May 24. 1778
One Person at
Bourdeaux, another at
Nantes, and a third perhaps at
Havre de grace or
Dunkirk, would be amply sufficient for all public Purposes; and
to these Persons all Orders from Congress, or the commercial Committee, or the
Passi, ought to be addressed: To the same Persons
allpublic Ships of War, and all other Ships belonging to the
United States, and their Prizes ought to be addressed. And all
Orders for Supplies of Provisions, Cloathing, Repairs of Vessells &c. as well as all orders for shipping
of Merchandizes or Warlike Stores for the
United States, ought to go through their hands.
We have such Abuses and irregularities, every day occurring, as are
very allarming. Agents of various Sorts are drawing
Bills upon Us, and the Commanders of Vessells of War
are drawing upon Us, for Expences and Supplies,
which We never ordered, so that our resources will soon fail, if a speedy Stop
is not put to this Career. And we find it so difficult to obtain Accounts from
Agents of the expenditure of Monies, and of the Goods and Merchandizes shipped by them, that We can never know
either the true State of our Finances, or when and in what degree,
We have executed the orders of Congress, for sending them Arms,Cloaths, Medicines or other Things.
In order to correct some of these Abuses, and to bring our Affairs. into a
little better order, I have constantly given my Voice, against paying for
Things which We never ordered, against paying Persons who have never been
authorized, and against throwing our Affairs into a multiplicity of hands in
the same place: but the Consequence has been the refusal of so many demands and
requests, that I expect much discontent will arise from it, and many
Whether the Appointment by Congress of one or more Consuls for this Kingdom
would remedy these inconveniences, I must submit to their Wisdom.
Signed John Adams
The Hon. The Commercial Committee of Congress.
May 25. Monday.
Business as well as disputes increased and multiplied upon Us,
and there was nobody to do any Business but me so that I found it necessary to
decline invitations abroad and dine at home as much as possible, to answer the
public Letters, but after I had written them I had trouble and delay enough in
getting them signed by my Colleages. This day the
following were written
Passi May 25.
of May 9. and 16 from
Brest We duely
received. We congratulate
you, on your Success, and safe Arrival at
Brest, as well
as on the honour
you have acquired by your Conduct and Bravery in
taking one of the Kings Ships.
As We have some expectation of obtaining an Exchange of Prisoners
from England, We would advise you to keep those you have made,
securely confined,tho' in the manner most consistent
with humanity, till We have an Answer from thence. For if We can get an equal
number of our own Seamen, to man the Drake, she will be an additional Strength
to you, in a future Expedition; whereas sending her, with the Prisoners to
America, will not only weaken you, by the hands you must spare
to navigate her, and to keep the Prisoners in Subjection, but will also hazard
their being retaken.
We should have been happy to have been early informed of the particulars of
your Cruise, and of the Prizes you have made, of which We have no authentic
Advice to this hour.
Your Bill of Exchange in favour of Mr.
Bersolle, for twenty four Thousand Livres, which you inform Us you
mean to distribute among the brave Officers and Men to whom you owe your late
Success, has been presented to Us, by Mr Chaumont.
We are sorry to inform you, that We have been under the disagreable necessity of refusing Payment; and that
for several reasons; first, because your Application should have been made
to Mr. Schweighauser, who is the Person, regularly authorized
to Act as Continental Agent at
Brest, and We are determined that all American Concerns, within
our department shall go through his hands, as long as he shall continue in the
Character of American Agent, or at least till We shall find it necessary to
order otherwise. Secondly because the Bill is drawn for an expence, which We have no right or authority to defray. We
have no Authority to make presents of the public Money, to Officers or Men,
however gallant or deserving, for the purpose of providing their Families
with Cloathing, or for any other purpose. Nor to
advance them money upon the Credit of their Shares of Prizes, nor have We
Authority to advance them any part of their Pay or Bounties: All these Things
belong to Congress alone, and must be done by the proper Boards, in
Our Authority extends no farther, than to order the necessary Repairs to be
made to your Ship, to order her to be furnished with necessary Victuals, which
We are ready to order Mr. Schweighausser to do, as soon as We
shall be informed by you, what repairs and Victuals are wanted, with an
Estimate of the Amount of the Expence.
There is one Thing further, which We should venture to do, for the benefit
of your Men. Upon a representation from you of the quantity of Slops, necessary
for them, We should order Mr. Schweighausser to furnish your
Ship with them, not more however, than one Suit of Cloaths for each Man, that you may take them on board of
your Ship, and deliver them out to the Men, as they shall be wanted, charging
each Man upon the Ships Books, with what he shall receive, that it may be
deducted out of his Pay.
Lt. Simpson has stated to Us, your having put him under
Arrest for disobeying orders. As a Court Marshall must by order of Congress,
consist of three Captains, three Lieutenants, and three Captains of Marines,
and these cannot be had here, it is our desire, that he may have a Passage,
procured for him, by the first Opportunity to
America, allowing him whatever may be necessary for his defence.
As the Consequences of an Arrest in foreign Countries, are thus
extreamly troublesome, they should be well
considered before they are made.
If you are in Possession of any Resolution of Congress, giving the whole of
Ships of War, when made Prizes, to the Captors, We should be obliged to you for
a Copy of it.
We should also be obliged to you for a particular Account, in whose hands
the Prizes made by you, are, and in what forwardness, the Sale of them. We have
the honor to be, Sir your most obedient humble Servants
B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John
John Paul Jones Esqr. Commander
of the Ranger.
May 25. 1778.
Your Favours of May 11. and 18. are now before Us.
We shall this day acquaint Captain Jones, how far it is in our
Power to comply with his desires and in what manner.
Your Letter of the Eighteenth informs Us, of a dispute between Mr.
Schweighausser and you, concerning the disposal of the Rangers Prizes,
and you are still of Opinion that you have Authority to interfere in the
disposal of Prizes, and that you should be chargeable with neglect of Duty, if
you did not,untill your former Orders are
The Necessities of our Country, demand the Utmost Frugality, which can never
be obtained, without the utmost Simplicity, in the management
Affairs. And as Congress have
Authorised Mr. William Lee, to superintend the commercial
Affairs in general, and he has appointed Mr. Schweighausser,
and as your Authority is under the Commissioners at Paris only: We think it,
prudent and necessary for the public
Service to revoke, and We do
hereby revoke, all the Powers and Authorities heretofore granted to you, by the
Commissioners Plenipotentiary of the
United States of America at Paris or any of them,
to the End, that hereafter, the Management of the Affairs maritime and
America, may be under one sole Direction, that of Mr.
Schweighausser, within his district. As to the Merchandizes
and Stores of every kind, which you have
on hand at present, We leave it to your Choice, either to ship them
to America yourself, or to deliver them over to Mr.
Schweighausser, to be shipped by him.
It is not from any Prejudice to You, Mr. Williams, for whom
We have a great respect and Esteem, but merely from a desire to save the public
Money, to prevent the Clashing of Claims and Interests, and to avoid Confusion
and delays, that We have taken this Step.
We have further, to repeat our request, that you would lay your Accounts
before Us, as soon as possible, because untill We have
them, We can never know, either the State of our Finances, or how far the
Orders of Congress for Stores and Merchandizes to be shipped to
America, have been fullfilled. We are Sir with great respect,
your most obedient, humble Servants
B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John
Jonathan Williams Esqr.
May 25. 1778
We enclose you Extracts, from our Letters of this Days Date, to Mr.
Williams and Captain Jones, which We recommend to your
Attention, and We hope this Arrangement will produce the Order and conomy so necessary to the proper conduct of public
Business. Our Wish is, that you will give Us previous notice of any
extraordinary proposed Expence, that We may
determine, before it is incurred, how far it is consistent with our Finances,
it being our determination to avoid running in Debt, or pledging ourselves for
what We cannot perform. You will be so good, as to send Us an Account every
month, and We will direct your Bills upon Us, for the ballance to be paid by our Banker. We are with great
respect, Sir, your most obedient Servants
B. Franklin, Arthur Lee,
In the foregoing Letter was inclosed an Extract
of the foregoing Letter to Mr. Williams, beginning with the
Words "Your Letter of the 18 informs Us" and ending with these "We have taken
this Step." Also an Extract of the foregoing Letter to Captain
Jones, beginning with the Words "Your Application should have been
made" &c. and ending with these, "deducted out of their Pay."'