Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 21 June 1780

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library; copy: Yale University Library

A L’Orient le 21 Juin 1780

Dear & hond Sir.

I have not written you since the 14 Instant because everything has been here in such a State of Confusion and Suspence and I chose to say nothing ’till I could say something decisively.2 I must now inform you that there is no prospect of Capt Jones’s regaining the Alliance, she is under Groix and nothing but fair Combat and Superiour Force can alter the Government of her. For the Detail of this Affair I refer you to other Letters which you will receive no doubt by this Post.

The 2000 Suits of Cloaths are arrived & I have 2000 more on the Way, besides which all that remained at Brest M. de Chaumont has ordered hither, thus we shall have more than the ariel can carry and I have no other Ship except a small Brig of Mr Moylans nor do I see a prospect of getting one unless Government should grant us one. I hope you will approve the Steps I have taken and favour me with your answer.—

You will hear from Nantes that News is come there of the Marquis de la Fayettes safe arrival in Boston.

I am ever with the greatest Respect Dear & hond Sir Your most dutifull & Affectionate Kinsman

Jona Williams J

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Franklin / Ministre Plenipotentiaire / des Etas Unis en son Hotel / a Passy prés Paris

Notation: Jona Williams 21 June 80

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Tempers were flaring in Lorient. On June 18, JW ran into Thomas Lee, the young nephew of Arthur Lee (XXVII, 294n; XXXI, 500–1), and evidently “Publickly insulted” him. The next morning Lee sent two seconds to challenge JW to a duel. E. Brush and Joseph Brown, Jr., presented Lee’s complaint; JW refused to apologize and, to the acute alarm of the seconds, he accepted the challenge “with the Greatest Pleasure.” Lee, who was then summoned, offered JW his choice of pistols. When asked as to the place, JW answered “here”; as to the distance, JW suggested the nearer the better, as Lee was to have the first shot. The rivals faced one another at a distance of four yards. At JW’s insistence the seconds reluctantly stepped aside, whereupon “Mr Williams with a surprising fortitude receiv’d the fire from Mr Lee, which fortunately miss’d him.” JW offered Lee a second shot, which he emphatically refused. JW then announced that he would not reciprocate the fire, and “discharg’d his pistole out of the Window.” The matter was now considered “honourably Settled,” JW having exhibited “amazing Intrepidity & firmness,” and Lee, for his part, displaying “Every appearance of true Bravery.” Testimony of E. Brush and Joseph Brown, Jr., June 20, 1780, Yale University Library. Brown and Brush were in Lorient awaiting passage to America on the Alliance: BF to Jones, March 1, above.

Index Entries