Primary tabs

Letter from the Marine Committee of Congress to Captain Parker



Philadelphia, July 10, 1776.

SIR: The brig Despatch, of which you are hereby appointed the commander, in the service of the United States of America, being now ready for sea, you are to proceed immediately on board said brigantine for the port of Bordeaux, in France; and, on your arrival there, deliver the despatches given you herewith to Messrs˙ Samuel and J˙ H˙ Delap, merchants at that place. You are to consider these letters directed to those gentlemen as very important, and must deliver them yourself as soon as possible. You must have them hung at sea with a heavy weight, ready to throw overboard and sink them, in case you should be unfortunately taken by the enemy; but, to avoid that danger, you


must make a standing rule to run from every vessel you see at sea. The Despatch is well found with plenty of sails, rigging, stores, and materials. You will therefore make good use of them, and endeavour to make a short passage by a diligent attention to winds and weather, carrying at all times as much sail as is proper.

The goods we have caused to be shipped on board this brig are consigned to Messrs˙ Delap, to whom you are to deliver the same; and when this is done, you must immediately set about arming the brig with eight or ten four-pounder cannon, as many swivels, blunderbusses, cohorns, howitzers, and muskets, as you think proper; but take care that the cannon, &c˙, are of the best and handsomest fit for ship' s use. You may, if you think proper, fit her with close quarters, and mount some guns in the cabin, steerage, and forecastle, or you may mount the whole on deck; and if she will bear more than ten cannon, you may buy them. You must procure a suitable quantity of powder and ball for the cannon, arms, &c˙, with cartridges, cartridge-paper, and all necessary apparatus thereto. You will complete this business with expedition, and procure the best advice and assistance in doing it. Messrs˙ Delap will recommend you to proper people for this purpose, and they will supply you with money to pay the cost. You must ship as many seamen as you can possibly get, especially American seamen, or those that have been much connected in this country; but you are not to confine yourself to these alone. We are in want of seamen, and you may bring people of all countries or nations that are willing to enter into the American service. You must make it known, in the best manner you can, that great wages and encouragement is now given to seamen in every part of America, both for the publick and for merchant service. You are therefore to bring over not only sufficient for your own complement, which, as an armed vessel, might be thirty to forty, but as many as you can conveniently give ship-room to, and you may contract with them for such reasonable wages as may be satisfactory to them. If any masters or mates want passages home, you are to accommodate them, free of any charge to them. You must lay in sufficient of provisions, and allow each man plenty, but suffer no waste. You are to receive from Messrs˙ Delap any goods they may desire to ship, or from any other persons goods that Messrs˙ Delap approve of being shipped on board; and when you are ready for departure, you are to wait on those gentlemen for their despatches; and when you receive the same, with their approbation for your departure, you are then to make the best of your way back for this coast. You know how it is lined with British men-of-war at present, and it is not possible for us to say what port may be safest by the time you return; but as we expect you will be well armed and manned, you need not fear small vessels; and by keeping constantly a hand at each mast-head to look out, we think you may avoid all large ones, especially as we expect the Despatch will be a flyer, and in France you may get another complete suit of sails for her; you must therefore put into the first safe port you can, anywhere in the United States of America, and by the time you return you may expect to meet with some of our own frigates, galleys, and cruisers. Little Egg Harbour or Cape May will probably be as secure as any other places.

We deliver you herewith a commission, a list of agents for prizes, and the resolves of Congress respecting captures, by which you will learn how to conduct yourself in this respect; your business, however, is not to cruise, but to make quick passages; but if you meet any prizes on your return, so much the better, provided you do not lose time in seeking them; and in case of capture, you must send them in to some of the agents, who will do the needful for all concerned. We expect you will be careful of the brig, her stores, and materials, diligent in making despatch, both at sea and in port, faithful in the discharge of your duty, and the moment you reach any port in America, come, or send the despatches express to the Committee of Secret Correspondence.

We are, sir, your humble servants.

To Captain Peter Parker.

P˙ S˙ Should you meet Silas Deane, Esq˙, who lately went from this place for Bordeaux, you may consult with and be advised and directed by him in all things relative to your business with the brig Despatch.