Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 16 August 1782

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

LS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Yale University Library

Nantes 16th. August 1782

Dear & hond. sir,

I have lately received a letter from Tristram Dalton Esqr. of Newbury-Port, informing me that you some Time ago advis’d him of having obtain’d orders for payment of a Sum, for the loss sustain’d by the owners of the Brigt. Fair-Play; & that you would deposit it in my hands—3 Mr. Dalton desires me to give him some information concerning this matter, & I should be much obliged if you would give me some advise that I may communicate to him the information desired—4 The death of my new-born daughter, & the present debility of Mrs. Williams5 forbids my adding more than that I am most respectfully & dutifully yours

Jona Williams J

His Excelly. B. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: A Son Excellence / Monsr Franklin / a / Passy / près Paris

Notation: J. Williams 16. Aout 1782.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3BF’s letter to Dalton is missing. Dalton’s to JW, describing it, was dated May 15: JW to Dalton, Aug. 15, 1782 (Yale University Library). Dalton was one of the owners of the Fair Play, a ship that was mistakenly fired upon and sunk by a Guadeloupe shore battery in early 1779. On the basis of a petition by BF, Louis XVI agreed to accord an indemnity “proportional to the loss”: XXVIII, 350; XXIX, 393–4, 486–8, 546. The indemnification of 15,000 l.t. ordered by Sartine in 1780, based on the report of a Guadeloupe commission, was a fraction of what the owners claimed, and both they and BF disputed the sum: XXXII, 614–15; XXXIII, 100–2, 175; Tristram Dalton et al. to Castries, Feb. 28, 1781 (APS).

4JW answered Dalton on Sept. 15. From the letters BF exchanged with Castries, copies of which JW enclosed, Dalton would see that the King considered the 15,000 l.t. as full indemnification. From BF’s letter to JW (now missing), JW learned that the owners wanted the money entrusted to him. Now that he knew of this arrangement, he would try to procure the money “without giving a Receipt which would preclude all future demands.” If this plan did not work he would await further instructions. Yale University Library.

5Mariamne, ill with influenza, gave birth prematurely on Aug. 2. The baby was christened Bethia on Aug. 7 but lived only thirteen days. JW buried her on Aug. 16, the date of the present letter. Mariamne had been too ill to attend the christening, but by mid-August she was out of danger: JW to WTF, Aug. 7, 1782 (APS); JW to William Alexander, July 26, to Williams Moore & Co., Aug. 4, and to Alexander Alexander, Aug. 18, 1782 (Yale University Library); Baptismal Certificate for Bethia Williams, Aug. 7, 1782, Archives de Nantes. The editors are grateful to Joan Challinor for bringing the baptismal certificate to our attention.

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