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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


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Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0017

Author: Franklin, Benjamin
Author: Lee, Arthur
Author: Adams, John
Author: First Joint Commission at Paris
Recipient: Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de
Date: 1778-09-10

The Commissioners to Caron de Beaumarchais

[salute] Sir

In a Letter We have received from the Committee of Commerce of the 16 May1 We are informed that they had <>ordered Several Vessells lately to South Carolina for Rice, and directed the Continental Agents in that state to consign them to <y>our Address.<>
In the Letter from Mr. Livingston to Us dated Charlestown So. Carolina 10. June 1778 he has Subjected the Cargo of the Theresa [Thérèse] to our orders.2
In your Letter to Us dated Passi 8. September 1778,3 you “demand that the Cargo arrived in your own proper Vessell should be sold and the Money remitted to you in Part for a Discharge of what is due to you by the Congress.”
We are at a Loss to know how you claim the Therese as your proper Vessell, because Mr. Monthieu claims her as his, produces a written { 21 } contract for the Hire and demurrage of her, part of which We have paid and the Remainder he now demands of Us.
However, sir, We beg Leave to state to you, the Powers and Instructions We have received from Congress, and to request your Attention to them as soon as possible, and to inform you that We are ready to enter upon the Discussion of these Matters at any Time and Place you please.
But untill the Accounts of the Company of Roderique Hortalez and Co. are settled for what is passed, and the Contract proposed, either ratified by you and Us, or rejected by one Party: We cannot think We should be justified in remitting you the Proceeds of the Cargo of the Therese.
We will however give orders to our Agent4 for the sale of the Cargo, and that the Proceeds of Sale be reserved, to be paid to the House of Roderique Hortalez and Co. or their Representative, as soon as the Accounts shall be settled or the Contract ratified.
The Powers and Instructions alluded to above are as follow.5
By a Copy of a Contract between a Committee of Congress, and Mr. Francy dated the 16th of April last, We perceive that the seventh Article,6 respecting the annual Supply of Twenty four Millions of Livres, shall not be binding upon either of the Parties, unless the same shall be ratified by Roderique Hortalez and Company, and the Commissioners of the United States at Paris.
We take this opportunity to inform you, sir, that We are ready to confer with Roderique Hortalez and Company, or any Person by them authorized for this Purpose, at any Time and Place that they or you shall appoint.
We have the Honour to be, sir, your most obedient and most humble servants.
1. Vol. 6:127–128. Except for the change from “your” to “our,” made necessary because this letter was by the Commissioners, the last part of the sentence is an exact quotation from the letter of 16 May.
2. Livingston's letter has not been found, but following this sentence in the Letterbook is a large space, perhaps originally intended for the insertion of a quotation from that letter.
3. Actually, Beaumarchais' letter was dated 5 Sept. and, although docketed by JA , was to Benjamin Franklin (PPAmP: Franklin Papers). The Thérèse, referred to in that letter and below, was one of the vessels that John Joseph Montieu, in a contract of 15 Oct. 1776 between himself, Silas Deane, and Roderigue Hortalez & Cie., had agreed to provide in order to carry merchandise supplied by Beaumarchais to America ( Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. , 7:691–692; JCC , 6:690). Beaumarchais also provided surety for the vessels to the extent of advancing one-half the cost of shipping the goods. According to his letter to Silas Deane of 14 Oct. 1776, Beaumarchais' participation { 22 } was necessary to obtain the ships ( Deane Papers , 1:316–318). The question for the Commissioners was whether the goods shipped in the Thérèse and other vessels were the gift of the French government or were purchased from Roderigue Hortalez & Cie., that is, Beaumarchais. In the latter case Beaumarchais' claim on the cargo of the Thérèse would have substance under the terms of the contract between the congress and his agent, Francy, approved on 7 April and signed on 16 April 1778, but not yet implemented by the Commissioners ( JCC , 10:316–318, 356).
4. See the Commissioners to J. D. Schweighauser, 13 Sept. (below).
5. At this point is the note: “see the Letter to Count Vergennes.” This is the Commissioners' letter of the 10th (below). Presumably that letter or the portion of it containing the “Powers and Instructions” was to be inserted here in the recipient's copy.
6. See JCC , 10:317–318.