Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Palmer, 3 August 1779

From Joseph Palmer4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Germantown, August 3d. 1779.

Dear Sir

This moment I hear that Mr Adams arrived at Boston last Night—& that our Fleet & Army, sent to Penobscutt to dislodge the Enemy, who had taken possession with 7 or 800 Land Forces, 6 or 8 Men of War & other arm’d Vessels, had driven the enemies Ships up the river, taken all their outworks, & obliged them to retire to their center Fort, so that they must Surrender, if not reinforced immediately; but of this you will have a better account from Mr Adams &c.5

This will be handed to you by my Nephew, Joseph Palmer, who having finished his Studies at Harvard College, was to have returned to his Father (near Plymouth) in England, by way of New-York, but being disappointed in his Passage on board the Cartel for that place, & the Mercury being order’d to sail for France tomorrow Morning, we have concluded to send him in her, ‘tho’ only a few hours notice.6 I beg your friendship to him, so far as to advise him in all things necessary for his passage to Plymouth: It is not likely that he will want any Money, but if he Should, & you will please to supply him, you may rely upon being repaid by himself or Father, in such a way as you shall point out. His Father is a Farmer, of between 2 and 300 £ Stg per Anm. a friend to our American Cause of Liberty, & an honest Man. Joseph is as amiable, & worthy a young Man, as I ever knew; & your favour will be gratefully acknowledged by him, & will lay an additional obligation upon, Dear Sir, Your Sincere Friend, & Most Humle. Servt.

J: Palmer

His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esqr at Passy near Paris

Notation: J Palmer Augt: 3. 79

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Gen. Joseph Palmer (1716–88) came to America from England in 1746. He was one of several people, including BF, who between 1750 and 1756 acquired property in Germantown, a section of Braintree, Mass., where a glassworks had been established (whose management Palmer took over): V, 119n. Palmer was involved in numerous manufacturing ventures and served in the war in various capacities. DAB. His wife Mary Cranch was the sister of Richard Cranch, Palmer’s partner in the glassworks and Abigail Adams’ brother-in-law: Adams Papers, I, 155n.

5This implies that JA had already arrived in Braintree and Palmer expected he would write BF; for his return home on Aug. 2 or 3 see Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 400n. A detailed account of the expedition did reach Passy. Among BF’s papers at the Library of Congress is a four-page description of the events in WTF’s hand and headed, “Extract of a Letter from Boston dated July 30. 1779.” We surmise that the extract was intended for Dumas and was designed for insertion in the Dutch press. Its favorable news, however, was overtaken by events. On Sept. 24 the Courier de l’Europe reported that the British had surprised the expedition, destroyed its naval escort, and inflicted heavy losses on the American troops: VI (1779), 196–7. See also the Gaz. de Leyde of Oct. 1 and, for the events themselves, Adams Papers, VIII, 31n.

6Upon his return home to Plymouth, England, the young Palmer was suddenly taken ill with a fever and died: Butterfield, Adams Correspondence, III, 381.

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