Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Barker et al., [16 February 1779]

From Joseph Barker et al.

DS:6 American Philosophical Society

St Pierre Martinique, to wit [February 16, 1779]

We whose names are hereunto subscribed, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, do depose & say, that we escaped from Mill Prison, near Plymouth, (in England,) on the twenty eighth day of December last, and repaired to Cawson, near Plymouth, & entered on board a certain armed Lugger, called the Dolphin, having previously agreed among ourselves to get possession of the said vessel whenever an Opportunity offered for that purpose, & to carry her into some French or American Port. This Opportunity did not present until the thirteenth day of January, when, at Midnight, we armed ourselves with Fusils, & Cutlasses, & went into the Cabbin, & summoned the Officers to surrender themselves, which they immediately complied with without making any Resistance. We then hoisted out the Boat, gave her to the Officers, & desired them to repair on board an English Brigantine, then in Sight, called the Viper. We then altered our Course, & stood for the Island of Martinique, & on the fifth day of the present Month of February we discovered the said Island of Martinique, & on our way to the Town of St Pierre, being near the Land, the Fort at Fond Capet fired upon us, which induced us to bear down immediately upon a French Frigate which we had seen come out of Fort Royal Bay. We went on board the said Frigate, & informd the Captain that we were Americans, and related to him the Circumstance of our escaping from Confinement in England & that we had rose upon the Officers & Crew of the Lugger & seized her with a View of returning to America as soon as possible, expecting to meet with Protecting & kind Treatment from the Captain of the said Frigate, but, to our Surprise, we were two Days afterward put into Goal, in the Town of St Pierre, & the Vessel in which we came was condemnd by the Judge of the Court of Admiralty—

Witness our Hand at St. Pierre in Martinique aforesaid this sixteenth day of February in the year of our Lord 1779—

Joseph Barker7
Edmd. Westley
Thomas Barker
Robert Swan
Thomas Meck
Jacob Sears—
John Bryan
Nathaniel Stacey
David Smith
John Swann
James Caskey

Sworn before me the Day last above mentioned—
Wm Bingham
Agent for the United States in the West Indies—

Notation: Feby 16th. 1779.— Deposition of 11 American Seamen, who broke Goal in England, & afterwards shipped themselves as Englishmen on board an armed Lugger, & rose upon the Capt & Crew, & brought the Vessel into St Pierre, Martinique. (No. 31.)

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In the hand of William Bingham, who probably forwarded it along with his own letter of protest, dated Feb. 10.

7Joseph and Thomas Barker, Robert Swan, Nathaniel Stacey, and John Swann (Swan) are listed in Kaminkow, Mariners.

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