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 Commissioners at 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 Clamours.
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. 1778
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 America.
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 Adams
John Paul Jones Esqr. Commander of the Ranger.
Passi 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 recalled.
The Necessities of our Country, demand the Utmost Frugality, which can never be obtained, without the utmost Simplicity, in the management ofourher
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 commercial, of 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 Adams.
Jonathan Williams Esqr. Nantes.
Passi 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, John Adams.
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."'