A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive
Next Page
Previous Page

John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778
sheet 22 of 37, 14 - 19 May 1778

man [Gentleman] you allude to, thinks that our Affairs have been mismanaged and the public Interest imprudently dissipated: and that many Persons have been improperly admitted to the public Purse. Another Gentleman, who has had the principal direction of the Purse, complains of reflections upon the French Nation and Government, Customs, manners &c. I wish there were no ground for any of these reflections: But one thing I know, that an immense Sum of Money is gone, that a great Sum of Money is still due. And another thing I know, that I am at a loss to discover what America has received as an equivalent for all these Sums and Debts.
As to Mr. Delap, whom you recommend for Agent, I have not a Sentiment but of respect for that Gentleman: but, Sir, the Appointment of continental Agents and the Management of commercial Affairs, is now in a new Channel under the orders of Congress, and I believe the Commissioners will not think themselves at Liberty to interfere in it. Mr. Bondfield I believe has a regular appointment, and for any thing I have ever heard behaves well. If any complaints should arise, the Commissioners will undoubtedly attend to them, with the utmost impartiality.
If you should determine homewards, be so good as to let me know as early as you can, and the part of the Continent to which you shall go.... Whether you go or stay, I wish you all happiness and prosperity, being with sincere Esteem your friend and Servant.
Mr. William McCreery at Bourdeaux.
I find written under this Letter, in my private Letter Book, the Words "Not Sent." Upon more mature deliberation, I thought it improper and dangerous, to lay open so much of the State of our Affairs and the Altercations of the Parties, to any private Gentleman in France, especially at the distance of Bourdeaux: and therefore resolved to withhold the Letter, though it contained nothing but the exact truth.
The public Business of this day May 14 included the following Letter
In the several Cruises made by Captains Wicks, Johnson, Cunningham, Thompson and others, of our armed Vessells, on the Coasts of Great Britain, it is computed that between four and five hundred Prisoners have been made, and set at Liberty, either on their landing in France, or at Sea, because it was understood that We could not keep them confined in France. When Captain Wicks brought in, at one time, near an hundred, We proposed to Lord Stormont, an Exchange for as many of ours confined in England: but all Treaty on the Subject was rudely refused, and our

People are still detained there, notwithstanding the liberal discharges, We had made of theirs, as abovementioned. We hear that Captain Jones has now brought into Brest, near 200, which We should be glad to exchange for our Seamen who might be of Use in our Expeditions from hence: but as an Opinion prevails that Prisoners of a Nation with which France is not at War, and brought into France by another Power, cannot be retained by the Captors, but are free, as soon as they arrive, We are apprehensive that these Prisoners may also be sett at Liberty, return to England, and serve to man a Frigate against Us, while our brave Seamen, with a number of our Friends of this nation, whom We are anxious to sett free, continue useless and languishing in their Goals. In a Treatise of one of your Law Writers, entituled A Treatise of Prises or Principles of French jurisprudence concerning the Prizes, which are made at Sea printed in 1763 We find the above Opinion controverted page 129 . 30. in the following Words. "This seems to shew, that it is not true, as some Persons pretend, that as soon as a Prisoner, making his escape or otherwise, has sett his foot on Land, in a neutral Power, he is absolutely free from that moment. Indeed it will not be permitted to retake him, without the consent of that Power; but she would be wanting to the Laws of Neutrality, if [s]he should refuse her Consent. This is a Consequence of the Assylum due to the Ship in which was the Prisoner or the Hostage."
We know not of what Authority this Writer may be, and therefore pray a moment of your Excellencys Attention to this matter, requesting your Advice upon it, that if it be possible some means may be devised to retain these Prisoners, till as many of ours can be obtained in exchange for them. We have the Honor to be &c.
To Mr. De Sartine.
Benjamin Franklin
Arthur Lee
John Adams
Dined at Mr. Grands with all the Americans in Paris.
We received a Letter from the Count De Vergennes, a litteral Translation of which is in these Words.
I have the honour, Gentlemen, to send you the Copy of a Letter, written to Mr. De Sartine, by the Consul of France at Madeira. You will see, in it, all the Circumstances of the Conduct, which an American Privateer, named John Warren has held, towards a French Snow or Brigantine,Captain Rochell, which he seized, near enough to the Land and in Sight of the City of Madeira. Proceedures so reprehensible, cannot remain unpunished, and I doubt not Gentlemen, that you will make to Congress such representations, as will produce the most efficacious measures, not only that the Captain John Warren may receive the punishment his conduct merits

but also to procure for the French Vessell, the Satisfaction and indemnification which are due to her. I rely, in this respect, on the Necessity, of which you must undoubtedly be convinced, of restraining such Excesses, the Consequences of which will not be less felt by the Congress, than they are by Us. I have the honour to be, most perfectly, Gentlemen your most humble and most obedient Servant
De Vergennes.
Messrs. les Deputes des Etats Unis
Copy of a Letter written to Mr. De Sartine, by Mr. De La Ruilliere [Tuelliere], Consul at Madeira the 15. February 1778.
I have the honour to inform you, that on the fourth of this month, a French Snow or Brigantine, which is believed to be the Prudent Captain Rochell of about one hundred and fifty tons, coming from London with a Cargo of Commodities, and some flour, for this Island, was met, visited and captured, near enough to the Land and in Sight of this City by an American Privateer, which is said to be from Boston and is named the Lyon Captain John Warren, and finally sent to Boston, under the protest that the Cargo belonged to Englishmen. The Circumstances which accompanied this Capture, render the Action of this Cruiser not only extremely blameable but they characterize him rather as a Pirate, than as a Privateer authorized by any Government.
Following the directions of a Portuguese Fisherman, whichwhom the said Vessell had taken for a guide to conduct her into the Road, the Privateer entered into this Vessell as into a Prize, taking immediate possession, and even ill treating the People, and after having transported them by violence on board the Privateer, taken and kept all the Papers, which could prove to whom the Vessell belonged, and of what Nation he was, she put on board an American Crew with whom she sent her to America, naturally in the Intention of selling there, the Cargo, and perhaps the Vessell, with the Ventures of the frenchCaptain and  [illegible Seamen, and all that might belong to Merchants of Neutral Nations, with the Insurgents in some of our American Islands, where the said Cargo of Commodities, ou bien de Pipes en bote, would sell to great Advantage whereas they would be of very little Value, if sold in the English Colonies of the Insurgents, which abound in such Merchandizes. I have made haste, my Lord to inform you of this fact, persuaded, that after having reflected upon its importance, you will condescend to take all the measures necessary, to obtain restitution of so irregular a Capture, to cause the Captain of thePrivateer to be punished for his Crime, and to prevent in future all similar Outrages, so prejudicial to our navigation and commerce, and so inconsistent with the Safety, and the respect, which all nations preserve, for our flagg, in the present Circumstances.

Dined at home. Dr. Dubourg, Mr. Parker and another Gentleman dined with me.
We wrote the following Circular Letter to all the Seaports.
Certain Intelligence having been received, that Eleven British Ships of War, vizt. one of go Guns, nine of 74 and one of sixty four Guns, are in the road of St. Hellens near Portsmouth, bound for North America, and the United States being in Allyance with France, you are requested as speedily as possible to convey this information to the Commanders of any French Fleet or Ships of War in America, by sending them this Letter, and also to publish the Contents of it, in all the Continental Newspapers. We have the honor to be, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble Servants.
Twenty Copies of this Letter, signed by B. Franklin and John Adams were sent on the day of the date of it.
We dined at Mr. La Fr t's country Seat, at the foot of Mount Calvare. The House, Gardens and Walks were very spacious. The Seat is upon the River Seine, nearly opposite to that Castle, whimsically called Madrid, built by Francis the first, and called by that name, to quiet his conscience and save his honour by a Punn, for violating his Parol given to Charles the fifth.
We wrote to Congress, and to the Count De Vergennes.
To the President of Congress
We have the Honor to inclose a Copy of a Letter received from Monsieur the Count De Vergennes, the Secretary of State for foreign Affairs, with a Copy of a Letter inclosed in it, for the Consideration of Congress, not doubting that Congress will give it all the Attention, that an Affair of so much importance demands. We have the Honor to be &c.
B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
We have had the Honor of your Excellencys Letter of the fifteenth instant,inclosing a Copy of a Letter from Mr. De La Rouilliere, Consul at Madeira of the 15th. of March [i.e. February?] 1778.
We have inclosed to Congress a Copy of your Excellencys Letter with a Copy of its Inclosures, and have recommended to Congress, the earliest attention to the Subject, and have no doubt that justice will

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778, sheet 22 of 37 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778. Part 2 is comprised of 37 sheets and 7 insertions; 164 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 4 Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961.
Next Page
Previous Page