Papers of John Adams, volume 6

Joseph Belton to the Commissioners

Jonathan Williams to the Commissioners

38 John Bondfield to the Commissioners, 18 April 1778 Bondfield, John First Joint Commission at Paris JA John Bondfield to the Commissioners, 18 April 1778 Bondfield, John First Joint Commission at Paris Adams, John
John Bondfield to the Commissioners
Hon Sirs Bordeaux 18 Apl 1778

Yesterday Monsr. Le Comte de Fumel Governor of the Castle call'd at my Lodgings to inform me that Monsieur De Sartine in answer to the Letter he wrote had sent him Instructions to pay all the Honors due to Ships of War of forreign States to the Boston Frigate and to every other Vessel belonging and in the Service of the United States of America, requesting I would give him Notice before the Frigate Sails that he may prepare the return due to her Salute.1

Her Carreen will be finish'd this Evening. The Holidays will break in a little on the other workmen but shall be attentive to get every part executed with dispatch, we are without any Arrivals on this Coast since I had the Honor to write you Last. I am with due Respect your honors Most Obedient Servant

John Bondfield

RC (Adams Papers).


Bondfield had written to the Commissioners on 6 April, reporting that the Boston's salute to the castle at Bordeaux had not been returned because the officials there had received no instructions ( Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 1:390). On receiving the letter of the 6th and unaware that instructions had already been sent, the Commissioners apparently wrote to Sartine on 20 April (not found) about the matter, to which Sartine replied on 26 April (below).

Since exchange of salutes was an attribute of sovereignty, it is understandable that the authorities at Bordeaux without approval of the French government hesitated to take an action that could be interpreted as recognition of American independence. To a degree, however, the question was moot, for on 14 and 15 Feb., at Quiberon Bay, the Ranger and Independence had exchanged salutes, as had the privateer General Mifflin, at Brest, in the summer of 1777. Moreover, American ships had exchanged salutes at St. Croix and St. Eustatius as early as 1776, the latter incident provoking sharp British protests and ultimately the recall of the island's governor (Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution , 1:159–160, 280–281, 338–341; Morison, John Paul Jones , p. 128–130; Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution , p. 122–123).