Papers of John Adams, volume 11

From Henry Grand

To the President of Congress

From John Bondfield, 7 August 1781 Bondfield, John JA


From John Bondfield, 7 August 1781 Bondfield, John Adams, John
From John Bondfield
Sir Bordeaux 7 August 1781

We have many American Vessels arrivd within these five or six days past most of them belonging to No. Carolina but last from the West Indies, the situation of the Army's preventing their return and will detain them in a foreign Trade til a change takes place, the latest advices we have by them are of May consiquently them at hand Via London are later and more circumstial.

Our letters from Spain advice the Fleet left Cadiz the 20th. the Men of War stood to the Westward and the Transports under Convoy of two Ships and some frigates enterd the Streight,1 some letters mention the Station of the Combind Fleets off Lisbon to Intercept all Outward bound Fleets destind to India, the West Indies, or the Southern States we shall in a Post or two be certain at any rate they have little to apprehend from Darby2 whose force included the Ships destind for New York under Digby makes together only 28 sail who were left the 28 of last month in the Channel.3

We have a singular report from Spain of England having ceeded Minorca to Russia to prevent the execution the present Spanish Expedition from Cadiz is intended against that Island.4

Two American privateers Cruising in the Bay of Biscay discoverd a Cutter whose superior sailing put it out of their power to take her to decoy her they engaged each other the one under English the other under American Colours the Cutter bore down to take part with the supposed English privateer came under her Quarter so soon as out of the power of the Cutter to escape each Privateer bore round her and obliged her to strike she proved a Packet from Rodney with dispatchs which the officer destroyd we shall be informd on Thursday of the perticulars they have been able to colect from the Officers on board. The Cutter is carried into Bilboa.

On advice of the Loss of the Marquis de la fayett I wrote Doct. Franklin offering a considerable supply of Cloathing which should 445have been on this on board the Ships bound for the United States I have not been honor'd with an Answer had my offers been Accepted we have ready for Sea conveyences direct on Moderate Terms.5

With respect I have the Honor to be Sir Your most obedient H Servant

John Bondfield

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “His Excellency John Adams. Esq Minister Plenipoty. from the United States of America at Amsterdam”; endorsed: “Mr. Bondfield. 7. Aug. 1781.”


On 18 Aug. the fleet landed 14,000 Spanish and French troops at Minorca. The 2,700 man British garrison withstood a siege until 5 Feb. 1782, when disease forced its surrender (Mackesy, War for America , p. 397, 438).


The combined fleet sailed on 23 July to cover the expedition to Minorca. It remained at sea only until 5 Sept. and took no action against Darby's outnumbered Channel fleet (same, p. 397; James, British Navy in Adversity , p. 307).


The strength of Darby's fleet given by Bondfield is approximately correct. It sailed from Spithead near the end of July to protect incoming West Indian convoys. For part of its voyage the fleet was accompanied by three ships of the line under the command of Adm. Digby, Adm. Arbuthnot's successor as commander in chief in American waters. When Darby learned that the Franco-Spanish fleet was at sea, he abandoned his mission and by 25 Aug. was at Torbay preparing to defend the Channel (Mackesy, War for America , p. 397; James, British Navy in Adversity , p. 306).


During the Hussey-Cumberland negotiations in 1780, Spain called for the cession of Gibraltar and Minorca in return for Oran and Mers el Kébir on the Barbary Coast, but Britain summarily rejected the proposal. In early 1781 Britain offered Minorca to Russia as a means to forestall Russian intervention in the Anglo-Dutch war, rather than to counter a Spanish attack on the island (Morris, Peacemakers , p. 54; Mackesy, War for America , p. 383–384).


Neither Bondfield's letter to Benjamin Franklin nor any reply by Franklin has been found. See Bondfield's letter of 11 July to the Committee for Foreign Affairs (PCC, No. 92, f. 451–454).