The Commissioners to Gustavus Conyngham
Passi April 19. 1778
We have received a Complaint from the remaining Part of your Officers and Crew, of an unfair distribution of Prize Money by Mr. Hodge.1 To prevent any Such Complaints in future, We desire that you will put your Prizes into the Hands of Messieurs Gardoqui at Bilboa,2 and into those of the Principal Merchant at Cadiz or Corogne ,3 directing them to make a Speedy Distribution of the Prize-Money, among the Crew and Account to Us for the public Part. You will inform Us, at the Same Time of their Contents and what they are supposed to be worth.
We wish to have, immediately an Account of what you have hither to taken, their Supposed Value and to whom committed. You will use your utmost Endeavours to make up your Crew and taking a Cruise where you can with Safety, come to Bourdeaux, Brest or Nantes. We can there examine into your Disputes and settle your future Establishment, with much more ease and Effect. When you make a Prize, you should take Copies of her Bills of loading, or an Inventory of her Contents, by Sending Us copies of which We can check the Merchants Accounts and prevent any Impositions.
You will inform your ships Company of the Directions We have given to provide for their Satisfaction in future and We wish to be favoured with a Copy of your Commission. We are sir, your most obedient, humble servants
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “To Captn Cunningham of the Revenge at Cadiz.” RC containing only the two final paragraphs and closing, both in JA’s hand, and the signatures (Musée de Blérancourt, Blérancourt, France); docketed: “B. Franklin & Arthur Lee J Adams Letter Le Captn Connynham of the Revenge.”
1. Gustavus Conyngham, captain of the Continental cutter Revenge and earlier of the lugger Surprize, both fitted out by William Hodge Jr. at Dunkirk in 1777, had terrorized the Irish and North Sea coasts of Britain since May 1777. Forced to avoid French ports because of British protests and France’s desire not to provoke Britain too far, Conyngham at the time of this letter was cruising out of Spanish ports. Between July 1777 and Feb. 1779, when Conyngham returned to America, the Revenge captured 27 English vessels and burned 33 more, making it one of the most successful American naval vessels of the Revolution (Cruises of Conyngham, ed. Neeser description begins Letters and Papers Relating to the Cruises of Gustavus Conyngham, a Captain of the Continental Navy, 1777–1779, ed. Robert Wilden Neeser, New York, 1915. description ends , p. xxx–xlvi). No letter from the crew has been found, but see the Commissioners to John Hodge, 19 April, and William Hodge Jr. to the Commissioners, 10 July (both below).
2. Joseph Gardoqui & Sons, who were engaged in the American trade and acted as American commercial agents at Bilbao. For further information about the firm and JA’s relations with it, see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:431; Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963-. description ends , 3:xiv–xv.
3. Almost certainly Lassore & Co. in Cadiz and Lagoanere & Co. of La Coruña (Lagoanere & Co. to Lassore & Co., 28 Nov. 1777, Cruises of Conyngham description begins Letters and Papers Relating to the Cruises of Gustavus Conyngham, a Captain of the Continental Navy, 1777–1779, ed. Robert Wilden Neeser, New York, 1915. description ends , p. 115).