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The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Vol. I
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Mr Lee proceeds to say, "It is this sort of neglect, and studied confusion, that has prevented Mr Adams and myself, after a tedious examination of the papers left with Dr Franklin, from getting any satisfaction as to the expenditures of the public money. All we can find is, that millions have been expended, and almost every thing remains to be paid for."

I am not surprised at any thing of this kind from Mr Lee, nor that Mr John Adams has not joined with him in this letter, though I dare say, that gentleman knows his duty, and has done it, as well to the public as to me. After premising that Mr Lee had in his hands the accounts of all the monies received and paid out on the public account, I will lay before Congress the facts, which he had before him when he wrote this letter, after which Congress will be able to judge whether Mr Lee had any grounds for his representing me as a public defaulter for millions. It is certain, that Mr Lee knew that the total amount of monies received by the commissioners to the time of my leaving Paris,

amounted to (livres) 3,753,250 And that the balance due Mr Grand, the 27th March, was 293,738 17 ——————- And that the whole expenditures to that day consequently was (livres) 4,046,988 17

In the next place, it will appear, that by much the greater part of this was actually expended and paid out by and with Mr Lee's consent and orders at the time; the whole was well known to him, as he had, from time to time, access to Mr Grand's books, and Mr Grand delivered him copies thereof up to the 27th of March last, by which he had before him an account of every payment that had been made, and I sent him in writing an explanation of every payment that had been made in his absence, or which had not been made by his written order.

The accounts of the particular articles in detail, not being here, I am unable to explain every charge in Mr Grand's account. It is sufficient that Mr Grand's account shows, that the nature of nearly the whole of the expenditures was perfectly well known to Mr Lee, when he wrote the above account of millions expended, and represented he knew not how to show this. I have stated Mr Grand's account in a shorter compass than what it was before, and have brought the different payments for particular objects made to different people into one view, as will be seen in the annexed state or explanation of Mr Grand's account.

I have no design in answering this part of Mr Lee's letter to go farther into the accounts than to show demonstratively, that nothing can be more groundless and unjust, than for him to represent that millions had been profusely expended, and as if he knew not in what manner or to what purpose. The amount of expenditures, until the time of my leaving Paris, was 4,046,988 17 livres, and it appears, as well from the nature of the account, as from the knowledge Mr Lee had of the transactions, that he knew generally of the payment of every livre, and to whom it had been made, having the accounts and the explanation of them in his hands, up to the very day I set out from Paris. The particular application, indeed, of every part, could not be known until the several accounts should be given in. Mr Lee himself signed the orders for much the greater part of the monies to Mr Williams, and the other principal payments, and was well informed of the business which he (Mr Williams) was executing. By this stating of the account it will appear, that the commissioners, for their private expenses, from December, 1776, to 27th March, 1778, for the support and relief of Americans, escaping from prison in England, for the payment of Mons. Dumas, agent in Holland, the sending of expresses, the purchase of a large quantity of shoes, which were sent to Nantes, to be shipped for America, and for several less disbursements, had of Mr Grand only the sum of 244,285 livres, equal to the sum of ten thousand two hundred and sixty one pounds ten shillings sterling, which is of itself a demonstration, that there was no misapplication of the public monies, since Mr Lee has written, that he could not live under three thousand pounds sterling per annum himself. Whether or not extravagant prices were given for any of the articles purchased, will be an after consideration.

Mr Arthur Lee says, "That almost every thing still remains to be paid for."

I really know not what he means. Things once paid for are not to be paid for a second time, and the payments stated above are proved, by Mr Grand's accounts, to have been bona fide made. "Bargains," he says, "of the most extravagant kind, have been made with this Mons. Monthieu and others;" and then he proceeds to give an example. As to the bargains I was concerned in with this man, and with every other person, I totally deny the fact, and the example given is but a mere pretence. I am so confident of the contrary, that I will most cheerfully take every bargain made by me, or with my consent, in Europe, the contract with the Farmers-General excepted, (which was partly political at the time,) on myself, and will be bound to abide the profit or loss, leaving them to be judged of by the ablest merchants in Europe. Mr Lee informs us of one hundred thousand livres given to Mr Hodge, and that the privateer or vessel he bought cost about L3000, or 72000 livres, and adds, "for what purpose the surplus was given to Mr Hodge, how the public came to pay for her refitting, and at length the vessel, and her prize money, made over to Mr Ross and Mr Hodge, without a farthing being brought to public account, rests with Mr Deane or Mr Hodge to explain;" and in a few lines further he says, "you will see my name is not to the contracts;" but he forgets to add,—that he was at Berlin when they were made. What I have already observed upon in Mr Lee's letter, and what I purpose to notice, confirms me in the opinion, which Dr Franklin and some others have for some time had of him, that, from a long indulgence of his jealous and suspicious disposition and habits of mind, he is at last arrived on the very borders of insanity, and that at times he even passes the line; and it gives me pleasure, though it is but a melancholy one, that I can attribute to the misfortunes of his head, what I must otherwise place to a depravity of heart.

Mr Hodge went to Dunkirk, by order of the commissioners. They sent him in consequence of orders from the Secret Committee; he purchased and fitted out two vessels, a fact though forgotten by Mr Lee, known to every one at the time. From what that brave and virtuous young American did and suffered on the occasion, it was the common topic of conversation every where; it raised insurance in England ten per cent for a time. Mr Hodge, to appease the British Ambassador, was sent to the Bastile, and Cunningham, making his cruise round England and Ireland, put into Spain without prize money equal to the repairs he wanted. Mr Hodge was released from his imprisonment, and one of the first things he did, was to give Mr Lee the account of his whole disbursements in writing. Mr Hodge had taken a small interest in the adventure from the first, and proposed following Cunningham into Spain by land, and making a cruise with him. He proposed that Mr Ross and he should purchase the vessel; but as a price could not easily be agreed upon, they proposed to take the vessel as she was, and do the best with her against the common enemy, and to account to Congress therefor. Mr Ross desired that such an agreement should be signed by the commissioners for his security. I know not that it was ever done. I have only to add on this subject, that all the monies received by Mr Hodge amounted to 92,729 livres 18 3, in the whole, and that Mr Hodge rendered us other services besides equipping these two vessels.

Speaking of the contracts, he says, "they were in fact concealed from me with the utmost care, as was every other means of my knowing how these affairs were conducted." I have in reply to relate the following facts, which are easy to be ascertained. Mr Lee, on his return from Berlin, was made acquainted with the contracts; Messrs Holker, (now in Boston) Sabbatier and Desprez repeatedly conferred with Mr Lee on the subject in my presence, and when they brought in their accounts Mr Lee assisted in adjusting them, and signed with us the orders for the payment, as Mr Grand's account and the orders and accounts themselves will show. It is true, the execution of M. Monthieu's contract was not completed, when I left Paris, and therefore his accounts could not be settled. Mr Williams had the oversight of repairing the arms in the magazine at Nantes; he settled his accounts with his workmen monthly; he had a frigate fitting out for the commissioners, 10,000 suits of clothes making up, a number of shirts, shoes, &c. together with the charge of all the stores the commissioners were sending to Nantes to be shipped. Monthly accounts were not to be expected in reason from a man in such a situation; it could not be done if promised, and Mr Williams is a gentleman of too much probity as well as knowledge in business, to promise what he cannot perform. It is not enough to say, that no man in France enjoys a better character for strict honor and probity, both at Court and in the city, than Mons. Chaumont. Justice must add, there is no man enjoys it perhaps so universally through the kingdom, among the merchants, the farmers or husbandmen, and mechanics, in all which branches of business he is constantly speculating. This man is the friend of Dr Franklin; I have the pleasure of knowing him to be mine, and what is more, the friend of my country, on all and in the most trying occasions. I do not wonder that Mr Lee should appear jealous of this gentleman, as well as of every body else, a select few excepted, and very few indeed are those, who escape his jealous suspicions, either in Europe or America. It is a melancholy truth, but justice to the public requires my declaring it, that I never knew Mr Lee, from his first coming to Paris, satisfied with any one person he did business with, whether of a public or private nature, and his dealings, whether for trifles or for things of importance, almost constantly ended in a dispute, sometimes in litigious quarrels.

Mr Lee lived some time in M. Chaumont's house. M. Chaumont knew him perfectly well, and was not reserved in speaking his opinion of him. I am sorry to be thus long on so disagreeable a subject, a subject which I cautiously waived entering on, in my narration to Congress, not choosing to trouble them with matters, which they might deem of a personal nature. I am grieved to have been forced on it at all, and hope never to be obliged to resume it, and as in commercial transactions there are but two sides to an account, and every thing goes to the debt or credit, the folio for profit or loss, so I must solicit that Dr Franklin and the honorable Mr Adams may be directed to see the settlement of all those accounts immediately on my return to Paris, and as there has been a charge made by Mr Lee, of profusion, of extravagant contracts, and the like, that those gentlemen be authorised to submit the accounts, with every allegation of the kind, to the adjustment and determination of gentlemen of ability and character on the spot, and that orders may be given, that whatever sum may be found due from the commissioners may by them be instantly paid into the hands of the banker for Congress, and that in like manner said banker may be ordered to pay whatever may be the balance, to the person in whose favor the same shall be found. By this means the truth will be demonstrated, and justice done, which is all I have ever wished for. Having forgot to mention it in its place, I must be permitted to add here, that the first vessel purchased and fitted out by Mr Hodge was, on the return and imprisonment of Cunningham, detained by order from Court, and a second purchased, in which Cunningham went on his second cruise. The first was put up for sale at Dunkirk, but not disposed of when I left Paris, at least I had not heard of it.

I have the honor to be,

With the most respectful attachment, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

P. S. I have mentioned money paid Mons. Dumas, as part of the aggregate sum of 244,285 livres 13s. 10d. There will be found the sum of 4351 livres 5s. 3d. paid by Messrs Horneca, Fitzeau & Co. to Mons. Dumas, and for other expenses. I fear on a review, that the brevity I aimed at may cause some mistake; it is therefore proper to observe, that but a part of this sum was paid to Mons. Dumas, a part being for other disbursements, independent of which sum the commissioners made other remittances to Mons. Dumas.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] See the articles of agreement, for this purpose, dated 15th October, 1776,—p. 51, of this volume.

* * * * *

Mr Deane's Observations on Mr Arthur Lee's Letter of June 1st, 1778.

Mr Lee, in his letter of the 1st of June, on which I have made observations, having insinuated many things to the disadvantage of Doctor Franklin's character, as well as to that of Mons. Chaumont and my own; and Mr Izard in those letters, the extracts from which I was favored with by order of Congress, having gone even beyond Mr Lee, and since in his letter of the 28th of June last, speaking of Doctor Franklin and myself, he says,

"There is very little reason to think that any objections however well founded would have made any impression on the interested views of one, or the haughtiness and self-sufficiency of the other."

Afterwards in the same letter speaking of Doctor Franklin he says,

"His abilities are great and his reputation high; removed as he is to so considerable a distance from the observation of his constituents, if he is not guided by principles of virtue and honor, those abilities and that reputation may produce the most mischievous effects. In my conscience I declare to you, that I believe him under no such internal restraints, and God knows that I speak the real unprejudiced sentiments of my heart."

Gratitude as well as justice to that truly great man, to whose friendship and counsel I owe much, oblige me to say on this occasion that I not only believe, but know that this is, to say no more of it, directly the reverse of the character which Dr Franklin has ever sustained, and which he now most eminently supports. It gives me pleasure to reflect on the honors and respect universally paid him by all orders of people in France, and never did I enjoy greater satisfaction, than in being the spectator of the public honors often paid him. A celebrated cause being to be heard before the Parliament of Paris, and the house, and streets leading to it crowded with people, on the appearance of Doctor Franklin, way was made for him in the most respectful manner, and he passed through the crowd to the seat reserved for him, amid the acclamations of the people, an honor seldom paid to their first princes of the blood. When he attended the operas and plays, similar honors were paid him, and I confess I felt a joy and pride, which were pure and honest, though not disinterested; for I considered it an honor to be known to be an American and his friend. What were the sensations of the writers of these letters on such occasions I leave their letters and conduct towards him to speak, and I cannot now express the indignation and grief I feel at finding such a character, represented as the worst that human depravity is capable of exhibiting, and that such a representation should be made by an American in a public character.

In the course of my narrative I mentioned Mr Williams's accounts as being finally settled. I drew my conclusion from his letter to me of the 22d of July last read in Congress. I find the accounts are not finally closed, though Doctor Franklin and Mr Adams have ordered him the payment. Mr Williams informs me he has written to Congress and sent his accounts; the accounts themselves will show that I have not, nor ever had, any private or personal interest in his transactions; at the same time I beg leave to interest myself in what affects this gentleman, because I think I know him to have been a most faithful and useful servant of the public, and every way deserving of the character given him by Dr Franklin and Mr Adams; and as Dr Franklin, from being his uncle, feels a delicacy in writing so fully about him, I therefore pray that this gentleman's accounts may be put into a train for being closed.

I recollect that Mr Lee has mentioned Count Lauragais in his correspondence with Mons. Beaumarchais, and am informed that this gentleman has in his letters been referred to. Count Lauragais is a nobleman, who was born to an immense fortune, the chief of which he has long since dissipated in a wild and I may say in such an eccentric course of life, as hardly has a parallel in France. He has set up at times for a philosopher, a wit, a poet; then as suddenly flew off, and engaged in building, planting, or politics; he was one month for engaging in trade, the next a country gentleman on his farm, the third blazing in the beau monde at Paris; and France being insufficient to afford a variety of scenes suited to equal the restlessness of his genius, he has constantly been shifting them, from Paris to London and from London to Paris. In London he set up for a patriot, and engaged seriously in the disputes and parties of the day, and what was very diverting, sat down for a few weeks to study the laws of England in order to confute Blackstone. His rank, to which his birth entitles him, gives him admittance to court, and the extravagancy of his wit and humor serves to divert and please men in high office, and he consequently at times fancies himself in their secrets. This gentleman knew Mr Lee in London before I arrived in France, and was afterwards often with him at Paris. His character was given me soon after my arrival, and I was put on my guard and warned by the minister, not that he supposed him to have designs unfriendly, either to France or America, but on account of his imprudence, and of his being frequently in London, and with those in the opposition in England, of whom the Court of France were more jealous, and against whom they were equally on their guard, as with the British ministry themselves. As this nobleman's name may be made use of, I cannot dispense with touching lightly on the outlines of a character extremely well known in France and England, and to which some gentlemen in America are no strangers.

I have mentioned the first and principal contract having been made for clothing, with Mr Holker, now agent for France in America. This gentleman was then one of the inspectors general of the manufactures of France, and knowing perfectly well the price and quality of cloth in every part of the kingdom, he undertook, at the request of our mutual friend, Mons. Chaumont, to put us in the way of being supplied at the cheapest rates, and, by joining himself in the written contract, induced his friends, Messrs Sabbatier and Desprez, to engage, which they did; they purchased the cloth at the manufactories, at the first cost, procured it to be made up at the cheapest rate, and the clothes to be transported to Nantes, charging only the prime cost on every thing, and two per cent commissions for their trouble. Mr Holker, after having engaged these men, whose house is a capital one in Paris, and who, from their having for some time supplied a great part of the clothes to the armies of France, were well acquainted with business of that kind, took no farther part in the affair, but that of examining the work and accounts, to see that every thing was performed in the best and cheapest manner. In this I assisted him. I went with him to the workmen, and examined the cloth, the fashion and the economy practised in the work, from which I will venture to assert, that clothes of equal goodness could not be made cheaper, if so cheap, by any other method in France.

Mr Holker, and the other gentlemen, as I have already observed, saw Mr Arthur Lee several times on the subject, until they became so disgusted with a man, who found fault with every thing, without stepping out of his door to examine any thing, that they declined having any thing further to say to him. When their accounts were ready to be settled, I examined them, struck the balance, and Mr Arthur Lee joined with Dr Franklin and myself in signing draughts on Mr Grand for the money. The bills were drawn in favor of Messrs Sabbatier and Desprez solely, Mr Holker taking no share in the commissions, but generously gave in the time he had spent in the affair, though it had been considerable. This gentleman is now in Philadelphia, and if necessary may be applied to respecting what I have said on this subject; his character, as well as that of his worthy father is well known in France, where they are jointly inspectors of the manufactures of that kingdom, and on every occasion they exerted themselves to serve this country, a testimony due to them from me when I am called on to mention them publicly. The instances they gave me personally of the most disinterested friendship and attachment I shall never forget.

I can but return to Mr Williams. This gentleman, after stating all his accounts in the fairest and most explicit order, attended near ten weeks at Passy for a settlement. Doctor Franklin and Mr Adams, as has before been related, so far approved of them as to order his balance, or nearly the whole of it, to be paid him, and gave him a letter certifying him of their full persuasion of his ability and integrity, and that he had done good services, yet such was the disposition of Mr Lee towards him, that he could by no means get them past. Impatient and wearied out with the captious insulting manner in which he was treated by Mr Lee, and which nothing but his official character protected him in, Mr Williams engaged a gentleman from Boston, Mr Cutler, to copy off all his accounts, and compare them with the original vouchers, and to make a voyage to America, to lay them before Congress. This gentleman arrived a few days since, and having made the voyage and journey on this purpose only, I take the liberty to entreat Congress in behalf of my absent friend and their faithful servant, that those accounts may be examined, that Mr Cutler may be heard if necessary to explain them, and Mr Williams relieved from the embarrassments of Mr Lee, whose disposition does not appear to be mended since I left Paris, but, if possible, greatly increased for dispute, and for the most vexatious altercation.

Could I take any pleasure on so disagreeable a subject, and one which throws the affairs as well as reputation of these States into confusion and disgrace, it would be to find that the universal testimony of all who know the situation of our affairs in France, confirms what I have in duty and justice to these States been obliged to lay before Congress. Mr Lee's nephew, a son of the honorable Richard Henry Lee, is in the house of Mons. Schweighauser, at Nantes, as a clerk, or as a partner, I am informed the latter. Commercial affairs, and the disposition of prizes, are put into the care of this house, while a near connexion of M. Schweighauser, at Guernsey, or Jersey, is employing himself in sending out cruisers on our commerce. I know nothing of M. Schweighauser, except by reports; those have been in his favor as a good merchant, but this circumstance, added to some others, which Mr Cutler informs me of, has given cause for the greatest uneasiness and distrust, which, added to the difficulties met with at Paris from Mr Arthur Lee, prevents any thing being done to effect, if really any thing at all towards sending out supplies to these States.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 12th October, 1778.

In a conference had with Mons. Gerard, in the month of January last, at Versailles, he observed that the thirteenth article[15] in the treaty proposed by Congress, which exempted the molasses purchased by the inhabitants of the United States in any of the islands belonging to, and subject to, his Most Christian Majesty, from any duties whatever, was an unequal article, as he termed it, that without some concession of equal importance on the part of the United States, it could not be agreed to, as it would carry the appearance of inequality, and as if Congress were taking the advantage and dictating the terms in their own favor, that therefore it was expected, either wholly to omit the article, or place an equivalent over against it on our part.

On my return to Paris, I laid M. Gerard's proposals before my colleagues, who agreed generally to the justice and propriety of them, but we found it difficult to place any article or articles over against that of molasses, which would be of equal consequence, and in which the States of America were at the same time equally interested. After long consideration had on the subject, Dr Franklin proposed the article nearly as it now stands; Mr Lee objected to it, as being too extensive, and more than equivalent for that of molasses only; to which I answered, that though the concession might appear great, it was in reality nothing more than giving up what we never could make use of but to our own prejudice, for nothing was more evident than the bad policy of laying duties on our own exports; that molasses, though apparently but an article of small value, was the basis on which a very great part of the American commerce rested; that the manufacture of it into rum, was every year increasing, especially in the middle and southern states, where it had been more lately introduced.

Doctor Franklin agreed with me, and argued on much the same ground, but neither of us insisted on the article at the time, but that the proposition should be made for the consideration of Mons. Gerard, reserving to ourselves the power of agreeing to it or not afterwards. A few evenings after, and nearly as I can remember about five or six days before the actual signing of the treaty, we met Mons. Gerard at my house in Paris; he brought the proposed treaty with him, in which he had inserted the 11th and 12th articles as they now stand. The treaty was read, considered, and agreed to, article by article, except the 11th and 12th, respecting which M. Gerard observed at first, that he considered them as they then stood reciprocal and equal, but that he left it entirely with us to retain them both, or to reject them both, it being indifferent with his Majesty, but that one could not be retained without the other. On our having agreed to all the other articles, we told him we would confer together on the 11th and 12th, and write to him what our determination should be. As soon as he was gone, the subject was taken up; the arguments before used were again considered, and finally we unanimously agreed to retain both the articles; on which I desired Mr Lee to write a letter to Mons. Gerard, informing him of it, and that I would send it out to Versailles the next morning, from Passy, that there might be no more delay in transcribing and executing the treaties. Mr Lee accordingly wrote, and Dr Franklin, he, and myself signed the letter, which I sent the next morning.[16]

A day or two after this, Mr A. Lee wrote a letter to Dr Franklin and me, in which he expressed great uneasiness about the 11th and 12th articles, and a desire to have them left out, on which we advised Mr Lee to go himself to Versailles on the subject, which he accordingly did, and we wrote to M. Gerard, by him, that we were content to have the two articles left out, if agreeable to his Majesty.[17] As we had just before unanimously agreed and written to have them retained, we could not, with any consistency, make a point of their being expunged. Mr Lee discoursed on the subject with M. Gerald, who satisfied him as he thought at the time, and as we all then thought, of the impropriety of making any alteration in the treaty, after it had been so maturely considered; had been fully agreed upon by us all; had been approved of in form by his Majesty, and ordered to be transcribed and signed. Neither Mr William Lee nor Mr Izard ever spoke one word to me on the subject, and I did not think myself authorised or at liberty to consult them, or any other person on the subject, but my colleagues.

SILAS DEANE.

FOOTNOTES:

[15] "ARTICLE XIII. It is agreed by and between the said parties, that no duties whatever shall ever hereafter be imposed on the exportation of molasses from any of the islands and dominions of the Most Christian King, in the West Indies, to any of these United States."

[16] The articles in question are as follows;

"ARTICLE XI. It is agreed and concluded, that there shall never be any duty imposed on the exportation of molasses, that may be taken by the subjects of any of the United States from the Islands of America, which belong, or may hereafter appertain, to his Most Christian Majesty.

"ARTICLE XII. In compensation of the exemption stipulated in the preceding article, it is agreed and concluded, that there shall never be any duties imposed on the exportation of any kind of merchandize, which the subjects of his Most Christian Majesty may take from the countries and possessions present or future of any of the thirteen United States, for the use of the islands which shall furnish molasses."

The treaty may be seen entire in the Secret Journals of Congress, Vol. II. p. 59.

[17] See these letters in Arthur Lee's Correspondence, under the date of January 30th, 1778.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 1st November, 1778.

Sir,

I think it unnecessary to make an apology for sending you the enclosed estimates and reflections made on two of the most important and interesting subjects, and for desiring the same may be communicated to Congress. Should that honorable body approve of any or all of them, I shall be very happy, and if they should not they will excuse me for having given them this trouble, when they reflect, that the desire of throwing some light on these subjects has been my sole motive.

The providing for the redemption of our money, and the establishment of a marine, are objects, which in my view, far exceed in the magnitude and extent of their importance, any that are at present under public consideration; they greatly depend on each other, and permit me to say, all our future operations in a great degree depend on them. We cannot pay the interest of any considerable loan without commerce, which cannot be revived effectually without a marine force of our own, which may I am confident be formed on the enclosed plan, and be ready in a short space of time to act with vigor. Great Britain has long had the empire of the ocean, and in consequence the whole world has been her tributary; her own bad policy and the present war will deprive her of that empire; at this important crisis it depends on the measures taken by the United States, whether they shall succeed Great Britain or not in this extensive dominion. Reason, observation, and experience authorise me to say, there is not in the world any power so capable of it, and as the United States can never aim at foreign conquests, but simply to guard their own coasts, and to protect the commerce of their subjects, their superiority at sea can never give just cause of jealousy or offence to any other nation. I am confident that a fleet of forty sail, to consist of twenty such large ships as I have described, and twenty frigates, will be more than equal to this purpose, and such a fleet may be got to sea in the course of the coming year, if the materials wanted from Europe can be procured, which, if immediately applied for, I have not the least doubt of.

I have the honor to remain, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

P. S. I am still without the honor of any answer to my letter of the 7th ult.

November 13th.

After writing the above, my apprehension, lest I should be thought any way out of the usual course in communicating my sentiments to Congress, made me omit sending it to you with the enclosed, but the alarming intelligence, which I received but a day or two since, of the sentiments of my countrymen in different parts on the present situation of the credit of our money, the state of our finances and resources, and of the temper and disposition prevailing in consequence, has made me waive every personal consideration, and communicate this with the enclosed to Congress, and I shall count it one of the happiest occurrences of my life, if anything in my power will help to prevent that total loss of public as well as private credit, which I am sorry to find begins to be almost universally apprehended, and I fear appearances at this time are in support of such apprehensions, which though at bottom they may be ill founded, yet, if once generally prevailing, will produce consequences easily foreseen. I beg leave to refer to Colonel Duer for the substance of the intelligence I refer to, having communicated the letters I have received to him, for as they contain many things merely personal, I could not lay them at large before Congress.

S. D.

* * * * *

PLAN for sinking fiftythree millions of dollars of the Continental Currency, and to establish a Bank of one million, and a half sterling, or $6,666,666-2/3 in Europe for the use of the States of America, at the expense of forty millions of dollars in specie only, or of Bills upon Europe equivalent.

1st. Let a loan be obtained of twentyfive millions of dollars on account of the United States; the interest and necessary charges will probably amount to, and will not exceed, six per cent per annum.

2dly. Let a fund be established of two millions and a half annually, clear of all charges of collecting and remittances, out of which let the interest of the loan be paid, and the surplus unalienably appropriated as a sinking fund to discharge the principal; the annual interest of twentyfive million dollars; at six per cent will be 1,500,000 dollars, the sinking fund one million.

3dly. The calculation which follows demonstrates, that this fund of two millions and a half of dollars will, in sixteen years, pay off the principal and interest of the twentyfive millions borrowed, and leave a surplus of $673,103 in the hands of the States, which may be supposed equivalent to the charge of managing the money, and paying the loan in Europe.

4thly. A fund of two millions and a half for sixteen years amounts to forty millions, but twentyfive millions at six per cent simple interest will in that time amount to fortynine millions, supposing the interest annually paid; hence it is evident, that a sinking fund of one million operating on such a loan of twentyfive millions, will make a saving of nine millions of dollars to the States out of what will otherwise be paid on the same capital, on the plan of borrowing practised in our, and indeed in most other loan offices; or in other words would reduce the interest from six to little more than three and a half per cent, which is demonstrated in the following calculations.

5thly. Twentyfive millions of dollars may be computed in value equal to L5,625,000 sterling. Of this, let one million and a half, or L1,620,000 sterling be applied to the payment of debts contracted in Europe, contracted by the commissioners, for the discharge of which no particular mode has been stipulated and agreed upon, and for the establishing a bank or fund for other uses and benefit of the United States.

6thly. As the sum of L125,000 sterling will be equal to the public debts already contracted in Europe, except those to the Farmers-General and the house of Rodrique Hortalez & Co. there will remain, agreeable to the plan, one million and a half sterling, or $6,666,666-2/3 in the Congress' Bank in Europe, and four millions sterling, or $17,777,777-2/3, for the purpose of sinking the sum of fiftythree millions proposed.

7thly. The present rate of exchange is from five to six for one; it must happen that as bills are brought to market to a greater amount they will fall, but if it be considered that the ordinary demand of these States on Europe for goods exceeded four millions sterling annually in times of peace, that the demand at present and for two or three years to come, even if peace should take place immediately, must exceed the former usual demand, that though the cancelling and sinking of fiftythree millions of dollars will tend to appreciate the remainder in circulation, yet as there will still remain in circulation a greater nominal sum than the commerce of these States call for, the appreciation will not be repaid; and if it be further considered, that the merchants in the United States are at present destitute of their usual means of remittance, having neither ships, specie, nor produce on hand,—I say under these considerations it is improbable, if not impossible, consistent with the interest of individuals, that bills drawn on Europe for the sum of four millions sterling should be under three for one on an average.

8thly. Four millions sterling, or $17,777,777-2/3, at three for one, will amount to $53,333,333 here. Allowing $333,333 for the charge of drawing the bills, for other expenses and deficiencies unforeseen, and there will be, agreeable to the proposals in the plan, fiftythree millions of dollars of the Continental currency paid off by the sales of those bills.

The benefits resulting from this plan, if realized, are numerous, indisputable, and obvious. As the sum proposed to be drawn for, does not exceed the ordinary amount of importation before the war, it cannot be presumed that this plan can produce any ill effects on commerce, especially if the Congress should think it wise and prudent to drop the merchants themselves, and depend on individuals for their supplies. The capital difficulty is to obtain the loan. On this, as well as on the preceding plan, I will make a few observations after the following calculations already referred to.

FIRST CALCULATION.

Produce of the Total of the Years. sinking fund at Debts paid at EXPLANATION. the end of the end of every year. every year. + -+ + 1 1,000,000 1,000,000 The first column marks 60,000 the years; the second 2 1,060,000 2,060,000 the produce or amount 63,600 of the sinking fund at 3 1,123,600 3,103,600 the end of each year, 67,416 the third shows how 4 1,191,016 4,374,616 large a part of the 71,461 capital has been paid 5 1,262,477 5,637,093 off at the end of each 75,788 year. The sum in the 6 1,338,265 6,975,358 second column is found 80,296 by adding to it 7 1,418,561 8,393,919 annually the interest 85,113 of that part of the 8 1,503,674 9,897,593 capital paid off the 90,220 preceding year, and the 9 1,593,894 11,491,487 sum in the third by 95,633 adding yearly the 10 1,689,527 13,181,014 payments. 101,372 11 1,790,899 14,971,913 107,454 12 1,898,353 16,870,266 113,901 13 2,012,254 18,882,520 120,735 14 2,132,989 21,015,509 127,979 15 2,260,968 23,276,477 135,658 16 2,396,626 25,673,103 Principal Loan 25,000,000 Surplus 673,103

SECOND CALCULATION.

$2,500,000 annually collected and paid for sixteen years, amount to (the whole sum paid) 40,000,000

But the surplus of $673,103 deducted, leaves $39,326,897, the net sum applied to sink a principal of $25,000,000, and the interest for sixteen years, 673,103 ————— 39,326,897

The annual interest of $25,000,000 at six per cent is 1,500,000, which at simple interest in sixteen years is 24,000,000, 24,000,000 Add the principal, 25,000,000 ————— 49,000,000 Bring down 39,326,897 ————— Surplus, 9,673,103

By these calculations it is clearly demonstrated,

First, that a certain net annual revenue of two millions and a half of dollars is sufficient for sinking the loan proposed of 25,000,000 in sixteen years, and to leave a surplus of $673,103 after discharging both principal and interest. In the second place, that by this plan the public will save the sum of $9,673,103 more than if the same sum is borrowed in the usual way of simple interest; or in other words, the money on this plan will be borrowed at 3-1/2 per cent interest nearest, a sum well deserving the attention of the public at this, and at every other time, and it is for that purpose the foregoing plan and calculations are submitted.

The only difficulties, that can possibly occur in the carrying this plan and every part of it into execution, are in the establishing such a fund, as will be certain for raising the two millions and a half of dollars annually, and in the next place in procuring the loan. The first may be obviated with greater ease and certainty than the second. It cannot in justice be concealed, that the loan cannot be obtained with the same ease now as it might have been six or seven months past, nor that the longer it is delayed, the greater the difficulty will be. It is however attainable if applied for in season, and in a proper manner. It is but too probable, that if delayed many months longer, it will not be obtained on any terms whatever. The war now kindling in Europe will probably in the course of another year become general, the consequence of which will be, that the emperor of Germany, the empress of Russia, and some other powers, the two former in particular, who have improved the late peace to regulate their finances, and to reduce and pay off their foreign debts, will on this change of affairs become borrowers afresh; in a word, there will be in Europe seven or eight, or more powers under the necessity of borrowing, and not more than two or three at the most in a situation to lend, and when so many demands are made for money, it will be very difficult to have ours preferred. To obtain it, therefore, requires immediate application, interest, and address; which thoughts, with the above plan, are respectfully submitted to the wisdom of Congress.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

PROPOSALS for equipping such a fleet, as will be sufficient to defend the coasts and commerce of the United States against any force, which Great Britain will be able to send to America.

It is necessary to premise, that the obtaining a loan, and setting on foot a naval force, are so connected with, and dependent on each other, and so many important consequences depend on both, that I have preferred placing one directly after the other, that my ideas on these great subjects may be perceived at one view, rather than the placing them in any manner separate or disjointed from each other. Without a naval force sufficient to protect in some degree our commerce as it revives, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to pay either the principal or interest of the money we may borrow, and without some probably certain prospect of doing this, it would hardly be honest to borrow at all. I have only to add, that the following calculations are not founded on light and uncertain estimates, but on the most certain knowledge of the quantity of each of those articles necessary for the purpose. The prices are fixed at what they were last season in Sweden, and in the north of Europe; what I have ventured to say respecting ships of a new construction carrying fortytwo to fortyeight cannon, being equal to sixtyfour and even seventyfour line of battle ships, I am convinced of the truth of, not merely from my own observation and reasoning on the subject, but from the opportunities I have had of conversing with some of the most able and experienced constructors and commanders of ships in Europe, as well as in America. France, as well as England, has already several ships of such a plan on the stocks, which is a full proof in what light they view this plan of building; but fortunately for these States, their old prejudices, as well as the opposition of commanders of large ships, and a great number of men, to the changing them for ships of a less rate and fewer men, as well as of less pomp and appearance, will in a great measure prevent either of those nations from much immediate success in this plan for an improvement or reform.

1st. A fleet consisting of twenty such ships as mentioned above, joined by twenty frigates from twentyfour to thirtysix guns, will be sufficient to guard this coast against any naval force, which Great Britain, or any other maritime power can spare, to send against us. An American fleet, opposing a foreign one on this coast, will always have many very decisive circumstances in their favor, which are obvious at first view, particularly that of clean ships and healthy men against foul ships and sickly men, or fatigued by a long voyage, and that of being able with ships of the proposed construction to enter harbors in case of storm or other accident, which larger ships cannot.

2dly. The twenty large ships, and ten or a less number of the frigates may be put on the stocks and built in America, and though the present price of labor is dear, yet were the undertakers to be paid in sterling bills, or in specie, the hulls or bodies of the ships may perhaps be had nearly at the same price as before the war; but suppose they cost more, yet if every other article be procured from Europe at the first cost and common charges, the ships complete will not amount to much more than such ships usually cost before the war in America, probably not so much.

3dly. Suppose also that eight of the frigates be built in America, and twelve purchased in Europe, to transport the materials from thence for the rest. In the first place, let a calculation be made what all these materials, allowing a large proportion, will amount to, and also for the purchase of the twelve frigates, or ships for frigates, which are to transport those materials over to America.

CALCULATION.

Livres. 160,000 aulms of sailcloth, 240,000

500,000 cwt of anchors, 125,000

3,200,000 cwt of cordage, 1,280,000

6,000,000 cwt of cannon, 960,000

10,000 fuzees, fit for marine service, 200,000

200 tons of powder, 400,000

N. B. As iron is scarce and dear in America, especially in the east and northward states, I suppose 300 tons of iron, 160,000

12 ships fit for sea, capable of being armed as frigates of 24 to 36 guns, will unarmed cost 250,000 livres each, nearly 3,000,000

I suppose for shells, shot, cutlasses, spears, hand-grenadoes, and a variety of small articles, too many to be enumerated in such a general calculation, the sum of 1,000,000 ————- Total amount, 7,365,000

Equal to one million six hundred and seventytwo thousand dollars,[18] for which sum twelve of the ships will be purchased, and all the capital materials for the others. One million of livres, or two hundred thousand dollars, is a large allowance for the small articles, and I know, from offers made me from Sweden, that the ships and other articles referred to, may be purchased there at the above rates, if they have not risen since the month of March last.

4thly. Of the proposed loan by the plan preceding, there will remain, after sinking the fiftythree millions and the payment of the present debts, the sum of one million and a half sterling, or 6,666,666-2/3 dollars, out of which deduct the above sum of 1,672,000, and there remains the sum of 4,994,666-2/3 dollars, or twentyfive millions of livres nearest, for other purposes; a sum sufficient for many great purposes. The commissioners, to the time of my leaving France, had not in the whole ever received four millions of livres, to enable them to procure all the supplies, which they engaged and sent over.

5thly. These stores, and ships to transport them, may be procured on the best terms in Sweden. Swedish ships are not so durable as those built in England, or of cedar and live oak, but I am well assured they greatly exceed those built of the common American oak. Sweden is ever so under the influence of France, that there is no doubt but with proper management these ships and stores may be obtained, and a convoy for them, which, by sailing in June next and coming north about, might arrive at Boston in season, and with very little or no risk; but the fear of being too tedious prevents my being more particular.

6thly. If it be agreeable to make the purchase of the materials enumerated, but not of the ships, as ships may be had to freight them over, it will amount to much the same.

7thly. I will only add, that in time of peace should any of these ships proposed, be to be disposed of out of the continental, they will not be too large for many branches of the merchant service. If these proposals should appear just and practicable, many less matters connected with them will require consideration, and as in the first, so in this plan, every thing depends on immediate despatch.

It has been objected, that such a number of ships could not be manned, but if it is considered that there are now employed in privateering a greater number of men, than are sufficient to man this proposed fleet, it is easy to obviate this difficulty by offering such inducements, as will infallibly lead both officers and men to prefer the public to any private service whatever. The United States have not in view private or partial, but public and extensive objects, the humbling our enemies, the defence of our coasts, and the laying the foundation of a great and flourishing marine. If the whole of the prize money be divided among the seamen and officers, or suppose threefourths actually shared, and the remainder appropriated for the building and support of a hospital for sick, wounded, and disabled seamen, such a resolution will be a generous one, and cannot fail of answering the end. His Most Christian Majesty has generously done this for his officers and seamen serving in his marine, by his ordinance of April last.

Philadelphia, 13th November, 1778.

P. S. Apprehensive of being tedious when I wrote the above, I said nothing on the methods for paying the interest for the first two or three years, until a certain revenue can be established, for considering the present depreciated state of our currency, and the scarcity of specie, it cannot be instantly expected. I take therefore the liberty of suggesting two methods, one of which will most certainly answer the purpose. The first is to borrow of France or Spain, the interest money for the first three years, by which, the interest punctually paid, a credit will become established, and future loans may be made if wanted, and our commerce will be so far restored, that it will not be difficult to raise specie equal to the payment. But should this method fail, there still remains a certain resource, for even if the plan for equipping a navy be adopted, yet there will still remain in bank, as will be seen by the calculation and estimate, a sum sufficient for more than three years interest.

SILAS DEANE.

FOOTNOTES:

[18] There seems to be a mistake here, if the author's mode of reckoning five livres to the dollar be adopted. The sum would then be one million four hundred and seventy three thousand dollars.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 19th November, 1778.

Sir,

I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 7th of October last, and having since received a letter from Mr Williams, I send it enclosed, to show Congress that the monies mentioned by Mr A. Lee, in his letter of the 1st of June last, to have been received by that gentleman, have, in the opinion of two of the commissioners, been well laid out and faithfully accounted for. It gives me great pleasure to find, that the clothes contracted for by Mons. Monthieu, Messrs Holker, Sabbatier, and Desprez, and others, are on examination approved of, and allowed to be the best of the kind, both as to the quality of the cloth and fashion they are made in, of any that have ever been imported; it is indeed a fortunate circumstance, that out of near forty thousand suits so few have been intercepted. As Mr A. Lee, in his letters, has insinuated that the contracts for these clothes were made entirely by me, and has charged me with great extravagance in them, I beg leave to inform Congress, that these suits complete, and delivered on board, do not cost, on an average, thirtysix livres, or thirtyone shillings and sixpence sterling the suit. I labored hard to send over shoes, stockings, and shirts in proportion, and so far as it was effected, the suit complete, with shoes, stockings and shirt, does not amount in the whole to forty shillings sterling. These facts being known, I am content to take on myself the merit or demerit of furnishing these supplies.

I will make no comment on the dismission of a man of Mr Williams' known abilities, integrity, and economy, and who did the business of the public for two per cent, to make room for the deputies of Mr William Lee, who shares five per cent with them, nor on the still more unaccountable conduct of Mr A. Lee, in ordering bills accepted by Messrs Franklin and Adams to be protested. It gives me pain to be forced to lay these facts before Congress, but I cannot, consistent with the duty I owe my country, nor with the justice due myself, permit them, and others of the like nature, to remain longer concealed from public view and examination.

My letter of the 7th ult. covered observations on Mr Lee's and Mr Izard's letters to Congress, to which I am still without the honor of any reply; nothing would give me greater satisfaction, than to learn by what part of my public conduct I have merited the neglect, with which my letters and most respectful solicitations for months past, to be heard before Congress, have been treated. I confess that I once flattered myself the services I performed in procuring supplies, and sending them to the United States at the most critical period of their affairs, and in assisting to bring forward and conclude the treaties, together with the honorable testimonials from the Court of France, whilst I had the honor of residing there, would have merited the approbation of Congress. And I now leave it with every person of sensibility and honor, to imagine what must be my disappointment and chagrin, to find myself obliged at last to leave America without being informed if exceptions have been taken to any part of my conduct, or what they may be. Thus situated, though I can but feel most sensibly, yet a consciousness of the integrity and zeal, which have ever guided and animated my conduct, and a sense of the important services I have been so fortunate as to render my country, with the confidence I have that justice will yet be done me, support and will never permit me to forget or desert myself or my country, whilst in my power to be useful.

I took the liberty on the 12th instant, in writing to Congress, again to remind them of my being without any answer to my request, and having written already repeatedly, I will not trouble that honorable body further on the subject of my being heard, agreeable to what by their resolutions which recalled me, and since I hoped for, and had reason to expect; but praying them to accept my sincere thanks for the honor they did me, in appointing me their commercial and political agent in Europe, and afterwards one of their commissioners to the Court of France, by which I have had an opportunity of rendering my country important services, I have only to repeat my former request, that orders may be given to their minister at the Court of France to have my accounts examined and settled, immediately on my return thither, referring to my letter of the 7th, on that head, and entreating for a speedy resolution on the subject.

I have the honor to remain,

With the most profound respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

P. S. Since writing the above, I am informed that letters have been received from the honorable Mr Lee, and read in Congress, which mention certain proceedings of Mr Hodge, and that a sum of money had been paid Mr S. Wharton by my order, without the knowledge of the commissioners, and which I left unexplained and unaccounted for. I will only say here, that any insinuation of this kind is totally groundless, and makes me feel most sensibly what I suffer by not being permitted to be heard before Congress, which I still solicit for.

S. D.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 30th November, 1778.

Sir,

I am still so unhappy, as to be without the honor of any reply to the several letters I have written through you to Congress, praying that honorable body to favor me with an audience, and that they would give the necessary orders to their ministers or commissioners at the Court of Versailles to examine, adjust, and settle my accounts immediately on my return to France. I take the liberty now to add to what I have already written, that the hopes of being favored with an audience have already occasioned my losing several very agreeable and safe opportunities of returning, until the season has become as pressing as the business which calls me back, and obliges me most earnestly to entreat the attention of Congress to my situation and requests.

I have the honor to remain, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Friday, 4th December, 1778.

Sir,

I have now to acknowledge your favors of 10 o'clock last evening, and to thank you for the attention paid to my last letter to you. Previous to receiving the intimation you have given me, "that Congress had resolved to take into consideration their foreign affairs, and that such branches as I had been particularly concerned in, would in due course become subjects of deliberation," I had prepared to leave this city, and had made my arrangements accordingly, which it will not be in my power to dispense with for any time. I take the liberty of mentioning this, as I do not find in the intimation you have given me of the resolution of Congress any time fixed for my attendance, and I take the liberty of repeating what I have before had the honor of writing to you, that my detention is extremely prejudicial to my private affairs, and, so far as I am able to judge, in some degree so to those of the public, which I have had the honor of being intrusted with, some of which require my presence at the settlement of them, as well on account of my own reputation, as for the interest of the United States.[19]

I have the honor to be, with much respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

FOOTNOTES:

[19] On the 5th of December, Mr Deane published an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette, reflecting on the conduct of some of the commissioners in Europe. This publication gave much offence to Messrs Arthur Lee and William Lee, and Mr Izard, as will be seen hereafter in their letters to Congress.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 21st December, 1778.

Sir,

In obedience to the orders of Congress of the 7th inst.[20] I have now committed to writing as particular an account of my agency of their affairs in Europe as my situation will permit, and wait the pleasure of Congress to lay the same before them. And I have only to request, that the letters written by the commissioners to Congress, or the Committee of Foreign Affairs, during my agency or since, which refer thereto, ordered to be read in Congress, may be laid on their table, when I shall have the honor to be admitted. I request this, from my not having the copies of those letters with me, to which the accounts I am directed to give refer, but recollecting the substance of them, I have judged it unnecessary to trouble Congress for copies of them at present, as it might cause some delay, and I am anxious to complete as soon as possible the information expected from me. I flatter myself that an early day will be fixed, and if I may take the liberty to mention one, I wish it may be tomorrow if consistent with the business of Congress.

I have the honor to be, with the utmost respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

FOOTNOTES:

[20] "Resolved, That Silas Deane report to Congress in writing as soon as may be, his agency of their affairs in Europe, together with any intelligence respecting their foreign affairs which he may judge proper.

"That Mr Deane be informed, that if he has anything to communicate to Congress in the interim of immediate importance, he shall be heard tomorrow evening at six o'clock.

"Mr Deane attending, was called in, and the foregoing resolutions were read to him."

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 30th December, 1778.

Sir,

When I had the honor of waiting on Congress last, I was informed that I should be favored with an opportunity of finishing my narrative without delay. I now take the liberty of applying to Congress, and to inform them that I am ready, and wait their orders. I have received letters, which I am desirous to communicate personally; they relate to parts of my narrative. My solicitude for a final issue of my affairs will, I trust, not appear unreasonable to Congress, when it is considered that a certain Mr Thomas Paine, styling himself Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and presuming to address the public in his official character, has thrown out in a late paper many insinuations injurious to my public character, and has avowed his intentions of laying before the public a number of interesting facts, and materials, relative to my conduct, as one of the commissioners of these United States at the Court of France.

I rely on the justice of Congress, and have the honor to be, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 4th January, 1779.

Sir,

In my letter of the 30th ult. I took the liberty of mentioning to Congress a circumstance, which made me very solicitous for a final issue of my affairs, which was the illiberal and abusive attacks made on my character, as the public agent and minister of these States, by a certain Mr Thomas Paine, styling himself Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and pretending to address the public in his official capacity. This person has since, in Mr Dunlap's paper of the 2d inst., ventured to assure the public, that the supplies, which I contracted for with Mons. Beaumarchais, were promised and engaged, and that as a present, before I arrived in France, and that he has in his possession full proof of this.

I cannot suppose that Mr Paine is possessed of any letters, or papers on this subject, which are not before Congress, or to which the honorable members are strangers. I will not trouble Congress with any observations on the many groundless and extravagant assertions of this writer, but justice to my own character obliges me to entreat, that, if what he has asserted on this subject is a fact, I may be made acquainted with it. Mons. Beaumarchais, in his letter to Congress of the 23d of March last, asserts directly the contrary to what this man has ventured to publish; and as my engagements with Mons. Beaumarchais were made on a very different ground, it is of the last importance to me to know if I have been deceived in the whole of this transaction, and how, that I may be able to regulate my conduct accordingly.

I have the honor to be, with the utmost respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 21st January, 1779.

Sir,

When I had the honor of waiting on Congress, you were pleased to inform me, that if Congress had any further commands for me I should be notified thereof. Not having received any notice from you on the subject, I take the liberty to inform you, that my affairs are become so pressing and so peculiarly circumstanced, that it is impossible for me to attend longer without doing greater prejudice to myself and interest, than I am able to sustain. I must therefore request of you to remind Congress of my situation, and that you will inform me of their determination respecting me.

I have the honor to be, with sincere respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 22d February, 1779.

Sir,

In obedience to the orders of Congress of the 8th of December, 1777, which I received the 4th of March, 1778, I embraced the first opportunity of returning to America, and on my arrival repaired with all possible despatch to Congress on the 13th of July last, since which time I have attended their orders in this city. I beg leave to remind Congress, that early in January, 1776, I had the honor of being engaged by their committee to go as their agent to France, to transact important business for them, in the commercial as well as political departments, and that I have ever since been in their service, in which I flatter myself I have been of some utility to them and to my country; but that an absence of almost four years from my family and private affairs, more than seven months of which I have waited to know their pleasure respecting me here, has so exceedingly embarrassed and distressed me, that I hope I shall not be deemed guilty of an unbecoming impatience in pressing to know, if Congress have any further commands for me, and in what manner my past transactions, as their agent and commissioner, are to be adjusted and closed. I have heretofore written repeatedly and particularly to Congress on this subject, and will not enlarge upon it at present, but have the honor to be, with the utmost respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 15th March, 1779.

Sir,

I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 22d of February past, to which letter I beg leave to refer your Excellency. Having received no answer to the requests I then made, I have now only to add, that my situation, which for eight months past has been peculiarly distressing, is now become such as to oblige me to leave this city without further delay, and therefore I again most respectfully entreat of Congress to inform me, if they expect further information from me respecting their foreign or other affairs, and as I shall without loss of time, return to Europe, that I may be informed if they have any further commands for my service, and in what manner my past transactions, as their agent and commissioner, are to be adjusted and closed.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 29th March, 1779.

Sir,

I did myself the honor of writing to your Excellency the 22d of February last, in which I mentioned the distressed situation into which my affairs were brought, by my being detained in this city, and in which I earnestly requested to know of Congress whether they had any further commands for me, and in what manner my past transactions, as their agent and commissioner, were to be adjusted and closed. You were pleased to inform me verbally, that my letter was referred to the committee, who were ordered to report immediately. I have since been informed that they have reported, but that the report has not been considered by Congress, nor any resolutions passed thereon. This forces me again to apply to Congress, and to lay before that honorable body in part my situation. I have been near four years absent from my family and private affairs, which have suffered exceedingly thereby; more than three years of the time, I have been in the actual service of Congress.

The settlement of the commissioners' accounts and my own, will show to demonstration, that I have received nothing therefor, except money for my necessary expenses. When the orders of Congress, and the service of these States required my immediate return, I took with me one hundred and eighty louis d'ors or guineas only, to defray my expenses and those of four Americans and a servant to America. Two of the Americans were captains in the navy of the United States, and had escaped from prison in England; of the other two, one had been taken in a private ship of war, which he commanded, and had also escaped from prison; the other was a captain in the merchant service. Our journey to Toulon, which is near six hundred miles, was expensive, and was defrayed by me; our passage from Toulon to America was at the expense of His Most Christian Majesty. I took those American captains with me by the advice and at the desire of the ministers of France, and of Dr Franklin, these captains being well acquainted with the American coast. I have been for more than eight months past in this city, and at an expense to which my private fortune is by no means adequate, though I have regulated my expenses by the strictest economy my situation could admit of. I will not trouble Congress with mentioning what has past since my return. The loss of my private property is of no consideration with me, if my country is in any way essentially served thereby; but whilst Congress defer coming to any resolution respecting my private services as their agent and commissioner, what is dearer to me than life or fortune, my character, is attacked and liable to suffer, from the groundless and base insinuations of some, and from the open calumnies of others. I cannot but think it an act of justice due not only to me as an individual, but to Congress and the public in general, that my conduct be either approved of or censured; I have most surely merited one or the other, from the important part I have acted, and the manner in which I have transacted it. I had the honor of bringing with me testimonials, not only from my late venerable colleague, but from his Most Christian Majesty and his ministers, in favor of my conduct whilst in France; they have been long since laid before Congress, and I cannot but conceive, that if I have merited the calumnies which have for some months past been publicly thrown out against me, and industriously spread through these States, justice to those great personages, who condescended to interest themselves so warmly in my favor, requires that my demerits should be publicly known and made to appear, that they may no longer be deceived, or in a state of uncertainty, respecting my real character and merits.

A writer, who has been busily employed for three months past in inventing and publishing the most scandalous falsehoods, in order to injure me in the opinion of my countrymen, has produced in Dunlap's paper of the 27th inst. two charges against me, the one for "negotiating an intended present into a loan," or, in other words, of defrauding my honorable constituents of a large sum of money; the other of intercepting and destroying the public despatches in order to cover the fraud. This writer has not long since been in the employ of Congress as a secretary or clerk, of which circumstance he avails himself to give force to his calumnies, and has had the confidence to appeal to Congress for the truth of his assertions, though he knew at the time that Congress had unanimously contradicted the first, and that the latter was but the creature of his own forming. From the moment that I was ordered by Congress to lay before them in writing, a narration of my public transactions, I have considered myself as being before that tribunal and no other, and under their immediate protection, and consequently not at liberty to take that notice of the publications of this writer, or of his prompters, which, as an individual, otherways circumstanced, I should have took long since. This consideration, and the full reliance I have ever placed on the justice of Congress, have prevented my making any reply to the many base and false insinuations thrown out by this writer, and others, against me, and I have been encouraged to wait with patience for the decision of Congress, by repeated promises, that a speedy issue should be made of those affairs.

I now submit it to that honorable body, whether, if my patience is exhausted, I ought to be deemed culpable; and have further to entreat, that if Congress, or any of its members, entertain any apprehensions, that I am guilty of the two charges brought against me, (to which I have referred) or on any other account whatever, that I may be heard before Congress, and I submit it to their wisdom to determine how public the inquiry shall be, assuring them, that the more public the scrutiny shall be into every part of my conduct, the more agreeable it will be to me. I have only to entreat further, that a decisive answer may be given to me on the above requests, and that you will be assured of my unalterable respect and attachment.

I have the honor to be, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 2d April, 1779.

Sir,

I am without an answer to the letter I did myself the honor of writing to you the 30th ult. As I shall be obliged to leave Philadelphia in a few days at farthest, I have again to solicit a decisive reply to my last. Justice to my fortune as well as character requires it, and I can by no means bring myself to suppose, that Congress will ever refuse the doing of justice either to the character or fortune of any free citizen of these States, much less that they will any longer delay it to one in their service, and under their immediate protection, and who has for many months past been soliciting for justice, as well to his fortune as character.

I have the honor to be,

With the utmost respect and attachment, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 17th April, 1779.

Sir,

I ask liberty to refer to the two last letters, which I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 30th ult. and 2d instant, and which remain unanswered. In them I mentioned the situation to which I was brought by my being detained in this city, the difficulties and distresses of which have been ever since daily increasing.

I will not take up the time of Congress by entering into a detail of circumstances; many of the honorable members are not unacquainted with them, but inform Congress that I am under the necessity of going out of town early in next week, and considering myself at the orders of Congress, pray to be informed if they have any commands for me, which render it necessary that I defer any longer to leave Philadelphia. My own family and private affairs, as well as those of one intrusted to my care, have long suffered by my absence; they must suffer to the last degree, if longer neglected.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect,

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 26th April, 1779.

Sir,

As I have received no reply to my letters of the 30th ult. and 2d instant, I take the liberty of applying again to Congress, to remind them of my situation. It is now more than twelve months since, in obedience to their orders, I left France, to return to my native country. Having employed the short interval, between the receiving advice of my recall and my embarking, in soliciting essential aid and succor for these States, I entered on my voyage with the pleasing reflection, that after a two years' faithful service, in a most difficult and embarrassed negotiation, the issue had been fortunate, equal to my utmost wishes; that the supplies I had procured, and sent out, had enabled my brave countrymen and fellow citizens to resist and humble the enemy; that the treaty which I had the honor, with my colleagues, to conclude, had engaged one of the most powerful and generous princes in the world to guaranty the liberties and independence of these States.

The great and seasonable aid sent out by him, with which (after having received the most honorable testimonials of his approbation, and even of his esteem, as well as that of his ministers, and of my late worthy colleague and friend, Dr Franklin) I had the honor to embark, gave me in prospect the completion of my most sanguine hopes—the total reduction of the British force in North America. Unfortunately the length of our passage defeated the most essential objects of this great and well concerted enterprise. Extensive and important services were however thereby rendered, on which I need not be particular. Immediately on my landing in America, I repaired with all possible despatch to Congress, to inform them of the state of affairs in Europe, which I had been advised, by their resolution, was the business I was ordered to return upon. Between my arrival in this city, on the 13th of July, and my audience before Congress on the 21st of August, I was informed that the minds of some of my countrymen were prejudiced against me, and that insinuations were industriously circulated to effect others; I therefore took the earliest opportunity given me, and after having laid before Congress a general state of foreign affairs and of my proceedings, to request that if any thing had been laid to my charge, or suggested to my disadvantage, I might be made acquainted therewith, for that it was probable that in the difficult, complicated, and embarrassed scenes I had gone through, many things might require explanation. I received no reply, and continuing to solicit to have the business I returned upon concluded, I was informed that an honorable member produced in Congress an extract from a letter from a private gentleman, respecting a conversation which passed between him and Mr Carmichael, which implied a censure on my conduct. On the 26th of September, Mr Secretary Thompson acquainted me with the resolution of Congress of that day, to postpone further consideration of my requests, until the examination of William Carmichael.

What the result of that examination was I never knew, but having waited some days, the urgent necessity for my speedy return pressing on me, I applied again, and repeatedly, that I might finish the business upon which I had been sent for. Days were repeatedly appointed for that purpose, and I must suppose business of more importance prevented. In those letters I laid before Congress the unsettled state in which I had, by my sudden departure, been obliged to leave the accounts and other mercantile transactions of the commissioners, and pointed out the injuries, which the public must suffer by a delay of their settlement, as well as the personal inconveniences I must be subjected to whilst they remained unsettled. To these letters I beg leave to refer. In October, extracts from letters from Mr Arthur Lee and Mr Izard, were, by order of Congress, delivered me, to which I replied at large, on the 12th and 22d of the same month; my letters are still before Congress, and to them I refer, particularly to that of the 12th, which closes in these words;

"As in commercial transactions there are but two sides to an account, and every thing goes to the debit or credit, the folio for profit or loss, so I must solicit that Dr Franklin and Mr Adams may be directed to see the settlement of all those accounts immediately on my return to Paris, and as there has been a charge made by Mr Lee, of profusion, of extravagant contracts, and the like, that those gentlemen be authorised to submit those accounts, with every allegation of the kind, to the adjustment and determination of gentlemen of ability and character on the spot, and that orders may be given, that whatever may be found due from the commissioners, or either of them, may be instantly paid into the hands of the banker for Congress, and that in like manner said banker may be ordered to pay whatever may be the balance, to the person in whose favor the same shall be found. By this means truth will be demonstrated, and justice done, which is all I have ever wished for."

In December last I was directed to lay before Congress in writing,[21] a narrative of my proceedings, whilst their commercial and political agent, &c. I must ask leave to refer to that narrative at large, as many of the honorable members then in Congress are now absent, and the representatives of several of the States entirely changed. On a reference it will be found, that I again solicited for as early a decision as possible on my conduct, that the most thorough examination might be made, and to demonstrate what my commercial conduct had been whilst the agent of these States, that my accounts might be put in the way of being settled without delay, that the part I had acted, and the station I had been in, could not be considered as a neutral or indifferent one, and that approbation or censure was my due, &c. &c. When I was favored with that audience, I flattered myself that the delays I had met with had given ample time for the most full and perfect scrutiny into every part of my conduct, and that if any charges were to be brought against any part of my conduct, I should then be informed of them. I therefore again requested to know if there were any. I was informed of none. Soon after I was told that a committee was appointed to examine into, and report on foreign affairs. I previously informed Congress, that I had no copies of the letters written to them by the commissioners, from Paris; that Doctor Franklin took the care of them, and that my having no apprehension of being questioned on them, I had not taken duplicates with me, therefore requested that I might have copies of them, that I might explain anything which might at first sight appear dubious or contradictory.

I afterwards applied to the members of the honorable committee, desiring that if in the course of their examination, anything should appear doubtful, or such as might support a charge against any part of my conduct, I might be heard, before any report should be made. I did not receive copies of the letters, nor was I ever called upon by the committee, who I am informed have made their report, as to which I am wholly uninformed. Soon after this report was delivered to Congress, having been persecuted in the public papers for several months, in the most scandalous, virulent, and licentious manner, and accused before the public of crimes of the blackest complexion, I again addressed myself to Congress, and as their servant claimed their protection, and that I might be heard in the most public manner, or in any other way they thought proper. This letter, of the 30th of March, remains unanswered, and I now pray the contents of it may be considered. The part I acted as political agent and commissioner for Congress is well known, and may be judged of with certainty at this time, and the settlement of mine and the commissioners' accounts (which I have repeatedly solicited) will demonstrate what my commercial conduct has been. If, in the commercial, I have not acted with prudence and integrity, if I have neglected to supply these States with stores to the utmost of my power, and have either wasted or embezzled the public monies, the interest of the public requires that speedy justice be done, and the settlement of the commissioners' accounts will at once acquit or condemn me. If in my political department I have in any instance neglected or betrayed the interests of my country, if I have conducted weakly or wickedly, or both, the public ought to know it, and I ought to be punished. If, on the contrary, I sacrificed all private considerations, and put my life as well as fortune to the hazard, to procure relief and assistance for these States from abroad; if, unsupported by remittances from hence, without credit or friends, and a stranger to the language and manners of the country I was sent to negotiate in, I surmounted every obstacle, and in a few months obtained and sent out large supplies; if I was assiduous and indefatigable for the space of near two years in France, in the commercial as well as political affairs of these States, at times even to my personal danger; if, so far from having embezzled the public monies, I neglected my private fortune, and received nothing but my necessary expenses whilst transacting this business; if a principal share of the political negotiations fell on me, and if jointly with my colleagues I brought them to a happy and honorable issue, and individually acquired the confidence and esteem of His Most Christian Majesty and his ministers, as well as of the nation in general; and if, at my private solicitations (in part) after my recall, a strong fleet and armament were sent out to the relief of these States; if these are facts, which they certainly are, and the greater part of them long since fully ascertained, and the others ascertainable by the settlement of the commissioners' accounts, (which I have from the first requested) I flatter myself justice will be done by Congress, and that the artifices of interested and wicked men will not prevail to delay it, and thereby injure the public and their servant more essentially, than injustice itself would do.

I, therefore, with the sensibility of an innocent yet injured man, and with the firmness of a free independent citizen, ask for justice, fully confident that Congress will not refuse or delay it. I owe too much to those great personages, who generously patronized and protected me in Europe, to my countrymen and to myself, to suffer my character and conduct to remain longer under any uncertainty. When the part I acted abroad in the service of these States, my recall, the circumstances of my return, my reception, and the delays I have since met with, are reviewed, I think my case will be found peculiar.

Permit me then to repeat, that my services have been in two departments, political and commercial; every thing respecting the first is already well known, the closing of the accounts will demonstrate what the latter has been; on the first, Congress is now able to judge; justice to the public, as well as to myself, calls for their determination. If there are charges against me in either of the characters I have supported, I must consider myself entitled to know what they are, and to be permitted to answer.

I cannot close this letter without complaining to Congress of the abuse I have met with in the public papers from a writer, who was lately their confidential servant, and who has abused their confidence to deceive and impose on the free citizens of these States, and to injure me in the public opinion; also of the partial and injurious manner in which I have been treated by others who, deeply interested by family and other connexions to support my enemies, represent my conduct and the letters written by the commissioners and myself, as inconsistent and contradictory, whilst I remain deprived of any opportunity to explain them. My utmost ambition and wishes have ever been to serve these States, and to merit the title of their faithful and approved servant; nothing can deprive me of the consciousness of having served faithfully and with integrity. If my country have no further service for me, my first object as well as my duty must be to justify my conduct, and to rescue my reputation and character from the injury and abuse of wicked men, and to do this I again ask of Congress, what I consider as my right, their decision on my conduct as their servant; and if any part thereof is questioned, I may be permitted to explain and vindicate the same, which I have often said and again repeat, the settlement of the commissioners' accounts will enable me to do, even to mathematical demonstration. Any further delay in my case must have all the consequences of a refusal, and as I have ever relied with confidence on the justice of Congress, and long waited their decision, I flatter myself it will no longer be postponed. I shall leave Philadelphia in the course of this week on my private affairs, and wish to do it as early as possible.

I have the honor to be, with much respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

FOOTNOTES:

[21] On the 5th of December Mr Deane published an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette, containing remarks on his transactions in Europe, and vindicating himself from certain charges in Mr Arthur Lee's letters to Congress.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 27th April, 1779.

Sir,

I heard yesterday, by accident, that an honorable gentleman in Congress had made a calculation from the general account, which I gave in my narrative of the price of the clothes purchased in France, and that given by M. Holker, in a memorial of his, and had drawn consequences very injurious to me therefrom. In my narrative I informed Congress that the clothes cost 32s. or 33s. sterling complete, delivered on board. This was nearly the average price, and of that, and not of the particular, I spoke. 32s. sterling is equal to 36 livres, 11 sols, 5 deniers. The clothes bought of Messrs Sabbatier and Desprez cost 36 livres nearest, delivered on board; those of Mons. Monthieu a few sols more; those by Mr Williams, the same, nearly as I recollect; and about a thousand suits of M. Coder, of a different fashion, more than 40 livres each. I have before related to Congress, that Mr Lee himself approved of these purchases, having been present at the contracting for a part of them, those of M. Coder in particular, and had signed the settlement of the accounts, and orders or draughts for the money.

Surprised at the calculation made, and the injurious inferences drawn therefrom, I wrote to M. Holker the enclosed letter, and received his answer thereto, a copy of which I take the liberty of enclosing. 37 livres being equal to 32s. 4-1/2d. sterling, it is evident that the calculation made is wrong, even if I had fixed the price positively at 32s. or 33s. sterling.

I will not trouble Congress at present with any further observations on the subject,

But am, with much respect, &c.

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

TO M. HOLKER.

Philadelphia, 26th April, 1779.

Sir,

I was this day surprised to hear, that in a memorial you had presented to Congress, you had said that the suits of clothes furnished by Messrs Sabbatier and Desprez, ought not to cost (or did not cost) more than 32 or 34 livres each, delivered in the ports of France. Permit me to remind you, that these clothes were transported from Paris, and the other places where they were made up, to the sea ports, at the expense of the commissioners; that they cost something more than 34 livres, exclusive of the transportation, as I am positive the accounts themselves will show. I must therefore presume, if my information is right, that you may be under some mistake as to this matter, and therefore pray you, if you have the copies of these accounts, that you will turn to them, which must convince you of it, or the error is with me, for, as I recollect, these suits of clothes cost, when delivered on board, nearest 36 livres on an average, and those purchased from Mons. Monthieu, a trifle more, and those from M. Coder, which were of a different fashion, considerably more; this occasioned my saying generally, in my narrative to Congress, that the suits cost 32s. or 33s. sterling, of which difference in our accounts advantage has been taken against me, though I spoke generally, referring to the accounts and contracts themselves to correct me if I erred. You will therefore oblige me by explaining the above, if you have the account, or if you recollect the circumstances of that transaction.

I have the honor to be, with much respect,

SILAS DEANE.

* * * * *

M. HOLKER'S ANSWER.

Philadelphia, 26th April, 1779.

Sir,

I have this moment received your favor of this date. In my memorial to Congress, I said that each complete suit ought not to cost more than 33 or 34 livres (not 32 or 34) delivered in the sea ports. I spoke totally from memory, and believe I have made a mistake, by taking the price in Paris, or Montpellier, for the price at which they would stand at the sea ports. Admitting my error, they would cost no more than 36 or 37 livres the suit, according to the best calculation I can make from memory.

I have the honor to remain, most sincerely, &c.

HOLKER.

* * * * *

TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.

Philadelphia, 30th April, 1779.

Sir,

In my letter of Monday last, I mentioned my intention to leave town in the course of the week. I am now waiting for no other purpose, but to know if Congress will take notice of the requests I have so often troubled them with. The circumstances under which I left France, in obedience to their orders, and with a view of promoting their service in the greatest and most essential manner (it is well known) rendered it impossible to have the accounts of the commissioners and my own, connected immediately with theirs, settled and closed, so that the vouchers could be procured and brought out with me. But a few days past between the knowledge of my recall, and of my actual setting out on my return.

One condition of sending out the Toulon fleet, and of my embarking in it was, that the most profound secrecy should be observed, and the greatest despatch made. The king's ministers did not think fit to communicate this secret to my colleague, Mr Lee, nor did they leave me at liberty to do it; I had as little grounds for confidence in that gentleman, as the ministers had, and it is evident from their letters and declarations that they never had any. Yet such is my peculiar situation, that I find myself blamed and censured by many in Congress as well as out, for not having performed an impossibility, and am represented as a defaulter, and as having misapplied or embezzled the public monies, at once to prevent my future usefulness to my country, and to the ruin of my private fortune and character. Thus situated, I can but appeal once more to the justice of Congress, and remind them that I brought with me and delivered them, it is now more than seven months since, an account from under the banker's hands, of all the monies received and paid out by him, and to whom paid; that in my letter of the 12th of October, I explained to Congress for what purposes those payments were made, and in my answers to Mr Lee's objections to these contracts, that I proved him to have been acquainted with them, and that he signed himself the orders for the money, for the greater part of them. I am informed, by several honorable gentlemen in Congress, that many of the members, from their absence at the time, or from their taking their seats since the delivering in of that account and my letter of the 12th of October, are to this moment uninformed of either. This obliges me to refer to them at this time, and though I have not the vouchers to support every article, yet I will cheerfully put my reputation as a merchant, as an honest man, and as a frugal servant of the public, on the examination of those accounts, the circumstances under which they were taken, at the same time to be considered.

That account commences in February, 1777, and ends the 27th day of March, 1778, three days before my leaving Paris. It will show, that the whole amount of the monies received by the commissioners, was 3,753,250 livres, and their expenditures 4,046,988 livres, 7 sols, and by the general state of the account delivered the 12th of October, it appears for what those expenditures were made. After deducting the sums paid, for large contracts for supplies, &c. which are particularised, there will be left 219,250 livres, 1 sol, 11 deniers, equal to L9644. 8. 7-1/2 sterling, for the commissioners' expenses, for almost fifteen months, and for small purchases, and for a variety of services not possible to be particularised, without the accounts at large. I might with safety rest this whole sum on the score of the commissioners' expenses for this space of time, and support it on Mr Lee's letter to Congress, in which he says, that Mr Adams and himself were fully convinced, that they could not live at Paris under L3000 sterling, (or about 70,000 livres) each annually. Had the commissioners expended at that rate, from February, 1777, to March, 1778, the whole of the sum would be no more than a sufficiency to supply their expenses; but this was not the case. The commissioners, in the whole, received out of it the sum of 115,480 livres, 5 sols, 6 deniers, for their expenses and private disbursements, as will appear by the account enclosed; of this, Dr Franklin received 27,841 livres, Mr Lee 52,039 livres, 5 sols, 9 deniers, and myself 35,600 livres. It is true, at the same time, that Mr Lee had in his hands the whole of the money received from Spain, which he disposed of without the interference of the other commissioners.

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