76 | To Jeffery Amherst

    Boston Oct 12. 1761


    Last Saturday350 I had advice of a Sloop with a Flag of Truce from the Governor of Martinico351 being in her way to this port: and that Evning Mr Stevens a Master of a Ship from this port lately taken & carried into Martinico, arrived here having landed at Plymouth together with a french Gentleman the owner of the Sloop. From Mr Stevens I learnt that at the desire of him & some other Masters of Ships belonging to New England prisoners at Martineco, This Gentleman bought & fitted out this Sloop. They put on board of her 12 prisoners 5 of which were Masters of New England 5 common sailers & 2 boys. Soon after they left the port, they were brought to by a Kings Brigantine who rummaged them throughly, but finding nothing but some Madeira Wine claimed by Mr Stevens, dismissed them, first taking out the 5 common sailers. After this the Small pox broke out among them, which carried off 2 of the English Masters: afterwards, they putting in at Martha’s Vineyard, 2 other of the Masters went on shore against the remonstrance of the rest. From thence they came to Plymouth where Mr Stevens & the french Gentleman went on shore, without doubt, improperly.352

    I cant find that Any purposes of trade are designed by this Voyage, at least, at present. If they want to gain intelligence concerning the expedition supposed to be designed against them, they will be disappointed, for I shan’t permit the Sloop to return till I have your approbation of it. Her present condition will make three weeks at least necessary for fitting her for Sea: and in that time I shall have your directions. She is not come in yet & I have not seen her papers: as soon as She arrives, She will be stopt at the Castle & from thence caried to the Hospital Island353 to perform a short Quarantine. Mr Stevens imputes the motives of fitting out this Vessel to the benevolence & humanity of the Owner, of which he gives an extraordinary account, as well as of his fortune & figure in the Island. This Gentleman expresses a desire of leave to stay here this Winter: but I shan’t give it upon the present terms that the two Nations are upon in regard to one another: If I should be advised of an alteration in this respect, I shall reconsider the request.

    All the intelligence I can learn is, that there are at Martineco about 1400 regulars; the Militia are numerous, but more desirous of a good Capitulation than carrying things to extremities. Port Royal is a strong well fortified place, & on that is their chief dependance. St Pierre is a weak place, defended only by detached Batteries. They are in full expectation of being attacked, unless a peace prevents it. They depend upon a favorable Capitulation & say, “if our properties are secured what signifies whether it is under a white or red flag?”

    I am obliged to conclude this that it may not delay the post: I am with great regard Sr

    Your most obedient humble Servant

    Fra, Bernard.

    His Excellcy Sr Jeffry Amherst &c.

    ALS, RC WO 34/26, ff 111-112.

    It is conceivable, as FB suggests, that Acquart was gathering intelligence about British plans to invest Martinique. (The expedition was launched from New York in Nov. 1761 and the island captured in Feb. 1762.) If he was a spy, however, it is more likely that he had come to inspect Boston’s defences and ascertain British naval strength in the North Atlantic station in advance of French counter-operations in Newfoundland. Amherst was decidely wary of Acquart, but also like FB thought it more valuable to engage in counter-intelligence than to confine him. “The French man, I don’t doubt will try to see Every thing he can: he can be Come with no good Design for Us; I have always my suspicions of them; and I Don’t doubt but You will take the proper precautions that he may not receive any Intelligence, that may be useful to him.” Amherst to FB, Staaten Island, 18 Oct. 1761, WO 34/27, p. 230. There is no other documentary evidence in British or American repositories to confirm that Acquart was a spy, other than the items printed here, although French archives may contain further leads on this matter. In the event, FB praised Acquart for his philanthropy in returning the POWs and later recommended him to the new British commander of Martinique (No. 101)—which suggests that his suspicions had been dispelled.