Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners: Certificate for a Ship, [14 September 1777]

The American Commissioners: Certificate for a Ship

DS with alterations: New York Public Library; copy (?) with alteration:5 British Library

[September 14, 1777]

To the Commanders of Ships of War or other armed Vessels belonging to the United States of North America, or to any of the Subjects of said States,

This Certifies, That the Ship Elizabeth6 [altered from: Richard Penn, Isaac All] at present Commander or whoever may command her for the time being is owned by [deleted: Matthew Mease Esq. of Philadelphia] (and having been detained in England since the Commencement of the War) has obtain’d Clearance from England to Lisbon [altered from: from hence], as if English Property but in reality, with the sole purpose of carrying a Cargo of Salt and Jesuits Bark7 and other Goods, not the Manufactory of Great Britian, or Ireland to some of the United States, which by means of said Papers may be effected with little Risque,

It is therefore requested of the said Commanders, that they permit the said Ship, to pass for the purpose, and on the Voyage aforesaid without detention, and that they would afford her any assistance or Protection she may be in want of, in the same Way and manner as is usual to other Vessels of their Countrymen.

Given under our hands at Paris this 14th of September 1777.8

B. Franklin
Silas Deane
Arthur Lee

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5This is an extremely confusing document because of the changes made in both the DS and the copy. We print the former in its final version and indicate in brackets how the original wording differed, but cannot account for the differences. The copy, a clean one, is reproduced in Stevens, Facsimiles, V, no. 479; it follows verbatim the original, not the final, DS with one major alteration: the Richard Penn becomes the Harriott, although Isaac All remains the master. All, who has often appeared in previous volumes, was anchored in the Thames the previous January in the Richard Penn; Matthew Mease, her owner, contracted to sell her to Reculès de Basmarein & Raimbaux for delivery at Bordeaux: ibid., II, no. 140. How delivery was to be managed was not explained. By June Mease was in Paris trying to get her “in some service” (ibid., V, no. 475, p. 1), which may mean that he was seeking French help in removing her from England. Perhaps he expected to transfer All to another of his ships; a brig Harriott was plying out of Philadelphia in 1775 (PMHB, XXXIX [1915], 194), although he was not then the owner. All, however, remained in England; his duty to Mease kept him there, much against his will, until the beginning of March, 1778, when he finally got away: Samuel Wharton to BF, March 3, 1778, APS.

6The Elizabeth is impossible to identify because ships of that name were legion.

7Cinchona, a specific for malaria; this item has been added to the original.

8The signatures were subsequently crossed out and a note added: “New one Given.”

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