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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0002-0015

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-03-28

March 28. Saturday.

Last night and this Morning We were in the thoroughfare of all the Ships from Bourdeaux. We had always a great Number in Sight. By Obs[ervation] to day, our Lat. is 46D.:3M. North, about 7 Minutes South of the Middle of the Isle of Rea. We are therefore about 20 Leagues from the Tower of Cordoan. We have no Wind, and nothing can be more tedious and disagreable to me, than this idle Life.
Last Evening We had two little Incidents which were disagreable. One was, the French Barber attempting to go below, contrary to orders, the Centinell cutt off his great Toe with his Cutlass, which raised at first a little, ill blood in the French People, who are on board, but on Enquiry finding the fellow deserved it, they acquiesced. The other unpleasant Incident was that one of our Prisoners of War, a little more elevated than usual grew out of Temper, and was very passionate with Mr. Vernon and afterwards, with C. Palmes—but it has all subsided.1
Mr. McIntosh is of North Britain, and appears to be very decided vs. America in this Contest, and his Passions are so engaged that they easily inkindle....2
Mr. Gault is an Irish Gentleman and as decided vs. America, in her Claims of Independance at least, as the other. Mr. Wallace is more reserved, cautious, silent and secret.
Jealousies arise among our Men, that the Prisoners are plotting with some of our profligate People: but I believe this Jealousy is groundless.
All Day Yesterday, and all the forenoon of this Day We have been looking out for Land—about 4 o Clock We found it—the Isles of Rhee and Oleron, between which two is the Entrance into the Harbour of Rochelle, which is about half Way between Bourdeaux and Nantes.
... The Land is extremely flat and low. We see the Tower.... The Water is shoal, 25 or 30 Fathoms, the bottom Sand—the Reverse of the Spanish Coast on the other Side of the Bay of Biscay.
{ 290 }
This Afternoon, a clock calm, and Mr. Goss played upon his Fiddle the whole Afternoon, and the Sailors danced, which seemed to have a very happy Effect upon their Spirits and good Humour.
Numbers of small Birds from the Shore, came along to day, some of them fatigued, allighted on our Rigging, Yards &c. and one of them We caught. A little Lark he was called. These Birds loose the Shore and get lost, and then fly untill they are so fatigued that the instant they allight upon a Ship they drop to sleep.
1. Richard Palmes, captain of marines on the Boston; see Sheppard, Tucker, p. 93–94; Warren-Adams Letters, 1:372. The incident is elaborated in JA's Autobiography under this date.
2. Suspension points here and below in this entry are in the MS.

Docno: ADMS-01-02-02-0008-0002-0016

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1778-03-29

1778. March 29. Sunday.

Becalmed all last Night. This Morning a vast Number of Sails in Sight. St. Martins, and Oleron in Sight, many Towers and Windmills —Land very low and level.
A Pilot Boat, with two Sails and 4 Men, came on Board, and the Pilot instantly undertook to pilot Us to Bourdeaux. He says this ship may go up quite to the City, if she draws 20 feet of Water, at high Water.—We are now sailing very agreably towards our Port.
The Pilot says War is declared, last Wednesday, and that the Pavillions were hoisted Yesterday at every Fort and Light House.—Quaere.1
There is a civil Frenchman on board, whose Name I never asked untill to day. His Name is Quillau, Fourier des Logis de Mr. Le Ct. D'Artois. He was not of M. De Coudrays Corps.
The French Gentlemen on board can scarcely understand our new Pilot. He speaks Gascoine, the Dialect of Bourdeaux, they say, which is not good French.
This Day Six Weeks We sailed from Nantaskett Road. How many Dangers, Distresses and Hairbreadth Scapes have We seen?
A Story.—Garrick had a Relation, convicted of a capital Offence. He waited on his Majesty, to beg a Pardon. The K. asked what was the Crime?—He has only taken a Cup too much, says Garrick, may it please your Majesty.—Is that all? said the K. Let him be pardoned.—Gault.
A Story. A Frenchman in London advertised an infallible Remedy against Fleas. The Ladies all flocked to purchase the Powder. But after they had bought it, one of them asked for Directions to Use it.—Madam says the Frenchman you must catch the Flea, and squese him between your Fingers untill he gape, then you must put a little of this Powder in his Mouth, and I will be responsible he never will bite you again.— { [facing 290] } { [facing 291] } { 291 } But says the Lady, when I have him between my Fingers, why may I not rub him to death?—Oh Madam dat will do just as well den!—Tucker.
We have been becalmed all day in Sight of Oleron. The Village of St. Dennis was in Sight, and Multitudes of Wind Mills and Sand Hills all along the shore. Multitudes of Vessells in sight, French, Spanish, Dutch Vessells, and English Smugglers.
I feel a Curiosity to visit this Island of Oleron so famous in Antiquity for her Sea Laws, at least I take this to be the Place.
1. A very proper query. France had recognized and formed an alliance with the United States by treaties of alliance and commerce signed at Versailles on 6 Feb.; the French ambassador in London, the Marquis de Noailles, had so notified the British government on 13 March; and diplomatic relations were at once broken off. But war was never formally declared between the two powers.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/