March 30. Monday. 1778. This Morning the Officer came down and told the Captain that a lofty Ship was in Sight and had fired two heavy Guns. All hands were called up: but the lofty Ship appeared to be an heavy loaded Snow. The Weather was Cloudy, but there was no Wind. All very still excepting a small Suel. The Tower of Cordovan or as our Sailors called it The Bourdeaux lighthouse, was in Sight over our larbord Bow. The Officers were now employed in clearing the Ship and removing all warlike Appearances.
This day had been fortunate and happy.... Our Pilot had brought Us safely into the River of Garonne, and We had run up with Wind and Tide as far as Pouliac, when We anchored for the night and took in another Pilot.
This forenoon a Fisherman came along Side of Us, with Hakes, Skates and Gennetts. We bought some of them and had a high regale.
The River was very beautiful: on both sides of it, the plantations were pleasant. On the South Side especially We saw Horses, Oxen, Cows and great flocks of Sheep, grazing. The Husbandmen ploughing and Women half a dozen in a drove with their hoes. The Churches, Convents, Gentlemens Seats, and the Villages appeared to me, simple Inhabitant of the American Wilderness, very magnificent.
The River seldom swells with Freshes, for the rural Improvements and even the Fishermens Houses, are brought quite down to the Waters Edge. The Water in the River is to all Appearance very foul, being saturated and stained with red or purple Earth, washed into it I suppose from the banks on each Side of it. The Tide setts in at the rate of five Knotts. The Wind was directly fair, and We outsailed every Thing in going up the River. The Lands on each Side of Us and the Vessells in the River seemed to fly away from Us.
The Buildings public and private were of Stone: and a great number of pleasant Groves, appeared between the principal Seats and best plantations. The Vessells at Anchor and sailing in the River were very numerous. The Pleasure resulting to a Novice, from the Sight of Land, Houses, Cattle, after Three tremendous Storms and three equally tremendous Chases, one in the Gulph Stream, one in the English Channell and one in the Bay of Biscay, if it was ever experienced before I hope it never will be again, delicious as it was, by any human Being.33
It gave me a pleasing kind of Melancholly Reverie, to see this Country and to look at a Part of Europe, as a few Weeks before1 I had never expected to see this great Theatre of Arts, Sciences, Commerce and War.
The passage in the Diary of this date which JA is paraphrasing reads: “a few Months ago.”
March 31. Tuesday. 1778. Lying in the River, near Pouliac; a twenty four Gun Ship close by Us, under French Colours bound to Dominique. A dark misty morning. I was anxious to enquire, who was Agent for the United States of America at Bourdeaux, at Blaye &c., who were the principal Merchants on this River, concerned in the American Trade? What Vessells French or American had sailed, or were about sailing for America? What their Cargoes and for what Ports? Whether on Account of the United States, of any particular State, or of private Merchants French or American? But I could get no satisfactory Intelligence on any of these Subjects.
This Morning the Captain and a Passenger came on board The Boston from The Julie, a large Ship bound to Saint Domingo, to make Us a Visit. They invited Us on board to dine. Captain Palmes, Jesse Deane, John Quincy Adams and myself, went, and found a very pretty Ship, an elegant Cabin and every Accommodation. The white Stone plates were laid, a clean Napkin in each and a Cut of very fine Bread. The Cloth, Plates, Servants, all things were as neat as in any Gentlemans House. The first Dish was a French Soup. I had heard of Soup Meagre, which in America as well as in England had been Words of Contempt: but I thought if this was Soup meagre, it was a very respectable thing. Then a dish of boiled Beef, as I called it, having never heard the Word Bouillie. Then the Lights of a Calf dressed one Way and the Liver another. Then roasted Mutton. Then fricasseed Mutton. A good Sallad and something very like Asparagus, but not it. The Bread which had been baked on board was very fine. We had then Prunes, Almonds and the most delicious Raisins I ever saw; Dutch Cheese, then a Dish of Coffee, then a little glass of French Liqueur. Wine and Water and excellent Claret with our dinner. All these Appearances and provisions were luxuries to which We had been Strangers for many Weeks. None of our Hosts who entertained Us so hospitably understood English: None of Us French, except Dr. Noel who acted as Interpreter. The Conversation of the French Gentlemen among themselves was lively enough: but to the rest of Us it was a dull and silent Scaene.... On the Quarter deck I was struck with the Capons, Cocks and Hens in their Coops the largest I ever saw and the Number was as remarkable 34as their Size and beauty. While at dinner We saw a Pinnace, with half a dozen genteel People, go on board the Boston. Mr. Griffin one of our Petty officers, came in the Pinnace, with Captain Tuckers Compliments desiring to see me. We took leave and returned to our Ship, where we found very polite Company consisting of the Captain of another Ship bound to Martinique, and several of the Kings Officers bound out. One was the Commandant of that Island.