BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Signed document appointing Nicholas Biddle Captain of the Franklin, 1775.
Philadelphia: 1 August 1775. Printed document headed "In Committee of Safety", with wafer seal, accomplished in manuscript and signed in ink ''B. Franklin Presidt'' as President of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, countersigned by William Govett as Secretary. 8 1/4 x 12 3/4 inches (21 x 32 cm); framed. Tissue backed, toned, old folds and a few spots or small losses to fold points, very well preserved overall with large, bold and dark Franklin signature.
Provenance: By family descent to the current consignor
A highly important and foundational naval document: Benjamin Franklin, as President of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, appoints Nicholas Biddle captain of his namesake ship to protect the Province. Franklin arrived back in Pennsylvania from London in May 1775, just weeks following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and he was quickly appointed President of the Committee of Safety, chosen as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and a year later was appointed to the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. By December 1776, Franklin was off to Paris as the American Ambassador to France, thus Franklin's signature on American printed documents of this brief period are scarce and infrequently encountered at auction.
Born in Philadelphia in 1750, Nicholas Biddle began sailing at 13 and joined the Royal Navy at 20. In 1773, he was on an expedition to the Arctic under Constantine Phipps and Admiral Horatio Nelson. Returning to Philadelphia to offer his services in defence of the Province, for his experience Biddle was appointed Captain of the Franklin by the Committee of Safety. The document opens: "To Nicholas Biddle, Esquire. We reposing especial trust and confidence in your Patriotism, Valour, Conduct and Fidelity, Do by these Presents constitute and appoint you to be Captain of the Provincial Armed boat, called the Franklin, fitted out for the protection of the Province of Pennsylvania, and the Commerce of the River Delaware, against all hostile Enterprizes and for the defence of American Liberty.''
The Franklin was originally a Marblehead fishing vessel outfitted for war on the orders of George Washington and named for Benjamin Franklin. On its first mission, along with the Hancock, the Franklin was sent to intercept British supply ships as they arrived in the St. Lawrence River. Just a few months following this appointment, in December 1775 Nicholas Biddle was commissioned one of the first captains of the new Continental Navy and assumed command of the 14-gun brig Andrew Doria before his 1776 commission to captain the Randolph. Biddle captured many prizes at sea and his service to the United States in the Revolution is quite distinguished. Unfortunately though, Biddle was killed in March 1778, off Barbados, in an explosion on board the Randolph following an intense 20 minute battle with the British ship Yarmouth as he attempted to protect an American merchant convoy. Testament to his importance in American naval history, four U.S. Navy ships have been named in his honor.
We trace few Committee of Safety documents signed by Franklin during this sojourn to Pennsylvania in 1775-76, particularly of naval interest and relating to his namesake ship and a foundational American sea Captain. Of impeccable provenance, the document is offered for the first time in nearly 250 years from Biddle's descendents.
C The Christine Biddle Wainwright Collection
Additional Notes & Condition Report
No condition report? Click here to request one.