Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Hugh Williamson, 7 August 1782

From Hugh Williamson8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada 7th Augt 1782.


When you have a few minutes to spare from the more weighty concerns of State I wish to interest you in favour of two young men belonging to NorthCarolina who are now Prisoners in England. They saild from Edenton about the month of Augt. 1780 in the Brig Fair-American, Captn Smith bound for France and were captured on their outward Passage.9 They are Twins, and were, if I recollect well, about 14 Years old when they left Home. They are neither Soldiers nor Sailors, for they never had been at Sea before; and on that occasion they went through meer whim. The father of those Lads, Coll. Saml: Lockhart1 is a worthy and respectable Citizen of NorthCarolina. Having served with him in the southern Army, in the most perilous Times, it is not only my duty, but among the first of my wishes that I might render him a Service. The Coll. apprehends that, considering the Age of his Boys and other circumstances, the Enemy will not make a Point of detaining them. They are supposed to be in Fortin Prison.2 At the first time you may have occasion to enquire concerning any of our People who are Prisoners in England, will you be so good as cause Enquiry to be made concerning these Boys. If you should effect their Release you will be so good as give them such Instructions and Assistance as may enable them to return to any Port in the united States. Any Expence you are at, on this Accot: shall be immediately repaid to your order in Philada: where my duty in Congress may detain me for the present Year. I have the Honor to be With the utmost Esteem Sir Your most obedt and very Hble Servt

Hu Williamson

Benjamin Franklin Esqr

Addressed: The Honourable / Benjamin Franklin Esqr / Minister Plenip / Passy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8One of BF’s former political enemies, Williamson moved to North Carolina early in the war and served as surgeon general of N.C. troops, 1779–82. He had recently been elected to Congress: X, 266–7n; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774–1961 … (Washington, D.C., 1961), p. 1826. This is his only extant letter to BF, and we have no evidence that BF responded. Williamson’s name is on a list BF drafted earlier in the year of people he distrusted: XXXVI, 375–6.

9See XXXIV, 23n. The letter cited there establishes the date of capture as Oct. 6, 1780: Laurens Papers, XV, 440.

1Samuel Lockhart, of Northampton County, held the rank of lieutenant colonel when he resigned his commission in October, 1777: Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 268; William L. Saunders, Walter Clark, et al., eds., The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina (30 vols., Raleigh, 1886–1914), X, 165, 501.

2John and Thomas Lockhart were committed to Forton Prison on Nov. 30, 1780, and escaped in mid-March, 1782: Kaminkow, Mariners, p. 118; Sheldon Cohen, Yankee Sailors in British Gaols: Prisoners of War at Forton and Mill, 1777–1783 (Newark, Del., and London, 1995), p. 184.

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