Franklin: Certificate Concerning Silas Deane1
[December 18, 1782]
Certain paragraphs having lately appeared in the English newspapers, importing, that Silas Deane, Esqr. formerly Agent and Commissioner Plenipotentiary, of the United States of America, had sometime after his first “arrival in France, purchased in that kingdom, for the use of his countrymen, 30,000 muskets, &c. that he gave three livres for each of them, being old condemned arms; that he had them cleaned and vamped up, which cost near three livres more,4 & that for each of these, he charged and received a louis d’or.” And that he also committed similar frauds, in the purchase of other articles, for the use of his country; and Mr. Deane having represented, that the said paragraphs are likely to injure him in the opinions of many persons, unacquainted with his conduct, whilst in public service; I think it my duty, in compliance with his request, to certify, and declare, that the paragraphs in question, according to my best knowledge and belief, are entirely false, and that I have never known, or suspected any cause to charge the said Silas Deane with any want of probity, in any purchase, or bargain whatever made by him for the use or account of the United States.
Given at Passy, the 18th December, 1782
Minister Plenipotentiary from the
United States of America, at the Court of France.
1. Deane sent copies of this certificate to British newspapers, paired with a copy of BF’s letter to then-president of Congress Laurens, written when Deane was recalled: XXVI, 203–4. These documents, with an introductory statement by Deane, were published in three papers that we know of: the Whitehall Evening Post and the General Evening Post, issues of Jan. 9–11, 1783, and the London Courant, which reprinted them on Jan. 10, reportedly from an evening paper. A slightly variant version, identifying the London Morning Post as the source of the recent “libel” and including a final paragraph summarizing Deane’s public service, was reprinted from an unnamed source in The Remembrancer, XVI (1783, part II), 6–7.
2. Deane wrote this Address in mid-1783 and sent it to America for publication; he then had it printed in London. We have chosen the text from this edition, reprinted from a London version, because it most closely resembles the draft that Bancroft prepared for BF. (The draft lacks the signature and dateline, and takes a great deal of punctuation for granted.) The Address is published in Deane Papers, V, 235–79; see also p. 221.
3. In the hand of Edward Bancroft; see his Dec. 15 letter to BF. BF endorsed it, “Draft of the Certificate I sign’d for Mr Deane”. WTF forwarded the signed certificate to Bancroft shortly before Dec. 28, when Bancroft wrote to thank him for it. APS.
4. On arriving in France in 1776, Deane, in association with Beaumarchais, entered into contracts for arms and supplies. The following year Deane, BF, and Arthur Lee purchased a number of muskets: XXIII, 25, 351, 379–80, 450–1; Deane Papers, I, 247–9. In May, 1777, the commissioners signed a contract for repairing the muskets: XXIV, 100–1.