James Madison Papers

Report and Resolution of Board of Admiralty, 26 May 1780

Report and Resolution of Board of Admiralty

FC (NA: PCC, No. 37, fol. 247).

May 26th 1780

The board beg leave to represent to Congress, That the Hull of the seventy four gun ship1 now building at Portsmouth in New Hampshire might, if money could be procured for that purpose, be completely finished the ensuing summer, and in that case, if the expected fleet of our ally2 could furnish out the stores necessary for her equipment, she might cooperate with the said fleet and give it a decided superiority over the enemy;

The board would further represent that they have the best reason to believe that it is the earnest wish of the honble the minister of France3 that the hull of the said ship might be finished and such materials collected for her as may be in the power of the board to procure; and also that our frigates may be prepared for sea with all possible expedition.

In order to accomplish these important objects the board beg leave to propose the following resolution.

That the board of Admiralty be and they are hereby authorized to receive three hundred hogsheads of the sugar and thirty hogsheads of the rum remaining in the hands of John Bradford Esqr. Continental agent in Boston, and to dispose of the same in such manner as they shall judge proper, for completing the Hull of the 74 gun ship building at Portsmouth in New Hampshire, and collecting such materials for her equipment as can be procured; and also for finishing and equipping the Bourbon,4 and fitting the other frigates for sea with all possible dispatch.5

1The frigate “America” (above, Report of Board of Admiralty, 29 March 1780, n. 2).

2On 11 July 1780 seven French warships, commanded by Admiral de Ternay and convoying five thousand troops under General Rochambeau, arrived at Newport (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 265, n. 2). Within two weeks these vessels were blockaded there by British men-of-war commanded by Admiral Thomas Graves (ibid., V, 304).

3The Chevalier de La Luzerne.

5On 27 May 1780 Congress decided to postpone consideration of this resolution. Every southern delegate except JM voted for the motion to that effect. Congress thereupon directed Bradford to sell the sugar and to send posthaste to “the continental treasury” all cash he received from its sale. In other words, a majority of the state delegations in Congress concluded that naval requirements must yield priority to reinforcing with men and materiel the patriot troops in the Carolinas in their faltering efforts to stem the advance of the British army under General Clinton (Journals of the Continental Congress, XVII, 469–71; NA: PCC, No. 136, IV, 413).

Index Entries