Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Michael Hillegas, 29 April 1782

From Michael Hillegas

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. April 29. 1782.

Dr Sir

Your favour of the 17th. June last introducing Mr. Beyerle,4 was handed me about 10 or 12 days ago by that Gentleman immediately after his arrival at this place— It gave me great pleasure to hear of your health— And I pray God may continue you in the same whilst on Earth, and to grant you everlasting happiness in the World to come.— As to Mr. Beyerlé, you may rest assured, I shall give him that attention which your reccommendation and the great esteem I have for you, entitle him to.

Altho’ I am sencible of your time being so very much taken up in public business, yet knowing the goodness of your Heart I am prevailed on by a poor Widow of this City5 to request the favour of your endeavours some way or other to obtain the Releasement or Exchange of her Son John Claypoole, who was taken Prisoner on Board the Ship called the Luzerne commanded by Captain Bell Bound from L’Orient for this place, (on Board of which he was in the Character of Steward) was carried into Ireland and from thence to England and committed to Mill Prison near Plymouth.6 I understand he is a clever fellow, and was the only support of his Mother—his liberation would therefore be an Act of Charity.

A very particular friend of mine has requested me to solicit you to inform me, For what Sum, A Compleat set of the Encyclopædia can be purchased in France? of the best Edition in handsome binding.— Also whether the Work entituled Histoire des Arts et Mettiers, differs materially from the Encyclopædia— And at what price they are to be procured in bindings similar to those above described.7

I am with the most profound respect & esteem Your most Obedient and most humble Servant

M. Hillegas

P.S. Mrs. Hillegas requests me to present you with her best Respects.

His Excellency Benja. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: His Excellency / Benjamin Franklin Esquire / Embassador from the United States of / America at the Court of Versailes / Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4XXXV, 171–2.

5Elizabeth Hall Claypoole (1718–1805) had been a widow since 1779: Rebecca Irwin Graff, comp., Genealogy of the Claypoole Family of Philadelphia 1588–1893 (Philadelphia, 1893), p. 65.

6Claypoole (1752–1817) served initially in the army, where he was wounded at the Battle of Germantown in the fall of 1777. He was captured at sea on April 4, 1781, and remained in Mill Prison until the general exchange of American prisoners in the summer of 1782. Upon his return to Philadelphia Claypoole had to inform his lifelong friend Betsy Ross that her husband, also incarcerated in Mill, had died in prison. Ross and Claypoole married in May, 1783, and had five children: Charles Francis Jenkins, ed., “John Claypoole’s Memorandum-Book,” PMHB, XVI (1892), 178–90. See also Graff, Claypoole Genealogy, pp. 65, 68–75.

7The friend was Matthew Clarkson (1733–1800), who in 1772 was a member of a Library Company committee that directed BF to order Diderot’s Encyclopédie: Hillegas to BF, Jan. 6, 1783 (APS); XIX, 117–18; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774–1961 … (Washington, D.C., 1961), p. 702. BF had subscribed to the Neuchâtel edition of Descriptions des arts et métiers in 1779: XXXI, 4n; XXXII, 117n, 300n.

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