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FROM COUNT DE VERGENNES TO B. FRANKLIN.
Policy of the British Ministry to excite Divisions and
Versailles, 25 April, 1778.
I have made known to the King the substance of the letter, which you did me the honor of writing to me yesterday; and I am directed by his Majesty to express to you the satisfaction he has experienced from the information, which you have communicated on your conferences with Mr. Hartley. The grand principle of the English policy has always been to excite divisions; and it is by such means she expects to sustain her empire; but it is not upon you, nor upon your colleagues, that she can practise such arts with success.
I entertain the same sentiments of confidence in the United States. As to the rest, it is impossible to speak with more dignity, frankness, and firmness than you have done to Mr. Hartley; he has no reason to be very well satisfied with his mission. I doubt whether this member of Parliament has any mission for us; but he desires to see me, and I expect him in the course of the morning. I should not be at all surprised, if his purpose be to sow distrust between us, by proposing a double negotiation. That I can obviate; but whatever passes between us, however trifling it may be, you shall be made acquainted with. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect consideration, Sir, &c. De Vergennes.
TO ARTHUR LEE.
Mode of drawing Money from the Hands of the American Banker.
Passy, 17 May, 1778.
Mr. Franklin is not inclined to sign this letter to Mr. Grand; *
1. Because he does not know, that any inconveniences have arisen from the order originally given, that the orders of each of us separately should be honored.
2. Because Mr. Lee is pleased to be very angry with him, which is expressed in many of his letters, and therefore Mr. Franklin does not choose to be obliged to ask Mr. Lee's consent, whenever he may have occasion to draw for his subsistence, as that consent cannot be expected from any necessity of a reciprocal compliance on Mr. Franklin's part, Mr. Lee having secured his subsistence by taking into his own possession one hundred and eighty-five thousand livres, and his brother, by a deception on the Commissioners, of forty-eight thousand.? Mr. Franklin has no objection to any resolution, that all contracts for the public shall be made by joint consent, or at least by a majority, together with the drafts for payment . Indeed, he wishes, that, if practicable, he might be excused
* The following is a copy of the letter to Mr. Grand, the American banker, which Mr. Lee requested Dr. Franklin to sign.
"Sir; It is our desire, that you accept no bills nor pay any money out of the funds, which are or may be in your hands to the credit of lis three jointly, without our joint order. As it has been the practice to address letters upon the business of the Commission to Mr. Deanfi, we desire, that you will send to us all the letters you receive so directed, and not give them to any private person."
f This "deception," as it is here called, is explained in the letter to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, dated January 15th, 1779.
them out, and then take them. I wish you to consider of this, as it comes from high authority, and that you would immediately let me know what you think of it, and when your ship will be ready.
I have written to England about the exchange of your prisoners. I congratulate you most cordially on your late success, and wish for a continuance and increase of the honor you have acquired. It will always be a pleasure to me to contribute what may lie in my power towards your advancement, and that of the brave officers and men under your command. I am, &c. B. Franklin.
TO JOHN PAUL JONES.
Proposal to take Command of a Ship.
Passy, 1 June, 1778.
Dear Sir, I have the pleasure of informing you, that it is proposed to give you the command of the great ship we have built at Amsterdam. By what you wrote to us formerly, I have ventured to say in your behalf, that this proposition would be agreeable to you. You will immediately let me know your resolution; which, that you may be more clear in taking, I must inform you of some circumstances. She is at present the property of the King; but, as there is no war yet declared, you will have the commission and flag of the United States, and act under their orders and laws. The Prince de Nassau will make the cruise with you. She is to be brought here under cover as a French merchantman, to be equipped and manned in France. We hope to exchange your prisoners for as many American sailors; but, if that fails, you have your present crew to be made up here with other nations and French.
The other Commissioners are not acquainted with this proposition as yet, and you see, by the nature of it, that it is necessary to be kept a secret, till we have got the vessel here, for fear of difficulties in Holland, and interruption. You will therefore direct your answer to me alone, it being desired, that, at present, the affair rest between you and me. Perhaps it may be best for you to take a trip up here to concert matters, if in general you approve the idea.
I was much pleased with reading your journal, which we received yesterday. I am, &.c.
TO JOHN PAUL JONES.
Intelligence and Instructions respecting the Command of a Frigate.
Paesy, 10 June, 1778.
I received yours of the 1st instant with the papers enclosed, which I have shown to the other Commissioners; but have not yet had their opinion of them. I only know, that they had before (in consideration of the disposition and uneasiness of your people) expressed an inclination to order your ship directly back to America. You will judge from what follows, whether it would not be advisable for you to propose their sending her back with her people, and under some other command.
In consequence of the high opinion the minister of the marine has of your conduct and bravery, it is now settled (observe, that this is to be a secret between us, I being expressly enjoined not to communicate it