Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the levee every Tuesday, with the other foreign ministers, and have taken every proper occasion of repeating the assurances I am instructed to give, of the grateful sentiments of Congress, and their determined resolution to fulfil religiously their engagements. Much pains is constantly taken by the enemy to weaken the confidence of this court in their new allies, by representing our people as weary of the war, and of the government of Congress; which body, too, they represent as distracted by dissensions, &.C.; but all this has very little effect, and, when on some occasions it has seemed to make a little impression, and create some apprehensions, I have not found it difficult to remove them. And it is my firm opinion, that, notwithstanding the great losses suffered by the commerce of this kingdom, since the commencement of the war, the disposition of the court to continue it (till its purpose of establishing our independence is completed) is not the least changed, nor their regard for us diminished.

The end of that part of the instructions, which relates to American seamen taken by the French in English ships, had already been obtained, Captain Jones having had for some time an order from court, directed to the keepers of the prisoners, requiring them to deliver to him such Americans as should be found in their hands, that they might be at liberty to serve under his command. Most of them have accordingly been delivered to him, if not all. The minister of the marine, having entertained a high opinion of him, from his conduct and bravery in taking the Drake, was desirous of employing him in the command of a particular enterprise, and to that end requested us to spare him, which we did, and sent the Ranger home, under the command of his lieutenant. Various accidents have hitherto postponed his equipment, but he now has the command of a fifty-gun ship with some frigates, all under American commissions and colors, fitted out at the King's expense, and will sail . it is said, about the 1st of June.

The Marquis de Lafayette was, with some land troops, to have gone with him; but I now understand the Marquis is not to go, the plan being a little changed.

The Alliance being weakly manned at first, and the captain judging it necessary to be freed from thirtyeight of his men, who had been concerned in a conspiracy, and unwilling to take French seamen, I thought it best to send him directly home, as his ship might be of some protection to the vessels then about sailing to America, and Mr. Adams, who was desirous of returning soon, might be accommodated with a passage in a swift-sailing vessel. I accordingly offered her as a convoy to the trade at Nantes; but the gentlemen concerned did not think fit to wait for getting ready, as a French convoy offered, for at least part of the voyage; and, the minister requesting she might be added to Captain Jones's little squadron, and offering to give a passage to Mr. Adams in the frigate with the new ambassador, and to complete the Alliance's complement of men, I thought it best to continue her a little longer in Europe, hoping she may, in the projected cruise, by her extraordinary swiftness, be a means of taking prisoners enough to redeem the rest of our countrymen, now in the English gaols. With this view, as well as to oblige the minister, I ordered her to join Captain Jones at L'Orient, and obey his orders, where she is now accordingly.

There have been great misunderstandings between the officers of that ship and their captain, and great discontents among the men for want of clothes and money. I have been obliged to make great advances to appease those discontents, and I now hope the authority and prudence of Captain Jones will be able to remove, or at least to prevent, the ill effects of those misunderstandings. The conspirators are detained in prison, and will remain there, subject to such directions as Congress may think fit to give concerning them. The courts here would not, because they properly could not, undertake to try them; and we had not captains enough to make a court-martial for the purpose. The sending them to America, with evidence to convict them, will be a great trouble and expense; and perhaps their offence cannot be so clearly made out, as to justify a punishment sufficient to deter by its exemplary severity Possibly, the best use, that can be made of them, is to give them in exchange for as many Americans in the cartel now operating here. The perfidious conduct of the English and Scotch sailors in our service, a good deal discourages the idea of taking them out of those prisons in order to employ them.

This cartel is at length brought about by the indefatigable endeavours of an old friend of mine, and a long declared one to America, Mr. Hartley, member of Parliament for Hull. The ship employed has already brought us one cargo from the prison at Plymouth. The number was intended for a hundred, but proved ninety-seven, and she is returned with as many in exchange, to bring us a second number from the prison at Portsmouth. This is to continue till all are exchanged. The Americans are chiefly engaged with Captain Jones and Landais. This exchange is the more remarkable, as our people were all committed as for high treason.

Agreeably to the seventh instruction, I have earnestly recommended the reduction of Halifax and Quebec

Vol. vm. 23

The Marquis de Lafayette joined me warmly in the application for this purpose, and I hope we shall in due time see some good effects from it. I have also in various ways, and through different channels, laid before the ministry the distressed state of our finances in America. There seems a great willingness in all of them to help us, except in the controller, M. Necker, who is said not to be well disposed towards us, and is supposed. to embarrass every measure proposed to relieve us by grants of money. It is certain, that under the resolution, perhaps too hastily declared, of the King's imposing no new taxes on his subjects for thb year, the court has great difficulties in defraying present expense, the vast exertions to put the navy in a condition to equal that of England having cost immense sums.

There is also a prevailing opinion, that the most effectual service to us is to be expected from rendering their marine superior to that of England. The King has, however, to encourage our loan in Holland, been so good as to engage, under his hand, to be security for our payment of the interest of three millions of livres; but that loan has not yet amounted to more than about eighty thousand florins. Dr. Price, whose assistance was requested by Congress, has declined that service, as you will see by the copy of his letter enclosed.* To me it seems, that the measure recommended by the wisdom of Congress, for diminishing the quantity of paper by taxes of large nominal sums, must have very salutary effects.

• Congress had passed the following resolution, October 6th, 1778.

"Resolved, That the Honorable Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and John Adams, or any of them, be directed forthwith to apply to Dr. Price, and inform him, that it is the desire of Congress to consider him a citizen of the United States, and to receive his assistance in regulating their finances. That, if he shall think it expedient to remove

As to your finances here, it is fit that you should know the state of them. When the Commissioners of Congress made the proposition of paying the interest at Paris of the money borrowed in America, they understood the loan to be of five millions of dollars. They obtained from government sums more than sufficient for the interest of such a sum. That sum has been increased; and, if they could otherwise have provided for it, they have been from time to time drained by a number of unforeseen expenses, of which the Congress had no knowledge, and of others, occasioned by their orders and drafts; and the cargoes sent to the Commissioners by the Committee have some of them been treacherously run away with by the seamen, or taken by the enemy, or, when arrived, have been hitherto applied toward the payment of debts, the tobaccos to the farmers-general according to contract, and the rice and indigo to Messrs. Hortalez & Co., from whom, by the way, we have not yet been able to procure any account.

with his family to America, and afford such assistance, a generous provision shall be made for requiting his services."

The Commissioners forwarded this resolve to Dr. Price, who replied as follows.

"Dr. Price returns his best thanks to the Honorable Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and John Adams, for conveying to him the resolution of Congress of the 6th of October last, by which he is invited to become a member of the United States, and to give his assistance in regulating their finances. It is not possible for him to express the sense he has of the honor, which this resolution does him, and the satisfaction with which he reflects on the favorable opinion of him which has occasioned it. But lie knows himself not to be sufficiently qualified for giving such assistance; and he is so connected in this country, and also advancing so fast in the evening of life, that he cannot think of a removal. He requests the favor of the Honorable Commissioners to transmit this reply to Congress, with assurances that Dr. Price feels the warmest gratitude for the notice taken of him, and that he looks to the American States, as noio the hope, and likely soon to become the refuge of mankind." — London, January 18th, 1779.

« ZurückWeiter »