George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Grizzage Frazer, 30 May 1778

From John Grizzage Frazer

Bordeaux [France] May 30th 1778.


I hope you will excuse me for the liberty I have taken in writing to you, and at the same presenting you with Otway’s Art of War, a book very lately published in England, and much approved of by those that are judges1—It comes by Capt. Willm Jones of an Armed Brigt. belonging to Maryland2—War is not yet declared between France, and England, but it is Daily expected. Spain seems to be very still, it is thought they only wait to get their Flota Home, which must be arived by this—we have heard of their puting into the Western Islands a month ago. The Commissioners Sailed from England for America the 22d Ulto our most Sanguine Friends in England dispair of their doing anything with the Honbe Congress3—Lord Chatham departed this Life the 11th Inst. his Death was lamented but by very few in France or by the Friends to America in England, as his last speach was rather an unfavourable one against the United States of America, indeed many people thinks he was Non Compus at the time, and was made a tool of by the Comt party to answer some vile purpose of their’s4—Lord Dunmore has had Forty Thousand Pounds Sterling allowed him for what he says he lost in Virginia, and his Accounts all paid for the Hostile proceedings he carried on in his late Government, also his Salary paid him annually as Governour of Virginia—his Lady left Paris in April,5 Capt. John Paul Jones of the Ranger Ship of War belonging to the united States of America who I come to France with, has done Wonders he has been to White Haven and landed 30 men spiked up the Guns in the Fort there, and set Fire to several Ships in the Harbour, which was too soon discovered, or the whole wou’d have been burnt; he then went over to the Scotch shore and landed at Lord Selkirks seat, expecting to make him a prisoner but he was not at Home, his Lady & Family were, Capt. Jones ordered all his Lordships plate to be taken, which was accordingly done—Lady Selkirk delivered it up with great composure, and politeness, as she has since acknowledged that the officer’s, and Men, that Landed behaved very politely to Her, and did not take away any thin[g] else;6 Capt. Jones then went upon the Coast of Ireland & took and distroyed many Vessells, one of them the Drake Sloop of War, the same force as the Ranger, he had hard fighting for Her ⟨& Kill⟩’d the Capt. & 46 of his men Capt. Jones lost his Lt of marines and four Men then returned with the Drake and three other prizes, into Brest, bringing in with him 240 Prisoners, British Seamen,7 The Honbl. John Adams arived safe at this port the 1st of April in the Boston Frigate, And the Honbl. Silas Deane left Paris the 13rd of April for Toulon, where he Embarkd on board Count D’Estang’s Fleet, it is said for North America,8 I shou’d have come Home this spring if any Troops had been sent from England, and likely to have been another Campaign, my Heart & Soul is in your Camp, & believe me Sir to be Yr Most Obt & very Hbl. Servt

Jno. G. Frazer


Frazer covered this letter with another of 31 May: “Inclosed I have given you a full account how matters now stand in Europe, & further as follow’s, the last Paris news paper mention’s Genl Burgoyne’s arival in England; Admiral Kepple has the command of a very large Fleet, now lying at Spithead, ready for Sea, it is said he has Forty Ships of the Line, beside Frigates &c. his destination unknown; The Duke De Chartres has also a very Formidable Fleet at Brest, which has been ready for Sea some time; and the last accounts from England mentions, that a Fleet of Twelve sail has gone after the Count De Estangs Fleet from Touloun.

“They must get at blows soon, and they will be very hard ones, for the French Naval Force is upon a more respectable footing, and stronger than was known before” (DLC:GW).

1Frazer sent GW An Essay on the Art of War by Lancelot, Comte de Turpin de Crissé, translated by Joseph Otway and printed in two volumes in London in 1761. A copy of this book with GW’s autograph on the dedication page was in the Mount Vernon library at the time of his death.

2William Jones of Baltimore served from 1776 as first mate on the sloop Baltimore and was commissioned captain of the brigantine Nancy in December 1777. He subsequently commanded the schooners Two Sisters and Somerset.

3The so-called Carlisle peace commission, composed of Lord Carlisle, William Eden, and George Johnstone, failed to convince Congress to make peace; see Henry Clinton to GW, 9 June.

4William Pitt, Lord Chatham, made his last speech to the House of Lords on 7 April. In it he lamented the war with America but argued that it should be prosecuted vigorously if an honorable peace proved impossible.

5Lord Dunmore’s wife was Lady Charlotte Stewart (c.1741–1818).

6Dunbar Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk (1722–1799), was married to Helen Hamilton (d. 1802) and had several children. Jones had intended to take Lord Selkirk hostage and bargain his exchange for an American captive; the plate was a consolation prize for his disappointed men.

7Jones raided Whitehaven on the night of 22–23 April, plundered Lord Selkirk’s estate the next day, fought the Drake off Carrickfergus, Ireland, on 24 April, and returned to Brest on 8 May.

8Charles-Hector Théodat, Comte d’Estaing (1729–1794), served in the French army during the Seven Years’ War, became a lieutenant general in 1763, and was appointed vice admiral in 1777. After France intervened in the American war, he took command of the flagship Languedoc and led a naval squadron out of Toulon on 13 April 1778. His fleet proved remarkably ineffective during encounters with the British that summer off the Chesapeake Bay, New York, and Newport, R.I., and in November he sailed for the West Indies. His final action in North America took place on 9 Oct. 1779, when he participated in an ill-fated assault on Savannah. D’Estaing returned to France the following year and served in the National Guard and National Assembly. His continued association with the royal family, particularly Queen Marie Antoinette, led to his execution in April 1794.

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