Adams Papers

The Commissioners to Domenico Caracciolo, 9 October 1778

The Commissioners to Domenico Caracciolo

Passy Octr 9. 1778


We are this Moment honoured with your Excellencys Letter of the Eighth of this Month, and We thank your Excellency for the Information, that his Majesty the King of the two Sicilies, hath ordered the Ports of his Dominions to be open to the Flagg of the United States of America.1 We should be glad to have a Copy of his Majesty’s Edict for that purpose, in order to communicate it to the Congress, who we are confident will be much pleas’d with this Mark of his Majesty’s Benevolence.

It is with <much> Pleasure on this Occasion2 that We acquaint your Excellency, the Flagg of the United States of America, consists of thirteen Stripes Alternately red, white and blue. A small Square in the upper Angle next the Flagg Staff is a blue Field, with thirteen white Stars, denoting a new Constellation.3

Some of the States have Vessells of War, distinct from those of the United States. For Example, the Vessells of War of the state of Massachusetts Bay have sometimes a Pine Tree, and South Carolina a Rattlesnake in the Middle of the thirteen stripes.

Merchant ships have often only thirteen Stripes. But the Flagg of the United States ordained by Congress, is the thirteen Stripes and thirteen Stars as first described.

The Commissions of Ships of War belonging to the United States, as well as those of Privateers, are all signed by the President of the Congress, and countersigned by the Secretary.4

Each State may have a different Method of Clearing Merchant5 Vessells outward bound, and6 a different Form in the Papers given; We therefore are not able to give your Excellency certain Information respecting all of them. The Massachusetts Bay, has only a Naval Officer in each Port who Subscribes a Register, a Clearance, and a Pass for the Castle in Boston Harbour.

We have the Honour to be with the most perfect Respect, your Excellencys most obedient and most humble servants.

LbC (Adams Papers).

1The remainder of this paragraph was interlined for insertion here and, like all of the interlineations noted below, was done by Benjamin Franklin in a darker ink than the rest of the letter.

2The previous three words were interlined for insertion here. Originally they were intended to follow “that We.”

3The description of the American flag given here is different from that in the resolution adopted by the congress on 14 June 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 8:464). The resolution provided for stripes “alternate red and white,” rather than red, white, and blue.

4This paragraph was interlined.

5This word was written below the line for insertion here.

6The following eight words were interlined.

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