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intended to be transcribed fairly, and sent to you in the morning. Your secretary called for an answer before I had time to copy it. I had a good deal of company; and, thinking a verbal message might perhaps do as well and save the trouble, I desired him, with my compliments, to acquaint you, that I was ready to settle the account with you at any time you should think fit to appoint, except to-morrow, when I should be otherwise engaged. As this verbal message offended you, though I cannot conceive why, I now send you the letter. In it, I complain of your artful, and, I think I may call them, unjust insinuations. You give me fresh instances in the letter I am answering. You magnify your zeal to have the public accounts settled, and insinuate that Mr. Deane and I prevented it, he by "taking possession of all the vouchers," and both of us by taking constantly the public papers to ourselves, which are the property of all the Commissioners. When this comes to be read in the Committee, for whom it seems to be calculated, rather than for me, who know the circumstances, what can they understand by it, but that you are the only careful, honest man of the three, and that we have some knavish reasons for keeping the accounts in the dark, and you from seeing the vouchers? But the truth is, the papers naturally came into Mr. Deane's hands and mine; first, as he was engaged in the purchasing of goods for the Congress before either you or I came into France; next, as somebody must keep the papers, and you were either on long journeys to Spain, to Vienna and Berlin, or had a commission to go and reside in Spain, which it was expected would soon be executed; whereas Mr. Deane and I lived, almost constantly, in the same house, either at Paris or Passy; you, separate from us; and we did most of the business. Where then could the papers be so properly placed as with us, who had daily occasion to make use of them? I never knew, that you desired to have the keeping of them. You never were refused a paper, or the copy of a paper, that you desired.*
As to my not acquainting you with the opportunity of writing to Congress by Mr. Deane, we had lately wrote, and sent, by probably safe conveyances, all I knew of importance to write. I, therefore, did not propose, nor do I write any letter to the Committee by him, especially as in my opinion, considering the route he was to take, he would not arrive so soon as other vessels, which may sail long after him. And he could himself give as good an account of our being at court, the only public transaction since our last letters, as we could write.
* Mr. Lee's complaints about the official papers, which accumulated in the hands of the Commissioners, did not cease with the departure of Mr. Deane. They continued long after Mr. Adams took the place of that Commissioner. For some time Mr. Adams lived in the same house with Dr. Franklin at Passy. To one of Mr. Lee's letters on this subject, Mr. Adams replied as follows.
"I have not asked Dr. Franklin's opinion concerning your proposal of a room in your house for the papers, and an hour to meet there, because I know it would be in vain; for I think it must appear to him more unequal still. It cannot be expected, that two should go to one, when it is as easy again for one to go to two; not to mention Dr. Franklin's age, his rank in the country, or his character in the world; nor that nine tenths of the public letters are constantly brought to this house, and will ever be carried where Dr. Franklin is. I will venture to make a proposition in my turn, in which I am very sincere j it is that you would join families with us. There is room enough in this house to accommodate us all. You shall take the apartments which belong to me at present, and I will content myself with the library room and the next to it Appoint a room for business, any that you please, mine or another, a person to keep the papers, and certain hours to do business. This arrangement will save a large sum of money to the public, and, as it would give us a thousand opportunities of conversing together, which now we have not, and, by having but one place for our countrymen and others to go to, who have occasion to visit us, would greatly facilitate the public business. It would remove the reproach we lie under, of which I confess myself very much ashamed, of not being able to agree together, and would make the commission more respectable, if not in itself, yet in the estimation of the English, the French, and the American nations; and, I am sure, if we judge by the letters we receive, it wants to be made more respectable, at least in the eyes of many persons of this country."—Po**y, O-lober KWA, 1778.
You ask me, why I act so inconsistently with my duty to the public? This is a heavy charge, Sir, which I have not deserved. But it is to the public, that I am accountable, and not to you. I have been a servant to many publics, through a long life; have served them with fidelity, and have been honored by their approbation. There is not a single instance of my ever being accused before of acting contrary to their interest or my duty. I shall account to the Congress, when called upon, for this my terrible offence of being silent to you about Mr. Deane's and M. Gerard's departure. And I have no doubt of their equity in acquitting me.
It is true, that I have omitted answering some of your letters, particularly your angry ones, in which you, with very magisterial airs, schooled and documented me, as if I had been one of your domestics. I saw in the strongest light the importance of our living in decent civility towards each other, while our great affairs were depending here. I saw your jealous, suspicious, malignant, and quarrelsome temper, which was daily manifesting itself against Mr. Deane and almost every other person you had any concern with. I, therefore, passed your affronts in silence, did not answer, but burnt your angry letters, and received you, when I next saw you, with the same civility, as if you had never wrote them. Perhaps I may still pursue the same conduct, and not send you these. I believe I shall not, unless exceedingly pressed by you; for, of all things, I hate altercation.
One word more about the accounts. You tell me, that my reason for not settling the accounts before, was, that it was not my business; now, it seemed my business only, and Mr. Deane had nothing to do with it. Both these positions are imaginary. I could never have given any such reasons, being always willing to settle accounts with everybody, and not having the least motive to delay or postpone the settlement of these. Nor could it seem, that I should say Mr. Deane had nothing to do with it. He had done what he could towards it, and, being actually gone, could do no more. The infinity of business we have had is the true and only reason, that I know of, why they have not been settled, that is, why we did not meet, sit down, and compare the vouchers with the articles in the banker's account, in order to see that his charges were supported, and that he had given us due credit for the moneys we had put into his hands. This, I apprehend, is all we have to do here. It is to the Congress we are separately to account for the separate drafts we have made on him. This, Mr. Deane can do, when he arrives, having taken a copy of the account with him.
If you think we should account to one another for our expenses, I have no objection, though I never expected it . I believe they will be found very moderate. I answer mine will, having had only the necessaries of life, and purchased nothing besides, except the Encyclopedia, nor sent a sixpence' worth of any thing to my friends or family in America. I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
TO ARTHUR I-EE.
Pasuy, 6 April, 1778.
Mr. Williams had orders from Mr. Deane and myself to purchase and make up a large quantity of clothing, and ship the same in pursuance of the orders of Congress. I imagine you were not in France, when this measure was taken, and so could not be consulted. But you certainly have been acquainted with it since your return. I never heard, that you made any objection to it, and you may at any time have fuller information if desired. I think the orders of any two of us, in these cases, are sufficient, and that, if we have given directions to an agent of ours to draw on our banker in discharge of contracts made properly for the public service, his drafts ought to be honored. The reason of permitting him to draw on our banker, instead of ourselves, was, as I understand it, convenient at that time, to mask more effectually our building and equipping vessels of force. If, in a single instance, he is known or suspected to have abused this confidence placed in him, I am ready to join with you in putting a stop to his proceedings by ordering his bills to be protested. If not, I think the public service requires, that he should complete his orders, which, as far as I have ever heard, he has hitherto executed with great care, fidelity, and ability.
As to the want of funds with Mr. Grand, I suppose, that, before the bills drawn on him become due, which are charged in his account, and bring the balance against us, he will be fully supplied with what are necessary.
I send you herewith sundry letters relating to our