The American Commissioners to Sartine7
AL (draft): Massachusetts Historical Society; copies: National Archives (two); incomplete copy: Archives nationales
<Passy, October 30, 1778: We are honored by your letter of October 26 and grateful for the prompt release of some of our countrymen imprisoned at Dinan. We have received another petition from prisoners at Brest;8 it appears that there are ten of them, only four of whom we had heard from, letters from the other six having miscarried. We would appreciate a similar clemency extended to them and enclose their most recent communication. A letter received last night from Lorient informs us that three British whaling vessels manned by Americans have been captured by French frigates and cruisers.9 We have collected detailed intelligence on the valuable English whale fishery off the coast of Brazil. About seventeen vessels have sailed in the past two months. The officers and most of the men are Americans.1 Last year the English newspapers falsely reported that a convoy would accompany the fleet. In fact it is defenceless and could easily be overpowered. A single frigate or privateer sent in early December when the fleet is loaded with bone and oil would suffice to capture an extremely valuable cargo and free the Americans involved. Whenever the British have captured American vessels they have given the whalemen a choice of fighting their own countrymen or entering the whale fishery. Many have chosen the latter. We hope that His Majesty’s service may send a frigate from here or the West Indies to seize both a profitable branch of commerce and a nursery for seamen.>
7. Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII.
8. Actually, Dinan; see above, from American Prisoners at Dinan, Oct. 21.
9. Grinnell’s letter of Oct. 23. The information which follows had also been furnished by Grinnell both orally and in writing: see his memorandum of Oct. 7 and Butterfield, Adams Diary, II, 319–20. See also below, the American Commissioners to the President of Congress, Nov. 7, where the same scheme is proposed.
1. Here the commissioners list the following names: Aaron Sheffield from Newport, William Goldsmith and Richard Holmes from Long Island, John Chadwick, Francis May (Macy), Reuben May (Macy), John Meader, Jonathan Meader, Elisha Clark, Benjamin Clark, William Ray, Paul Pease, Bunker Fitch, Reuben Fitch, Zebbeda Coffin and another Coffin (probably Richard or Hezekiah), Andrew Swain, a second William Ray and —— Delano, all of Nantucket, and John Locke of Cape Cod. A number of these men appear in Griffith Williams’ undated list in the Hist. Soc. of Pa., entitled “Friends to American Liberty are friends to Mankind,” from which we have supplied an occasional first name. Spellings vary. One of the Rays is probably William Wray, called “first friend” by Williams.