Bilbao January 16. 1780
I have collected together with some difficulty a few Gazettes, which I have
the honor to transmit to Congress, from which all the News may be collected,
that I have been able to learn. Congress will easily perceive the Eagerness,
with which the belligerent Powers are bent on War, without manifesting the
least disposition for Peace, and most of all
Great Britain, whose ostentatious display of trifling Successes,
and weak Exultation in them, shews that nothing can
divert her from her furious course. -- But she is exhausting and sinking her
Forces every day, without gaining any lasting or solid Advantage. And she has
reason to fear, from the combined Fleets of
Spain, under such enterprizing,
experienced and approved Officers as D'Estaing and
Duchauffault, the entire ruin of her Commerce and Navy, in the
course of a Campaign or two more.
His Excellency Samuel Huntington Esq.
President of Congress.
January 17. Monday.
We dined with the two Messieurs Gardoqui, and a
Nephew of theirs. The American Captains
Babson, Lovat and Wickes dined with Us. I spoke to
Mr. Gardoqui in behalf of Fifteen American Seamen, who had
been Prisoners in
Portugal, and he consented to furnish them Cloaths. I assured him that although I had no express and
possitive Authority to interfere, I had no doubt
that Congress would do all in their Power to repay him. This was afterwards
done to his Satisfaction.
After Dinner the Gentlemen accompanied Us to the Parish Church over against
Mr. Gardoqui's house, and then to the
Old Parish Church of St. Iago, which is certainly known to have
been standing in the Year 1300. . . . The High Altar appears to be very
ancient, and wrought in wooden Figures, with very neat Work. The Choir and the
Sacristie &c. like all others in the large
Churches. We then went to the Chamber of the Board of Trade. This is a curious
Institution. Annually on a certain day in the Beginning of January, all the
Bilbao meet, write their Names on a Ball or Ballot, which are
put into a Box, from whence four are drawn by Lott.
These four nominate a certain Number of Councillors or Senators.
This Board of Trade, in the first place, endeavours to persuade all
Merchants between whom any Controversy has arisen, to agree, but if they cannot
succeed Application must be made to the Board by Petition in Writing. It is
then heard and determined, subject however to an Appeal, I know not where. This
Board has successfully opposed the Reception of Consuls from all Nations. The
Chamber is hung round with Pictures of the present King and Queen of
Spain, the late King and Queen, the Royal Exchange of
London, the Exchange of
Amsterdam and the Exchange of
There is an Academy, at
Bergara, for the Education of the Youth of
In the Spring Freshes, We were told, the Water is deep enough upon the
Exchange and in the Streets for Vessells of an
hundred Tons burthen, to float.
A Mr. Maroni, an Irish Gentleman, residing here as a
Merchant, came to visit me. He told Us he had a Daughter in a Nunnery here: but
it seemed by his conversation to be an incurable Grief to him: He appeared to
have buried her in a more afflicting Sense than if she had been in her
January 18. Tuesday.
We spent the Day in perambulating the Town. We visited the Wharves upon the
River, went through the Marketts, which We found
plentifully furnished with Fruits and Vegetables, Cabbages, Turnips, Onions,
Beets and Carrots, Apples, Pairs, Raisins, Figgs and
Nutts. We went as far as the Gate, where We had entered
the Town, then turned up the Mountain by the Stone Stairs, where We saw some
fine Gardens, with verdure and Vegetation. On our return We took a view of a
Book Sellers Stall, but as this Country, though
it gloried in its Liberty was not the Region of Litterature, We found nothing very curious or worth
mentioning. We then walked in Succession, through every Street in the Town.
After this, meeting The Messieurs Gardoquis, they went
with Us to shew Us the trading part of the Citizens.
They conducted Us to a Number of Shops, of Glass, China, Trinketts, Toys and Cutlary.
We found nothing to give Us any great Idea of
Biscay as a commercial Country, though there were several Shops
and Stores, pretty large and full of Merchandizes.
January 19. Wednesday.
By particular invitation We went down the River on a Visit to the
Rambler a Letter of Mark of Eighteen Guns, belonging to
Mr. Andrew Cabot of
Beverly, Captain Lovat Commander, and the
Phoenix a Brigg of fourteen Guns belonging to Messieurs
Newbury Port, Captain Babson Commander. We were
honoured with two Salutes of thirteen Guns each by
Babson and one by Lovat. We dined at the
Tavern on Shore and had an agreable Day. We were
conducted to see a new Packett of the King on the
Stocks, and his new Rope walks which were two hundred and ten Fathoms long.
January 20th Thursday.
Although We endeavoured in
Bilbao to take as much Exercise as possible and to amuse
ourselves as well as We could, and although the Attention and Hospitality of
the House of Gardoqui had done every Thing
in their Power to oblige Us, Our Residence
in this place was nevertheless very far from being comfortable. We were all
sick with violent Colds and Coughs, some of the Servants and Children were so
ill that We lived under gloomy Apprehensions, of being detained a long time and
some of our Company. The Houses here
as well as every where
else were without
Chimneys, fires or Windows, and We could find none of
Comforts and Conveniences to which We had been all accustomed from the Cradle,
nor any of that sweet and quiet repose in Sleep upon which health and happiness
so much depend. On the twentieth, however We summoned Resolution enough to take
our departure from
Bilbao, and passing over a mountainous Country and very bad
roads arrived at the River or rather the Brook that divides
France. The Houses in
Guipuscua appeared to be larger and more convenient than those
Leon, but the public Houses were much the same. In the last
Spain We found one Chimney which was the only one We saw since
We left that in the House of Mr. Detournelle the French Consul
Corunna. In our Course We saw a few Villages and particularly
Fontarabbia at a distance. We reached
St. John De Luz, the first Village in
France, and there We dined. And never was a Captive escaped from
Prison more delighted than I was, for every Thing
here was clean, sweet and comfortable in Comparison of any
We had found in any part of
We arrived at
Bayonne. Here We paid off our Spanish Guide with all his Train
of Horses, Calashes, Waggon, Mules, and Servants. To
do them justice they had always shewn a disposition to
assist and befriend Us to the Utmost of their Power, and We had no cause to
complain of any improper Behaviour in any of them.
I was obliged to sell my Mule, for which I was very sorry, as he was an
excellent Animal and had served me very well. I sold him for what he cost me.
We purchased a Post Chaise and hired some others for our Journey. I made my
Visit to the Governor and received his in return.
We commenced our journey to
Bourdeaux. There is so much heath and uncultivated Land, and so
many desolate Places, between
Bourdeaux, that the journey could not be very pleasant. It is a
Region where one might expect to meet Robbers, but the Police of
France was so vigilant and decisive that nothing of that kind
was heard of at that time in any part of
France. The Road in general was better because it was smoother
than in any of the great paved Roads of the Kingdom. We found the Entertainment
at all the Inns comfortable, the Horses and Carriages as alert and convenient
as they are commonly in
France, and I was too happy to be very anxious to make
Observations on Minor Things.
January 29. Saturday.
We arrived at
Bourdeaux. We had met Couriers and received Letters on the Road,
inviting Us to alight at all the principal Inns in
Bourdeaux. The Reputation of entertaining the American
Ambassador, must have been the motive to all this Zeal, for our Number was so
small, that the profit to be made of Us could not be great. As all the public
Houses were alike unknown to me, I ordered our Postilion to drive Us to the
best house in the City and
left it to his judgment to
We dined at the
Hotel D'Angleterre, at the Invitation of Mr.
Bondfield, in Company with Sir Robert Finlay,
Mr. Le Texier and others. In the Evening We went to the Comedy
where We saw Amphitrion and Cartouche.
January 31. Monday.
We dined at the
Hotel D'Angleterre, again with Mr. Maccarty,
Mr. Delap, Mr. Bondfield &c. at the
Invitation of Sir Robert Finlay. Mr. Le
Texier I found still entertained his Doubts and Scruples about the
Success of the American Cause. Instead of entering into serious Argument with
him, I treated his dismal forebodings with so much Levity, that he seemed to be
hurt, as if he thought I was exposing him to ridicule. Perceiving this I
desisted and only observed that I was perfectly satisfyed with our Prospects and [a]
few Years if not months would shew that the American
Cause stood upon firm Foundations. The Conversation at this as at all other
such dinners, was upon commonplace Topicks and not
worth Remembrance. Towards Evening Mr. Gabarus
[Cabarrus] came in with the News of a Blow struck
by Rodney upon the Spaniards off
Feb. 1. Tuesday.
We spent the day in rambling about the Town viewing the principal Public
Places, the Remains of Roman Antiquities, Vaubans
Chateau Trompette &c. But as I had seen these before in April 1778 and as
every Man who has been in
Bourdeaux has seen them and every Man who shall travel to that
City may see them, I shall not stay to give any Account of them. I heard a
great deal concerning the manners and Morals of
Bourdeaux which convinced me there was little difference from
Feb. 2. Wednesday.
We took Post [for]
Paris and on
Feb. 4. Fryday
We arrived at
Cou. We passed by
Angouleme and encircled almost the whole Town. It stands on a
high Hill and is walled all round. A fine healthy, Airy Situation, with several
Streams of Water below it and fine interval Lands.
The River Charente runs by it. The Lands from
Angouleme, are chiefly cultivated with Vines, which afford but a
poor Prospect in the Winter. In some Places Wheat was sown and Vines planted in
alternate Ridges. Great Numbers of the Vineyards are in a Soil that has the
greatest Appearance of Poverty. It is a red Loom intermixed with so many
Pebbles and small Stones of a reddish Colour that it
looks more like an heap of Stones or a dry gravel, than like a Soil where there
is Earth enough for the Vines to take root. Other Vineyards are in a black
Sand, intermixed with a few small Stones. Others are in fine, black, fat and
mellow Mould. The numerous Groves, Parks and Forrests in this Country, form a striking Contrast with
Spain, where the whole Country looks like a Bird deprived of its
Feathers, every Tree, Bush and Shrub, being pared away.