Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Butler, 15 July 1783

From John Butler

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Amsterdam July 15th 1783

May it Please Your Excellency.

In behalf of myself and other American Sailors who have been prisoners in England, I make bold to petition your Excellency, whose humanity and beneficence is known to all the World. There are three of us here who were taken on board the Congress Ship the Confederacy Captain Hardinge.6 We have been discharged some time, and after attempting to get a passage from London to our own Country, in which it was impossible to succeed went from thence to Dunkirk; where the difficulty was still as great; after staying some time at Dunkirk without obtaining what we so much wished for we applied to Mr Coffin Your Excellency’s agent to supply us that we might be enabled to go to Amsterdam, where we were told we were sure of obtaining our desire; Mr Coffyn supplied us, but so small the sum, 15 Livres, that by the time we got to Amsterdam we had nothing left, which made one of our Companions who has but little patience to enter on board an East India Ship. Upon our Arrival at Amsterdam we applied to those who we were told would supply us till we embarked, when to our great surprise we were told Mr Adams had left no order concerning such supply, therefore could not give us any. This answer rather amazed, more so as we were informed that several had before received such relief.7 We therefore determined to apply to Your Excellency, and unless your Excellency can invent some means or other to extricate us from our difficulties, our state will not be altogether desirable. After adventuring our lives in defence of our Country, and being prisoners several months it is peculiarly hard to be thus neglected, that Country, I say who thus abandons us, cannot be worthy of our future services. To leave brave men without any provision certainly merits not esteem. We know your Excellency has made ample provision for those in your province (France). Why should not the same be made in Holland. We live here upon Credit, and we are at the mercy of our Landlords, whither our liberty (which to us is precious) shall last for another hour. Where we not Confident our Petition would be answered we would not have applied to Your Excellency.

If your Excellency should deign to answer the petition of your Humble Servants, they will always, bear such an instance of generosity for ever in their Breast. Your Excellency by giving an order upon your Excellencie’s Correspondent in this City will give us great satisfaction.

I am Sir Your Excellencies Most willing Servant.

John Butler

at Mrs. Margrath’s the Sign of the Ship Warmer Street Amsterdam

Notation: John Butler July 15. 1783.—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The Confederacy, Capt. Seth Harding, was captured on April 14, 1781: XXX, 357n; XXXVI, 687n.

7While in the Netherlands, JA had supplied escaped prisoners with his own private funds: XXXV, 604.

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