Diary of John Adams, volume 4

[June 3. Wednesday. 1778.] JA


[June 3. Wednesday. 1778.] Adams, John
June 3. Wednesday. 1778.

On this Day We sent the following Letters.

Commissioners to John Paul Jones
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

We have received sundry Letters from Lt. Simpson, and sundry Certificates from Officers and others, concerning his Behaviour in General, and particularly upon that Occasion, in which he is charged with disobedience of Orders....Without giving or forming any decided

Opinion concerning his guilt or innocence of the Crime laid to his charge, We may venture to say that the Certificates We have received 124are very favourable to his Character, and at least afford reason to hope, that he did not mean to disobey his orders.

Be this however, as it may, We are constrained to say, that his confinement on board any other Ship than the Ranger, and much more his Confinement in a Prison on Shore, appears to Us to carry in it, a degree of Severity, which cannot be justified by reason or Law.

We therefore, desire, you would release Mr. Simpson, from his imprisonment, and permit him to go at large, on his Parole to go to Nantes, there to take his passage to America, by the first favourable Opportunity, in order to take his Tryal by a Court Marshall.

We request you to transmit Us, as soon as possible, an Account of what is due to Lt. Simpson, according to the Ships Books for Wages.

An Application has been made to Us, in behalf of Mr. Andrew Fallen, one of the Prisoners lately made by you, and his case represented, with such Circumstances, as have induced Us to request you, to let Mr. Fallen go, where he will, after taking his Parole in Writing, that he will not communicate any intelligence which may be prejudicial to the United States, that he will not take Arms against them during the War, and that he will surrender himself Prisoner of War whenever called upon by Congress, or their Ministers at Paris. We are, Sir, your most obedient Servants.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
John Paul Jones Esqr. Captain of the Ranger.
Commissioners to Thomas Simpson
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

We have received several Letters from you,1 and several Certificates from Officers and others, respecting your Behaviour in general, as well as particularly relative to the Charge of Disobedience of orders, for which you have been confined.

It would be improper for Us, to give any Opinion concerning this charge, which is to be determined only by a Court Marshall: But We have requested Captain Jones to sett you at Liberty upon your Parol to go to Nantes, there to take your Passage to America, by the first favourable Opportunity, in order to take your Tryal by a Court Marshall. We are, Sir, your humble Servants

B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
Lt. Simpson of the Ranger.

The Representations in favour of Simpson and against Jones, were 125very strong. His whole Ship was against the Captain, with a surprizing Unanimity, and although Jones was evidently one of Franklins Party both among the French and Americans, yet his Conduct was so evidently wrong in some Instances, and so dubious in others that Franklin could not refuse his Signature, to all the decisions of his Colleagues concerning him.

Jones had obtained the Command of the Ranger, under the Auspices of Mr. Robert Morris in Philadelphia, and I understood carried Letters to Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin, which upon his first Arrival in France he carried to Paris. They introduced him to their friends among the French and Americans, particularly to Mr. Williams, and he was so universally considered as the Partisan of Deane and Franklin, that as soon as he had made a Prize of an English Ship of War the Drake, the Cry of Versailles and the Clamour of Paris became as loud in favour of Monsieur Jones as of Monsieur Franklin and the Inclination of the Ladies to embrace him almost as fashionable and as strong.2 Jones's personal Behaviour to me was always, to the time of his Death as civil and respectful as I could wish: But I suppose that means were found to insinuate into him that the refusal of his Draught and the Lenity to Lt. Simpson were the Effects of my Uniting with Mr. Lee against Mr. Franklin, although Franklin had agreed to both. The Impressions he received from that Party I suppose were the cause of his impertinent Enquiries after my Conduct in Holland and his Wish that I was in America expressed in a Letter to Mr. Dumas which was published in the Portfolio at Philadelphia a few Years ago.3 What became of Lt. Simpson I know not, but I have always thought that the arbitrary Conduct of Jones was the cause of great Injustice to him.

Commissioners to Gabriel de Sartine
To his Excellency Monsieur De Sartine at Versailles.
Passi June 3. 1778

We have the honour of inclosing to your Excellency, an Account of Duties paid by the Agent for necessary Supplies to the Ship of War the 126Boston, in the Port of Bourdeaux. As these duties are very heavy, and the payment of any Duties on mere Supplies to Ships of War, as on Merchandizes exported, appears to Us uncommon, We beg the favour of your Excellency to give such orders, relative to it, in all his Majestys Ports, as may regulate this, for the future.

The Captain of the Ship of War the Ranger, belonging to the United States, has We understand, put his Prizes into the hands of the Intendant or Commandant at Brest, and no Account has been rendered of them, to the Public Agent or to Us. We are also given to understand, that in Consequence of this proceeding, very heavy Fees are to be paid upon the Sale of them. As the Transaction is altogether improper, We must trouble your Excellency for an order to the Commandant to deliver them, without delay, or extraordinary Charges to the Public Agent, Mr. Schweighauser of Nantes or to his order.

It would give Us Satisfaction to annoy our Ennemies, by granting a Letter of Marque, as is desired, for a Vessell fitted out at Dunkquerque, and as it is represented to Us, containing a mixed Crew of French, Americans and English: But if this should seem improper to your Excellency, We will not do it. We have the Honour to be &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.

40 Coats for Marines Do. Waistcoats and Breeches—260 Outside Jacketts—250 inside—260 Pair of Breeches—66 Blankets—330 Pr. of Shoes—108 Hatts—108 Caps—Duties paid on the whole seven hundred and ninety Livres.

To John Bondfield
Sir Passi June 3. 1778

Two days ago I had the pleasure of your Letter of the 26 May4 inclosing an Account of Cash and Payments made to and for me, at Bourdeaux, amounting to 1404 Livres, in which Sum it ought to be remembered, are included the Expences of Captain Palmes, Dr. Noel and Mr. Jesse Deane at Bourdeaux and from thence to Paris, as well as my own, excepting 231 Livres and six Sous paid to Dr. Noel by an order on the Banker at Paris, for the ballance of all Expences.

Your Letter incloses also an Account of sundry Articles of Merchandizes shipped by you in a Trunk for my Family, to the Amount of 888 Livres and twelve Sous, which Sum together with your Commissions please to charge to the public Account, as you propose, and I will be responsible for the Money here. I am much obliged to you, Sir, for your Care in this Business and am your most obedient Servant

John Adams
John Bondfield Esqr
Commissioners to John Bondfield
Sir Passi June 4. 1778

Your Letters of the 26th and 30th. of May, We have received:5 the first accompanying the Accounts of Supplies &c. for the Boston; the last inclosing an Affidavit of a Plott against her Safety. Upon looking over the Accounts, We find some Articles, particularly fresh Beef, charged at a very high rate; but We suppose this Article must be dearer at Bourdeaux, than it is at Paris or Nantes, as We depend upon your Attention to procure every Thing, at the most reasonable rate. By the Rangers Account, she was supplied with fresh Beef, at five Sols and an half a pound, whereas in your Account fifteen Sols are charged....Your Bills will be honoured as you have drawn them. We hope, the Boston, before this time is gone. As the Expence of supporting such Ships is very great, they ought not to be in port one moment longer than is necessary.

As to the Plott: We shall communicate the Affidavit to the Ministry: But in the mean time, We depend upon it, that Captain Tucker will make some Example among the Guilty, on board of his Ship, if there are any, and that the Government at Bourdeaux, will punish any Person, at Land, who shall be found guilty of this Conspiracy or any other like it.

By all that We can learn there is a Junto of Ennemies in that Neighbourhood, who must be brought to reason by Severity, if nothing else will do. We have the Honor to be, with very great respect, Sir, your most obedient Servants

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
John Bondfield Esqr.

P.S. Your Bills are accepted

Commissioners to Gabriel de Sartine
Sir Passi June 4. 1778

We have the Honor of inclosing to your Excellency, a Copy of a Letter from Captain Whipple of the Providence Ship of War, of Thirty Guns, in the Service of the United States.6 As she brought no dispatches for Us, the Letter from the Captain, is all her Intelligence. We have the Honor to be with the greatest respect, your Excellencys most obedient &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams
Mr. Le Comte de Vergennes.

On the same day We wrote to Lord North

Commissioners to Lord North
My Lord

The Fortune of War, having again made a Number of British Sea-128men Prisoners to the United States, it is our Duty to trouble you with a renewal of our former request, for an immediate Exchange of Prisoners in Europe. To detain unfortunate Men, for months in Prison, and send them, three thousand Miles to make an Exchange, which might take place immediately and on the Spot, is a most grievous and unnecessary Addition to the Calamities of War, in which We cannot believe the British Government will persist.

It is, with the utmost regret, that We find ourselves compelled to reitterate, to your Lordship, our Remonstrances against your treating the Citizens of the United States, made Prisoners by the Arms of the King of Great Britain, in a manner unexampled, in the practice of civilized Nations. We have received late and authentic Information, that numbers of such Prisoners, some of them Fathers of Families in America, having been sent to Africa, are now in the Fort of Senegal, condemned, in that unwholesome Climate, to the hardest labour, and most inhuman Treatment. It will be our indispensable Duty, to report this to the Congress of the United States of America, and Retaliation will be the inevitable Consequence, in Europe as well as America, unless your Lordship will authorize Us to assure Congress that these unhappy Men, as well as all others of our Nation, who have been treated in a similar manner, shall be immediately brought back and exchanged.

Most earnestly We beseach your Lordship, no longer to sacrifice the essential Interests of Humanity, to the Claims of Sovereignty,7 which your Experience must by this time have convinced you, are not to be maintained. We have the Honor to be &c.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams
To Lord North.

Simpson's letters of 8 and 25 May are in PPAmP: Franklin Papers, both endorsed by JA. On the case of Thomas Simpson, lieutenant of the Ranger and prizemaster of the Drake, see the Autobiography entry dated 14 July 1778, below, and within it the four relevant letters dated 16 July: To Thomas Simpson, To Abraham Whipple, To J. D. Schweighauser, and From John Paul Jones letters and comment under 16 July, below ; also S. E. Morison, John Paul Jones, Boston, 1959, p. 160–172.


This is to some extent anachronistic. The adulation of Jones by French ladies and others did not occur after his Ranger cruise in 1778 but upon his return to Paris two years later following his more spectacular cruise with the Bonhomme Richard squadron. See S. E. Morison, John Paul Jones, Boston, 1959, ch. 15.


Let me know how Mr. Round Face, first letter, that went lately from Paris to the Hague, is proceeding? I understand he is gone to Amsterdam. I wish he may be doing good. If he should, inadvertantly, do evil, as a stranger, I shall, as his fellow-citizen, be very sorry for it, but you, being a native, will hear of it. I confess I am anxious about his situation. The man has a family, and these troublesome times, I wish he were at home to mind his trade and his fireside, for I think he has travelled more than his fortune can well bear. (Jones to Dumas, Ariel, Road of Croix, 8 Sept. 1780, Port Folio, 1st ser., 4 [1804]:43).


Not found.


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Abraham Whipple to Franklin, Paimboeuf Harbor, 31 May (PPAmP); see the Commissioners' answer of 6 June, below.


LbC: “to Claims of Sovereignty.”

[June 6. 1778] JA


[June 6. 1778] Adams, John
June 6. 1778

We wrote the following Letter

Commissioners to Abraham Whipple
Sir Passi June 6. 1778

We had Yesterday the favour of your Letter of 31st. of May, from the Harbour of Paimbeuf, and We congratulate you, on your safe Arrival in France, as well as your fortunate Passage through the dangers at Rhode Island; but more especially on the honor, which You, your Officers and Men have acquired, in your gallant Rencounter with the Enemies Ships on that Station.

You will address yourself, as well as your Prize, on her Arrival, to Mr. Schweighauser at Nantes, who will assist you in the necessary Repairs of your Ship, of which We must leave you to judge, furnish 129you with necessary Victuals and Slops for your Men, not more than one Suit of Cloaths for each Man of the Ships Compliment, and such munition of War as you may want, in all which We recommend to you, the strictest possible frugality, which the distressed Circumstances of our Country, demand of all her Officers. We leave it to You and Mr. Schweighausser to repair the Ship either at Nantes or at Brest, as you shall judge best for the public Service.

Signed B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
To Abraham Whipple Esq. Commander of the American Frigate the Providence at Painbeuf.
Commissioners to John Daniel Schweighauser
Sir Passi June 6. 1778

We had the Pleasure of yours of the first instant, Yesterday.1 We have directed Captain Whipple to address himself, as well as his Prize on her Arrival to you, for the necessary Repairs of the Providence, of which We must leave him to judge, to furnish him with necessary Victuals and Slops for his Men, not more than one Suit of Cloaths for each Man of the Ships Compliment, and such munition of War as he may want, in all which We recommend to him and to you the strictest Frugality, which the distressed Circumstances of our Country demand. You request directions relative to the part you are to act, on such Occasions towards the Custom House. All that We can say, at present, is, that the American Men of War must comply with the Laws: but We will endeavour to obtain explicit directions from his Majesty, concerning this Subject.

We are &c. B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams.
Mr. Schweighauser.

This Letter must be inserted.2 We received it in French: but the following is a litteral translation of it.

Gabriel de Sartine to the Commissioners
Marli the 6. of June 1788

I am informed Gentlemen, that the Sieur Bersolle, after having made very considerable Advances to Captain Jones, Commander of the Frigate of the United States of America, the Ranger, made this Captain give him a Bill of Exchange, which you have refused to discharge the Amount. As the Sieur Bersolle finds himself by this means under Embarrassment, and as you will perceive, no doubt, that it is interesting for the conservation of your Credit, that he be promptly relieved 130from it, I am persuaded that you will not delay, to cause to be paid not only the Bill of Exchange in question, but also that which is due by Captain Jones to the Treasury of the Marine at Brest, both for those Effects which have been delivered to him, from the Magazines of the King, and for his personal Subsistence, and that of his Crew.

Upon a representation which he has made, that the Men of his own Crew had pillaged from the Ship Chatham, many Effects, one part of which consisting of Silver Plate, had been sold to a Jew, Information has been obtained, by which the Plate and other Effects have been discovered; but the whole has been deposited, to remain, untill the Captain shall be in a Condition to reimburse what has been paid for these Effects.

I think, moreover, that it is important that you should be informed that this Captain who has quarrelled with his Officers and all his Crew has caused to be committed to Prison, Mr. Simpson, his second in Command. You will perhaps judge it proper, to procure the necessary Information, to know whether this principal Officer has merited to suffer such a punishment. I have the honnour to be with the most perfect Consideration, Gentlemen, your most humble and most obedient Servant

De Sartine.
Messieurs Franklin, Lee et Adams Deputés des Etats Unis de L'Amerique Passy.

I might leave the Reader to make his own reflections upon this interposition of a Minister who had certainly no right to meddle in this Business. But the Secret was that the Officers of our own Ships and every Body else, were to be countenanced in violating the Laws and Orders of Congress, in doing the most arbitrary Things of their own heads, without consulting the Commissioners, and in trampling on the most equitable orders of the Commissioners merely to throw the American Business and Profits into the hands of the Tools of the Minister and his Understrappers and to give them Opportunities of Pillage.


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The following letter and the comment thereon were copied by JA on a separate leaf and keyed by a cross for insertion ahead of the entry dated 7 June.