August 19, 2015 By Sara Georgini in Lists, Recent Scholarship Tags: 19th Century, Adams, Africa, American Indians, American Revolution, Amistad, Antebellum South, Archives, Atlantic World, braddock, Caribbean, Charleston, Civil War, Confederacy, cultural history, Democracy, Diplomacy, diplomatic history, Early Republic, Founders, French Atlantic, Gender, George Washington, historiography, History of Medicine, Jefferson, John Adams, legal history, London, Methodology, museums, Nat Turner, Native Americans, New England, New York, Pirates, Politics, Print Culture, prisoners, Publishing, Quaker, Quakers, religion, religious history, renaissance, Romanticism, Slavery, southern history, Spanish Empire, theatre, Thomas Jefferson, university press, Virginia, visual culture, War of 1812, Washington
Earlier this week, I found myself sitting at my desk at the Franklin Papers faced with photostat copies of an “Alphabetical List of Escaped Prisoners” and a huge pile of promissory notes printed in triplicate by Franklin himself on the press he kept at his home in Passy, a suburb outside Paris. While I was going through them, I could not help but think back to the recent events surrounding the return of U.S. Army Sergeant, Bowe Bergdahl, the last remaining prisoner of the nation’s longest continuous period of war since the American Revolution. Politics aside, the Bergdahl affair speaks to the importance placed on coming to the aid of Americans detained in wartime. And what I had before me at my desk spoke to the same during the War for Independence. These men—largely privateersmen who had been captured on the high seas by the British and transported to English prisons—were among the very first Americans imprisoned on foreign soil during wartime and these documents reveal an often untold story about how the United States government and Benjamin Franklin dealt with this new problem.