Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Committee for Foreign Affairs, 9 May 1781

From the Committee for Foreign Affairs

ALS (three):8 American Philosophical Society; copies: American Philosophical Society, National Archives; transcript: National Archives

Philada. May 9. 1781.

Hond. Sir

Mr. Samuel Curson and his Partner Mr. Isaac Governeur junr. after St. Eustatius was taken9 were put on board the Vengeance Man of War Comdore. Hotham to be sent to England stripped of every Thing but their wearing Apparrell their Books Papers and Slaves having been taken from them and Mrs. Governeur with a young Infant turned out of Doors.1 Special Severity, it is supposed, has been shewn to them in Consequence of their acting as Agents to Congress. Doctor John Witherspoon junr.2 also who was Surgeon of the DeGraaf Letter of Marque taken at St. Eustatius, is sent to England in the Alcmena Man of War3 and very hardly treated on account of his Fathers being a member of Congress, as is supposed.

Your particular Attention to the Exchange of these Persons will tend to give a general Confidence to all who being connected specially with Congress are exposed to Captivity, and will also very particularly oblige the Relations of these Unfortunates who have requested Congress to mention these Circumstances to you. Your most humble Servant

James Lovell
for the Comte, of for. Affrs.

Honble. Doctr. Franklin

Addressed: Honorable / Doctor Franklin / Minister plenipoy. / France / by Capt. Smith4

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8All three are in the hand of committee member James Lovell; two are marked as duplicates.

9At the beginning of February.

1BF knew of Samuel Curson (XXII, 662n), whose partner and fellow congressional agent Isaac Gouverneur, Jr., a New York merchant, divorced his wife Elizabeth in 1787 on grounds of adultery: Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols., New York and London, 1961–87), XXVI, 462–3n. Commodore William Hotham (1736–1813), captain of H.M.S. Vengeance, 74, subsequently commanded the escort of the convoy taking £3,000,000 of booty from St. Eustatius back to England: XXXIV, 465n; DNB.

2John Witherspoon, Jr. (1757–1795?), was the oldest surviving son of President Witherspoon of the College of New Jersey (XVI, 125n): Varnum L. Collins, President Witherspoon: a Biography (2 vols., Princeton, 1925), I, 25n; James McLachlan et al., eds., Princetonians: a Biographical Dictionary (5 vols., Princeton, 1976–91), II, 354–6.

3H.M.S. Alcmene, a captured French frigate: David Lyon, The Sailing Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy Built, Purchased and Captured 1688–1860 (London, 1993), p. 219.

4On the address sheet is written the following: “Mr Barber Ches Briel Baigneur Rue de Richelieu.”

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