Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from ——— St. Clair, 26 July 1782

From —— St. Clair2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Dunkirk july 26th. 1782

Your Excellency will receive this by Mr Joly a Worthy Clergyman who has attended me during part of my confinement and who is gone to Paris on his own affairs as I wrot to your Excellency’s Secretary some time ago3 I shall not enter into a detail regarding the reasons of my Detention but beg humbly leave to refer you to Mr Joly who is fully informed on that head both by me and the Grand Bailey every person here seems convinced of my innocency two days ago I received a most gracious letter from the Prince of Robecq4 wherein he expressed sorrow at not being in power to put an end to my confinement but that he expected daily orders from the Minister5 on that head the example of others in the same case gives me the greatest uneasiness I find it is not only necessary in such case to be innocent but likewise it is requisite to be reclaim’d there was a Mr De Latre a gentleman of this town who had intered the Dutch service who was taken up for the same reason and with as little foundation he remained a considerable time in Prison and would probably have remained till now had the Dutch Ambassador not reclaim’d him; others that have not been reclaim’d are here four and five months and are as likely to remain as many more. I did not think proper to trouble your Excellency till such time as I was acquainted that my innocency did not avail for the recovery of my liberty and that I would not be brought to trial and that my most sure way of a speedy deliverance would be to sollicit your good offices in my behalf. As I acquainted your Excellency’s Secretary’s some time ago the manner in which I came to this town and as you probably may recollect me having paid my respects to you the end of last December on my road from Spain to this place I think it unnecessary to repeat any thing on that subject. Upon my arrival here I found the Late St Clair of Roslin was so displeased at my entering the American Service that he left his fortune to my two younger Brothers.

I shall be happy to know if Commodore Gillon is as yet arrived in America6 as it will then be probably necessary for me to return to America in order to obtain redress for the injury he has done me and continue my Duty. In the firm persuasion of your Excellency’s good offices with the Minister I remain your Excellency’s Most humble and most Devoted Servant

St. Clair
Lt of Marines the State of South Carolina

Addressed: A / Son Excellence B Franklin Ministre / Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unies au près / de Sa Majesté tres Chretienne / a / Passy

Notation: St. Clair, Dunkerque, July 26, 1782.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2One of the 300 marines from the Volontaires de Luxembourg serving on the South Carolina: XXXV, 562n; James A. Lewis, Neptune’s Militia: the Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution (Kent, Ohio, and London, 1999), pp. 34, 141 (where he is listed as Lt. “Clear”).

3He wrote to WTF on July 5, the “first day of the 7th year of independcy”, asking for BF’s help. He was being detained at Dunkirk, without benefit of trial, on suspicion of soliciting French sailors to serve in Holland. He had left the South Carolina the previous October at La Coruña. His complaint against Gillon had been registered with BF in December while in company with James Searle. He had delayed his return to America until he could be sure of confronting Gillon there; meanwhile, he served on the Robecq but also made two trips to Holland, where he had “an advantageous offer”. When he heard the rumors about him, he returned to Dunkirk and was taken prisoner. APS.

4Anne-Louis-Alexandre de Montmorency, prince de Robecque, the commandant general of French Flanders: XXVI, 693n; Etat militaire for 1781, p. 22.

5Philippe-Henri, marquis de Ségur, the minister responsible for the province of French Flanders: Almanach royal for 1782, p. 213.

6Gillon had arrived in May, but BF did not receive notification of that fact until early August: Livingston to BF, May 30 (above); BF to Livingston, Aug. 12 (below).

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