The American Commissioners: Contract with ––– Mercier1 for the Repair of Arms
DS: American Philosophical Society2
<Charleville, May 30, 1777, in French: Mercier will engage at least forty qualified workmen to come to Nantes as soon as possible. He will contract with each of them at a fixed price, not to exceed 2 l.t. 2 sols for each gun that needs to be dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled; any new work will be done as cheaply as possible. He will obtain parts from the manufacturers at the best price he can and no profit for himself. The commissioners will provide a workman with 3 l.t. a day on the way to Nantes, or 5 l.t. should he bring a wife and children, for as many days as Mercier thinks reasonable for the journey; each man, if he performs satisfactorily, will receive 50 l.t. when the project is finished. Mercier may lend a maximum of 500 l.t. to any of them who is in debt. They will be furnished with free lodging, heat, and light, but pay for everything else. They will bring their own tools, except fixtures, or be charged for those provided them. Mercier will arrange to have some swords and sabers repaired at a fixed price and no profit to himself. The commissioners will pay him 7½ sols for every gun and pair of pistols properly repaired, up to a total of 22,500 l.t. for 60,000 arms; if there are more or fewer weapons he will receive the same amount. Should the repairs for any reason stop, he will remain in the service of the United States for three years from the present date, either in France or America, and be compensated at the end as if the work had been completed. He will keep regular accounts, verified at least once a month, of everything pertaining to the operation; these books will be presented for inspection whenever requested by the commissioners’ agent in Nantes. Approved, signed, and dated by Mercier.>
1. The contrôleur des armes in the manufactory at Charleville-Mézières: Henri Manceau, La Manufacture d’armes de Charleville (Charleville, 1962), p. 28. The commissioners engaged him to repair the arms purchased earlier from Montieu (see above,XXIII, 351 n and passim), and Mercier turned out to be unreliable; the troubles spawned by this agreement, which were legion, will appear in later volumes.
2. An undated and somewhat different version in English, endorsed by BF “Rough Draft of the Agreement between the Commissioners and Mercier,” is also in the APS. The text summarized here is described as Mercier’s contract with the commissioners, but is endorsed as an agreement between him and JW. A copy, similarly described and identical in wording but dated Paris, June 23, and signed by Deane for the commission, is in the University of Pa. Library. The explanation must be that JW went to Charleville-Mézières after his visit to Paris in May, negotiated with Mercier, and had him sign one copy of the contract; weeks later Deane signed the other.