<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0276

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Marine Committee
Recipient: Nicholas Biddle


I hope this will soon be delivered to you after despatched from hence as I
have received directions from the Marine Committee at Baltimore to send
you on a different service to that which the Orders I gave you before
you left fort Island directed.1

With this you will receive Letters for William Bingham Esqr the Continental
Resident at Martinico and you are immediately to proceed for that
Island and deliver said Letters, the purport of them are that he should
ship on board your ship, a quantity of Arms, Ammunition, Cloathing and
other Stores that we suppose will be lodged there previous to your
Arrival. If you find that Mr. Bingham has it in his power to comply
with this requisition, you are forthwith to receive on board all such
stores as he may desire and return with the utmost expedition to the
Coast of America in order to get them landed in some safe place, from w
hence they can be transported by land to our Armies or Magazines. These
supplies are exceedingly necessary for the service of the ensuing
Campaigne and you cannot render your Country a more essential service
than by bringing them soon and safe in. Should it so happen that these
expected Supplies are not arrived at Martinico or that Mr. Bingham has
but A Small portion of them, you may take on board what he has and then
proceed to St. Eustatia, first consulting with Mr. Bingham on the
propriety of this measure. At St. Eustatia you will call on Mr Samuel
Curson, Mr. Corneilus Stevenson and Mr Henricus Godet with the letters
herein and if they have any of the expected stores receive them on
board & should these make quantity or value sufficient return to
America from thence, but should you be disapointed here also, you will
then proceed to the Island Curacoa and deliver the enclosed Letter to
Mr. Isaac Governeur; and should you find at this Island Mr John Philip
Merkle of Amsterdam who Will be at Mr Governeurs; you may consult with
him and Mr. Governeur whether it is better to take him and his goods on
board the Randolph or to ship his goods on board other fast sailing
Vessels to come on the Coast under your Convoy; and do therein what
shall seem best to them and yourself, but be sure to bring them Safe.
Should it so happen that Mr Merkle is not at Curacoa, nor any of his
goods you will then proceed to Cape Francois and deliver the Letter
herewith to Mr Stephen Ceronio. If he has goods or Stores receive them
on board, but failing of sufficient there you will go to the Mole St.
Nicholas, deliver the Letter herewith to Mr John Dupuy, take in what he
has to ship, and then make the best of your way back to the Continent.

As you command the first American frigate that has got out to sea, it is
expected that you contend warmly on All necessary occasions for the
honor of the American flag.

At every foreign port you enter salute their forts and waite on the
Governor, General or Commander in Chief, asking the liberty of their
ports for the Ships of the United States of America. Take care that
your people do not molest their Trade nor Inhabitants nor in any shape
disturb that good understanding we have with them.

Should you take any prizes in the West Indies that are bona fide British
property within the discriptions of Prizes as laid [down] by Congress,
you may send them into Martinico to the care of William Bingham
Esqr. – to St. Eustatia to the care of Saml. Curson junr. Esqr. – at
Curacoa to Mr Governeur – at the Cape Francois to Mr Ceronio, at St.
Nicholas Mole to Mr John Dupuy, observing that if any part of the
Cargoes suit the consumption of the West Indies, and not consisting in
such articles as are wanted here, the Agents of the Prizes may make
sale of all such goods and apply the Neat proceeds to the purchase of
such supplies as we are in want of, and we will pay here that part of
the amount that appertains to you, your officers and Crew, but the
Ships must be sent to some port in these States for Condemnation with a
Compleat Inventory of what has been taken out, any Prize you take that
you think may be disputed or appealed for, must be sent for the States
without breaking bulk. The Agents at each place will make the necessary
supplies for the charges and expences of your Ship, but you are not to
pay any Custom House fees or duties any where. You must encourage as
many Seamen as possible to enter on board your Ship at every port you
enter and from every prize you take. As the British Men of War on the
West India stations are not often well manned, it would give great
eclat to our Naval service if you can make prize of one or more of
them, and if so you will do well to tempt some of their best Warrant
officers such as Boatswains, Gunners, Quarter Masters and their several
mates to enter our service, for we would wish you to bring both these
and plenty of Common Sailors home to assist in Manning our other Ships
of war. When your errand to the West Indies is compleated, you’l
observe it is mentioned already that you are to return to some safe
port in these United States of America. The uncertainty of the fate of
war makes us cautious of saying positively which shall be the best
port. There is little doubt but this will be the most convenient to
receive the Stores at, being most Centrical and probably not very
distant from the Scenes of Action, and as you are well enabled to
defend yourself against most single ships, and capable we hope of
outsailing any of the enemies it appears that you might venture to call
at Cape Henlopen or Cape May for intelligence without incurring the
charge of rashness, and we will endeayour to keep out some small
Cruizers about the time you are expected to give you information. To
these you’l shew the Signals mentioned in your letter of the 6th
instant to me but least you should forget to keep a Copy I shall repeat
that “you are to be known to small Cruizers by a White Jack at the fore
top mast head and a pendant over it.” Shew this same Signal to the
Light House and we will send down orders there to answer it by a White
sheet if All is well, but to hoist English Colors if you are in danger,
and as it is probable some more of the Continental frigates may be out
and Cruizing on the Coast, I shall enclose you herein some Signals by
which Continental frigates may be known to each other by day or by
night, as Copies shall be furnished to each of the Captains and you
will duely observe your part of them. I need not repeat what has been
said in your former Instructions respecting the care of the Randolph,
treatment of your men and prisoners &c &c but wishing you honor
and Success,

I am Sir, Your obedt hble servant,

Robt Morris V.P.

P.S. If you do your business at Martinico you may bring back the Letters
for Messrs. Curson, Godet, Stevenson, Governeur, Ceronio & Dupuy
& return them to, R M


Letter book, Marine Committee Letter Book, Marine Committee Miscellaneous
Papers, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration,
Washington, D.C.

1 See Marine Committee to Biddle, January 30,1777.