Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Adventures of Benjamin Franklin Seaver - Part 2

This is the second post of a series concerning the adventures of Benjamin Franklin Seaver (1780-1814), who was a mariner. Part 1 is here.

The next mention of Benjamin is when the "Connecticut Herald" newspaper, dated 20 January 1807, Volume IV, Issue 169, page 1, published a series of letters to and from Benjamin Franklin Seaver. I accessed the images of these newspaper pages on the "America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1876" (provided by NewsBank) on the New England Historic Genealogical Society website,

An article on the newspaper page summarizes the letters printed. Here is that article:


Headline: Interesting Correspondence.


The following letters have been handed to us for publication, and perhaps our readers will feel some interest in their perusal. The circumstances which occasioned this correspondence were the shipwreck of the American brig, Indefatigable, upon the coast of Africa, and the slavery of her crew by the barbarians of that coast. The part of Africa on which the brig was lost is situated on the southern boundary of the kingdom (or empire) of Morocco; the natives are a savage race, who plunder all strangers unfortunately thrown on their coasts, and also keep them in slavery unless ransomed by their friends.

It will appear by Capt. Seavers' letters (commander of the brig) that his application for assistance to the American Consul at Gibraltar, proved of no avail, on the plea that it was questionable whether his brig would be considered by government as an American bottom. The ground on which this plea was urged consisted simply in this, that the brig had been captured on her outward passage, and condemned at Gibraltar, when Capt. Seavers repurchased his vessel, intending to return home in her.

Admitting however that the argument is valid, as respects the vessel, does this extend to the seamen and passengers? Are American citizens, native born citizens, disfranchised of their claim to the protection of government, by the adventitious circumstances of their sailing in - to say the most - an equivocal bottom! The Consul doubtless acted, in obedience to his general orders: But, with humility, we do think, that by a government which draws eleven twelfths of its revenue from the enterprise of seamen, the arm of protection should not be niggardly extended towards them.

The reader will find reference had to letters, in several instances, which do not appear on file.


Here is the first letter printed in the newspaper:


Headline: No. I. Captain Seaver to Messrs. Courts


Wednow, (Barbary), March 23, 1806.

Messrs. Wm. Court & Co.*


Your much esteemed letter of the 18th ult. I this day received, which gave me singular relief in my present unhappy situation. I return you my sincere thanks for your prompt attention, in taking so active a part for my release. I have wrote particularly to Mr. Guyn, the American Agent at Mogadore, respecting my misfortune, to whose letter I refer you for a more full account. I cannot impute my present situation to any thing more than a strong current, which set beyond common judgment; as by the course steered we ought not to have seen the continent. After being escorted to Gibraltar, and going through the course of a Vice Admiralty court, my vessel and cargo was condemned. I repurchased the vessel again, when being ready for sea, I sailed from Gibraltar with an intention of touching at the Cape de Verd Islands for a cargo of salt, from which Islands I should have sailed for Philadelphia.

Wishing to avoid all petty rovers by keeping to the eastward of the Canaries, brought me into this snare. The bill of Heath which you have received, was what I procured at Gibraltar, to pass to Algeziras in my boat, with four people, for some articles I purchased for ship's use, prior to my sailing from the former place; and was found most probably by one of my people among some papers, he being separated from me by the Moors; and not knowing how to write, had without doubt sent it to Mogadore thinking it might serve to unfold his situation. Myself and crew are now (all except the passenger Mr. Berrit and one man, both which I understand are within one day's march from this) at this place.

Should you again write me, you will be pleased to inform me what vessels are at Mogadore; and if I am fortunate enough to be soon released, whether I can procure a passage to London, as I should prefer going that rout before I visit America.

Asking the continuance of your interference in this truly unfortunate affair, I am with the highest esteem and deference, your distressed fellow creature and most humble servant,
.................................................BENJ. FRANKLIN SEAVER

* Messrs. Court & Co. are English merchants, established at Mogadore, in the kingdom of Morocco [Herald note].


These letters go, of course, to the issue that President Jefferson had to face during his term - do we pay ransom to the Barbary pirates, or do we defeat them?

Our Benjamin has himself in a bit of a mess, doesn't he? Apparently he was shipwrecked on the Moroccan coast and he, his crew and passengers were captured.

Stay tuned for the next letter in the series.

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