Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Exploits of Benjamin Franklin Seaver - Part 1

Benjamin Franklin Seaver, born in Brookline MA in 1780 to Nathaniel and Susanna (White) Seaver, went to sea early on. His father, and his older brother Nathaniel, died at sea off Arabia in 1792. Benjamin Seaver died at sea off Montevideo in 1814, according to the available data. Benjamin is not my ancestor, but he is my distant cousin.

A correspondent asked me about the life of Benjamin Franklin Seaver, and I had nothing beyond the vital statistics. I looked in the America's Historical Newspapers, 1690-1876 on the New England Historical Genealogical Society website ( and found a wealth of information about Benjamin's early career in the United States Navy.

Here is the first entry in the newspapers:

"Suffolk Gazette," published in Sag Harbor NY, dated 4 March 1805, Volume II, Issue 55, Page 3:

Headline: Extract of a letter from Bordeaux, dated Nov. 15, 1804, received at New-York.


"The noted captain, Nathan Haley, who is now a lieutenant in the French navy, caused his brother, George Haley, master of the ship Brutus of New-London, now in the river, to denounce his mate, Mr. Benjamin Franklin Seaver, of Boston, to the police of this city, as an English spy.

"Mr. Seaver is a young man of good connections and excellent education; he is now in close confinement, and will, in all probability, be brought before the criminal tribunal. The cause of this denunciation on the part of Haley and his brother, is Seaver's having demanded 1500 livres, which the consul awarded as due him from capt. G. Haley, and which the latter having refused to pay, Seaver wrote him a letter, saying, "if you do not pay me I will declare to the consul that the vessel belongs to your piratical brother, and not to you" upon the receipt of which letter they caused him to be arrested.

"I have just left our consul, who enters with great spirit into poor Seaver's situation, and as the Haleys have got into his hands, who from his severe though upright conduct has got the name among the captains of consul Taught, I think justice will be done Seaver, and they get severely punsihed. A more unjust, wicked thing cannot well be imagined."


So Benjamin Franklin Seaver, in 1804, is in a French prison as an English spy, as a result of getting mixed up with the two Haleys - one of them serving the French navy.

Stay tuned, because Benjamin's struggles are just beginning.

1 comment:

Tim Agazio said...


This is great stuff! I can't wait to read the next installment. I haven't used newspapers too much, but I think I will check it out again after seeing what you have found.