Papers of John Adams, volume 10

To the President of Congress, No. 4

From Thomas Digges

From Tristram Dalton, 24 August 1780 Dalton, Tristram JA From Tristram Dalton, 24 August 1780 Dalton, Tristram Adams, John
From Tristram Dalton
(Duplicate) Dear Sir Newburyport August. 24th. 1780

This week honor'd me with Your kind favors of 23d Febry.1last, for which acknowledge myself much obliged.

With respect to the Vessel sunk in the W Indies, I took the liberty to address You, in July, from Boston—when the Owners, supposing your public important Commission not to permit any particular attention to such private business, forwarded to the Honble. Mr. Dana every paper they thought necessary, for renewing their Application to the Court of France, for redress2—begging leave to refer You to my said Letter on that Subject, be pleased to accept my sincere thanks for Your polite Offers of Service—which You'll permit me to value, chiefly, because I esteem them really meant—and let me add, my happiness will be doubled if you will put it in my power to render Yourself, or Connections, here, or abroad, any good Offices.

Friendship founded, in those early Years, when neither fashion or selfinterest sway the heart, produce the most lasting Fruits—As you are pleased to recognize that which was formed in our early days, I 88embrace with Earnestness, the claim, and wish, as Opportunities, in our different Professions, permit, to experience and prove, that the Blessings which flow therefrom are the Result, and not the Germs, as is common in Contractions of later life when the World appears too designing and vitious, almost, to be trusted.

Your Opinion respecting Peace must be of great Service in the plans of the mercantile Line. Some Gentlemen, from expecting peace, have neglected the equipments of Vessels of War—but most are now convinc'd that, while any successes can pacify the people of Britain by any representations the Minister makes of them, that Nation will be so infatuated as to push the war; tho' the wisest cannot see with what rational Expectations. The conquest of America must appear ideal—the Chastisement of the House of Bourbon as much so; especially, considering the apparent disposition of the other powers of Europe. Under these sentiments of their Conduct, the Merchants, having pretty well recovered from their deplorable Loss at Penobscot, as also on account of their prodigious Success in capturing such a Number of the Fleet bound to Quebec;3 ten of which are brought in to this County, are pushing into the privateering Business, to the extent of their capitals. I have, thro' the war, kept largely in this business, which, however profitable, nothing but the Service it has done the Country, in the present Contest, would fully justify to my Disposition.

My success has been very various—like the tossing of the Sea, sometimes up to a good Height—sometimes engulphed, I yet carry good Sail, and hope the close of the war may leave me in that Situation, wherein I can best serve my Country and Mankind. But how I am interrupting your valuable Moments! Excuse me, & permit me to acknowledge myself to be, with true Esteem, Dear Sir Your obliged Friend & most humble Servant

Tristram Dalton

Shall I presume, by P.S., to ask the Favor of any Intelligence which may affect the disposition of the mercantile Interest, so far as is consistent with your every Consideration?

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Duplicate Mr. Dalton 24th. Augst. 1780.” Since the Adams Papers contain only the duplicate it is likely that Dalton's original copy was either not received or was lost. No reply to this letter has been found and Dalton's next letter to JA is dated 25 May 1782 (Adams Papers).


Vol. 8:356.


The brigantine Fair Play had been sunk inadvertently by a French battery at Guadaloupe in Jan. 1779. Dalton had requested JA's assistance in obtaining compensation from the French government for the loss in a letter of 13 May 1779 (vol. 8:59–60), to which JA's letter of 23 Feb. 1780 was a reply. For the loss of the vessel and the efforts to obtain compensation, see the letter of 13 May, and note 1. 89 No letter from Dalton to JA in July has been found, nor have the documents sent to Francis Dana been located in his papers. However, on 15 and 17 Oct., Francis Dana wrote to Dalton from Amsterdam that he had received Dalton's letter of 21 Jan. containing documents concerning the Fair Play and, after consulting with JA, had decided to visit Paris in an effort to resolve the matter. In a letter of 8 Feb. 1781 from Paris, Dana reported on the efforts that he and Benjamin Franklin had made and were making to obtain adequate compensation (all in MHi: Francis Dana Letterbook).


Reports of the attack on the supply ships bound for Quebec in the Boston Independent Ledger of 7 Aug. and the Independent Chronicle of 10 Aug. indicate that several Massachusetts privateers were involved, probably including the Essex, Junius Brutus, America, and Saucy Jack, and that nineteen vessels, approximately half the fleet, were captured. For the British account of the attack, which is somewhat different and indicates that it occurred on 12 July, see Thomas Digges' letter of 29 Aug., note 5 (below).