Benjamin Franklin Papers
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Vergennes to the American Commissioners, 20 January 1779

Vergennes to the American Commissioners

L (draft):4 Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères; copies: Library of Congress, National Archives

A Versailles le 20. Javr. 1779

Vous avez bien voulu minformer, Mrs., que les batiments destinés pour l’amérique et pour lesquels vous avez demandé des convois,5 se trouvent dans le port de Nantes; j’en ai prévenu M. de Sartine, et ce Ministre vient de me faire à ce Sujet la réponse dont vous trouverez la copie ci jointe.6

MM. franklin, Lée et adams

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In the hand of Gérard de Rayneval.

5Above, Jan. 13.

6Copies of Sartine’s letter of Jan. 18 to Vergennes are at the Library of Congress (incorporated into the copy of the present letter) and the National Archives. In it Sartine expressed his surprise at the commissioners’ request: he had believed that only two ships had been waiting at Nantes and that they had already been convoyed to the Ile d’Aix, in the roadstead of Rochefort. He asked Vergennes to tell the commissioners that if these ships were among the four they had already mentioned to him they would be accorded the same convoy protection as French ships; if, however, there were still four ships at Nantes they would have to await a new convoy. (A large French convoy for the West Indies was assembled at the Ile d’Aix and had just been sent final sailing orders: Archives de la Marine, B2416: 27; B3667: 61.) Delays caused by having to wait for convoys were the price both American and French ships had to pay for protection from privateers; it was impossible for the French navy to provide protection for individual ships everywhere. See Villiers, Commerce colonial, pp. 206–27, for the institution of mandatory convoying for both coastal and transatlantic shipping; and Butterfield, John Adams Diary, II, 357, for an American merchant’s view that French naval officers considered convoy duty disgraceful.

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