Benjamin Franklin Papers

Shubael Gardner to the American Commissioners, 22 December 1778: résumé

Shubael Gardner2 to the American Commissioners3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<London, December 22, 1778: I am not used to making addresses of this kind; please excuse my errors and accept my simple offering. Many Americans who have been brought here have entered the British whale fishery to save themselves from having to serve on men of war.4 None would have done so if there had been an alternative; I believe they would all return to America with their men if given the liberty. I must also inform you that a youth, John Blyth, who was taken with Benjamin Clark in the brig Falkland, is in Dinan prison. His father, John Blyth, is a sincere friend to all Americans, having hidden as many as forty escapees in his house at his own expense.5 Please, Gentlemen, intercede for this lad, as sending him home may pave the way for clearing others, both French and American. Our resources are almost exhausted, but I can think of no better use for what I have left than applying it to the relief of my countrymen. [P.S.] Capt. Barnard is almost ready to sail.6 Captains Joseph Chase, James McCobb, and John McCarty are on the way to France. From them you can learn more details than I can write.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2A Nantucket captain and entrepreneur engaged in the southern whale fishery for Britain. During the war he marketed whale oil and candles in London, Amsterdam, and Dunkirk; afterwards he was instrumental in establishing a colony of Nantucket whalemen in France. Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 322; Edouard A. Stackpole, Whales and Destiny: the Rivalry between America, France, and Britain for Control of the Southern Whale Fishery, 1785–1825 ([Amherst, Mass., 1972]), pp. 97–8. His name appears on Griffith Williams’ list “Friends to American Liberty”: XXVII, 299n.

3Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII, 312–13.

4Here Gardner lists six fellow Nantucket whaling masters: Benjamin Clark, Elisha Clark, Francis Macy, Paul Pease, John Lock, and William Folger, all of whom were listed by Griffith Williams as “Friends to American Liberty” and (with the exception of Folger) identified by the commissioners as commanding British whaleships: XXVII, 660n. These men had been captured by the French: see Joseph Chase’s letter of Jan. 1, 1779 (misdated by Chase as 1778), published in XXV, 392; Elisha Clark’s letter of Dec. 5, above, and XXVII, 608.

5Gardner gives the names of Benjamin Hill, “Mr. Tuck” (Sewel?), Harmon Courter, Dr. George Seegar, Matthew Cogshall, and Enoch Butts, whose escapes from Forton prison are noted in Kaminkow, Mariners; David Lymon and “Mr. Pulsiford” (Joseph Pulford), for whom see XXVII, 353; and Charles Phipping. George Seegar wrote BF on Dec. 29.

6On Oct. 13 Tristram Barnard had taken an oath of loyalty before the commissioners: XXVII, 551n.

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