Benjamin Franklin Papers
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William Lee to the American Commissioners, 9 December 1778: résumé

William Lee to the American Commissioners8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

<Frankfurt-on-Main,9 December 9, 1778: Conformable to the enclosed Congressional resolution,1 I have drawn on you for 24,000 l.t. payable to Mr. Grand. Please accept it when it comes due and place it to the account of Congress.

It is generally believed a congress will be held this winter by the French and Russian ministers to attempt a reconciliation between the emperor and the king of Prussia.2 I am assured the British have prevailed on the Russian court to take advantage of this opportunity to negotiate an accommodation between Britain and France.3 It is to be proposed to France that she relinquish her treaties and engagements with America, but I have not learned what inducements Britain will offer her. I have no doubt France will reject such an ignominious attempt on her honor even if her interests were not considered, but I thought it advisable to give you this information.>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Published in Taylor, Adams Papers, VII, 273.

9Where he generally resided after learning he would not be received officially as commissioner to Prussia and the Holy Roman Empire: XXVI, 263–4, 415–16; XXVII, 139. In September he had traveled to Aix-la-Chapelle to meet Jean de Neufville and then to Paris to meet with the commissioners (XXVII, 416, 445); by October he was back in Frankfurt (XXVII, 612).

1Of May 7, 1778, giving the commissioners to other courts the right to draw for funds on the commissioners to France: JCC, XI, 473.

2In November Austria had accepted Russia and France’s offer to mediate the war with Prussia brought on by her acquisition of a substantial portion of Bavaria: Paul P. Bernard, Joseph II and Bavaria: Two Eighteenth Century Attempts at German Unification (The Hague, 1965), pp. 129–30. Although the peace conference was only a rumor, both parties to the war now wished a diplomatic solution: see our headnote on intelligence reports, above, Nov. 13.

3Far from seeking Russian mediation, the British had just launched an initiative to gain a Russian alliance. The attempt failed when the danger of a general European war evaporated: Isabel de Madariaga, Britain, Russia, and the Armed Neutrality of 1780: Sir James Harris’s Mission to St. Petersburg during the American Revolution (New Haven, 1962), pp. 46–56.

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