Peace December 14. 1779
The ancient Laws of the Visigoths are still in Use, and these, with the Institutes, Codes, Novelles &c. of Justinian, the Cannon Law and the Ordinances of the King, constitute the Laws of the Kingdom of Gallicia.
The Bread, the Colliflowers, the Cabbages, Apples, Pears, Beef, Pork and Poultry were good. The Fish of several Sorts were good, excellent Eels, Sardines, and other Species, and the Oysters were tolerable, but not equal to ours in America.
I had not seen a Chariot, Coach, Phaeton, Chaise or Sulky, since I had been in the Place, very few Horses and those very small and miserably poor; Mules and Asses were numerous but small. There was no Hay in the Country: The Horses, Mules &c. eat Wheat Straw.
There had been no frost. The Verdure in the Gardens and Fields was fresh. The Weather was so warm that the Inhabitants had no Fires, nor Fire Places, but in their Kitchens. We were told We should have no colder Weather before May which is the coldest Month in the Year. We found however, when We travelled in the Month of January in the Mountains, Frost and Snow and Ice enough. But at this time and in this Neighbourhood of the Sea, Men, Women and Children were seen in the Streets, with naked Legs and feet, standing on the cold Stones in the mud, by the hour together. The Inhabitants of both Sexes have black hair and dark Complexions, with fine black Eyes. Men and Women had long hair ramilied down to their Waists and sometimes down to their Knees.
Though there was little Appearance of Commerce or Industry, except about the Kings Docks and Yards and Works, yet the Town had some Symptoms of Growth and Prosperity. Many new Houses were building of a Stone which comes from the rocky Mountains round about, of which there are many. There were few goods in the Shops, little Show in their Marketts, or on their Exchange. There was a pleasant Walk a little out of Town, between the Exchange and the Barracks.
There were but two Taverns in the Town. Captain Chavagne and his Officers lodged at one, at six Livres each a day. The other was kept by a Native of America, who spoke English and French as well as Spanish, and was an obliging Man. Here We could have lodged at a dollar a day each: but where We were We were obliged to give an hundred and twenty nine dollars for six days besides a multitude of other Expences, and besides being kept constantly unhappy by an uneasy Landlady.
Finding that I must reside some Weeks in Spain, either waiting for the Frigate or travelling through the Kingdom, I determined to look a little into the Language. For which purpose I went to a Bookseller and purchased Sobrino's Dictionary in three Volumes in Quarto, The Grammatica Castillana an excellent Spanish Grammar in their own Tongue, and a Lattin
Grammar in Spanish. My Friend Captain De Grasse gave made
me a present of a very handsome Grammar of the Spanish Tongue by Sobrino. . . . By the help of these Books, the Children
as well as the Gentlemen of our little Company were soon employed in learning the Language. To one who understood the Latin it seemed to be easy and some of Us flatter'd
ourselves, that in a Month We might be able to read it, and understand the Spaniards as well as be understood by them. But experience taught Us our Error and that a Language is very difficult to acquire especially by Persons in middle Life.
Mr. Linde an Irish Gentleman, and Master of a Mathematical Accademy here, as well as Mr. De Tournelle, says, that the Spanish Nation in general have been of Opinion that the Revolution in America is a bad example to the Spanish Colonies, and dangerous to the Interests of Spain, as the United States if they should become ambitious and be seized with the Spirit of Conquest, might aim at Mexico and Peru. The Consul mentioned the Opinion of Raynalle, that it was not for the Interest of the Powers of Europe, that America should be independent.
To the Irish Gentleman I observed, that Americans hated War: that Agriculture and Commerce were their Objects, and it would be their Interest, as much as that of the Dutch to keep peace with all the World, untill their Country should be filled with People, which could not be for Centuries. That War and the Spirit of Conquest were the most diametrically opposite to their Interests, as they would divert their Attention, Wealth, Industry, Activity, from a certain Source of Prosperity and even Grandeur and Glory, to an uncertain one; nay to one, that it was certain never could be to their Advantage. That the Government of Spain over her Colonies had always been such, that she never could attempt to introduce such fundamental Innovations, as those by which England had provoked and compelled Us to revolt. And the Spanish Constitution was such, as could extinguish the first Sparks of discontent, and quell the first risings of the People. That it was amazing to me, that a Writer so well informed as R aynalle, could ever give an Opinion that it was not for the Interest of the Powers of Europe, that America should be independent, when it was so easy to demonstrate, that it was for the Interest of every one of them except England. That they could loose nothing by it, but certainly every one of them would gain something, and many of them a great deal.
Wee can see but a little Way into Futurity. . . . If, in 1807, We look back for seven and twenty Years, and consider what would have been the Consequence to Mexico and Peru and all South America, and all the French and Spanish West India Islands, had the United States remained subject to Great Britain, Mr. Linde and the Consul and the whole Spanish Nation might be convinced, that they owe much to the American Revolution. The English love War as much as We abhor it, and if they had now the American Cities for Places of Arms, the American Harbours for Shelter, American Provisions for Supplies and American Seamen and Soldiers for Reinforcements, by what tenure would France and Spain hold their American Dominions?
1779 December 15, Wednesday.
This Morning We arose at five O Clock, went over the Water in a Boat and mounted our Mules, thirteen in Number, and two Mulateers, one of whom went before for a Guide, and the other followed Us, to pick up Stragglers. We rode over very bad roads and very high Mountains where We had the View of a very extensive Country, appearing to be a rich Soil and well cultivated, but there were very few plantations of Trees. We saw some Orange Trees, some Lemmon Trees, many Madeira Nut Trees, and a few, but very few Oaks. We dined at Hog Bridge, about half Way to Corunna upon Provision made by the Consul whose Attention and Politeness as well as that of the Vice Consul at Ferrol had been very conspicuous. We arrived at Corunna about seven O Clock and Alighted at an Inn kept by Persons who spoke French. An Officer who spoke English held open the Gate for Us to enter, attended Us to our Lodgings, and then insisted on our visiting the General, who is Governor of the Province, and a Colonel, who commands under him and is military Governor of the Town. These are both Irish Gentlemen; and made many Professions of Friendship to our Cause and Country. The Governor of the Province, told me he had orders from Court to treat all Americans as the best Friends of Spain. They were all very inquisitive about Mr. Jays Mission: to know who he was, where he was born, whether he had ever been a Member of Congress, and Whether President. When he embarked -- in what Frigate -- Where he was destined, whether to France or Spain, and to what Port of France, Brest, L'orient or Nantes.
The General politely invited me to dine. Said that Spaniards made no Compliments but were very sincere. He asked me, when this War would finish? I answered not yet; but when the Kings of France and Spain would take the Resolution to send twenty or thirty more Line of Battle Ships to reinforce the Count D'Estaing and enable him with the Cooperation of Americans to take all the British Forces and Possessions in America.
December 16. 1779. Thursday.
This Morning the Governor of the Province of Gallicia and the Governor of the Town of Corunna came to my Quarters at the Hotel du grand Amiral, to return the Visits I made them the last Evening. His Excellency repeated his Invitation to me to dine with him the next day with all my Family. He insisted on seeing my Sons. Said I ran a great risque
in taking my Children with me: He had once passed very near my Country in an Expedition in a former War, which he had made against the Portuguese; that himself and every Thing
in his Power, were at my Service; that he did not speak English. . . . I knew not how to answer all this politeness, better than by saying that I was engaged in the Study of the Spanish, and hoped that the next time I should have the Honour
of seeing his Excellency, I should be able to speak to him in his own Language. At this he smiled and made a low bow
made some further Enquiries concerning American Affairs and took Leave. Mr. Dana
and I took a Walk about the Town, to see the Fortifications, the Shipping, the Marketts
, Barracks &c.
1779 December 16. Thursday. After dinner, Mr. Detournelle came in, and Mr. Dana and I walked wit
After dinner Captain Trask and his Mate of a Schooner belonging to the Tracys of Newbury Port, who had been obliged by bad Weather and contrary Winds to put in here from Bilbao, came to visit me and I gave them Letters to Congress as well as to my Family.
Mr. Detournelle came in and We walked with him to see the Tour de Fer, i.e. The Tower of Iron, a very ancient Monument, intended probably for a Light House as it commands a very wide Prospect of the Sea, and descries all Vessells coming from the East and from the West. There is no Record or memorial of the original of it, nor of the Nation by whom it was built. It is conjectured that it was created by the Phenicians. There is a smaller Building near it, by an Inscription on which it appears, that it was built or repaired by the Romans in the time of Augustus Cesar, but this has indubitable Marks of its being a modern Work in comparison of the Grand Tower. This is all of Stone an hundred feet in height. The mortar with which the Stones were cemented is as hard as the Stones themselves, and appears to have a large mixture of powdered Stone in it. There was formerly a magnificent Stair Case winding round it in a Spiral from the Ground, to the top of it, and it is said that some General once road in a Coach or on Horseback to the highest Step of the Escalier. But now the Stairs and railings are all taken away and the Stones employed to pave the Streets of Corunna. They are large, square and smooth, and would make beautifull Streets if well laid: but they lie in much irregularity, and with out any order. In going to this monument and returning from it We passed by two noble Windmills very large and all of Stone, which lay in a State of desolation that astonished Us. Neglected and forsaken, falling fast into total Ruin. We anxiously enquired why so fine an Estate was suffered to decay in this manner, and were told that a Law Suit had been depending above forty Years to determine the Tittle disputed between two Claimants and that neither would repair the Buildings till it should be decided to which of them they belonged. Very grievous reproaches were added concerning the Delay of the Law in Spain.
There are in this Little Town Three Convents of Monks and two of Nuns. One of the Nunneries is of Capuchins, a very austere order. The Girls eat no meat, wear no linnen, sleep on the floor, never on a bed, their faces are always covered with a Veil and they never speak to any body.