Return to The Tory Lover -- Contents .
from The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
by James Parton
Boston: James R. Osgood, 1864.
BEGINNING OF THE ARTHUR LEE MISCHIEF.
BY midsummer, 1777, Congress had as many as twelve agents in Europe, most of whom lived in Paris. On Sundays, when the official Americans and their secretaries dined at Dr. Franklin's, and the American boys came from their schools to join the party, the company must have numbered twenty, or more. Separated as most of these gentlemen were from their country, uncertain, indeed, whether or not they had a country, having similar employments, a common interest and common danger, we should naturally look to see them living in perfect accord — a band of brothers gathered in a foreign land round a venerated father and chief. Alas! the truth is far otherwise. From 1776 to the end of the revolutionary struggle, the persons representing the United States in Europe were generally at open or secret war with one another; envy, jealousy, malice, and all the other passions of a small and morbid brain raged among them. Why was this? ANSWER: Arthur Lee! One such narrow, conceited, fidgety, suspicious, envious, covetous, plantation-bred person as he would be sufficient to introduce discord among a chorus of angels; and the American diplomatists in Paris were not angels.
Perhaps the most convenient way of unfolding the mischief caused by this ridiculous and perfidious man, will be to present here a kind of descriptive catalogue of the servants of Congress in Europe at this time, mentioning them in something like the order of their rank and importance.
DR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. As the reader has some acquaintance with this gentleman already, I need but call to mind two circumstances of his position in France. First: his popularity was such that, so long as he remained, no other American could be held in very great or very general estimation. His celebrity was completely overshadowing; no American could hope to shine in France, except as his satellite. In this fact, any man, not a fool, or plantation-bred, would have gladly and proudly coincided, as well for his own as for his country's sake; for Dr. Franklin's age, genius, and services, entitled him to pre-eminence, and the immense esteem in which he was held formed a great part, nay, the greater part of his country's European capital. Moreover, as we have seen, he bore his honors better than meekly; he bore them airily, gracefully, jocularly; often amused, never deceived by them; something like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Secondly: chief as Franklin unquestionably was of the Americans in Europe, he had no official authority over any of them; it was only his age, talents, character, and fame, that gave him the first place.
SILAS DEANE. During the whole of the year 1777 Mr. Deane continued to co-operate with Beaumarechais, to the great contentment of that gentleman, and with the approval of Dr. Franklin and the Count de Vergennes. But the contracts with Du Coudray and his train were giving Congress and General Washington such a world of trouble, that he was completely out of favor in America. The artillery service was all arranged before the arrival of Du Coudray; General Knox, "the father of the American artillery," having been appointed to the chief command. General Knox held the rank of major-general, and all the other divisions of the army were commanded by major-generals. "In this state of things," wrote the Foreign Committee, "arrived General Coudray, with an agreement by which he was to command the artillery and the greatest part of the major-generals of the army, by being of older commission. A plentiful crop of resignations began presently to sprout up, and the whole army must have been deranged and thrown into confusion, just on the opening of a campaign, or this agreement not acceded to in the whole. But Mons. Du Coudray would have everything or nothing. An inflexible ambition that paid no regard to the situation and circumstances of the army, would be gratified. This produced a scene of contention, which was not ended when the unfortunate General was drowned in the Schuylkill, going to join the army. Immediately on his death, the rest of his corps would return to France;" and back to France they went, Congress paying their passage, and continuing their pay until they reached home. General De Coudray, besides the confusion and perplexity he caused, cost Congress a hundred thousand francs; and, I see that, as late as 1785, his heirs were still clamoring at the door of Congress for money which they claimed to be due to his estate. (1)
The odium of all this fell upon Silas Deane, for whom Congree could not, at that distance, make the requisite allowance. Franklin could, and did. Writing to the Foreign Committee on this subject, he observed: "I, who am upon the spot, and know the infinite difficulty of resisting the powerful solicitations of great men, who, if disobliged, might have it in their power to obstruct the supplies he was then obtaining, do not wonder that, being then a stranger to the people, and unacquainted with the language, he was at first prevailed on to make some such agreements, when all were recommended, as they always are, as officiers expérimentés, braves comme leurs épées, pleins de courage, de talents, et de zèle pour notre cause, &c, &c, in short, mere Cesars, each of whom would have been an invaluable acquisition to America…. I hope, therefore, that favorable allowance will be made to my worthy colleague on account of his situation at the time, as he has long since corrected that mistake, and daily approves himself to my certain knowledge an able, faithful, active, and extremely useful servant of the public; a testimony I think it my duty to take this occasion of giving to his merit, unasked, as, considering my great age, I may probably not live to give it personally in Congress, and I perceive he has enemies."
Long before this letter reached Philadelphia, before it was written even, the fate of Silas Deane was sealed. The question of his recall was debated in Congress with extreme asperity, since it was originally proposed to accompany the resolution of recall with a preamble of censure. John Jay took the lead in the defense of his absent friend, and succeeded in getting the offensive preamble, which condemned a servant of the public unheard, stricken out. The family seat of the Jays in New York is close to the Connecticut line, and, I presume, Mr. Jay was intimate with Deane before the war. He was warmly his friend and defender, not on this occasion only, but whenever he was attacked in Congress. He even had a portrait of Deane hanging in his study, which he carried abroad with him, in later years, when he went embassador to Madrid. It was not possible, however, at this time, to avert the recall of his Connecticut friend. December 8th, Congress passed the following order: "Whereas, it is of the greatest importance that Congress should at this critical juncture be well informed of the State of affairs in Europe, and whereas Congress have resolved that the Hon. Silas Deane be recalled from the Court of France, and have appointed another Commissioner to supply his place there: Ordered, that the Committee of Foreign Affairs write to the Hon. Silas Deane, and direct him to embrace the first opportunity to return to America, and, upon his arrival, to repair with all possible dispatch to Congress." This was the message which, during the exciting, momentous months of January and February, 1778, was winging its way across the Atlantic to the envoys at Paris. The reader will note that it contains not the least intimation of censure: Mr. Deane was merely notified that Congress desired information respecting ['] “the state of affairs in Europe."
ARTHUR LEE. This gentleman, never too happy, was miserable in the extreme on his return to Paris in July, 1777, from the court of Frederick the Great. He had suffered a long series of galling disappointments. He had expected to be the medium through which the French King would convey his liberal subsidies to Congress; but the founding of the great House of Roderique Hortalez and Co. had deprived him of that honor. With M. de Beaumarchais he had once been in confidential intercourse, writing him mysterious letters signed "Mary Johnson," and receiving epistles from him in cipher, unfolding the secrets of the French cabinet. The arrival of Silas Deane had robbed him of this interesting friend; who much preferred to act with the commissioned envoy of Congress. Then, on reaching Paris in December, 1776, to join his colleagues, he found all France exulting in the arrival of le grand Franklin; no one much regarding the presence of the great Lee. His unsuccessful missions to Spain, Vienna, and Berlin occupied most of the spring and summer of 1777, without yielding to his morbid self-love much consolation. He returned to Paris in July to find his colleagues immersed in the most important affairs, naval and commercial, of the details of which he was ignorant, and the whole history of which it was a work of time to impart to him. He was really a superfluous member of the commission, and conceived that his colleagues both regarded and treated him as a superfluity which, in the hurry of that stirring time, may have been, in some degree, the case. I presume he had the pleasure of reading in a London newspaper (the Public Ledger) of July 12th, a complimentary allusion to himself: "Dr. Lee is certainly joined in the (American) commission, but he understands the business of courts so ill, that not one of the ministers will negotiate with him. He is the straight-laced image of awkward formality. To the preciseness of a Presbyterian he endeavors to add the Jesuitism of a Quaker. The one renders him ridiculous, the other suspected. When he thinks he is imposing on mankind, they are laughing at him." Perhaps, also, he had the comfort of perusing the following lines from the same paper of September 2d: "Two of these commissioners, for the third is a cipher, are protected in their public capacities by the court of Versailles; the court of London hath sent one embassador, the Congress of America have sent two, to France."
It must be owned that these were disagreeable paragraphs, particularly to a man of the disposition of Arthur Lee. But every public man has to submit to such annoyances. He might have read, in other London papers, of the autumn of 1777, paragraphs of which the following is a mild specimen: "They write from Paris that Silas Deane meets with repeated insults every time he goes through the streets of that city, and is pointed at by the populace as one of the wretches who meditated the ruin of his country by the basest stratagems. The old fox, Franklin, secures himself from similar treatment by silence and seclusion." How absurd to care for such harmless nonsense! (2)
The result of these various chagrins was, that Mr. Lee fell into direct feud with Beaumarchais and Deane, secretly writhed under supremacy of Dr. Franklin, held in detestation all their friends, and omitted no opportunity to give them annoyance and disgust. He even conceived, as Mr. Adams relates, an antipathy to France itself, and made no secret of it in the very capital of the country from which his own had received such inestimable benefits. Mr. Deane gives an example of his ill humor with the contractors employed by the envoys. During Lee's absence from France, Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane had made contracts for many thousands of uniforms, and for a ship in which to convey them and other stores to America.
"Soon after Mr. Lee's return," relates Deane, "he was made acquainted with what had been done in his absence. Mr. Holker, who had the management of the principal contract, waited on Mr. Lee, to inform him of the fashion in which he proposed the coats should be made, and to consult him on an improvement of the lapels by continuing them quite down, so as to join the waistband of the breeches, which would take about one-sixth of an ell of cloth and four buttons more than the usual fashion; but that it would guard the body from the cold in the most tender part of it. Mr. Holker and the gentleman with him met with the most disgusting reception; every thing was by Mr. Lee found fault with. Mr. Holker very patiently heard him, and pertinently answered his several objections: that as to the improvement on the lapels, it was so great, and the expense so very trifling, that sooner than give it up, he would even be content to throw the extra expense out of his account. To which Mr. Lee replied, that if he did, he had still an objection that could not be got over, it was the additional weight of the four buttons and one-sixth of cloth, which must help to fatigue the soldier in his marching. Mr. Holker and the other gentleman at this lost all patience, and refused ever after to have any thing to do with him, as did almost every other person with whom we had formed any connections." (3)
Nor was this the worst of his offenses. He filled his private letters home with the most false and atrocious insinuations against the honor of his colleagues. A vague charge is the most injurious of all charges; it is the favorite resort of the calumniating miscreant. Lee would insinuate, in letters to Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee, that Deane had involved Congress in debt far beyond its ability to pay; that Deane was surrounded and aided by men who were traitors to the cause of America; that Dr. Franklin was very old, very idle, and very careless, fit only for some quiet court where there would be nothing to do; that nothing saved the interest of America in France from total confusion and fatal injury but the presence of such a vigilant, incorruptible, sagacious, and active envoy as Arthur Lee.
Take a few sentences from his correspondence. October 4th, to his brother, Richard Henry Lee: "The journey to Spain I undertook, because Dr. F. would not go through such bad roads in so rigorous a season, and Mr. D. excused himself by a proposition of going to Holland, which he never performed…. My idea of adapting characters and places is this: Dr. F. to Vienna, as the first, most respectable, and quiet; Mr. Deane to Holland… France remains the center of political activity, and here, therefore, I should choose to be employed." On the same day, to Samuel Adams: "I have within this year been at the several courts of Spain, Vienna, and Berlin, and I find this of France is the great wheel that moves them all. Here, therefore, the most activity is requisite; and if it should ever be a question in Congress about my destination, I shall be much obliged to you for remembering, that I should prefer being at the court of France." November 4th, to the same correspondent: "Let me whisper to you that I have reason to suspect there is jobbing both with you and with us. The public concerns and the public money are perhaps sacrificed to private purposes. Congress should interfere." January 5th, 1778, to his brother: "If, in the arrangement of things, I could be continued here, and Mr. D. removed to some other place, it would be pleasing to me, and disconcert effectually their wicked measures." To Samuel Adams on the same day: "I have before mentioned to you a Mr. Carmichael" (volunteer secretary to Mr. Deane). "Every day gives me fresh reason for suspecting him. The gentleman who bears this will give you an account of him; and the inlosed account will show you in what manner the public money has been put into his pocket by Mr. Deane, under the pretence of errands, in which the only object was, to tell ignorant people that he and Mr. Deane were the only persons possessed of public trust and power. It is impossible to describe to you to what a degree this kind of intrigue has disgraced, confounded, and injured our affairs here. The observation of this at head-quarters, has encouraged and produced through the whole a spirit of neglect, abuse, plunder, and intrigue, in the public business, which it has been impossible for me to prevent or correct." January 9th, to his brother: "Things are going on worse and worse every day among ourselves, and my situation is more painful. I see in every department, neglect, dissipation, and private schemes… There is but one way of redressing this and remedying the public evil; that is the plan I before sent you, of appointing the Dr. honoris causa, to Vienna, Mr. Deane to Holland, Mr. Jennings (a friend of Lee in London) to Madrid, and leaving me here. In that case I should have it in my power to call those to an account, through whose hands I know the public money has passed, and which will either never be accounted for or misaccounted for, by connivance between those who are to share in the public plunder. If this scheme can be executed it will disconcert all the plans at one stroke, without an appearance of intention, and save both the public and me." February 15th, to his brother: "The disputes Mr. Deane has industriously contrived with me will render my being his accuser apparently an act of private enmity, not of public justice. And probably this was his object in quarreling with me, being under great apprehensions from me, as well from my character as from the opportunities my situation would give me of doing it with effect. Dr. F. has always countenanced his proceedings, I believe, entirely from a consideration of the business and advances which he artfully throws into the hands of Mr. Williams" (nephew of Dr. Franklin at Nantes).
Enough. Such dastardly insinuations (all insinuations are dastardly), repeated occasionally for two years, coming from a man celebrated though unknown in his own country, could not but leave impressions on many minds that would with difficulty be effaced. There are those to whom calumny is congenial; who believe Evil with fatal ease, Good with great difficulty. And this is one of the reasons why, as Dr. Franklin used to say, "there is no such thing as a little enemy." An offended idiot with a little cunning, such as idiots have, and a box of matches, can burn a city. An Arthur Lee with his sore vanity and mean ambition, can plant lies in the mind of his generation which shall outlast that generation, besides doing irreparable mischief in it.
I ought to add that, while Arthur Lee was filling the ear of Congress with calumnious insinuations respecting Dr. Franklin and his friends, there was no apparent or avowed ill-will between them. They not only transacted business together, but Lee and his set dined frequently at Franklin's table; and, occasionally, all the three envoys dined together at the house of Mr. Lee. (4) Nor could it be said that Lee's isolation or insignificance was the fault of his colleagues; for we find that several of the memorials addressed by the envoys to the French ministry in the latter part of 1777, as well as one important letter to Lord North, were drawn by Lee, who valued himself upon his rhetorical talent. Doubtless Dr. Franklin strove to conciliate and gratify this uneasy spirit by giving him something to do, and something which he prided himself upon his skill in doing. Nothing delights a gentleman of the Lee caliber more than to be asked to "draw up" a document of form, which affords him a chance to produce a succession of sounding, empty sentences. Pleasures of this nature Mr. Lee abundantly enjoyed in December, 1777, and January, 1778.
WILLIAM LEE. This was an elder brother of Arthur Lee. The beginning of the Revolution found him a merchant and alderman of London, where he had been long settled. Having early espoused the cause of his country, and evinced a willingness to serve it, Congress gave him, in January, 1777, an appointment of joint commercial agent with Thomas Morris, to reside at Nantes. But before the papers relating to this appointment had reached him, came more honorable commissions, naming him envoy to the courts of Berlin and Vienna. These commissions arrived in October; but as neither Frederick nor Maria Theresa were willing to receive an American envoy, he remained for several months longer in Paris, unemployed, and counting one in the set of his troublesome brother. He had the name in Paris of being avaricious, and of having inherited a share of the family talent for becoming odious to those with whom they acted. In his diplomatic capacity he accomplished nothing whatever, except draw his salary. In his character of commercial agent we shall have to return to him by and by.
RALPH IZARD. A native of South Carolina, of which State his grandfather was one of the founders, and in which he himself had inherited a large estate in land and slaves. He, too, like Arthur Lee, I suppose, was reared among companions whom he could strike without being struck back, whom he could abuse, vilify, and oppress, without receiving a word of remonstrance or reply. No man or woman brought up in that way can have a perfectly sane intellect, or live happily among equals, or co-operate justly in any difficult business. A spoiled child, the reader may have observed, never becomes truly mature; it is so with these unhappy victims of slavery; they either remain children or degenerate into savages; and a savage is merely a selfish, cruel, foolish child. This Ralph Izard was formed by nature to be a good and honorable man, as most men are; but his Carolina education had sadly cramped and perverted him, giving him fantastic notions of "honor," and developing chiefly that false pride for which the people of slave states and countries have always been noted, and upon which they plume themselves. He was, probably, the most passionate man then living; no considerations of prudence or decency could ever restrain the expression of his anger. "Mr. Izard," says John Adams, "was the most passionate, and in his passions the most violent and unbridled in his expressions of any man I ever knew." The breaking out of the revolution found him, also, a resident of London, where he had been living since 1771, much in the confidence of the Americans and their whig friends. It was he who witnessed the outrage upon Franklin in the Cock Pit, and afterwards censured him for not having assaulted Wedderburn on the spot, as he declared he would have done in similar circumstances. He came to Paris early in the War, and the same packet which brought William Lee his twofold commission, conveyed to Ralph Izard an appointment of envoy to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who was a brother of the queen of France, and a son of the empress of Austria. The same reasons which prevented William Lee from going to Vienna kept Ralph Izard from visiting Florence. He resided in Paris during the whole period of his holding the commission, and, beyond making an unsuc cessful attempt to borrow money in Italy, rendered his country no service in Europe. From the first, he was in accord with Arthur Lee. Like Lee, he hated Frenchmen and France. Like Lee, he was at feud with Silas Deane and Beaumarchais. Like Lee, he cooled towards Dr. Franklin, and his coolness grew ever cooler. How entirely he coincided with Lee may be seen from two or three sentences from one of his letters to the President of Congress, dated April 1st, 1778: "I shall avoid entering into any particulars respecting Mr. Deane, and shall only in general give you my opinion of him, which is, that if the whole world had been searched, I think it would have been impossible to have found one on every account more unfit for the office into which he has by the storm and convulsions of the times been shaken. I am under the fullest persuasion that the court of France might long ago have been induced to stand forth in our favor, if America had had proper representatives at that court. I must repeat what I have done in some former letters, that whatever good dispositions were shown by Mr. Lee, they were always opposed and overruled by the two eldest commissioners." This was ignorance and malevolence combined in about equal proportions. Touching Mr. Izard's personal and particular grievance, we shall have to speak further in a future page. He was ripe for collision with Dr. Franklin long before the close of 1777.
THOMAS MORRIS. This was the person originally appointed by the Committee of Secret Correspondence to reside at Nantes, as the commercial agent of the United States, and to him was intrusted the fund of ten thousand pounds designed for the subsistence of the three envoys at Paris. It was an appointment that brought disgrace upon America, infinite trouble upon the envoys, ruin and death upon the agent. Dr. Franklin brought with him from Philadelphia the commission of this miserable man, who came to receive it from London, where he had been living for several months — a man about town. He proceeded immediately to Nantes, where he abandoned himself, at once, to the most sottish debauchery, totally neglecting, for weeks at a time, the duties of his place. "In his paroxysms of intemperance and debauchery," wrote Mr. Deane, "he was unfit for all business, and shut up from all access; these paroxysms usually lasted for several weeks together without a single hour's omission, and there were but very short intervals between the termination of one paroxysm and the commencement of another."
Thomas Morris was a younger brother of Robert Morris, famous as one of the first of colonial merchants, a leading member of Congress, the soul of the Secret Committee, afterwards the self-sacrificing financier who enabled General Washington to transport his army to Yorktown and Lord Cornwallis. It was he who procured the appointment of his brother to the agency; and upon him, of course, would fall a great part of the disgrace of that brother's misconduct. In writing, therefore, to the Secret Committee upon the subject, Mr. Deane did not enter into particulars, but spoke vaguely of the "irregularities" of the agent, and added that he must he recalled. Unhappily, Mr. Robert Morris took offense at these words, conceiving that Mr. Deane should have given him private information of his brother's misdeeds. He had also received an intimation that Mr. Deane and Dr. Franklin desired the office for a protégé of their own; an intimation which may be found twenty times repeated in the letters of Arthur Lee. Mr. Morris, when at length he was made acquainted with the truth of this sad affair, explained in a letter to the President of Congress, which has recently been disinterred and printed, how he was led into disbelieving Mr. Deane, as well as how he came to recommend the appointment of a person so unworthy of public employment:
"Mr. Thomas Morris and myself," he said, "are descended from a father, whose virtue and whose memory I have ever revered with the most filial piety. Our mothers were not the same, and this youth was born after our father's decease, without any sufficient provision made for his maintenance. The tender regard I bore to the parent, I determined when very young to extend to his offspring, and no sooner had I fixed myself in the world than I took charge of this brother. I gave him the best education that could be obtained in Philadelphia, and took as much care of his morals as my time and capacity enabled. When he was arrived at a proper age, I took him into my counting-house to instruct him in the profession from which he was to draw his future support. In this situation he remained about three years, during which time he discovered on all occasions a good understanding, sound judgment, and clear head, with remarkable facility in dispatching business. His behavior was then modest and innocent, his heart pure, and he possessed a mind strongly actuated by principles of honor; at least these were the opinions I had formed, and such was the character be bore amongst his own acquaintance; from hence I formed the most pleasing expectation, and saw but one source from whence any reverse could spring. This was a fondness he early discovered of being the head of his company, a disposition more dangerous to youth than any other, and which in fact has been his ruin. This it was that first led him to seek improper company, who, readily granting him the pre-eminence he delighted in, soon carried him into the practice of their follies and vices. When I discovered this to be the case, and found that advice had not its proper weight, and thinking frequent exercise of authority might be dangerous, I fell on the expedient of sending him to Spain (in order to break off his connection with worthless companions), and there placed him in an eminent counting-house, where he gained much knowledge and experience, and where he acquired the French and Spanish languages so as to write and speak both with great fluency. At a proper season I recalled him to America, and took him a partner in our house, promising myself assistance and relief from his abilities and expected assiduity, and for some time had great satisfaction in him; but unfortunately his former associates found him out and again led him astray.
"At this period the commercial business of America was interrupted by certain resolutions of Congress, and, fearing that idle time and these associates would bring him to ruin, I determined on sending him to Europe well recommended, with money in his pocket, in hopes to open his mind, extend his ideas, and give him a habit of keeping and seeking good company. He traveled through Spain, Italy, and into France, with reputation kept by means of introductions. I procured for him the best company in every place he went to, and I had the pleasure to receive many letters from my friends as well as from himself in the most satisfactory style. These letters, his assurances, and those from some friends on his behalf, regained my confidence, and I judged he had now arrived at the period of proper reflection; for such usually happens to young people who have been too volatile in the first stages of manhood. At this period it happened that a commercial agent became necessary to have a general superintendency of the public business in Europe. My brother was then in France (as I thought), possessed of my good opinion; and, reflecting that he was qualified for that agency by his education in two counting-houses, where he had seen and executed much business, by his perfect knowledge of the languages, and by his being connected with some of the best mercantile houses in Europe, and known to many more, I was prompted to offer his services to the committee, firmly believing he would be extremely useful, and do honor to himself and me. Here I must observe that no part of his conduct had ever given me the least cause to suspect any want of integrity or breach of honor. Therefore, the only doubts I did or could entertain were, whether he would bestow that attention that he ought to this business; and for this I depended on the assurances he had given in his letters of a faithful execution of any commands I might lay on him. The committee, of which Dr. Franklin was then a member, was pleased to accept the offer, and on the doctor's going to France, he promised me to become a friend and adviser to my brother if he found it necessary. Mr. Deane had promised this before his departure, and to make me acquainted with his conduct. I reposed myself in confidence that he could not do any harm (as I should soon hear how he managed, and could act accordingly), and he might do much good. At the same time that I recommended him to the agency, I intrusted him to collect the debts due to our house in Europe, and pay the balances we might owe there; and since then have continued to employ him in the management of our own business….
"It happened very unfortunately that, about the time Thomas Morris was appointed in America to this agency, he had gone from France to London, where, totally unable to withstand the tempting scenes of pleasure that sink of iniquity affords, he gave in to the pursuit with an eagerness (as I am now informed) that debauched his mind and laid the foundation for all that has since happened. He was in London at the time his letters of appointment arrived at Paris. Mr. Deane sent for him. He came and promised a faithful attention to business; he repaired to Nantes, and finding Mr. Penet had been intrusted with a contract for public business, part of which had been executed, he readily fell into the proposals made by that house and became a party in it, but on what terms I do not know; consequently he put the public business into their hands which was not inconsistent with the instructions under which he acted). Whilst things were in this train in France, I received a letter from the gentleman in Cadiz with whom my brother had lived, a worthy man, who had great regard for him and wished to promote his welfare. He gave me reason to suppose his conduct in London had been out of character, and this gave the first alarm to my fears.
"In consequence of which, I wrote letters on the 31st January last to Mr. Deane, to Mr. Ross, and to Mr. Thomas Morris, informing them of this intelligence, and pressing their immediate care of, and attention to, the public business, should he neglect it. I requested my friend Ross to visit France on purpose to watch and inform me truly what was his conduct, and insisted to my brother that if he had been guilty of any neglect of duty or misconduct in discharge of his public trust, that he should resign it into the hands of Mr. Deane or Mr. Ross, empowering them regularly to act for him until new arrangements were made. This done, I awaited impatiently for the event…. By the return of one of our ships came letters from the commissioners, saying, to the best of my remembrance, 'that Mr. Thomas Morris must be immediately displaced from his agency,' and another, quoting the paragraph of Dr. Lee's letter from Bordeaux. Having no private letter then from Mr. Deane on this subject, I was astonished at the style of these to Congress; for, supposing my brother guilty of some inattention, which was the most I did suppose, I could not think it right to blast entirely a young man's reputation that was just setting out in the world, merely because he was fond of pleasure; and as the letters he had written respecting the business under his care were full and clear, they were produced to Congress in his justification, and to prevent any hasty measures. I then related to Congress the substance of what I have now written, but not so fully; and many members, as well as myself, were surprised at the affair as it then stood. In consequence of what the commissioners had wrote, I referred myself to Mr. Thomas Morris's private letters more particularly. I found there was no good understanding between Mr. Deane and him (but of Doctor Franklin he wrote respectfully), and he intimated that Mr. Deane was privately his enemy. Not trusting, however, to his letters, I applied to several persons that came from Nantes, who assured me there was nothing amiss in his conduct that they knew or heard of; but more particularly, one person who had transacted business with him. This gentleman assured me over and over that he lived two months in the house with my brother; that he saw him assiduous, attentive, and industrious; that if it had not been for him, the business of those ships would not have been done in any reasonable time, and that I might depend my brother would give entire satisfaction; at least he was fully persuaded of this. He said he knew well there were persons in France that envied his appointment, and would leave nothing undone to have him displaced, and particularly mentioned Mr. Williams, who he heard was nephew to one, and concerned in trade with another, of the commissioners, as the person intended to supply his place." (5)
Acting upon these impressions, Mr. Morris wrote angrily to Mr. Deane; "I think those public letters," he said, "were cruel to my brother and extremely unfriendly to myself. I shall inform him of them, and if he has spirit to resent them, I hope he will also have judgment to do it properly." The letter from which these words are taken, he inclosed open to his brother, asking him to read it before sending it to Mr. Deane. He accompanied it, however, with a few sentences of caution to himself: "As to what I have said about your resenting their letters, I think you had best not think of any thing of that kind, lest your past behavior will not support you in doing it; and the best satisfaction you can have will be by holding your post under such good conduct as will deter them from attacking you again. "
Upon receiving this packet, the drunken wretch resolved to convey the letter to Paris himself, and "resent" the conduct of the envoys in their very presence. Mr. Deane related to Mr. Robert Morris what occurred in consequence of this doughty resolution. "Mr. Morris, September 27th, called on me and said he had a letter from you which, though directed to me, respected the commissioners, and therefore he chose to deliver it in the presence of Dr. Franklin. I thereupon conducted him to the doctor's apartments, and he delivered the letter to him. It was open, very much worn and dirty, and the cover in which it was wrapped, without being sealed, was superscribed in the handwriting of Mr. T. Morris. After Dr. Franklin had read the letter, Mr. T. Morris told us we had written to Congress more than was true respecting his conduct; that the Congress were of this opinion, and that he should hereafter despise us, and treat us with the greatest contempt, adding other insulting expressions, not necessary to be repeated; to all which my venerable colleague made this reply: 'It gives me pleasure to be respected by men who are themselves respectable, but I am indifferent to the sentiments of those of a different character, and I only wish that your future conduct may be such as to entitle you to the approbation of your honorable constituents.' On parting, Mr. T. Morris told us he had shown the letter to all whom he thought his friends, and having copied it, he should continue to show it in the same manner. How public it may soon be made by him, or those he communicated it to, I know not, but I am apprehensive that many who are neither friends to him nor to America have already seen it, and that this indiscreet exposure of it may give our enemies an opportunity of using it to strengthen their accounts of our internal divisions and animosities. I must also inform you that Mr. Penet, pretending to have received intelligence from you of what I wrote to Congress concerning him, has had the assurance to send me, open, by Mr. T. Morris, an insulting and menacing letter, which had also been shown in the same manner." (6)
Here was a coil! And, worse than this, no money could be got from the agent, who began now to draw from the public coffers the means of sustaining his debauchery. Happily his shameful career was short. Early in 1778, after a series of desperate paroxysms of intemperance, he died, leaving Mr. William Lee sole agent. His brother, on learning the truth, handsomely apologized to the envoys for the annoyance he had caused them. "It adds very much," he wrote to Congress, "to the distress and unhappiness this unworthy young man has involved me in, to think I should have passed censures on Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane (Doctor Lee was not mentioned), which they did not deserve. I did it under a deception that most men of feeling would have fallen into, and I shall as freely own it to them as I do to you, holding it more honorable to acknowledge an error and atone for any injuries produced by it, than with a vindictive spirit to persist, because you happen to have committed it. My distress is more than I can describe; to think that in the midst of the most ardent exertions I was capable of making to promote the interest and welfare of my country, I should be the means of introducing a worthless wretch to disgrace and discredit it, is too much to bear." (7)
From this time to the end of the war, Mr. Morris remained one of Franklin's stanchest friends.
JONATHAN WILLIAMS. One of Dr. Franklin's Boston nephews, once a clerk in the law office of John Adams. On Dr. Franklin's arrival in France he came from London, where he had been employed as upper or confidential clerk in a sugar house, to visit his uncle; and, while in Paris, offered to serve the envoys for his country's sake, in any capacity in which he could earn a subsistence. Every thing being in confusion at Nantes at the beginning of 1777, Mr. Deane asked him to go to that seaport, and endeavor to extricate from chaos the goods, the cargoes, the prizes, belonging to the United States. He acquitted himself so well, that the true friends of America at Nantes urged the envoys to keep him there. The excesses of Thomas Morris and the absence of William Lee obliged them to employ some one at Nantes, and Mr. Williams was retained. Morris objecting, the envoys, July 4th,  1777, gave him a commission to take charge of naval affairs at the port, i. e., the prizes, the refitting of the men-of-war, the purchase of naval stores and provisions, leaving to Morris the business that was merely commercial. Mr. Williams remained at Nantes for more than a year, doing a vast amount of difficult and delicate work, at a rate of compensation exceedingly moderate, to the satisfaction of two of the envoys, and to the great contentment of the gallant captains with whom he had to do; Arthur Lee omitting no opportunity to insinuate that he was a cheating villain, known to be such by Dr. Franklin, who winked at his delinquencies because he was his nephew. It was a pet conviction of Lee, that Jonathan Williams and Silas Deane fitted out privateers with the public money, and, having sold the prizes, shared the proceeds.
WILLIAM CARMICHAEL. This gentleman, a member of the disguished Maryland family of that name, and a man of fortune, chanced to be at Paris, on his way to America, when Mr. Deane arrived there in July, 1776. Becoming intimate with Deane, he perceived his distress from the want of a secretary, and offered to delay his return to America, and devote himself to his assistance. Mr. Deane joyfully accepting the offer, Carmichael remained in the capacity of secretary for more than a year, rendering invaluable service both at Paris and at the seaports. Neither of the envoys, it must be remembered, could personally appear at the ports; since that would have given countenance to Lord Stormont's assertions, that the cargoes of arms were designed for the American Insurgents. Hence the necessity of having young, unknown men of tact and fidelity, like William Carmichael and Jonathan Williams, to aid in getting the ships to sea. Mr. Carmichael, whose letters show him to have been a man of sagacity, of ardent patriotism, and uncommonly fertile in expedients, served his country well in France under the direction of Mr. Deane. It was he who first suggested (many weeks before Dr. Franklin's arrival) the scheme of attacking some British seaport. He also entered con amore into the game of deluding Lord Stormont. An item in the bill of expenses of one of his journeys, was this:
"Paid a woman at Dunkirk for complaining to the French admiralty that the English commissary, Frayer, had enticed her husband, a French pilot, into the British service, two guineas." (8) A mode of saying to the British Government, "You're another," which, Punch informs us, is the "end of all argument." The English ministry, it appears, considered Mr. Carmichael worth buying, and rated him at a high price. In the spring of 1777 an agent of the ministry assured him that "the English Administration saw through the designs of the House of Bourbon, saw that they meant to weaken us both, and by that means command us," and that England was willing to offer peace to America on the basis of 1763, repealing all the obnoxious acts since passed. The agent then offered Mr. Carmichael "an affluent income, to be secured to him in any part of the world he might choose," if he would use his best endeavors to induce his countrymen to accept those terms — "the affluent income" to be his, whether he succeeded or not. (9) Mr. Carmichael rejected the offer in becoming terms.
He was of the anti-Lee party. "The age of Dr. Franklin," he wrote in July, 1777, "in some measure hinders him from taking so active a part in the drudgery of business, as his great zeal and abilities would otherwise enable him to execute. He is the Master to whom we children in politics all look up for counsel, and whose name is everywhere a passport to be well received." Mr. Carmichael was also a particular friend of Beaumarchais. Need I add, then, that the "Rogue Lee" (as Beaumarchais styled the amiable Arthur) regarded Mr. Carmichael as Iago regarded Michael Cassio, or Shylock Antonio? Truly the wrath of Arthur Lee burned against this worthy son of Maryland, and he traduced him, in his letters to America, much in the manner of jealous Iago; and this, notwithstanding they had been college companions in bygone years. "I could wish to guard you particularly against Mr. Carmichael, of whose art and enmity I have had sufficient proofs to make me distrust him for the future," — is a specimen of the mode in which Lee was accustomed to write of his old acquaintance in 1777. There are far worse passages than this in Lee's letters, but I have not patience to copy them. Suffice it to say, that he wrote of Carmichael just as he wrote of Franklin, Deane, Beaumarchais, Chaumont, Williams, Conyngham, Paul Jones, William Franklin, and every other man in France who really helped America in her struggle for independence. All these gentlemen, according to Arthur Lee, had nothing in view, in all that they pretended to do for America, but the dishonest filling of their own pockets. With Carmichael, also, Mr. Lee continued to associate familiarly, and dine, through the whole of the year 1777. This we learn from Lee's own diary.
CARON BE BEAUMARCHAIS. It was upon Beaumarchais that Arthur Lee reeked the fellest and the longest vengeance. During the greater part of 1777, the indefatigable representative of Roderique Hortalez and Co. continued to labor in behalf of Congress, sending off ship after ship laden with arms, ammunition, and clothing, But he received no tobacco, no rice, no indigo, no money, in return; nor even a letter of acknowledgment. The Count de Vergennes sustained the credit of the House by granting another million; which enabled Beaumarchais to wait still longer. But when the year slipped by without his having received from Congress any sign that they knew of his existence, he dissuaded the Firm from sending any more cargoes to America, and devoted him self to the business of getting payment for those already dispatched. The sole cause of this mischief was Arthur Lee, who, in order to ruin Beaumarchais, did not scruple to write home, not insinuations merely, but falsehoods pure and simple; conscious, deliberate, and malicious falsehoods. He knew that the French ministry had changed their original plan of sending money and stores direct to Congress, and that, in consequence of this change, Beaumarchais had set up a commercial house in order to accomplish the same end without risk of premature war with England. Nevertheless, we find him writing confidentially to Congress such passages as this: "Mr. de Vergennes, the minister and his secretary, have repeatedly assured us that no return was expected for the cargoes sent by Beaumarchais. This gentleman is not a merchant; he is known to be a political agent, employed by the court of France." And again: "The ministry has often given us to understand that we had nothing to pay for the cargoes supplied by Beaumarchais; however, the latter, with the perseverance of adventurers of his kind, persists in his demands." Professor de Loménie, the able and judicious biographer of Beaumarchais, is justified in pronouncing this assertion “a remarkable falsehood." The invaluable documents published by him demonstrate that the Count de Vergennes and his Secretary, M. Gerard, uniformly held language of precisely the opposite tenor, and took almost as much interest in Beaumarchais' claims upon Congress as though they were to share in the proceeds of those claims! Count de Vergennes could not have made a statement of this kind to any one without at once betraying and abandoning the policy of his court; least of all, could he have made it to Arthur Lee, whom Beaumarchais had early taught him to distrust and despise. Lee's assertion, repeated by every opportunity, placed both Deane and Beaumarchais in the most cruel predicament; Deane, because he supported Beaumarchais' claim, and thus gave plausibility to Lee's insinuation that there was a corrupt understanding between them: Beaumarchais, because he could get no return cargoes. Deane could not, and Beaumarchais dared not, explain the true nature of the House of Hortalez. He dared not say that it differed from other houses of business only in the fact that the king of France had furnished the capital, and that for the use of that capital he was only accountable to the king of France. He could merely exhibit his contract with Mr. Deane, send in his bill, and demand payment; which would have been enough, if Lee had not continually written, in effect: "Never mind him, gentlemen; he is a dramatist, who is only playing merchant; it is all a fiction, to disguise the generosity of the king from the prying eyes of the British ambassador. Don't send him a pound of tobacco." (10) Beaumarchais would have been ruined if the French government had not given other business to the firm of Hortalez and Co., which enabled him to send to sea whole fleets of ships, and keep his ten horses and three coachmen.
Attributing the silence and delay of Congress to the artifices of the "rogue Lee," he sent over to America, at the close of 1777, his nephew, Francy, to set his affairs right with Congress. Another nephew was already in America, fighting under General Washington. In his letter of instructions to Francy he wrote[,] "I believe in the good feeling and equity of the Congress, as in my own and yours. Its deputies over here are not in easy circumstances, and want often renders men deficient in delicacy: that is how I explain the injustice they have endeavored to do me. I do not despair even of gaining them over by the calmness of my representations, and the firmness of my conduct. It is very unfortunate, my friend, for this cause, that its interests in France should have been intrusted to several persons at once. One alone would have succeeded much better, and, as far as I am concerned, I owe Mr. Deane the justice to say, that he is both ashamed and grieved at the conduct of his colleagues toward me, the fault of which lies altogether with Mr. Lee."
It thus appears that he deemed Franklin also an opponent of his claims. It is certain that Dr. Franklin never understood the nature of the connection between Beaumarchais and the French government. No one ever did, or could, except the parties concerned, until the publication, seven years ago, of M. de Loménie's work, "Beaumarchais and his Times." It appears, also, that Dr. Franklin did not, at this time, know the terms of the contract between Beaumarchais and Deane, or that there was a formal, written contract between them at all. It is probable, too, as M. de Loménie suggests, that he had imbibed a prejudice against the histrionic merchant from his old friend Dr. Dubourg, as well as from the ceaseless and point-blank assertions of Arthur Lee. It does not appear, however, that he took any active part in opposing Beaumarchais' claims upon Congress. Regarding the affair as one of the cabinet mystifications natural to the false and tortuous politics of the time and situation, not intended to be precisely understood by him, he seems to have simply let it alone, having plenty of other business on his hands.
No one can be blamed for not understanding a man who is absolutely unique. M. de Loménie's work upon Beaumarchais presents to our consideration a specimen of human kind so entirely peculiar, that only a master in biography, like himself, could have rendered him credible; nor could he, without the aid of vast stores of the very best material. It is the union in the same character of solid, practical, efficient merit, with the qualities of the consummate charlatan, that renders Beaumarchais so puzzling a personage. If he wrote like Mr. Skimpole in Bleak House, he acted like a small, practical Napoleon, who, also, had a touch of the histrionic in his composition. As another illustration of his various traits, take the plan devised by him of getting his last ship safe to Philadelphia. He had solemnly promised the timid old minister, M. de Maurepas, that the ship should go to St. Domingo, and return to France without having touched at any part of the American continent. This inconvenient promise he communicates to Francy, and then proceeds in the following strain:
"The cargo of this vessel is of much importance to the Congress and myself. It consists of soldiers' coats ready made, of sheets, blankets, etc. It also conveys artillery to the extent of sixty-six bronze cannons, of which four pieces carry thirty-three pounds, twenty-four pieces twenty-four pounds, twenty pieces sixteen pounds, and the rest twelve and eight pounds; besides thirty-three pieces of artillery carrying four pounds, making altogether a hundred bronze cannons, in addition to a great many other things.
"After much thinking, it has occurred to me that you might arrange secretly with the Secret Committee of the Congress to send immediately one or two American privateers up to St. Domingo. One of them will send his shallop to Cape Français, or will make the signal agreed upon long since for all American ships coming to the Cape, that is to say, he will hoist a white streamer, display the Dutch flag at the mainmast, and fire three guns; then M. Carabasse (agent of Beaumarchais) will go on board with M. de Montaut, captain of my vessel, 'Le Fier Roderigue.' They will arrange so, that on my vessel going out, the American privateer may seize it, under no matter what pretext, and take it away. My captain will protest violently, and will draw up a written statement threatening to make his complaint to the Congress. The vessel will be taken where you are. The Congress will loudly disavow the action of the brutal privateer, and will set the vessel at liberty, with polite apologies to the French flag; during this time you will land the cargo, fill the ship with tobacco, and send it back to me as quickly as possible, with all you may happen to have ready to accompany it. As M. Carmichael is very rapid, you will have time to arrange this maneuver either with the Congress or with the captain of some privateer who is a friend of yours, and discreet. By this means M. de Maurepas finds himself liberated from his promise to those who have received it, and I from mine towards him, for no one can do any thing against violence, and my operation will meet with success in spite of all the obstacles by which my labors have been so thickly attended."
Such was Caron de Beaumarchais, unique among merchants and men. Whether it was by those or by other maneuvers that this ship was enabled to reach America, no one has informed us. Certain it is that she arrived safely at Yorktown in Virginia, and was loaded with tobacco for her return. I trust M. de Maurepas was satisfied. We leave him, for the present, to struggle with the "obstacles" that so "thickly attended" him.
DR. EDWARD BANCROFT. A native of Massachusetts, long settled in London as physician, author, and contributor to periodicals. Mr. Adams, who loved him not, tells us that he was a pupil of Silas Deane when that gentleman was a Connecticut schoolmaster, and that, being afterwards apprenticed to a trade, he ran away to sea, as so many Yankee boys did at that day. He held no public or avowed appointment from Congress during the revolution, but he was continually flitting between London and Paris, bringing to the envoys such information as he could gather concerning the plans of the British ministry. He was an old London acquaintance of Franklin, and enjoyed both in London and Paris the particular antipathy of Arthur Lee. It was Mr. Lee's opinion that Dr. Bancroft made immense sums of money by speculating in the stock market on the secrets obtained from the American envoys. In the summer of 1777, being suspected by the British government of a participation in the attempt to burn Portsmouth dockyard, he fled to Passy, and passed several months in Dr. Franklin's house, chiefly employed in assisting Mr. Deane, but occasionally making a rapid journey to London. Dr. Bancroft was highly esteemed at Versailles, and was intrusted with the secrets of the American embassy.
CHARLES W. F. DUMAS. This worthy gentleman, secret agent of Congress at the Hague, continued his services to the end of the war, and for some years after. Though removed from the sphere of Lee's malign activity, he was not exempt from calumny and quarrel; both the Lees having united in misrepresenting him to Congress. Arthur Lee's ground of offense was, that Mr. Dumas, in some of his contributions to the Leyden Gazette, had praised Dr. Franklin at his expense. The Lees, however, never quite succeeded in procuring his dismissal, though they contrived to keep his salary insufficient. That he might devote his whole energies to the service of America, Mr. Dumas gave up various employments that yielded him more than the salary paid him by Congress, which was about twelve hundred dollars a year. He was sorely pinched by poverty, for his journeys, his expresses, and postages were exceedingly expensive. He labored, however, with unflagging zeal, proud of the cause and the country he served. The King of France solaced his old age by a pension of fifteen hundred francs, Congress having neglected to provide for him. Imagine him at the Hague, during these years, corresponding with the envoys at Paris and with Congress, trying hard to prevail upon Dutch merchants to lend money to the United States, prying into the movements of the British embassador, looking after the frigate which the envoys were building at a Dutch port, writing articles for the newspapers and doing all that in him lay to promote the interests of America and of man. An honest, modest, zealous, learned, indefatigable agent.
WILLIAM TEMPLE FRANKLIN. This young gentleman approve himself an exact, industrious, and skillful secretary. Of elegant person and graceful manners, speaking French well, and having inherited much of his grandfather's gayety and humor, young Mr. Franklin was welcome in the cabinet of M. de Vergennes, and in the salons of Paris. Congress, neglecting to appoint or provide for a secretary, Dr. Franklin allowed him, for the first year, six hundred and fifty dollars; the second, eight hundred; the third, nine hundred; the fourth, twelve hundred; and afterwards, fifteen hundred dollars a year. Few secretaries have earned their salaries by harder or more various labor; for Dr. Franklin was diplomatist, banker, commercial agent, naval commissioner, consul, and philosopher, and in each of these capacities required, occasionally, his grandson's aid. So busy were they both, that there were whole seasons in which neither of them could snatch a day's holiday. The faction of the Lees did not spare even this diligent and harmless youth, who was the solace and stay of Franklin's long exile. So much prejudice was excited against him in Congress, that his appointment as secretary to the mission was not officially recognized, and efforts were made, by and by, to insult and wound the grandfather by removing the young man from his place. Such evil could one perverted mind effect! Such was the spirit of Secession eighty-five years ago!
MRS. PATIENCE WRIGHT. The mention of young Franklin calls to mind this venerable lady, who rendered Dr. Franklin some aid during his residence in France, and of whom his grandson has preserved the memory. Mrs. Patience Wright, reports William Temple Franklin, was a very extraordinary woman. Though born and reared in Philadelphia, she was a niece of John Wesley, and inherited a share of the indomitable resolution of the family. She was early distinguished in Philadelphia as a modeler in wax (the Madame Tussaud of her day), and, a few years before the revolution, though well advanced in years, brought her famous collection of figures to London, where she gained a good deal of money by exhibiting them. She also modeled in wax the busts of eminent persons in England, which gave her access, sometimes, to important information. A stanch American and whig, and an old Philadelphia acquaintance of Dr. Franklin, she communicated to him every item and rumor which she could gather in the great houses which she frequented. No sooner did she hear of the appointment of a new general, the fitting out of a fleet, the embarking of forces, or the arrival of dispatches, than she busied herself with gleaning details. "The old lady," says Temple, "found means of access to some family where she could get information, and thus, without being at all suspected, she contrived to transmit an account of the number of the troops, and the place of their destination, to her political friends abroad. She, at one time, had frequent access to Buckingham House; and used, it was said, to speak her sentiments very freely to their Majesties, who were amused with her originality. The great Lord Chatham honored her with his visits, and she took his likeness, which appears in Westminister Abbey."
One of Dr. Franklin's letters to this remarkable dame is interesting because it reveals to us the pleasant terms upon which he lived with his merry grandson. The old lady had written to him for advice as to her exhibiting her works at Paris, and then returning to America from a French seaport. He dissuades her from both projects; and, having finished his letter, adds this humorous postscript: "My grandson, whom you may remember when a little saucy boy at school, being my amanuensis in writing the within letter, has been diverting me with his remarks. He conceives that your figures cannot be packed up without damage from any thing you could fill the boxes with to keep them steady. He supposes, therefore, that you must put them into post-chaises, two and two, which will make a long train upon the road, and be a very expensive conveyance; but as they will eat nothing at the inns, you may the better afford it. When they come to Dover, he is sure they are so like life and nature, that the master of the packet will not receive them on board without passes; which you will do well therefore to take out from the secretary's office, before you leave London; where they will cost you only the modest price of two guineas and sixpence each, which you will pay without grumbling, because you are sure the money will never be employed against your country. It will require, he says, five or six of the long wicker French stage-coaches to carry them as passengers from Calais to Paris, and a ship with good accommodations to convey them to America; where all the world will wonder at your clemency to Lord North; that, having it in your power to hang, or send him to the lighters, you had generously reprieved him for transportation."
Besides the persons already mentioned, there were other Americans, or friends of America, in Europe, who had more or less to do with Dr. Franklin; such as Simeon Deane, brother of the envoy; J. J. Pringle, secretary to Ralph Izard; Hodge and Allen, merchants; a nephew of Arthur Lee at school; the secretaries of Arthur Lee and William Lee. What employment Izard or William Lee could have found for a private secretary is difficult to conjecture, since they differed from private gentlemen in little more than the peculiarity of drawing from the treasury of Congress two thousand guineas a year each. Neither of them saw the capitals to which they were accredited.
These, then, were the persons composing the American circle of which Dr. Franklin was the center and chief. The two hostile parties were about equal in numbers; but on the side of the Lees were three individuals holding the rank of envoy or commissioner, and having access to the mind of Congress, namely, Arthur Lee, William Lee, and Ralph Izard. During the greater part of the year 1777 Dr. Franklin, who abhorred nothing more than altercation, and who felt deeply the necessity of harmony among the envoys, succeeded in ignoring the controversy, and lived on terms of civility with the men who were traducing him and his friends in every private letter they wrote to America. For his own part, he never mentioned the names of these insidious foes in his letters home, whether public or private, until the quarrel was known to all the world.
1. Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, i., 231.
2. An American paper, the New Jersey Gazette, of nearly the same date, published the following: "October 2d. A correspondent in Paris says: 'When Doctor Franklin appears abroad, it is more like a public than a private gentleman; and the curiosity of the people to see him is so great, that he may be said to be followed by a genteel mob. A friend of mine paid something for a place at a two-pair-of-stairs window to see him pass by in his coach, but the crowd was so great that he could but barely say he saw him.'
"We are well assured (adds the New Jersey editor) that Dr. Franklin, whose knowledge in philosophical sciences is universally allowed, and who has carried the powers of electricity to a greater length than any of his contemporaries, intends shortly to produce an electrical machine, of such wonderful force that instead of giving a slight stroke to the elbows of fifty or a hundred thousand men, who are joined hand in hand, it will give a violent shock even to nature herself, so as to disunite kingdoms, join islands to continents, and render men of the same nation strangers and enemies to each other; and that by a certain chemical preparation from oil, he will be able to smooth the waves of the sea in one part of the globe, and raise tempests and whirlwinds in another, so as to be universally acknowledged for the greatest physician, politician, mathematician, and philosopher, this day living."
3. "Deane Papers," p. 46.
4. "Life of Arthur Lee," i., 348.
5. "Materials for History," p. 78.
6. Deane Papers, p. 121.
7. Materials for History, p. 85.
8. Deane Papers, p. 136.
9. Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, ix., 313.
10. The following is an extract from one of Arthur Lee's letters to the Foreign Committee, dated October 6, 1777. It is an ingenious and most telling perversion: "Upon the subject of returns, I think it my duty to state to you some facts relative to the demands of this kind from Hortalez. The gentleman who uses this name came to me, about a year and a half ago, in London, as an agent from this court, and wishing to communicate something to Congress. At our first interview he informed me that the court of France wished to send an aid to America of £200,000 sterling in specie, arms, and ammunition, and that all they wanted was to know through which island it was best to make the remittance, and that Congress should be apprised of it. We settled the Cape as the place, and he urged me by no means to omit giving the earliest intelligence of it, with information that it would be remitted in the name of Hortalez. At our next meeting he desired me to request that a small quantity of tobacco or some other production might be sent to the Cape, to give it the air of a mercantile transaction, repeating over and over again, that it was for a cover only, and not for payment, as the remittance was gratuitous. Of all this I informed Dr. Franklin, by sundry opportunities. At the same time I stated to Monsieur Hortalez that if his court would dispatch eight or ten ships of the line to our aid, it would enable us to destroy all the British fleet, and decide the question at one stroke. I repeated this to him in a letter after his return to Paris, to which the answer was. that there was not spirit enough in his court for such an exertion, but that he was hastening the promised succors. Upon Mr. Deane's arrival the business went into his hands, and the aids were at length embarked in the Amphitrite, Mercure, and Seine."
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