Recipient: Franklin, Benjamin
Recipient: Lee, Arthur
Recipient: First Joint Commission at Paris
[dateline] L'Orient Octr. 12. 78
[salute] Honorable Gentlemen a Passy
After my Arrivall here I applyed to the Agent1
to recive the prisoners who promised he would the next morning, upon which I sent
them a Shoar, but they ware refused to be Landed by the Comadant for want of Orders from the Ministry to that purpose, therefore was oblidged to Carry them onboard again, but shall not be able to Carry them out of France without turning at least twenty Americans a Shoar, after all the trouble and Expence they have been at since they have made their Escape from England which will be very hard on them as there is no opportunity here for them to go home, therefore beg your Honours would send me word what I must do with them as soon as you possibly can. Should likewise beg the favour of your Honours oppinion how you think the Law suit will go in reguard of the Isabelle as you will see by the proposall2
of the former propriators to the Admiralty, by falcehood and every other Artifice that they can invent they intend to prolong it and make it as Difficult as possible.3
There is Another arrived at Brest taken by Capt. Pickerin4
belonging to the same Owners and under the same Circumstances, which makes it necessary that we should proceed in a proper manner, which should be very glad to Know, as I have wrote to Capt. Pickerin on the Subject and shall wait till I hear from you. I am Most Honorable Gentl Your very humble Servt
PPAmP: Franklin Papers
; addressed: “The Honorable Commissioners of the United States of America Att the Court of France Att Passy”; docketed: “Captn. McNeills Letter. ansd Octr. 27. 177]8]”; in another hand immediately below “Letter”: “Oct. 12. 78”; and a third hand at the top of the address page: “Capt. McNeil.”
1. Probably the commissary for prisoners; see James Moylan to the Commissioners, 12 Oct. (PPAmP
: Franklin Papers). In that letter Moylan gave essentially the same account regarding the prisoners as did McNeill, adding only that four or five of them had escaped.
2. Presumably an enclosure, which has not been found.
3. In his letter of the 12th, James Moylan reported that the Isabelle's owners had offered McNeill one-third of the vessel's value for the recapture. This offer being unacceptable, McNeill had decided to go through the courts, and credentials for Leray de Chaumont to act in the matter were sent by the next mail. The choice of Chaumont was appropriate because of his close relationship with Sartine, Minister of Marine (John Bigelow, “Franklin's Home and Host in France,” Century Magazine, 35:750 [March 1888]).
4. Thomas Pickering, of Portsmouth, N.H., captain of the privateer Hampden,
was killed in action against an East Indiaman on 8 March 1779 (Richard Francis Upton, Revolutionary New Hampshire,
Hanover, N.H., 1936, p. 110–111). Pickering's prize was La Constance;
see the Commissioners to Sartine, 7 Jan. 1779
, and note 1