[dateline] Dunkerque Octobr. 12. 1778
Being a Townsman of yours and having suffered in the Grand Cause I have Made my Aplication To Mr. Coffyn in Behalf of the United States of Amirica for a Small Sum of Money sufficent to Bear my Exepences while in France which will be no Longer then I Can Geet a Vessell Bound To America which By the Assistance of Mr. Coffyn I hope will not be Long. Sir My affairs Stands thus1
I was Taken a Vollenteer with Capn. Henry Johnson in the Sloop
Carried from England To the East Indias From Whence I Made My Escape. I Came home in an English East Indiaman. Left Madrass the 6th. of February arrived in England the 6th. of august. Imprest. 13th. the 27th. at London Sept. 25. at Flushing.3
Octr. 7. at Dunkirque, as for Perticulars Excuse me Sir at Presant. Pray Sir Please To mention me in your Letters To America for my wife nor any Other of my friends or Relations Knows not wether I am dead or a Live. Sir I was Borne in Braintree in the Reverend Mr. Saml. Nileses Parish. My Father prehaps you May Very well Know—he was a Leuitnt. in the Western war.4
Mr. Coffyn Continues favours To all Americans that Chance To Come through France in Consequence of that I have Wrote Several Letters and Lodged them or Directed them To Be Loged in such Parts of London as may be most Convenient for them To fall in with.
Sir I Can not write in Particular which way we Propose To Gett To America But Rely Intierly on Mr. Coffyns Good Conduct.
Sir Please If Opertunity Favours, ither in your directions To Boston Braintree or Marblehead. This Sir Desire in Case any Mishap Might Befall us.6
NB. By saying us, there is on[e]
Capn. Geo. Smith, of Nantuckitt,7
Bound the Same way.
Sir I Begg the Favor of Subcribing my self a True Born American
[signed] William Whitmarsh Junr.
the Place where I am Setled 8. June 1776. with Capn. Henry Johnson.9
Sir. Mr. Elbridge Gerry which was one of the Delagates of the Honorable Conteninl. Congress. and Lives in Marblehead in his fathers Mantion house Opposite myun.
Pray. Sir Remamber me To Mr. Gerry—and he will forward the Same.
Sir I Begg Pardon for Coa[lin]
g you honor in Such a Manner. But To Make it appear that I was absolutely an American.10
; docketed: “Wm Whitmarsh ansd Oct 19”; in CFA's hand: “1778?.” JA's reply has not been found.
1. JA's Diary entry for 22 Oct. provides a far more detailed account of Whitmarsh's adventures than does this letter and is apparently based on notes taken by JA during an interview with Whitmarsh (
Diary and Autobiography
). It seems likely, therefore, that after writing this letter Whitmarsh went to Paris to present his case to the Commissioners and perhaps, in light of the last paragraph, to deliver it personally to JA. If so, his visit bore fruit because on 26 Oct. he received 240 livres from the Commissioners (Commissioners' Accounts with Ferdinand Grand,
[9 Aug. – 12 Nov.]
, vol. 6:362).
2. Whitmarsh and Capt. Henry Johnson
were captured when the Yankee
was taken by the English sailors made prisoner from its prizes (Allen, Mass. Privateers
, p. 328).
3. Flushing, or Vlissingen, is a port in the Netherlands.
4. William Whitmarsh Jr. was born on 26 Dec. 1748; his father, William Sr., served as a lieutenant in the 1756 Crown Point expedition and filled various town offices in Braintree (
Braintree Town Records
, p. 795, 284, 297, 377, 434; Pattee, Old Braintree and Quincy
, p. 375).
5. The preceding two paragraphs appear on page one of tbe letter, while this, the following four paragraphs, and the signature were written on page three. The location of the remaining paragraphs is given in notes 6 and 10 (below).
6. As written, this paragraph makes little sense. Whitmarsh may have intended to clarify it with what, in this reconstruction, appears as the final three paragraphs of the letter. These are centered on page two, below the place and date, with wide margins above and below, and were probably intended to be inserted in the body of the letter, but there is no indication at what point this was to be done.
7. The preceding two words were written below this paragraph, in the left margin, with a single brace indicating somewhat ambiguously their intended location.
8. The following six words were written above the line, probably for insertion here.
9. This sentence was inclosed in braces and appears to have been intended to accompany the two paragraphs that follow. However, its position on the page could be an indication that it was to be part of the dateline.
10. This paragraph was placed in the left margin of page three. Its position, the appearance of the writing, and the slightly different colored ink make it likely that it was written last, perhaps after Whitmarsh had reached Paris. It would explain Whitmarsh's apology for “Coa[lin]g” on JA for assistance.