Benjamin Franklin Papers

William Lee to the American Commissioners, 20 January 1778

William Lee to the American Commissioners

Copy: Virginia Historical Society

Chaillot 20 Jan. 1778


As you have now furnish’d me with the copy of the Treaty, I do not know of any reason for remaining here any longer, therefore propose setting out for Vienna in two or 3 daies to execute my appointment at that Court, provided you will supply me with the necessary funds to bear the expence of my Commission. The money will not be immediately requisite, as a letter of credit on a Banker in Paris will answer my purpose as well. I suppose £2000 Sterling will be sufficient, tho’ the Court of Vienna is as expensive as most Courts in Europe,5 and travelling in Germany costs more money than either in France or England; but in this I presume you will be Govern’d by the intentions of Congress, as expressed in their appointment for their commissioners at the Court of Versailles.

Mess. Franklin Deane & Lee.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Since at least late November he had been trying to obtain a copy of the proposed treaty of amity and commerce. In mid-December friends at court had advised him to go first to Vienna, because of its close relationship with Versailles; but he had planned to wait, in order to improve his negotiating position, until the Franco-American treaty was signed. Although this letter indicates that he changed his mind, he did not leave within a few days. The £2,000 were not forthcoming; the commissioners took the position that they lacked the authority to pay. Ford, Letters of William Lee, I, 281, 298, 314–15. They soon relented, however, and provided him and Izard the equivalent of what he is asking, 2,000 louis d’or or 48,000 l.t. apiece; see the commissioners to Grand below, Feb. 6. In the next few weeks Lee received some 7,000 l.t. more, and the eventual total came, Deane said later, to 72,000 l.t. or slightly more than £3,000. Deane Papers, III, 27–8; V, 252.

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