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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Indien

 

(Ft: t 1,430; l. 170'; b. 43'3"; dph. 16'6"; cpl. 550)

 

L'Indien, a frigate built for the U.S. Commissioners in France, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Dean, and Arthur Lee, was laid down early in 1777 by a private shipyard in Amsterdam, Holland. Late in the year John Paul Jones sailed for France, hoping to assume command of L'Indien; but, before his arrival, financial difficulties and opposition from the still-neutral Dutch government, under pressure from Great Britain, had forced the Commissioners to sell the new frigate to the King of France.

 

For over 2 years the ship remained idle while several American and European agents schemed to obtain her. Finally, on 30 May 1780 the King granted her to the Duke of Luxembourg, who simultaneously chartered her to South Carolina, represented by Commodore Alexander Gillon of the South Carolina Navy. Gillon renamed the frigate South Carolina (see South Carolina in "States Navy Appendix," Vol. V, DANFS).

 

Subsequently, she took several prizes and led the combined United States-Spanish expedition which captured the Bahamas. British man-of-war Astrea, Diomede, and Quebec captured South Carolina as she attempted to dash out of Philadelphia through the British blockade 20 December 1782.

 

Perhaps her greatest significance comes from the fact the marine architect Joshua Humphreys studied her sleek hull and used her lines in designing the U.S. Navy's first frigates, especially Constitution and Constellation.