Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Francis Coffyn, 4 August 1779

To Francis Coffyn

Copy: Library of Congress

Passy, Aug. 4 1779.

Dear Sir

Sixteen French Sailors who belonged to Cap. Cunningham having been exhanged by the Last Cartel as Americans after an Imprisonnement of near two years, are now on their Way to Dunkirk.7 As I am quite unacquainted with the affairs of that Ship which were managed between Mr. Deane and M. Hodge,8 I can say nothing to any Claims made by the People on her Account. Whatever they are, they must be adjusted in America, neither of those Gentlemen being now in Europe. But Justice as well as humanity, will induce us to assist the poor men in recovering what may be due to them. If you are acquainted with the Terms upon which they engaged, you can assist them in stating and authenticating their Demands which I will then transmit to America in order to obtain the Payment.

With great Esteem, &ca.

M. Coffin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7They had been part of the crew of Gustavus Conyngham’s privateer Revenge, fitted out at Dunkirk in June, 1777. A list of the sixteen, captured aboard one of Conyngham’s prizes, is given in Stevens, Facsimiles, XVI, no. 1589. WTF had written John Ross on Aug. 3 about two of them—Jean Ricard and Pierre Joseph “Manjot” (Mangonet), who had arrived at Nantes being owed all their back wages. WTF’s notation on the letter reads “My Grandfather has given them 12 Livres each, to assist them in returning to Dunkirque. If their Wages are paid them this ought to be deducted. W.T.F.” Haverford College Library. Their names appear in the Alphabetical List of Escaped Prisoners. BF also helped several more of them: to Sartine, Oct. 19, below.

8Deane drafted Conyngham’s orders: XXIV, 243–4. His associate, the merchant William Hodge (XXII, 619n), had helped fit out the ship, raise her crew, and arrange a fictitious sale to cover her departure: Neeser, Conyngham, pp. xxxiii-xxxv, 96–7. Arthur Lee claimed he and BF had been neither consulted nor informed: Stevens, Facsimiles, III, no. 269, p. 6.

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