Adams Papers

The Commerce Committee to the Commissioners, 16 May 1778

The Commerce Committee to the Commissioners

York in Pennsylvania May 16. 1778


This will be accompanied with a Contract entered into between John Baptist Lazarus Theveneau De Francy Agent of Mr. Peter Augustine Caron De Beaumarchais representative of the House of Rodrigue Hortalez & Co. and the Committee of Commerce.1 You will observe that their Accounts are to be fairly stated and what is justly due paid. For as on the One hand Congress would be unwilling to evidence a disregard for, and contemptuous refusal of the Spontaneous freindship of his most Christian Majesty; so on the other they are unwilling to put into the private Packets what was gratuitously designed for Public benefit. You will be pleased to have thier Accounts liquidated and direct in the liquidation thereof that particular care be taken to distinguish the property of the Crown of France from the Private property of Hortalez and company and transmit to us the accounts so stated and distinguished. This will also be accompanied by an Invoice of Articles to be imported from France and resolves of Congress relative thereto.2 You will appoint if you judge proper an Agent or Agents to Inspect the quality of such Goods as you may apply for to the House of Roderigue Hortalez & Co. before they are shipped to prevent any imposition.

The Obstructions of the Bays and Harbours to the southward by British men of war, hath prevented our shipping Tobacco as we intended. We have ordered several Vessels lately to South Carolina for Rice and have directed the Continental Agent in that state to consign them to your address. So soon as we can venture to send out Tobacco with any probability of Success we shall certainly do it.

This goes by a dispatch Vessel under the direction of the Committee of foreign Affairs. Five Others are employed in the same business, which you will load with such Articles as you may have ready to transmit to us.

We congratulate with you on the treaties entered into with his most Christian Majesty and are with the greatest respect, Gentn. Your very hble servts

William Ellery

Richd. Hutson

Thos. Adams

RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Letter from Committee May 16. 1778” designated a “Copy,” probably one of several sent by the Committee to the Commissioners.

1This contract with Roderigue Hortalez & Cie., a fictitious firm established by Beaumarchais to funnel clandestine French aid to the United States, was approved by the congress on 7 April and announced as executed on the 16th (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 10:316–318, 356; for de Francy’s credentials impowering him to negotiate a contract, see 10:320–321).

The first paragraph of this letter was copied directly into the Commissioners’ letter to Vergennes of 10 Sept. (JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 7:29–31). It requested his intervention and advice in order to establish what portion of the supplies sent to America were the gift of the French government, for which no payment was due, and what portion was obtained under contract to Roderigue Hortalez & Cie., and was to be paid for with shipments of American produce to France. In a letter of 10 Sept. to Beaumarchais (LbC, Adams Papers) the Commissioners demanded that he present a full accounting for all supplies contracted for by the United States from Roderigue Hortalez & Cie.

2That is, the resolutions passed on 16 May which prompted this letter (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 11:505).

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