Diary of John Adams, volume 4

[March 5. Thursday 1778.] JA


[March 5. Thursday 1778.] Adams, John
March 5. Thursday 1778.

March 5. Thursday 1778. This morning We had the pleasantest prospect We had yet seen. An easy breeze from the Southward, gave Us an Opportunity of keeping our true course. With a soft, clear, warm Air, a fair Sun and no Sea, We had a great number of Sails spread, and went at the rate of nine Knots; yet the Ship had no perceptible motion and made no noise. My little Son was very proud of his Knowledge of all the Sails, and the Captain put him upon learning the Mariners Compass. I was ardently wishing that We might make Prize of an English Vessell, lately from London, with all the Newspapers and Magazines on board, that We might obtain the latest Intelligence and discover the plan of Operations for the ensuing Campaign in America. I was impatient to arrive in some Port or other, whether in France or Spain, that I might make Inquiries concerning the designs of the Enemy, what Force they meant to send to America; where they were to procure Men; what was the State of the British nation; what the State of Parties; what the State of Finances and of Stocks; what Supplies of Cloathing, Arms, Ammunition &c. were gone to America during the past Winter; The State of American Credit in France; what remittances had been made from America in Tobacco, Rice, Indigo or any other Articles; The State of Europe, particularly of France and Spain; what were the real designs of those Courts; what the condition of their Finances; what the State of their Armies, and especially of their fleets; what number of Ships they had, fitted for Sea; what their 22names, number of Men and Guns, Weight of Metal &c; where they lay; the probability or improbability of a War, and the causes and reasons for and against each Supposition. I wanted to be employed in collecting and transmitting to Congress all the Information I could find upon these and all other points, which it might be Usefull for them to know, but the time was not yet come.

We were now supposed to be nearly in the Latitude of Cape Finisterre so that We had only to sail an Easterly course. Every one knows that this Cape and City of the same name, are the most westerly part not only of the Kingdom of Gallicia and of Spain but of all Europe, and therefore was called by the Ancients, who knew no other country, The End of the World.

We enjoyed, through the whole of this day, the clearest Horrison, the softest Weather, the smoothest Sea, and the best Wind, which We had ever found since We came on board. All Sails were spread and We went, ten Knots upon an Avarage the whole day.

[March 6. Fryday. 1778.] JA


[March 6. Fryday. 1778.] Adams, John
March 6. Fryday. 1778.

March 6. Fryday. 1778. The Wind had continued in the same point all night; about South, and We had gone nine Knots upon an Avarage. This was great favour.

Many Years before I had accidentally purchased an Edition of Molieres Commedies in ten or twelve Volumes, with an English translation on the page opposite to the French. I had never made any Use of the French part untill I found myself destined to go to France. From that time I had compared the French and English together as well as I could, and now I had an Opportunity to apply myself, to the Study of the Language, which I did very closely as often as Winds and Seas and British Men of War would permit. But these Halcyon days were soon at an End.

We passed to the Northward of the Western Islands and were now supposed to be as near them as We should be at any time.

[March 7. Saturday. 1778.] JA


[March 7. Saturday. 1778.] Adams, John
March 7. Saturday. 1778.

March 7. Saturday. 1778. The same prosperous Wind and the same beautifull Weather continued. We proceeded on our course about two hundred miles in twenty four hours. We had passed all the dangers of the American Coast; those of the Bay of Biscay and those of the Coast of France, and as it happened those of the English Channel remained to be encountered.

Yesterday the Ship had been all in an Uproar, with laughter. The Boatswains Mate asked one of the Officers if they might have a little Sport. The Answer was Yes. Jere accordingly, with the Old Sailors, proposed to build a Galley, and all the green hands to the Number of twenty or thirty were taken in, and suffered themselves to be tied to-23gether by their Legs. When, all on a sudden, Jere, and his knowing ones, were found, handing bucketts of Water over the Sides, and pouring them upon the poor Dupes till they were wet to the Skin. The Behaviour of the Gullies, their passions, Speeches and countenances, were diverting enough. So much for Jere's fun. This frolick I suppose, according to the Sailors reasoning was to conjure up a Prize.

This morning the Captain ordered all hands upon Deck, and took an Account of the Number of Souls on board, who amounted to one hundred and seventy two. Then the Articles of War were read to them. Then he ordered all hands upon the Forecastle, and then upon the Quarter Deck, to determine by Experiments whether any difference was made in the Sailing of the Ship, by the Weight of the Men when forward, or Aft. Then all hands were ordered to their Quarters to exercise them at the Guns. Mr. Barron gave the Words of command and they spent an hour at their exercise in which they appeared to be tolerably expert. After this a dance was ordered by the Captain upon the main Deck, and all hands, Negroes, Boys and Men were obliged to join in it.... When this was over the Old Sailors sett on foot another game, which they called The Miller. I will not spend time to describe this odd Scaene: but it ended in a very wild Vagary, in which all the Men were powdered over with flour, and wet again to the Skin. Whether these whimsical Diversions are indulged in order to compell the Men to wash themselves, shift their Cloaths and wash away Vermin, or whether it is to awaken the Spirits of the Men which are very apt to sink in a long Voyage, I know not: but there is not in them the least Appearance of Elegance, very little Wit, and a humour of the coarsest kind. It is not superiour to the dances of Indians.