PRIVATE TRADE WITH AMERICA
T he present chapter will examine Chaumont's private trade with America. This trade included all transactions that did not go through Deane or Franklin and did not show up in the accounts kept by Congress or Ferdinand Grand. This area of his affairs was even more varied and more important than his "public" trade -- both for Chaumont and for the United States.
Despite the many obstacles to forming any complete picture of Chaumont's business enterprises, it is possible to determine the names of 17 ships that he owned during the years of the American Revolution. These ranged from the small packet boat Mère Bobie to the huge Marquis de Lafayette. The other 15 were the Benjamin, the Victoire, the Liberté, the Petit Cousin, the Agathe, the Batavia, the Thémis, the Union, the Bernier, the Zephyr, the Paix, the Levelly, the Monsieur, the Duc de Duras, and the Chaumont.1 All these ships were used primarily or at least partly in trade. Even the Mère Bobie could transport 10 to 15 tons of merchandise in addition to the mail that it carried between France and America.
The documents that refer to these ships speak of them as belonging to Chaumont, though he may have had silent partners for some of them. Clearly he was the sole proprietor of the Marquis de Lafayette.2
In addition to these one can be certain that he owned several others. Letters written by him or to him give the names of several additional vessels.3 However, the references do not make clear whether Chaumont owned them or merely had some investments