Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to the King of England, which was in all the papers of Europe, the sending a vessel express to carry the news of paying our respects to court, which was likewise in the papers, was an expensive and altogether unnecessary operation.

I received. your letter directed to Mr. Deane and myself relating to the accounts. I had no opportunity of showing it to him till the evening of his departure, and then he was in too much of a hurry to peruse it. I could not, therefore, sooner answer it. But I then wrote an answer, acquainting you that he had put into my hands the public papers, with all the information he could give relating to the accounts. It was

which you have thought proper to offer me. I have the honor to be, with great respect,

“ ARTHUR LEE." When Mr. Lee wrote this letter he was ignorant of the cause of the complaint contained in the first part of it. Count de Vergennes had been informed, that intelligence had been communicated to England through the agency of Mr. Lee's secretary, which created an unfavorable suspicion. The facts are these. Mr. Lee sent his secretary to England, with the view of ascertaining the nature of the preparations, that were making to fit out a fleet at Portsmouth. This secretary betrayed his trust, and revealed certain particulars in London for stockjobbing purposes. Mr. Lee dismissed him, as soon as his unfaithfulness was discovered. It was important, that the intention of sending M. Gérard as minister to the United States, and a fleet to America, under Count d'Estaing, should remain a secret as long as possible, that the British government might not take measures to counteract the objects for which they were designed. Count de Vergennes was apprehensive, that, if the intelligence were made known to Mr. Lee, it would get to the ears of the British ministry through the above suspected channel. He enjoined it, therefore, on Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane, not to mention the subject to their colleague. This injunction they were of course bound to observe. Whatever may have been the circumstances, however, there does not appear to have been any just grounds of suspicion against Mr. Lee, so far at least as his intentions were concerned. He was ardently devoted to the cause of his country, and friendly to the alliance between France and the United States. It is to be regretted, that his moderation, judgment, and prudence, were not equal to his zeal and patriotism.

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 touchers," 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 constant. ly, 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

of the hands of complaints about

* 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 ven. ture to make a proposition in my turn, in which I am very sincere; 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." - Passy, October 10th, 1778.

om and me at prmodate

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

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 let-
ters, as we could write.
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 ser-
want to many publics, through a long life; have serv-
ed 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 in-
terest 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. Gérard's de-
parture. And I have no doubt of their equity in ac-
quitting 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 domestićs. I saw
in the strongest light the importance of our living in
decent civility towards each other, while our great af-
fairs were depending here. I saw your jealous, sus-
picious, malignant, and quarrelsome temper, which was
daily manifesting itself against Mr. Deane and almost
every other person you had any concern with. I, there-
fore, 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.

[graphic]

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 Encyclopædia, nor sent a sixpence' worth of any thing to my friends or family in America. I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

B. FRANKLIN.

« ZurückWeiter »