of Capital Crimes by his late Commodore, and for which if he arive in America, he must of Course be tried?
RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “from Dr Franklin.”; docketed by CFA: “June 1780.”; marked in another hand: “Queries.”
1. This undated request for JA’s opinion regarding the case of Pierre Landais and the Alliance may have resulted from a conversation between JA, Francis Dana, and Benjamin Franklin reported in JA’s unfinished and unsent letter of 23 June to Arthur Lee (LbC, Adams Papers). The documents that Franklin enclosed with this letter cannot be positively identified, but from the issues raised, particularly the first and second queries, it is likely that they included the letters exchanged by Franklin with Landais and members of the Alliance’s crew. For these letters as well as the charges brought against Landais by John Paul Jones, see Benjamin Pierce’s letter of 1 June, and notes 1–3; Arthur Lee’s letters of 5 June, and notes 3–4, and 14 June; and Pierre Landais’ letter of 14 June, and notes 1–3 (all above).
2. For Franklin’s “positive order” or rather “orders,” see Landais’ letter to JA of 14 June, note 2 (above). But Franklin may also refer to two documents that seemingly empowered him to command Landais and were likely among those sent to JA. The first was Landais’ orders of Dec. 1778 from the Navy Board at Boston, which were derived from a letter of 27 Oct. from the Marine Committee of Congress, requiring Landais, upon reaching France, to report his arrival to Benjamin Franklin “whose orders you are to obey.” The second may have been the Marine Committee’s letter to Franklin of 27 Oct. 1778, which informed Franklin that “the Captain will on his Arrival inform you thereof, and we have directed that he get his Vessel in readiness to follow any orders which you may think proper to give, which orders he is bound to obey” (PCC, No. 193, f. 607; Charles O. Paullin, ed., Outletters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, 2 vols., N.Y., 1914, 2:21–23).