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John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778
sheet 5 of 37, 28 February - 7 March 1778

The Captain sent written orders to the Steward, to make weekly returns to him, of the State of provisions, and to be very frugal in the Use and management of them and particularly of Candles, as nearly one half of the Ships Store of Candles appeared to have been expended.
This was Saturday night a fortnight and one day since I took leave of my family. What Scnes [Scaenes] had I beheld in those fifteen days! What anxiety had my Friends on Shore suffered on my Account! during the North East Storm, which they must probably have felt at Land! But these Reflections were too tender to be indulged, especially as they could do no good to my friends or me. I diverted my mind from them by enquiring what was this Gulph Stream? What was the course of it? From what Point and to what Object did it flow? How broad it was? How far distant from the Continent? What were the longitudes and Latitudes of it? But I found but little satisfactory Information, till some years afterwards, I saw Governor Pownalls Treatise upon this Subject.
It was discovered that our Mainmast was sprung in two Places; one beneath the Maindeck, where, if the Mast had wholly failed in the late Storm it must have torn up the Main deck, and the Ship must have foundered. This was one among many instances in which it had already appeared that our Safety had not depended on ourselves. We had a fine Wind all day and night. The Ship was quiet and still; no disturbance, little noise; but the Velocity of our Motion was so great as to cause some Seasickness. My desire and Advice was to carry less Sail especially of nights, and at all times when We should not be in chace.
A fine Wind still and a pleasant morning. The Colour of the Water which was green, not blue as it had been for many days past, the appearance of large flocks of Gulls, and various other birds convinced many of the Gentlemen, that We were not far from the grand Bank of Newfoundland. The Captain however thought it thirty five Leagues to the North West of Us. Our Mast was the day before repaired with two large fishes, as they call them, that is to say large Oaken Planks cutt for the purpose, and put on. The Mast seems now to be firm. The Sailors were however very superstitious; they said the Ship had been so unfortunate, that they believed some Woman was on board. Women they said were the unluckyest Creatures in the World at Sea.

This Evening the Wind was very fresh and the Ship sailed at a great rate. I hoped We were out of the reach of the Gulph Stream and of British Cruisers, two Objects and Evils to which I had a strong Aversion. But my Exultation was too hasty. Other Storms and other Cruisers awaited Us, not much less formidable than those We had escaped.
Our Wind had continued brisk and fresh all the last night and this morning. Our Course was about North East. Showers fell in the night and in the morning. The Flocks of Gulls still pursued Us. This morning Captain Parison breakfasted with Us. Our Captain was in high Spirits and very gay, chattering in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Latin and Greek and boasting that he could speak some Words in every Language. He told Us, besides that he had ordered two more Fishes upon the Mainmast to cover the flaws above Deck. This Mast was very large and strong, and thought to be one of the best Sticks that our Country aforded: but it had been very roughly handled by the Lightening and the Storm, and dangerously injured.
The Captain, Lieutenants, Master, Mates, and Midshipmen, were now making their calculations to discover their Longitude, but I conjectured they would be very wild.
The Life I lead was a dull Sc ne to me -- No Business, no Pleasure, No Reading, no Study. Our little World was all wet and damp. There was nothing I could eat or drink, without nauseating. We had no Spirits for Conversation, nor any thing about which to converse. We saw nothing but Sky, Clouds and Sea, and then Seas, Clouds and Skies. I had often heard of Learning a Language, as English or French for example, on a Passage: but I believed very little of any thing was ever learned at Sea. There must be more health and better Accommodations. My young Friend Mr. Vernon had never had the least qualm of Sea Sickness since We came on board. I advised him to begin the Study of the French Tongue, methodically by reading the Grammar through. He began it accordingly.
The Weather was fair, but We had an adverse Wind from the North East, which obliged us to go to the Southward of the South East, which was out of our Course. Our general intention was to make for Nantes, one of the most commercial Cities of France, which I was very anxious to see, not only on Account of its Wealth and Antiquity, and the Connection of its Merchants with those of Bilbao, but also as the Sc ne of the Edict of Nantes proclaimed by Henry the fourth in 1598 so much to the honour and Interest of Humanity, and revoked by Louis the 14th. in 1685 so much to its disgrace and Injury.
This morning We had the pleasantest prospect

We had yet seen. An easy breeze from the Southward, gave Us an Opportunity of keeping our true course. With a soft, clear, warm Air, a fair Sun and no Sea, We had a great number of Sails spread, and went at the rate of nine Knots; yet the Ship had no perceptible motion and made no noise. My little Son was very proud of his Knowledge of all the Sails, and the Captain put him upon learning the Mariners Compass. I was ardently wishing that We might make Prize of an English Vessell, lately from London, with all the Newspapers and Magazines on board, that We might obtain the latest Intelligence and discover the plan of Operations for the ensuing Campaign in America. I was impatient to arrive in some Port or other, whether in France or Spain, that I might make Inquiries concerning the designs of the Enemy, what Force they meant to send to America; where they were to procure Men; what was the State of the British nation; what the State of Parties; what the State of Finances and of Stocks; what Supplies of Cloathing, Arms, Ammunition &c. were gone to America during the past Winter; The State of American Credit in France; what remittances had been made from America in Tobacco, Rice, Indigo or any other Articles; The State of Europe, particularly of France and Spain; what were the real designs of those Courts; what the condition of their Finances; what the State of their Armies, and especially of their fleets; what number of Ships they had, fitted for Sea; what their names, number of Men and Guns, Weight of Metal &c.; where they lay; the probability or improbability of a War, and the causes and reasons for and against each Supposition. I wanted to be employed in collecting and transmitting to Congress all the Information I could find upon these and all other points, which it might be Usefull for them to know, but the time was not yet come.
We were now supposed to be nearly in the Latitude of Cape Finisterre so that We had only to sail an Easterly course. Every one knows that this Cape and City of the same name, are the most westerly part not only of the Kingdom of Gallicia and of Spain but of all Europe, and therefore was called by the Ancients, who knew no other country, The End of the World.
We enjoyed, through the whole of this day, the clearest Horrison, the softest Weather, the smoothest Sea, and the best Wind, which We had ever found since We came on board. All Sails were spread and We went, ten Knots upon an Avarage the whole day.
The Wind had continued in the same point all night; about South, and We had gone nine Knots upon an Avarage.

This was great favour.
Many Years before I had accidentally purchased an Edition of Molieres Commedies in ten or twelve Volumes, with an English translation on the page opposite to the French. I had never made any Use of the French part untill I found myself destined to go to France. From that time I had compared the French and English together as well as I could, and now I had an Opportunity to apply myself, to the Study of the Language, which I did very closely as often as Winds and Seas and British Men of War would permit. But these Halcyon days were soon at an End.
We passed to the Northward of the Western Islands and were now supposed to be as near them as We should be at any time.
The same prosperous Wind and the same beautifull Weather continued. We proceeded on our course about two hundred miles in twenty four hours. We had passed all the dangers of the American Coast; those of the Bay of Biscay and those of the Coast of France, and as it happened those of the English Channel remained to be encountered.
Yesterday the Ship had been all in an Uproar, with laughter. The Boatswains Mate asked one of the Officers if they might have a little Sport. The Answer was Yes. Jere accordingly, with the Old Sailors, proposed to build a Galley, and all the green hands to the Number of twenty or thirty were taken in, and suffered themselves to be tied together by their Legs. When, all on a sudden,Jere, and his knowing ones, were found, handing bucketts of Water over the Sides, and pouring them upon the poor Dupes till they were wet to the Skin. The Behaviour of the Gullies, their passions, Speeches and countenances, were diverting enough. So much for Jere's fun. This frolick I suppose, according to the Sailors reasoning was to conjure up a Prize.
This morning the Captain ordered all hands upon Deck, and took an Account of the Number of Souls on board, who amounted to one hundred and seventy two. Then the Articles of War were read to them. Then he ordered all hands upon the Forecastle, and then upon the Quarter Deck, to determine by Experiments whether any difference was made in the Sailing of the Ship, by the Weight of the Men when forward, or Aft. Then all hands were ordered to their Quarters to exercise them at the Guns. Mr. Barron gave the Words of command and they spent an hour at their exercise in which they appeared to be tolerably expert. After this a dance was ordered by the Captain upon the main Deck, and all hands, Negroes, Boys and Men were obliged to join in it.... When this was over the Old Sailors sett on foot another game, which they called The Miller. I will not spend time to describe this odd Sc ne: but it

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 2, "Travels, and Negotiations," 1777-1778, sheet 5 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.
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