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detained there seventeen days, or we should have had these advices sooner. We learn however through England, where they have news from New York to the 4th of February, that in Lord Cornwallis's retreat to New Brunswic two regiments of his rear guard were cut to pieces; that, General Washington having got round him to Newark and Elizabethtown, he had retired to Amboy in his way to New York; that General Howe had called in the garrisons of Fort Lee and Fort Constitution, which were now possessed by our people; that, on the New York side, Forts Washington and Independence were retaken by our troops, and that the British forces at Rhode Island were recalled for the defence of New York. The Committee in their letters mention the intention of Congress to send ministers to the courts of Wienna, Tuscany, Holland, and Prussia. They also send us a fresh commission, containing your name instead of Mr. Jefferson's, with this additional clause, “and also to enter into, and agree upon a treaty with His Most Christian Majesty, or such other person or persons as shall be by him authorized for that purpose, for assistance in carrying on the present war between Great Britain and these United States.” The same clause is in a particular commission they have sent me, to treat with the court of Spain, similar to our common commission to the court of France;” and I am accordingly directed to go to Spain; but, as I know that choice was made merely on the supposition of my being a little known there to the great personage for whom you have my letter, (a circumstance of little importance), and I am really unable through age to bear the fatigue and inconveniences of such a journey, I must excuse myself to Congress, and join with Mr. Deane in requesting you to proceed in the business on the former footing, till you can receive a particular commission from Congress, which will no doubt be sent as soon as the circumstances are known. We know of no plans or instructions to Mr. Deane but those you have with you. By the packet, indeed, we have some fresh instructions, which relate to your mission, viz. that, in case France and Spain will enter into the war, the United States will assist the former in the conquest of the British sugar islands, and the latter in the conquest of Portugal, promising the assistance of six frigates manned, of not less than twentyfour guns each, and provisions equal to two millions of dollars; America desiring only for her share, what Britain holds on the continent; but you shall by the first safe opportunity have the instructions at length. I believe we must send a courier. If we can, we are ordered to borrow two millions of pounds on interest. Judge then what a piece of service you will do, if you can obtain a considerable subsidy, or even a loan without interest. We are also ordered to build six ships of war. It is a pleasure to find the things ordered, which we were doing without orders.
by the Marquis de Grimaldi, one of the ministers, and succeeded in obtaining from the Spanish government a small amount of money for purchasing military supplies, which were subsequently shipped to the United States from Bilboa. The business was transacted secretly, and the minister declined making any pledges, or entering into any arrangements, in favor of the United States. Mr. Lee returned to Paris, and rejoined the other Commissioners, after an absence of seven weeks. – See Morth American Review, for April, 1830, Vol. XXX. p. 470. * On the 1st of January, 1777, Congress resolved, “That Benjamin Franklin be directed to proceed to the court of Spain, and there transact, in behalf of the United States, such business as shall be intrusted to him by Congress, agreeably to the instructions, that may be given to him, and transmitted by the Committee of Secret Correspondence.” See his Commission in the Secret Journal of Congress, Vol. II. p. 42.
We are also to acquaint the several courts with the determination of America to maintain at all events our independence. You will see, by the date of the resolution relating to Portugal, as well as by the above, that the Congress were stout in the midst of their difficulties. It would be well to sound the court of Spain on the subject of permitting our armed ships to bring prizes into her ports, and there dispose of them. If it can be done openly, in what manner can we be accommodated with the use of their ports, or under what restrictions? This government has of late been a little nice on that head; and the orders to L'Orient have occasioned Captain Wickes some trouble.
We have good advice of our friend at Amsterdam, that, in the height of British pride on their summer success, and just before they heard of any check, the ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, had been ordered to send a haughty memorial to the States, importing that, notwithstanding their promises to restrain their subjects from supplying the rebels, it was notorious, that those supplies were openly furnished by Hollanders at St. Eustatia; and that the governor of that island had returned, from his fort, the salute of a rebel ship of war with an equal number of guns; that his Majesty justly and highly resented these proceedings, and demanded that the States should by more severe provisions restrain that commerce; that they should declare their disapprobation of the insolent behaviour of their governor, and punish him by an immediate recall; otherwise his Majesty, who knows what appertains to the dignity of his crown, would take proper measures to vindicate it; and he required an immediate answer. The States coolly returned the memorial, with only this answer, that, when the respect due to sovereigns was not preserved in a memorial, - it ought not to be expected in an answer. But the
city of Amsterdam took fire at the insolence of it, and instructed their deputies in the States to demand satisfaction by the British court's disavowal of the memorial, and the reprimand of the ambassador. The States immediately demanded a number of men-of-war ships to be in readiness. Perhaps since the bad news has come, England may be civil enough to make up this little difference.
Mr. Deane is still here. You desire our advice about your stopping at Burgos. We are of opinion, that you should comply with the request. While we are asking aid, it is necessary to gratify the desires, and in some sort comply with the humors, of those we apply to. Our business now is to carry our point. But I have never yet changed the opinion I gave in Congress, that a virgin State should preserve the virgin character, and not go about suitoring for alliances, but wait with decent dignity for the applications of others. I was overruled; perhaps for the best.
With the greatest esteem, I am ever, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
TO M. LITH.
Obtrusive Applications. Passy 6 April, 1777. SIR, I have just been honored with a letter from you, dated the 26th past, in which you express yourself as astonished, and appear to be angry, that you have no answer to a letter you wrote me on the 11th of December, which you are sure was delivered to me.
* Passy, the place at which the above letter is dated, is a small town about three miles from Paris, on the banks of the Seine. Dr. Franklin lived there during the whole of his residence in France.
VOL. VIII. 14
In exculpation of myself, I assure you that I never received any letter from you of that date. And indeed, being then but four days landed at Nantes, I think you could scarce have heard so soon of my being in Europe.
But I received one from you of the 8th of January, which I own I did not answer. It may displease you, if I give you the reason; but, as it may be of use to you in your future correspondences, I will hazard that for a gentleman to whom I feel myself obliged, as an American, on account of his good will to our cause.
Whoever writes to a stranger should observe three points. 1. That what he proposes be practicable. 2. His propositions should be made in explicit terms, so as to be easily understood. 3. What he desires should be in itself reasonable. Hereby he will give a favorable impression of his understanding, and create a desire of further acquaintance. Now it happened that you were negligent in all these points; for, first, you desired to have means procured for you of taking a voyage to America “avec sureté”; which is not possible, as the dangers of the sea subsist always, and at present there is the additional danger of being taken by the English. Then you desire that this may be “sans trop grandes dépenses,” which is not intelligible enough to be answered, because, not knowing your ability of bearing expenses, one cannot judge what may be trop grandes. Lastly, you desire letters of address to the Congress and to General Washington; which it is not reasonable to ask of one who knows no more of you, than that your name is Lith, and that you live at Bayreuth.