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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0002-0002-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1783-02-24

1783 Feb. 24. Monday.

Dined in Company with Mr. Malesherbes, the famous first President of the Court of Aids, Uncle of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, and Son of the Chancellor de la Moignon. He is about half Way in Appearance, between Mr. Otis and Mr. A. Oliver.
F[ranklin] this Morning mentioned to me the Voyage de la Fonte, who mentions a Captain Chapley, and a Seymour Gibbons. F. thinks { 109 } it is translated from the Spanish, and that the Translator or Printer has put Seymour for Seignor. He had once a Correspondence about this Voyage, and Mr. Prince found there had been a Captain Chapelet at Charlestown and a Gibbons but not named Seymour.1
1. This “Voyage” was supposed to have taken place in 1640; an account of it was first published in a London periodical in 1708. The purported leader and narrator, Admiral Bartholomew de Fonte, claimed to have sailed from Lima in Peru up the west coast of North America and to have found a water route to Hudson Bay, since he encountered a Boston ship which must have entered the Bay from the northeast. These claims were disputed with some warmth on both sides of the question during the middle decades of the 18th century, and French and English maps showing the discoveries in detail were published by those who believed a northwest passage existed. By the end of the century they were totally discredited; modern geographers consider Admiral de Fonte an entirely fictitious person. See Henry R. Wagner, “Apocryphal Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America,” Amer. Antiq. Soc., Procs., 41 (1931): 179–234, which includes a reprint of the De Fonte “Letter” and facsimiles of several pertinent maps.
In his Diary entries for 17, 19 June, below, JA records more speculation and conversation on the controversy over the northwest passage.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/