Adams Papers

Arnauld de Laporte to John Adams: A Translation, 4 April 1779

Arnauld de Laporte to John Adams: A Translation

Brest 4th April 1779


The Count Dorvilliers has sent me the Letter you wrote him concerning the American sailors that are on board the fier Rodrigue.1 Always desirous to render every service, that depends upon myself, to the United states, and more so in what may be agreeable to your Excellency I immediately ordered the Cap of said Vessel, to deliver these Men to Mr. Landais. The Cap whose Crew is very week, informed me that these pretended American sailors,2 who are only two in number, are part of a Crew belonging to a Privateer from Bristol taken by a Kings Vessel and conducted to Rochefort, that these men had been put3 in Prison from whence the Cap had had the liberty to take them to go on board his Vessel; That the Privateer had made no Prizes, that these two Men taken in Arms against France, and making part of a Crew of an English Privateer could not be looked upon but as English-Men, and cannot partake of the priviledges of the subjects of the Republic of the United states of America.

Notwithstanding the legitimacy of those premature4 Reasons, I should in any other circumstance have ordered it otherwise and have delivered these Men to Cap Landais, but the Vessel the fere Rodirigue being so ill manned altho a Vessel of force having 56 Cannons mounted, and ordered to sail after tomorrow, I should have the utmost dificulty to replace the Men he would be obliged to put on shore, in short your Excellency is not ignorant that this Vessel is in a great measure, in the service of the United states;5 those she has already rendered to the Continent are not in all probability the last that the Congress is to expect; and if she returns she will land these Men without any difficulty. I dare flatter myself, sir, that your Excellency will not take it amiss on these considerations that the Cap establish a Guard on board his Vessel the fiere Rodrigue. I supplicate to know what is required of me, I shall execute it with the haste, or eagerness that I have in proving on every occasion the perfect consideration with which I am Your Excellencys’ most humble & obedient Servant

(Signed) La Porte

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “M. De la Porte 4. Ap. 1779.” Contemporary translation in an unknown hand (Adams Papers). One must exercise special caution in using this translation because Laporte’s handwriting was very difficult to decipher and the translator also took some liberties; see notes 2, 3, and 4.

1JA’s letter to Comte D’Orvilliers has not been found. This letter of the 4th was, however, apparently sent under a covering letter from Orvilliers dated 5 April (Adams Papers). That letter explained the powers of the “intendant” of the port of Brest in regard to prisoners and, like Laporte’s letter, expressed the desire to cooperate fully with JA.

2The translator should have rendered this “pretended Bostonians.”

3This should read: “put, with the other English sailors, in prison.”

4The translator should have rendered this “peremptory” or “decisive.”

5That is, the Fier Roderigue was in the service of Beaumarchais and had already carried supplies to America. See letters from John Bondfield of 3 Oct., note 3, and 28 Nov. 1778, note 1 (both above).

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