From Tench Coxe and Richard Harrison
August 3rd: 1792.
We have the Honor to in-close to you, a contract made and executed on the 11th. day of January 1776, between the late Silas Deane,1 and Barnabas Deane2 with the following statement for the purpose of obtaining an opinion of the Attorney General on this Question. To whom is the balance due from the United States, on the account arising out of the agency, under that Contract due and payable.
Shortly after Messrs. Silas Deane and Barnabas Deane made the contract, the former went to Europe as we are informed, and it is represented to us that the latter executed the Business. Barnabas Deane received the whole money, and as there is no allegation of a debt due from Silas to Barnabas, the share of Silas in the commissions accruing under the Contract, appear to have remained in the Hands of Barnabas. A small balance was due from the United States, but in Consenquence of a decision upon a litigated demand for freight paid by Barnabas (admitted to be ultimately payable by the United States) the balance is considerably increased, but is less than the whole Amount of the Commissions. Silas and Barnabas were not general copartners in trade, nor is any connexion suggested, but that which arises out of the Contract in-closed. Silas is dead, and his son Silas (now in Connecticut) is his administrator. The Question arises to whom are the United States indebted? Is it to Silas, son and Administrator of Silas the elder deceased, and Barnabas or to Barnabas solely.
We have the Honor to be, with perfect respect, Sir Your most Obt. Servt:
The Secretary of the Treasury.
LC, RG 58, Letters of Commissioner of Revenue, 1792–1793, National Archives.
1. Silas Deane, a prominent Connecticut merchant and lawyer, had been a member of the Continental Congress from 1774 to January, 1776. In March, 1776, he had been ordered to France as a secret agent of the United States, and in September he had been commissioned ambassador with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee.
2. Barnabas Deane, Silas Deane’s brother, was a leading Connecticut merchant who in 1776 took over his brother’s business. During the American Revolution Barnabas Deane was associated with Jeremiah Wadsworth in the business of supplying the Continental Army
The contract presumably related to the Continental frigate Trumbull, which was built at Chatham, Connecticut, in 1776 under the supervision of Barnabas Deane (Robert A. East, Business Enterprise in the American Revolutionary Era [New York, 1938], 87). See also Coxe to Barnabas Deane, August 25, 1792 (LC, RG 58, Letters of Commissioner of Revenue, 1792–1793, National Archives), and Margaret Elizabeth Martin, Merchants and Trade of the Connecticut River Valley (“Smith College Studies in History,” XXIV, Nos. 1–4 [Northampton, October, 1938–July, 1939], 76).