From the Committee of the Sufferers in Falmouth, Casco Bay4
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Falmouth Casco Bay Sept 3 17835
From a consideration of the great attention and regard you have shewn to the just Rights of Human Nature, as well as the benevolent Character you sustain, among the People of America whom in a very eminent Station you represent, we are induced to transmit to your Care the inclosed Address—6
It comes from Men who have suffered exceedingly, not only by the common Calamities of War, but by an extraordinary Event peculiarly awful and distressing— We trust the unhappy circumstances of our Case will justify our Application for Relief to the generous and humane part of the Nation to whom it is directed— And we more especially flatter ourselves it will be honored with that patronage from you which will ensure it the success we wish—
You have been pleased to manifest a concern for the United States in general—and we hope our sufferings will excite your attention to this part of them in particular—
We judge it would be expedient to have our Address published throughout the Kingdom, and we doubt not, most of the Printers in France would cheerfully do us this favour without a Fee—
We have left a Blank in it for the name of the Gentlemen who will consent to have it inserted—and we request that he would appoint such Persons in the different Parts of France as he should judge best, to receive any Donations that may be offered, and publish their appointment with the Address— We wish it might be filled with yours, if it be agreeable7—If not that you would be so kind as to prevail with some other Gentleman to honor us with his Assistance in this Respect—
If any other measures for our Relief should seem to you more eligible, we beg the favour of you to adopt them in our name—
The Sufferers have authorized us to receive whatever may be presented, and it may be sent by such Opportunities as may offer for this place, or any other within this State, directed “To the Honbl. Enoch Freeman Esqr. and others a Committee of the Sufferers in Falmouth Casco Bay.”
That you may be fully satisfied of our being duly authorized for this purpose we forward this through the hands of our worthy Friend The Honorable James Bowdoin Esqr. who will transmit you this with proper Certificates for that end—
We should have been glad to have sent some Person from hence specially upon this Business—but in our present Circumstances it would be extremely difficult to collect a Sum of Money sufficient to defrey his necessary Expences—
Wishing you the best of Heavens Blessings We are with great Respect Your most obedient and very humble Servants
His Excellcy. Benjamin Franklin Esqr
4. Elected on Aug. 23, this committee was charged with soliciting donations from Europe and the West Indies for the relief of the inhabitants whose town had been burned by the British in 1775. Enoch Freeman (1706–1788), chairman, was a merchant; his eldest son, Samuel (1742–1831), was postmaster and a delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1775–76 and 1778. Jedediah Preble was either the major general (1707–1784) or his eldest son and namesake. Timothy Pike was undoubtedly the colonel who commanded the Fourth Cumberland County regiment in 1776. John Waite (1732–1820), a militia colonel and former sea captain, was sheriff of Cumberland County and a delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1776: John Frothingham’s certificate, Sept. 13, 1783 (APS); William Willis, The History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864: with a Notice of Previous Settlements, Colonial Grants, and Changes of Government in Maine (2nd ed., rev. and enl., Portland, Me., 1865), pp. 746–7n, 805–7, 835–6, 850–2, 903; Nathan Goold, “History of Col. Edmund Phinney’s 31st Regiment of Foot,” Maine Hist. Soc. Coll. and Proc., 2nd ser., VII (1896), 175.
BF was well aware of the atrocity they described; see XXII, 242, 246–7, 392–3.
5. Though written on Sept. 3, this letter went back and forth to Boston before being sent under cover of James Bowdoin’s letter to BF of Sept. 23 (which will appear in vol. 41). Initially, the committee wondered about who in France should receive it. Concerned that JA might have already left, they decided to address it to BF: Willis, History of Portland, pp. 902–3.
6. The petition, addressed “To all Friends of Humanity and charitable Persons in the Kingdom of France,” described the torching of Falmouth and the “unspeakable Distress” it caused, estimated the property losses at £54,600 (irrespective of the loss of livelihoods), and sought contributions to help the town rebuild.
7. In fact, by the time the packet of papers was sent, one of the committee had already filled in BF’s name and title.