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have; but, as that could not soon be obtained, I thought it wrong in them to detain the vessel on that account; and, as I was informed many of them were in want of necessaries, I advanced twenty-four thousand livres on account, and put it into Captain Jones's hands to relieve and pacify them, that they might go more willingly. But they were encouraged by some meddling passengers to persist. The King would have taken the prizes and paid for them, at the rate per gun, &c., as he pays for warlike vessels taken by his ships; but they raised a clamor at this, it being put into their heads, that it was a project for cheating them, and they demanded a sale by auction. The minister, who usually gives more when ships are taken for the King than they will produce by auction, readily consented to this when I asked it of him; but then this method required time to have them inventoried, advertised in different ports, to create a fuller concurrence of buyers, &c. Captain Jones came up to Paris to hasten the proceedings. In his absence, Captain Landais, by the advice of Mr. Lee and Commodore Gillon, took possession of the ship and kept her long, writing up to Paris, waiting answers, &c.
I have often mentioned to Congress the inconvenience of putting their vessels under the care of persons living perhaps one hundred leagues from the port they arrive at, which necessarily creates delays, and of course enormous expenses; and, for a remedy, I have as often recommended the appointment of consuls, being very sensible of my own insufficiency in maritime affairs, which have taken up a vast deal of my time, and given me abundance of trouble, to the hinderance, sometimes, of more important business. I hope these inconveniences will now be soon removed by the arrival of Mr. Palfrey.
As the ministry had reasons, if some of the first plans had been pursued, to wish the expedition might be understood as American, the instructions were to be given by me, and the outfit was committed to M. de Chaumont, known to be one of our friends, and well acquainted with such affairs. The Marquis de Lafayette, who was to have been concerned in the execution, can probably acquaint you with those reasons. If not, I shall do it hereafter. It afterwards continued in the hands of M. de Chaumont to the end. I never paid or received a farthing directly or indirectly on account of the expedition; and, the captains having made him their trustee and agent, it is to him they are to apply for their proportions of the captures. There may be something, though I believe very little, coming to the United States from the Alliance's share of a small ransom made contrary to orders.
No account has been rendered to me of that ransom, therefore I cannot say how much; but I will inquire about it and inform you hereafter.
Most of the colliers taken were burnt or sunk. The ships of war taken, I understand, belong wholly to the captors. If any particulars remain, on which you desire information, be pleased to mention them. I think it my duty to give you all the satisfaction in my power, and shall do it willingly. Being with great regard, Gentlemen, &c. B. FRANKLIN
Fassy, 1 April. 1781.
I received your respected favor of the 20th past, and am shocked exceedingly at the account you giv me of Digges. He that robs the rich even of a single guinea is a villain; but what is he who can break his sacred trust, by robbing a poor man and a prisoner of eighteen pence given in charity for his relief, and repeat that crime as often as there are weeks in a winter, and multiply it by robbing as many poor men every week as make up the number of near six hundred? We have no name in our language for such atrocious wickedness. If such a fellow is not damned, it is not worth while to keep a devil.*
I am sorry you have been obliged to advance money. I desired Mr. Grand, some time since, to order two
Mr. Hodgson had written as follows. "I have just received yours of the 8th instant, which surprises me not a little, as by the letter enclosed I perceive the person to whom that letter is addressed has deceived you most egregiously. He has not advanced one shilling that has come to my knowledge. He had indeed wrote to Portsmouth and Plymouth, to order a distribution of one shilling and six pence a week to the prisoners. I was informed of it by the agents at both places; but, although he gave those directions, he did not provide the necessary funds. I thought it therefore right to caution both Mr. Wren and Mr. Heath against advancing money, and advised them to say, that they should be glad to serve the prisoners, but that it was just that the money should be sent to them; and indeed I have been obliged to reimburse to one of those persons twenty-five pounds, and to the other twenty pounds, which they had before advanced to Mr. Digges, and could not procure the payment of; and this I did, partly out of a bill he gave me last year on Mr. Grand for forty-eight pounds, although twenty pounds of that sum were for money I had lent him in the spring of 1780. I fear all is not right. He has been absent from
hundred pounds to be paid you in London. If that is not done, draw on him for the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds, payable at thirty days' sight, and your bill shall be duly honored.
I enclose a copy of Digges's last letter to me, in which he acknowledges the drafts made on me, (omitting one of seventy-five pounds,) and pretends, that he only draws as he is drawn upon by his friends, who hand the money to the prisoners, and that those friends are almost tired of the charitable employment, but he encourages them, &c. Be so good as to let them know of this letter.
I wish, with you and with all good men, for peace ; proposals of mediation have been made, but the effect is yet uncertain. I shall be mindful of your request, and you may depend on my doing any thing in my power that may be serviceable to you. With sincere esteem, I am, dear Sir, &c.
town some time. The last I heard of him was from Bristol, where he was about purchasing goods for Lisbon."- London, May 20th, 1781. Extract from a letter written by Dr Franklin to Mr. Jay, dated Passy, August 20th, 1781. Digges, a Maryland merchant, residing in London, who pretended to be a zealous American, and to have much concern for our poor people in the English prisons, drew upon me for their relief at different times last winter to the amount of four hundred and ninety-five pounds sterling, which he said had been drawn for upon him by the gentlemen at Portsmouth and Plymouth, who had the care of the distribution. To my utter astonishment I have since learned, that the villain had not applied above thirty pounds of the money to that use, and that he has failed and absconded."
TO FRANCIS DANA.
Respecting Mr. Dana's Mission to the Court of
Passy, 7 April, 1781.
I received the letter you yesterday did me the honor of writing to me,* requesting my opinion, in writing, relative to the conference you had with his Excellency the Count de Vergennes, last Wednesday, I being present; and also as to the expediency of your proceeding to St. Petersburg; which request I willingly comply with, as follows.
Question 1. "Whether, on the whole, I conceived the Count to have any objections to the mission itself?"
Answer. He did not make any such objections, nor did he drop any expression, by which it might be supposed he had any such in his mind.
Question 2. "Whether I considered his reflections upon the subject to be rather intended as cautions. and advice to you, respecting the conduct he wished you to hold in the business?"
Answer. His Excellency expressed his apprehensions, that, if you went thither under a public character before the disposition of the Court was known, and its consent obtained, it might be thought improper, and be attended with inconvenience; and, if I remember right, he intimated the propriety of your consulting the ambassador at the Hague.
Question 3. "Whether I supposed him finally to make any real objections to your going to St. Petersburg, in the character only of a private American gen
*See Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. VIII. p. 268.