Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Paul Jones, 12 July 1779

From John Paul Jones

ALS: American Philosophical Society; AL (draft): National Archives; copy: United States Naval Academy Museum

L’Orient July 12th. 1779

Honored and dear Sir,

The Bowsprit of the Bon homme Richard, having been landed and examined is found not only Sprung in 2 places but in several others much decayed and Rotten:— It is therefore condemned as being Unfit for future Service.— The Old Bowsprit mentioned in my last is now Undergoing a Survey and is generally expected to answer as a good Substitute for the one Condemned.— M. De Thevenard has shewed me a letter from M. De Sartine expressing a desire that the Pallas, the Cerf, and the Vengeance should go out and Cruise for a few days in the Bay Until the Bon homme Richard and Alliance are again ready for Service and I have given them my orders to depart in Consequence—8 They are not yet out of Sight.— We are to Rendezvous at Groa about the 20th. or 22d. and I think we shall then be ready to proceed on real Service.

I have inspected very particularly into the Situation of the Bon homme Richard and am sorry to find that it is the constructor’s opinion that the Ship is too Old to admit of the necessary alteration. Thus circumstanced I wish to have an Opportunity of attempting an essential Service to render myself worthy of a better and faster Sailing Ship.— My destination from hence as there is a fair prospect of taking many Prizes makes the greater number of Men necessary; And M. de Gourlade writes this day a proposal to M. de Chaumont to Apply at Versailles for liberty to Embark an hundred to an hundred and Thirty Portuguise and other Seamen that have Arrived here in the Epervier and another Small Vessel from the Southward.— This would be a desirable thing if it could be obtained, because I could afterwards proceed with more confidence and they would be necessary towards Manning the Indien, if that Ship can at last be Obtained.— The Leveller Wherry is now nearly ready for the Sea and would be very Useful if Joined to our little force to take the Merchant Ships while we attack their Convoy.—9

I am ever with greatful and Sincere Affection Dear Sir Your very Obliged Friend and most humble Servant

Jno P Jones

His Excellency Doctor Franklin.

Notation: Capt. Jones July 12. 1779

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8In response to the French request Jones ordered the three ships to cruise for ten days under Thévenard’s orders: Bradford, Jones Papers, reel 4, no. 680. Thévenard reported to Sartine on July 21 that the vessels had sailed on the 13th and that he expected the Alliance and Bonhomme Richard to be ready for service in another week: Archives de la Marine, B3DCLXV: 108. The Pallas, Cerf, and Vengeance returned to Lorient on the 23rd, having made no prizes: ibid., f. 117; Morison, Jones, pp. 195–6.

9The Leveller was a captured 14-gun English cutter which Jones had requested from Chaumont: XXIX, 493n. Thévenard mistakenly told Sartine that Jones had asked BF for the corvette Lively, 20 (captured from the British in July, 1778 by a French frigate): Archives de la Marine, B3DCLXV: 119.

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