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Thomas Boylston Adams to John Adams, 27 October 1798

Thomas Boylston Adams to John Adams

Hamburg 27 October 1798.

Dear Sir.

I wrote you soon after my arrival here that I expected to take passage with Captain Jenkins of the Ship America, bound to Newburypor[t.]1 I had in fact engaged to go with him, but as he said much to me of the uncomfortableness of his vessel and refused any compensation for taking me as a passenger, I thought best to look out for another opportunity, and upon the recommendation of Captn: Jenkins, took passage on board the Alexander Hamilton, Captn Clarke bound to New York, and who then expected to sail as soon as any other. We shall probably be off in the course of a week, but as the America will out-sail us we cannot expect to arrive so soon.

The Alexander Hamilton is the same Ship which took out Genl: Marshall from Bordeaux; is well armed & manned and very commodious. I write these particulars under the persuasion that the America will arrive some time before us and to prevent any anxiety on my account.

Several very interesting events have lately taken place, as successors to the complete destruction or capture of the fleet, which escorted the french expedition into Egypt. The transports which were moored in the habour of Alexandria have since been totally destroyed by the English fleet, and one of the ships of war which escaped the first disaster, with two frigates are since taken or sunk.2

Nearly all the dispatches from & to Buonaparte since his taking possession of Alexandria & Cairo have been intercepted, and the only official details yet published are in the enclosed newspaper.3 His situation is thought to be desperate though he may yet maintain a long struggle against the natives of that Country, being in possession of their chief cities and commanding the neighborhood.

A more recent naval engagement happend on the coast of Ireland, between a small squadron out of Brest & that under the command of Sir J. B Warren, in which four ships of the line were taken with one or two frigates and the rest of the vessels so much shattered that the English Admiral thought it not likely they could reach the ports of France even should they escape the british cruizers. The french squadron was destined to land troops in Ireland, and had very nearly reached its destination when the English fleet fell in with it.4 The English have lately lost a frigate which ran a-shore upon the french coast, and it is supposed that the Leander a 50 gun ship dispatched by Admiral Nelson after his victory, with the first intelligence of it, to Lord St Vincent, has fallen into the hands of the french. On board this vessel was Admiral Nelson’s own Captain (Berry.)5

It was reported here a few days since that the Embargo upon American vessels in the ports of France had been laid on afresh, but the intelligence proves to be unfounded as there are seamen here who were detained by the embargo and left Bordeaux three weeks since. They say, but one vessel, (the Sampson of New York) remained when they came off, but that many of our Countrymen are yet imprisoned in the interior, where they were first sent.6 The papers have said that an envoy has gone out from Paris to Philada:—7

I hear from my brother frequently and shall bring with me his most recent letters if my passage should be fortunate. We have dreadful accounts of the prevalence of the yellow fever in three of our principal cities.

Present me kindly to my mother & accept the best assurances of / attachment & respect from—

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “The President of the U.S.A.” Some loss of text due to wear at the edge.

1TBA wrote to JA on 15 Oct., reporting his departure from Berlin, arrival in Hamburg, and the travel plans repeated here (MHi:Smith-Townsend Family Papers).

2In the days that followed the French defeat at the Battle of the Nile, the British commandeered or destroyed all French warships and transports remaining in Aboukir Bay, with the exception of four French vessels that escaped: the ships of the line Guillaume Tell and Généreux and the frigates Diane and Justice. All eluded capture until the British took the Généreux on 18 Feb. 1800, the Guillaume Tell on 30 March, the Diane on 24 Aug., and the Justice on 2 Sept. 1801 (Strathern, Napoleon in Egypt description begins Paul Strathern, Napoleon in Egypt, New York, 2008. description ends , p. 168–169, 418; Cooper Willyams, A Voyage Up the Mediterranean in His Majesty’s Ship the Swiftsure, London, 1802, p. 308).

3The enclosure has not been found, but the Paris Gazette nationale ou le moniteur universel, 20 Oct. 1798, followed by the London Times, 24 Oct., reported that a French vessel had evaded British cruisers and landed a courier in Ancona, Italy, who carried the first direct dispatches to France from Napoleon in Egypt. The dispatches dated 1 to 6 July described the arrival of the fleet in Egypt and the taking of Alexandria. The Times added that if Turkish forces reinforced local troops as expected, Napoleon’s “situation must necessarily become extremely critical.”

4A British squadron under Rear Adm. John Borlase Warren met a French landing force under Como. Jean Bompard off the Irish coast in the Battle of Donegal on 12 October. Ten French vessels had departed Brest in September carrying 3,000 French troops and Irish leader Theobold Wolfe Tone to an anticipated landing at Lough Swilly in support of Irish revolutionaries. Warren’s squadron of three ships of the line and five frigates captured the flagship and chased down all but two of the French vessels, resulting in a severe setback to the Irish rebellion (Anthony Bruce and William Cogar, An Encyclopedia of Naval History, Chicago, 1998).

5Rear Adm. Edward Berry (1768–1831) was captain of Rear Adm. Horatio Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, during the Battle of the Nile. Berry was captured by the French as he carried dispatches home on the Leander, but he was released before the end of the year (Bruce and Cogar, Encyclopedia of Naval History).

6The French Directory’s 16 Aug. decree lifting the embargo against American vessels coincided with an order from the French minister of marine liberating seamen seized from American ships and imprisoned in France. While in Bordeaux awaiting passage home in late August, Dr. George Logan was presented with an address of thanks from liberated masters of American vessels. The ship Sampson, Capt. Rooke, was one of several American vessels detained at Bordeaux. The ship departed by late October and reached New York on 25 Jan. 1799 (Amer. State Papers, Foreign Relations description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–1861; 38 vols. description ends , 2:229, 236; Tolles, George Logan description begins Frederick B. Tolles, George Logan of Philadelphia, New York, 1953. description ends , p. 167, 169; Philadelphia Porcupine’s Gazette, 26 Oct. 1798; New York Commercial Advertiser, 25 Jan. 1799).

7The London Times, 15 Oct. 1798, reported that the Directory “some time ago dispatched a swift-sailing vessel to the United States with an accredited Agent to adjust all differences between the Governments of France and America.”

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