Thomas Simpson to the Commissioners
Brest July 3d. 1778
I am to Acknowledge the receipt of your favor from Passi of the third of last month,1 for which, and your kind interposition in my behalf, I return you my most sincere thanks, Captain Jones has released me from Prison, and has permitted me to go for America, but holds me suspended until called upon by a court martial to meet him face to face: a copy of the Parole brought to me in the prison by Captain Jones, which I signed the evening before I was honoured with the receipt of your letter, I have hereunto annexed for your inspection.2 Immediately on my release, I wrote to Mr. Williams at Nantes whose clerk in his absence, answered, and informed me of several Vessels bound to Virginia, and South Carolina which places are at too great a distance from Portsmouth in New Hampshire, the place of my abode, especially as I have recieved no money since my being in the service for myself, and Servant, an able Seaman, who is now dead of his wound recieved in the action with the Drake, except about thirty eight crowns prize money for a brig sold in Nantes last winter, therefore cannot afford such a considerable expence. Mr. Cutler wrote me that Captain Whipple had generously offered me a passage in the Providence, provided she was bound to the Northern States of America; I have since wrote Capt. Whipple and am now expecting his answer, holding myself ready to go immediately for Nantes, if necessary.3 Captain Niles4 arriving this morning, an express vessel in the continental service, with whom, if no other opportunity offers before his return, I can conveniently go and be very welcome, being a person known to me long since. I beg your Honours excuse for this trouble—a line in answer by the return of Captain Niles, sooner, if your Honours think proper, will be confirming a further obligation, on Gentlemen, Your most Obedient, and very humble Servant
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “Honourable, the Commissioners for the United States of America at Paris. favor of Capt. Niles”; docketed: “Lt Simpson”; in another hand: “July 3d. 78.”
2. Simpson’s parole of 10 June (not printed) resulted from pressure exerted on John Paul Jones by the Commissioners. Despite the parole, problems apparently remained with the Ranger’s crew and by 4 July, Jones was willing to go further. In a letter to the Commissioners of that date (ViU: Lee Papers), after stating that his instructions permitted him to appoint one of his lieutenants to command the Ranger, Jones declared that “Lieutenant Simpson has certainly behaved amiss; yet I can forgive as well as resent and upon his making a proper Concession, I will, with your Approbation, not only pardon the past but leave him the Command of the Ranger.” The Commissioners were, however, still not satisfied and, according to JA, “with a great Exercise of Patience, We prudently brought him at last to write Us” a letter “which terminated all Difficulties for the present” (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:166). In that letter of 16 July, which Jones later declared to be “Involuntary” (Jones to the Commissioners, 15 Aug., below), he dropped his demand for a formal admission of error by Simpson and stated that “I am willing to let the dispute between Us drop forever, by giving up that Parole, which will entitle him to command the Ranger” (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:165).The Commissioners immediately wrote to Simpson, appointing him to the command of the Ranger and enclosing a copy of Jones’ letter (same, 4:162).
3. Simpson, writing to the Commissioners on 18 July (PPAmP: Franklin Papers), reported that he had gone to Nantes to board Whipple’s vessel, the Providence, for passage to America. It was at Nantes that Simpson received word of his appointment to the Ranger.