Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Katherine Sproule Douglas, 28 November 1783

From Katherine Sproule Douglas7

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Geore Street No 3 Adelphi London Novr 28th 1783

May it Please your Excellency

To accept my unbounded thanks for the Honor you did my freind Miss Maxwell when in Paris which I Sincerly Charge to my acct of Gratitude! & thanks to almighty God! for puting in my Heart to presume on Such an application;8 which I again most Gratefully imbrace on the Permission Graciously & bountifully granted by your Excellency to miss Maxwell! which I humbly flatter myself will under almighty God Reinstate me & my Seven poor indigent Children in their Just Claims of Virginia Property; which the Herewith sent Coppies of Correspondence9 will authenticate to us all your Excellencys Gracious & Humane answewer will Lay an Everlasting obligation on your Devoted & obliged humble Sert

Kath Sproule
Now Douglas

Miss Maxwell begs to be humbly remembred to your Excellency your Son Govr Frankland is well Paiys His Duty Sorry to hear you are Indisposd Hopes in God to hear you are better

Addressed: His Excellency / Doctor Franklin / Paris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7A woman with a complicated past. The seven children mentioned in this letter were fathered by her first husband, James Hunter, who died in 1774. A year later she married Hunter’s uncle Andrew Sprowle (Sproule), a wealthy Loyalist merchant of Norfolk, Va., who established the shipyard in Gosport and owned a plantation and several residences. When fighting broke out in Norfolk, the family was evacuated to Lord Dunmore’s fleet, and Sprowle’s properties were burned and his stores consumed. He died on board ship in May, 1776, whereupon his widow, plagued by accusations that she had not been legally married and had been a spy, went to London to petition for her inheritance and a pension. The Loyalist board ruled in her favor on March 6, 1783, confirming her marriage and praising her husband’s efforts on behalf of the British government, but granting a smaller pension than she expected. She then petitioned Parliament for compensation for Sprowle’s Va. holdings, married Francis Douglas (her husband at the time of this letter), and by November, 1783, was petitioning the state of Virginia for permission to return. In 1785, when asking TJ to intercede on her behalf, she denied that her husband and her son (who fought with a British regiment in Virginia) had been loyal to the crown: Peter W. Coldham, American Loyalist Claims (1 vol. to date, Washington, D.C., 1980–), 1, 461; William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … (II vols., Richmond, 1875–93), III, 542; Isaac S. Harrell, Loyalism in Virginia: Chapters in the Economic History of the Revolution (Durham, N.C., 1926), pp. 44–5, 96–8; William B. Clark et al., eds., Naval Documents of the American Revolution (II vols. to date, Washington, D.C., 1964–), V, 776–7, 793–4; Memorial of Katherine Sproule, Oct. 14, 1783 (Public Record Office); Alan Flanders, “Andrew Sproule’s Widow Lost It All,” Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.), Feb. 10, 2002; Jefferson Papers, VIII, 243–4, 259–60, 329–30, 364.

8The visit of Miss Maxwell has left no other trace, but she presumably delivered the letters or petitions from Mrs. Douglas that BF in turn forwarded to William Alexander to carry to Virginia; see Alexander to BF, Nov. 6.

9Not located.

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