Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Landais, [29 May 1780]

From Landais

Two ALS:1 American Philosophical Society

[May 29, 1780]

May it Please Your Excellency

I have been waiting ever Since I came to L’Orient for your order to me to Retake the Command of the frigate Alliance, thinking you would reflet how She was taken from me.

I Should look upon my Self culpable to remain a tame Spectator, while my athority on board her is usurped by another, Since I have been placed to that Command by a resolve of the Honble Congress.

It appears to me upon consideration, that nothing can authorise your Exy to this proceeding of displacing me; I am persuaded that even the Congress themselves would never pretend to exercise a power so arbitrary as to overthrow their officers without Tryal, were their reasons ever so well founded, much less upon a parcell of scandalous charges intended to Cover the Ignorance & misbehaviour of a man who would freely Sacrifice the reputation of the Officers & men of a whole fleet to Establish himself.

I consider it my duty to return to my Station on board her, I know of nothing that I have done that can justify your detaining me from this; I am responsible to them that intrusted the Ship to my Charge, to return her to them again.

If you have any express authority for depriving me of my command I must Beg a copy of it & will pay due Obeidience to it, other ways I must consider my Self as Captain of the Ship & I beg that Dr Franklin will not encourage any Body to interfere with me in my duty, but give me all the assistance in his Power. It appears moreover that I am considered as the Captain of the Alliance by the Admiralty office of the united States, the letter of which I have the honour to inclose your Excellency a Copy.2 I must beg a Speedy answer to this, & if your Exy is still determined to withhold me from my Station, you must be answerable for any disagreable Consequences that may take place, which I Should wish to avoid.

I am Your Excellency Most Obedient & most humble Servant

P: Landais

P.S. I know that both Officers and men wish to have me return to my Command.3

His Exy Bn Franklin Minister Plenipotentiary of the united States of America

Addressed: To / His Excellency Dr. B. Franklin / Minister plenipo. to the United / States of America / Passy, / near Paris

Endorsed: Capt. Landais From L’Orient without Date. Suppos’d about the End of May 1780

1One of the ALS has the dateline “Lorient May 29 1780.” It lacks the postscript, the enclosure, and BF’s endorsement. Landais later said that he wrote a “duplicate” on May 30, the version printed here: Landais, Memorial, p. 97. The two versions differ in some details of punctuation, capitalization, and wording.

2Landais copied onto the verso an April 1 letter from John Brown, secretary of the American Board of Admiralty, which asked that the Alliance bring him two or three boxes or trunks to be delivered by Penet & Co. It was addressed to “Captain Peter Landais or the Commanding Officer of the Continental frigate Alliance.” Landais enclosed another copy with his letter of June 14, below; it too is at the APS. A third copy (in Landais’ hand) is at the National Archives.

3Landais later claimed that he was led to write the present letter by the invitation of the officers and crew of the Alliance and that he had refused Port Commandant Thévenard’s offer of the command of the Serapis, wishing to return to America for vindication: Landais, Memorial, pp. 96–7.

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