The Commissioners to Jonathan Williams
Passy Feb 9. 1779
We have received your Letters of the 12 Decr.1 and 23 of January. In the first You propose that We should write to Messrs. Horneca and Fitzeaux to pass the Amount of the Goods you mention to our Debit. In that of 23 of January, you propose that one of the Cases Still remaining in Mr. Schweighausers Hands should be delivered to you, and that We should give orders to Mess. Horneca &c. to replace the others, at Nantes.
As this Business was brought upon Us, by Accident or Mistake, without our Knowledge or Consent, it appears to Us that the Public ought not to be put to any extraordinary Expence or Risque about it. But still it is our Desire that Justice may be done, and therefore We think that the most equitable Way will be, for Us to give orders that these Goods be delivered to Mr. Deane in America, if they arrive there, and then they will be his Loss if they do not.
If this is agreable to you, We will readily give orders that the Case which remains in Mr. Schweighausers Hands be delivered to you and the others delive[re]d to Mr. Simeon Deane or his order in America.2
We are &c.
LbC (Adams Papers).
2. The Commissioners here are seeking the middle ground between Arthur Lee’s position in his letter of 8 Feb. (above) and Benjamin Franklin’s in the unsent letter to Horneca, Fizeaux & Co. of 9 Feb. Franklin, acceding to Williams’ wishes, requested that Horneca, Fizeaux & Co. charge the Commissioners’ account for the goods mistakenly sent to the congress (Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. description begins I. Minis Hays, comp., Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1908; 5 vols. description ends , 3:517). Because JA’s Letterbook copy is a draft, he may well have devised this compromise to obtain the signatures of both his colleagues. He may or may not have been successful, but see Lee to Franklin and JA of 10 Feb., and note 1 (below).
Apparently the issue remained unsettled. In his reply of 20 Feb., Williams noted that the solution proposed was impracticable because the goods had either been used up at Nantes or had long since arrived in America, and again he proposed that the goods be paid for by the Commissioners (PPAmP: Franklin Papers). In his answer of 16 March, Franklin informed Williams that he had shown his letter to JA, “who found the proposition reasonable” (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 , 3:83–84). Thus on 20 April, Franklin wrote to Horneca, Fizeaux & Co. and, except for “case No. 3,” ordered them to replace the goods “at the risque and expence of the United States” (PU: Franklin Papers).