The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Vol. I
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Published under the Direction of the President of the United States, from the original Manuscripts of the Department of State, conformably to a Resolution of Congress, of March 27th, 1818.









Nos. 6 Suffolk Buildings, Congress Street, Boston.

Resolution of Congress of March 27th, 1818.

Resolution directing the Publication and Distribution of the Journal and Proceedings of the Convention, which formed the present Constitution of the United States.

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the Journal of the Convention, which formed the present Constitution of the United States, now remaining in the office of the Secretary of State, and all acts and Proceedings of that Convention, which are in possession of the Government of the United States, be published under the direction of the President of the United States, together with the Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings, and the Foreign Correspondence of the Congress of the United States, from the first meeting thereof, down to the date of the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace, between Great Britain and the United States, in the year seventeen hundred and eightythree, except such parts of the said foreign correspondence, as the President of the United States may deem it improper at this time to publish. And that one thousand copies thereof be printed, of which one copy shall be furnished to each member of the present Congress, and the residue shall remain subject to the future disposition of Congress.

[Approved March 27th, 1818.]


The Correspondence between the old Congress and the American Agents, Commissioners, and Ministers in foreign countries, was secret and confidential during the whole revolution. The letters, as they arrived, were read in Congress, and referred to the standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, accompanied with requisite instructions, when necessary, as to the nature and substance of the replies. The papers embracing this correspondence, which swelled to a considerable mass before the end of the revolution, were removed to the department of State after the formation of the new government, where they have remained ever since, accessible to such persons as have wished to consult them for particular purposes, but never before published. In compliance with the resolution of Congress, of March 27th, 1818, they are now laid before the public, under the direction of the President of the United States.

On the 29th of November, 1775, a Committee of five was appointed to correspond with the friends of America in other countries. It seems to have been the specific object of this Committee, to gain information in regard to the public feeling in Great Britain towards the Colonies, and also the degree of interest which was likely to be taken by other European powers in the contest, then beginning to grow warm on this side of the Atlantic. Certain commercial designs came also under its cognizance, such as procuring ammunition, arms, soldiers' clothing, and other military stores from abroad. A secret correspondence was immediately opened with Arthur Lee in London, chiefly with the view of procuring intelligence. Early in the next year, Silas Deane was sent to France by the Committee, with instructions to act as a commercial or political agent for the American Colonies, as circumstances might dictate. This Committee was denominated the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and continued in operation till April 17th, 1777, when the name was changed to that of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. The duties and objects of the Committee appear to have remained as before, notwithstanding the change of name.

In the first years of the war, it was customary for the Commissioners and Ministers abroad to address their letters to the Committee, or to the President of Congress. In either case the letters were read in Congress, and answered only by the Committee, this body being the organ of all communications from Congress on foreign affairs. The proceedings of Congress in relation to these topics were recorded in a journal, kept separately from that in which the records of other transactions were entered, and called the Secret Journal. This Journal has recently been published, in conformity with the same resolution of Congress, which directed the publication of the foreign correspondence.

Robert R. Livingston was chosen Secretary of Foreign Affairs on the 10th of August, 1781, when the Committee was dissolved, and the foreign correspondence from that time went through the hands of the Secretary. As the responsibility thus devolved on a single individual, instead of being divided among several, the business of the department was afterwards executed with much more promptness and efficiency.

The plan adopted, in arranging the papers for publication, has been to bring together those of each Commissioner, or Minister, in strict chronological order. As there is much looseness, and sometimes confusion in their arrangement as preserved in the Department of State, this plan has not always been easy to execute. The advantage of such a method, however, is so great, the facility it affords for a ready reference and consultation is so desirable, and the chain of events is thereby exhibited in a manner so much more connected and satisfactory, that no pains have been spared to bring every letter and document into its place in the exact order of its date. Thus, the correspondence of each Commissioner, or Minister, presents a continuous history of the acts in which he was concerned, and of the events to which he alludes.

It will be seen, that letters are occasionally missing. These are not to be found in the archives of the government. The loss may be accounted for in several ways. In the first place, the modes of conveyance were precarious, and failures were frequent and unavoidable. The despatches were sometimes intrusted to the captains of such American vessels, merchantmen or privateers, as happened to be in port, and sometimes forwarded by regular express packets, but in both cases they were subject to be captured. Moreover, the despatches were ordered to be thrown overboard if the vessel conveying them should be pursued by an enemy, or exposed to the hazard of being taken. It thus happened, that many letters never arrived at their destination, although duplicates and triplicates were sent. Again, the Committee had no Secretary to take charge of the papers, and no regular place of deposit; the members themselves were perpetually changing, and each had equal access to the papers, and was equally responsible for their safe keeping. They were often in the hands of the Secretary of Congress, and of other members who wished to consult them. Nor does it appear, that copies were methodically taken till after the war. In such a state of things, many letters must necessarily have been withdrawn and lost. When Mr Jay became Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in the year 1784, that office had been made the place of deposit for all the foreign correspondence which then remained. Under his direction, a large portion of it was copied into volumes, apparently with much care, both in regard to the search after papers, and the accuracy of the transcribers. These volumes are still retained in the archives of the Department of State, together with such originals as have escaped the perils of accident, and the negligence of their early keepers.

The letters of the Committee of Congress to the agents abroad were few, scanty, and meagre. This may be ascribed to two causes. First, there was really very little to communicate, which was not known through the public papers; and, secondly, it was not made the duty of any particular member of the Committee to write letters. Hence the agents frequently complained, that their despatches were not answered, and that they were embarrassed for want of intelligence. When Mr Livingston came into the office of Foreign Affairs, a salutary change took place in this respect. His letters are numerous, full, and instructive.

In preparing the papers for the press, according to the spirit of the resolution of Congress, the first rule has been to print such matter only as possesses some value, either as containing historical facts, or illustrating traits of character, or developing the causes of prominent events. In such a mass of materials, so varied in their character and in the topics upon which they treat, it has not always been easy to discriminate with precision in regard to these points. The editor can only say, that he has exercised his best judgment to accomplish the end proposed. His task has been rendered still more perplexing, from the disputes, and even quarrels, which existed between the early American Commissioners, and with the effects of which a large portion of their correspondence is tinged. No worthy purpose can be answered by reviving the remembrance of these contentions at the present day; but, at the same time, such particulars ought to be retained, as will exhibit in their proper light the characters of the persons concerned, and show how far their altercations operated to the public good or injury. This line has been pursued as far as practicable, and those parts of the correspondence chiefly marked with personalities, and touching little on public interests, have been omitted, as neither suited to the dignity of the subject, nor to the design of this publication.

On perusing these volumes, it may at first seem extraordinary, that so large a collection of letters, written by different persons at different times, embracing topics of great moment, and assuming the character of secret and confidential despatches, should be so generally well fitted to meet the public eye. But it must be kept in mind, that the writers knew their letters would be read in open Congress, which was much the same as publishing them, and under this impression they were doubtless prompted to study circumspection, both in matter and manner.

Justice to himself requires the editor to observe, that he has not felt at liberty, in accordance with the express terms of the resolution of Congress, to add anything to the original papers by way of commentary or illustration. The few notes, which he has subjoined, are intended mainly to assist the reader in referring to collateral topics in different parts of the work. When it is considered under what circumstances and with what aims these letters were written, it will be obvious, that time and succeeding events must have detected occasional misapprehensions and errors of statement in the writers, as well as the fallacy of some of their conjectures and speculations. They were called upon to grapple with the politics of Europe, and to discourse on a theme and execute a task, that would have been of no easy accomplishment in the hands of the veteran diplomatists of the old world. The editor's researches in the public offices of England and France, with particular reference to the early diplomatic relations between those countries and the United States, have put in his possession a body of facts on the subjects discussed in these papers, which might have been used to advantage in supplying corrections and explanations; but, for the reason above mentioned, he has not deemed himself authorised to assume such a duty. He is not without the expectation, however, that the public will hereafter be made acquainted with the results of his inquiries in some other form.






From the Committee of Correspondence to Silas Deane. Philadelphia, March 3d, 1776, 5

Instructions to Mr Deane on his departure for France.

Silas Deane to the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, August 18th, 1776, 9

Mr Deane's interview with Count de Vergennes, and conversation on American affairs.—Dubourg.— Beaumarchais.—Military supplies for the American service.

From Caron de Beaumarchais to the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, August 18th, 1776, 35

Account of his contract with Mr Deane for furnishing the United States with military supplies.

Silas Deane to Count de Vergennes. Paris, August 22d, 1776, 40

To Robert Morris. Bordeaux, September 17th, 1776, 40

To Robert Morris. Paris, September 30th, 1776, 41

On mercantile affairs.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, October 1st, 1776, 43

Military supplies.—Asks for blank commissions for ships of war.—Dr Bancroft.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, October 8th, 1776, 48

Agreement between M. Monthieu and Silas Deane for the Transportation of military Supplies to America. Paris, October 15th, 1776, 51

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, October 18th, 1776, 53

Urges the importance of making known formally to foreign powers the independence of the United States.—Case of Captain Lee who went into Bilboa with prizes.—Demands remittances.

To the President of Congress. Paris, October 17th, 1776, 56

To William Bingham. Paris, October 17th, 1776, 57

To William Bingham. Paris, October 25th, 1776, 58

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, October 25th, 1776, 59

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 6th, 1776, 60

Supplies forwarded.—M. du Coudray.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 9th, 1776, 64

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 26th, 1776, 64

Grand Duke of Tuscany proposes commercial intercourse with America.

To the President of Congress. Paris, November 27th, 1776, 65

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 27th, 1776, 66

Proposals to send frigates to harass the British fishery on the Grand Bank.—Recommends sending American privateers into the European seas.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 28th, 1776, 67

On the acknowledgment of American independence by European powers.—Applications of officers to go to America.—Baron de Kalb.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 29th, 1776, 74

Beaumarchais's military supplies.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, November 29th, 1776, 76

Military officers recommended.—Colonel Conway.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, December 1st, 1776, 77

Thoughts on the means of defraying the expenses of the war.—A loan for the purpose.—Great resources in the western lands.—Plan for constituting them a pledge to redeem a loan.—Credit of the different European powers.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, December 3d, 1776, 88

Military articles shipped for the use of the United States.

To John Jay. Paris, December 3d, 1776, 90

Plan of a treaty with France sketched by Mr Deane.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, December 6th, 1776, 96

List of officers destined to serve in the United States.—Agreement with the Marquis de la Fayette, and Baron de Kalb.

To Count de Vergennes. Paris, December 8th, 1776, 100

Arrival of Dr Franklin at Nantes.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, December 12th, 1776, 100

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, January 20th, 1777, 101

Disappointment in shipping the military articles.—M. du Coudray censured.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, February 6th, 1777, 103

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, February 27th, 1777, 103

To the President of Congress. Paris, April 8th, 1777, 104

To Robert Morris. Paris, August 23d, 1777, 105

Particulars relating to the American ships in French ports.—Conduct of the government towards them.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Paris, September 3d, 1777, 112

Account of articles shipped under charge of Captain Landais.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Paris, September 10th, 1777, 113

Articles shipped.—M. Francy, agent for Hortalez & Co.

To Robert Morris. Paris, September 23d, 1777, 114

Remarks concerning the commercial agency at Nantes.

Committee of Foreign Affairs to Silas Deane. York, in Pennsylvania, December 4th, 1777, 117

James Lovell to Silas Deane. York, December 8th, 1777, 117

Communicating the resolution of Congress for Mr Deane's recall.

Count de Vergennes to the President of Congress. Versailles, March 25th, 1778, 118

Approving Mr Deane's conduct in France.

Count de Vergennes to Silas Deane. Versailles, March 26th, 1778, 119

Commendatory of his conduct.

Dr Franklin to the President of Congress. Passy, March 31st, 1778, 120

Approving Mr Deane's conduct.

To the President of Congress. Delaware Bay, July 10th, 1778, 120

Notice of his arrival.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, July 28, 1778, 122

Proposes to give Congress information respecting the state of their affairs in Europe.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, September 8th, 1778, 123

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, September 11th, 1778, 123

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, September 22d, 1778, 124

Nature of communications made to Congress.—Offers any further information that may be desired.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, September 24th, 1778, 127

Asks copies of Mr Izard's letters to Congress.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, October 7th, 1778, 127

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, October 12th, 1778, 128

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, October 12th, 1778, 129

Reply to charges in Mr Izard's letters, respecting commercial and other transactions in France.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, October 12th, 1778, 139

Vindication against charges made to Congress by Arthur Lee.—Political and commercial transactions in France.—Dr Franklin.—Affair of Dunkirk.—Vindication of Dr. Franklin against Mr Lee's charges.—Count Lauragais.—M. Holker.—Mr Williams.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, October 12th, 1778, 155

History of the eleventh and twelfth articles of the treaty with France.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, November 1st, 1778, 158

Communicating a project for the redemption of the Continental money;—and a plan for equipping a fleet for defending the coasts and commerce of the United States.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, November 19th, 1778, 172

Further observations on transactions in France.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, November 30th, 1778, 175

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, December 4th, 1778, 176

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, December 21st, 1778, 177

Solicits a speedy settlement of his affairs with Congress.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, December 30th, 1778, 178

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, January 4th, 1779, 178

Complaints against Thomas Paine on account of his statements respecting the French supplies.—M. de Beaumarchais.

To the President of Congress. January 21st, 1779, 180

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, February 22d, 1779, 180

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, March 15th, 1779, 181

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, March 29th, 1779, 182

Complains of the delay of Congress in settling his affairs.—Desires that his conduct may either be approved or censured.—Demands that justice may be done.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, April 2d, 1779, 185

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, April 17th, 1779, 186

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, April 26th, 1779, 187

Recapitulation of his past services, and of his efforts to come to a settlement with Congress.—Complaints of the abuse he has met with in the public papers.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, April 27th, 1779, 194

To M. Holker. Philadelphia, April 26th, 1779, 196

Respecting the purchase of articles in France for the United States.

M. Holker's Answer. Philadelphia, April 26th, 1779, 197

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, April 30th, 1779, 197

Statement of accounts respecting purchases in France.—Arthur Lee.—Requests that the accounts may be examined.—Moneys paid by M. Grand.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, May 12th, 1779, 203

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, May 22d, 1779, 204

Recapitulation of previous events.—Urges Congress to consider his situation, and come to a decision respecting him.

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, August 18th, 1779, 214

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, September 4th, 1779, 214

To the President of Congress. Philadelphia, November 23d, 1779, 215

To the President of Congress. Williamsburgh, December 18th, 1779, 216

Declines accepting the money granted to him by Congress.

To the President of Congress. Paris, May 15th, 1781, 217

Has been adjusting his accounts.—Solicits Congress to appoint some person to examine and audit them.

To the President of Congress. Ghent, March 17th, 1782, 219


From the Committee of Secret Correspondence to Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, Commissioners at Paris. Baltimore, 21st December, 1776, 225

Campaign of 1776.—New levies to be raised.—Necessity of speedy aid from France.—Recall of Mediterranean passes.—Loan of two millions sterling.

Robert Morris to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, 1st December, 1776, 233

Retreat through the Jerseys.—Depreciation of Continental currency.—Gloomy situation of the country.

The Committee of Secret Correspondence to the Commissioners. Baltimore, 30th December, 1776, 246

Success at Trenton.—Tenders to France and Spain.

Committee of Secret Correspondence to Captain Larkin Hammond. Baltimore, 2d January, 1777, 249

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, 17th January, 1777, 250

Audience of Vergennes.—Privateers.—German troops in the British service.—Disposition of the French.

The Committee of Secret Correspondence to William Bingham at Martinique. Baltimore, 1st February, 1777, 255

The Committee of Secret Correspondence to the Commissioners. Baltimore, 2d February, 1777, 257

Want of ships of war.—Reverses of the British in the Jerseys.—New levies.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, 6th February, 1777, 260

Tobacco.—German troops.—Offers of supplies and service.—Mr Lee goes to Spain.—No danger from Russia.

To the President of Congress. Paris, 6th February, 1777, 264

Introducing M. du Coudray.

Agreement between the Commissioners and certain French officers, 265

Committee of Secret Correspondence to the Commissioners. Baltimore, 19th February, 1777, 266

Military events.—Preparations in Great Britain.—Urgent necessity of aid.—Disposition of Spain.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, 4th March, 1777, 269

Complain of want of intelligence.

To the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Paris, 12th March, 1777, 270

Want of intelligence from America.—Particular accounts of their proceedings, and favorable but cautious policy of the French Court.—Disposition of Holland.—Of Spain.—Secret supplies from the latter.—Loan of two millions sterling.—Applications for service from foreign officers.—Contract for 5000 hogsheads tobacco with the Farmers-General.—All Europe favorable to the American cause.—English and French fleet.—Sir J. Yorke's memorial to Holland.—Contract for monthly packets.

Agreement between Messrs Franklin and Deane and the Farmers-General of France, for the sale of a quantity of tobacco, 282

Agreement for packets between M. Ray de Chaumont, on the one part, and Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, on the other, 284

To Jonathan Williams. Paris, 1st May, 1777, 285

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, 2d May, 1777, 286

Urge them to engage French merchants in American trade.—British Generals discouraged.—Return of Congress to Philadelphia.—State of the army.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, 9th May, 1777, 290

Introducing J. Paul Jones.—His captain's commission.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Paris, 25th May, 1777, 291

Mr Lee goes to Berlin.—Necessity of a free port in Germany.—Cunningham.—Lafayette goes to America.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Paris, 26th May, 1777, 296

Warfare on the British successful and important.—Importance of a naval force in the German ocean; and of carrying the war into Great Britain.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, May 30th, 1777, 300

Loan.—Importance of America to Britain in the French war.—Facilities for an attack on the West Indies.

To John Jay. Dunkirk, 2d June, 1777, 302

Importance of a naval force on the British coast, at St Helena to intercept the East India fleet.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, June 13th, 1777, 304

Position of the armies; in the Jerseys; in the north.—Favorable aspect of affairs.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, June 18th, 1777, 306

Military operations.—Answer of the States-General to Sir J. Yorke.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, June 26th, 1777, 309

Military operations.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, July 2d, 1777, 310

Military operations.—Commission and Instructions for William Lee to Vienna and Berlin; for Ralph Izard to Tuscany.

Count de Vergennes to the Commissioners. Versailles, 16th July, 1777, 311

Complains of American privateers for violating neutrality.

To Count de Vergennes. Paris, 17th July, 1777, 314

Apology for the American privateers.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, August 7th, 1777, 315

Military operations.—Loss of Ticonderoga.

To Count de Vergennes. Versailles, August 12th, 1777, 317

Arrest of Mr Hodge.

Messrs Franklin and Deane's Contract with M. Holker, 318

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, 8th September, 1777, 319

Mr Lee's return from Berlin.—Disposition of Prussia.—England and France equally averse to begin hostilities.—English funds losing credit on the Continent.—English trade in French bottoms.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Yorktown, 6th October, 1777, 323

Military operations.—Burgoyne; Fort Schuyler; Bennington.—Middle Department; Brandywine; Howe enters Philadelphia; Germantown.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Yorktown, 6th October, 1777, 330

Difficulty of raising money by appropriation of vacant land.—Loan of twenty millions.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, 7th October, 1777, 332

Secret supplies from France.—Complain of failure of remittances.—Propositions for forming a commercial company at Emden.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. Yorktown, 18th October, 1777, 336

Military operations.—British property in French bottoms.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 31st October, 1777, 338

Surrender of Burgoyne.—Attack on Red Bank.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 8th November, 1777, 340

Announcing the election of H. Laurens as President of Congress.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, 30th November, 1777, 340

Remit supplies.—Capture of neutral vessels by American privateers.—King of England's Speech.—Opposition in Parliament.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 1st December, 1777, 346

Difficulties in regard to French officers; their return to France.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 2d December, 1777, 349

Military operations.—Confederation passed by Congress, submitted to the States.—Expenditures.—Emission of paper money.—Unfavorable position of American commerce.—An expedition to the East India seas proposed.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Paris, 18th December, 1777, 355

News of Burgoyne's surrender in France.—French Court determine to acknowledge independence, to make a treaty of amity and commerce.—Additional aid of three millions of livres from France, and from Spain.—French Ambassador at London insulted.—English stocks fall.—Treatment of American prisoners in England.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 12th January, 1778, 359

Loss of the despatches by Folger.

To John Paul Jones. Paris, 16th January, 1778, 361

Instructions for a cruise in the Ranger.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, 21st January, 1778, 362

Military operations.

To the President of Congress. Passy, February 8th, 1778, 364

Treaties with France signed.—Secret clause in respect to Spain.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, February 16th, 1778, 366

Remit treaties with France.—Intimations from Holland.—English agents at Paris endeavor to get propositions from the Commissioners as the basis of a treaty.—Alarm in England.—Mansfield proposes a coalition to Camden.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, February 28th, 1778, 369

Lord North's plan of conciliation.—Its insidious character.—Advise the occupation of the Bermudas; and reduction of English fishing ports in and near Newfoundland.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to William Bingham. York, March 2d, 1778, 372


M. Gerard to the Commissioners. Versailles, March 17th, 1778, 374

Announces that the king will receive them.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, March 24th, 1778, 375

Effect of depreciation of currency.

To M. Dumas. Paris, April 10th, 1778, 376

Enclosing a draught of a letter to the Grand Pensionary.

Draught of a proposed letter from the Commissioners to the Grand Pensionary, 377

Announcing the treaty with France.

To M. Dumas. Passy, April 10th, 1778, 377

Arrival of Mr Adams to succeed Mr Deane.—Request his opinion on the propriety of sending a Minister to Holland.

To Mr John Ross. Passy, April 13th, 1778, 379


From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to William Bingham at Martinique. York, April 16th, 1778, 380

Commercial Board.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, April 16th, 1778, 382

M. de Sartine to Count de Vergennes. Versailles, April 26th, 1778, 382

Protection of Commerce in the French seas.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to William Bingham. York, April 26th, 1778, 384

Governor Tryon.—Forged resolve of Congress.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, April 30th, 1778, 385

To M. Dumas. Yorktown, May 14th, 1778, 386

Holland grants convoys against the British.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to William Bingham. York, May 14th, 1778, 387


From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, May 14th, 1778, 388

Favorable situation of affairs.—Lord North's conciliatory bill circulated in the country.—Referred to a committee in Congress.—Their report.—Objections to the 11th and 12th articles of the treaty with France.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, May 14th, 1778, 392

English prisoners brought into France.—General principle as to a prisoner in a neutral country.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, May 15th, 1778, 393

Advising trade to America in French bottoms.—Objections to the 12th article of the treaty.—Contract signed by the Commercial Committee with the agent of Beaumarchais.

To the Count de Vergennes. Passy, May 16th, 1778, 396

The Boston frigate.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, May 16th, 1778, 396

Requesting the grant of a frigate to Besmarine, Rainbeau & Co.

To Mr Jonathan Williams at Nantes. Passy, May 25th, 1778, 397

Revoking powers formerly granted him.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, June 3d, 1778, 398

Requesting regulations in respect of duties to be paid on supplies to ships of war.—Prizes of the Ranger.

John Paul Jones to the Commissioners. Passy, June 16th, 1778, 399

Lieutenant Simpson's parole.

To David Hartley. Passy, June 16th, 1778, 400

Exchange of English and American prisoners.

To John Paul Jones. Passy, June 16th, 1778, 401

Instructing him to set sail for America.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to the Commissioners. York, June 21st, 1778, 402

Propositions of the British Commissioners.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, July 14th, 1778, 403

Supplies for St Pierre and Miquelon.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, July 16th, 1778, 404

British prisoners in France.

To the Council of the Massachusetts Bay. Passy, July 16th, 1778, 405

Enclosing a copy of M. de Sartine's letter relative to St Pierre and Miquelon.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, July 17th, 1778, 406

Communicating a resolve of Congress relative to treaties.

To the President of Congress. Passy, July 20th, 1778, 407

Exchange ratifications of treaties.—Appearances of war in Germany.—M. Dumas.—American Consuls.

The Functions of Consuls, 410

To the President of Congress. Passy, July 23d, 1778, 412

Intention of the British Cabinet to acknowledge our independence on condition of a separate treaty.—Declaration of de Vergennes, that war's actually existing between France and England.

To the President of Congress. Passy, July 29th, 1778, 413

Recommending Mr Livingston.

To the Committee of Foreign Affairs. Passy, July 29th, 1778, 413

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, July 29th, 1778, 414

Obstructions to the sale of prizes in France cease.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, August 13th, 1778, 415

On regulations for prizes and prisoners.—Objections to some articles.

John Paul Jones to the Commissioners. Brest, August 15th, 1778, 417

Complains of injurious reports.—Demands redress by court martial.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, August 16th, 1778, 418

Regulations for prizes and prisoners.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, August 18th, 1778, 425

Commissioners express themselves satisfied with the regulations.

John Paul Jones to Abraham Whipple. Brest, August 18th, 1778, 426

Requesting a trial of Lieutenant Simpson by court martial.

Abraham Whipple to John Paul Jones. Brest, August 19th, 1778, 426

Declines summoning a court martial.

To John Paul Jones. Passy, August 22d, 1778, 428

On the court martial.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, August 28th, 1778, 428

Request further pecuniary aid.—Request permission to raise a loan in France.—Desire his interposition with the Barbary powers.—Request that Americans may pass through France with their effects, without duties.

Declaration of Count de Vergennes, annulling the Eleventh and Twelfth Articles of the Commercial Treaty with France, 432

Declaration of the American Commissioners, annulling the Eleventh and Twelfth Articles of the same Treaty, 433

To M. de Beaumarchais. Passy, September 10th, 1778, 434

Property of the Therese.—Accounts of Hortalez & Co.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, September 10th, 1778, 435

Recapture of a French vessel.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, September 10th, 1778, 436

Received powers to settle with Hortalez & Co.—Request information as to that house.—M. Francy.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, September 16th, 1778, 439

Rights of recaptors.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, September 17th, 1778, 441

Principles of the law of recapture.—Case of the Isabella.

To the President of Congress. Passy, September 17th, 1778, 444

All European powers arming.—Administer the oath of allegiance.—Necessity of measures for identifying American property abroad.—American prisoners escaped from England.

M. Necker to the Count de Vergennes. Paris, September 18th, 1778, 449

Transit duty on effects of Americans, returning home through France.

To the American Prisoners in Plymouth, or elsewhere in Great Britain. Passy, September 20th, 1778, 450

Promising an exchange.—Discouraging attempts to escape.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, September 21st, 1778, 452

Laws of recapture in the States.—Importance of uniformity.—Case of the Isabella.

M. de Sartine to Count de Vergennes. Versailles, September 21st, 1778, 453

Mediation of France with the Barbary powers in favor of America.

To the President of Congress. Passy, September 22d, 1778, 455

Introducing Mr Jonathan Loring Austin.

E. T. Van Berckel to M. Dumas. Amsterdam, September 23d, 1778, 456

Enclosing the declaration of the Burgomasters of Amsterdam.

Declaration of E. T. Van Berckel. Amsterdam, September 23d, 1778, 457

Count de Vergennes to the Commissioners. Versailles, September 24th, 1778, 458

Americans returning through France.

To William Lee. Passy, September 26th, 1778, 458

Project of a treaty with Holland.

To Ralph Izard. Passy, September 26th, 1778, 459

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, September 26th, 1778, 460

Acknowledge the receipt of a letter of the 24th, relative to the effects of Americans returning home through France.—Also of the 25th, relative to Mr Izard's goods.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, September 26th, 1778, 461

Mr Izard's baggage taken in an English vessel.

Count de Vergennes to the Commissioners. Versailles, September 27th, 1778, 462

Interposition of France with the Barbary powers.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, September 27th, 1778, 462

The vessel recaptured by Captain McNeil.

To M. Dumas. Passy, September 27th, 1778, 463

Relative to a treaty with Holland.

From the Committee of Foreign Affairs to William Bingham. Philadelphia, September 28th, 1778, 464

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, October 1st, 1778, 465

Intercourse with the Barbary powers.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, October 2d, 1778, 467

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, October 7th, 1778, 467

Mr Izard's effects.

The Ambassador of Naples to the Commissioners. Paris, October 8th, 1778, 469

Ports of Naples remain open for American vessels.

To the Ambassador of Naples. Passy, October 9th, 1778, 469

Acknowledging the receipt of his letter of the 8th.—Flag of the United States.—Flags of different States.—Commissions of ships of war; of privateers.—Mode of clearance differs in different States.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, October 12th, 1778, 470

Mr Izard's effects.—American seamen in the British service.

From James Lovell to the Commissioners. Philadelphia, October 12th, 1778, 474

To Ralph Izard. Passy, October 13th, 1778, 474

To M. de Sartine. Passy, October 13th, 1778, 475

To the Americans taken on board the English frigates. Passy, October 15th, 1778, 475

Requesting of American sailors in prison a list of those willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

To M. Dumas. Passy, October 16th, 1778, 476

On Van Berckel's declaration.—Treaty with Holland.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Marly, October 19th, 1778, 478

Mr Izard's effects.

To Ralph Izard. Passy, October 22d, 1778, 479

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Marly, October 26th, 1778, 479

Surrender of American seamen captured in British ships.—Of American prisoners in general.

M. Dumas to the Commissioners. Hague, October 27th, 1778, 480

Memorial of the merchants of Amsterdam.—Reply of Lord Suffolk to representations of the States of Holland.—Opinion of the city of Amsterdam.

To E. T. Van Berckel, Burgomaster of Amsterdam. Passy, October 29th, 1778, 483

Proposing an interview at Aix-la-Chapelle.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, October 29th, 1778, 483

On the Eleventh and Twelfth articles of the Treaty.

Count de Vergennes to the Commissioners. Versailles, October 30th, 1778, 484

On Arrangement with the Barbary Powers.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, October 30th, 1778, 484

Thanking him for the liberation of four American prisoners.—English whale fishery on the coast of Brazil.—Vessels manned by American seamen.—Exposed state of the ships.—Mr Lee refuses to sign the letter.

Count de Vergennes to the Commissioners. Versailles, October 31st, 1778, 487

Fixing the day for interchange of declarations annulling the Eleventh and Twelfth articles of the Treaty.

M. Dumas to the Commissioners. Hague, November 4th, 1778, 488

Disposition of Amsterdam.—New memorial of Sir J. Yorke.—Project of a treaty under consideration.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, November 15th, 1778, 490

Succors to American prisoners.

To the President of Congress. Passy, November 7th, 1778, 491

Enclosing declaration concerning the Eleventh and Twelfth articles of the treaty, also correspondence with M. de Sartine on recaptures; on the negotiation with Barbary States.—Interest on loan office certificates.—Disposition of England, of Prussia, Russia, Holland.—Preparations in Spain.

M. Dumas to the Commissioners. Hague, November 10th, 1778, 493

Proceedings in Holland.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, November 12th, 1778, 495

M. de Fleury, in the American service, prisoner at St Augustine.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, November 12th, 1778, 495

Requesting convoy for ships from Nantes.—Propriety of strengthening the French naval force in America.

M. Dumas to the Commissioners. Hague, November 13th, 1778, 497

Project to grant a convoy for naval stores.—King of France declares his expectations.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, November 14th, 1778, 498

American prisoners in France.

M. Dumas to the Commissioners. Hague, November 20th, 1778, 499

Triumph of the English party in the Assembly of the Province.—Amsterdam protests.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, January 1st, 1779, 500

Threats of the British Commissioners to change the conduct of the war in America.—Former severities.—Object of this change.—Congress declare that they will retaliate.—Propriety of interference by France.—Advantage of a strong French fleet in the American seas.—Coalition of parties in England against the Americans.

To M. de Sartine. Passy, January 2d, 1779, 507

American prisoners in France.

M. de Sartine to the Commissioners. Versailles, January 13th, 1779, 508

American prisoners in France.—English prisoners.

To William Lee, at Frankfort. Passy, January 13th, 1779, 509

To John Lloyd, and others. Passy, January 26th, 1779, 509

Free ports in France.—Barbary powers.—Duties to be paid in France.

To Count de Vergennes. Passy, February 9th, 1779, 511

Recaptures of French ships by Americans.

To M. Schweighauser. Passy, February 10th, 1779, 513

Plate returned by Captain Jones to the Countess of Selkirk.

To John Paul Jones. Passy, February 10th, 1779, 513

NOTE.—The French money, so often mentioned in this and the succeeding volumes, is reckoned in livres, sols, and deniers. Thus, 85,706l. 16s. 3d. or, 85,706. 16. 3. indicates 85,706 livres, 16 sols, 3 deniers. In reducing this money to American currency, five livres and eight sols were allowed to the dollar.







Silas Deane was born in the town of Groton, Connecticut, and graduated at Yale College in 1758. He was a member from his native colony of the first Congress that met in Philadelphia. Early in the year 1776 the Committee of Secret Correspondence commissioned him to go to France, as a political and commercial agent. He was instructed to ascertain the disposition of the French Court, in regard to the contest between Great Britain and the Colonies, and to procure if possible supplies of arms and military stores. Having arrived at Paris in June, he immediately applied himself to execute his instructions, and was successful in obtaining the main objects for which he was sent.

In September three Commissioners were appointed by Congress to negotiate treaties with foreign powers, and particularly with the Court of France. The persons chosen were Dr Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee. They all met at Paris in December, and continued to procure supplies of money and arms for the United States; till at length they signed the treaties of alliance and commerce with France, February 6th, 1778. Meantime Deane had been recalled on the 21st of November preceding. Of this he received the intelligence in March following, and left Paris April 1st to join Count d'Estaing's fleet at Toulon, in which he came to America.

The account which he gave to Congress of his transactions abroad, was not satisfactory, and he was detained many months in Philadelphia soliciting opportunities to vindicate himself before Congress from what he deemed the unjust charges of his enemies; but the papers relating to his mercantile proceedings having been left in France, he was not able wholly to remove the unfavorable impression that existed against him. Congress, however, neither passed a vote of censure nor approbation of his conduct.

In the spring of 1780 he returned to France, where he remained more than a year in reduced circumstances, attempting to settle his accounts. He exhibited large claims against Congress, which do not appear to have been allowed. In March, 1782, he was living in Ghent. After the peace he went to England, where he died in August 1789.





* * * * *


Philadelphia, March 3d, 1776.

On your arrival in France, you will for some time be engaged in the business of providing goods for the Indian trade. This will give good countenance to your appearing in the character of a merchant, which we wish you continually to retain among the French, in general, it being probable that the court of France may not like it should be known publicly, that any agent from the Colonies is in that country. When you come to Paris, by delivering Dr Franklin's letters to Monsieur Le Roy at the Louvre, and M. Dubourg, you will be introduced to a set of acquaintance, all friends to the Americans. By conversing with them, you will have a good opportunity of acquiring Parisian French, and you will find in M. Dubourg, a man prudent, faithful, secret, intelligent in affairs, and capable of giving you very sage advice.

It is scarce necessary to pretend any other business at Paris, than the gratifying of that curiosity, which draws numbers thither yearly, merely to see so famous a city. With the assistance of Monsieur Dubourg, who understands English, you will be able to make immediate application to Monsieur de Vergennes, Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres, either personally or by letter, if M. Dubourg adopts that method, acquainting him that you are in France upon business of the American Congress, in the character of a merchant, having something to communicate to him, that may be mutually beneficial to France and the North American Colonies; that you request an audience of him, and that he would be pleased to appoint the time and place. At this audience if agreed to, it may be well to show him first your letter of credence, and then acquaint him that the Congress, finding that in the common course of commerce, it was not practicable to furnish the continent of America with the quantity of arms and ammunition necessary for its defence, (the Ministry of Great Britain having been extremely industrious to prevent it,) you had been despatched by their authority to apply to some European power for a supply. That France had been pitched on for the first application, from an opinion, that if we should, as there is a great appearance we shall, come to a total separation from Great Britain, France would be looked upon as the power, whose friendship it would be fittest for us to obtain and cultivate. That the commercial advantages Britain had enjoyed with the Colonies, had contributed greatly to her late wealth, and importance. That it is likely great part of our commerce will naturally fall to the share of France; especially if she favors us in this application, as that will be a means of gaining and securing the friendship of the Colonies; and that as our trade was rapidly increasing with our increase of people, and in a greater proportion, her part of it will be extremely valuable. That the supply we at present want, is clothing and arms for twenty five thousand men with a suitable quantity of ammunition, and one hundred field pieces. That we mean to pay for the same by remittances to France or through Spain, Portugal, or the French Islands, as soon as our navigation can be protected by ourselves or friends; and that we besides want great quantities of linens and woollens, with other articles for the Indian trade, which you are now actually purchasing, and for which you ask no credit, and that the whole, if France should grant the other supplies, would make a cargo which it might be well to secure by a convoy of two or three ships of war.

If you should find M. de Vergennes reserved, and not inclined to enter into free conversation with you, it may be well to shorten your visit, request him to consider what you have proposed, acquaint him with your place of lodging, that you may yet stay sometime at Paris, and that knowing how precious his time is, you do not presume to ask another audience, but that if he should have any commands for you, you will upon the least notice immediately wait upon him. If, at a future conference he should be more free, and you find a disposition to favor the Colonies, it may be proper to acquaint him, that they must necessarily be anxious to know the disposition of France, on certain points, which, with his permission, you would mention, such as whether if the Colonies should be forced to form themselves into an independent state, France would probably acknowledge them as such, receive their ambassadors, enter into any treaty or alliance with them, for commerce or defence, or both? If so, on what principal conditions? Intimating that you shall speedily have an opportunity of sending to America, if you do not immediately return, and that he may be assured of your fidelity and secrecy in transmitting carefully any thing he would wish conveyed to the Congress on that subject. In subsequent conversations, you may, as you find it convenient, enlarge on these topics, that have been the subjects of our conferences, with you, to which you may occasionally add the well known substantial answers, we usually give to the several calumnies thrown out against us. If these supplies on the credit of the Congress should be refused, you are then to endeavor the obtaining a permission of purchasing those articles, or as much of them as you can find credit for. You will keep a daily journal of all your material transactions, and particularly of what passes in your conversation with great personages; and you will by every safe opportunity, furnish us with such information as may be important. When your business in France admits of it, it may be well to go into Holland, and visit our agent there, M. Dumas, conferring with him on subjects that may promote our interest, and on the means of communication.

You will endeavor to procure a meeting with Mr Bancroft by writing a letter to him, under cover to Mr Griffiths at Turnham Green, near London, and desiring him to come over to you, in France or Holland, on the score of old acquaintance. From him you may obtain a good deal of information of what is now going forward in England, and settle a mode of continuing a correspondence. It may be well to remit him a small bill to defray his expenses in coming to you, and avoid all political matters in your letter to him. You will also endeavor to correspond with Mr Arthur Lee, agent of the Colonies in London. You will endeavor to obtain acquaintance with M. Garnier, late Charge des Affaires de France en Angleterre, if now in France, or if returned to England, a correspondence with him, as a person extremely intelligent and friendly to our cause. From him, you may learn many particulars occasionally, that will be useful to us.



[1] On the 29th November, 1775 a committee was appointed by Congress, which was called the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and consisted of five persons. The first members chosen were Harrison, Franklin, Johnson, Dickinson and Jay. The purpose of the committee was to correspond with the friends of the Colonies in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world, and communicate their correspondence to Congress when required. Provision was made for defraying expenses, and paying such agents as the committee might send on this service.

There was another standing Secret Committee of Congress, first instituted September 18th, 1775, and empowered to purchase arms, ammunition and military stores, and also to export various articles to meet the charges of such purchases abroad. But this committee had no connexion with that of secret correspondence. It was dissolved, July 5th, 1777, when the Committee of Commerce was appointed in its stead.

* * * * *


Paris, August 18th, 1776.

I wrote you every material occurrence to the time of my leaving Bordeaux, and sent duplicates by Captains Palmer, Bunker, and Seaver, one of which you will undoubtedly have received, before this comes to hand. I left that city on the last of June, and arrived here the Saturday following, having carefully attended to every thing in the manufacturing or commercial towns in my way, which, indeed, are neither numerous nor of great consequence. I spent at Angouleme a day in viewing what, as to manufactures alone, deserves attention on the journey; the foundery for cannon, where the greatest part of those used in the kingdom are manufactured. The cannon are cast solid, after which they are put as in a turner's lathe, and bored out, and the outside smoothed and turned at pleasure; they can bore and complete a twelve pounder in one day in each lathe, which takes four men only to work; the workmen freely showed me every part of their furnace and foundery. On Monday after my arrival, I waited on my bankers, and found that Mr Bancroft had arrived the same day with me, Mr Thomas Morris and M. Venzonals about ten days before. I waited on M. Dubourg and delivered him Dr Franklin's letter, which gave the good gentleman the most sincere and real pleasure.

M. Penet, on his arrival in Paris, waited on M. Dubourg, showed him a copy of his contract with the committee of Congress, and told him he had letters from Dr Franklin to him, but had left them on the road, or at Rotterdam, through fear of a search; he told M. Dubourg, to whom he was a perfect stranger, so many particular circumstances, that he could not doubt of his sincerity, and in consequence he embarked in his affairs to a large amount. Five or six weeks have now passed without the arrival of the letters said to be left on the road. Arms, powder, &c. to a large sum were in readiness, when my arrival gave him confidence, that I would take the burden off him, as he doubted not that my credentials would be explicit. I saw immediately the arrangement of the whole, and that M. Penet had returned to France, (copy of the contract excepted,) almost as empty handed as he came to Philadelphia, yet had found means to collect a very considerable quantity of stores, part of which he had actually shipped. This circumstance gave me hopes, yet I found that it would now be expected I should become responsible for the articles, which embarrassed me much, since to detain them would be quite disagreeable, and to step out of my own line and involve myself with Messrs Plairne and Penet's contract, would be equally so.

M. Penet had somehow got intelligence of my being in France, and that I was expected at Paris; he, therefore, waited for me, and I saw him the next day at my hotel, when he complained of want of remittances, and desired me to pledge my credit for the stores, which I waived in the best manner I could, for I saw the consequences might involve me in many difficulties and frustrate my greater designs. I, therefore, told him I would certify to the merchants, if necessary, that the Congress would pay for whatever stores they would credit them with, and in the mean time, advised him to proceed strictly agreeable to the letter of the contract, and I was positive that the Congress would fulfil their part of it. I finally satisfied both him and M. Dubourg, and he parted for Nantes to ship the goods the next day. I must do him the justice that is his due; he has been indefatigable in the business, his heart seems to be entirely in it, and I believe him honest, but his connexions either commercial or political are not, of themselves, equal to such an undertaking, but the cause he was employed in, had, in a great measure, I found, supplied this deficiency, which was to me a favorable appearance.

M. Dubourg told me that the ministers would not see me, as they meant to be quite secret in any countenance they gave the United Colonies, and that my arrival in France was already known in London, in consequence of which Lord Stormont arrived express but a few days before, and had applied to the court on the subject. I showed him my commission, and told him I was determined to apply; for every circumstance, in my opinion, was favorable instead of otherwise. On this he wrote a letter to Count de Vergennes, asking liberty to introduce me the Thursday following, on which day I went to Versailles, and though the letter had not been delivered to his excellency, yet he gave us immediate admission. Fortunately his chief secretary spoke English well, by which means I had an opportunity of conversing freely with him on the subject of my commission for two hours, and was attentively and favorably heard by him, and was asked many questions, which shows that the American disputes had been, and still were a principal object of attention. I pursued nearly the line marked out by my instructions, stating the importance of the American commerce and the advantages Great Britain had received from a monopoly of it. That all intercourse ceasing between the two countries the Colonies had considered where they might dispose of that produce, which they necessarily had so large a surplus of, and receive for their raw or first materials the various manufactures they wanted. That they first turned their eyes on France, as the best country in Europe for them to be connected with in commerce. That I was purchasing a large quantity of manufactures for which I expected to pay the money, and that I should want a quantity of military stores, for which remittances would be made. That I doubted not the Colonies had before this declared independency, and that I should soon receive instructions in consequence, more full and explicit; that in the mean time they were very anxious to know how such a declaration would be received by the powers in Europe, particularly by France, and whether, in such case, an ambassador would be received from them, &c.

To which he replied, that the importance of the American commerce was well known, and that no country could so well supply the Colonies, and in return receive their produce as France; it was, therefore, the interest of both to have the most free and uninterrupted intercourse, for which reason the court had ordered their ports to be kept open, and equally free to America, as to Britain. That, considering the good understanding between the two courts of Versailles and London, they could not openly encourage the shipping of warlike stores, but no obstruction of any kind would be given; if there should, as the custom houses were not fully in their secrets in this matter, such obstructions should be removed, on the first application. That I must consider myself perfectly free to carry on any kind of commerce in the kingdom, which any subject of any other state in the world might, as the court had resolved their ports should be equally free to both parties. That I was under his immediate protection, and should I meet with any difficulty, either from their police, with the rules of which he supposed me unacquainted, or from any other quarter, I had but to apply to him and every thing should be settled. That as to independency, it was an event in the womb of time, and it would be highly improper for him to say any thing on that subject, until it had actually taken place; mean time he informed me, that the British ambassador knew of my arrival, and therefore advised me not to associate with Englishmen, more than I was from necessity obliged; as he doubted not I should have many spies on my conduct.

I then told him the precautions I had taken and should persevere in, in coming from Bermuda, and that I did not mean in public to pass for other than a merchant from that island, on speculation, during the present cessation of commerce in America; but at the same time I told his excellency, that I was well assured it was known in London, that I was coming long before I arrived at Paris, and I doubted not, they conjectured my errand, but at the same time, I should take every precaution in my power; and most sincerely thanked him for his protection and assistance so generously offered, which he might depend I would never abuse. He was pleased with my having come by Bermuda, and passing as an inhabitant of that island, and said, if questioned, he should speak of me in that character. He then asked me many questions with respect to the Colonies, but what he seemed most to want to be assured of, was their ability to subsist without their fisheries, and under the interruption of their commerce. To this I replied, in this manner, that the fisheries were never carried on, but by a part of the Colonies, and by them, not so much as a means of subsistence, as of commerce. That the fishery failing, those formerly employed in them turned part to agriculture, and part to the army and navy. That our commerce must for sometime be in a great measure suspended, but that the greater part of our importations were far from being necessaries of life, consequently we should not suffer under the want of them, whilst it was not wealth or luxuries that we were contending for. That our commerce ceasing, it would be out of the power of our enemies to support themselves on our plunder, and on the other hand, our ships, as privateers, might harrass their commerce, without a possibility of their retaliating. That I hoped to see a considerable marine force in the Colonies, and that, joined to the impossibility of Britain's guarding so extensive a coast, would preserve some of our commerce, until it should be thought an object deserving the protection of other powers.

After many questions on this subject, he put this, in which I thought he seemed interested,—whether, if the Colonies declare an independency, they would not differ among themselves? To this I replied, that the greatest harmony had as yet subsisted, and I had no grounds to doubt it in future; that the common danger, which first drove them into measures, which must end in such a declaration, would subsist, and that alone was sufficient to ensure their union.

He then desired me to give his secretary my address, and said, though he should be glad to see me often, yet as matters were circumstanced, his house was too public a place, but that I might put the same confidence in his secretary as himself, to whom I might apply for advice and direction, but that whenever anything of importance occurred, I need but inform him, and he would see me; but on common occasions, I must address the secretary, which would be every way more convenient as he understood the English language well, and was a person in whom the greatest confidence could be placed. Having settled the mode of intercourse, I expressed the sense I had of his excellency's politeness, and the generous protection he had given me, and on parting said, if my commission or the mode of introducing the subject were out of the usual course, I must rely on his goodness to make allowances for a new formed people, in circumstances altogether unprecedented, and for their agent wholly unacquainted with courts. To which he replied, that the people and their cause were very respectable in the eyes of all disinterested persons, and that the interview had been agreeable.

After this I returned to Paris with M. Dubourg, whose zeal for the American cause led him to draw the most favorable consequences from this beginning. The next day while from home I was informed that Count Laureguais had inquired out my lodgings, immediately after which he asked leave to go for England, which was refused him by the court. The same day I was informed that Sir Hans Stanley and Sir Charles Jenkinson, who I knew were at Bordeaux when I left it, were in France, for the sole purpose of inquiring what agents were here from the Colonies, and what commerce or other negotiation between them and the Colonies was carrying on. This alarmed my friends, and as I had agreed for other lodgings, to which I was next day to remove, M. Dubourg advised me to secrete both my lodgings and name. I told him that the Count Laureguais' conduct appeared mysterious, yet I could never think of keeping myself secret, for though I should not seek these gentlemen, nor throw myself purposely in their way, yet I must think it an ill compliment to count Vergennes, to suppose after what had passed, that I was not on as good and safe footing in France, as they or any other gentleman could be. However, his uneasiness made him write to the Count what he had advised, who returned for answer, that such a step was both unnecessary and impolitic, as it would only strengthen suspicions by giving every thing an air of mystery, while there was not the least occasion for it.

The next day I had a fresh conference with M. Dubourg, who brought me a number of memorials from officers and engineers offering their services in America; some of whom, I believe, deserve the utmost encouragement; but more of this hereafter. While I was casting in my mind, how best to improve the present favorable crisis for supplying the Colonies, Monsieur Beaumarchais made proposals for procuring whatever should be wanted, but in such a manner as was understood by M. Dubourg to amount to a monopoly, which indeed was not his only objection, for Monsieur Beaumarchais, though confessedly a man of abilities, had always been a man of pleasure and never of business; but as he was recommended by Count Vergennes, M. Dubourg could not avoid noticing him, but immediately expostulated with the Count in a letter, which brought on embarrassments no way favorable, and I saw that M. Dubourg was so far from sounding the views of his superior in this manoeuvre, that he was, with the best intentions in the world, in danger of counteracting his own wishes, the extent of which were, to obtain the supplies of merchants and manufacturers on the credit of the Colonies, in which the strictest punctuality and most scrupulous exactness would be necessary, and which under the present difficulties of remittance, I feared would not be lived up to.

As I had learned, that in the late reform of the French army, they had shifted their arms for those of a lighter kind, the heavy ones, most of which were the same as new, to the amount of seventy or eighty thousands, lay useless in magazines, with other military stores, in some such proportion, I apprehended it no way impossible to come at a supply from hence, through the agency of some merchant, without the ministry being concerned in the matter. In such case the merchant would be accountable to the ministry, and the Colonies to the merchant, by which means a greater time of payment might be given, and more allowance in case of our being disappointed. With this in view I went to Versailles on Wednesday, the 17th, and waited on M. Gerard, first secretary of foreign affairs, and presented to him the enclosed memorial,[2] which led to a very particular conversation on the affairs of America, and which I turned finally on this subject, to which he would not then give me any immediate answer, but promised me one in a day or two. Returning to town, I found Messrs Dubourg and Beaumarchais had a misunderstanding, the latter giving out that he could effect every thing we wished for, and the former, from the known circumstances of M. Beaumarchais, and his known carelessness in money matters, suspecting he could procure nothing, and the more so as he promised so largely. They parted much displeased with each other, and Mons. Beaumarchais went directly to Versailles. On M. Dubourg's coming and informing me what had passed, I immediately wrote to M. Gerard the enclosed letter,[3] and in return was desired to come with M. Dubourg the next morning to Versailles.

We went as desired, and after explaining many things to M. Gerard, had a conference with his excellency, from whom I had fresh assurances of the utmost freedom and protection in their ports and on their coasts; that in one word, I might rely on whatever Mons. Beaumarchais should engage in the commercial way of supplies, which, indeed, was all I wished for, as I was on the safe side of the question, viz. on the receiving part. I communicated to his excellency that clause of my instructions for procuring arms, &c. of which he asked a copy. I then informed him, that I considered the present as a most critical juncture of American affairs, that the campaign would undoubtedly be carried far into the winter, that supplies now shipped might arrive very seasonably in the fall to enable the Colonies to hold out the present campaign. He replied that no delay should be made by any obstruction of any officer, or others of the customs or police. He then told me that the Count Laureguais was, perhaps, a well meaning man, but not sufficiently discreet for such purposes as this; that Mr Lee, meaning Mr Arthur Lee of London, had confided, he feared, too much in him, and wished me to caution him on the subject, and that if I would write to him, he would enclose it in a letter of his, by a courier that evening. I most readily embraced this safe way of corresponding, and sent a letter I had before written, with an addition on this subject, a copy of which is enclosed. I have thus given you the heads of my negotiation to this time, July 20th, and will not take up your time in making remarks on it, and the prospect before me, which are obvious; but inform you of the plan I mean to pursue, in the execution of my commission, and hint some methods, by which I think I may be enabled to complete every part of it to your satisfaction, and the relief of my country, which is all my wish, and the extent of my most ambitious hopes. I go on the supposition of an actual unconditional independency, without which little can be effected publicly; with it, almost every thing we can wish for.

It is by no means probable that Europe will long remain in a state of peace; the disputes between Portugal and Spain are on the point of producing an open rupture; the former relies on England; the latter will look to this kingdom, and has already applied to this Court on the subject. Nothing but the division of Poland has taken the king of Prussia's attention off from the injustice done him by Great Britain, at the close of the last war. He has now completed his part of that extraordinary work, and I am well informed, listens with pleasure to the dispute between the United Colonies and Great Britain. He is ambitious of becoming a maritime power, and is already in possession of the capital ports on the Baltic; but without commerce it is impossible to effect the design, and no commerce can put him so directly in the road as the American. The consumption of coffee, sugar, and other West India productions, increases fast in the north of Europe, and it must be his interest, at least, to supply his own dominions. In case of a war in Europe, France, Spain and Prussia might be brought into one interest, and the emperor of Germany is too closely connected with his majesty of France to take part against them, after which Great Britain, having her whole force employed in America, there could be nothing on the one hand to prevent Spain and France from reducing Portugal to a submission to the former, nor from Prussia and France subduing and incorporating into their own dominions Hanover, and the other little mercenary electorates, which lie between them, and which for several centuries have been one principal cause of every war that has happened in Europe.

With respect to Russia, it is as closely allied to Prussia, as to Great Britain, and may be expected to be master in the contest. Denmark and Sweden are a balance for each other, and opposites. Not to enlarge on this plan at present, I have only to suggest, that an application to the king of Prussia will do no harm, and may be attended with good and great consequences; the Prussian ambassador at this court and at that of London may be sounded on the subject. But my powers and instructions are so limited, that I can by no means take such a step; yet when I see Great Britain exerting her whole force, and that of her allies, and courting every power in Europe to aid her, I can but wish she may be counteracted in her own system, and by having employ found for her in Europe, bring her to leave America in peace, and I think myself bound in duty to hint at what to me seems the most probable means. Dr Bancroft was full with me in this opinion. Mons. Chaumont, a very wealthy person, and intendant for providing clothes, &c. &c. for the French army, has offered me a credit on account of the Colonies, to the amount of one million of livres, which I have accepted. I have in treaty another credit, which joined to this will purchase the articles directed in my instructions; the credit will be until May next, before which I hope remittances will be made. I have purchased of said M. Chaumont a quantity of saltpetre at ten sous, or five and one fourth per cent, in order that Captain Morgan might not return empty.

As soon as I have given the orders for despatching him, and settled some other matters here, I design for Dunkirk to ship the Indian goods, which I hope may arrive in season for the winter supply, though I leave you to consider my situation with only about 6 or 7000 pounds to complete a contract of forty, and the bills for my private expenses being protested, obliged to support myself out of that capital, which I labor to do with all the economy in my power. Dr Bancroft is returned to London, and by him I wrote to Mons. Garnier, and agreed on a mode of correspondence. I think your remittances in armed vessels will be much the best method, and I have ordered Captain Morgan's sloop to be armed, and should she arrive safe, recommend him, as one I am confident will serve the Colonies with great zeal and fidelity; and I have had some experience of the goodness of his temper and his abilities. Mr Seymour, his mate, is also deserving of encouragement, as a good seaman and of undaunted resolution. I am not without hopes of obtaining liberty for the armed Vessels of the United Colonies to dispose of their prizes in the ports of this kingdom, and also for arming and fitting out vessels of war directly from hence, but I will not venture on this until I see what effect my last memoir may have; the substance of which is, to shew the danger to France and Spain, if they permit Great Britain to keep so enormous a force in America, and to recover the dominion of the Colonies; also how fully it is in their power to prevent it, and by that means deprive Great Britain of the principal source of her wealth and force, even without hazarding a war of any consequence in point of danger.

This memoir, which takes several sheets, I am unable to send you a copy of, as I have no one to assist me, and must make out several copies for the persons to whom they are to be delivered. I was directed to apply for arms and clothes for 25,000 men, and for 100 field pieces, with ammunition and stores in proportion. This I wished to get of the ministry direct, but they evaded it, and I am now in treaty for procuring them, through the agency of Mons. Chaumont and Mons. Beaumarchais, on a credit of eight months, from the time of their delivery. If I effect this, as I undoubtedly shall, I must rely on the remittances being made this fall and winter without fail, or the credit of the Colonies must suffer. If I can get the arms out of the magazines, and the field pieces here, I hope for a much longer credit; but if we send to Sweden for the brass cannon, the credit will not be lengthened beyond that. Some new improvements have lately been made in this branch, consequently the cannon now manufactured will be preferable to those of former construction. Some engineers here assert, that iron is preferable to brass, that is, wrought iron, out of which the pieces may be made lighter, and to a better purpose. Considering the want of these pieces, and the plenty of iron in America, the experiment might, I think, be made without delay. I am still in hopes of procuring an admission of the article of tobacco directly from America, but the Farmers-General will not offer equivalent to the risk.

Without intelligence from April to this time, leaves me quite uncertain and extremely anxious about the line of conduct now pursuing by Congress, and consequently I cannot, without further intelligence and instructions, proceed in my negotiation either with safety or honor. The resolution of Congress of the 15th of May, is not considered by the ministry as a declaration of independence, but only a previous step, and until this decisive step is taken, I can do little more to any purpose. This taken, I dare pledge myself, the United Colonies may obtain all the countenance and assistance they wish for, in the most open and public manner, and the most unlimited credit with the merchants of this kingdom; I must therefore urge this measure, if not already taken, and that the declaration be in the most full and explicit terms.

Merchants here would speculate deeply in the American trade, could they be insured at any premium within bounds. I wish to know if offices are already open, and I would suggest that if the Congress would take the insurance under their own direction, it would give it such a proportionably greater credit, that supplies would most certainly be obtained in plenty. I shall be able to procure a private interview with the Spanish Ambassador, and shall present him my memorial, and am in a train, which I think will carry it quite to the fountain head.

Thus I have in a minute, possibly a tedious detail, mentioned every thing material on my mind, which has occurred since my arrival, and submit the whole to the wisdom and candor of the honorable Congress, observing that I had gone to the extent of my instructions, and though I have been successful beyond my expectations, yet I have but been laboring principally to set certain great wheels in motion, which still want something more decisive on my part, and I am confident of all that is wanting to set them so effectually moving, as to roll the burthen and calamities of war from our doors back with aggravated ruin on its authors, which, if I can be the means of effecting, the world may bestow the rest of its honors on whom it pleases; I shall be contented, the extent of my most ambitious hopes thus accomplished.

I have now to urge a survey with respect to the contents of this letter; more that is said in Congress transpires and crosses the Atlantic, than you conceive of; more than I can account for, without having uncharitable thoughts of individuals, still without fixing them on any one. I have written a short letter to Mr Jay on common affairs, and have enclosed one to Mons. Longueville, which I pray may be forwarded; the letter is from his friends here, who have heard of his being a prisoner somewhere in America. M. Dubourg has continued to render me every assistance in his power; to be particular would swell this letter beyond all bounds; his abilities and connexions are of the first style in this kingdom, and his zeal for the cause of the United Colonies is to be described only by saying, that at times it is in danger of urging him beyond both; in short, I am every way deeply indebted to him, personally for bringing me acquainted with agreeable persons of rank and character, and on account of my honored constituents, for assisting me to make such a favorable beginning and progress in my business. I know not how affluent he may be, but as he has really for some time devoted himself to assist in this negotiation, I am confident something honorable will be thought of for him. I have complimented him by asking of him his portrait to be sent to his and my friends in America, in my private capacity, mentioning our mutual friend Dr Franklin. This I found so agreeable, that I am confident some such distinction would be more acceptable than more lucrative rewards. Dr B. took pains to collect all the political publications of the last year for me and brought them with him; he was at considerable expense in his journey; I sent him from Bordeaux a bill of L30, and paid his expenses in my lodgings here; at parting I desired him to keep an account, and when the money was expended to inform me. This gentleman is certainly capable of giving as good, if not the best intelligence of any man in Great Britain, as he is closely connected with the most respectable of the minority in both houses, not particularly obnoxious to the majority, and for his abilities, they are too well known to Dr Franklin to need any attempt to do them justice in a letter. I am with the highest esteem and respect for the honorable Congress and their Committee of Secret Correspondence, &c.


August 1st.—Since writing the foregoing I have been at —— and am of opinion, that a war between Portugal and Spain is at the door, and I have had an interview proposed with the ambassador of Portugal, who resides here on commercial affairs, which I have most readily embraced, and expect to see him again on Wednesday next, after which I will write you further; his proposals are merely commercial, as is his station, but something else may be investigated.

August 2nd.—I should have sent this off earlier, but delayed on account of hearing something more directly; if I might depend on certain articles for which I was in treaty, I am now assured I may, and the whole will be ready to ship in all the month of October. My next labor will be to obtain a convoy, which I do not despair of, though it is a delicate question, and I have only sounded at a distance, yet I have no doubt of obtaining one, at least, off the coast of Europe, and the articles will be shipped as for the West India islands. I propose arming and well manning the vessels in which these articles shall be embarked, and I advise again the sending all remittances to Europe in armed vessels; the probability of meeting with English merchants is well worth the risk. I hope that it will be considered that 100 field pieces, and arms, clothing and accoutrements, with military stores for 25,000 men, is a large affair; and that although I am promised any credit, yet as they must be paid for, the sooner the better, if to be done without too great a risk.

A considerable part of these articles are now on hand, and orders are issued for the others by the contractors this day. I prefer Bordeaux to any other port for shipping them from, but the remittances must be made to several, on which I will give you my opinion in my next. A number of gentlemen of rank and fortune, who have seen service, and have good characters, are desirous of serving the United Colonies, and have applied; pray let me have orders on this subject; if it be politic to interest this kingdom in the present contest, what way so effectual as to get into their debt for supplies, and employ persons of good family and connexions in it, in our service? I have given encouragement, on which some are prepared to embark. One Mons. C. a celebrated engineer, who was chief in that way in the Turkish army, is returned, and is willing to go to America, but the ministry cannot as yet spare him, as certain regulations are making elsewhere; possibly he may go out sometime in the winter; he is a first character in his profession and otherwise. Indeed, this contention has set on foot such a spirit of inquiry in Europe into the state of America, that I am convinced that at the first close of this war, if, as I trust in God, it will close in our favor, there will be an inundation of inhabitants from this side of the globe. Many persons of capital fortunes have declared to me their resolution of moving to America, as soon as the liberties of America shall be established, and that many of their friends will accompany them.

August 15th.—I received from a friend at Amsterdam, a letter informing me that he would be with me on the 20th, and as the vessel could not be sooner ready to sail, I determined not to risk this packet by a private hand, or by the public post; he is now arrived and takes charge of it in person. Were it possible, I would attempt to paint to you the heart rending anxiety I have suffered in this time, through a total want of intelligence; my arrival here, my name, my lodgings, and many other particulars have been reported to the British administration, on which they sent orders to the British ambassador to remonstrate in high terms, and to enforce their remonstrance, despatched Wedderburn from London, and lord Rochford from Holland, as a person of great interest and address here to counteract me. They have been some time here, and the city swarms with Englishmen, and as money purchases every thing in this country, I have had and still have a most difficult task to avoid their machinations. Not a coffee-house or theatre, or other place of public diversion, but swarms with their emissaries; but knowing the ministry are my friends, I attend these places as others, but cautiously avoid saying a word on American affairs any where, except in my own hotel or those of my intimate friends.

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