Peace December 16. 1779
On this day I wrote the following Letter to Congress and sent it together with the Letters from Ferrol by Captain Trask, but neither were received till the 15th. of October 1780 and then in a Triplicate.
Corunna December 16 1779
By the Opportunity of a small Vessel, accidentally in this harbour, bound to Newbury Port, I have the honour to inform Congress, that I have been detained by violent Rains and several Accidents in Ferrol untill Yesterday, when I set out with my Family for this place, and arrived last Evening without any Accident. I waited immediately on the Governor of the Province, and on the Governor of the Town and received many Civilities from both: and particularly from his Excellency the Governor of the Province of Gallicia an Assurance, that he was not only personally disposed to render me every hospitality and Assistance in his Power, but that he had received express orders from his Court to treat all Americans that should arrive here, like their best Friends.
These Personages were very inquisitive about American Affairs, particularly the Progress of our Arms and the Operations of the Count D'Estaing; and more particularly still concerning the Appointment of a Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Madrid. They requested his Name, Character, Nativity, Age; whether he was a Member of Congress, and whether he had been President, with many other particulars.
To all these questions I made the best Answers in my Power: and with respect to his Excellency the Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Madrid, I gave them the most exact information, and such a respectable Character as the high Offices he has sustained, and his own personal merit, require.
It is the prevailing Opinion here, that the Court of Madrid is well disposed to enter into a Treaty with the United States, and that the Minister from Congress will be immediately received, American Independence acknowledged, and a Treaty concluded.
The Frigate the Sensible, is found to be in so bad a Condition, that I am advised by every body to go to France by Land. -- The Season, the Roads, the Accommodations for travelling are so unfavourable, that it is not expected I can get to Paris in less than thirty days. But if I were to wait for the Frigate it would probably be much longer. I am determined therefore to make the best of my Way by Land. And it is possible that this journey may prove of some Service to the Public, at least I hope the Public will sustain no loss by it, though it will be tedious and expensive to me.
There are six Battalions of Irish Troops in Spain, in three Regiments, several of whose Officers have visited me, to assure me of their respects to the United States.
I have been this Afternoon to see the Tower de Fer, and the Island of Cezarga which was rendered famous in the Course of the last Summer, by being appointed the Rendezvous of the French and Spanish Fleets. The French Fleet arrived at this Island on the ninth day of June last, but were not joined by the Spanish Fleet from Ferrol untill
sometime in July, nor by that from Cadiz till
much later; so that the combined Fleets were not able to sail for the English Channel, untill
of July. To prevent a similar inconvenience, another Campaign, there are about
five and twenty Spanish Ships of the Line, now in Brest, which are to winter there, and be ready to sail with the French Fleet, the approaching Summer, at the first Opening of the Season. God grant them Success and tryumph
Although no Man wishes for Peace more sincerely than I, or would take more pleasure or think himself more highly honoured by being instrumental in bringing it about; yet I confess I see no prospect or hope of it, at least before the End of another Summer. America will be amused with rumours of Peace, and Europe too: but the English are not yet in a temper for it.
The Court of Russia has lately changed its Ambassador at the Court of London, and sometime in the month of October Mr. Simolin, the New Minister Plenipotentiary from the Court of Petersbourg to the Court of London, passed through France in his Way to England and resided about three Weeks in Paris. From this Circumstance a Report has been spread in Europe, that the Court of Russia is about to undertake the Office of Mediator between the belligerent Powers. But from conversation with several Persons of distinction since my Arrival in Spain, particularly with Monsieur Le Comte De Sade the Chef D'Escadre commanding the French Men of War now in Ferrol, I am persuaded, that, if Russia has any thoughts of a Mediation, the Independence of the United States, will be insisted on by her as a Preliminary and Great Britain will feel much more reluctance to agree to this, than to the Cession of Gibraltar, which it is said Spain absolutely insists upon.
I have the honor to be with the greatest respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant
His Excellency Samuel Huntington Esqr. President of Congress.
1779 December 17. Fryday.
The Consul conducted me to the Souvereign
Court of justice where We visited three Halls, One of civil jurisdiction, another of criminal, and a third of both. The Three Youngest judges sit in the criminal Trybunals
. I was introduced to the President and the other judges, and to the Procureur du Roi, i.e. to the Kings Attorney who treated me with great Ceremony, conducted me into the Place in the Prison into which the Prisoners are brought who have any thing
to say to the judges, waited on me into each of the Three Halls, shewed
me the three folio Volumes of the Laws of the Country, which are the ancient Laws of the Goths, Visigoths and Ripuarians incorporated on the Corpus Juris. There are no Seats in the Halls for any Body
but the judges and the Lawyers who are speaking. Every Body
stands. The President told me, that on Monday next there would be argued an interesting Cause, invited me to come and hear it, said he would receive me in Character and place me by the Side of himself on the Bench, and when I said I should wish to avoid this parade, he said he would order an Officer to shew
me a convenient Place to see and hear. Soon after this a Part of an Irish Battalion of Troops was drawn up, before the Court House
and made a fine Appearance, but suggested melancholly Re
that justice could not be administered without a military force, and that too composed of Forreigners
, to protect the judges.
Dined with Don Pedro Martin Sermenio, The Governor of the Province of Gallicia or rather The Vice Roy of the Kingdom of Gallicia. Mr. Dana, Mr. Thaxter, Mr. Allen were with me. By the Assistance of two Irish Officers, I had much Conversation with the Governor who speaks only Spanish. We sent for our Books of Maps, at their desire and shewed them the Position of New York and Rhode Island and the Possessions of the English there. The Governor was very gay, and Don Patricio O Heir the Governor of the Town, with several other Irish Officers were present. They all advised Us to go by Land, and the Governor offered to procure Us a Guide who spoke French, was perfectly acquainted with the Country, Roads, Inn's and Inhabitants and was the best Man in the Kingdom for the purpose, and one who could the most readily procure Us the Carriages, Horses, Mules and Drivers and best know how to make provision for Us, for We must carry all our Necessaries as well as conveniences with Us. Nothing was to be had upon the road except at a few principal Towns, excepting the Wine of the Country, Bino de Pais, which might be had any where and it was very good and very wholesome, for it was an admirable Diuretic.
After Dinner We went with The Consull to see a Convent of Franciscan Friars. Walked into the Church and all round the Yards and Cells. As We passed by the Cells, "here," said the Consul, "are the habitations of jealousy, Envy, Hatred, Revenge, Malice and Intrigue. There is more Intrigue in a Chapter of Monks for the Choice of a Prior, than was employed to bring about the entire revolution in America. A Monk has no Connections nor Affections to soften him, but is wholly delivered up to his Ambition." I was somewhat surprized at this and asked some questions. The Consull persisted and affirmed that there was no End to the Factions and intrigues among the Monks in Spain. There
There were Inscriptions in Latin Verse over all the Cells and generally ingenious and pure in their Morals. I found this universal in all the Monastries, and had a strong Inclination to copy many of them: but generally I had not time. Upon this Occasion having a little Leisure I copied this Inscription over the Cell of a Monk at Corunna which by no means breaths the Spirit imputed to them by the Consul.
Si tibi pulchra domus, si splendida mensa, quid inde?
Si Species Auri, atque argenti massa, quid inde?
Si tibi sponsa decens, si sit generosa, quid inde?
Si tibi sint nati; si pr dia magna, quid inde?
Si fueris fortis pulcher, fortis, divesve, quid inde?
Longus servorum, si serviat ordo, quid inde?
Si doceas alios in qualibet arte; quid inde?
Si rideat mundus; si prospera cuncta; quid inde?
Si Prior, aut Abbas, si Rex, si Papa; quid inde?
Si rota fortun, te tollat ad astra; quid inde?
Annis si f lix regnes mille; quid inde?
Tam cito pr teriunt h c omnia, qu nihil inde.
Sola manet Virtus, qua glorificabimur inde.
Ergo Deo servi; quia sat tibi provenit inde;
Quod fecisses volens in tempore quo morieris
Hoc facies juvenis, dum corpore sanus haberis.
Quod nobis concedas Deus noster, Amen.
We went and drank Tea with the Consul, The Attorney General of the Province was there, and Mr. Lagoancre, the American Agent, and the Captain of the French Frigate La Belle Poulle.
1779 December 18. Saturday.
Walked all round the Town, the Wharves, Slips &c. on the Water and round the Walls towards the Country. Went to see the Artillery. A number of Stands of Arms, Cannon, Bombs, Balls, Mortars &c. had been packed up for some time. By the last Post, orders arrived to put up five thousands more in the same manner, ready to embark, but nobody knew where, nor for what purpose. We saw the Magazines, Arsenals, Shops &c. of Carpenters, Wheelwrights, Blacksmiths &c. shewn Us by the Commandant of Artillery. But after having seen Brest and Ferrol, I saw nothing worth describing. The Spanish Ships however both here and at Ferrol appeared equal at least both in Materials and Workmanship to any in America France or of American, French or English Construction that I had ever seen. If their Prudence in Navigation and the Activity and Intrepidity of their Seamen were proportionally equal to the English they would be a dangerous Enemy.
Went into the Church or Chapel of a Convent, found the Monks in great numbers all upon their Knees, chanting their Prays to the Virgin Mary. It was the Eve of the holy Virgin. The lighted Wax Candles, by their glimmerings upon the Paintings and Gildings made a pretty Appearance and the Musick was good.