Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Arthur Lee, 1 April 1778

To Arthur Lee7

ALS (draft): American Philosophical Society

Passy, April 1. 1778


There is a Stile in some of your Letters, I observe it particularly in the last, whereby superior Merit is assumed to yourself in point of Care, and Attention to Business, and Blame on your Colleagues is insinuated without making yourself accountable by a direct Charge, of Negligence or Unfaithfulness, which has the Appearance of being as artful as it is unkind. In the present Case I think the Insinuation groundless. I do not know that either Mr. Deane or myself ever show’d an Unwillingness to settle the Public Accounts. The Banker’s Book8 always contain’d the whole. You could at any time as easily have obtain’d the Account from thence as either of us. And you had abundantly more Leisure. If on examining it you had wanted Explanation of any Article, you might have call’d for it and had it. You never did either. As soon as I obtain’d the Account, I put it into your Hands, and desired you to look into it; and I have heard no more of it since, ’till now, just as Mr. Deane was on the point of departing. Mr. Deane, however, had left with me, before the Receipt of your Letter, both the Public Papers, and Explications of the several Articles in the Account that came within his Knowledge. With these Materials I suppose we can settle the Account whenever you please. You have only to name the Day and Place and I will attend the Business with you. I have the Honour to be, with great Esteem, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant


Notation: BF. to A Lee Ap. 1. 1778.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7This is the first of three angry letters to Lee in close succession, the others on April 3 and 4. BF did not send this one at the time, but intended to enclose it with his third. There he mentioned that he might not send any of them, and we are convinced that he did not. On earlier occasions he had vented his feelings by a blast at whoever had annoyed him, and then kept it to himself; see above, XXI, 526–9; XXII, 85. No ALS of any of these outbursts has come to light; Lee’s tinderbox temper, furthermore, would scarcely have allowed him to swallow them in silence, yet no surviving letter of his touches on them.

8The commissioners’ accounts with Ferdinand Grand.

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