John Paul Jones to the Commissioners
Ranger Brest 9th May 1778
I have the honor to acquaint you that I arrived here last Night and brought in with me the British Ship of War Drake of 20 Guns with English Colours inverted under the American Stars. I shall soon give you the particulars of my Cruise1 in the mean time you will see some Account of it in a letter of this date from Comte D’Orvilliers2 to Monseigneur De Sartine. I have brought in near Two hundred prisoners and as Comte D’Orvilliers is apprehensive that as the War with England is not yet declared they may perhaps be given up without an Exchange.3 I have resolved to Equip the Drake with all possible expedition at Cameret4 and to send the prisoners in her to America, so fully am I convinced of the bad Policy of releasing prisoners, especially Seamen, without an Exchange that I am determined never to do it while there remains an Alternative. I should not however have taken a resolution of such importance without consulting you had not Comte D’Orvilliers told me that the return of a Letter from the Minister might perhaps put it out of my power and therefore recommended that I should loose no time.
Notwithstanding this you will perhaps find it expedient to endeavour to Effect an Exchange of these prisoners in Europe and should the Minister agree to hold them avowedly as Prisoners of War you will of course inform me thereof per Express so as to reach me if possible before the departure of the Drake. I have suspended and confined Lieutenant Simpson for disobedience of Orders. I have only time at present to say that I have the honor to be with much Esteem and Respect, Gentlemen Your very Obliged very Obedient very humble Servant
NB. I have been rather disappointed in not being favored with a Line from you in Answer to any of my former Letters from Quiberon and Brest.
Dupl (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); unsigned, but in Jones’ hand; docketed: “Captn. Jones May 9. ans. May 25"; in another hand: “1778.” A second copy (ViU: Lee Papers) is docketed in an unknown hand and perhaps considerably after it was received: “J. P. Jones: to Amn. Comms. <
London> Paris 9 May 1778” and “1778.” Designated a copy, the MS is in Jones’ hand, but bears the signature that he apparently used on copies as opposed to originals. See, for example, Jones to the Commissioners, 27 May (below).
2. Louis Guillouet, Comte d’Orvilliers (1708–1791) was commandant of the port at Brest and commanded the fleet that met Adm. Keppel in the major, but indecisive, battle of 27 July, the first fleet action of the war (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, ed., Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, Paris, 1852–1866; 46 vols. description ends ; Dull, French Navy and Amer. Independence description begins Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and American Independence: a Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774–1787, Princeton, 1975. description ends , p. 67, 122).
4. Camaret is a town on Point Toulinguet at the entrance to the harbor at Brest.