Papers of John Adams, volume 9

To the President of Congress, No. 74

To Edmund Jenings

From John Bondfield, 28 May 1780 Bondfield, John JA


From John Bondfield, 28 May 1780 Bondfield, John Adams, John
From John Bondfield
Sir Bordea ux 28 May 1780

I am honord with your favor of the 14th. my last of the 20th. handed you the inteligence then at hand since which we are without any Arrivals.

France and Spain appear to Aim at a desicive Blow in the West Indies so formidable a fleet never appeard in them Seas

Monr. De Guichen strong of 24 ships
Solano 12
from Ferol 8
from Cadiz 5
Bougainville 5
De Ternay to the Norwd 7
61 Line

Sixty one Ships of the line upwards Twenty five Thousand Land Forces all the Force Britain can unite cannot make head against the Combind Allied Force wherever they unitedly attempt an Attack.1 Holland appears in earnest. Russia has made a New Treaty with this Kingdom.2 Was the entire extinction of Britain as a Kingdom premeditated the Confederacy could not appear more permanent. Congress draws on Holland and Spain as also on France, some Capital reform must be in agitation in the American Finances provided they take no Step to state . . . faith by calling in the Emissians at a depreciated rate all will be well, they write me from Philadelphia Gold and Silver begin to Circulate and bargains are Current payable in Specie Tobacco at 20s. Sterg. per hundredweight. A considerable sum was sent down two days past to Rochfort to go on board the Fleet there equiping said destind to join the West India fleets here are upwards sixty Sail Capital Merchant Ships Loaden with every supply for the Islands waiting a Convoy in profound peace there is as not greater Vigour.

With respect I have the Honor to be Sir Your very hhb Servant John Bondfield

RC (Adams Papers). The removal of the seal has resulted in the loss of a portion of the dateline and two or three words.


Bondfield's information was based on rumors and the unfounded assumption that France and Spain would undertake combined operations in the West Indies in 1780. The figure given for Guichen's fleet is approximately equal to the number of ships he took into the Battle of Martinique in April, but Bondfield fails to mention the four ships of the line under La Motte-Picquet that were also in the West Indies (vol. 8:337, 360). The force given for Don Josef Solano is correct, but he remained at Havana and no additional vessels from Cádiz or El Ferrol were sent (Mackesy, War for America , p. 333–334). Como. Louis-Antoine de Bougainville commanded a ship of the line under Estaing in 1779 and would command a squadron under Grasse in 1781, but he had presumably returned to France with Estaing and in 1780 was not in the West Indies (W. M. James, The British Navy in Adversity, London, 1926, p. 435, 445). Ternay's fleet remained to the “Northward” (i.e. in and around Newport, R.I.) and took no part in West Indian operations in 1780. In any event, at no time during the war did the British navy in the West Indies encounter the fleet of sixtyone ships of the line contemplated by Bondfield. As to the troop strength in the West Indies, by the date of this letter France had 36 battalions or approximately 20,000 men in the West Indies so that the addition of the Spanish troops brought the allied total to over 30,000. The British army in the West Indies reached its highest level for the entire war in Sept. 1780 at 11,153 troops. The ravages of disease, however, meant that the actual number of effectives (those fit for service) was always considerably less than the official totals, which are also misleading since the troops were scattered among the various islands (Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence , p. 377; Mackesy, War for America , p. 334, 525).


Russia, as a neutral, had not signed a new treaty with France. Bondfield may be referring to the French approval of the terms of Russia's declaration of an armed neutrality insofar as it operated against British interests.