Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from ——— Coppens fils, 21 May 1782

From ——— Coppens fils2

LS: American Philosophical Society

Dunkirk the 21th. Maÿ 1782.

Mÿ lord

Captain John Moultson3 native of America has Crused several times With the Privateers the subtle and the Victorÿ Which both I have fitted out. I am just readÿ to send him on a new Cruise with the Schooner the Sophia mounting twelve Carriage guns four pounders and Seventÿ men. The news being brought in town the War Was declared bÿ the United States of america against Portugal, I Take the libertÿ of requesting your Excellencÿ to give me a Commission of War for Captain Moultson that he maÿ with the Said schooner the sophia cruise under American Colours, & against the Ennemÿs of the united States, I hope your Excellencÿ Will not refuse such a favour, if I offer to deliver either in your hands or to the admiraltÿ office of Dunkirk a bail of guarrantee for Such an expedition, I shall Look as a dutÿ to give your Excellencÿ notice of the successes of the Sophia.4

I am With Great Respect Mÿlord Your Excellencÿ’s Most Obedient humble servant

Coppens fils.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Probably a relative of Robert Coppens, the outfitter of a privateer in Dunkirk in 1759: Henri Malo, Les Derniers corsaires Dunkerque (1715–1815) (Paris, 1925), p. 165.

3Moultson (Moulton), most likely the Boston native (b. 1753) who was captured in 1778 while commanding the sloop Royal Louis, became one of the half dozen American captains to command French privateers out of Dunkirk. He remained in France after the war and enjoyed a distinguished career in the French navy. He rose from sous-lieutenant de vaisseau in 1786, to capitaine de vaisseau and commandant of a division of ships in 1792–93. In 1802, he was named chef de division: Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 214; Malo, Les Derniers corsaires, pp. 128–30, 207–9, 219, 234, 279.

4We have no record of a response from BF. Reports of the Sophia’s successful cruise describe the schooner as a French privateer: Courier de l’Europe, XII (1782), 87, 99.

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