Adams Papers

To John Adams from Arthur Lee, 15 March 1780

From Arthur Lee

L’Orient March 15th. 1780

Dear Sir

By the bursting of the Lock of one of my trunks on the journey, I was so unfortunate as to lose the packet of M. Gerards Letters; among which was that you copied, and of which I must beg you to send me an authenticated Copy.1

Since my arrival here, I receivd a Packet from Congress which came by the Confederacy. In that is the Copy of one of the most false and wicked Papers I have read upon the subject, given in to Congress by Mr. Carmichael. In that He says, “I have frequently declard that Mr. A. Lee had not the confidence of the Court of France. My reasons for this declaration are among others, the Chevalier Grand and his Brother Mr. Grand, Gentlemen who at various times acted as secret Agents between the Commissioners and the Court of France, in whose assertions I placd confidence because I saw that the Court entrusted them with secrets of the highest importance, and because I never found myself deceivd by these Gentlemen in any other information I had the honor to receive from them while employd by the Commissioners abroad. I was informd and beleive that this want of confidence arose from information given by M. Garnier chargé des affairs for the Court of Versailles at London.”2

You will oblige me much, if you will show this Extract to Mr. Grand and M. Garnier, and write me what they say to it. I always entertaind and do still entertain too high an opinion both of Mr. Grand’s veracity and discretion to beleive he ever told Mr. Carmichael what he here asserts. But I shall change my opinion if he refuses to contradict this assertion, since it has been made with a manifest design of injuring me and imposing upon Congress.

As Mr. C. coud not know that these Gentlemen were entrusted with Secrets of the highest importance by the Court, unless they communicated those Secrets to him, I do not see how any other conclusion can be drawn from what Mr. C. says of them, but that either they were not so trusted or that they betrayd their trust in such communication to him. I cannot determine whether Mr. Deane or Mr. Carmichael is the most contemptible Liar. And I confess to you Sir, that it astonishes me that such contemptible and manifestly malignant performances shoud have had the smallest influence on any one man of common sense or common honesty in, or out of Congress.

We have no news here, nor is it likely we shall sail this month. I beg my comts. to Mr. Dana.

With the greatest esteem, I am dear Sir yr most Obedt. Servt.,

A. Lee

RC (Adams Papers;) addressed: “A Monsieur Monsieur Jean Adams Ministre Plenipotentiaire des Etats Unis de l’America a Paris”; endorsed: “Mr A. Lee March 15th ansd March 31, 1780.”

1This letter has not been identified, but was probably from Conrad Alexandre Gérard to one or more of the American Commissioners (Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee) in 1777 or early 1778. JA had made a copy of the letter and in his reply of 31 March (below) states that he made another. This indicates that the letter was probably among the Commissioners’ papers in Franklin’s custody at Passy and may be one of the Gérard letters in the Franklin Papers at the American Philosophical Society (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 , 1:316, 358, 359; 4:227, 233, 245).

2William Carmichael made his charge on 3 May 1779 in a written statement to Congress, a copy of which was probably enclosed in James Lovell’s letter to Lee of 6 Aug. (MH-H:Lee Papers; 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 , 3:288–289). In providing this extract from Carmichael’s statement, Lee changed it from the third to the first person and altered the beginning of the second sentence, which originally read: “His [Carmichael’s] reasons for this declaration are among others, that he was repeatedly told this by Messrs. De Beaumarchais, Ray de Chaumont, the Chevalier Grand.” In the portion of the statement not transcribed, Carmichael indicated that Lee’s friendship with Lord Shelburne was the primary reason for the lack of confidence.

In his reply of 31 March (below), JA refused Arthur Lee’s request to approach Charles Jean Garnier and Ferdinand Grand. Lee, however, wrote to Ralph Izard on 15 March, apparently making the same request of him that he had made of JA. On 21 March Izard replied that he had approached Garnier who had denied privately being the source for Carmichael’s statement, but refused to make his denial officially or in writing. Izard recommended that Lee write to Grand because his own relationship with Grand was such that he had “nothing to say or do with him” (MH-H:Lee Papers). For the results of Lee’s application to Grand, see his letter to JA of 12 April (below).

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