Benjamin Franklin Papers

Jonathan Williams, Jr., to the American Commissioners, 18 October 1777

Jonathan Williams, Jr., to the American Commissioners

ALS: Yale University Library

Nantes Octo 18. 1777.

Honorable Gentlemen

I have recvd. a Letter from Capt. Thompson Commander of the Rawleigh Frigate by which I find the prizes made by the two Ships consisted of

750 hhds. Sugar

325 Puncheons Rum

70 Plank Mahogany

15 Casks of Coffee and the two Ships which Capt. Nicholson tells me are 500 and 800 Tons Burden. This Property was sold for 9700 Sterling, which I take to be about ⅓ of the real value, and about ½ of what in their circumstances they ought to have been sold for; This appear’d to me such a shamefull waste of Property, that I thought it my duty to signify my disapprobation of it and have written to L’orient accordingly; offering 2000 Sterling more, on your Account if the bargain is not past redemption; should that be accepted I will go over to L’orient [illegible] some dutchmen, and send the whole as French Property to Holland.

I hope you will not think me wrong in what I have done, but it is too painfull to see such measures taken with the public Interest, to remain silent.

I have too good an opinion of M. Gourlade to suppose he has acted improperly,8 but I am afraid that all concerned are not like him. I have the Honour to be very respectfully Gentlemen Your most obedient and most humble Servant

Jona Williams J

The Hon Commissioners of the United States.

Notations in different hands: Mr. Williams Octr. 18. 1777 Thomson’s Prises / Gourlade & Co.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Whether Gourlade did or not, he certainly acted fast. Speed was wisdom—earlier prizes had been confiscated—and no doubt accounted for the bargain price. Wentworth told a different story: the prizes were sold for £9,700 to Berard & Monplaisir in Lorient. “M. Gourlade was to have had a share, but could not in Conscience agree to give so little, which occasioned the delay, and M. Chaumont, Wrote a letter to the Purchasers to engage them, for the Honor and Interest of France, to make up the Price to £13000.” Stevens, Facsimiles, III, no. 274, p. 4. Arthur Lee, on the other hand, believed that Gourlade had been responsible. A later notation on this letter is apparently in his hand: “Instructions to Capt. Jones with dissent of A Lee to put their prises in the hands of Goulard & Co.” He is referring to the instructions to John Paul Jones below, Jan. 16, from which Lee dissented because the company “have forfeited our confidence in the business already entrusted to them.” That business could only have been the sale of these prizes.

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