Thomas Beer, with his Wife and two small Children came to my House this forenoon, and presented me a Letter from Mr Coffyn of Dunkirk of the 2d. of Octr, recommending Beer to me as a Person who had been obliged to fly from England, for having assisted American Prisoners to escape; and inclosing a Copy of a Letter from your Excellency to Mr Coffyn of the 22d. of August, advising Beer to go to Holland, where your Excellency imagined there was great demand for all kind of Workmen, who are useful in fitting out Ships, and consenting that Coffyn should supply them, not exceeding ten Guineas, and requesting Mr Coffyn for the future to send the prisoners to my Care at Amsterdam, and to desire his friend at Ostend to give them the same direction.
As to Beer, I know not what to do with him. He has spent his last Guilder, and the Man, Woman and Children all looked as if they had been weeping over their distresses in deplorable misery. I gave him some Money to feed his Children a Night or two, and went out to see if I could get him Work with a Ropemaker: but I was told that your Excellency was much mistaken in supposing, that there is here a great demand for all kind of Workmen who are useful in fitting out Ships: that Navigation being in a manner stopped, such Tradesmen had the least to do of any, and particularly the Ropemakers complained of want of work more than ever, and more than any other Sett of Tradesmen. However, a Gentleman will enquire, if he can find a place for him.
I have no Objection to American Prisoners coming this way, and shall continue to do every thing in my Power, as I have done, to solace them in their distress. I have now for a Year past relieved considerable Numbers, who have escaped from England, with small Sums, and with my best Endeavours to procure them Employment and Passages: but your Excellency is very sensible I have no public Money in my hands, and that therefore, the small sums of Money, which I have been able to furnish them, must have been out of my own Pocket. This Resource is likely to fail very soon, if my Salary is not to be paid me in future.
If your Excellency would give me your Consent that I should take up small Sums of Money of Mess: Fizeaux, Grand & Co. for the purpose of assisting our Countrymen who escape from Prison, I 24should esteem myself much honoured by this Trust, for none of my time is spent with more pleasure than that which is devoted to the Consolation of these Prisoners. The Masters of Vessels have hitherto been very good in giving passages, and We have made various Shifts to dispose of such as have been here, and have succeeded so as to give tolerable satisfaction; but We should do much better, if We had a little more Money.
I have often told your Excellency, that the House of De Neufville and Son had recieved a few thousand Guilders upon the Loan opened by me in behalf of the United States. I have not touched this Money, because I thought it should lie to answer Bills of Exchange upon the Draughts of Congress: but as there is so little, if your Excellency would advis
I Yesterday received, your Favour of the 2d Of this Month by Beers who with his Wife and two Children came to me, in deplorable Distress, his Children having been Sick and detained him on the Road, untill he had Spent his last shilling.
This Man never made a greater Mistake than in coming to Holland where at Present, all Business being in a State of Stagnation, Tradesmen in General find the Times very hard, and navigation being obstructed, all occupations relative to ship building, are duller than any others—particularly the Ropemakers, who can not find Employment for their old Journeymen and Apprentices, much less think of taking new ones.
There are moreover at present, and have been Since the War between England and Holland very few American Vessells here: So that it is very difficult for a Single Man to get a Passage.
There is also at present more risque of the Ennemy, in a Passage from hence than from France, and what is worse than all the rest there is Nobody here, who has any Money in his Hands belonging25 to the American Publick. I cannot therefore but approve the Reluctance against coming this Way which you Say, you find in general, in American Prisoners.
Notwithstanding this, I Shall be always ready to assist any distressed Americans, to the Utmost of my Power. There is no set of Men more meretorious, than the Prisoners who escape, and there is no occupation more pleasing to a Man of Philanthropy than to relieve them. But as The United States are not yet acknowledged by their high Mightinesses, I can receive no Assistance for the relief of my unfortunate Countrymen from this Government: and as I have not any publick Money at my disposal, the only Aid I can give them is in a private Capacity, unless, his Excellency Dr Franklin can enable me to do more by Supplying me with Money. If any Body will furnish me Money, the more of it I give to deserving and distressed Americans the better.