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Letter from Pliarne, Penet, and Co., to the Secret Committee (translation)


Nantes, the 30th November, 1776.

MY LORDS: This day we have the honour to despatch to you the ship Sally, Captain Rawlens, loaded with lead, powder, new muskets according to the last model of the French Infantry, with doubled-bridled locks, proof, with each its bayonet, scabbard, steel ramrod, and screw on this same model, will be the fifteen thousand we shall furnish agreeable to our contract. You will also find the gun locks equal to those in the muskets, well finished and perfect, I have added some sail needles, with some bales of different kinds of linen, which we hope will arrive safe to you, and that you will be pleased with the quality of the goods and the prices, which we have charged as low as possible, and we are persuaded you will receive none in the Continent of a better quality and at a cheaper rate, except what may be supplied your house.

We are still in expectation of some of your vessels. We refer to the contents of our first to you, and hope that our sincere attachment to the interest and success of your States will procure us your confidence more and more. We are informed that you have large sums of money in different cities of Europe, and we beg you will consider the large remittances we are to make to you, as we have the ammunition and other goods in store since six months, amounting to thirty or forty thousand pounds sterling, of which we have hardly received six.

Your houses at Cadiz have large sums of yours, and have not yet accounted with Mr˙ Schweighauser. Nothing has arrived at Nantz since six months, except one of your ships, loaded with grain consigned to Mr˙ Schweighauser. As this is a good time for your expeditions, we are in hopes we shall receive some during this winter, and we shall endeavour to give your captains the quickest despatch.

Mr˙ the Chevalier de Vraicourt, Engineer and officer of Artillery, who I have already had the honour to mention to you, will present himself to you and make you an offer of his services. He carries with him all the books and instruments necessary to his profession. We have made no agreement together: it is only after making known his merit and military talents that he hopes to merit your favour. He was in the army all last war, and was distinguished in all the operations of it, of which be has undoubted certificates. He served as Captain of Engineers and Artillery, and has all his commissions. He belongs to an ancient and noble family in Luxembourg: his father was the Count of Vraicourt, Director-General of Engineers. It is only on those considerations that I have persuaded him to enter into your service; and he has undertaken it with pleasure. I shall, my Lords, always regard as my duty when in my power to procure you such persons.

We have been this moment informed that the Spanish fleet sailed the 13th with twenty thousand troops: its destination unknown. It is also said that the King of Portugal is dead. France has despatched a small fleet for the French Islands, which will be advantageous to your States, as it will be a safety to the vessels you may send to the French Islands, by preventing the English frigates approaching their coast. We are also informed of an American vessel which sailed from the river of Bordeaux, loaded with broadcloths and other dry goods to the amount of twenty thousand pounds sterling, was taken by an English vessel. Two ships are arrived: one from Carolina with rice, and the other from the neighbourhood of Boston. Most of the American ships go to Bordeaux, although it is the most dangerous port in France, as well in regard to the entrance of that river as the danger of being betrayed by numbers of English and Irish houses established there, who give daily advices of the arrival of your vessels. I fear you will be convinced of this by losing many vessels at and from that port. I am also surprised that it should be an Irish-Jew house that should be at the head of all your most secret operations in that city: it is the house Delaps. They receive all the despatches from the Continent, and I am told that this house has received orders also from Congress and from your Envoy in this Kingdom, who has placed all his confidence in them. I wish, my Lords, that they may give


you entire satisfaction, but I can assure you it is not the general opinion here. Before they had consignments from America they were reported the greatest royalists in France. We have our house at Bordeaux, by the firm of ReculĂ© de Basmarain & Raimbeaux; and we have taken the liberty to recommend them to you. We have lately sent them an order to take your letters by the American ships. We have also mentioned to them that if the American captains were not consigned in that city, to do every thing in their power, and tender them their services; which Messrs˙ Delaps hearing of, have wrote us a letter, with little discretion, and threatening us with the resentment of the Congress — but we are very easy on that account.

My Lords, we have the honour to be your most humble servants, PLIARNE, PENET, & Co.

To the honourable the Secret Committee of the honourable Congress at Philadelphia.

P˙ S. Mr˙ J˙ De Schweighauser has paid 1443 livres 10 sols, for instruments necessary to Mr˙ the Chevalier Vraicourt, which he will have the honour to deliver you. I had those things bought here, as he told me he would want them on his arrival in the Continent. Enclosed you will find the receipts.

We just now hear that one of your American privateers is arrived at Cape Quiberon, with a prize loaded with wine of Segure, loaded on an English ship bound to London. As the Captain of that privateer might want something, we have sent to let him know we would supply him with any thing he may want.

At the solicitation of Mr˙ Penet & Co. , I engage my word of honour that I will go to the Continent, there to render all the services I am capable of, but without contracting here any engagements, reserving myself at entire liberty. But in case I should not find myself well in America, either as to my rank or other arrangements, which might not be agreeable to me, in this case the Lords of the Congress will furnish me with a passage to return to France when I shall choose it.


I, underwritten, do certify, that Mr˙ Penet has paid for Engineer' s books, utensils, and instruments, on account of the Congress — the whole coming from Paris on my models — viz: 1,000 livres of the one part, and 443 livres 10 sols of the other, making in the whole 1,443 livres 10 sols, and that he has embarked them on the ship Sally, in which I am to go passenger.

At Nantes, November 24, 1776.