James Madison Papers

Report of Board of Admiralty, 29 March 1780

Report of Board of Admiralty

MS (NA: PCC, No. 37, fol. 211).

March 29th 1780

The Board of Admiralty beg leave to lay the enclosed Papers before Congress, and to receive their Instruction thereon.1

By Mr Langdons letter and estimate it will appear that to compleat the 74 gun Ship building under his agency he requires an immediate supply of Money.2 That his funds are totally exhausted and by letters of a late date from the Commissioners of the Navy Board in the Eastern department this Board are also informed that they “will soon be drained of the last shilling.”

The Board would also inform Congress that the Bourbon building in Connecticut is almost ready for Launching, and her sails, and a principal part of her rigging & other Materials provided; and that unless they can have a Supply of Money she must remain on the Stocks unfinished to the great injury of the public.3

In this Situation the Board can conceive no other mode of Supply than by Warrant issuing on the Continental treasurer or upon the State treasurers of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire payable out of the Money arising from taxes; or that part of the Sugars and Rum in the hands of the Continental Agent in Boston4 Should be Sold and the Monies arising from the Sale be applied for fitting out the Bourbon and to prepare the 74 gun Ship for launching.

Beside the injury the 74 gun Ship will receive by remaining on the Stocks from the weather, She is, from her situation exposed to be destroyed by the enemy unless a gaurd is constantly kept up at considerable expence for her protection; Whereas if she can be so far compleated as to be launched, She may then if we Should not be in A Capacity to fit her for Sea be moved up the River to a place of Safety.

As the Board conceive the last will be the most eligible mode of Supply, they therefore beg leave to report, “that the Board of Admiralty be authorized to cause such part of the Sugars and Rum in the hands of the Continental agent at Boston to be disposed of as shall be necessary to compleat the 74 gun Ship now building at Portsmouth for launching and also for fitting out the Bourbon.[”]5

1The “enclosed papers” have not been identified.

2In 1780 John Langdon (1741–1819) of Portsmouth, N.H., was continental agent in his home town. He would later be a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a United States senator, and governor of his state. His letter, referred to in the text, was dated 2 February 1780, but has not been found (Marine Committee to Langdon, 17 March 1780, NA: PCC, Marine Committee Letter Book, 1776–80, fols. 268–69; Charles O. Paullin, ed., Out-Letters of Board of Admiralty, II, 166). The “74 gun ship,” the “America,” remained unfinished until 5 November 1782, when it was launched at Portsmouth and presented to King Louis XVI of France as a testimonial to “his generous exertions in behalf of the United States.” The “America” replaced the “Magnifique,” wrecked in Boston harbor earlier that year (Journals of the Continental Congress, XXIII, 543; Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , VI, 468, n. 2).

3The “Bourbon” was finally launched at Middletown, Conn., on 31 July 1783. Shortly thereafter Congress sold the ship to a private purchaser (Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution, II, 615).

4Captain John Bradford, shipmaster, local officeholder, and prominent Boston patriot during the decade before the Revolution, was appointed by Congress as the continental agent in Boston on 23 April 1776 (Robert Francis Seybolt, ed., The Town Officials of Colonial Boston, 1634–1775 [Cambridge, 1939], pp. 321–63, passim; Journals of the Continental Congress, IV, 301).

5Congress took no action on this report, probably for the reasons mentioned in the Board of Admiralty to the Navy Board at Boston, 12 May 1780 (q.v.).

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