Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Timothy Folger, 3 July 1781

From Timothy Folger6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

July 3d. [1781]7


As I shall be glad to return to Lile in the Diligence which sets off on Friday morning shall Esteem it as a particular favour if I could have the permission this day or tomorrow morning.8 The goods I shall carry out will Consist of Sail Cloth, Cordage, yarns, Woolens, Linnen Blankets, Shalloons, Tammys, Camblets &c. to the amount of ten thousand pounds sterling, in the Sloop Lively Wm. Mores Master.

I am Yr. Most Obedt. Servt.

Tim Folger

Benjn. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: His Excellency / Benjn. Franklin Esqr.

Notation: Folger. July 3d. 1781

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6BF’s cousin, a Nantucket ship captain, who had been in close correspondence with BF during the late 1760’s and had sketched for him the course of the Gulf Stream: XV, 223–4n, 246–8. This is his last extant letter, and the only one since 1770.

7WTF added an “81” next to Folger’s date, underlined the name of the ship in the text, and on the bottom of the letter noted, “of abt 80 Tons from London to Nantucket.” This must have been in preparation for the passport mentioned in the following note.

8BF did grant Folger a passport, but only after his cousin swore before him an oath of allegiance and signed a bond for £3,000. (Both these documents, dated July 8, are at the APS.) The passport itself has not survived.

Folger’s success in obtaining this passport angered certain American captains at Nantes, who said that his collaboration with the British was well-known: JW to WTF, Aug. 7, 1781, APS. Although never convicted, Folger had recently stood trial with four other Nantucketers on charges of aiding the enemy. The accuser, who had not been present during the incident, found himself without credible witnesses and eventually asked to withdraw the complaint: Alexander Starbuck, The History of Nantucket … (Boston, 1924; reprint, Rutland, Vt., 1969) pp. 218–29. But Folger’s reputation among the American captains at Nantes was such that JW could not let the matter drop. When the captains began to speculate about BF’s possible collusion, JW warned BF directly about these accusations on Nov. 10, 1781 (APS).

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