Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Houstoun, 17 March 1778

From John Houstoun5

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Savannah in Georgia 17th. March 1778.


Having the Honor to act as Governor of this State I take the Liberty of addressing you upon a Case of a most singular Nature. Mr. OBrien a Gentleman of this State had a Son, whose Name is William, at Smith’s Academy, Stoke Newington, about six Miles from London, at School, under the Charge of one Mr. William Telfair an American Merchant resident in London.6 A Report prevails here, which seems to be too well authenticated, that this young Gentleman has been by some Means or other trepan’d or forced on Board of a Man of War in the Thames and is there detained a Prisoner.

The Parents are much afflicted by the Account, and cannot find out the Name of the Ship in which their Son is. They have therefore requested of me to make application to you on the Subject, and in the most earnest Manner to solicit that you will be pleased to use every Means in your Power to find out how this Matter stands, and if possible to effect an Exchange of the young Gentleman if he has by any Means been made a Prisoner. The State will engage to furnish one in Exchange for him to be delivered to the most convenient Britanic Officer. I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect, Sir Your most Obedient Servant

John Houstoun

Endorsed: John Houstoun Georgia Young Bryan

Notation: March 17. 1778

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5He had been elected governor of Georgia the previous January: DAB.

6The father was probably William O’Bryen or O’Brien, one of the Georgia treasurers, for whom see the Directory of Congress under O’Bryen; a man of that name was sending remittances to his son in England: Smith, Letters, VIII, 355–6. William Telfair was a Loyalist and business associate of his brother Edward (above, XVIII, 52 n); they had one of the largest commercial houses in Savannah: Laurens Papers, VII, 219 n.

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