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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Benjamin Hawkins to Richard Caswell
Hawkins, Benjamin, 1754-1816
February 14, 1780
Volume 15, Pages 337-339

[From Executive Letter Book.]

Bath, 14th February, 1780.

Dear Sir:

I have the pleasure of informing your Excellency of my arrival here with some muskets for this state. I shipped eight hundred and seventy-eight stand from St. Eustatia. I shall land five hundred stand at Washington; the remainder, which came in another bottom, will be at Edenton. I could not procure any thing on the faith of the state, or by barter for provisions or tobacco, as was expected. They were taught to believe in the West Indies that a bushel of salt would purchase one hundred weight of tobacco, and that two and a half a barrel of Pork. While they entertain this Idea (salt being of little value there) it will be impossible to barter for more valuable articles, the exchange to be in this State, as was suggested by some gentlemen in the Assembly. The

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price of tobacco had fallen in the West Indies, about the time of my arrival there, owing to the quantity just then imported from the continent, which, with the advice of Mr. Governor, the continental agent there, determined me to reship the tobacco in Dutch bottoms to Europe. He undertook to do it, and advanced for six hundred of the arms; the remainder I purchased on my own credit, on Interest for the State. The arms are very good, and purchased at the reasonable price of five and a half pieces-of-eight per stand. Part of the tobacco I shipped was damaged, which can only be accounted for either by the negligence of the inspector or the bad state of the warehouses wherein it was stored. We were apprised of the sailing of the Fleet from New York, which made me assiduous in getting all the arms I could in St. Eustatia, as I well knew our situation.

A large supply of arms and Clothing may be had by this from the West Indies, provided we can make remittances. Three thousand stand I am offered, and one thousand suits of clothing.

Should the present plan of importing necessaries still continue to be countenanced by the General Assembly, I shall prepare to remit as much as possible, tho' I doubt vessels cannot be procured. Freighting vessels at the present extravagant prices will not be so advantageous to us as purchasing. If the latter be practicable I must draw on you for money. I will send you the price current of articles for the West India market by the next opportunity.

A Continental Brigantine was cut out from Saley (?) by some British privateers, tho' opposed by the fire from the port. She has since been demanded, but refused. It was suggested that the Captain, ashamed, and some of his men went into the fort and assisted in protecting their vessel. The answer of the Gov. of St. Kitt's to the demand is humorous. He congratulated the Gov. of Saley on the restoration of the Island, seized by the rebel Americans. Part of the French Fleet have arrived at Martinique, but we had no accounts of the Count. Some supposed he had sailed for Europe, others to South America. We had various reports from Europe, which as I recollect I send you. The Dutch have been repeatedly solicited to take part with Britain. They made it as much as possible. It is said they have given for a reason that they did not think the intentions of the British ministry to be to the interest either of Britain or her allies, but manifestly to

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their ruin and discredit; and therefore, although they were and are at all times ready to act for the interest of great Britain, yet, for the reasons before named, they must now declare themselves neuter and protest against the proceedings of their, the necessary Allies. This is credited by some in St. Eustatia. They further report that the Dutch Ambassador has been recalled from the British Court in Consideration of a demand of some vessels carried into the Texel by John Paul Jones. The Gov. of St. Eustatia imagines that the Dutch will take part with Britain. The Grand Convention will be at Versailles in April. The King of Prussia & Empress of Russia have promised their mediation. The British Fleet are in Torbay, and do not expect to put to sea till April. John Paul Jones, who sailed from Breast in a fifty Gun Ship with some frigates, went North about and did infinite damage to the British vessels. He fell in with the convoy from Norway and took the Serapis, a new fifty Gun ship, and the Countess of Scarborough, of 20 Guns; engaged the Serapis two hours, and the whole time they were so near that the Guns touched the opposite vessel. Jones lost one hundred and eighty two men and Pearson 109. Jones' ship run in the next day, and he went with his prize into the Texel, there to right them. Sir Joseph York demanded them, which was so strenuously opposed by the French minister that his demand was refused and repeatedly. Jones was received with every imaginable mark of respect by the Dutch. I expect the pleasure of seeing your Excellency within a few days. Excuse the imperfection of my letter.

I am, with due respect, Dear Sir,
Your mo. ob. Servt.,