Adams Papers
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Michel Lagoanere to John Adams: A Translation, 26 December 1779

Michel Lagoanere to John Adams: A Translation

La Coruña, 26 December 17791

Sir

I thought that I should postpone answering the letter of 18 December, which Your Excellency did me the honor to send, until I could give you an account of the success of my efforts in the execution of your orders. I neglected nothing, but am mortified to find that all my pains have been insufficient and it has been impossible to prepare things as promptly as Your Excellency wished for his departure.

Anticipating the coach from Madrid, I sent a man to Betanzos2 to intercept and reserve it. He waited for two days, to no avail,3 and returned before its arrival. My only recourse then was to rent chaises. I sent to St. Jacques to negotiate with Ramon Sanz, a man from here who rents them and was then in the said town, and on his return we agreed that he would furnish three chaises at thirty doblons or ninety pesos fortes4 each to go to Madrid in accordance with the various stipulations in the contract, which I have the honor to remit to Your Excellency with a translation.5 I paid the said Ramon, in advance and on account, ninety pesos fortes.

I have also rented three saddle mules for the three servants at thirty pesos fortes each, to go to Madrid or Bayonne on condition of paying one additional peso for each day Your Excellency stops along the way and another six reals de vellon per day until your arrival at Madrid or Bayonne to feed the two boys in charge of the mules, and the guide obtained by the French consul. That is all, the feeding of the mules and other expenses that might occur being the responsibility of the boys, who were paid in advance and on account forty-five pesos fortes.

Michel Martinez, who is to serve as your guide, supplier, and interpreter on the road to Madrid or Bayonne, has agreed to the sum of fifty pesos fortes, which includes the rental and feeding of his mule and, in regard to his own food, he has agreed to take his meals with the servants. He also has received, in advance and on account, fifteen pesos fortes.

In addition, I rented from a Maragato,6 Antoine Areca, two mules, which will follow the chaises and carry up to six quintals as far as Astorga,7 for the price of ten pesos fortes and an additional two pesos fortes has been agreed upon to allow for his remaining here until the departure of the chaises, and then to follow them, making in all twelve pesos fortes with no additional charges, unless Your Excellency wishes to stop on the road in which case he will be reimbursed for his own expenses and for his mules during the period of his detention unless he, himself, was detained because of snow or bad weather. He has received, in advance and on account, two pesos fortes.

The French consul has taken it upon himself to put the chests and trunks Your Excellency left with him aboard the first frigate or man-of-war leaving this port for France and the addresses marked on them, and I will write to ensure that the people who receive them will hold them for Your Excellency’s disposition.

I have the honor to remit to Your Excellency a statement of disbursments made by me, which includes the two hundred pesos fortes furnished by the French vice consul at Ferrol, the money I provided, and the payments that I have made here, the whole amounting to sixty thousand reals de vellon or three thousand pesos fortes. And as I find myself custodian of the funds arising from the prizes taken by the cutter Revenge, Captain Gustavus Conyngham, which were entrusted to me by the courts of the country, and of which the ownership is being contested, I leave to Your Excellency’s justice and sagacity the arrangements which will seem to him most appropriate to protect me from any difficulties that might arise were we forced to justify the use of these funds to the owners, whoever they may be, and were I forced to produce in court these funds, which are known to be in my hands.

I send also the letters for Messrs. Pre. Casamayor and Company, bankers in Madrid, and for Messrs. Cabarrus, father and son, merchants at Bayonne, which you wished me to convey to you.8

It only remains for me to wish Your Excellency the happiest of trips, ask God’s protection, and hope that you will give me every occasion to prove to you my gratitude, zeal, and the profound respect with which I am, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant

Michel Lagoanere

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Lagoanere 26. Decr. 1779.” For enclosures see notes 5 and 8.

1On this day at “half after two” in the afternoon, JA and his party set off for Paris, where they arrived on 9 Feb. 1780. Lagoanere accompanied the party to its first stop at Betanzos. For accounts by JA and JQA of this long and arduous journey, see JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:415–435; 4:213–240; JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981– description ends , 1:19–32; Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– description ends , 3:258–260. John Thaxter’s letters to AA, Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– description ends , 3:267, 276–278, and Francis Dana’s Journal, 1779–1780, MHi, supplement these accounts.

2About fifteen miles southeast of La Coruña, this town, the ancient capital of Galicia, was the first stop on the road to Madrid.

3Lagoanere interlined “a attendu inutillement pendant deux jours.”

4Since 1686 Spain had possessed two money systems. The first, the more valuable of the two and referred to here as “forte,” was the moneda de plata antigua, which was the money used to settle accounts. The second was the moneda devellon, which was used for everyday commercial transactions. In this passage Lagoanere is referring to both types of money in terms of their different values and is, for the most part, careful to distinguish between them. The relation between a doblon and a peso was one doblon to four pesos, but, according to Lagoanere, three pesos fortes equaled one doblon de vellon. Approximately the same difference in value can be seen later in the letter when Lagoanere gives the total of the disbursements made by him on behalf of JA and his party. There he refers to 60,000 reals de vellon equaling 3,000 pesos fortes. The relation between the peso and the real was 1:32; thus, had the transaction been conducted wholly in moneda de plata antigua, the amounts would have been 3,000 pesos fortes or 96,000 reals fortes (John J. McCusker, Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600–1775, Chapel Hill, 1978, p. 98–100).

5Not found.

6The Maragatos, who lived in La Maragateria region just west of Astorga, were thought to be descendants of the original Celtiberian inhabitants. For JA’s brief description of them, see Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:420, 421.

7This city is about one hundred and forty miles southeast of La Coruña, more than a third of the way to Madrid. It was there that JA decided not to continue to the Spanish capital, but to proceed directly east and north to France (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:421–22; 4:231; JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981– description ends , 1:23).

8The first of these letters is in the Adams Papers and was not used because JA did not go to Madrid (see JA to Pedro Casamayor & Co., 31 Jan. 1780, below). The second letter has not been found, presumably because it was presented to the merchants at Bayonne (JA to Lagoanere, 24 Jan. 1780, below).

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