Papers of John Adams, volume 7

From William Whitmarsh Jr.

From Mercy Otis Warren

John Bondfield to the Commissioners, 13 October 1778 Bondfield, John Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur JA First Joint Commission at Paris


John Bondfield to the Commissioners, 13 October 1778 Bondfield, John Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur Adams, John First Joint Commission at Paris
John Bondfield to the Commissioners
Sirs Bordeaux 13 8bre 1778

By Letters this day from Couronna we have advice that the 30th Ultimo arrived at that Port an American privateer of 20 guns. She left Boston 14 August. He reports that Adml. How with the reinforcement he had receivd went down to Rhode Island. He there found Comte D'estaing who on his approach stood out to meet him. A Gale of wind prevented their engageing. Both Fleets sufferd severely by the Storm many ships being dismasted. Admiral How was returnd to New York and Comte d'Estaing had retaken his Post before Rhode Island.1 New Port was invested by the American Army. The privateer in her Passage took two packet Boats One from New York to England the other from England to New York many officers of Rank on board. He has brought Prisoners into Couronna, four Colonels four Majors Eighty others of different degrees.2

A French Frigate has sent into Vigo3 a Lisbon Packet with fifty Thousand pounds Sterling in Specie.

An Engagement betwixt a Spaniard and an English Privateer has occationd the sending from Ferol Two Spanish Frigates in quest of the Privateer with orders to bring her into Port if met with.4 I hope to be favor'd in course of post with the Letter of Marque for the Ship Liv-140ingston, requested by my last.5 Mr. Livingston writes me the Ship is in great forwardness. I should be sorry to have her detain'd. She will mount twenty Guns, is burthen 400 tons and will be mannd proportionally.

The French Merchants are in a most Critical State. All their ships are on the Seas coming home without Convoy. Upwards of fifty Sail are already taken. The Loss is estimated at One Milion Sterling. Premiums on them are at from 45 to 60 per cent.6 Their west India Trade is attended at this day with Charges as heavy as to the American States and more exposed. We ought to benefit by the present Opening but so great a stagnation has taken place that we see not a trantient adventurer. There are in this Port four Virginia Pilot Boats which all will not carry one hundred and fifty Tons, they are to load Salt and some triffling stock of Habadashery.

Had I your Commissions I could at this Day lay in a most Suitable Assortment of Coarse Woollens such as Blankets, Cloths, Moltens, Baizes, flannells, frizes, in short all articles of the most useful and highest Nessessity for this Winter the whole amounting to About Two hundred Thousand Livres. The goods are here in Store and could be Shipt in five Days, a most seasonable Supply it would prove to the States. Term for Payment say twelve Months if required could be obtain'd. All could be shipt without a days Delay as the object would be sufficient to load a Vessel which I could either Charter or purchase as you would most approve. Recommending this Humbly to your serious Consideration I am with due Respect Sirs Your most Obedient Humble Serv

John Bondfield

RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “The Honble. Benj Franklin Arthur Lee. John Adams Esqrs. Commissioners from Congress at Paris”; docketed, not by JA: “Bourdeaux Bondfield 13 Oct. 1778.”


Presumably Bondfield means that Estaing returned to his anchorage off Newport, from whence he almost immediately departed for Boston.


The Massachusetts privateer Vengeance, Capt. Wingate Newman, captured the packets Harriot and Eagle on 17 and 21 Sept. From the latter Newman seized four lieutenant colonels, three majors, and one coronet of dragoons, whom he delivered to the British commissary at La Coruna in return for an equal number of American prisoners (Allen, Mass. Privateers , p. 314).


A town approximately twenty miles north of the Spanish-Portuguese border on the northwestern coast of Spain.


A closing bracket was inserted here. A copy of the letter to this point is now in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 5). No indication of how or why the extract was communicated to the foreign ministry has been found.


Bondfield had written on 10 Oct. to request a letter of marque for the Governor Livingston, named for Philip Livingston and to be commanded by Muscoe Livingston, which was to be ready for sea by 1 Nov. (PPAmP: Franklin Papers). Although a letter of marque was apparently issued on or about 26 Oct., the Livingston 141did not sail until 10 May 1779, then with a cargo of military supplies, and did not arrive in America until 22 July. Livingston, however, was not on board as is evident from his letter to JA of 17 June (below; Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 3:432; PCC, No. 78, X, f. 149; V, f. 381).


That is, the cost of insuring a vessel and cargo was from 45 to 60 percent of their value. For an earlier reference by Bondfield to the need for convoys and the high cost of insurance, see his letter to the Commissioners of 10 April, and note 7 (vol. 6:23–25).