From Emmanuel de Pliarne
Near hallifax North Carolina April 28th 1777.
Since I am upon my way to south Carolina,1 I received Letters From France wich Give the Fairest prospect For the American Cause. My Friends write to me they will Furnish clothing and ammunition to the Largest quantity and will be Glad in any time to shew their attachement to this Country.
M. Penet Desires me, sir, to present to you his respectful Compliments. Doctor Franklin told him the honourable Congress had asked from you the Favour to be your aide-Camp in France and you had send the Commission. M. Penet has not received it and begs of your Kindness to send the Commission by triplicata.2
I have, sir, an other Favour to ask From you in the same Line. it is For a young son of one of our Friends and Partner, M. Gruel at Nantes. a Commission of a Lieuftenant in one of your Regiments or of Virginia or Pensilvania shou’d be Extremely agreeable to them. the Name of the Boy is Jan-Jacques Gruel, Son of Jacques Gruel of Nantes in the Kingdom of France.3
it is, sir, to have a Rank in your army, without Mentioning in the Commission Nor bearing appointements nor any thing of that Kind.
I Dare Flater Myself you will be Good Enough to oblige me in this and to be Convinced I am with Respect sir your Most faithful and obedt servt
P.S. I pray your Excellency to present My Respects to your Lady. if you will send to M. Robert Moriss at Philadelphia and to Colonel William Aylet at Williamsburg some Copyes of the Commissions, they will send them to france.4
I passed throught Frederiqksburg and Williamsburg where I have been Received with the Greatest Civilities by your Friends and Relations.
1. Pliarne says in a similar letter that he wrote on this date to GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison: “Now, sir, I am Going to Charlestown in Carolinâ for some business. I will Come back in 5. 6. weeks. . . . after my Return From the hot parts I intend to have the pleasure to see you” (DLC:GW).
2. Congress brevetted Pierre Penet an aide-de-camp to GW, which Congress approved on 18 Oct. 1776 (see Penet to GW, 3 Aug. 1776, GW to Hancock, 7 Oct. [first letter], 18 Oct. 1776, and JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:869–70).
3. Pliarne says in his letter to Harrison of this date: “I Received Letters From France and they Mentione me the pleasure they shou’d have to Receive a Commission For a young boy, about 10. years old” (DLC:GW). Jacques-Barthélémy Gruel, a prominent merchant and slave trader in Nantes, was a major financial supporter of the company that Penet and Pliarne had formed to import military stores from France to America. Gruel’s son apparently did not receive a brevet commission as lieutenant.
4. Pliarne says in his letter to Harrison of this date: “I write to the General and I pray you to send Copy to M. Robert Moriss at Philadelphia and some at Williamsburg to Colonel Aylet. they will send them by different Vessels. Send some to M. James Bowdoin at Boston” (DLC:GW). William Aylett (1743–1780), a planter and merchant in King William County, Va., who had served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1772 to 1776 and the Virginia conventions from 1774 to 1776, was elected by Congress on 27 April 1776 as deputy commissary general for supplying the troops in Virginia, and on 18 June 1777 Congress named him a deputy commissary for purchases (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 4:315, 8:477). Accused of corruption, Aylett resigned his office after the 1779 campaign, but he vigorously defended himself against his critics in John Dixon and Thomas Nicolson’s edition of the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) for 11 Dec. 1779.