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cook islands

The Cook Islands in the South Pacific were named for British explorer James Cook. While Franklin was living in London, he became acquainted with Capt. Cook and dined with him upon occasion. Cook’s voyages of exploration naturally interested Franklin because of their scientific nature. Later, during the American Revolution, Franklin intervened on Cook’s behalf. In March 1779, Franklin wrote a "passport" for Cook and his crew, which provided the explorers with safe passage through waters patrolled by American warships.

From France, Franklin contacted the American commanders of armed ships and wrote that if they should come in contact with Cook’s ship that they should "not consider her an enemy, nor suffer any plunder to be made of the effects contained in her, nor obstruct her immediate return to England by detaining her or sending her into any other part of Europe or to America; but that you treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness, affording them, as common friends to mankind, all the assistance in your power which they may happen to stand in need of."

Franklin’s intervention was well-intentioned, but it was too late for the captain himself, as Cook had already been killed by natives in Hawaii one month before Franklin wrote the passport. The ship returned to England, going west around Africa to avoid American waters.

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