The Life and Letters of John Paul Jones - Vol. 2

By Anna De Koven | Go to book overview

APPENDIX F
LETTER OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PURPORTING TO BE THE COMPOSITION OF PAUL JONES1

[Copy]

MR. WILLIS,

Please to insert in your useful paper, the following copy of a letter, from Commodore Jones, directed

To . . . . . . . . &c. &c.

IPSWICH, NEW ENGLAND, March 7, 1781.

SIR,

I have lately seen a memorial, said to have been presented by your Excellency to their high mightinesses the States General, in which you are pleased to qualify me with the title of pirate.

A pirate is defined to be hostis humani generis, [an enemy to all mankind]. It happens, Sir, that I am an enemy to no part of mankind, except your nation, the English; which nation at the same time comes much more within the definition; being actually an enemy to, and at war with, one whole quarter of the world: America, considerable part of Asia and Africa, a great part of Europe, and in a fair way of being at war with the rest.

A pirate makes war for the sake of rapine. This is not the kind of war I am engaged in against England. Ours is a war in defence of liberty--the most just of all wars; and of our properties, which your nation would have taken from us, without our consent, in violation of our rights, and by an armed force. Yours, therefore, is a war of rapine; of course, a piratical war: and those who approve of it, and are engaged in it, more justly deserve the name of pirates, which you bestow on me. It is, indeed, a war that coincides with the general spirit of your nation. Your common people in their ale-houses sing the twenty-four songs of Robin Hood, and applaud his deer-stealing and his robberies on the highway: those who have just learning enough to read, are delighted with your histories of the pirates

____________________
1
British Museum. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin. Printed for Henry Colburn. London. 1818. Vol. I, page 341.

-457-

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