To James Warren
Philadelphia April 6. 1777
The Business of the naval and marine Department, will I hope be soon put in a better Train than it has been. A Board of Assistants has been appointed here, consisting of three Gentlemen, not Members of Congress, whose whole Time is devoted to the service. Mr. Hopkinson, Coll Nixon, and Mr. John Wharton are the Men. The first is a Gentleman of Letters, the second an able Merchant, the third an eminent shipwright.1
There is a Talk of appointing a similar Board at Boston, and a Commissioner at every considerable Port in N. England. Who would be proper Persons for these Places? They should be well acquainted with Navigation. They should be, well informed in Trade. They should be Men of Character and Credit.
The Marine Committee, have lately received Letters from Captns. Thompson,2 McNeal, and several others, pointing out Defects, Abuses and Mismanagements, and proposing Plans of Improvement, Redress and Reformation. These will do good. This is the Way to have things go right; for officers to correspond constantly with Congress, and communicate their sentiments freely.
McNeal, I Suppose, by his Letter, before this, has Sailed, and I hope your Embargo is off, before now, that the Privateers may have fair Play.3 Indeed I am sorry it was ever laid. I am against all shackles upon Trade. Let the Spirit of the People have its own Way, and it will do something. I doubt much whether you have got an hundred soldiers the more for your Embargo and perhaps you have missed Opportunities of taking many Prizes and several Hundreds of seamen.
South Carolina Seems to display, a Spirit of Enterprize in Trade, Superiour to any other State. They have Salt at half a Dollar a Bushell, and dry Goods in great Plenty tho dear. Many french Vessells have arrived there. Some Bermudians and some of their own. They have exported their Crop of Indigo and a great deal of Rice. They have some Privateers, and have made several Prizes.
Tobacco too, begins to be exported in large Quantities, from Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Vessells sell at very high Prices in all these states. In short in one more Year, I fancy Trade will be brisk, in every Part of the Continent, except with Us, the Destruction of whose Fishery, has deprived Us, of our staple, and left Us nothing to export. We must build ships and cutt Masts, and take Fish with our Privateers &c. I am &c.
RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr J. A Lettr Ap 77.”
1. JA is repeating here information that he furnished in the second letter to Warren of 18 March (above), which he probably did not send. Warren had complained about mismanagement of the Continental Navy in his letter to JA of 22 Feb. (above). See JA to Warren, 6 April (below).
2. Capt. Thomas Thompson, commander of the Continental frigate Raleigh (Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. description begins William Bell Clark, William James Morgan (from vol. 5), and others, eds., Naval Documents of the American Revolution, Washington, 1964-. description ends , 7:135, note 2).
3. On 8 Dec. 1776, in order to conserve manpower for the army, the General Court established an embargo on all vessels except those fitted out by the United States, the several states, or the Massachusetts Board of War. Ships could leave port only to proceed to another port within the state. Exceptions were made on occasion, and an important modification on 7 April permitted privateering from towns that had raised their quotas of men for the army. By resolution of 19 April such privateers were not permitted to enlist men from the other New England states. The embargo was not completely lifted until 20 May (Mass., Province Laws description begins The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, Boston, 1869–1922; 21 vols. description ends , 19:713–714, 721, 771, 773, 824, 864, 898–899, 928).