Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from David Salisbury Franks, 10 December 1781

From David Salisbury Franks6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Brest 10th Decr. 1781

Dear Sir

I write this with a sergeant at my Back as my guard, & I need not assure you that I am extreamly mortified at the treatment I have met with from Mr. Hector & the Major de Place of this Town—7 My Conduct on my arrival was such as every Officer ought to follow, I waited on him & told him my Business here, he dismiss’d me & yesterday had me taken up on the Public walk when it was most crowded with People, I was again dismissd, & this evening taken out of the Play House, brought before the Major de Place & am now at this moment a Prisoner at Monsr. Bersoles a Gentleman to whom Mr. Williams recommended me to— Yesterday I offerd to show a Letter of Recommendation to the Major De Place directed to Monsr. de La Motte Picket—8 I also could have shewn him other Papers. He then did not think it necessary to peruse them & now I am again insulted in this indelicate manner— There is something so very inconsistant in Monr. Hectors Conduct, that it really surprizes me—yesterday he answers for me to the Major de Place, as I had gone alone to see him on my arrival & General de Boulainvillier9 went a Second time to his house with me & presented me to him—today he orders the Major de Place to secure my Person. I could not do more than I have done, he has now my Commission, my Passeport my Letters of Credit & of recommendation with Mr. W.T. Franklin’s last letter to me ordering me to Brest, How they will operate I cannot at Present determine, but in the mean time you will allow with me, my worthy sir that I have great Reason to be offended at the treatment I have met with— I pray dear Sir that you would get the Marquis de Castres or some other to write to this Monsr. Hector on my Subject—

I am Dr Sir with the greatest Respect & Esteem Your Excellency’s most obt hum Set

Davd. S. Franks

This moment Mr. Dijon came to inform that I am free, but at the same time I beg you Excellency would think of me—

B. Fr

Notation: Franks 10 Decr. 1781.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Who had written WTF on Nov. 17 to ask advice on how to return to America, having been unable to secure a passage from Nantes or Lorient (APS). Eight days later WTF replied that BF advised setting off immediately for Brest, as Naval Minister Castries had promised to provide Franks passage on the next vessel leaving that port. BF would ask Castries on their next meeting to send the orders (Library of Congress).

When Franks arrived in Brest, around Dec. 7, he found that Port Commandant Hector (XXXIII, 11n) had not heard from Castries and that there were no vessels planning to sail for America. On Dec. 9 the major de place of Brest arrested him (presumably as a spy, Franks speculated) and then released him on Hector’s authority. On Dec. 10, before writing the present letter, Franks asked WTF to send him a letter of introduction to Hector by return mail (APS). It is likely that Hector’s concerns about security were heightened by the impending departure of two vital convoys carrying troops to the West Indies and to India: Dull, French Navy, pp. 258–60.

7The major de place was the chevalier de Lusignan: Etat militaire for 1781, p. 46.

8La Motte-Picquet, commanding a squadron at Brest, had planned to sail on Dec. 10 to meet an incoming convoy from St. Domingue, but instead the convoy arrived: Auphan, “Communications,” p. 508.

9Jean-Louis, comte de Boulainvilliers (1742–1798), who was promoted to brigadier on Dec. 5: DBF.

Index Entries