Benjamin Franklin Papers

Arthur Lee to Franklin and John Adams: Two Letters, 7 February 1779

Arthur Lee to Franklin and John Adams: Two Letters

(I) and (II) LS:6 American Philosophical Society


Chaillot. Feb. 7th. 1779—


I have been informd that Dr. Bancroft is soon to go to England,7 charg’d with a Comission from us, or which concerns the trust, which is jointly repos’d in us. I beg the favor of you to inform me whether this is true. I have the honor to be, with the greatest esteem & respect Gentlemen, Your mst. obedient Hble Servt.

Arthur Lee

Hon. B. Franklin & John Adams. Esqs.

Addressed: Honble. B. Franklin & John Adams Esqrs. / Ministers plenipotentiary / at Passi—


Chaillot. Feb. 7th. 1779—


To a written Letter, one of you was civil enough to return me a verbal answer, that Docter Bancroft was appointed to transact business for us in England, & that his instructions should be sent to me.8

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 Stock-jobber is perfectly known to you.9 The dishonor of his transactions in that way, having been visited upon the Commissioners you also know. His living in open defiance of decency & religion you are no strangers to;1 nor to his enmity against me, & 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 & scandalous libel against Congress and some of their Servants; which, in the opinion of all person’s 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 should have imagind that Dr. Bancroft woud have been the last person in the World you would have chosen to represent us, or to vest with public Confidence. There are, most certainly in Paris, americans of untainted Reputation & 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, & that I shall have him chargd as such, whenever he goes within their jurisdiction.2

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

Arthur Lee

Honble. B. Franklin, and John Adams Esqrs.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Both in Ford’s hand.

7To expedite the exchange of prisoners: see BF’s letter to Hartley of Feb. 22.

8Two days later Bancroft himself wrote a self-righteous letter to Lee, claiming to have had no other motive than serving his country: Lee Family Papers, reel 5, frame 712. Lee quoted part of it in his Feb. 10 letter to BF and JA, below.

9Bancroft, although guilty of the charge (and of spying for the British as well), had convinced BF and JA of his innocence: see XXVII, 229–33. We have found no evidence that at the time either of Lee’s colleagues considered Bancroft a stockjobber.

1Bancroft lived with a woman to whom he was not married: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, IV, 74.

2Lee had already submitted to the committee of foreign affairs extensive documentation about Bancroft’s stockjobbing: Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, II, 679–80 (the enclosures to which are at the National Archives).

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