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I have lately employed an accountant, the son of our banker, to form complete books of our accounts, to be sent to Congress. They are not yet ready. When they are, I shall send them by the first safe opportunity. In the mean time, I may just mention some particulars of our disbursements. Great quantities of clothing, arms, ammunition, and naval stores, sent from time to time; payment of bills from Mr. Bingham, one hundred thousand livres; Congress bills in favor of Haywood &. Co., above two hundred thousand; advanced to Mr. Ross, about twenty thousand pounds sterling; paid Congress drafts in favor of returned officers, ninety-three thousand and eighty livres; to our prisoners in England, and after their escape to help them home, and to other Americans here in distress, a great sum, I cannot at present say how much; supplies to Mr. Hodge for fitting out Captain Conyngham, very considerable; for the freight of ships to carry over the supplies, great sums; to Mr. William Lee and Mr. Izard, five thousand five hundred pounds sterling; and for fitting the frigates Raleigh, Alfred, Boston, Providence, Alliance, Ranger, &c, I imagine not less than sixty or seventy thousand livres each, taken one with another; and for the maintenance of the English prisoners, I believe, when I get in all the accounts, I shall find one hundred thousand livres not sufficient, having already paid above sixty-five thousand on that article. And now, the drafts of the treasurer of the loans coming very fast upon me, the anxiety I have suffered, and the distress of mind lest I should not be able to pay them, have for a long time been very great indeed.
To apply again to this court for money for a particular purpose, which they had already over and over again provided for and furnished us, was extremely awkward. I therefore repeated the general applications, which we had made when together, for aids of money; and received the general answers, that the expense of government for the navy was so great, that at present it was exceedingly difficult to furnish the necessary supplies; that France, by sending a fleet to America, obliged the enemy to divide their forces, and left them so weak on the continent, as to aid us by lessening our expense, if it could not by giving us money, &c. &c.; and I was asked if we did not receive money from Spain. I know, indeed, of some money received from thence, and I have heard of more, but know not how much, Mr. Arthur Lee, as minister for Spain, having taken to himself all the management of that affair, and will account to Congress. I only understand, that there is none of it left to assist in paying Congress bills.
I at length obtained, as above mentioned, the King's bon for payment of the interest of three millions, if I could borrow it in Holland, or elsewhere; but, though two eminent houses in Amsterdam have undertaken it, and had hopes of success, they have both lately written to me, that the great demands of money for Germany and for England had raised interest above our limits, and that the successes of the English in Georgia and St. Lucia, and in destroying the French trade, with the supposed divisions in Congress, all much magnified by the British minister, and the pressing application to borrow by several of our States separately, had made the moneyed people doubtful of our stability, as well as our ability to repay what might be lent us, and that it was necessary to wait a more favorable moment for proceeding with our loan.
In this situation, I have been applied to by Mr. William Lee, and lately, through our banker, by Mr. Izard, for more money for their expenses; and I am told, there is much anger against me for declining to furnish them, and that I am charged with disobeying an order of Congress* and with cruelly attempting to distress gentlemen, who are in the service of their country. They have, indeed, produced to me a resolve of Congress, empowering them to draw on the Commissioners in France for their expenses at foreign courts; and doubtless Congress, when that resolve was made, intended to enable us to pay those drafts; but, as that has not been done, and the gentlemen (except Mr. Lee for a few weeks) have not incurred any expense at foreign courts, and, if they had, the five thousand five hundred guineas, received by them in about nine months, seemed an ample provision for it, and as both of them might command money from England, I do not conceive that I disobeyed an order of Congress, and that, if I did, the circumstances will excuse it; and I could have no intention to distress them, because I must know it is out of my power, as their private fortunes and credit will enable them at all times to pay their own expenses.
In short, the dreadful consequences of ruin to our public credit, both in America and Europe, that must attend protesting a single Congress draft for interest, after our funds were out, would have weighed with me against the payment of more money to those gentlemen, if the demand had otherwise been well founded. I am, however, in the judgment of Congress; and, if I have done amiss, must submit dutifully to their censure. Thanks to God, I have this last week got over the difficulty, so far as relates to the bills, which will all be punctually paid; but if the Navy Board sends more ships here to be fitted, or the Congress continue to draw for the payment of other debts, the ships will be disappointed, and I shall probably be made a bankrupt, unless funds are at the same time sent over to discharge such demands.
* See Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. IL p. 446.
With regard to the fitting out of ships, receiving and disposing of cargoes, and purchasing of supplies, I beg leave to mention, that, besides my being wholly unacquainted with such business, the distance I am from the ports renders my having any thing to do with it extremely inconvenient. Commercial agents have indeed been appointed by Mr. William Lee; but they and the captains are continually writing for my opinion or orders, or leave to do this or that, by which much time is lost to them, and much of mine taken up to little purpose, from my ignorance. I see clearly, however, that many of the captains are exorbitant in their demands, and in some cases I think those demands are too easily complied with by the agents, perhaps because the commissions are in proportion to the expense. I wish, therefore, the Congress would appoint the consuls they have a right to appoint by the treaty, and put into their hands all that sort of employment . I have in my desk, I suppose, not less than fifty applications from different ports, praying the appointment, and offering to serve gratis for the honor of it, and the advantage it gives in trade; but I imagine, that, if consuls are appointed, they will be of our own people from America, who, if they should make fortunes abroad, might return with them to their country.
The commissions demanded by the agents seem to me in some cases very high. For instance, Mr. Schweighauser, in a late account, charges five per cent on the simple delivery of the tobaccos to the officer of the farmers-general in the port, and by that means makes the commission on the delivery of the two last cargoes amount to about six hundred and thirty pounds sterling. As there was no sale in the case, he has, in order to calculate the commission, valued the tobacco at ninety livres the hundred weight; whereas, it was, by our contract with the farmers, to be delivered at about forty livres. I got a friend, who was going upon change, to inquire among the merchants what was the custom in such cases of delivery. I send enclosed the result he has given me of his inquiries. In consequence, I have refused to pay the commission of five per cent on this article; and I know not why it was, as is said, agreed with him at the time of his appointment, that he should have five per cent on his transactions, if the custom is only two per cent, as by my information.
I have mentioned above the applications of separate States to borrow money in Europe, on which I beg leave to remark, that, when the General Congress are endeavouring to obtain a loan, these separate attempts interfere, and are extremely inconvenient, especially where some of the agents are empowered to offer a higher interest, and some have powers in that respect unlimited. We have likewise lately had applications from three several States to this court, to be furnished with great quantities of arms, ammunition, and clothing, or with money upon credit to buy them; and from one State to be supplied with naval stores and ships of war. These agents, finding that they had not interest to obtain such grants, have severally applied to me, and seem to think it my duty, as minister for the United States, to support and enforce their particular demands. I have endeavoured to do so; but I find the ministers do not like these separate applications, and 'seem to think, that they should properly come only