Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Harris, 14 July 1778

From John Harris5

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Fortone July the 14th. 1778

May it please you Excellency

The multiplicity of business you must be Engaged in, The flattering assurance of our being Exchang’d in a short time, And my not being in imediete want was the motive of my not troubling you before, also supposing Mr. Thorton to have Inform’d you of the Station of every person here. Permit me now to Inform your Excellency that I had the Command of (a Cruizer) the Brigantine Moschetto bellonging to the State of Virginia and was taken by the King ship Ariadne Capt. Pringle on the 4th. June 1777 and brought here from Antigua in the Wind Augt. last. I have understood that an Exchange is now on foot for 200 of us. Your Excellency knows if there is truth in this report and would beg leave to Remind you that if such an Exchange should take place you would please to think on me and three of my Officers, Vizt. Capt. of Marines, Midshipman, and Boatswain which are all the Men I have here. I am in doubt that there are not Officers sufficient in France to Exchange for the number we have here. However I hope your Wisdom may cause that difficulty to be surmounted. I hope you would please to comunicate your sentiment to me through the same Channel you receve this which will be conveyd to the Revd. Mr. Wren and that good man will take a pleasure in Informing me of it.6 When Mr. Thornton was here he was so harrased by the People that I had no oppertunity of knowing if there was a possibility of Drawing on the State of Virginia Thorough you Excellency’s meen’s for some small matter to purchase Necessaries shoul I be so fortunate to be among the number of those that was Exchanged or to supply me while here should it not be my fortune.

Your Excellency Character is such that I need not Apologize for this trouble I have given you. Believe me that I am among many thousands one who thinks it the greatest Honour to subscribe him Self Your Excellencys Most Humble and Obedient Servant

John Harris

The Revd. Mr Wren desires his most respectful compliments to your Exell.

Addressed: Doctr: Benjn: Franklin / Paris

Endorsed: John Harris Prisoner

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5The former commander of the Mosquito, a brig in Va. service, who had given John Thornton an account of his imprisonment in December; he was exchanged in 1779. See XXV, 415–16 n; Walter D. McCaw, “Captain John Harris of the Virginia Navy. A Prisoner of War in England, 1777–1779,” Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., XXII (1914), 160–72; BF to Harris, Aug. 12, 1779 (Library of Congress).

6For Capt. Thomas Pringle, who eventually rose to Vice-Admiral, see Alexander Pringle, The Records of the Pringles or Hoppringills of the Scottish Border (Edinburgh, 1933), pp. 325–7. Harris’ three officers were Alexander Dick, Alexander Moore, and John Smith, respectively: William R. Cutter, “American Prisoners at Forton Prison, England, 1777–1779,” New-England Hist. and Geneal. Reg., XXXIII (1879), 36, 39. For Thomas Wren, the dissenting clergyman who was aiding American prisoners at Forton, see XXV, 416–17 n.

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