Benjamin Franklin Papers

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane, 26 February 1778

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Harvard University Library; two copies: National Archives; three copies: University of Virginia Library

Challiot, Feby. 26th 1778


The return of our Dispatches by Mr. Simeon Deane, appears to me to be an event from which great public consequences may flow.4 I therefore feel it the more extraordinary, that you shoud have taken any steps in it without any consultation with me. And this more especially after I have so lately remonstrated against a similar conduct. I was silent upon it today when Dr. Franklin mentiond that Mr. Deane was gone upon this business to Versailles5 without my knowlege, not because I did not feel the impropriety of it, but because I do and have always wishd to avoid the indecency of personal altercation.

In my judgment the failure of our dispatches is an event which will warrant our desire to be immediately acknowlegd by this Court, and that such acknowlegment will have a powerful effect in preventing the success of the overtures from England. The strong impression of the unfavorable disposition of this Court towards us, which former proceedings made on every mind, will reach America by a thousand Channels. Our contradiction of it being unfortunately frustrated may possibly commit our Countrymen into measures which a knowlege of the true state of things woud have prevented. A public acknowlegement of us woud reach America by numberless ways; and give them a decided proof of the sincerity and determination of France.6 Our Dispatches are a private and single channel and may fail or arrive too late. With respect to us the covert proceeding of France leaves them too much at Liberty to renounce us, on any unfavorable event; and is a situation in which, I think it is neither for our honor nor safety to remain.

These are sentiments, which I submit to your better judgment; and beg we may have a consultation on the subject as soon as possible. I have the honor to be with great respect Gentlemen your most Obedient Servant

Arthur Lee

The Honble. B. Franklin & Silas Deane

Notation: Arthur Lee to BF. & SD Feb. 26. 1778.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4In early January Simeon Deane, with the dispatches, sailed from Bordeaux on a frigate, the Belle-Poule, that was forced back by bad weather after weeks at sea; her passenger showed up in Paris on Feb. 26th: Stevens, Facsimiles, XXII, no. 1881, pp. 1–2.

5To obtain another frigate for Simeon Deane; see the reply that follows.

6Lee had additional motives for his suggestion: public recognition would facilitate commerce, and might lead other powers to follow the French example; Prussia, in particular, had promised to do so. Lee, Life of Arthur Lee, I, 398–9. Lee’s assurance about Prussia, to which he recurs, was based on his letters from Schulenburg: Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, II, 457, 473.

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