Benjamin Franklin Papers

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane, 22 February 1777

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane

ALS: Connecticut Historical Society

Bayone Feby. 22d. 1777.

Dear Sirs

I arrivd here this day and shall pursue my journey to-morrow, and as the march is as regular as the Sun, it is agreed that the Voiturier shall place me in Madrid, in 13 days.

By Mr. Delap’s account the Imports from America, I mean from the United States, amounted last year to fifty five thousand pounds Sterling. He expects soon to have an exact list of the Imports and Exports from the Custom House, and will send it to you. He desires me to mention that the duty upon oil being seven Livres per Quintal is so heavy as to render that an unprofitable article of Commerce unless you can get it removd, that unless a Certificate of its being american produce, be sent with all Bees-wax, it is subject to a duty of 25 percent and that the duty upon Fish is fifteen livres per Quintal amounting almost to a prohibition. Salmon is the only Fish importable duty free, and that is reexported to their Islands.

Our demand upon Mr. S. has made a great noise. It was the talk of the whole change at Nantes that we had taken up, at once, two thousand Louis dores at Mr. Penet’s and Gruel’s Banquer;6 and I saw a Letter, of a late date, from Mr: Thoms. Morris to a merchant at Bordeau, informing him, that we had taken up that Sum, at his, Mr. Morris’s Banker’s, and that it must be deducted out of the Sum the Merchant was to advance us. At the same time he demands a state of Mr. Dean’s account letting the merchant, in as foolish a Letter as I ever had the honor to read, into the Secrets of the Congress very imprudently. Thus those Adventurers and Sots are continually prostituting the names of the Congress and of us, to exagerate their own consequence, or cover their own little Schemes. In every merchant’s mouth of any character at Nantes and Bourdeau the names of Mr. Morris and Mr. Myrcle are absolutely contemptible, and I assure you the censure is not a little visited, especially in the last place, upon those who appointed them. As far as my very imperfect judgment of commerce can inform me, the credit of the Congress seems to have sufferd by their conduct, almost irreparably.7

I pursue my voyage quite alone, having found my nephew had little political stuff about him, so that I thought it better to leave him at Nantes under the care of Mr. Sweighausser who is a protestant.8 I have the honor of being with the greatest esteem Dear Sirs Your most Obedient Servant

Arthur Lee

Addressed: To the Honble / Benjamin Franklin & / Silas Dean Esqrs

Notation: Arthur Lee Bayonne Feby 22d 1777

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The rumor was an exaggeration. Two thousand louis d’ors were 48,000 l.t.; what the commissioners actually had from Sollier, proceeds of the indigo that the Reprisal had brought, was in instalments which came in all to slightly over 41,000 l.t.: Deane Papers, V, 412. The final instalment, just under 13,000, was received four days after Lee wrote: entry of Feb. 26, 1777, Waste Book. These payments had to finance the commission. “Though Mr. Sollier, without business enough to pay a clerk, might be a banker in character for Mr. Penet, lately a journeyman gunsmith at Strasbourgh,” Deane later complained, “it was rather a mortifying circumstance to the Commissioners of the thirteen independant United States to be dependant on such a merchant or banker for money for their support.” Deane Papers, V, 413.

7The commissioners quoted this and the previous sentence in their letter to the committee of secret correspondence below, March 4.

8In December Lee had sent for his two nephews, Richard Henry Lee’s sons, who had been studying in England; the one he left in Nantes was Thomas, then eighteen. Cazenove Gardner Lee, Lee Chronicles: Studies of the Early Generation of the Lees of Virginia (Dorothy M. Parker, ed.; New York, 1957), p. 215; Lee Family Papers, roll 3, frames 132–3.

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