Benjamin Franklin Papers

Editorial Note on Promissory Notes, 1782

Editorial Note on Promissory Notes

By the time Franklin issued the first of the promissory notes in March described below, he was using a new triplicate form, set in gros romain italic, with slight variations in wording. This form lasted him through the end of the French mission.9

On March 25 Joseph Gould of Massachusetts, a mariner on the Raven from Boston, and Moses How of Rhode Island, taken on the Polly, each received signed notes for 72 l.t. Benjamin Slocum of Rhode Island, who carried Franklin a letter of introduction from Francis Coffyn, signed a note for the same amount on April 27.1 Francis Ming and Capt. John Norcom,2 commander of the privateer Friends, each received 168 l.t. on May 9. Six days later William Allcock, who served under Norcom, signed for 336 l.t. This sum was shared by Allcock and the five men who accompanied him to Passy; see his letter to Franklin of May 6. On May 22, two men identified as George Cabit and William Stephenson (both of whom signed with an X) each received 48 l.t.3 On August 3, “S. Simondes”, whose first name was probably Samuel, signed a promissory note for 96 l.t.4

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9In the new form the payee is “Superintendent of Finances” instead of “President”; the amount is now given in l.t. rather than louis d’or; and there are two additional lines to be filled in by the recipient indicating his home state and the name, owner, and home port of the ship on which he had been taken. For the previous forms see XXXI, 497; XXXV, 6. All the promissory notes discussed below are at the APS, and all the men who signed them (except Benjamin Slocum) are on the Alphabetical List of Escaped Prisoners.

1Coffyn’s letter is below, April 21.

2Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 223, where his name is spelled Norcombe.

3Francis Coffyn, who aided both men, calls them “Cabot” and “Stevenson”: Coffyn to BF, May 16.

4Account XXVII records a disbursement of this amount to a “Samuel Simmons” on Nov. 26. A Samuel Simon, Simmonds, or Symons is also listed in British records: Kaminkow, Mariners, pp. 172, 185.

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