Benjamin Franklin Papers

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane, 15 June 1777

Arthur Lee to Franklin and Silas Deane

Copy and transcript: National Archives

Lee reached Berlin on June 4, and soon discovered that his mission would encounter major obstacles. He announced his arrival to Count Schulenburg, the Prussian Minister, and sent him detailed suggestions about how trade might be established between Prussian and American ports. Out of the correspondence that ensued in the next three weeks the central problem emerged: the best carriers, according to Lee, would be American privateers, which could function only if the government opened its ports to them and overlooked the secret sale of their prizes; Prussia had no experience in such matters, Schulenburg replied, and the King would take no steps that might embroil him with Great Britain.10 Lee’s letters to his fellow commissioners below, June 28 and July 6, continue the account of his frustrations.

Berlin June 15. 1777

Dear Sirs

I had the honour of writing to you from Munich and Vienna from the last of which I arrived here the 4th of this Month. The letters you have received from hence [show] how the wind blows here. I have tried all in my power to make it change. Hitherto in vain. In ten days I shall set out on my return. There cannot be a State of more perfect question than what prevails in this place, what is nearly1 commercial is plann’d, but whether it will be adopted remains to be determin’d. I have the Honor of being Dear Sir &c.

Les actions defensives n’ont sans doute pas tant d’ecly [d’éclat] que les conquetes; mais elles demandent plus de fatigue plus d’adresse, plus de fermete, et plus d’intrapidité: mémoirs de Montecuculli[?],2 applicable to Gen. Washington.

To the Commissioners at Paris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

10Wharton, Diplomatic Correspondence, II, 330–1, 333–6, 343–4, 346, 350–1.

1This word and “question,” earlier in the sentence, must be a copyist’s errors; they are repeated in the transcript, which was presumably made from the copy. Wharton, (ibid., p. 341), printing from the same source, renders “question” as “quiescence” and “nearly” as “merely”; in these alterations, which seem to be guesswork but do make sense, he follows Jared Sparks, The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution ... (12 vols., Boston, 1829–30), II, 73.

2The name as written defies accurate transcription, but the man was Raimondo Montecuccoli, a famous 17th-century Hapsburg general.

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