James Smith to the Commissioners
Paris Hotel De Saxe Rue Columbier Nov 15 1778
I have the honour to enclose you the Testimony of Mr. Anthy. Payn1 concerning the detention of my Goods at Calis with the names of the Officer by whom they were taken and the Servant of Mr. Payn who was also eye witness to the transaction and lives at the Hotel Lyon d’Argent at Calais. It may be also proper to inform you that a Gentleman who I have been given to understand by Mr. Williams is the private Agent2 of the Commissioners at Calais together with Mr. Whitall and Miss Farrel were made acquainted with the circumstances of the case at the time it happened and may be brought as colaterol evidences to the truth of this matter if necessary.
Seized and Detained goods I am informed by Mr. Williams are usually deposited in different Bureaus therefore merit different inqueries. This circumstance may have escaped you when you represented my Case to the Minister and consequently explains this answer “J’ai pris à cet egard les Informations les plus exactes, et il en resulte qu’il ne s’est trouvé absolument aucune Trace à Calais de l’Affaire dont il S’agit.”3 If this is not the Case it manifestly appears that the Officers of the Customs mean to defraud me of my property and it will depend upon your efforts whether they shall be allowed to do it with impunity.
As I have affairs to settle in England before I can return to America and which requires my immediate presence I should be glad you would send me a pass for me and my Family.4 If my remonstrance against any part of your conduct shall either through prejudice or resentment influence you to refuse me this request I am willing to give the most solemn assurances of my affection and Duty to my Country. I thought it within the line of my duty to express freely my opinion upon certain points. The Zeal I have constantly professed by my conduct for that Glorious cause in which you are engaged will never suffer me to flatter any man, neither shall the misconduct of others in the least abate my Ardor and under this influence I think proper to tender you my willingness to exicute faithfully any commission that shall promote the interests and independancy of America.
I have the honour to be Gentlemen Your Most Obedient Humble Servant
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); addressed: “To Doctor Benjn. Franklin Arthur Lee and John Adams Commissioners for the United Independant States of America At Passi”; docketed: “Dr. Smith ans. 17th:”; by William Temple Franklin: “Dr. Smith Nov 15. 78 ansd 17th.”
1. Not found.
2. Presumably James Leveux, who had acknowledged his appointment to assist Americans at Calais in a letter to Franklin on 20 May (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox (from vol. 15), and others, New Haven, 1959– description ends , 26:515) and to whom the Commissioners had written on 9 Nov. (LbC, Adams Papers), concerning his expenditures to aid American prisoners.
3. That is: In this regard I have collected the most exact information with the result that absolutely no trace of the matter with which he concerns himself has been found at Calais. This passage is taken directly from Vergennes’ letter to the Commissioners of 17 Oct. (Arch. Aff. Etr., Paris, Corr. Pol., E.-U., vol. 5), which was a reply to the Commissioners’ letter of 28 Aug. (vol. 6:401–405). In his letter Vergennes suggested that the Commissioners might be mistaken about the town in which the seizure had taken place.
4. In their reply to Smith of 17 Nov. (LbC, Adams Papers), the Commissioners stated that in regard to his property they had again written to Vergennes and had enclosed the statement by Anthony Paine. In that letter, also of the 17th (LbC, Adams Papers), it was suggested to Vergennes that Smith’s property might be in the office containing goods detained, rather than seized. Vergennes replied on 18 Dec. (below). In regard to securing a passport, the Commissioners told Smith that, if he had not already done so, he would have to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.