Benjamin Franklin Papers

The American Commissioners to Jonathan Williams, Jr., 25 May 1778: résumé

The American Commissioners to Jonathan Williams, Jr.2

AL (draft): Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society; four copies and two transcripts: National Archives

<Passy, May 25, 1778: Your letter of the 18th informs us of a dispute with Mr. Schweighauser about the Ranger’s prizes, with which you think you are charged until your orders are revoked. Congress authorized Mr. William Lee, and he in turn Mr. Schweighauser, to superintend commercial affairs, whereas your authority derives only from us. We therefore revoke all the powers that we have hitherto given you, so that maritime and commercial management within Mr. Schweighauser’s district may rest solely with him. We do this with no prejudice to you, whom we respect and esteem, but solely to prevent conflicts of interest and delays. We repeat our request that you give us your accounts as soon as possible.3>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Published in Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 114–15. For the long dispute behind this letter see in particular our note on JW to BF, April 9, and the commissioners’ instructions to JW of April 13. His letters to them of May 11 and 18, which indicated that those instructions had not ended the trouble, doubtless precipitated this solution. Its effect on the commissioners was divisive. Adams wrote the letter, along with that to Schweighauser of the same date, when neither of his colleagues would attend to business. Disputes between them were increasing, and he doubted that BF would sign. But sign he did, whether because he thought the decision right or because he expected Congress to approve it or for both reasons Adams would not guess. He himself had no question that it was the way to settle the controversy; from then on, however, rumors circulated that he and Lee were leagued against BF. Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 112, 116–17.

3JW responded to this request by taking his accounts to Passy; he waited there ten weeks to have them approved, and returned to Nantes in early August with the matter still open. See our note on his letter to the commissioners below, July 17.

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