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mand of Captain Wickes, the Reprisal, to leagues from the coast of Holland, he fell which the Lexington, of fourteen guns, and in with a small vessel flying the English the Dolphin, of eighteen guns, had been flag. It had been his intention to hold joined, was preparing to start on a short up, if possible, and capture or turn back cruise into the Irish Channel. But they one of the transports then engaged in were, so to speak, men-of-war and were to carrying Hessian troops to America, but, sail in company. Here was a craft of failing in this, it was his hope to run across something under a hundred tons about to one of the King's cutters, or small packets sail alone.
in the royal service. Two months to a day after the date of On the small vessel came, all unsuspectthe commission that he held, Conyngham ing, and by clever maneuvering Conyngput boldly out into the chops of the Eng- ham laid the Surprise alongside and lish Channel
boarded her, without a warning shout or In the cabin locker was the Rattlesnake shot. The captain of the English vessel flag-thirteen alternate red and white and his passengers were at breakfast in stripes, with the snake across them, and the cabin when the first mate suddenly beneath the warning legend, “Don't called down from the deck that a strange Tread on Me." He had it made for him craft had run afoul of them and made by a sailmaker on his vessel, and he was fast with a grappling-iron. Before any eager to see it at his masthead.
one could stir, Captain Conyngham himWithin six hours of port he had two self walked down to the cabin and inexceedingly narrow escapes from capture, formed the master of his prize that he but he managed to elude his pursuers, and was a prisoner. Upon finding that his on the morning of the 4th (Cooper and prize was the Prince of Orange, the Harmost naval historians have the date wrong, wich packet, carrying the mails for the giving it as the 7th), when but a few north of Europe, Captain Conyngham considered it best to make for port with all sailles ? Certainly it appears, at first possible haste, so, placing a prize crew on glance, that if Conyngham wished to board the packet, he headed both vessels prove his right to make captures, he back for Dunkirk.
should have shown it to the representative The next day he picked up another of the English Government. He either little craft, a brig named the Joseph, and, knew better than that, or was acting under with both prizes under his lee, he sailed very good advice, for he was not yet in into the harbor and came to anchor. the hands of the British Government,
The British Ambassador was up in although detained at the expressed wish arms again. “Hortalez & Co." must have of Lord Stormont. There were powerful been greatly put out by the earnestness friends of America at the French Court, of their agent at sea. Duplicity of the and, to tell the truth, the Court itself was deepest dye must be resorted to to save rather deeply involved in the game of the day! So the Comte de Vergennes pulling the wool over the English Miniswrote to Lord Stormont expressing the ter's eyes. True enough, if the Comte greatest indignation and regret. Forth- de Vergennes could have kept up appearwith Conyngham and his crew were taken ances by the sacrifice of Conyngham and from the Surprise, and found themselves his crew as mere privateersmen, he would hurried to the gates of a French prison. not have cared a snap of his finger, for The prizes were turned over to the Eng- France, at all times, was his only thought; lish Government and the cutter was con- but to give up an officer of the United fiscated. “On this occasion," writes Colonies Navy, and holding a commission Cooper, “the commission of Captain Con- as such, was more than he dared to do, yngham was taken from him and sent to considering the fact that he was deep in Versailles, and it seems never to have the game with Beaumarchais and on been returned.”
friendly terms with good Dr. Franklin, Why was the commission sent to Ver- who was on friendly terms with everybody.
den Engelsche Paket-boot voor een Smerriaansche Kaaper rencomen.
deri s Maw A 7777
Perhaps he did not know that Franklin had possession of those blank commissions. Perhaps he did not think that the good Doctor was so well prepared. There is sufficient
Story proof, however, to show that he endeavored his best to dodge receiving the commission when it was sent to Versailles, and this may have been in order to have a salve for his diplomatic conscience, for he was all the time promising Lord Stormont that the prisoners should be turned over to the British representatives, and probably assuring his Lordship also that he did not care whether they were hanged, drawn, or quartered. But the old adage of "the power behind the throne" is a good one, and in this case the power was no less than the French Queen, with whom Franklin was on the friendliest
CAP.N terms—if Dame Rumor of
CUNING HAM. the time speaks correctly. At all events, the commission reached the fair hands of Marie Antoinette, and through her reached those Caused from the Ingenai betší echofar talento of King Louis, and through Cournence, and stuck up in the Engles. Cette to him, of course, it was easy Print taken from the original displayed in an English coffee-house in to get at the Prime Minister.
Dunkirk, 1777. Owned by Captain John S. Barnes. I might say all this “supposedly,” for orders were brought post haste from Paris, Franklin was too much of a gallant to and he and his whole crew were released drag in a lady's name directly, and in all and found themselves again free men. his correspondence afterwards he has Was the doughty Captain discouraged ? clearly avoided bringing the question to a Not a bit of it! There is a little anechead; but in a letter written at this very dote told of him during his confinement time to the British Government by one of in the prison at Dunkirk. His confineits spies, Dr. Bancroft, F.R.G.S.—a man ment there was not made a hardship; he who took money from both parties, for he was allowed the liberty of the jail yard was in the American employ also—we find and inclosure, and one day he was there these words: “Lord Stormont has the ear taking exercise by bounding a rubber ball of Comte de Vergennes, but Franklin has back and forth against the high brick the Queen on his side, and she will do sides of the building, when a red-faced
man approached him, and without cereAt all events, just before the vessels mony spoke. arrived that were to take Conyngham and “I am Captain Cuthbertson, of his his companions to England to stand trial Majesty's sloop-of-war Alert,” he said ; (and the noose was swinging for him), “your name is Conyngham."
what he says."
The Captain stopped in his game, and and posted back almost immediately to acknowledged that to be the fact, and Dunkirk. added that he was the Captain of the late Let us turn to a letter published in the American cruiser, the Surprise.
London “ Times ” of about this date. It “ Which has been turned over to his is written by one James Clements, and Majesty's Government with the other
the other sent from Dunkirk. “I saw Conyngham vessels that you piratically took off the yesterday,” it runs. "He had engaged a coast of Holland," replied the officer. crew of desperate characters to man a
“Indeed!” answered Conyngham; “that vessel of 130 tons. She has now Frenchmust be gratifying to his Majesty. men on board to deceive our Minister
And then he went on and invited the here. A fine, fast-sailing vessel, handCaptain to take off his coat and have a somely painted blue and yellow, is now game with him, suggesting that they play at Dunkirk, having powder, small arms, for a wager of their shoebuckles or their and ammunition put on board of her. wigs.
Conyngham proved the cannon himself, “ You've played for a larger stake than and told the bystanders he would play that and lost," said the Englishman in the d-1 with the British trade at Havre. reply. “How can you, knowing that your It is supposed when the vessel is ready life is in jeopardy, indulge in such pas- the Frenchmen will yield command to times?"
Conyngham and his crew. The vessel is “ If my life was in jeopardy, I am sure to mount twenty carriage guns and to it would be so in a good cause. I ask have a complement of sixty men. She is for no favors, except for a little more the fastest sailer now known—no vessel elbow-room, for you're standing just where can catch her once out on the ocean. I I've been playing.”
send you timely notice, that you may be The officer controlled his anger with enabled to take active measures to stay difficulty, and then all at once blurted out this daring character, who fears not man the object of his visit. He had come to or government, but sets all at defiance. suggest that it might be possible for Con. He had the impudence to say, if he yngham to receive a pardon if he would wanted provisions or repairs he would swear allegiance to the King, and he even put into an Irish harbor and obtain them. hinted that a billet might be found for It is vain here to say Conyngham is a him in the royal navy.
pirate. They will tell you he is one brave Conyngham's reply showed well his American ; he is a bold Boston. You spirit.
cannot be too soon on the alert to stop “ You can tell those who sent you,” he the cruise of this daring pirate.” said, “ that his Majesty might offer me a In Cooper's history we find the followposition of an Admiral of the blue, and I ing in reference to Conyngham's release: would tell him that I would rather spend “ The Commissioners had the capture my days in the hold of a prison-ship than of some of the transports with Hessian accept it. As you will not play with me, troops on board in view, and they were I shall have to ask you to stand aside no sooner notified of the seizure of the again. Some day we may meet when the Surprise than Mr. Hodge, an agent who game will be for larger stakes and there was of great service to the cause, was will be harder missiles flying.”
directed to procure another cutter. One With that he wished his guest good- was accordingly purchased at Dunkirk, morning.
and was fitted, with all despatch, for a Now, when he found himself free again, cruiser. Means were found to liberate his first thought was to get once more Captain Conyngham and his people, and into active service. There was a fine this second vessel, which was called the vessel of a larger tonnage than the Sur- Revenge, sailed from Dunkirk on the prise lying at Dunkirk, and for sale. The 18th of July, or about the time that Capvery first thing that Conyngham did tain Wickes returned from his cruise with was to seek out Hodge and Allan. The the other vessels. A new commission former made a flying trip to Paris, had had been obtained for Captain Conyngan interview with Franklin and Félix ham, previously to putting to sea, which Grand, the banker for Hortalez & Co., bore date May 2d, 1777. As this second
commission was dated anterior to the inal sailing orders are in possession of the seizure of the old one, there is no ques. author.) They are dated July 15, 1777. tion that it was also one of those in blank, To Capt. Cunningham. which had been confided to the Commis- As with much difficulty the Commissioners sioners to fill at their discretion."
of the United States of North America now It was Mr. Carmichael, Secretary to the
at Paris, have obtained liberty for you to sail
from Dunkerque, and as it has been on express Commissioners at Paris, who gave Con- condition that you should not cruise against yngham his final orders for the Revenge the Commerce of England, I beg and instruct on the morning of July 15, in Dunkirk; you in the name and by the orders of the Comand in Conyngham's narrative the gallant
missioners, that you do nothing which may
involve your security or occasion umbrage Captain states that he also gave him to the Ministry of France-notwithstanding ** some verbal instructions which were which, if necessity obliges you to obtain proimpossible to write." He was, probably,
visions of which your stock is not abundant,
on account of the abrupt manner in which you again warned to put to sea at once.
are obliged to leave the Port, or if attacked There is no doubt that at this time there first by our enemies, the circumstances of the
Rare French print showing Britannia upbraiding Neptune, and pointing out Conyngham with the flag and crowing cock,
while the English fleet are in full flight, Victory deserting them. From the collection of Captain John S. Barnes. was not a little friction among the Ameri- case will extenuate and plead in favor of your can Commissioners themselves—Franklin conduct, either in making prizes for your own and Lee and Silas Deane. Owing to the preservation, or in making reprisal for damages fact that so much of the correspondence you are to proceed directly to America, deliver
sustained. Nothing of this sort happening, had to be in ambiguous terms and so ing as soon as possible the despatches intrusted many of the meetings and arrangements to your care, and taking your further orders with the French Ministry entirely sub rosa,
from your employers there. Wishing you
success and prosperity, I am, &c. the positions that they consequently occu
WM. CARMICHAEL. pied in relation to one another varied at different times, but Conyngham looked The departure of the Revenge was no to the fountain head. His first orders doubt a clandestine one, Conyngham, with had been received from Dr. Franklin ; part of his crew and armament, being and now let us look at the sailing orders placed on board when free of the harbor. transmitted by Mr. Carmichael on behalf What was to be expected from the huof the Commissioners. Surely they must morous sailing orders printed above any cause a smile, and there is a gleam in them one might guess. What the verbal orders of Franklin's peculiar humor. (The orig- were it is easy to surmise. Captain Gus