Letters from France: The Private Diplomatic Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, 1776-1785

By Benjamin Franklin; Brett F. Woods | Go to book overview
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PART I. ARRIVAL IN FRANCE TO LORD NORTH’S APRIL 1782
PRIVATE ENTREATMENT

Nantes [France], Dec. 8, 1776
To John Hancock, President of Congress

Sir,

In thirty days after we left the Capes of Delaware, we came to an anchor in Quiberon Bay.13 I remained on board four days, expecting a change of wind proper to carry the ship into the river Loire, but the wind seeming fixed in an opposite quarter, I landed at Auray, and with difficulty got hither, the road not being well supplied with means of conveyance. Two days before we saw land, we met a brigantine from Bordeaux belonging to Cork, and another from Rochefort belonging to Hall, both of which were taken. The first has on board, staves, tar, turpentine, and claret: the other Coniac brandy and flaxseed. There is some difficulty in determining what to do with them, as they are scarce worth sending to America, and the mind of the French court with regard to prizes brought into their ports, is not yet known. It is certainly contrary to their treaties with Britain to permit the sale of them, and we have no regular means of trying and condemning them.—There are, however, many here who would purchase prizes, we having already had several offers from persons who are willing to take upon themselves all consequences as to the illegality.

13. On October 27, 1776, Franklin travelled to France aboard the 16-gun sloop Reprisal, commanded by Captain Lambert Wickes. On 3 December they landed at Auray in Brittany, and Franklin eventually reached Nantes on 7 December. The voyage, for the times, was reasonably swift, but nonetheless hard on a man of seventy. The sailor’s fare was bad for his health and he found himself poorly nourished and weak upon his arrival in France (Hale 1887, 49).

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