Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jacob Smith, 24 January 1783

From Jacob Smith4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Mil preason Jenary the 24 1783.

Mister franklin

Sur I take This Opurtunety to inform You Of the Onhapy Setuation of Our People Now in this Prison. I Must inform You that thay Are Entering Out of Prison Averry Day for the Wont of Close and Vitels for thare Are Sum of them that Have Ben Hear this Aight Monts And Have Not Had the Lest Asistance from Any Body. And thare is the french and Duch and Spanish that Reseave both Close And Mony. Sur I Must inform You that thare Are Now in Prison One Hundred and Sixty Men And Out of that Number thare Are One Half of the [them] Without Shous or Stockins And thar Are forteen of them that Had Entered Out Within this fotnet [fortnight] and thare Will Be More of them Go Out Sun if No Help—5 I think that it is A Shame for Our Congres that for the Sake O A letel Expence that thay Will Let Our People Sufer in this Maner. I Must inform You that there Are Not One of the Amaracan Ofarsurs that get thare Porole So I Have No more At Present But I Remane Your Humbel Sarvant

Jacob Smith
of Providence

Addressed: To / Mi / Jeames(?) franklin / in Paris / in france

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4A Jacob Smith was captured aboard the Franklin and committed to Mill Prison on Dec. 6, 1781: Kaminkow, Mariners, p. 175.

5By the early summer of 1782, all American prisoners held at Forton and Mill—except for those in hospitals—had been exchanged and sent to America in cartel ships. New prisoners continued to arrive, however, and by mid-October there were more than 200. The inhumane conditions induced some to defect (as Smith here discusses). Those who remained were engaging in such “riotous behavior” that in October the Commissioners for Sick and Wounded Seamen requested assistance from the Admiralty. A planned cartel was repeatedly postponed: XXXVII, 31–3, 625; XXXVIII, 225n, 305, 441, 568, 583; Sheldon S. Cohen, Yankee Sailors in British Gaols: Prisoners of War at Forton and Mill, 1777–1783 (Newark, Del., and London, 1995), pp. 204–5.

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