Arthur Lee to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams
Chaillot Feb. 7th. 1779
To a written Letter,1 one of you was civil enough to return me a verbal answer, that Doctor Bancroft was appointed to transact business for us in England, and that his instructions shoud be sent to me.
Why you shoud think that in the choice of a person to represent us, I shoud have no voice; I am at a loss to conceive.
The notorious character of Dr. Bancroft as a Stockjobber is perfectly known to you. The dishonor of his transactions in that way, having been visited upon the Commissioners you also know.2 His living in open defiance of decency and religion you are no strangers to;3 nor to his enmity against me, and the constant means he employs to calumniate my character. You know also that he is the creature and Agent of that Mr. Deane, who has just publishd a most false and scandalous libel against Congress and some of their Servants; which, in the opinion of all persons of honor whom I have heard speak of it, is likely to injure the affairs of the United States in Europe, and greatly disgrace our national character.
For these reasons I shoud have imagind that Dr. Bancroft woud have been the last person in the World you woud have chosen to represent us, or to vest with public Confidence. There are, most certainly in Paris, Americans of untainted Reputation and undoubted abilities, who I am sure woud be willing to undertake any Commission from us for the service of their Country.
I have farther to inform you as one of your Colleagues, that I have evidence in my possession, which makes me consider Dr. Bancroft as a Criminal with regard to the United States, and that I shall have him chargd as such, whenever he goes within their jurisdiction.4
If after consideration of these Reasons, and of this information, you shoud still be of opinion he is a proper person to represent us; you will give me leave by this letter to dissent from, and wash my hands of, his appointment.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest esteem & respect, Gentlemen Your most obedient Humble Servant
RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers).
1. In a brief letter written earlier this day, Lee had demanded to know whether it was true that Dr. Edward Bancroft was being sent to England on a mission (to Franklin and JA, 7 Feb., PPAmP: Franklin Papers). Also on this date Bancroft wrote to inform Lee that he had been requested by Franklin and JA to go to England to facilitate the exchange of American prisoners, and asked that Lee send him those portions of Lee’s letter that pertained to him (MH-H: Lee Papers).
2. See Lee’s letter to the Committee of Correspondence of 26 April 1778 (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:562), as well as Muscoe Livingston’s signed statement of 11 April 1778 (PCC, No. 83, II, f. 49) declaring that he had seen evidence that Bancroft had used his knowledge that a Franco-American treaty would be signed in Feb. 1778 to speculate on the London market.
3. A reference to Bancroft’s mistress. For more information on him, see vol. 6:14, note 3; JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 4:71–74, and note 4.
4. Presumably a reference to Lee’s suspicion that Bancroft was a British spy and to which he referred in the letter to the Committee of Correspondence of 26 April 1778 and elsewhere.