Benjamin Franklin Papers

Franklin and Lafayette’s List of Prints to Illustrate British Cruelties, [c. May 1779]

Franklin and Lafayette’s List of Prints to Illustrate British Cruelties7

AD (draft):8 Library of Congress

[c. May, 1779]9

1. The Burning of Charleston (Date)1

A fine Town by the Waterside, being a Port, but without any Defence.

A Spire rising among the Houses, belonging to the House of Worship.

A Belfrey belonging to the Town House all in Flames.—

The Inhabitants had all left it.

2. The Burning of Falmouth (Date Nov. 1775)2

A fine Town & Port, but without Defence

Ships firing hot Shot, & throwing Bombs & Carcasses into the Town; English Colours.

The Houses partly in Flames

Sailors with Torches setting fire to others.

The Inhabitants flying out of it carrying off the Sick and Aged

Women with Children in their Arms.

Some kill’d as they go off, and lying on the ground.—

3. The Burning of Norfolk3

fine Town & Port, several Churches

Town House

Inhabitants flying as above, & Ships firing

4. The Burning of Bedford4 } all defenseless Places.—
5. The Burning of Esopus5
6. The Cannonading of Bristol6
7. ——— of Stoningtown7 People flying, &c—

8. The putting Prisoners to death in cold Blood after having surrendred their Arms, & demanded Quarter.— Baylor’s Troop8

9. Prisoners dying in their Goals, with Hunger Cold & want of Fresh Air.

10. Dunmore’s hiring the Negroes to murder their Masters Families9

A large House

Blacks arm’d with Guns & Hangers

Master & his Sons on the Ground dead,

Wife & Daughters lifted up in the Arms of the Negroes as they are carrying off.

11. Savages killing and scalping the Frontier Farmers and their Families, Women and Children, English Officers mix’d with the Savages, & giving them Orders & encouraging them.

12. Governor Tonyn sitting in State, a Table before him, his Soldiers & Savages bringing in Scalps of the Georgia People, & presenting them. Money on the Table with which he pays for them.1

13. The Commanding Officer at Niagara, receiving in like Manner the Scalps of the Wioming Families.- -2

14. The King of England, giving Audience to his Secretary at War, who presents him a Schedule intitled Acct. of Scalps. which he receives very graciously.

15. American Prisoners, put on board Men of War, & whips to make them fight against their Countrymen & Relations

16. Americans put on board Ships in Irons to be carried to the East Indies, & Senegal, where they died with Misery & the unwholesomeness of the Climate.—3

17. Burning the Wounded with Straw at the Crooked Billet Small place in pensilvania4

18. Prisonners kill’d and Roasted for a great festival where the Canadian indians are eating American flesh, Colonel Buttler an english officer Setting at table

19. British officers who being prisonners on parole are well Receiv’d in the Best American families, and take that opportunity of corrupting Negroes and Engaging them to desert from the house, to Robb, and even to Murder theyr Masters

20. American officers who as they arrive in the British Camp are insulted By an enrag’d Soldiery—theyr Monney, theyr Cocades, theyr sword, and all theyr Cloathes are taken a way from them—

21. A durty prison ship where American officers are Confin’d without Being at liberty to take the Air, and so Crowded that they Can live but a few days—British officers Come to laugh at ’em and insult at theyr Miseries.

22. British officers plundering with theyr own hands farm houses, abusing the old people of the house, insulting the young land lady, and frightening the children

23. An honorable Captain Corning last Spring in the house of A Gentleman Call’d Mr West at White Marsh, Rushing in the Room where Miss West and An other Young lady Were sleeping at two o’clock in the Morning—the Captain and soldiers jump to the Beds of the two ladies, and with fix’d Bayonnets Upon theyr Breasts Make Several inquiries, and laugh at theyr dreadfull situation in the Most abusive Manner

24. An other Right honorable Captain Going out on a detachement an killing defenceless people.

25. General Gage’s Perfidy to the Inhabts of Boston.5

26. Counterfeiting the Paper Money6

Notations in Franklin’s hand: Ideas for the Prints / List of British Cruelties

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7On Feb. 2, 1780, BF told Hartley that Congress expected him to make a school book of the accounts taken by congressional order concerning British atrocities; moreover, he was ordered to have thirty-five prints designed in France to illustrate the book: Smyth, Writings, VIII, 7. BF also hoped to use the designs on coinage; see his Oct. 2, 1779, letter to Edward Bridgen (Library of Congress). Congress was interested in publicizing British war crimes (e.g., JCC, VII, 276–9; VIII, 565), and BF’s own outrage at British atrocities had been provoked recently: XXVIII, 256–9, 420. Such atrocities would form the topic of one of his most celebrated satires, the 1782 “Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle” (Smyth, Writings, VIII, 437–42).

8Of which the first sixteen, the first five words of the seventeenth, and the final two proposals are in BF’s hand; the remainder are in Lafayette’s. For an illustration of one of the pages see Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, II, 266.

9When Lafayette seems to have made his suggestions; see his letter of May 19. He inquired on July 12 about the progress of the book: Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, II, 292.

1Charlestown, Mass., burned during the Battle of Bunker Hill: XXII, 72n. For BF’s reaction to the destruction of this and the other cities subsequently mentioned here see XXII, 125, 196, 200, 242, 393.

2Actually, on Oct. 18, 1775: Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York, 1966), p. 215.

3On Jan. 1, 1776: ibid., pp. 810–11.

4Bedford, Mass., burned Sept. 5–6, 1778: ibid., p. 66.

5Esopus (or Kingston), N.Y., burned Oct. 16, 1777: ibid., p. 583.

6Bristol, R.I., bombarded Oct. 7, 1775: ibid., p. 114.

7Stonington, Conn., bombarded on Aug. 29, 1775: Richard Buel, Jr., Dear Liberty: Connecticut’s Mobilization for the Revolutionary War (Middletown, Conn., 1980), p. 47.

8A hundred soldiers from Col. George Baylor’s 3rd Continental Light Dragoons were ambushed while sleeping on Sept. 28, 1778: Boatner, Encyclopedia, pp. 64, 1085–6.

9In November, 1775, Gov. Dunmore of Va. issued a proclamation freeing “indentured servants, negroes, or others” who would fight under British colors: Ivor Noël Hume, 1775: Another Part of the Field (New York, 1966), pp. 393–6.

1Patrick Tonyn was governor of East Florida, where Indians were not seriously discouraged from taking American scalps: J. Leitch Wright, Jr., Florida in the American Revolution (Gainesville, 1975), p. 36.

2The American settlements of Wyoming Valley, Pa., were destroyed in July, 1778, by an Indian and loyalist raiding party led by Maj. John Butler from Niagara: Boatner, Encyclopedia, pp. 1221–8.

3The American Commissioners had protested this practice to North: XXVI, 593. See also BF to Sartine, May 8, above.

4Lafayette mentions this incident at Crooked Billet, Pa., in Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, I, 98.

5Described in XXII, 92.

6See XXVII, 644.

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