From Thomas Willis
Phileda October 27th 1791
this is meant inform Your Excellency of A new and advantagous plan of Arming & fighting A Ship it was meant for the french nation but I thought it my duty to lay it before Your Excellency preveus to french ambassador. I Shall not trouble Your Excellency at present with the petticulars of this project but only the most material—that is A 74 Gun Ship or one of any other Rate Can fight the whole of her Guns from one both, or Either Sides of the Ship in an Instant with half the number of hands & without Creening the Ship. whearas on the Usial plan She only fights 37 with double the number of hands I have had no Opertunity of trying it only in mintr it answers in that & have not the least doubt of its answering on A larger Scale—if Your Excellency Should be of Opinnion that this Invention whould be of Serves to the United States—I Should be happy to wait on You I may be found at No. 203 Arch Street. I am with the Greatest Respect Yr Excellencys most Obt Humle Servt
ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.
Thomas Willis (c.1756–1806) was a turner living at 203 Mulberry Street who had served in the local militia during the Revolutionary War, rising from ensign in Col. Sharp Delaney’s 2d Battalion of Philadelphia Associators in early 1777 to second lieutenant that November. In 1779 Willis assisted in the capture of the first British vessel that was condemned in New Jersey during the Revolution, and the following year he was commissioned a captain in Col. John Shee’s 5th Philadelphia City Battalion (Dorland, “Second Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry,” description begins W. A. Newman Dorland. “The Second Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 49 (1925): 75–94. description ends 94; Aurora and General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 10 Feb. 1806).