The Affair of Silas Deane
To SILAS DEANE, Esq; From Pennsylvania Packet, December 15, 1778.
AFTER reading a few lines of your address to the public in the Pennsylvania Packet of December 6th, I can truly say, that concern got the better of curiosity, and I felt an unwillingness to go through it. Mr. Deane must very well know that I have no interest in, so likewise am I no stranger to, his negociations and contracts in France, his difference with his colleagues, the reason of his return to America, and the matters which have occurred since. All these are to me familiar things; and while I can but be surprised at the conduct of Mr. Deane, I lament the unnecessary torture he has imprudently occasioned. That disagreements will arise between individuals, even to the perplexity of a State, is nothing new, but that they should be outrageously brought forward, by one, whose station abroad should have taught him a delicacy of manners and even an excess of prudence, is something strange. The mind of a living public is quickly alarmed and easily tormented. It not only suffers by the stroke, but is frequently fretted by the cure, and ought therefore to be tenderly dealt with, and never ought to be trifled with. It feels first, and reasons afterwards. Its jealousy keeps vibrating between the accused and the accuser, and on a failure of proof always fixes on the latter. Had Mr. Deane’s address produced no uneasiness in the body he appeals to, it would have been a sign, not of tranquility, but death: and though it is painful to see it unnecessarily tortured, it is pleasant to contemplate the living cause.
Mr. Deane is particularly circumstanced. He has advantages which seldom happen, and when they do happen, ought to be used with the nicest care and strictest honor. He has the opportunity of telling his own tale and there is none to reply to him. Two of the gentlemen he so freely censures are three thousand miles off, and the other two he so freely affronts are Members of Congress; one of them likewise, Col. R. H. Lee, is absent in Virginia; and however painful may be their feelings, they must attend the progressive conduct of the house. No Member in Congress can individually take up the matter without becoming inconsistent, and none of the public understands it sufficiently. With these advantages Mr. Deane ought to be nicely and strictly the gentleman, in his language, his assertions, his insinuations and his facts. He presents himself, as his own evidence, upon his honor, and any misrepresentation or disingenuous trifling in him will be fatal.
Mr. Deane begins his address with a general display of his services in France, and strong insinuations against the Hon. Arthur and William Lee, he brings his complaints down to the time of signing the treaty, and from thence to the fourth of March, when he received the following order of Congress which he inserts at large:
“In CONGRESS, December 8, 1777.
WHEREAS it is of the greatest importance that Congress should at this critical juncture be well informed of the state of affairs in Europe. And whereas Congress have resolved that the Honorable Silas Deane, Esq; be recalled from the Court of France, and have appointed another Commissioner to supply his place there. Ordered, that the committee for foreign correspondence, write to the Honorable Silas Deane, and direct him to embrace the first opportunity of returning to America, and upon his arrival to repair with all possible dispatch to Congress.”
Mr. Deane then says “and having placed my papers and yours in safety, I left Paris the 30th to embark for my native country, on board that fleet which your great and generous ally sent out for your assistance, in full confidence that I should not be detained on the business I was sent for.”
I am obliged to tell Mr. Deane that this arrangement is somewhat uncandid, for on the reading it, it creates an opinion and likewise carries an appearance that Mr. Deane was only sent for, as the necessary and proper person from whom Congress might obtain a history of their affairs, and learn the character of their foreign Agents, Commissioners and Ambassadors, after which, Mr. Deane was to return. Is Mr. Deane so little master of address as not to know that censure may be politely conveyed by an apology? For however Mr. Deane may chuse to represent or misrepresent the matter, the truth is, that his contracts and engagements in France, had so involved and embarrassed Congress, that they found it necessary and resolved to recall him, that is ordered him home, to give an account of his own conduct, and likewise to save him from a train of disagreeable consequences, which must have arisen to him had he continued in France. I would not be supposed to insinuate, that he might be thought unsafe, but unfit. There is a certain and necessary association of dignity between the person and the employment which perhaps did not appear when Mr. Deane was considered the Ambassador. His address to the public confirms the justness of this remark. The spirit and language of it differ exceedingly from that cool penetrating judgment and refinement of manners and expression which fits, and is absolutely necessary in, the Plenipotentiary. His censures are coarse and vehement, and when he speaks of himself, he begs, nay almost weeps to be believed. — It was the intricacy of Mr. Deane’s own official affairs, his multiplied contracts in France before the arrival of Dr. Franklin or any of the other Commissioners; his assuming authorities, and entering into engagements, in the time of his Commercial Agency, for which he had neither commission nor instruction, and the general unsettled state of his accounts, that were among the reasons that produced the motion for recalling and superseding him. — Why then does Mr. Deane endeavour to lead the attention of the public to a wrong object, and bury the real reasons under a tumult of new and perhaps unnecessary suspicions?
Mr. Deane in the beginning of his address to the public says, “What I write to you, I would have said to your Representatives, their ears have been shut against me, by an attention to matters, which my respect for them induces me to believe were of more importance.”
In this paragraph Mr. Deane’s excuse becomes his accuser, and his justification is his offence; for if the greater importance of other matters is supposed and given by himself as a reason, why he was not heard, it is likewise a sufficient reason why he ought not to have complained that “their ears were shut,” and a good reason why he ought to have waited a more convenient time. But besides the inconsistency of this charge, there is something in it that will suffer by an enquiry, and I am sorry that Mr. Deane’s imprudence has obliged me to mention a circumstance which affects his honour as a gentleman, his reputation as a man. In order to be clearly understood on this head, I am obliged to go back with Mr. Deane to the time of his quitting France on account of his being recalled. “I left Paris, says Mr. Deane, on the 30th of March, 1778 to embark for my native country, having placed my papers and yours in safety,” would any body have supposed that a gentleman in the character of a Commercial Agent, and afterwards in that of a public Minister, would return home after seeing himself both recalled and superseded, and not bring with him his papers and vouchers, and why he has done so must appear to every one exceedingly unaccountable? After Mr. Deane’s arrival he had two audiences with Congress in August last, in neither of which did he offer the least charge against the gentleman he has so loudly upbraided in his address to the public, neither has he yet accounted for his expenditure of public money, which as it might have been done by a written state of accounts, might for that reason have been done at any time, and was a part of the business which required no audience.
There is something curiously intricate and evasive in Mr. Deane’s saying in his address, that he left France “in full confidence that he should not be detained on the business he was sent for.” And the only end it can answer to him is to furnish out a present excuse for not producing his papers. Mr. Deane had no right, either from the litteral or implied sense of the resolution itself to suppose that he should return to France in his former public character, or that he was “sent for” as he stiles it, on any other personal business than that which related to himself. Mr. Deane must be sensible, if he will but candidly reflect, that as an Agent only, he greatly exceeded his line, and embarrassed the Congress, the continent, the army and himself.
Mr. Deane’s address to the public is dated Nov. — but without any day of the month; and here a new scene of ungenteel evasion opens. On the last day of that month, viz. the 30th, he addressed a letter to Congress signifying his intentions of returning to France and pressing to have his affairs brought to some conclusion, which, I presume, on account of the absence of his papers could not well be done, therefore Mr. Deane’s address to the public must be written before the 30th, and consequently before his letter to Congress, which carries an appearance of its being only a feint in order to make a confused diversion in his favor at the time his affairs should come under consideration.
What favors this opinion, is that on the next day, that is, December 1st, and partly in consequence of Mr. Deane’s letter to them of the 30th, the Congress entered the following resolution.
“In CONGRESS, December 1, 1778. Resolved, That after to-morrow Congress will meet two hours at least each evening, beginning at six o’clock, Saturday evening excepted, until the present state of their foreign affairs be fully considered.”
As an enquiry into the state of foreign affairs naturally and effectually included all and every part of Mr. Deane’s, he was thereupon regularly notified by letter to attend; and on the fourth he wrote again to Congress, acquainting them with his having received that notification and expressed his thanks; yet on the day following, viz. the fifth he published his extraordinary address in the news-papers, which on account of its unsupported matter, the fury of its language and temper, and its inconsistency with other parts of his conduct, is incompatible with that character (which on account of the station he had been honoured with, and the sense that should have impressed him in consequence thereof,) he ought to have maintained.
On the appearance of Mr. Deane’s address of the fifth, the public became jealously uneasy, and well they might. They were unacquainted with the train of circumstances that preceded and attended it, and were naturally led to suppose, that Mr. Deane, on account of the station he had filled, must be too much a gentleman to deceive them. It was Mr. Deane’s particular fortune to grow into consequence from accident. Sent to France as a Commercial Agent under the appointment of a Committee, he rose as a matter of convenience to the station of a Commissioner of Congress; and with what dignity he might fill out that character, the public will judge from his conduct since; and perhaps be led to substitute convenience as an excuse for the appointment.
A delicacy of difficulties likewise arose in Congress on the appearance of the said address; for setting aside the matter, the irregular manner of it, as a proceeding, was a breach of decency; and as Mr. Deane after being notified to attend an enquiry into foreign affairs, had circumstantially withdrawn from that mode, by appealing to the public, and at the same time said “their ears were shut against him,” it was therefore given as a reason by some, that to take any notice of Mr. Deane in the interim would look like suppressing his public information, if he had any to give, and consequently would imply dishonour on the House; and that as he had transferred his case to the public, before it had been rejected by the Congress, he ought therefore to be left with the public, till he had done with them and they with him: and that whether his information was true or not, it was an insult on the people, because it was making them the ladder on which he insulted their representatives by an unjust complaint of neglect. — Others who might anticipate the anxiety of the public, and apprehend discontents would arise from a supposed inattention, were for adopting measures to prevent them, and of consequence inclined to a different line of conduct, and this division of sentiment on what might be supposed the honour of the House, occasioned the then President, Henry Laurens, Esq; who adhered to the former opinion, to resign the chair; the majority on the sentiments was a single vote. In this place I take the liberty of remarking, for the benefit of succeeding generations, that the Honourable President before-mentioned, having filled that station for one year in October last made, his resignation of the presidency at the expiration of the year, lest any example taken from his continuance might have become inconvenient. I have an additional satisfaction in mentioning this useful historical anecdote, because it is done wholly unknown to the gentleman to whom it relates, or to any other gentleman in or out of Congress. He was replaced by a unanimous vote. But to return to my narration. —
In the Pennsylvania Packet of December 8th, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Esq; brother to the gentleman so rudely treated in Mr. Deane’s publication, and the only one now present, put in a short address to the public, requesting a suspension of their judgment till the matter could be fully investigated by those whose immediate business it became; meaning Congress. And Mr. Deane in the paper of the 10th published another note, in which he informs, “that the Honorable Congress did, on Saturday morning the 5th instant, assign Monday evening to hear him.” But why does Mr. Deane conceal the resolution of Congress of December 1st, in consequence of which he was notified to attend regularly an enquiry into the state of foreign affairs? By so doing, he endeavours to lead the public into a belief that his being heard on Monday was extorted purely in consequence of his address of the 5th, and that otherwise he should not have been heard at all. I presume Congress are anxious to hear him, and to have his accounts arranged and settled; and if this should be the case, why did Mr. Deane leave his papers in France, and now complain that his affairs are not concluded? In the same note Mr. Deane likewise says, “that Congress did on that evening, Monday, resolve, That Mr. Deane do report in writing, as soon as may be, his agency of their affairs in Europe, together with any intelligence respecting their foreign affairs which he may judge proper.” But why does Mr. Deane omit giving the remaining part of the resolution, which says, “That Mr. Deane be informed, that if he has any thing to communicate to Congress in the interim of immediate importance, that he should be heard to-morrow evening.” I can see no propriety, in omitting this part, unless Mr. Deane concluded that by publishing it he might put a quick expiration to his credit, by his not being able to give the wondrous information he had threatened in his address. In the conclusion of this note, Mr. Deane likewise says, “I therefore conceive that I cannot, with propriety, continue my narrative at present. In the mean time I submit it to the good sense of the public, whether I ought to take any notice of a publication signed Francis Lightfoot Lee, opposed to stubborn and undeniable facts.”
Thus far I have compared Mr. Deane with himself, and whether he has been candid or uncandid, consistent or inconsistent, I leave to judgment of those who read it. Mr. Deane cannot have the least right to think that I am moved by any party difference or personal antipathy. He is a gentleman with whom I never had a syllable of dispute, nor with any other person upon his account. Who are his friends, his connections, or his foes, is wholly indifferent to me, and what I have written will be a secret to everybody till it comes from the press. The convulsion which the public were thrown into by his address will, I hope, justify my taking up a matter in which I should otherwise have been perfectly silent; and whatever may be its fate, my intention is a good one; besides which there was no other person who knew the affair sufficiently, or knowing it, could confidently do it, and yet it was necessary to be done.
I shall now take a short review of what Mr. Deane calls “stubborn and undeniable facts.” Mr. Deane must be exceedingly unconversant both with terms and ideas, not to distinguish even between a wandering probability and a fact; and between a forced inclination and a proof; for admitting every circumstance of information in Mr. Deane’s address to be true, they are still but circumstances, and his deductions from them are hypothetical and inconclusive.
Mr. Deane has involved a gentleman in his unlimited censure, whose fidelity and personal qualities I have been well acquainted with for three years past; and in respect to an absent injured friend, Colonel Richard Henry Lee, I will venture to tell Mr. Deane, that in any stile of character in which a gentleman may be spoken of, Mr. Deane would suffer by a comparison. He has one defect which perhaps Mr. Deane is acquainted with, the misfortune of having but one hand.
The charges likewise which he advances against the Honorable Arthur and William Lee are, to me, circumstantial evidences of Mr. Deane’s unfitness for a public character; for it is the business of a foreign minister to learn other men’s secrets and keep their own. Mr. Deane has given a short history of Mr. Arthur Lee and Dr. Berkenhout in France, and he has brought the last mentioned person again on the stage in America. There is something in this so exceedingly weak, that I am surprised that anyone who would be thought a man of sense, should risk his reputation upon such a frivolous tale; for the event of the story, if any can be produced from it, is greatly against himself.
He says that a correspondence took place in France between Dr. Berkenhout and Mr. Lee, that Mr. Lee shew part of the correspondence to Dr. Franklin and himself, and that in order to give the greater weight to Dr. Berkenhout’s remarks he gave them to understand, that Dr. Berkenhout was in the secrets of the British Ministry. What Mr. Deane has related this for, or what he means to infer from it, I cannot understand; for the political inference ought to be, that if Mr. Lee really thought that Dr. Berkenhout was in the secrets of the British Ministry, he was therefore the very person with whom Mr. Lee ought, as an Ambassador, to cultivate a correspondence, and introduce to his colleagues, in order to discover what those secrets were, that they might be transmitted to America, and if Mr. Deane acted otherwise, he unwisely mistook his own character. However, this I can assure Mr. Deane, upon my own knowledge, that more and better information has come from Mr. Lee than ever came from himself; and how, or where he got it, is not a subject fit for public enquiry: unless Mr. Deane means to put a stop to all future informations. I can likewise tell Mr. Deane, that Mr. Lee was particularly commissioned by a certain body, and that under every sacred promise of inviolable secrecy, to make discoveries in England, and transmit them. Surely Mr. Deane must have left his discretion with his papers, or he would see the imprudence of his present conduct.
In the course of Mr. Deane’s narrative he mentions Dr. Berkenhout again. “In September last, says he, I was informed that Dr. Berkenhout, who I have before mentioned, was in gaol in this city. I confess I was surprised, considering what I have already related, that this man should have the audacity to appear in the capital of America.” But why did not Mr. Deane confront Dr. Berkenhout while he was here? Why did he not give information to Congress or to the Council before whom he was examined, and by whom he was discharged and sent back for want of evidence against him? Mr. Deane was the only person that knew any thing of him, and it looks very unfavorable in him that he was silent when he should have spoke, if he had anything to say, and now he has gone has a great deal to tell, and that about nothing. “I immediately, says Mr. Deane, sate myself about the measures which I conceived necessary to investigate his plans and designs.” This is indeed a trifling excuse, for it wanted no great deal of setting about, the whole secret as well as the means being with himself, and half an hour’s iNformation might have been sufficient. What Mr. Deane means by “investigating his plans and designs,” I cannot understand, unless he intended to have the Doctor’s nativity cast by a conjurer. Yet this trifling round-about story is one of Mr. Deane’s “stubborn and undeniable facts.” However, it is thus far a fact, that Mr. Deane kept it a secret till the man was gone.
He likewise entertains us with a history of what passed at NeW-York between Dr. Berkenhout and Governor Johnstone; but as he must naturally think that his readers must wonder how he came by such knowledge, he prudently supplies the defect by saying “that Providence in whom we put our trust, unfolded it to me,” revealed it, I suppose. As to what Dr. Berkenhout was, or what he came for, is a matter of very little consequence to us. He appeared to be a man of good moral character, of a studious turn of mind, and genteel behavior, and whether he had whimsically employed himself, or was employed on a foolish errand by others, is a business not worth our enquiring after; he got nothing here, and to send him back was both necessary and civil. He introduced himself to General Maxwell at Elizabeth-town, as knowing Mr. Arthur Lee; the General wrote a letter of information to Colonel R. H. Lee who presented the same to Congress. But it does not appear that Mr. Deane moved in the matter till a considerable time after the Doctor was sent off, and then Mr. Deane put a series of queries in the news-paper to know why he was let go. I little thought at that time that the queries were Mr. Deane’s, as they really appeared to me to be the produce of some little mind.
Mr. Deane likewise tells us that Mr. A. Lee was suspected by some of our best friends because of his acquaintance with Lord Shelburne; and perhaps some Mr. Deane in England might find out that Lord Shelburne ought to be suspected because of his acquaintance with Mr. Lee. Mr. Deane appears to me neither to understand characters nor business, or he would not mention Lord Shelburne on such an occasion whose uniform and determined opposition to the Ministry appears to be known to every body but Mr. Deane. Mr. Deane has given us a quotation from a letter which he never saw, and had it likewise from a gentleman in France who had never seen it, but who had heard it from a correspondent in England to whom it was not sent, which correspondent had seen the person to whom it was sent; and this traditionary story is another of Mr. Deane’s stubborn and undeniable facts. But even supposing the quotation to be true, the only inference from it is naturally this, “That the sooner England makes peace with America the better it will be for her.” Had the intimation been given before the treaty with France was signed, it might have been justly censured, but being given after, it can have but one meaning, and that a clear one. He likewise says, that Charles Fox “declared pointedly in the House of Commons,” that the treaty between France and America was signed, and as Charles Fox knows Lord Shelburne, and Lord Shelburne Mr. Lee, therefore Mr. Deane infers, “as a stubborn and undeniable fact,” that Mr. Lee must tell it. Does Mr. Deane know that nothing can be long a secret in a court, especially where the countries are but twenty miles apart, and that Charles Fox, from his ingratiating manners, is almost universally known in France?
Mr. Deane likewise supposes that William Lee, Esquire, continues an Alderman of London, and either himself or some other gentleman since, under the signature of OBSERVATOR, says that “he has consulted, on this point, the Royal Kalendar or Annual Register,” and finds it true. &mdash’ To consult a Kalendar to find out a name must be a learned consultation indeed! An Alderman of London is neither a place at Court nor a place of profit, and if the city chuses not to expel him, it is a proof they are very good whigs; and this is the only proved fact in Mr. Deane’s Address. But there is, through the whole of it, a barbarous, unmanly and unsupported attack on absent characters, which are, perhaps, far superior to his own; an eagerness to create suspicions wherever he can catch an opportunity; an over strained desire to be believed; and an affected air of giving importance to trifles. He accuses Mr. Lee of incivility to the French nation. Mr. Lee, if I can judge by his writing, is too much both of a scholar and a gentleman to deserve such a censure. He might with great justice complain of Mr. Deane’s contracts with individuals; for we are fully sensible, that the gentlemen which have come from France since the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee in that country, are of a different rank to the generality of those with whom Mr. Deane contracted when alone. And this observation will, I believe, explain that charge no ways to Mr. Deane’s honour.
Upon the whole, I cannot help considering this publication as one of the most irrational performances I ever met with. He seems in it to pay no regard to individual safety, nor cares who he may involve in the consequences of his quarrel. He mentions names without restraint, and stops at no discovery of persons. A public man, in Mr. Deane’s former character, ought to be as silent as the grave; for who would trust a person with a secret who shewed such a talent for revealing? Under the pretence of doing good he is doing mischief, and in a tumult of his own creating, will expose and distress himself.
Mr. Deane’s address was calculated to catch several sorts of people: The rash, because they are fond of fiery things; the curious, because they are fond of curiosities; the weak, because they easily believe; the good, because they are unsuspicious; the tory, because it comforts his discontent; the high whig, because he is jealous of his rights; the man of national refinement, because it obscurely hints at national dishonor. The clamor, it is true, has been a popular one, and so far as it is the sign of a living principle, it is pleasant to see it; but when once understood it will amount to nothing, and with the rapidity that it rose it will descend.
Philadelphia, Dec. 14, 1778.
P.S. The writer of this has been waited on by a gentleman, whom he supposes, by his conversation, to be a friend of Mr. Deane’s, and whom Mr. Deane, but not any other person, is welcome to know whenever he pleases. The gentleman informed the writer, that some persons, whom he did not mention, had threatened most extraordinary violence against him (the writer of this piece) for taking the matter up; the writer asked what, whether right or wrong? and likewise informed the gentleman, that he had done it solely with a view of putting the public right in a matter which they did not understand — that the threat served to encrease the necessity, and was therefore an excitement to his doing it. The gentleman, after expressing his good opinion of, and personal respect for, the writer, withdrew.
TO THE PUBLIC From the Pennsylvania Packet, December 29, 1778.
In the course of a few days I shall lay before you some very interesting facts and materials, by which you will be able to distinguish between those who serve you and those who seek to deceive you. There is something more in Mr. Deane’s affair than many of you are at present acquainted with, and as such persons appear to have mistaken the right side for the wrong, it is now necessary that the public should know the whole, for upon that only can they form a proper judgment.
If Mr. Deane and his friends are right, then I must be wrong; and if I am right, they must be wrong. Either the one or the other is deceiving you. There is a premeditated baseness lurking somewhere, and it ought to be detected. If it is on my part, you have a right to resent it as you please; and even the good I have already rendered, so far from becoming my excuse, ought to provoke you the more. I have either disturbed a viperous nest to preserve you from being bitten, or deserve to be thrown into one myself; and on this ground only, without looking forward or backward, I desire to stand or fall in the opinion of every man in America, in proportion as I am in this affair of Mr. Deane, right or wrong, faithful or unfaithful.
As I shall reserve my principal matter for my next publication, I shall in this piece give you only a short history of what may be called the underplots, as by your first understanding those, you will be the better able to judge of the Characters of the persons concerned.
Before my piece, signed Common Sense, addressed to Mr. Deane, came out, I gave the Printer, Mr. Dunlap, authority to give my real name and place of residence to Mr. Deane, that he might know where and on whom to call if he found himself injured, or had any thing to resent; and I had reason to expect (by the threatenings which Mr. Deane’s friend informed me of, and who came to my lodgings on purpose, having never been there before) and likewise from other intimations, that I should be called upon; and under this expectation I took care not to be out of the way, but remained constantly at home the two following days. No person came.
In the next news paper after my piece came out, some one or more informed the public, “That Common Sense would be answered by a person under the signature of Plain Truth, and that the writer’s name would be left with the Printer.” And in the piece itself signed Plain Truth, the writer says, “his name is left with the Printer.” By these repeated assertions the public were, no doubt, induced to believe, that the author of Plain Truth was too much a man of honor and veracity to impose upon them, or to conceal himself from the author of Common Sense, when called upon.
As I saw my own personal character treated, in that piece, with an unjust degree of scandalous freedom, I sent my name in a written note to the printer (which note he has my leave to show to any person whatever) and desired him to give me up the author of Plain Truth. To this I received no answer. On the next day I engaged a gentleman, a friend of mine, to call on the Printer, and make the same demand, authorising him to use my name if he choose; because as one of the public he had a right to make the demand in his own person. I chuse in this place to relate the exact conversation as given me in writing by that gentleman.
“Pray, Mr. Dunlap, who is the author of Plain Truth?” Mr. Dunlap replied, “aye, that indeed!” The gentleman rejoined, “Surely, I have a right to know the author; he has, he says, left his name with you for the information of those who chuse to know.” Mr. Dunlap replied, “Sir, you shall know, but Mr. Paine has demanded his name in a letter to me, and he has a right to be first informed. He shall be informed in writing this evening, and you, if you please, shall know to-morrow morning.” The gentleman answered, “It is very well.” This passed on Wednesday.
I waited the remainder of that day, and the next till five o’clock, and no name was sent to me. I then applied by a written note again to the same gentleman, to solicit his further assistance. When he came to me, I told him I had received no answer to my demand. He replied, “he had,” and at the same time mentioned as his opinion, that the name then given to him was not, and could not be, the real one. Neither was it given up as the real author’s name. He then produced a note written to Mr. Dunlap, which note Mr. Dunlap had just then given to him to communicate to me. The note has neither date or place. In said note, the name of “M. Clarkson” who, as I am told, is an Aid de Camp to General Arnold, is given up as the person who undertakes to “avow the piece under the signature of Plain Truth, in the Pennsylvania Packet of December 21st.”
As I consider this proceeding to be a low and pitiful evasion, both towards the public and myself personally, I shall therefore treat it as all such proceedings deserve. And if this young man, whom I do not know even by sight, has been so weak, or influenced by promises or other motives, to stand in a gap to screen an unseen incendiary, and that in a matter he has no business with, and can know scarcely anything of, he truly deserves that kind of chastisement which the law best inflicts. I shall therefore order an Attorney to prosecute him, as a party concerned in publishing a false malicious libel, tending to injure the reputation of the “Secretary for Foreign Affairs,” which mode of proceeding will likewise afford him an opportunity of proving what he has, I believe, so unnecessarily made his own. And when I can discover the real author or authors, I shall serve them in the same manner, as by their skulking cowardice they deserve no other treatment.
THOMAS PAINE, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Author of all the Writings under the Signature of Common Sense.
Philadelphia, December 28, 1778.
P. S. The above was to have appeared in the paper of Saturday last, and was sent to the Printer for that purpose on Friday noon, but as the gentleman alluded to in the above was not present to explain the conversation which passed between him and Mr. Dunlap, it was therefore found necessary to defer it.
In justice to Mr. Dunlap, I think it proper to mention that his delay in giving up the writer’s name was because it was not left with him; and that as far as I can learn, he was obliged to make repeated applications to get even that which is now given. T.P.
COMMON SENSE to the PUBLIC, on Mr. DEANE’S Affairs.
from the Pennsylvania Packet, December 31, 1778 and January 2, 5, 7 and 9, 1779.
Hoping this to be my last on the subject of Mr. Deane’s conduct and address, I shall therefore make a few remarks on what has already appeared in the papers, and furnish you with some interesting and explanatory facts; and whatever I may conceive necessary to say of myself will conclude the piece. As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand, shall therefore avoid every literary ornament, and put it in language as plain as the alphabet.
I desire the public to understand that this is not a personal dispute between Mr. Deane and me; but is a matter of business in which they are more interested than they seemed at first to be apprised of. I rather wonder that no person was curious enough to ask in the papers how affairs stood between Congress and Mr. Deane as to money matters? And likewise, what it was that Mr. Deane has so repeatedly applied to the Congress for without success? Perhaps those two questions, properly asked, and justly answered, would have unravelled a great part of the mystery, and explained the reason why he threw out, at such a particular time, such a strange address. They might likewise have asked, whether there had been any former dispute between Mr. Deane and Arthur or William Lee, and what it was about? Mr. Deane’s round about charges against the Lees are accompanied with a kind of rancor, that differs exceedingly from public spirited zeal. For my part I have but a very slender opinion of those patriots, if they can be called such, who never appear till provoked to it by a personal quarrel, and then blaze away the hero of their awn tale, and in a whirl-wind of their own raising; such men are very seldom what the populace mean by the word “staunch,” and it is only by a continuance of service that any public can become a judge of a man’s principles.
When I first took up this matter, I expected at least to be abused, and I have not been disappointed. It was the last and only refuge they had, and, thank God, I had nothing to dread from it. I might have escaped it if I would, either by being silent, or by joining in the tumult. A gentleman, a Member of Congress, an associate, I believe, of Mr. Deane’s, and one whom I would wish had not a hand in the piece signed Plain Truth, very politely asked me, a few days before Common Sense to Mr. Deane came out, whether on that subject I was pro or con. I replied, I knew no pro or con, nor any other sides than right or wrong.
Mr. Deane had objected to my putting the signature of Common Sense to my address to him, and the gentleman who came to my lodgings urged the same objections; their reasons for so doing may, I think, be easily guessed at. The signature has, I believe, an extensive reputation, and which, I trust, will never be forfeited while in my possession. As I do not chuse to comply with the proposal that was made to me for changing it, therefore Mr. Plain Truth, as he calls himself, and his connections, have endeavoured to take off from the credit of the signature, by a torrent of low-toned abuse without wit, matter or sentiment.
Had Mr. Deane confined himself to his proper line of conduct, he would never have been interrupted by me, or exposed himself to suspicious criticism. But departing from this, he has thrown himself on the ocean of the public, where nothing but the firmest integrity can preserve him from becoming a wreck. A smooth and flattering tale may do for a while, but unless it can be supported with facts, and maintained by the most incontestable proofs, it will fall to the ground, and leave the inventor in the lurch.
On the first view of things, there is something in Mr. Deane’s conduct which must appear mysterious to every disinterested man, if he will but give himself time to reflect. Mr. Deane has been arrived in America, and in this city, upwards of five months, and had he been possessed of any secrets which affected, or seemed to affect, the interest of America, or known any kind of treachery, misconduct, or neglect of duty in any of the other Commissioners, or in any other person, he ought, as an honest man, to have disclosed it immediately on his arrival, either to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, of which I have the honor to be Secretary, or to Congress. Mr. Deane has done neither, notwithstanding he has had two audiences with Congress in August last, and might at any time have laid his written information before them, or before the Committee, through whom all his foreign concerns had passed, and in whose hands, or rather in mine, are lodged all his political correspondence, and those of other Commissioners.
From an unwillingness to expose Mr. Deane and his adherents too much, I contented myself in my first piece with showing their inconsistency rather than their intentions, and gave them room to retract by concealing their discredit. It is necessary that I should now speak a plainer language.
The public have totally mistaken this matter, and when they come to understand it rightly, they will see it in a very different light to what they at first supposed it. They seemed to conceive, and great pains have been taken to make them believe, that Mr. Deane had repeatedly applied to Congress to obtain an audience, in order to lay before them some great and important discoveries, and that the Congress had refused to hear such information. It is, Gentlemen, no such thing. If Mr. Deane or any one else had told you so, they have imposed upon you.
If you attend to a part of Mr. Deane’s address to you, you will there find, even from his own account, what it was that he wanted an interview with Congress for, viz. to get some how or other through his own perplext affairs, and obtain an audience of leave and departure that he might embark for France, and which if he could have obtained, there is every reason to believe, he would have quitted America in silence, and that the public would never have been favored with his address, nor I plagued with the trouble of putting it to rights. The part which I allude to is this, “and having placed my papers and your’s in, safety, I left Paris, in full confidence that I should not be DETAINED IN AMERICA,” to which he adds this curious expression, “on the business I was sent for.” To be “detained” at home is a new transposition of ideas, especially in a man who had been absent from it two years and a half, and serves to shew that Mr. Deane was become so wonderfully foreignized that he had quite forgotten poor Connecticut.
As I shall have frequent occasions to make use of the name of Congress, I request you to suspend all kind of opinions on any supposed obligations which I am said to lie under to that body, till you hear what I have to say in the conclusion of this address, for if Mr. Deane’s accounts stand as clear with them as mine do, he might very easily have brought his papers from France. I have several times repeated, and I again repeat it, that my whole design in taking this matter up, was and is, to prevent the public being imposed upon, and the event must and will convince them of it.
I now proceed to put the affair into such a straight line that you cannot misunderstand it.
Mr. Deane wrote his address to you some time in November, and kept it by him in order to publish or not as it might suit his purpose. (See Note) On the 30th day of the same month he applied by letter to Congress, and what do you think it was for? To give them any important information? No. To “tell them what he has wrote to you?” No, it was to acquaint them that he had missed agreeable opportunities of returning to France; dismal misfortune indeed! And that the season (of the year) is now becoming as pressing as the business which calls him back, and therefore he earnestly entreated the attention of Congress, to what? To his great information? No, to his important discoveries? No, but to his own situation and requests. These are, I believe, his own words.
Note: This is fully proved by the address itself, which is dated November, but without any day of the month, then the same is likewise acknowledged by his blundering friend Mr. Plain Truth, his words are “Mr. Deane, is true, wrote his address” dated November — “previous to his application to Congress of the 30th of November.” He certainly could not write it after their being, unfortunately for him, but thirty days in that month, “but, continues Mr. Plain Truth, he was determined notwithstanding some forceable reasons, which the vigilant part of the public or had no loss to guess, not to publish it if he could be assured of an early audience with Congress.” Mr. Deane was in a confounded hurry sure that he could not submit to be detained in America till the next day, for on that very next day, December 1st, in consequence of his letter to Congress “Resolved to spend two hours each day, beginning at six in the evening, till the state of their foreign affairs should be fully ascertained,” this naturally included all and every part of Mr. Deane’s affairs, information and every thing else, and it is impossible but he (connected as he is with some plates and present members of Congress) should not immediately know it. I should be glad to be informed with those “forceable reasons are at which the vigilant part of the public guess” likewise how early Mr. Deane expected an audience, since the resolution of the next day appears to have been too late. I am suspicious that it was too soon, and that Mr. Deane and his connections were not prepared for such an early examination notwithstanding he had been here upwards of five months and if this thing is to be “guessed” at at last, and that by the vigilant part of the public, I think I have as great a right to guess as most men, and Mr. Plain Truth, if he pleases, may guess what I mean; but lest he should mistake I will tell him my guess, it is, that the whole affair is a juggle to amuse the people with, in order to prevent the state of foreign affairs being enquired into, and Mr. Deane’s accounts and those he is connected within America settled as they ought to be, and were I to go on guessing, I should likewise guess this is the reason why his accounts are left behind, though I know many people inclined to guess that he has them with him but has forgot them; for my part I don’t chuse at present to go so far. If any one can give a better guess that I have done I shall give mine up, but as a gentleman choose to submit it to a guess, I chuse therefore to take them up on their own terms, and put in for the honor of being right. It was, I think, an injudicious word for them to use, especially at Christmas time.
Now it only remains to know whether Mr. Deane’s official affairs were in a fit position for him to be permitted to quit America or not; and I trust, that when I tell you, I have been Secretary for Foreign Affairs almost two years, you will allow that I must be some judge of the matter.
You have already heard what Mr. Deane’s application to Congress was for. And as one of the public, under the well known signature of Common Sense, I humbly conceive, that the Congress have done that, which as a faithful body of Representatives they ought to do, that is, they ordered an enquiry into the state of foreign affairs and accounts which Mr. Deane had been entrusted with, before they could, with justice to you, grant the request he asked: And this was the more necessary to be done, because Mr. Deane says he has left his papers and accounts behind him: Did ever any steward, when called upon, to surrender up his stewardship make such a weak and frivolous excuse? Mr. Deane saw himself not only recalled but superseded in his office by another person, and he could have no right to think he should return, nor any pretense to come away without the necessary credentials.
His friend and associate, and perhaps partner too, Mr. Plain Truth, says, that I have endeavored in my address, to “throw out a suggestion that Mr. Deane is considered Congress as a defaulter of public money.” The gentlemen seem to winch before they are touched. I have nowhere said so, but this I will say, that his accounts are not satisfactory. Mr. Plain Truth endeavors to palliate what he cannot contradict, and with a seeming triumph assures the public “that Mr. Deane not long after his arrival laid before Congress a general state of the receipts and expenditures of the Monies which passed thro’ his hands”; to which Mr. Plain Truth subjoins the following extraordinary apology: “It is true the account was not accompanied with all the vouchers for the particular expenditures.” And why not I ask? for without those it was no account at all; it was what the Sailors call a boot account, so much money gone and the Lord knows for what. Mr. Deane had secretaries and clerks, and ought to have known better than to produce such an account to Congress, especially as his colleague Arthur Lee had declared in an office letter, which is in my possession, that he had no concern in Mr. Deane’s contracts.
Neither does the excuse, which his whirligig friend Mr. Plain Truth makes for him, apply to his case; this random shot gentleman in order to bring him as easily off as possible, says, “that any person in the least conversant with business, knows the time which is requisite for calling in manufacturers and tradesmens bells, and prepare accounts and vouchers for a final settlement,” and this he mentions because Mr. Deane received his order of recall the 4th of March, and left Paris the 31st here is, however, four weeks within a day.
I shall make three remarks upon this curious excuse.
First, it is contradictory. Mr. Deane could not obtain the total or general expenditure without having the particulars, therefore he must be in the possession of the particulars. He surely did not pass away money without taking receipts and what was due upon credit, he could only know from the bills delivered in.
Secondly, Mr. Deane’s contracts did not lay in the retail way, and therefore were easily collected.
Thirdly, The accounts which it was Mr. Deane’s particular duty to settle were those which he contracted in the time of being only a commercial Agent in 76, before the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, which separate agency of his expired upwards of fifteen months before he left France, and surely that was time enough, and in which period of his agency, there happened an unexplained contract of about two hundred thousand pounds sterling. But more of this when I come to remark on the ridiculous puffs with which Mr. Plain Truth has set off Mr. Deane’s pretended services in France.
Mr. Deane has not only left the public papers and accounts behind him, but he has given no information to Congress, where or in whose hands they are; he says in his address to you, that he has left them in a safe place, and this is all which is known of the matter. Does this look like business? Has it an open and candid or a mysterious and suspicious appearance? Or would it have been right in Congress to have granted Mr. Deane an audience of leave and departure in this embarrassed state of his affairs? And because they have not, his ready written November address has been thrown out to abuse them and amuse you by directing you to another object; and myself, for endeavoring to unriddle confusion, have been loaded with reproach by his partisans and partners, and represented as a writer, who like an unprincipled lawyer had let himself out for pay. Charges which the propagators of them know to be false, because some, who have encouraged the report, are Members of Congress themselves, and know my situation to be directly the reverse. But this I shall explain in the conclusion; and I give the gentlemen notice of it, that if they can make out anything against me, or prove that I ever received a single farthing, public or private, for any thing I ever wrote, they may convict me publicly, and if they do not, I hope they will be honest enough to take shame to themselves, for the falsehood they have supported. And I likewise request that they would inform the public what my salary as Secretary for foreign affairs is, otherwise I shall be obliged to do it myself. I shall not spare them and I beg they would not spare me. But to return —
There is something in this concealment of papers that looks like an embezzlement. Mr. Deane came so privately from France, that he even concealed his departure from his colleague Arthur Lee, of which he complains by a letter in my office, and consequently the papers are not in his hands; and had he left them with Dr. Franklin he would undoubtedly have taken the Doctor’s receipt for them, and left nobody to “guess,” at what Mr. Deane meant by a safe place: A man may leave his own private affairs in the hands of a friend, but the papers of a nation are of another nature, and ought never to be trusted with any person whatever out of the direct line of business. This I conceive to be another reason which justifies Congress in not granting Mr. Deane an audience of leave and departure till they are assured where those papers are. Mr. Deane might have been taken at sea, he might have died or been cast away on his passage back from France, or he might have been settled there, as Madame D’Fon did in England, and quarrelled afterwards as she did with the power that employed him. Many accidents might have happened by which those papers and accounts might have been totally lost, the secrets got into the hands of the enemy, and the possibility of settling the expenditure of public money forever prevented. No apology can be made for Mr. Deane, as to the danger of the seas, or their being taken by the enemy, in his attempt to bring them over himself, because it ought always to be remembered that he came in a fleet of twelve sail of the line.
I shall now quit this part of the subject to take notice of a paragraph in Mr. Plain Truth.
In my piece to Mr. Deane I said, that his address was dated in November, without any day of the month, that on the last day of that month he applied to Congress, that on the 1st of December the Congress resolved to investigate the state of their foreign affairs, of which Mr. Deane had notice, and that on the fourth he informed them of his receiving that notification and expressed his thanks, yet that on the fifth he published his extraordinary address.
Mr. Plain Truth, in commenting upon this arrangement of facts has helped me to a new discovery. He says, that Mr. Deane’s thanks of the fourth of December were only expressed to the President, Henry Laurens Esqr; for personally informing him of the resolution and other attention to his affairs, and not, as I had said, to Congress for the resolution itself. I give him credit for this, and believe it to be true; for my opinion of the matter is, that Mr. Deane’s views were to get off without any enquiry, and that the resolution referred to was his great disappointment. By all accounts which have been given both by Mr. Deane’s friends and myself, we all agree in this, that Mr. Deane knew of the resolution of Congress before he published his address, and situated as he is he could not help knowing it two or three days before his address came out. Why then did he publish it, since the very thing which he ought to have asked for, viz. an inquiry into his affairs was ordered to be immediately gone into?
I wish in this place to step for a moment from the floor of office, and press it on every State, to enquire what mercantile connections any of their late or present Delegates have had or now have with Mr. Deane, and that a precedent might not be wanting, it is important that this State, Pennsylvania should begin.
The uncommon fury which has been spread to support Mr. Deane cannot be altogether for his sake. Those who were the original propagators of it, are not remarkable for gratitude. If they excel in anything it is in the contrary principle and a selfish attachment to their own interest. It would suit their plan exceedingly well to have Mr. Deane appointed Ambassador to Holland, because so situated, he would make a very convenient partner in trade, or a useful factor.
In order to rest Mr. Deane on the shoulders of the public, he has been set off with the most pompous puffs. The Saviour of his Country — the Patriot of America — the True Friend of the Public — the Great Supporter of the cause in Europe, and a thousand other full blown bubbles, equally ridiculous and equally untrue. Never were the public more wretchedly imposed upon. An attempt was made to call a town meeting to return him thanks and to march in a body to Congress to demand justice for Mr. Deane. And this brings me to a part in Mr. Plain Truth’s address to me, in which he speaks of Mr. Deane’s services in France, and defies me to disprove them. If any late or present Member of Congress has been concerned in writing that piece, I think it necessary to tell him, that he either knows very little of the state of foreign affairs, or ought to blush in thus attempting to rob a friendly nation, France, of her honors, to bestow them on a man who so little deserves them.
Mr. Deane was sent to France in the Spring 76, as a Commercial Agent, under the authority of the Committee which is now stiled the Committee for foreign affairs. He had no commission of any kind from Congress; and his instructions were to assume no other character but that of a merchant; yet in this line of action Mr. Plain Truth has the ignorance to dub him a “public Minister” and likewise says, “that before the first of December, after his arrival he had formed and cultivated the esteem of a valuable political and commercial connection, not only in France but in other parts of Europe, laid the foundation of a public loan, procured thirty thousand stand of arms, thirty thousand suits of cloaths, more than two hundred and fifty pieces of brass cannon, and a great amount of tents and military stores, provided vessels to transport them, and in spite of various and almost inconceivable obstructions great part of these articles were shipped and arrived in America before the operations of the campaign in 1777.” To which Mr. Plain Truth adds, “That he has had the means of being acquainted with all these circumstances, avows them to be facts, and defies Common Sense or any other person to disprove them.”
Poor Mr. Plain Truth, and his avower Mr. Clarkson, have most unfortunately for them challenged the wrong person, and fallen into the right hands when they fell into mine, for without stirring a step from the room I am writing in, or asking a single question of any one, I have it in my power, not only to contradict but disprove it.
It is, I confess, a nice point to touch upon, but the necessity of undeceiving the public with respect to Mr. Deane, and the right they have to know the early friendship of the French nation towards them at the time of their greatest wants, will justify my doing it. I feel likewise the less difficulty in it, because the whole affair respecting those supplies has been in the hands of the enemy at least twelve months, and consequently the necessity for concealing it is superseded: Besides which, the two nations, viz. France and England, being now come to an open rupture makes the secret unnecessary. It was immediately on the discovery of this affair by the enemy fifteen months ago, that the British Ministry began to change their ground and planned what they call their Conciliatory Bills. They got possession of this secret by stealing the dispatches of October 77, which should have come over by Capt. Folger, and this likewise explains the controversy which the British Commissioners carried on with Congress, in attempting to prove that England had planned what they called her conciliatory Bills, before France moved towards a treaty, for even admitting that assertion to be true, the case is, that they planned those bills in consequence of the knowledge they had stolen. (See Note)
Note: When Captain Folger arrived at Yorktown he delivered a packet which contained nothing but blank paper, that had been put under the cover of the dispatches which were taken out. This fraud was acted by the persons to whom they were first intrusted to be brought to America, and who afterwards absconded, having given, by way of deception, the blank packet to Capt. Folger. The Congress were by this means left without any information of European affairs. It happened that a private letter from Doctor Franklin to myself, in which he wrote to me respecting my undertaking the history of the present revolution, and engaged to furnish me with all his materials towards the completion of that work, escaped the pilfering by not being inclosed in the packet with the dispatches. I received this letter at Lancaster through the favor of the president, Henry Laurens, Esq; as it was the only letter which contained any authentic intelligence of the general state of our affairs in France, I transmitted it again to him to be communicated to Congress. This likewise was the only intelligence which was received from France from May 77, to May 2d, 78, when the treaty arrived, wherefore laying aside the point controverted by the British commissioners as to which moved first France or England, it is evident that the resolutions of Congress of April 22d, 1778, for totally rejecting the British bills, were grounded entirely on the determination of America to support her cause. A circumstance which gives the highest honor to the resolutions alluded to, and at the same time gives such a character of her fortitude as heightens her value, when considered as an ally, which though it had at that time taken place, was, to her, perfectly unknown.
The supplies here alluded to, are those which were sent from France in the Amphitrite, Seine and Mercury about two years ago. They had at first the appearance of a present, but whether so, or on credit, the service was nevertheless a great and friendly one, and though only part of them arrived the kindness is the same. A considerable time afterwards the same supplies appeared under the head of a charge amounting to about two hundred thousand pounds sterling, and it is the unexplained contract I alluded to when I spoke of the pompous puffs made use of to support Mr. Deane. On the appearance of this charge the Congress were exceedingly embarrassed as to what line of conduct to pursue. To be insensible of a favor, which has before now been practised between nations, would have implied a want of just conceptions; and to have refused it would have been a species of proud rusticity. To have asked the question was both difficult and aukward; to take no notice of it would have been insensibility itself; and to have seemed backward in payment, if they were to be paid for, would have impeached both the justice and the credit of America. In this state of difficulties such inquiries were made as were judged necessary, in order that Congress might know how to proceed. Still nothing satisfactory could be obtained. The answer which Mr. Deane signed so lately as February 16th, last past (and who ought to know most of the matter, because the shipping the supplies was while he acted alone) is as ambiguous as the rest of his conduct. I will venture to give it, as there is no political secret in it and the matter wants explanation.
“Hear that Mr. B — has sent over a person to demand a large sum of you on account of arms, ammunition, &c. — think it will be best for you to leave that matter to be settled here, (France) as there is a mixture in it of public and private concern which you cannot so well develop.” But why did not Mr. Deane complete the contract so as it might be developed, or at least state to Congress any difficulties that had arisen? When Mr. Deane had his two audiences with Congress in August last, he objected, or his friends for him, against his answering the questions that might be asked him, and the ground upon which the objection was made, was, because a man could not legally be compelled to answer questions that might tend to criminate himself. — Yet this is the same Mr. Deane whose address you saw in the Pennsylvania Packet of Dec. 5 signed Silas Deane.
Having thus shewn the loose manner of Mr. Deane’s doing business in France, which is rendered the more intricate by his leaving his papers behind, or his not producing them; I come now to enquire into what degree of merit or credit Mr. Deane is entitled to as to the procuring these supplies, either as a present or a purchase.
Mr. Plain Truth has given him the whole. Mr. Plain Truth therefore knows nothing of the matter, or something worse. If Mr. Deane or any other gentleman, will procure an order from Congress to inspect an account in my office, or any of Mr. Deane’s friends in Congress will take the trouble of coming themselves, I will give him or them my attendance and show them in a handwriting which Mr. Deane is well acquainted with, that the supplies, he so pompously plumes himself upon, were promised and engaged, and that as a present, before he ever arrived in France, and the part that fell to Mr. Deane was only to see it done, and how he has performed that service, the public are now acquainted with. The last paragraph in the account is, “Upon Mr. Deane’s arrival in France the business went into his hands and the aids were at length embarked in the Amphitrite, Mercury and Seine.”
What will Mr. Deane or his aide-de-camp say to this, or what excuse will they make now? If they have met with any cutting truths from me, they must thank themselves for it. My address to Mr. Deane was not only moderate but civil, and he and his adherents had much better have submitted to it quietly, than provoked more material matter to appear against them. I had at that time all the facts in my hands which I have related since, or shall yet relate in my reply. The only thing I aimed at in the address, was, to give out just as much as might prevent the public from being so grossly imposed upon by them, and yet save Mr. Deane and his adherents from appearing too wretched and despicable. My fault was a misplaced tenderness, which they must now be fully sensible of, and the misfortune to them, is, that I have not yet done.
Had Mr. Plain Truth only informed the Public that Mr. Deane had been industrious in promoting and forwarding the sending the supplies, his assertion would have passed uncontradicted by me, because I must naturally suppose that Mr. Dean would do no otherwise; but to give him the whole and sole honor of procuring them, and that, without yielding any part of the honor to the public spirit and good disposition of those who furnished them, and who likewise must in every shape have put up with the total loss of them had America been overpowered by her enemies, is, in my opinion, placing the reputation and affection of our allies not only in a disadvantageous, but in an unjust, point of view, and concealing from the public what they ought to know.
Mr. Plain Truth declares that he knows all the circumstances, why then did he not place them in a proper line, and give the public a clear information how they arose? The proposal for sending over those supplies, appears to have been originally made by some public spirited gentleman in France, before ever Mr. Deane arrived there, or was known or heard of in that country, and to have been communicated (personally by Mr. Beaumarchais, the gentleman mentioned in the letter signed J. L. which letter is given at length by Mr. Plain Truth) to Mr. Arthur Lee while resident in London about three years ago. From Mr. B’s manner of expression, Mr. Lee understood the supplies to be a present, and has signified it in that light. It is very easy to see that if America had miscarried, they must have been a present, which probably adds explanation to the matter. But Mr. Deane is spoken of by Mr. Plain Truth, as having an importance of his own and procuring those supplies through that importance; whereas he could only rise and fall with the country that impowered him to act, and be in or out of credit, as to money matters, from the same cause and in the same proportion; and every body must suppose, that there were greater and more original wheels at work than he was capable of setting in motion. Exclusive of the matter being begun before Mr. Deane’s arrival, Mr. Plain Truth has given him the whole merit of every part of the transaction. America and France are wholly left out of the question, the former as to her growing importance and credit, from which all Mr. Deane’s consequence was derived, and the latter, as to her generosity in furnishing those supplies, at a time, when the risk of losing them appears to have been as great as our want of them.
I have always understood thus much of the matter, that if we did not succeed no payment would be required, and I think myself fully entitled to believe, and to publish my belief, that whether Mr. Deane had arrived in France or not, or any other gentleman in his stead, those same supplies would have found their way to America. But as the nature of the contract has not been explained by any of Mr. Deane’s letters and is left in obscurity by the account he signed the 16th of February last, which I have already quoted, therefore the full explanation must rest upon other authority — I have been the more explicit on this subject, not so much on Mr. Deane’s account, as from a principle of public justice. It shews, in the first instance, that the greatness of the American cause drew, at its first beginning, the attention of Europe, and that the justness of it was such as appeared to merit support; and in the second instance, that those who are now her allies, prefaced that alliance by an early and generous friendship, yet, that we might not attribute too much to human or auxiliary aid, so unfortunate were those supplies, that only one ship out of the three arrived. The Mercury and Seine into the hands of the enemy.
Mr. Deane, in his address, speaks of himself as “sacrificed for the aggrandizement of others” and promises to inform the public of “what he has done and what he has suffered.” What Mr. Deane means by being sacrificed the Lord knows, and what he has suffered is equally as mysterious. It was his good fortune to be situated in an elegant country and at a public charge, while we were driven about from pillar to post. He appears to know but little of the hardships and losses which his countrymen underwent in the period of his fortunate absence. It fell not to his lot to turn out to a winter’s campaign, and sleep without tent or blanket. He returned to America when the danger was over, and has since that time suffered no personal hardship. What then are Mr. Deane’s sufferings and what the sacrifices he complains of? Has he lost money in the public service? I believe not. Has he got any? That I cannot tell. I can assure him that I have not, and he, if he pleases, may make the same declaration.
Surely the Congress might recal Mr. Deane if they thought proper, without an insinuated charge of injustice for so doing. The authority of America must be little indeed when she cannot change a Commissioner without being insulted by him. And I conceive Mr. Deane as speaking in the most disrespectful language of the Authority of America when he says in his address, that in December 1776 he was “honored with one Colleague, and saddled with another.” Was Mr. Deane to dictate who should be Commissioner, and who should not? It was time, however, to saddle him, as he calls it, with somebody, as I shall shew before I conclude.
When we have elected our Representatives, either in Congress or the Assembly, it is for our own good that we support them in the execution of that authority they derive from us. If Congress is to be abused by every one whom they may appoint or remove, there is an end to all useful delegation of power, and the public accounts in the hands of individuals will never be settled. There has, I believe, been too much of this work practised already, and it is time that the public should now make those matters a point of consideration. But who will begin the disagreeable talk?
I look on the independence of America to be as firmly established as that of any country which is at war. Length of time is no guarantee when arms are to decide the fate of a nation. Hitherto our whole anxiety has been absorbed in the means for supporting our independence, and we have paid but little attention to the expenditure of money; yet we see it daily depreciating, and how should it be otherwise when so few public accounts are settled, and new emissions continually going on? — I will venture to mention one circumstance which I hope will be sufficient to awaken the attention of the public to this subject. In October, 1777, some books of the Commercial Committee, in which, among other things, were kept the accounts of Mr. Thomas Morris, appointed a Commercial Agent in France, were by Mr. Robert Morris’s request taken into his possession to be settled, he having obtained from the council of this State six months leave of absence from Congress to settle his affairs. In February following those books were called for by Congress, but not being compleated were not delivered. In September, 1778 Mr. Morris returned them to Congress, in, or nearly in, the same unsettled state he took them, which, with the death of Mr. Thomas Morris, may probably involve those accounts in further embarrassment. The amount of expenditure on those books is considerably above two millions of dollars. (See Note)
Note: Here is an article in the Constitution of this state, which, were it at this time introduced as a Continental regulation, might be of infinite service. I mean a Council of Censors to inspect into the expenditure of public money and called defaulters to an account. It is, in my opinion, one of the best things in the Constitution, and that which the people put never to give up, and whenever they do they will deserve to be cheated. It has not the most favorable look at those who are hoping to succeed to the government of the state, by a change in the Constitution, are so anxious to get that article abolished. Let expences be ever so great, only let them be fair and necessary, and no good citizen will grumble. Perhaps it may be said, Why do not the Congress do those things? To which I might, by another question, reply, Why don’t you support them when they attempt it? It is not quite so easy a matter to accomplish that point in Congress has perhaps many conceive; men will always find friends and connections among the body that appoints them, which will render all such enquiries difficult.
I now quit this subject to take notice of a paragraph in Mr. Plain Truth, relative to myself. It never fell to my lot to have to do with a more illiberal set of men than those of Mr. Deane’s advocates who were concerned in writing that piece. They have neither wit, manners nor honesty, an instance of which I shall now produce. In speaking of Mr. Deane’s contracts with individuals in France I said in my address “We are all fully sensible, that the gentlemen who have come from France since the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee in that Country are of a different rank from the generality of those with whom Mr. Deane contracted when alone.” These are the exact words I used in my address.
Mr. Plain Truth has misquoted the above paragraph into his piece, and that in a manner, which shows him to be a man of little reading and less principle. The method in which he has quoted it is as follows: “All are fully sensible that the gentlemen who came from France since the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee in that country, are of a different rank from those with whom Mr. Deane contracted when acting separately.” Thus by leaving out the words “the generality of,” Mr. Plain Truth has altered the sense of my expression, so as to suit a most malicious purpose in his own, which could be no other, than that of embroiling me with the French gentlemen that have remained, whereas it is evident, that my mode of expression was intended to do justice to such characters as Fleury and Touzard, by making a distinction, they are clearly entitled to. Mr. Plain Truth not content with unjustly subjecting me to the misconceptions of those gentlemen, with whom even explanation was difficult on account of the language, but in addition to his injustice, endeavoured to provoke them to it by calling on them, and reminding them that they were the “Guardians of their own honor;” and I have reason to believe, that either Mr. Plain Truth or some of the party did not even stop here, but went so far as personally to excite them on. Mr. Fleury came to my lodgings and complained that I had done him great injustice, but that he was sure I did not intend it, because he was certain that I knew him better. He confessed to me that he was pointed at and told that I meant him, and he withal desired, that as I knew his services and character, that I would put the matter right in the next paper. I endeavoured to explain to him that the mistake was not mine, and we parted. — I do not remember that in the course of my reading I ever met with a more illiberal and malicious mis-quotation, and the more so when all the circumstances are taken with it. Yet this same Mr. Plain Truth, whom no body knows, has the impertinence to give himself out to be a man of “education” and to inform the public that “he is not a writer from inclination much less by profession,” to which he might safely have added, still less by capacity, and least of all by principle. As Mr. Clarkson has undertaken to avow the piece signed Plain Truth, I shall therefore consider him as legally accountable for the apparent malicious intentions of this mis-quotation, and he may get whom he pleases to speak or write a defense of him.
I conceive that the general distinction I referred to between those with whom Mr. Deane contracted when alone, and those who have come from France since the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee in that country, is sufficiently warranted. That gallant and amiable officer and volunteer the Marquis de Lafayette, and some others whom Mr. Plain Truth mentions, did not come from France till after the arrival of the additional Commissioners, and proves my assertion to be true. My remark is confined to the many and unnecessary ones with which Mr. Deane burthened and distracted the army. If he acquired any part of his popularity in France by this means he made the continent pay smartly for it. Many thousand pounds it cost America, and that in money totally sunk, on account of Mr. Deane’s injudicious contracts, and what renders it the more unpardonable is, that by the instructions he took with him, he was restricted from making them, and consequently by having no authority had an easy answer to give to solicitations. It was Doctor Franklin’s answer as soon as he arrived and might have been Mr. Deane’s. Gentlemen of science or literature or conversant with the polite or useful arts, will, I presume, always find a welcome reception in America, at least with persons of a liberal cast, and with the bulk of the people.
In speaking of Mr. Deane’s contracts with foreign officers, I concealed out of pity to him a circumstance that must have sufficiently shewn the necessity of recalling him, and, either his great want of judgment, or the danger of trusting him with discretionary power. It is no less than that of his throwing out a proposal, in one of his last foreign letters, for contracting with a German prince to command the American army. For my own part I was no ways surprised when I read it, though I presume almost every body else will be so when they hear it, and I think when he got to this length it was time to “saddle” him.
Mr. Deane was directed by the Committee which employed him to engage four able engineers in France, and beyond this he had neither authority nor commission. But disregarding his instructions (a fault criminal in a negotiator) he proceeded through the several degrees of subalterns, to Captains, Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, Brigadier Generals and at last to Major Generals; he fixt their rank, regulated their command, and on some, I believe, he bestowed a pension. At this stage, I set him down for a Commander-in-Chief, and his next letter proved me prophetic.
Mr. Plain Truth, in the course of his numerous encomiums on Mr. Deane, says, that “The letter of the Count de Vergennes, written by order of his Most Christian Majesty to Congress, speaking of Mr. Deane in the most honorable manner, and the letter from that Minister in his own character, written not in the language of a courtier, but in that of a person who felt what he expressed, would be sufficient to counterbalance, not only the opinions of the writer of the address to Mr. Deane, but even of characters of more influence, who may vainly endeavor to circulate notions of his insignificancy and unfitness for a public minister.”
The supreme authority of one country, however different may be its mode, will ever pay a just regard to that of another, more especially when in alliance. But those letters can extend no further than to such parts of Mr. Deane’s conduct as came under the immediate notice of the Court as a public Minister, or a political agent; and cannot be supposed to interfere with such other parts as might be disapproved in him here as a Contractor or a Commercial Agent, and can in no place be applied as an extenuation of any imprudence of his either there or since his return, besides which, letters of this kind, are as much intended to compliment the power that employs, as the person employed; and upon the whole, I fear Mr. Deane has presumed too much upon the polite friendship of that nation, and engrossed to himself, a regard, that was partly intended to express, through him, an affection to the continent.
Mr. Deane should likewise recollect that the early appearance of any gentleman from America, was a circumstance, so agreeable to the nation he had the honor of appearing at, that he must have managed unwisely indeed to have avoided popularity. For as the poet says,
“Fame then was cheap, and the first comers sped.”
The last line of the couplet is not applicable.
“Which they have since preserv’d by being dead.”
From the pathetic manner in which Mr. Deane speaks of his “sufferings” and the little concern he seems to have of ours, it may not be improper to inform him, that there is kept in this city a Book of Sufferings, into which, by the assistance of some of his connections, he may probably get them registered. I have not interest enough myself to afford him any service in this particular, though I am a friend to all religions, and no personal enemy to those who may, in this place, suppose themselves alluded to.
I can likewise explain to Mr. Deane, the reason of one of his sufferings which I know he has complained of. After the Declaration of Independence was passed, Mr. Deane thought it a great hardship that he was not authorized to announce it in form to the Court of France, and this circumstance has been mentioned as a seeming inattention in Congress. The reason of it was this, and I mention it from my own knowledge. Mr. Deane was at that time only a Commercial Agent, without any commission from Congress, and consequently could not appear at Court with the rank suitable to the formality of such an occasion. A new commission was therefore necessary to be issued by Congress, and that honor was purposely reserved for Doctor Franklin, whose long services in the world, and established reputation in Europe, rendered him the fittest person in America to execute such a great and original design; and it was likewise paying a just attention to the honor of France by sending so able and extraordinary a character to announce the declaration.
Mr. Plain Truth, who sticks at nothing to carry Mr. Deane through every thing thick or thin, says, “It may not be improper to remark that when he (Mr. Deane) arrived in France, the opinion of people there, and in the different parts of Europe, not only with respect to the merits, but the probable issue of the contest, had by no means acquired that consistency which they had at the time of Dr. Franklin’s and Mr. Arthur Lee’s arrival in that kingdom.” Mr. Plain Truth is not a bad historian. For it was the fate of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee to arrive in France at the very worst of times. Their first appearance there was followed by a long series of ill fortune on our side. Doctor Franklin went from America in October 1776, at which time our affairs were taking a wrong turn. The loss on Long-Island, and the evacuation of New-York happened before he went, and all the succeeding retreats and misfortunes, through the course of that year, till the scale was again turned by taking the Hessians at Trenton on the 26th day of December, followed day by day after him. And I have been informed by a gentleman from France, that the philosophical ease and cheerful fortitude, with which Dr. Franklin heard of or announced those tidings, contributed greatly towards lessening the real weight of them on the minds of the Europeans.
Mr. Deane speaking of himself in his address says, “While it was safe to be silent my lips were closed. Necessity hath opened them and necessity must excuse this effort to serve, by informing you.” After which he goes on with his address. In this paragraph there is an insinuation thrown out by Mr. Deane that some treason was on foot, which he had happily discovered, and which his duty to his country compelled him to reveal. The public had a right to be alarmed, and the alarm was carefully kept by those who at first contrived it. Now, if after this, Mr. Deane has nothing to inform them of he must sink into nothing. When a public man stakes his reputation in this manner he likewise stakes all his future credit on the performance of his obligation.
I am not writing to defend Mr. Arthur or Mr. William Lee, I leave their conduct to defend itself; and I would with as much freedom make an attack on either of these gentlemen, if there was a public necessity for it, as on Mr. Deane. In my address I mentioned Colonel R. H. Lee with some testimony of honorable respect, because I am personally acquainted with that gentleman’s integrity and abilities as a public man, and in the circle of my acquaintance I know but few that have equalled, and none that have exceeded him, particularly in his ardor to bring foreign affairs, and more especially the present happy alliance, to an issue.
I heard it mentioned of this gentleman, that he was among those, whose impatience for victory led them into some kind of discontent at the operations of last Winter. The event has, I think, fully proved those gentlemen wrong, and must convince them of it; but I can see no reason why a misgrounded opinion, produced by an overheated anxiety for success, should be mixed up with other matters it has no concern with. A man’s political abilities may be exceedingly good, though at the same time he may differ, and even be wrong, in his notions of some military particulars.
Mr. Deane says that Mr. Arthur Lee “was dragged into a treaty with the utmost reluctance,” a charge which if he cannot support, he must expect to answer for. I am acquainted that Mr. Lee had some objection against the constructions of a particular article, which, I think, shews his judgment, and whenever they can be known will do him honor; but his general opinion of that valuable transaction I shall give in his own words from a letter in my hands.
“France has done us substantial benefits, Great-Britain substantial injuries. France offers to guarantee our sovereignty, and universal freedom of commerce. Great-Britain condescends to accept our submission and to monopolize our commerce. France demands of us to be independent, Great-Britain tributary. I do not conceive how there can be a mind so debased, or an understanding so perverted, as to balance between them.
“The journeys I have made north and south in the public service, have given me opportunities of knowing the general disposition of Europe on our question. There never was one in which the harmony of opinion was so universal. From the prince to the peasant there is but one voice, one wish, the liberty of America, and the humiliation of Great-Britain.”
If Mr. Deane was as industrious to spread reports to the injury of these gentlemen in Europe, as he has been in America, no wonder that their real characters have been misunderstood. The peculiar talent which Mr. Deane possesses of attacking persons behind their backs has so near a resemblance to the author of Plain Truth, who after promising his name to the public has declined to give it, and some other proceedings I am not unacquainted with, particularly an attempt to prevent my publications, that it looks as if one spirit of private malevolence governed the whole.
Mr. Plain Truth has renewed the story of Dr. Berkenhout, to which I have but one reply to make; why did not Mr. Deane appear against him while he was here? He was the only person who knew anything of him, and his neglecting to give information, and thereby suffering a suspicious person to escape for want of proof, is a story very much against Mr. Deane; and his complaining after the man was gone corresponds with the rest of his conduct.
When little circumstances are so easily dwelt upon, it is a sign not only of the want of great ones, but of weakness and ill will. The crime against Mr. William Lee is, that some years ago he was elected an Alderman of one of the wards in London, and the English Calendar has yet printed him with the same title. Is that any fault of his? Or can he be made accountable for what the people of London may do? Let us distinguish between whiggishness and waspishness, between patriotism and peevishness, otherwise we shall become the laughing stock of every sensible and candid mind. Suppose the Londoners should take it into their heads to elect the President of Congress or General Washington an Alderman, is that a reason why we should displace them? But, Mr. Lee, say they, has not resigned. These men have no judgment, or they would not advance such positions. Mr. Lee has nothing to resign. He has vacated his Aldermanship by accepting an appointment under Congress, and can know nothing further of the matter. Were he to make a formal resignation it would imply his being a subject of Great-Britain; besides which, the character of being an ambassador from the States of America, is so superior to that of any Alderman of London, that I conceive Mr. Deane, or Mr. Plain Truth, or any other person, as doing a great injustice to the dignity of America by attempting to put the two in any disputable competition. Let us be honest lest we be despised, and generous lest we be laughed at.
Mr. Deane in his address of the 5th of December, says, “having thus introduced you to your great servants, I now proceed to make you acquainted with some other personages, which it may be of consequence for you to know. I am sorry to say, that Arthur Lee, Esq; was suspected by some of the best friends you had abroad, and those in important characters and stations.” To which I reply, that I firmly believe Mr. Deane will likewise be sorry he has said it. Mr. Deane after thus advancing a charge endeavours to palliate it by saying, “these suspicions, whether well or ill founded, were frequently urged to Doctor Franklin and myself.” But Mr. Deane ought to have been certain that they were well founded, before he made such a publication, for if they are not well founded he must appear with great discredit, and it is now his duty to accuse Mr. Arthur Lee legally, and support the accusation with sufficient proofs. Characters are tender and valuable things; they are more than life to a man of sensibility, and are not to be made the sport of interest, or the sacrifice of incendiary malice. Mr. Lee is an absent gentleman, I believe too, an honest one, and my motive for publishing this is not to gratify any party or any person but as an act of social duty which one man owes to another, and which, I hope, will be done to me whenever I shall be accused ungenerously behind my back.
Mr. Lee to my knowledge has far excelled Mr. Deane in the usefulness of his information, respecting the political and military designs of the Court of London. While in London he conveyed intelligence that was dangerous to his personal safety. Many will remember the instance of the rifle man who had been carried prisoner to England alone three years ago, and who afterwards returned from thence to America, and brought with him a letter concealed in a button. That letter was from this gentleman, and the public will, I believe, conclude, that the hazard Mr. Lee exposed himself to, in giving information while so situated, and by such means, deserves their regard and thanks. The detail of the number of the foreign and British troops for the campaign of 1776, came first from him, as did likewise the expedition against South Carolina and Canada, and among other accounts of his, that the English emissaries at Paris had boasted that the British Ministry had sent over half a million of guineas to corrupt the Congress. This money, should they be fools enough to send it, will be very ineffectually attempted or bestowed, for repeated instances have shewn that the moment any man steps aside from the public interest of America, he becomes despised, and if in office, superseded.
Mr. Deane says, “that Dr. Berkenhout, when he returned to New-York, ventured to assure the British Commissioners, that by the alliance with France, America was at liberty to make peace without consulting her ally, unless England declared war.” What is it to us what Dr. Berkenhout said, or how came Mr. Deane to know what passed between him and the British Commissioners? But I ask Mr. Deane’s pardon, he has told us how. “Providence (says he), in whom we put our trust, unfolded it to me.” But Mr. Deane says, that Colonel R. H. Lee, pertinaciously maintained the same doctrine. The treaty of alliance will neither admit of debate nor any equivocal explanation. Had war not broken out, or had not Great Britain, in resentment to that alliance or connection, and of the good correspondence which is the object of the said treaty, broken the peace with France, either by direct hostilities or by hindering her commerce and navigation in a manner contrary to the rights of nations, and the peace subsisting at that time, between the two Crowns. In this case, I likewise say, that America as a matter of right, could have made a peace without consulting her ally, though the civil obligations of mutual esteem and friendship would have required such a consultation. But war has broken out, though not declared, for the first article in the treaty of alliance is confined to the breaking out of war, and not to its declaration. Hostilities have been commenced, therefore the first case is superseded, and the eighth article of the treaty of alliance has its full intentional force.
Article 8. “Neither of the two parties shall conclude either truce or peace without the formal consent of the other first obtained, and they mutually engage not to lay down their arms until the independence of the United States, shall have been formally or tacitly assured, by the treaty or treaties that shall terminate that war.” What Mr. Deane means by this affected appearance of his, both personally and in print, I am quite at a loss to understand. He seems to conduct himself here in a stile, that would more properly become the secretary to a foreign embassy, than that of an American Minister returned from his charge. He appears to be everybody’s servant but ours, and for that reason can never be the proper person to execute any commission, or possess our confidence. Among the number of his “sufferings” I am told that he returned burdened with forty changes of silk, velvet, and other dresses. Perhaps this was the reason he could not bring his papers.
Mr. Deane says, that William Lee, Esq; gives five per cent commission, and receives a share of it, for what was formerly done for two per cent. That matter requires to be cleared up and explained; for it is not the quantity per cent, but the purposes to which it is applied that makes it right or wrong; besides which, the whole matter, like many other of Mr. Deane’s charges, may be groundless.
I here take my leave of this gentleman, wishing him more discretion, candor and generosity.
In the beginning of this address I informed the public, that “whatever I should conceive necessary to say of myself, would appear in the conclusion.” I chose that mode of arrangement, lest by explaining my own situation first, the public might be induced to pay a greater regard to what I had to say against Mr. Deane, than was necessary they should; whereas it was my wish to give Mr. Deane every advantage, by letting what I had to advance come from me, while I laid under the disadvantage of having the motives of my conduct mistaken by the public. Mr. Deane and his adherents have apparently deserted the field they took possession of and seemed to triumph in. They made their appeal to you, yet have suffered me to accuse and expose them for almost three weeks past, without a denial or a reply.
I do not blame the public for censuring me while they, though wrongfully, supposed I deserved it. When they see their mistake, I have no doubt, but they will honor me with that regard of theirs which I before enjoyed. And considering how much I have been misrepresented, I hope it will not now appear ostentatious in me, if I set forth what has been my conduct, ever since the first publication of the pamphlet Common Sense down to this day, on which, and on account of my reply to Mr. Deane, and in order to import the liberty of the press, and my right as a freeman, I have been obliged to resign my office of Secretary for foreign affairs, which I held under Congress. But this, in order to be compleat, will be published in the Crisis No. 8 of which notice will be given in the papers.
Philadelphia, January 8th, 1779.
N.B. The 12th article in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce is the article I alluded to in my last, and against which, Arthur Lee, Esq; had some objections.
COMMON SENSE to the PUBLIC from the Pennsylvania Packet, January 13, 1779.
The appearance of an address signed Robert Morris, in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of January 9, has occasioned me to renew the subject, by offering some necessary remarks on that performance.
It is customary with writers to make apologies to the public for the frequency of their publications; but I beg to have it well understood, that any such apology from me would be an affront to them. It is their cause, not mine, that I am and have all this while been pleading; and as I ought not to suppose any unwillingness in the public, to be informed of matters, which is their interest to know, so I ought not to suppose it necessary in me to apologize to them for doing an act of duty and justice.
The public will please to remember, that in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of December 21, in which the piece signed Plain Truth made its illegitimate appearance, there was likewise published in the same paper, a short piece of mine, signed Common Sense, in which, speaking of the uproar raised to support Mr. Deane, I used these words: “I believe the whole affair to be an inflammatory bubble, thrown among the public, to answer both a mercantile end and a private pique,” and in the paper of the 2d instant I have likewise said, “The uncommon fury that has been spread to support Mr. Deane is not altogether for his sake,” and in the same paper, speaking of a supposed mercantile connection between Mr. Deane and other parties, then unknown, I again said, “It would suit their plan exceedingly well to have Mr. Deane appointed Ambassador to Holland, because, so situated, he would become a convenient partner in trade, or a useful factor.”
It must, I think, appear clear to the public, that among other objects, I have been endeavoring, by occasional allusions, for these three weeks past, to force out the very evidence that Mr. Morris has produced, and tho’ I could have given a larger history of circumstances, than that gentleman has done, or had any obligation to do, yet as the account given by him comes from a confessed private partnership between a Delegate in Congress and a Servant of that House, in the character of a commercial Agent, it is fully sufficient to all the public purposes to which I mean to apply it; and it being therefore needless for me to seek any farther proofs, I shall now proceed to offer my remarks thereon.
Mr. Morris acknowledges to have had three private mercantile contracts with Mr. Deane, while himself was a Delegate. Two of those contracts, he says, were made while Mr. Deane acted as commercial Agent; the other, therefore must be after Mr. Deane was advanced to a Commissioner. To what a degree of corruption must we sink, if our Delegates and Ambassadors are to be admitted to carry on a private partnership in trade? Why not as well go halves with every Quarter-master and Commissary in the army? No wonder if our Congress should lose its vigour, or that the remains of public spirit should struggle without effect. No wonder that Mr. Deane should be so violently supported by Members of that House, and that myself, who have been laboring to fish out and prove this partnership offence so dangerous to the common good, should, in the interim, be made the object of daily abuse. I have very little doubt but that the real Mr. Plain Truth is another of the connection in some stile or degree; and that the chain is more extensive than I choose to express my belief. The displacing the Honorable Arthur and William Lee would have opened a field to a still greater extension, and as that had enlarged, the circle of the public spirit, must have lessened.
Mr. Morris says in his address, “That he does not conceive that the State he lives in has any right or inclination to enquire into what mercantile connections he has had, or now have, with Mr. Deane.” Mr. Morris asserts this as a reply to the following a paragraph of mine, which he has quoted from Mr. Dunlap’s paper of December 31st, viz.:
“I wish in this place to step a moment from the floor of office, and press it on every State to enquire what mercantile connections any of their late or present Delegates have had or now have with Mr. Deane, and that a Precedent might not be wanting, it is important that this State Pennsylvania should begin.”
Mr. Morris seems to deny their having such a right; and I perfectly agree with him, that they have no such right, and can assume no such power, over Mr. Morris, Mr. Deane, or any other persons, as private gentlemen. But I hope Mr. Morris will allow, that no such connection ought to be formed between himself while a Member of Congress, and Mr. Deane, while a Commercial Agent, accountable for his conduct to that Congress of which Mr. Morris then sat as a Member; and that any such connection, as it may deeply affect the interest of the whole United States, is a proper object of enquiry to the state he represents or has represented; for tho’ no law is in being to make it punishable, yet the tendency of it makes it dangerous, and the inconsistency of it renders it censurable.
Mr. Morris says, “If Mr. Deane had any commerce that was inconsistent with his public station, he must answer for it.” So likewise must Mr. Morris; and if it was censurable in Mr. Deane to carry on such a commerce while he was Commercial Agent, it is equally as censurable in Mr. Morris to be concerned in it while a Delegate. Such a connection unfits the Delegate for his duty in Congress, by making him a partner with the servant, over whose conduct he sits as one of his Judges; and the losses or advantages attending such a traffic, on the part of the Agent, tempts him to an undue freedom with public money and public credit.
Is it right that Mr. Deane, a servant of Congress, should sit as a Member of that House when his own conduct was before the House for judgment? Certainly not. But the interest of Mr. Deane has sat there in the person of his partner, Mr. Robert Morris, who at the same time that he represented this state, represented likewise the partnership in trade. Only let this doctrine of Mr. Morris’s take place, and the consequences will be fatal both to public interest and public honor. By the same right that one Delegate may enter into a private commercial partnership with any Agent, Commissioner, or Ambassador, every Delegate may do the same; and if only a majority of Congress should form such a company, such Agents, Commissioners, or Ambassadors, will always find support and protection in Congress, even in the abuse of their trust and office. — Besides which, it is an infringement upon the general freedom of trade, as such persons or companies, by having always the public monies in their hands, and public credit to sport with and support them, will possess unfair advantages over every other private merchant and trader.
One of those advantages is, that he or they will be enabled to carry on trade without employing their own money, which laying by that means at interest, is more than equal to an insurance in times of peace, and a great abatement of it in time of war, and consequently the public always pays the whole of the insurance in the one case and a great part of it in the other.
But suppose the partnership of such Delegates and Ambassadors should break, or meet with losses they cannot sustain, on whom then will the burden of bankruptcy fall?
Mr. Morris having declared what his former mercantile connections with Mr. Deane have been, proceeds to say, that “Whether in consequence of his good opinion of Mr. Deane as a man of honor and integrity, he has been led to form any, and what new concerns with him since his arrival here, is a matter which the public are no ways interested to know.”
They certainly have no right to know, on the part of Mr. Morris as he is not now a Member of Congress (having served out the full time limited by the Constitution of this State,) neither have they any right to know, on the part of Mr. Deane, while he remains a private character. But if Mr. Deane has formed a chain of mercantile connections here, it is a very good reason why he should not be appointed an Ambassador to Holland or elsewhere: because so situated and circumstanced, the authority of America would be disgraced and her interest endangered, by his becoming a “partner” with, or a “factor” to, the company. And this brings me to and establishes the declaration I first set out with, viz. that the uproar to support Mr. Deane, was “an inflammatory bubble thrown among the public to answer both a mercantile and a private pique.”
One of the objections advanced against the Hon. Arthur and William Lee was, that they had two brothers in Congress. I think it a very great honor to all those gentlemen, and an instance most rarely seen, that those same four brothers have from the first beginning been most uniform whigs. The principle of not investing too many honors in any one family is a very good one, and ought always to have its weight but it is barbarous and cruel to attempt to make a crime of that which is a credit.
Brothers are but aukward Advocates for each other, because the natural connection being seen and known, they speak and act under the disadvantage of being supposed to be prepossessed; the open relationship, therefore, is nothing so dangerous as a private mercantile connection between Delegates and Ambassadors, because such connections bias, or buy us if you please, and is covered and in the dark. And the interest of the Delegate being thus tied by a secret unseen cord to the Agent, affords the former, the splendid opportunity of appearing to defend the latter from principle, whereas it is from interest.
The haste with which I was obliged to conclude my last piece prevented my taking that proper leave I wished to do. In the course of my late publications I have had no other object in view than to serve the public from being misled and made fools of by Mr. Deane’s specious address of December 5. In the course of my late publications I have given them some useful information, and several agreeable and interesting anecdotes; for of what use is my office to me, if I can make no good use of it? The pains I have taken, and the trouble I have undergone in this act of public duty, have been very considerable. I have met with much opposition from various quarters. Some have misunderstood me, others have misrepresented me, but the far greater part were those whose private interests or unwarrantable connections were in danger of being brought to light thereby, and I now leave the public to judge whether, or not, I have acted in behalf of their interest or against it, and with that question I take my leave.
Philadelphia, January 11, 1779.
To Mr. DEANE from the Pennsylvania Packet, January 16, 1779.
I DISCOVERED the mistake respecting the Mercury too late to correct it, but as it was a circumstance no ways interested with the matter in question, I omitted doing it till I could get the particulars when and where she arrived, and wrote to a gentleman for that information, it being a branch that does not belong to this office. You have corrected it for me, and affixed to it the name of a “falsehood.” As whatever is not true must be false, however immaterial, therefore you have a right to give it that name.
I was somewhat curious to see what use you would make of it; for if you picked that out from all the rest, it would show that you were very hard set, notwithstanding my reply has been extensive and my allegations numerous.
Having thus submitted to be set right by Mr. Deane, I hope he will submit to be set right by me. I have never labored to prove that the supplies were or are a present. On the contrary, I believe we are got too fond of buying and selling, to receive a present for the public when there is nothing to be got by it ourselves — The Agent’s profit is to purchase, not to receive.
That there was a disposition in the gentlemen of France to have made America a very handsome present, is what I have a justifiable authority for saying; and I was unwilling these gentlemen should lose the honor of their good intentions, by Mr. Deane’s monopolizing the whole merit of procuring these supplies to himself. Tho’ I am certain that no man not even an enemy will accuse me of personal covetousness, yet I have a great deal of what may be called public covetousness, and from that motive among others I sincerely wish Mr. Deane had never gone to France.
Mr. Plain Truth speaks of Mr. Deane as if he had discovered a mine from whence he drew those stores, which nobody before knew of; whereas he received information of it from this city. “We make no doubt but you have been made acquainted with the negotiations of M. H. — and in consequence thereof, we conclude that you will be at no loss.” In short, Sir, the matter was in France before you were there, and your giving out any other story is wandering from the fact. I can trace it myself to the 21st of December, 1775, and that not as some have supposed, a national or Court affair, but a private tho’ extensive act of friendship.
January 15, 1779.
To PHILALETHES from the Pennsylvania Packet, January 21, 1779.
The thanks of the public will, no doubt, be given to you when you shall be found to deserve them. But be you who you may, I have this to say to you, that, if you have reputation enough left to be ashamed of being detected in a falsehood, you will do yourself a service by assuring Common Sense that you will correct and amend what you have published in last Saturday’s paper, or it will be done for you.
Having said thus much to you particularly, I shall conclude with a story, which, I hope will not be found applicable to Mr. Deane’s affairs, or those of his partners. If it should it will explain the reason why he or they are so stubbornly defended.
A man was taken up in Ireland, for robbing the Treasury, and sent for a Lawyer, to undertake his case. The man protested his innocence, and the Lawyer shook his head. I hope, Sir, said the man, that you are not sorry because I am not guilty? No Sir, replied the Lawyer, but I am very much concerned at your situation, yet, if you will attend to my advice, I can afford you some hope, for the case stands thus, — If you have robbed the Treasury, you will not be hanged, but if you have not robbed it, the circumstances are so strong against you, that you must expect to suffer. Sir, said the man, I have money enough to bribe the — — Oh, my dear, good friend, replied the Lawyer, shaking him by the hand, take care what you say, I understand your case exceedingly well, ’tis a very clear one, and you may depend upon being honorable acquitted.
Philadelphia, January 20.
To the PEOPLE of AMERICA. from the Pennsylvania Packet, January 23, 1779.
There are not throughout the United States a set of men who have rendered more injury to the general cause, or committed more acts of injustice against the whole community, than those who are known by the name of Monopolizers; together with such others as have squandered away or, as Col. R. H. Lee rightly expresses it, “have fingered large sums of the public money.” That there are such men is neither to be doubted or to be wondered at. The numerous emissions of currency, and the few accounts that have been settled, are sufficient signs of the former, and the tempting circumstances of the times and degeneracy of moral principle make the latter too highly probable. One monopolizer confederates with another, and defaulter with defaulter, till the cause becomes a common one; yet still these men will talk of justice, and, while they profess abhorrence to the principles that govern them, they pathetically lament the evils they create. That private vice should thus put on the mask of public good, and even impudence in guilt assume the stile of patriotism, are paradoxes which those can best explain who must practice them. On my own part I can safely say, and challenge any one to contradict me, that I have publicly served America in the worst of times, with an unshaken fortitude and fidelity, and that without either pay or reward, save the trifling pittance of seventy dollars per month, which Congress two years ago affixed to the office of Secretary in the foreign department, and which I had too much spirit to complain of, and they too little generosity to consider. This, with about four or five hundred dollars more, make up all the expense that America has ever been put to on my account. All that I have written she has had from me as a gift, and I cannot now serve her better than in endeavoring to prevent her being imposed upon by those who have wronged her interest, abused her confidence, or invaded the rights of citizenship. The two former classes I distinguish under the names of Monopolizers and Defaulters. That these men, dreading the consequences of being exposed, should vent their venomed rage at me, is what I naturally expected, and is one of the marks by which they may be known.
It was a heavy task to begin, yet it was a necessary one; and the public will in time feel the benefit of it and thank me for it. It has ever been my custom to take the bull by the horns, and bring out the great offenders; which, tho’ difficult at first, saves a world of trouble in the end. A man who is so exceedingly civil that for the sake of quietude and a peaceable name will silently see the community imposed upon, or their rights invaded, may, in his principles, be a good man, but cannot be stiled a useful one, neither does he come up to the full mark of his duty; for silence becomes a kind of crime when it operates as a cover or an encouragement to the guilty.
There is a liberty the press has in a free country, which I will sooner yield to the inconvenience of than be the means of suppressing. I mean that of publishing under anonymous signatures. I leave the printers to be governed by decency in the choice of the pieces they may publish; yet I will ever hold that man a villain who attacks a personal reputation and dares not face what he writes: he proves the lie upon himself by his concealment, and put the printer to answer for it. He stands upon a footing with a murderer by midnight, and encreases his villainy by subjecting innocent persons to be suspected of the baseness which himself has acted. I have yet one virtue left, which is that of acting openly, and, meaning ever to do so, I leave concealment to the monopolizer, the defaulter, and criminal of every cast, with those whom they may hire or engage. Public measures may be properly examined under anonymous signatures, but civility as well as justice demands that private reputation should not be stabbed in the dark. However, it is the murderer’s walk, and those who use it are welcome to it.
I give this as an introduction to a piece which will appear in the next paper. — We have been sinking from one stage of public virtue to another, till the who]e body seems to want a re-animation, a calling back to life. The spirit that hath long slept has at last awakened by a false alarm. Yet since it is up it may be turned to an extensive advantage, and be made the means of rooting out the evils that produced it. We are neither the same People nor the same Congress that we were two years and a half ago. The former waits invigorating, the latter purging. No time can be so proper for this work as the winter. The rest that naturally ensues from the operation of arms, gives us the advantage of doing it without inconvenience. Those who dread detection will oppose all enquiries, and stigmatize the proposal to secure themselves; while those who have nothing to fear and no other objects in pursuit than what are founded in honor, justice, and the common good of all, will act a contrary part.
P.S. To end all disputes relative to the supplies I have to inform that when the present race of scribblers have done, I shall publish an original letter on that subject from a gentleman of high authority. I have shown it to several of the first character in this city. Mr. Deane and Mr. Beaumarchais may pay to each other what compliments they please; it is but of little importance to the subject, and is somewhat laughable to those who know the whole story.
The public will please to remember, that whether the supplies were a present or not, made; no part of my argument; but only that the procuring them in any case did not depend on Mr. Deane, to which I may say, nor yet on Mr. Beaumarchais.
In one of my former pieces I said that, “I believed we are got too fond of buying and selling to receive a present for the public when there is nothing to be got by it ourselves, and that the Agent’s profit was to purchase, not to receive.” If Mr. Deane takes too much pains to prove them a purchase, he will raise a suspicion that they are not a purchase, and that a present from the gentlemen of France has been smuggled. I shall make no other answer on this head till every body has done.
For the PENNSYLVANIA PACKET (ON PHILALETHES) from the Pennsylvania Packet, January 26, 1779.
(The piece promised by this author in our last, is deferred to a future paper, to make room for the following.)
I AM told that the writer or assistant writer of the piece signed Philalethes, is believed to be a person of the name of Parke, and that he is subject at times to fits of craziness. This is not mentioned as a reproach but as an excuse for him; and being the best that can be made, I therefore charitably apply his disorder as a remedy to his reputation. What credit or benefit Mr. Deane can expect to derive from the service of a crazy man I am at a loss to conceive; and as I think it quite out of character to contend with such a person, (provided the report is true) I shall satisfy myself with civilly pointing out an error or two, and leave the public to think as they please of the rest.
In my last piece I declared that I should say nothing farther on the subject of the supplies till every other person had done. I shall keep to that declaration; but in the mean time I think it necessary that what I have already written should not be misunderstood or misrepresented.
Philalethes in his last piece has twice quoted the following expressions of mine from a publication of the 2d instant, viz. “The supplies which he (Mr. Deane) so pompously plumes himself upon, were promised and engaged, and that as a present, before he even arrived in France.” That I have used this expression is true, but in a quite different sense to what Philalethes has used it in; and none but a crazy man would have quoted it without quoting the whole paragraph. My declaring “that the supplies were promised and engaged, and that as a present, before Mr. Deane went to France” is one thing, and my declaring that I have a letter which says so, is entirely another thing. Philalethes has crazily applied the declaration to the supplies themselves, whereas in the place where I have used it, it is only applied to a letter which mentions the supplies. I shall quote the whole paragraph, word for word, from Mr. Dunlap’s paper of Jan. 2d, and every man must see it in the same light, and allow that I have either a crazy or an unjust set of men to deal with. The paragraph is —
“If Mr. Deane or any other gentleman will procure an order from Congress to inspect an account in my office, or if any of Mr. Deane’s friends in Congress will take the trouble of coming themselves, I will give him or them my attendance, and shew them in a hand writing which Mr. Deane is well acquainted with, that the supplies he so pompously plumes himself upon were promised and engaged, and that as a present, before Mr. Deane even arrived in France.” — Philalethes ought to be obliged to me for assigning his craziness as an excuse for his crime.
Now it only remains to know whether there is such a letter or not. I again declare there is; but that neither the King of France, by any name or title whatever, nor yet the nation of France, are anywhere mentioned in that letter; and surely the gentlemen of that country might make, or offer, a present to America if they pleased, with as much propriety as the merchants and others of London did to the Corsicans when they were warring against the French; and perhaps, if we had not had a purchasing Agent, such a present might have come. Having brought the matter to this point, I shall mention as a proof of there being such a letter, that I have shewn it to several Members of Congress, among whom I take the liberty of naming General Roberdeau, one of the Delegates of this state; and I am confident that that gentleman will, in any company and on any occasion, do me the justice to say that he has seen such a letter, and nothing farther is necessary.
It is evident, that so far from my asserting or laboring to prove the supplies a present, that I did not so much as form an opinion upon that matter myself. My first mention of them in the paper of Jan. 2d, in these words — “The supplies here alluded to are those which were sent from France in the Amphitrite, Seine and Mercury about two years ago. They had at first the appearance of a present, but whether so or on credit, the service was nevertheless a great and friendly one.” And in the paper of Jan. 5th I likewise said, “That as the contract had not been explained by any of Mr. Deane’s letters, and is left in obscurity by that which he signed the 16th of February last, therefore the full explanation must rest upon other authority.” This is the last expression of mine relating to the conditions of those supplies in any of my pieces entitled “Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane’s affairs;” and it must be clear to every man whether partial or otherwise, that I even relinquished all pretensions to the forming any opinion of my own on that head, but left it to be decided by those whose business it was.
The point I really set out to prove, respecting those supplies, is effectually proved, and that not only by me, but by my opponents, viz. That we are not obliged to Mr. Deane for them. The letters which themselves have published of Mr. Arthur Lee, of May 23d, June 14th and 21st, all of them in the year 1776, prove that the contract was began before Mr. Deane arrived. Even Mr. Beaumarchais’s letter to Congress in support of Mr. Deane, proves the same, for he says, “Long before the arrival of Mr. Deane in France, I had formed the project of establishing a commercial house, sufficiently powerful and spirited to hazard the risques of the sea and enemy, in carrying you stores and merchandize for your troops, of which I learned you were in great want. I spoke of this plan to Mr. Arthur Lee in London,” &c.
Now taking off the honor of Mr. Deane’s originally procuring those supplies, which he has no title to, and I ask, What were his services in France?
Answer. He proposed sending over a German Prince, namely: Prince Ferdinand, to command the army, and consequently to supersede General Washington. — Mr. Deane will not disown this, because it is in his own hand writing. Fine patriot, indeed!
I conceive it perfectly needless to set any thing else to rights, or to do it only for diversion sake, and one of the best replies I could make to Philalethes would be to publish my pieces over again. Mr. Deane’s instructions and authority from the Committee were as I concisely related them, and what Philalethes calls a “detection” is a confirmation. Mr. Deane in his publication of Dec. 5th, to the public, says, “After leaving your papers and mine in safety, I left Paris the 30th of March.” — Surely I might say so too — yet this crazy man has contradicted me. He likewise tells the public that the foreign papers were all in the hands of the Secretary of Congress, whereas the far greater part of them were in mine, and I delivered them only last Saturday seven’night to James Lovell, Esquire, member of the Foreign Committee. In short, the man is most certainly crazy, for he does not even distinguish between Mr. Deane’s being directed by Congress to communicate the Declaration of Independence to foreign Courts — and his not being invested with a proper public character to announce it in form. A great number of his detections, as he calls them, are mere quibbles, of which the following is an instance:
“Falsehood 16th. Common Sense says that Mr. Deane was directed by the Committee which employed him to engage four Engineers.” “Detection. Mr. Deane, says Philalethes, had no such instruction.”
This is quibblingly true, because Mr. Deane’s instruction was to engage Engineers not exceeding four. I am really ashamed to be seen replying to such ridiculous trash, which can be thrown out for no other purpose than to bewilder the public, and their own sense must see it. A good cause would scorn such wretched support, and such crazy supporters.
Leaving in this place poor Philalethes, I proceed to take notice of two real letters published in that piece, the one signed Benjamin Franklin, the other James Lovell.
That from Dr. Franklin is a civil certificate in behalf of Mr. Deane while acting in conjunction with the Doctor as a “public Minister” for the space of “fifteen months,” commencing from the time that the Doctor and Mr. Arthur Lee arrived in France, till the time of Mr. Deane’s recal. In that period of fifteen months Mr. Deane could not go wrong, because, being “honored with one colleague and saddled with another,” he stood safely between the two.
But the Doctor is perfectly silent with respect to the conduct of Mr. Deane, during the six months prior to the Doctor’s arrival, and in which six months, Mr. Deane was Commercial Agent with Mr. Thomas Morris, and Political Agent into the bargain. Here the Doctor is wholly reserved; neither does he mention a word about Mr. Deane’s procuring the supplies; which, as it forms so principal an object in Mr. Deane’s separate agency, ought not to have been omitted; and therefore the omission is a negative evidence against Mr. Deane’s importance in that transaction. In short, the silence of the letter on these heads makes more against Mr. Deane, than the declarations make for him.
Now it unfortunately happens, that the objections against Mr. Deane are confined to the six months prior to the Doctor’s arrival, and of consequence the letter does not reach the complaint, but leaves him just as he was. Neither could the Doctor know all the circumstances of Mr. Deane’s separate agency. Mr. Deane arrived in France in June, Doctor Franklin in December; very little of Mr. Deane’s correspondence had reached America before the Doctor left it, and on the Doctor’s arrival in France it ceased, and the separate agency with it. That something was not agreeable may be collected from Mr. Beaumarchais’s letter to Congress, for tho’ Mr. Deane had said, that the United States of America were under greater obligations to Mr. Beaumarchais, than to any other man in Europe. Yet Mr. Beaumarchais says in his letter “that in the affair of the supplies he transacted with no other person than Mr. Deane, the other deputies (of which Dr. Franklin was one) scarcely showing him the most distant marks of civility.” Strange indeed if all is true that Mr. Deane has told! After this Mr. Beaumarchais repays Mr. Deane with an equal lavishment of praise, and the echo concludes the letter. Yet of all these things the Doctor says not a syllable, but leaves the two gentlemen to Mr. Deane to “justify himself.” In my first piece, “on Mr. Deane s affairs” December 31st, I mentioned that the accounts which it was Mr. Deane’s particular duty to settle, were those which he contracted in the time of his being only a commercial Agent, which separate agency of his expired fifteen months before he left France. This brings it to the period on which Dr. Franklin is silent.
Every day opens something new. The dispatches of October 1777, which were said to be stolen, are now believed by some and conjectured by others not to be in the hands of the enemy. Philalethes says that they contained no such secret as I have pretended. How does he know what secret I have pretended, as I have not disclosed any nor ever will? The duplicates of those dispatches have arrived since and have been in my hands, and I can say thus much that they contain a paragraph which is I think a flat contradiction, to one-half what Mr. Deane wrote while a separate Agent; and if he when in conjunction with his colleagues had to sign something that disagreed with what he had before written, and declared since, it was fortunate for him that the dispatches were stolen, unfortunate that the duplicates arrived.
Another circumstance is somewhat striking respecting those dispatches, they should have arrived in York-Town last winter, about the time that Mr. Beaumarchais’s and Mr. Deane’s contract was presented to Congress for payment, fortunate again that they were stolen. In short had Mr. Deane or his friend who signs himself W. D. in Mr. Holts paper of the 11th instant half as much cause for suspicion as I have concerning the loss of those dispatches, they would ground therein a heavy and positive charge.
I fully expected after Mr. Deane’s return to America, that he would have furnished the public, at least anonymously with the history of this extraordinary theft, instead of which the whole matter has slept in silence.
Mr. Lovell’s letter I observe has been printed twice in Mr. Dunlap’s paper. A curious circumstance indeed! It is a civil answer to a civil letter and that is the amount of it. But it says, that “Mr. Deane may return with renewed honor in commission to Holland.” By Mr. Lovell’s figurative manner of expression and turn of political sentiments. I should suppose that he thought Mr. Deane’s former honors were somewhat decayed. I am persuaded he thinks so now, and so I believe did every member of the foreign Committee, as well as the Secretary.
It requires a greater degree of dexterity than any of my opponents are possessed of, to conduct an argument consistently that is founded upon wrong or bad principles. The chief part of my accusations are drawn from the defence which themselves have set up. They have enabled me to convert their justification into a charge, and by pressing them on one part, they have given evidence against themselves in another.
To prove something, for I scarcely know what about the supplies, they have published three letters of the Hon. A. Lee of May and June 1776, in which the patriotism and ardor of that gentleman is so evidently displayed, that they stand as evidence against Mr. Deane’s address to the public of December 5th, in which he accuses him of defaction; and likewise prove what I have before declared, viz., that the affair of the supplies was first communicated by Mr. Beaumarchais to Mr. A. Lee in London, about three years ago. And by publishing Mr. Beaumarchais’s letter for the sake of a compliment in it to Mr. Deane, they have confirmed the same evidence, because that letter likewise says that “long before Mr. Deane arrived in France the project was formed.” As to the present or the purchase I never undertook to give even an opinion upon. It was the priority of the plan only that I sought to prove, and that being now sufficiently proved. The puffs given out to support Mr. Deane are shewn to be false. The rest I leave to time and chance.
I shall conclude this paper with remarking on the shocking depravity of moral principle with which Mr. Deane and his partisans conduct their affairs. They prove nothing; but exert their whole force to blast the reputation of every one who stands in their way or makes a doubt of their designs. The heat and error produced in the public, by Mr. Deane’s address of December 5th, must have long ago subsided, had it not been constantly fed from some monopolizing poisoned spring. To keep up the flame they had unjustly raised has been the studied business of that party. Every morning opened with a lie and every evening closed with another. The sun has risen and gone down upon their falsehoods in the multitude of which they have bewildered detection. Still no man appears to own them. Who will listen to a tale without a name, or give credit to inventions which themselves are ashamed to father? A report neither proved nor owned becomes a falsehood contradicted. If their cause is just, if their object is honorable, if their intentions are really for the public good why do they hide themselves from the eye of the public like Adam from the face of his Maker? Why do they skulk under the darkness of anonymous signatures; or why do they rest their hopes on the ruin of another’s fame?
By cutting, mangling and curtailing they may prove treason from the law, and blasphemy from every page in the Bible, and if they can draw any comfort from serving my publications in the same manner, they have my free consent.
The public have seen Mr. Deane’s address of December 5th, in which he likewise endeavors to ruin the character of two gentlemen who are absent, and in order that the hitherto fair fame of those absent persons may be effectually destroyed, without the chance of proving their innocence or replying to their accusers, a most infernal friend of his (for I will call him such) has converted all Mr. Deane’s insinuations into facts, and given them with the most heated language to the inhabitants of the State of New-York in Mr. Holt’s paper of January 11th; and that the public may know the barbarous and unjustifiable means by which Mr. Deane is kept up, I shall republish that letter in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of Thursday next; being confident that every man in America who has the least spark of honor or honesty left will feel an abhorrence at such detestable principles and practices. No character can stand, however fair, no reputation can survive, however honorable, if men unheard and in their absence are to be anonymously destroyed.
The letter has not the least reference to me. I am perhaps intentionally left out, that the charges it contains may be supposed to be both uncontradicted and undoubted and my design in republishing it is to expose the black principle on which it is constructed.
It is dated Orange County December 31, and signed W. D. If any person in this city (for I dare not call him a gentleman) should find it convenient to remove suspicions of his being the author, I thus give him notice of the time of republication.
Philadelphia, January 25, 1779.
To SILAS DEANE, Esquire from the Pennsylvania Packet, February 16, 1779.
As character like trade is subject to bankruptcy, so nothing sooner discovers its approach than a frequent necessity of borrowing. I introduce this remark to explain, what I conceive to be, the motive that induced Mr. Deane, in his address of January 26th, in the Pennsylvania Packet, to blend his own affairs with those of General Washington and the President of this State. Those who have read that address, will easily perceive that the allusions are too farfetched to be natural and the design too obvious to be effectual.
Let Mr. Deane and his affairs stand on their own merits, or fall in proportion to their own defects. If he has done well he needs no borrowed credit; if he has done ill the attempt will only precipitate disgrace. Why should matter be involved with matter, between which there is neither affinity or correspondence? You may, it is true, confine them together in the same letter, like fluids of different weights or repulsive qualities in the same phial, and though by convulsing you may represent a compound, yet the parts having no mutual propensity to union will separate in a state of rest.
Mr. Deane in his address before mentioned, says, that he “is fully confident that every intrigue and cabal formed against our illustrious Commander in Chief will prove as ineffectual as those formed against Dr. Franklin.” — This declaration comes with an ill grace from a man, who not only threw out a proposal, but impliedly recommended a German Prince, Prince Ferdinand, to Congress, to take on him the command of the American army; and Mr. Deane can best explain whether the declaration he now makes is to be considered as an act of penance or consummate effrontry.
But Prince Ferdinand is not the only one whom Mr. Deane has slyly intimated to Congress for a Commander in Chief, neither dares he either personally or in writing contradict me; he has, it is true, set Philalethes to do it, but he dares not do it himself; and, I would ask, what sort of principles must that man be governed by, who will impose on the ignorance of another to advance a falsehood for him.
No belief or dependence can be placed in him, who, through the agency of another, will deny his own hand writing; and that I may not appear even to intimate a charge without a sufficient foundation, I shall furnish the Public with an extract from Mr. Deane’s letter to the Foreign Committee, dated Paris, December 6th, 1776.
“I submit the thought to you whether if you could engage a great General of the highest character in Europe, such for instance as Prince Ferdinand or M— B— or others of equal rank, to take the lead of your armies, whether such a step would not be politic; as it would give a character and credit to your military, and strike perhaps a greater terror into our enemies. I only suggest the thought, and leave you to confer with B— K— on the subject at large.” S. DEANE.
Yet the writer of this letter is the same Mr. S. Deane, who, in his address of Jan. 26th, in the Pennsylvania Packet, says, that “he is fully confident that every intrigue and cabal formed against our illustrious Commander in Chief, will prove as ineffectual as those formed against Doctor Franklin.”
What Mr. Deane means by cabals formed against Dr. Franklin, I am wholly unacquainted with. I know of none. I have heard of none. Neither has Mr. Deane any right to blend himself with that gentleman any more than with General Washington. Mr. Deane will never be Doctor Franklin, nor Doctor Franklin Mr. Deane. They are constitutionally different both in principle and practice; and if my suspicions of Mr. Deane are true, he will, in a little time, be as strongly reprobated by his venerable friend (See Note) as by either of the Mr. Lees or Mr. Izard. The course of this letter will explain what I mean without either suggestion or implication.
Note: *Mr. Deane in his address of December 5th carefully shelters himself under Doctor Franklin by the stile of his “vulnerable friend”.
Quitting, in this place, Mr. Deane’s last address as a matter of very little importance, I now mean to draw his hitherto confused affairs to a closer investigation than I have ever yet done.
The Continental Public, who can have no other object in view than to distinguish right from wrong, will have their minds and their ears open, and unfettered by prejudice or selfish interest, will form their judgment as matters and circumstances shall appear. Mr. Deane may interestedly inlink himself with Members of Congress, or with persons out of it, till involved with them, and they with him, they mutually become the pillows and bolsters of each other to prevent a general discovery. With such men reasoning has no effect. They seek not to be right but to be triumphant; and the same thirst of interest that induced them to the commission of one crime, will provoke them to a new one, in order to insure success and defeat detection. There are men, in all countries in whom both vice and virtue are kept subordinate by a kind of cowardice, which often forms a great part of that natural character stiled moderation. But this is not the case with Mr. Deane. His conduct since his return to America has been excessive. His address to the public of Dec. 5th is marked with every feature of extraordinary violence. His inventions to support himself have been numerous, and such as honesty did not require; and having thus relinquished all pretensions to a moderate character, he must of consequence be looked for in one or other of the extremes of good or bad.
Several things however are certain in Mr. Deane. He has made a rich and prosperous voyage to France, and whether fairly or unfairly he has yet to answer for.
He has wrote and been concerned in the writing of letters which contradict each other.
He has acted a double part towards his brother Commissioners in France, Doctor Franklin and Arthur Lee, Esq; as appears by a comparison of his own letters with those of the Commissioners jointly, of which himself was one.
He has given the public no information of the loss of the dispatches of Oct. 6 and 7, 1777, nor of any circumstances attending it, notwithstanding, he can but know, that he lies under a strong suspicion of having embezzled them himself or of his being privy thereto, in order to prevent a discovery of his double dealings, and to promote the payment of a very large sum of money. To all those matters I shall speak as I proceed.
Mr. Deane first made choice of the public papers, and I have only followed him therein. The people sufficiently feel that something is wrong, and not knowing where it lies, they know not where to fix their confidence, and every public man undergoes a share of their suspicions. Let it therefore come out, be it where it will, so that men and measures being properly known, trust and tranquility be again restored. It has strangely happened, that wherever Mr. Deane has been, there has been confusion. It is so in France. It is so here. The Commissioners, in that country, were as much disjointed as the Congress in this; and such being the case, let every man’s conduct answer for itself.
In the Pennsylvania Packet of January 2d, I acquainted the public with the loss of the dispatches of October 6th and 7th, and gave such an account of that affair as had been related to me while at York-Town; namely, that they were stolen by some British emissary in France and carried over to the enemy in England. The account was far from being properly authenticated; however, I chose to give it, in order to see what notice Mr. Deane would take of it. He let it pass in silence, and I observed that I was immediately after attacked from all quarters at once, as if emboldened to it by the account I had given and appeared to believe. As their publications were of use to me, I thought it best to reserve my suspicions, excepting to a few particular friends, as well in Congress as out.
In the Pennsylvania Packet of January 26, I, for the first time in public, informed Mr. Deane of my suspicions thereon in the following words —
“Every day opens something new. The dispatches of October 1777, which were said to be stolen, are now believed by some and conjectured by others, not to be in the hands of the enemy. Philalethes, (in the Pennsylvania Packet of January 23) says, that they contained no such secret as I have pretended. How does he know what secret I have pretended, as I have not disclosed any, or ever will? The duplicates of those dispatches have arrived since, and have been in my hands, and I can say thus much, that they contain a paragraph, which is, I think, a flat contradiction to one-half what Mr. Deane wrote while a separate agent; and if he, when in conjunction with his colleagues, had to sign that which disagreed with what he had before written and declared since, it was fortunate for him that the dispatches were stolen, unfortunate that the duplicates arrived. — In short had Mr. Deane or his friend W. D. in Mr. Holt’s paper of the 13th instant (January) one-half as much cause for suspicion, as I have, concerning the loss of those dispatches, they would ground thereon a heavy and positive charge.”
On the appearance of this intimation, Mr. Deane and every other of my opponents, unanimously deserted the news papers and suffered it to pass unnoticed. I have waited three weeks to afford Mr. Deane an opportunity of removing the suspicions alluded to, and to furnish the public with what he might know on that subject. He has not done it. I shall, therefore, lay open the principal circumstances on which that intimation was founded.
In a country so rich, extensive, and populous as France, there can be no cause to doubt either the ability or inclination of the wealthier inhabitants to furnish America with a gratuitous supply of money arms and ammunition. The English had supplied the Corsicans, by a subscription opened for that purpose in London, and the French might as consistently do the same by America. I therefore, think it unnecessary to say any thing farther on this point, than to inform, that in the spring 1776 a subscription was raised in France to send a present to America of two hundred thousand pounds sterling in money, arms, and ammunition. And all that the suppliers wanted to know, wa, thro’ what channel it should be remitted. The place was fixt upon.
Having said thus much, I think it necessary to mention, that if Congress, chuse to call upon me for my proofs, which I presume they will not do, I am ready to advance them. I do not publish this in contradiction to their resolution of January 12th because that refers to supposed presents from the Crown only, which is a subject I never touched upon; and tho’ Congress have thought proper to introduce my name therein and perverted my expressions to give a countenance thereto, I leave it to their own judgment, &c. to take it out again. I believe future Congresses will derive no honor from that resolution. And on my own part, I conceive that the literary services I have hitherto rendered, and that without the least profit or reward, deserved from that body a different treatment even if I had in this instance been wrong. But the envy of some little and ungenerous wits in that House will never subside.
Soon after this offer was made Mr. Deane was sent to France as a Commercial Agent under the authority of the Committee which was then stiled “The Committee for Secret Correspondence,” and since changed to that of “The Committee for Foreign Affairs.”
On Mr. Deane’s arrival at Paris, the whole affair took a new ground, and he entered, according to his own account, into, what he calls, a commercial concern, with Mr. Beaumarchais of Paris, for the same quantity of supplies which had been before offered as a present, and that through the same person of whom Mr. Deane now says he purchased them. It may not be improper in this place to mention that Mr. Beaumarchais was only an agent on the part of the suppliers, as Mr. Deane was an agent on the part of the receivers.
In December following (1776), Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, Esq; arrived likewise in Paris, under a new commission, appointing them, together with Silas Deane, Esq; joint Commissioners from the United States. Yet it does not appear that Mr. Deane made either of those gentlemen acquainted with the particulars of any commercial contract made between him and Mr. Beaumarchais, neither did he ever send a copy of any such to Congress or to the Committee for foreign affairs.
In September 1777, Mr. Francy set off from France to America, as an agent from Mr. Beaumarchais, to demand and settle the mode of payment for those supplies. Yet the departure as well as the business of this gentleman appears to have been concealed from Dr. Franklin and Mr. A. Lee, and to have been known only to Mr. Deane; which must certainly be thought inconsistent and improper, as their powers were equal and their authority a joint one. (See Note)
Note: In the Pennsylvania Packet of Jan. 23d, in a publication signed Philalethes, is the following Certificate, viz. “The military and other stores shipped by Roderique Hortalez and Co. in consequence of the contract made by them with Silas Deane, Esq; Agent for the United States of America, were shipped on board eight vessels, &c, &c, &c. Certified at Philadelphia, this 13th day of January, 1779. L. de Francy, representing the House of Roderique Hortalez & Co.” Whether this certificate was published with or without the consent of M. Francy is not very material. But as my only design is to come at the truth of things, I am necessarily obliged to take notice of it. And the course of the publication I now give will, I presume, furnish M. Francy with circumstances which he must before have been unacquainted with. The certificate says, “That the supplies were shipped by Roderique Hortalez & Co., in consequence of a contract made by them with Silas Deane, Esq;” I know that Mr. Roderique Hortalez was employed, or appeared to be so, by some public spirited gentlemen in France to offer a present to America, and I have seen a contract for freightage made with Mr. Monthieu, but I know of no contract for the supplies themselves. If there is such a contract, Mr. Deane has concealed it; and why he has done so must appear as extraordinary as that he made it. N.B. Mr. Beaumarchais and R. Hortalez are one and the same person.
That Mr. Deane was privy to it, is proved by his sending a letter by Mr. Francy dated Paris, Sept. 10th, 1777, recommending him as Mr. Beaumarchais’s Agent, and pressing the execution of the business which he came upon. And that it was unknown to Doctor Franklin and Mr. A. Lee is circumstantially evidenced by Mr. Francy bringing with him no dispatches from the Commissioners jointly, and is afterwards fully proved by their letter of the 16th of Feb. following in which they say, “We hear Mr. Beaumarchais has sent over a person to demand a large sum of money of you on account of arms, ammunition, &c. We think it will be best for you to leave that matter to be settled here, (France) as their is a mixture of public and private which you cannot so well develope.” And what must appear very extraordinary to the reader, is, that, notwithstanding Mr. Deane was privy to Mr. Francy’s coming and had even by letter recommended the business he came upon, yet in this joint letter of Feb. 16, he appears to know no more of the matter than they do. I have gone a little out of the order of time to take in this circumstance so curiously explanatory of Mr, Deane’s double conduct. (See Note)
Note: The Committee for foreign affairs in their first letter to the Commissioners after Mr. Francy’s arrival, say, “We think it strange that the Commissioners did not jointly write by Mr. Francy, considering the very important designs of his coming over, viz. to settle the mode of payment for the past cargoes, sent by Roderique Hortalez and Co. and to make contracts for future. It is certain, that much eclaircissement (explanation) is, at this late moment wanting.”
Nothing material appears to have happened from the time of Mr. Francy’s sailing in Sept. till the 6th and 7th of Oct, following, when the dispatches of those dates were lost and blank white paper sent to Congress in their stead.
I must request the reader in this place to take his stand and review the part Mr. Deane had acted. He had negotiated a profered present into a purchase; and I have quoted letters to show, that though he was privy to Mr. Francy’s coming over for the money, he had, nevertheless, concealed it from his colleagues, and was consequently obliged, when acting in conjunction with them, to know nothing of the matter, and to concur with them in forming such dispatches as they might have authority to do, notwithstanding such dispatches might contradict, or tend to expose himself. He had at least the chance of the seas in his favor.
The dispatches of Oct. 6 and 7, 1777 (as appear by the duplicates which have since arrived) were of this kind; and are, as far as letters can be, positive evidence against Mr. Deane’s accounts. The one is a single letter from the Hon. Arthur Lee, Esq; and the other a joint letter from B. Franklin, S. Deane and A. Lee, of Oct. 7th. That of the 6th gives a circumstantial account in what manner the present was first offered, and the latter declares, “That for the money and military stores already given no remittance will ever be required.” — But Mr. Francy was sent off with Mr. Deane’s single letter to demand the money, what then was to be done with those dispatches? Had they arrived, Congress would have had a line to go by — and as they did not they had nothing but Mr. Deane’s single letter and pretended contract with Mr. Beaumarchais to govern them.
I shall now relate such circumstances as I am acquainted with concerning the loss of those dispatches, by which the reader will see, that the theft could only be committed by some bosom apostate.
When the supposed dispatches were brought to York-Town by Capt. Folger, who came with them from France, they consisted of a packet for Congress of nearly the size of a half sheet, another for Robert Morris, Esq; of about the same size, another for Mr. Barnaby Deane, brother to Silas Deane, of about the same size, a smaller one from Mr. Arthur Lee to his brother, Col. R. H. Lee, besides letters and some small parcels to different persons private, and another packet, which I shall mention afterwards. The packet for Congress and that for Col. R. H. Lee had both been robbed of every article of their contents and filled up with blank white paper; that for Mr. Morris and Mr. Barnaby Deane came safe with all their contents. Whoever was the thief, must know exactly what to take and what to leave; otherwise the packet for Mr. Morris and Mr. Barnaby Deane must have been equally as tempting as that to Col. Lee, or rather more so, because they were more bulky and promising. In short the theft discovers such an intimate knowledge of the contents, that it could only be done, or directed to be done, by some person originally concerned in the writing of them. None of the packets or letters that came safe contained a single article of intelligence, except a letter from Doctor Franklin to myself, dated the same day of the dispatches, in which he says, “Our affairs so far as they are connected with this country are every day more promising.” I received this letter at Lancaster thro’ the favor of the then President, Henry Laurens, Esq; and returned it again to him to be communicated to Congress; and this, as I have before mentioned, was the only article of information which Congress received from May 1777, to May 1778. Which may now be set down as another extraordinary circumstance.
Among the packets was likewise a large handsome one directed to Mr. Hancock, who, at the time the dispatches were written, was President of Congress, and this would undoubtedly have been a greater inducement to a British emissary than that directed to Col. R. H. Lee; yet this packet, which was only on private business was likewise suffered to come in safety. But how, I ask, should any British emissary know that it contained no information?
There are two ways by which this theft might be committed, viz. either by changing the packets, and placing blank ones in their stead, by the assistance of a counterfeit seal (and why not as well counterfeit a seal as counterfeit Common Sense), or by opening them, and filling the cover up with blank paper. In the first of those cases, the person must know how to imitate, and in either of them he must know which to select.
Mr. Deane, thro’ his advocate Philalethes in the Pennsylvania Packet of January 23d says, in substance, that as neither the King of England’s speech in November 1777, nor yet any ministerial information to Parliament thro’ the course of that session discover any knowledge, of any secret supposed to be contained in those dispatches, that it is, therefore, A PROOF THAT THEY CONTAINED NO SECRET. But surely Mr. Deane will not be hardy enough to deny the contents of the dispatches which himself was concerning in forming, and is now suspected of suppressing? This would be such a refinement upon treachery that I know of no law which provides for the case. I shall, therefore, in this place, content myself with answering to Philalethes generally, that he himself knows nothing of their contents, and that the silence of the British King and Ministry is a circumstantial evidence, that they have not got the dispatches, and that they were lost for some other purpose. One thing however, we are certain of, viz. that the loss of them, in any case, answered, at that time, the money purpose which Mr. Deane had in view, by giving an opportunity to his single letter by Mr. Francy, and the business that gentleman came upon, to arrive at Congress, instead of the dispatches.
It is true, that the duplicates were brought over by Mr. Deane’s brother, Mr. Simeon Deane, with the Treaty of Alliance, but it would have been too barefaced to have had them stolen out of his hands and the treaty left behind. Besides which, it was reasonable to suppose that Congress had before that, resolved upon, and settled the mode of payment, and that their attention to the great object of the Treaty would make them inattentive to duplicates of a prior date, which appears to have been the case.
But it was Folger’s hard fate to be confined, partly in prison, and partly on parole nearly five months on account of those dispatches; he was at last set at liberty because nothing could be found against him, more, than that he appeared to be a blundering soul, and therefore a proper person to pitch upon to bring over blank dispatches, as his probable inattention might afford a wilderness to the theft committed by others.
The public have now a clear line of circumstances before them, and tho’ Mr. Deane may deny the fact, it becomes him likewise to remove the suspicions, which I am certain he cannot do without denying the letters I have quoted.
In his address of December 5th he set out with a falsehood, by declaring that the “Ears of the representatives (in Congress) were shut against him,” and tho’ the charge was unjust, as appears by the Journals, yet so lost are that body to the dignity of the states they represent, that they not only suffered the accusation to pass unquestioned but invited him, at the public expense, to their next public entertainment on the 6th of February. It was the disgraceful submission of Congress to Mr. Deane’s false accusation, that was the real cause why the late President Henry Laurens, Esq; quitted the Chair, and the same cause promoted the present President Mr. Jay to it. The secrecy which Congress imposes upon themselves is become a cloak for their misconduct, and as I wish to see a Congress such as America might be proud to own and the enemy afraid to trifle with, it is full time for the states to know the conduct of their members, that they may make that body such as they would wish it to be. An evil cured is better than an evil concealed and suffocated.
I shall conclude this paper with mentioning another circumstance or two, in which Mr. Deane’s reputation appears to be involved.
In his address of December 5th he informed the public, that, “About the time the news arrived in France of General Burgoyne’s surrender Mr. Arthur Lee’s Secretary went to and from London, charged with affairs which were secret to the other Commissioners,” meaning himself and Doctor Franklin; and on this ground, unsupported by any kind of evidence, Mr. Deane endeavours to have the Public believe that Mr. Lee gave information to the British Court of the intended Treaty.
That Mr. Lee sent his Secretary to some seaport Towns in England is very true, and that he did not acquaint Mr. Deane with the reasons or the business is as true. Mr. Deane had been a traitor to Mr. Lee, and broke open and suppressed some confidential information of Mr. Lee’s to Congress some considerable time before. I do not, in this place, mean the dispatches of October 6th, and 7th, 1777, but another affair, and the original letter, which I here allude to, has likewise been in my hands since the time Mr. Deane broke it open.
But it is no proof that because Mr. Deane did not know the business, that Dr. Franklin might not, or that others did not. Mr. Deane never gave a line of authentic information to Congress respecting the condition of the enemy’s fleet, their strength, weakness or destination; or of their land force, or their politics. Mr. Lee has constantly done so and been on that head the most industrious and best informant that America had in Europe, and that even before the Congress existed, of which I shall mention one instance, viz. by the same vessel that brought over the British King’s instruction to Sir Francis Barnard, while Governor of Massachusetts, Mr. A. Lee, I say, by that same vessel sent the people of Boston the particulars of those instructions. Whereas Mr. Deane’s letters are for the most part filled up with flattering compliments to himself and Mr. Beaumarchais.
But taking it for granted that the enemy knew of the intended treaty, the question is, who informed them?
Mr. Arthur Lee had certainly no occasion to send his Secretary over to England to do it, because a private hint given to Lord Stormont, who was at that time at Paris as a British Ambassador, would have been much safer and more conveniently done.
Yet that it was known in London before it was executed in Paris, is a matter of which I have no doubt.
The public, or at least some of them, may recollect a letter, that was published a considerable time since, from a gentleman in London to a relation of his in this city, in which he spoke firmly of the established Independence of America, and advised the attention of his relation to money matters: that letter was from one of the Mr. Whartons of London, and came accidentally to sight. I mention this as a corresponding circumstance to what I am now going to relate.
I have seen, and have in my possession, an attestation of a gentleman, which declares, that he saw at Mr. Wharton’s, in London, a letter from Mr. Deane’s secretary, and in his (the secretary’s) hand writing, dated Paris, January 27th, informing, that the Treaty of Alliance between France and America would be signed the 5th or 6th of February following; which letter likewise recommended an attention in money matters, by which, I presume, is meant Stock jobbing in the English funds. And I have seen another account, which says, that much about the same time, Mr. Deane remitted over to London, 19,520 livres.
I shall now conclude this long letter with declaring, that from the beginning of this dispute, I have had no other object in view than to bring truth to light; in the prosecution of which, I have gone contrary to my own personal interest. The opposition and insults I have met with have been numerous; yet from an unwillingness to sacrifice public advantage to private resentment I have thought it best to take as little notice of them as possible. Truth, in every case, is the most reputable victory a man can gain. And if Mr. Deane has hitherto been the Jonas of the storm, I sincerely wish he may be found out, that the vessel may have relief.
As my signature, Common Sense, has been counterfeited either by Mr. Deane, or some of his adherents, in Mr. Bradford’s paper of February 3d, I shall subscribe this with my name.
Philadelphia, February 13.
For the PENNSYLVANIA PACKET. from the Pennsylvania Packet, March 2, 1779.
A writer who signs himself An American, in the Pennsylvania Packet of last Saturday, has selected and thrown together a variety of circumstances from which no final conclusion appears to be clearly drawn. He has taken for granted that which is matter of doubt, and argued from it as from matter of fact.
The piece is written with a shew of decency and candor. But is decency and candor the natural or the mask character of the writer? If it be the former, we may conclude him sincere; if the latter, artful. It is necessary at this time, that writers as well as writings should be read; and did I know a man who pays less regard to decency than himself, I would name him. The short character I have drawn is that which he affects to be proud of; and as I would willingly please all, where I can do it consistently, I have, for once, paid a compliment to ambition.
As subjects for his address, he has selected the three following heads. — First, The taking of Georgia by the enemy. — Secondly, The calumnies raised against Congress. — And Thirdly, The symptoms of discontent exhibited by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. The First, he admits to be true. And the Second and Third he endeavours to explain away.
That an enemy after threatening the unconditional conquest of Thirteen States, should at last make their attack on the weakest and remotest of them all, is such an evidence of wasted strength and despair, as needs no other exposure than to be told — And with this simple remark I dismiss the first of his heads.
As to the calumnies against Congress, I know but of one, and that is to be found in Mr. Deane’s address of Dec. 5th, viz. That “the ears of the representatives were shut against him.” But will the writer of the American, tho’ a member of that House, say, that he was not privy to the libel before it was published? And will he now desert the libeller as an apology for himself? Consistency has some pretensions to character; and I would recommend it to the American to stick to his friend, and his friend to him. If the one can justify his conduct to his constituents, and the other to the public, it will be well for both.
Mr. Deane now wants to get off the Continent, and has applied to Congress for leave of absence. His retreat may be as convenient to several members of that House as to himself. But should a man, whose public accounts are unsettled; who has made charges against others, without offering to support them; and has had charges laid against him, to which he has made no reply; who is suspected of having carried on a clandestine trade of embezzling public money, and suppressing the public dispatches, be, at this time permitted to depart?
The state of things does not admit of that sleepy quietude and unlimited confidence, which the writer of the American now wishes to promote. And as it cannot be the interest of the states to be imposed upon, either by their delegates in congress or their ambassadors abroad, I shall collect, and throw into one view, the substance of what has been already published on Mr. Deane’s affairs, with the letters I have written and sent into that body while the matter was depending, and their conduct thereon.
Philadelphia, March 1, 1779.
To MR. DEANE. from the Pennsylvania Packet, March 27, 1779.
The Committee of Congress, which have been sitting near a quarter of a year on your affairs, have at last brought in their report. What that report is, is a secret to me.
You first made your appeal to the public on the fifth of December, and promised them a history of “matters important for them to know” (those are the words of your address) yet in a few days after, you deserted them, and left them to find those matters out.
Where you left the public I took them up, and the general belief now is, that the matters so important for them to know are found out without your assistance, namely, that you negotiated a proffered present amounting to two hundred thousand pounds sterling into a purchase, and embezzled, or was privy to the embezzling, the public dispatches to promote the imposition; and that you may have no pretence hereafter to say that you were slanderously suspected, without any person undertaking to prove the circumstances on which the suspicions were founded, I hereby give you this notice, before your affairs be finally determined on in Congress, that if you will appeal to that Honorable House in behalf of your own suffering character, and to clear up the suspicions you lay under from my publications, that I will obey any order, and meet you at the bar of that House, and submit to any examination from them or you on the points in question, provided the doors be open.
But if this condition should be thought too much, I am contented to yield up something to supposed convenience, and will on my own part rest satisfied, that the President and Council of this state, and Members of Assembly, if they please, be present, with such Members of any other state who may be on the spot.
Market-street, Philadelphia, March 26, 1779.
To MR. DEANE. from the Pennsylvania Packet, April 10, 1779.
Wherever your future lot may be cast, or however you may be disposed of, the recollection of your present affairs ought to teach you this one useful lesson, that honesty is the best policy.
It is now eight weeks ago since I laid before the public a regular detail of circumstances, on which were grounded my suspicions of your having negotiated a profered present, amounting to two hundred thousand pounds sterling, into a purchase, and embezzled the public dispatches to promote the payment of the money. The circumstances as I have related them, are undeniable; neither have you attempted, either before Congress or the public, to clear up the suspicions, and by that neglect have confirmed them into a charge. The examination of Capt. Folger, who was detained a prisoner near five months at York-Town on account of the loss of those dispatches, would now throw some additional light on this affair; but strange as it may appear, that examination is not now to be found.
After I had laid the circumstances before the public concerning the loss of the dispatches, and explained the object for which they appear to have been lost, I informed you, in the Pennsylvania Packet of last month, that if you thought yourself aggrieved by any thing I had written and published, that I would attend an order of Congress, and submit to any examination on the points in question, provided the doors were open: For as I have some reasons to suspect that there are Members of that House, who are privately interested with you, the success of whose projects depends in a great measure on your fate, I ought not to trust myself before them, (after what has already passed) with the doors shut.
In answer to this it may be said, that there are others of that Honorable House on whose integrity and public spirit I might safely rely, without any other evidence; but when I recollect how much more industrious interest is than friendship, I am the more confirmed in the opinion, that I ought not to trust too much to probability. I once attended an order of Congress (January 6th), and was asked by the President, Mr. Jay, whether I was the author of the publications in the Pennsylvania Packet, entitled, “Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane’s affairs”; I instantly answered, “Yes, I am the author of all these pieces.” No other questions were asked me, and I was ordered to withdraw. On the next day, January 7th, I applied for a hearing, and on a motion being made for that purpose, it passed in the negative; and on the next day, January 8th, I sent in my resignation of the office of Secretary to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. Yet on the 16th, without any enquiry whether I was right or wrong, or hearing or requiring any explanation on the matter, some of Mr. Deane’s party made a motion for dismissing me, on account of those publications, from the very office I had before resigned, because I was refused a hearing to explain and support them. The motion, as it happened, was lost; for though the majority for the dismission was fourteen to thirteen, yet it being a tie upon the States, five for — five against, and two divided, it passed in the negative. And as this vote explains the cast of Congress on other parts of Mr. Deane’s affairs, I shall furnish the public with the yeas and nays.
For the Dismission.
Mr. Holton, Mr. Collins, Mr. Jay, Mr. Lewis, Mr. Atlee, Mr. Paca, Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Thomas Adams, Mr. Merry Smith, Mr. Penn, Mr. Hill, Mr. Burke, Mr. Drayton, Mr. Langworthy.
Mr. Deane and Mr. G. Morris, were not in the house.
Against the Dismission.
Mr. Whipple, Mr. S. Adams, Mr. Gerry, Mr. Lovel, Mr. Ellery, Mr. Dyer, Mr. Root, Mr. Roberdeau, Mr. Searle, Mr. Shippen, Mr. M’Kean, Mr. F. L. Lee, Mr. Hutson.
Neither were Mr. Laurens, Mr. Henry, Mr. Floyd, Mr. Frost.
New Jersey was absent.
How the gentlemen who voted for the dismission, without an hearing, can possibly reconcile such conduct to their vote on the 9th of January, which declares, that I had no right to conclude that I was not to be heard, is to me, and must be to every man, and even to themselves, unaccountable; their conduct on the two days being as opposite in principle, as right and wrong. But to return to Mr. Deane.
Four months ago the popular torrent ran, not only strong, but violent in your favor. Force by the daily inventions of interested adherents, it rose with the rapidity of a bubble, and discharged itself like the breaking of a bank. Before the multitude had time to reflect, they were hurried away and following the impulse of the first impression, felt an unwillingness to resist, an awkwardness to retract.
Whether you were then right or wrong, was of no more consequence to me than to any other individual in America. It was as much every man’s duty as mine to assist you in the first, or detect you in the last; and the only difference was, that by knowing more of the matter, I had the less excuse for neglect. I had politically nothing to lose or gain distinct from the general interest, and would as freely have supported you, had I believed you to be right, as I opposed you, believing you to be wrong.
As to whatever parties (if any) were formed for or against you, in one place or another, I had not the most distinct connection with, or knowledge of. Having, at that time, no quarrel with you, or you with me, or with any other gentleman in or out of Congress upon your account, or upon the account of any other Commissioner or agent, I had no interested object to carry, no party or personal resentment to gratify; and not being even hinted at in your address of December 5th, I had, on my own part, nothing to defend.
Such being my situation at the time your address came out, the question is, What could induce me to take it up? so opposite to your plan, and contrary to almost every man’s opinion. I stood fair with the United States, and had no occasion to run risks to establish or recover reputation. The task too was heavy, and the prospect troublesome; besides which, I had intentionally devoted the winter to more agreeable employments, and the loss of so much time on your account has thrown me unprofitably back in the plan I had laid out, which was that of making an arrangement of materials for a History of the Revolution.
Those who have no idea of stirring hand or foot without profit or reward, will assign such reasons for my conduct as influence their own; and as I can neither prevent their opinions or change their principles, I shall leave them to think as they please. But if I may be allowed to declare for myself, my only motive was, that I doubted your integrity, and had good reasons to suspect you were imposing on the country; and as those reasons were known to no other person out of Congress than myself, therefore no other person could go through the undertaking.
I had, on former occasions, I believe, rendered essential service, and that in the very crisis of time. And I saw in this instance, that exclusive of the imposition you were acting on the public, by pretending to give them information of plots which never existed but in your own wicked imagination, that the plan was to get you off Ambassador to Holland, where you might hope to have the fingering a loan of money, and to make a new appointment of Ambassadors to other Courts of men connected with yourself. And I leave America to judge what condition our foreign affairs must shortly have been in, if such a measure had succeeded, and if what I have stated respecting your former conduct be true, which there is yet no reason to disbelieve.
But there is one circumstance which must still appear embarrassing to the public, and which I now mean to throw the best light upon in my power.
In your address of December 5th, you declared that “the ears of the Representatives in Congress were shut against you?” yet every day’s experience has proved that the charge was untrue. Why, then, was it made, or why was it submitted to?
Any indifferent person would suppose that those against whom that charge was directed, would feel themselves relieved by the pains I have taken to detect the falsehood, for it was a falsehood, as the Journals of Congress of December the first will testify. But be that as it may, the falsehood undetected was a convenient one, because it stood as an apology to a publication calculated to make room for a new appointment of Commissioners to foreign Courts, by unjustly traducing the characters of those who were already appointed: And consequently those, who hoped to succeed on a vacancy, connived at the libel, and quietly put up with their share of the disgrace.
Had the pretence not been made, the publication could not have appeared with consistency, and would have failed in its effect; for it was the gratification which the public felt at being appealed to, because it was said, Congress had “shut their ears” that gave zeal and vehemence to their suspicions. But the pretence being made and believed, produced an effect far beyond, if not contrary to, what the contrivers expected. The uproar against Congress was greater than against the Commissioners; and while Mr. Deane’s advocates in the House were hoping to be sent abroad as Ambassadors, the cry out of doors was a new Congress. By this overspun piece of craft, they undermined the ground upon which they expected to rise, and instead of succeeding to the end, their personal honor fell a sacrifice to the means. The public placed Mr. Deane at one end of the beam, and Congress at the other; and the idea struck so naturally that if what Mr. Deane said was true, it was time that Congress should be removed and changed — And, on the other hand, if what he said was not true, the support and patronage they have since given him, is a dishonor to the dignity of the United States.
I shall conclude this paper with remarking, that we have hitherto confounded two distinct things together, which ought to be kept separate, I mean, the sovereignty of the United States, and the delegated representation of that sovereignty in Congress. It may happen, and perhaps does now happen, that the character of the latter falls far short of the former; Or why is it that the first is rising, and the latter sinking.
Under obligations to no one state on the Continent more than to another, and not at all to any, I take my view largely over the whole, and convinced that their interest and happiness is one, and that, that which in foreign affairs affects any must affect all, I have, through the course of this business, made no distinction of states, or ever mean to do so.
At the period we are now arrived, nothing can hurt us but want of honesty; and until Mr. Deane can clear up his character, those who have so connivingly supported him in Congress, will find it difficult to make good their own. I lay myself open to the world; I neither secret my thoughts nor disown my publications; and if there is a man in America uninfluenced and independent, I think I may justly claim that character.
Philadelphia, April 10th, 1779.
For the PENNSYLVANIA EVENING POST.
from The Pennsylvania Evening Post, July 16, 1779.
In the Evening Post of last Friday, July ninth, in a piece under the signature of Cato, the following queries, with their answers and innuendoes were put:
“Who was an Englishman? Tom P—. Who was a Tory? Tom P—. Who wrote the Crisis, and abused Howe? Tom P—. Who was made secretary to the committee of foreign affairs? Tom P—. Who recommended him to that office? — —. Who betrayed state affair? Tom P—. For whom did he betray them? — — Who has traduced the tried friends of America? Tom P—. Who has endeavoured to raise suspicions against congress? Tom P—. Who was made a committee man? Tom P—. Who proposed a resolution to the committee to prevent supplies from going to the army? Tom—. Who maintains Tom P—? Nobody knows. Who is paid by the enemy? Nobody knows. Who best deserves it? Tom P—.
I do not take notice of these queries, etc., from any apprehension of their being credited to my injury, but to expose the meanness of the wretch who published them.
As I take it for granted he meant me, and no other person, I sent to the printer for the name of the author, or of the person by whose authority he published them. Mr. Towne, the printer, came to me in about two hours after, and told me that “he had not liberty to give him up.”
If the author chuses to submit himself to be suspected for a lying incendiary scoundrel, by advancing what he dares not own, he is, for the present, welcome; but unless he gives up his name, or the printer for him, the one or the other will probably meet with treatment different to what they expected.
If he alludes to my publications respecting Mr. Deane, I reply, let Mr. Deane answer for himself. He is on the spot, so am I. I can but consider myself, and I know I am considered, both by friends and enemies, as a principal means in rescuing this country from imposition and a dangerous species of monopolising; for what can be more dangerous to her commerce and her honor than members of congress forming trading companies in partnership with their ambassadors. The state of Virginia, on discovering that three of their delegates were partners in this company, not only appointed others in their room, but have passed a law to prevent such practices in future; and I hope every state will, in some line or other, do the same. If the exposing this company was revealing a state secret, or if stating the loss of the dispatches, or saying that the supplies, represented as a debt by Mr. Deane, were offered and intended as a present to the states, were revealing state secrets, I confess myself the person who revealed them; and in so doing I have done the states justice, which I should not have done had I acted otherwise. But the exact state of the case is, that I have told the truth, and concealed the secret.
I have lately taken up the subject of the fisheries in behalf of the right of America, yet this wretch, whoever he is, has thought proper to abuse me for it in the Evening Post. I have published one piece in Messrs. Hall and Seller’s paper of June thirty on that subject, in answer to a piece on the same, signed Americanus, and I now republish it in this paper, that every man may judge for himself what sort of a being this unknown Cato must be.
If men, under the hope of being concealed by a printer, are to publish what they dare not own, the public will for ever be held in confusion. British emissaries, British prisoners, and disaffected refugees, will embarrass every measure, and endeavor to defame every character, however fair, that stands in their way; and for this reason, were it for no other, I conceive that the name of no writer, in the present state of things, ought to be concealed when demanded.
THE PHILADELPHIA COMMITTEE TO ROBERT MORRIS
Philadelphia, Saturday, July 24, 1779.
A town meeting being to be held on Monday next, the following letter sent to Robert Morris, Esq; enclosing a report, are published for the consideration of the people previous to the meeting.
Philadelphia, July 21, 1779.
We received your favour of June 26th, inclosed in your subsequent letter of July 7th, and likewise saw the same published in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of the 5th, and Mr. Bradford’s paper of the 14th instant. Our reason for not waiting on you again is assigned by you, partly on account of your indisposition, and partly by the publication itself, because it was not appealing from a report, but prior to a report; and it was not any part of our intention to have published any report without first presenting you with the whole.
Enclosed is the report we shall make to the town meeting on Monday next, and which we shall publish in the paper of Saturday, and think it our duty to furnish you with a copy thereof, for your perusal, animadversion, or explanation.
In our conduct in this business we have strictly adhered to facts, and scrupulously followed candour and justice; and tho’ the relation may in some parts appear unpleasant, we hope you will acquit us of exaggeration.
We observe, both in your conversation with us and in your letter of June 26th, and publication of the same date, that you expressed some concern that your name had been so disadvantageously mentioned at the last town meeting. It often happens that those who ought to be the first, are the last persons to hear circumstances respecting themselves.
The cargo in question had created much conversation before any town meeting was thought of. Its remaining so long in the river without any proposals for sale, and a public guard being placed over it, gave rise to many conjectures, among the rest, and which was a very general one, that it was the property of Mr. Silas Deane, and detained by Congress till he should settle his accounts; and as your connection with Mr. Deane had been known from an account published by you in February last, the Idea, without the assistance of any thing malignant, easily extended to yourself, and perhaps quickened other apprehensions, when it was first given out that you was become a purchaser of the whole; and however unwilling Mr. Morris may be to acknowledge the term engrossing or monopolizing, yet as he did not import the cargo, and did, in partnership with Mr. Solikoff, get the whole into his possession, we are at a loss to find any other name, though the expedition with which he entered on the sale abates the rigorous sense generally applied to these words.
On the part of Mr. Solikoff there is something very nearly akin to forestalling, for though the possessing himself of a promise of the whole cargo was not, as we at first apprehended, before the vessel arrived, it was on, or before, the day on which the cargo became legally merchantable, which we presume takes place as to public sale from the time she is entered with the Naval Officer, which was on the 25th of April.
You mention your having entered, or intended to enter, into treaty for a remaining part of the cargo, which is described by you as unsuited to the season and country. As we have not seen the invoice, and cannot learn, from those who have seen it, what part thereof can properly come under that description, we leave it to Mr. Morris to give what satisfaction he may think proper, either to us, or the town meeting, or by any other means he may chuse.
We are persuaded that enquiries of this kind are attended with niceties and difficulties, which would be innovations on the rights and freedom of trade, at any other time than this; but, embarked in a cause which has been in a great measure supported by generously surrendering individual ease and advantage, we are persuaded that Mr. Morris can but approve the principle which the public, and we by their authority, have proceeded on, and to which himself on many occasions has contributed.
As we are not authorized to condemn, so neither can we justify; and are persuaded that when Mr. Morris reflects on the uneasiness which such a mode of purchasing has occasioned, that he will take measures in future to prevent the same consequences; for tho’, as a merchant, he may be strictly within rules, yet when he considers the many public and honorary stations he has filled and the times he lives in, he must feel himself somewhat out of character.
If Mr. Morris pleases to convey any thing to us in answer to this and the enclosed, we shall deliver it with these at the town meeting, and do every thing in our power to remove uneasiness and restore tranquility and public friendship.
We are, Sir, Your obedient humble servants,
Charles Wilson Peale,
J. B. Smith.
MR. DUNLAP, Please to insert the following. T. P. from the Pennsylvania Packet, July 31, 1779.
SILAS DEANE, John Nixon, and James Wilson, Esquires, having called on Capt. Peale, and left with him a letter signed Silas Deane, dated the 27th instant, respecting intimations used by him, Capt. Peale, at the Coffee-house, on the morning of the 26th instant, relative to some pecuniary offers made to me, and Capt. Peale having shewn me that letter, which, together with my and his answer thereto, were published in the Pennsylvania Packet of Thursday last, in which answer of mine I engaged to give the information required in this day’s paper.
On examining Mr. Deane’s letter, a second time I see the request is for the name or names only, and not for circumstances of the affair in question. To give the one without the other might be made an ill use of, and to give both in the present situation of things, without first referring the matter to Congress, might, as far as I am able to foresee, produce considerable inconvenience.
So far as respects the three gentlemen in question, I shall give such answers as ought to suffice them, and that part which may be supposed to belong more generally to the public, I entreat them to leave to my discretion. Had there been no peculiar nicety in this affair, I undoubtedly should for my own sake have published it before now, because in any light in which it may be viewed, it will add to my reputation.
Therefore, it is sufficient on my part that I declined the offer; and it is sufficient to Mr. Nixon and Mr. Wilson that they were not the persons who made it, or, I believe knew anything about; and on the part of Mr. Deane, it is somewhat extraordinary that he should stir about this only, who has taken everything else so quietly. It is likewise more extraordinary that he should stir at this particular time, because I cannot suppose he is ignorant of a letter of mine to Congress, dated so long ago as the 23d of April, where I mentioned the same affair to which, I presume, Capt. Peale alluded; and I gave my consent that Mr. Thomson should shew Mr. Deane that letter, upon condition that he does not commence a quarrel with Mr. Carmichael for dubbing him at Nantz with the title of a —
After informing Congress that an offer had been made to me, I added “that however polite the proposal might be, or however friendly it might be designed, I thought it my duty to decline it, as it was accompanied with a condition which had a tendency to prevent the information I had since given and should still give on public affairs.”
The offer was made both before and after I made my resignation on the 8th of January. It was first put in general terms, afterwards in particular ones, was pressed on me with a great deal of anxiety, and amounted to more than twice my salary in Congress.
I cannot possess myself of the mind of the gentleman who proposed it, so as to declare what every intention of his might be, but I well know that the acceptance of it would at that time as effectually have prevented the publication I gave in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of the 16th of February, respecting the supplies and the loss of the dispatches, as if my silence had been made the express condition of my acceptance.
Having said thus much, I think it a prudent step in me to refer the affair first to Congress. If they please to call on me for particulars, I will furnish them; and I am persuaded the honest and well wishing part of the public will rest satisfied with this, as there are matters connected with it which might, either by mistake or design, be made a very ill use of.
There is not a man in the Thirteen States, so far as his powers and abilities extend, that will go further or do more in supporting the cause of America than myself, or of any country connected with her. This, every one knows, who has any intimate acquaintance with me; and according to my opinion of things and principles; a man needs no pecuniary inducement to do that to which the two-fold powers of duty and disposition naturally lead him on.
Having thus far satisfied Mr. Nixon and Mr. Wilson, I take the liberty of asking Mr. Wilson if he is or was not directly or indirectly a partner in the Foreign Commercial Company, in which Mr. Deane, with several members of Congress at that time, and others were concerned.
And exclusive of all other questions to Mr. Deane, I desire him to inform the public for what purpose it was that he remitted over to Mr. Samuel Wharton, of London, 19,520 livres, eleven days after the Treaty of Alliance was signed. I presume he will not undertake to contradict the fact; if he does, I can prove it.
P. S. As to Whitehead Humphreys, I give him my full and free consent to publish whatever and whenever he pleases, and under any signature he likes best, promising on my part to make no reply thereto, if he, Whitehead Humphreys, will to each of his future pieces, add at the bottom the following words, viz.
“This is published by the same person who inserted several libelous productions under the signature of ‘CATO,’ in Benjamin Towne’s Evening Post, of July, 1779, which were so infamously false that the author or carrier of them, in order to avoid the shame and scandal of being known, tied the Printer down to such strong obligations to conceal him, that nothing but a halter could extort it from him.”
Philadelphia, July 30, 1779.
To MR. DUNLAP
On the Saturday preceding the election of a Committee for the city and liberties, I was under an engagement to publish, in your paper of that day, an answer to Mr. Deane’s application to Capt. Peale, respecting some expressions used by the latter at the Coffee-house, on the morning of the last Town Meeting.
It was unpleasant to me to find myself obliged to say less in that publication than was generally expected, and it was not till after I had made the engagement that I saw the necessity of being somewhat reserved. I am persuaded Mr. Deane is not so ignorant of the matter as he affects to be, and that he only wanted to be furnished with an opportunity to make an ill use of.
I had likewise another reason, which was, that as Mr. Deane had applied for some information to Capt. Peale, which myself only could give him a proper answer upon, I intended, by not doing it in the public papers, to improve it into an opportunity that should bring him and me face to face, as well on that as on other matters; to accomplish which, and likewise to prevent any ill use being made of the publication above mentioned, I sent the following letter to Mr. Deane the next morning.
Market-street, Sunday, August 1st, 1779.
SIR,-If you really wanted the information you applied for to Capt. Peale, I shall in this letter put you in a way to procure it. You will at the same time please to observe that I was not at the Coffee-house when the conversation passed to which you allude in your letter of the 27th ult.; neither can I learn from any person what the precise words were, some representing them more and some less. I cannot make myself a judge of that part of the business, neither will they affect one way or other the matter in question. If it should turn out (as it will not) that no offer was made to me for any purpose whatever, your affairs will stand just as they did; and if the contrary should be found, and that your affairs were some way or other connected with that offer, they will not appear the better for it.
I believe Capt. Peale’s motive for mentioning it was to silence the groundless and illiberal reflections of those who endeavored to give out that I wrote for reward, when I made my publications on your affairs. In those publications I have done honor to the generous people of France, to whom we are happily allied; I have done justice to the States, and no injustice to you; and so far, Sir, from being paid for writing them, I might have been rewarded either to have let them alone, or to have concurred in measures that might have been pointed out to me. What those measures were was not mentioned.
I had many reasons for not giving the whole in the paper of last Saturday, which I am persuaded every well wisher to his country, could he know and feel these reasons as well as I do, would honor me for. By not doing it, I submitted myself to a temporary inconvenience; yet had I done it without taking the necessary precaution to prevent misrepresentation I am well aware of the ill use would have been made of it.
I ought to have expected that on the appearance of Saturday’s paper you would have requested Congress to have enquired into the matter, and desired I might have been immediately called before them. Your neglect in so doing shows, to me at least, that you are not very anxious, and that your application for a name was to answer some other end than barely to know. A name might have served a purpose, and added to the false coloring which have been industriously cast on the Committee for detaining the flour, and enquiring into the circumstances of the exportation of that article, been ungenerously and illiberally played off to suit the purpose of an election now on hand.
Sir, make your application to me in company with any three gentlemen who are or have been members of Congress, and I will meet you at any time and place to be agreed on, within the space of one week, in company with three gentlemen of the same rank, and give every particular and circumstance that you may require, or I can recollect, respecting the matter in question.
If you choose to confine your request to three Members of Connecticut, I will confine mine to three who now are or have been Members for this State. If you choose to be more general, I shall of consequence have a right to be the same. I will likewise submit myself to be asked by you any questions respecting any of my publications, or any part of my conduct, and I shall likewise claim the right of asking you any questions respecting such parts of your conduct as my publications have animadverted upon; and any questions on either side which shall be deemed improper by the gentlemen present, shall be answered or not at the choice of the party to whom they shall be put.
You will please to favor me with your answer to this some time to day, the sooner the more agreeable.
I am, Sir, your obedient humble servant,
Silas Deane, Esq.
In the evening I received the following.
Turner’s-Lane, Sunday afternoon, 1 o’clock.
SIR,-Your letter of this day was this moment put into my hands by Col. Mitchel. I am engaged in company and shall not return to town until evening. I shall take the first convenient opportunity to give you a proper answer.
I am, Sir, your humble servant,
The next morning I received the following evasive refusal of the proposal I had made.
Philadelphia, August 2, 1779.
SIR,-I was well informed, and I firmly believe, that Mr. Peale said at the Coffee House you had been offered a bribe not to write against me. From hence it would naturally be supposed that I had directly or indirectly been concerned in that offer. I therefore called on him for the name or names of the parties. As to the circumstances, they can be of no consequence, for I am confident that upon an investigation of the matter, evidence must appear to exculpate me from the charge, much more satisfactory to the candid and honest part of my countrymen than any thing it is possible for you to say.
Mr. Peak’s and Mr. Paine’s intentions are alike indifferent-you engaged to give the information required in Saturday’s paper; you have not done it. But you speak of some proposition made to you, and you could not possess yourself of the mind of the gentleman who proposed it so as to declare what every intention of his might be, but that you well know the acceptance of it would have effectually prevented your publication of the 16th of February. From hence, this one thing at least is evidently apparent, that you are far from acknowledging the offer alleged by Mr. Peale.
It is by no means my business to investigate the bargains you may have made for the use or abuse of your pen; and did I desire it, you are the last person to whom I should apply for the real state of facts. If you or any other shall affirm that I, or any person by my order, or with any knowledge, made you directly or indirectly any offer whatever, to purchase your silence with relation to me or my affairs, it will become me to require the name or names; but at present it is quite sufficient to assert the falsity of such allegations.
Since you appear solicitous to know the reasons of my silence in regard to your publications, I will give you one which your own consciousness must convince you is quite satisfactory. As Mr. Paine cannot bring any evidence whatever in support of his charges, the injustice of which he must be himself fully convinced of, it would not only be beneath the character of a faithful public servant, but an insult on the public candor, to attempt a confutation of them. You have, it seems, left the investigation of your bribe to Congress. I am content. Let them investigate it, if they think the importance of the thing merits enquiry. In the interim, you and your friend Mr. Peale may at your leisure determine whether you told him a falsehood, or he told one to the people at the Coffee-house; or whether, if some person has really bribed or offered to bribe you, it not now incumbent on Mr. Paine to mention the name as publicly as Mr. Peale mentioned the thing.
The citizens of Philadelphia may also determine whether they have not a right to insist on it. But as Mr. Paine’s publication contains a sufficient disavowal of Mr. Peale’s assertions, I am satisfied; and I pray you to believe that I am far from having so much respect either for the person or character of Mr. Thomas Paine, as to covet any conversation or intercourse with him which is not absolutely necessary.
I am, Sir, your humble servant,
To Mr. Paine.
I now think it full time to take my leave of Mr. Deane; neither can he, after declining the fair and open offer I made to him, have the least pretence to complain. If he be an honest man, and innocent of the things which he well knows I suspect him guilty of, he would have met me on the ground I proposed, glad of the opportunity of proving me wrong.
Why he should affect to be satisfied, or what right he can have to conclude “that my publication contains a sufficient disavowal of Mr. Peale’s assertions,” I am quite at loss to find out. Mr. Peale has a much greater right to say that Mr. Deane admits what he asserted at the Coffee-house, by his declining to meet Mr. Paine on the subject.
I believe Mr. Deane expresses himself very sincerely when he declares how little respect he has for me. I have resigned one salary under Congress, and declined the offer of two others of more value, that I might be perfectly at liberty to do the country justice against his impositions, and it is not very natural he should express himself otherwise. I therefore pardon the affront for the sake of the truth it contains, fully believing it to be the honestest expression he has used since his return to America.
I am but at little loss to guess the quarter from whence the late abusive pieces signed Cato, and others of the same cast, really came, and the end they were designed to answer; but so much have the authors of them been mistaken, that, without the least endeavors of mine, the resentment they hoped to excite has fallen upon themselves; and they have, at the same time, added to my reputation by bringing my refusal of an advantageous offer into public notice, which otherwise might have rested in oblivion, or been very little known, it being near seven months since the affair happened.
But must it not appear very extraordinary that the man who last winter threw a whole country into the utmost confusion under the pretence of serving them, should now shrink from a genteel and honorable opportunity of vindicating himself from the heavy suspicions that have since taken place against him? If he be not guilty, the offer must have been agreeable; and if he be, he had best take care of himself. I have by me copies of several letters he has wrote to Congress complaining of my publications; but why do not his connections in that House, if they think him innocent, demand an hearing for him, or why does he not demand one for himself, or why does he not accept that which I have offered him? I have waited beyond the time of a week to give him an opportunity of acceding to it, notwithstanding his declining it in his letter to me.
Upon the whole, is it so light a matter to be suspected of defrauding the country of a very large sum of money and embezzling the public dispatches to conceal the delinquency, that Mr. Deane does not think it worth his while to vindicate himself from the suspicions? Or can he be so foolish as not to see the suspicion is become almost universal? The silence of that Congress he once so much confided in, his own silence, and the silence of his most intimate connections, all tend to show that something is the matter.
From the Pennsylvania Packet, September 14, 1779.
In your paper of August 31st was published an extract of a letter from Paris, dated May the 21st, in which the writer, among other things, says:
“It is long since I felt in common with every other well-wisher to the cause of liberty and truth, the obligations I was under to the author of Common Sense, for the able and unanswerable manner in which he has defended those principles. The same public motives I am persuaded induced him to address the public against Mr. Deane and his associates. The countenance and support which Deane has received is a melancholy presage of the future. Vain, assuming, avaricious and unprincipled, he will stick at no crime to cover what he has committed and continue his career.”
“The impunity with which Deane has traduced and calumniated Congress to their face, the indulgence and even countenance he has received, the acrimonious and uncandid spirit of a letter containing Mr. Paine’s publications which accompanied a resolve sent to Mr. Gerard, are matters of deep concern here to every friend to America.”
By way of explaining the particular letter referred to in the above, the following note was added:
“The letter here alluded to can be no other than that signed”]ohn Jay” dated January 13th, and published in Mr. Dunlap’s paper of Jan. 16th. It is very extraordinary that Mr. Jay should write such a letter, because it contains the same illiberal reflections which Congress, as a Body, had rejected from their resolve of January 12, as may be seen by any one who will peruse the proceedings of January last. Congress has since declined to give countenance to Mr. Jay’s letter; for tho’ he had a public authority for writing a letter to Mr. Gerard, he had no authority for the reflections he used; besides which, the letter would be perfectly laughable were every circumstance known which happened at that particular time, and would likewise show how exceedingly delicate and cautious a President ought to be when he means to act officially in cases he is not sufficiently acquainted with.”
Every person will perceive that the note which explains the letter referred to, is not a part of the letter from Paris, but is added by another person; and Mr. Jay, or any other Gentleman, is welcome to know that the note is in my writing, and that the original letter from Paris is now in my possession. I had sufficient authority for the expressions used in the note. Mr. Jay did not lay his letter to Mr. Gerard before Congress previous to sending it, and therefore, though he had their order, he had not their approbation. They, it is true, ordered it to be published, but there is no vote for approving it, neither have they given it a place in their Journals, nor was it published in any more than one paper in this city except Benjamin Towne’s, though there were at that time two others. Some time after Mr. Jay’s letter appeared in the paper, I addressed another to Congress, complaining of the unjust liberty he had taken, and desired to know whether I was to consider the expressions used in his letter as containing their sentiments, at the same time informing them that if they declined to prove what he had written I should consider their silence as a disapprobation of it. Congress chose to be silent; and consequently, have left Mr. Jay to father his own expressions.
I took no other notice of Mr. Jay’s letter at the time it was published, being fully persuaded that when any man recollected the part I had acted, not only at the first but in the worst of times, he could but look on Mr. Jay’s letter to be groundless and ungrateful, and the more so, because if America had had no better friends than himself to bring about independence, I fully believe she would never have succeeded in it, and in all probability been a ruined, conquered and tributary country.
Let any man look at the position America was in at the time I first took up the subject, and published Common Sense, which was but a few months before the declaration of independance; an army of thirty thousand men coming out against her, besides those which were already here, and she without either an object or a system; fighting, she scarcely knew for what, and which, if she could have obtained^ would have done her no good. She had not a day to spare in bringing about the only thing which could save her. A REVOLUTION, yet no one measure was taken to promote it, and many were used to prevent it; and had independance not been declared at the time it was, I cannot see any time in which it could have been declared, as the train of ill-successes which followed the affair of Long Island left no future opportunity.
Had I been disposed to have made money, I undoubtedly had many opportunities for it. The single pamphlet Common Sense, would at that time of day have produced a tolerable fortune, had I only taken the same profits from the publication which all writers had ever done, because the sale was the most rapid and extensive of any thing that was ever published in this country, or perhaps any other. Instead of which I reduced the price so low, that instead of getting, I yet stand thirty-nine pounds eleven shillings out of pocket on Mr. Bradford’s books, exclusive of my time and trouble, and I have acted the same disinterested part by every publication I have made. I could have mentioned those things long ago, had I chosen, but I mention them now to make Mr. Jay feel his ingratitude.
In the Pennsylvania Packet of last Tuesday some person has republished Mr. Jay’s letter, and Mr. Gerard’s answer of the 13th and 14th January last, and though I was patiently silent upon their first publication, I now think it necessary, since they are republished, to give some circumstances which ought to go with them.
At the time the dispute arose, respecting Mr. Deane’s affairs, I had a conference with Mr. Gerard at his own request, and some matters on that subject were freely talked over, which it is here unnecessary to mention. This was on the 2d of January.
On the evening of the same day, or the next, Mr. Gerard, through the mediation of another gentleman, made me a very genteel and profitable offer. I felt at once the respect due to his friendship, and the difficulties which my acceptance would subject me to. My whole credit was staked upon going through with Deane’s affairs, and could I afterwards have written with the pen of an angel, on any subject whatever, it would have had no effect, had I failed in that or declined proceeding in it. Mr. Deane’s name was not mentioned at the time the offer was made, but from some conversation which passed at the time of the interview, I had sufficient reason to believe that some restraint had been laid on that subject. Besides which I have a natural inflexible objection to any thing which may be construed into a private pension, because a man after that is no longer truly free.
My answer to the offer was precisely in these words — “Any service I can render to either of the countries in alliance, or to both, I ever have done and shall readily do, and Mr. Gerard’s esteem will be the only recompense I shall desire.” I particularly chose the word esteem because it admitted no misunderstanding.
On the fifth of January I published a continuation of my remarks on Mr. Deane’s affairs, and I have ever felt the highest respect for a nation which has in every stage of our affairs been our firm and invariable friend, I spoke of France under that general description. It is true I prosecuted the point against Mr. Deane, but what was Mr. Deane to France, or to the Minister of France?
On the appearance of this publication Mr. Gerard presented a memorial to Congress respecting some expressions used therein, and on the 6th and 7th I requested of Congress to be admitted to explain any passages which Mr. Gerard had referred to; but this request not being complied with, I, on the 8th, sent in my resignations of the office of Secretary to the Committee of Foreign Affairs.
In the evening I received an invitation to sup with a gentleman, and Mr. Gerard’s offer was, by his own authority, again renewed with considerable additions of advantage. I gave the same answer as before. I was then told that Mr. Gerard was very ill, and desired to see me. I replied, “That as a matter was then depending in Congress upon a representation of Mr. Gerard against some parts of my publications, I thought it indelicate to wait on him till that was determined.”
In a few days after I received a second invitation, and likewise a third, to sup at the same place, in both of which the same offer and the same invitation were renewed and the same answers on my part were given: But being repeatedly pressed to make Mr. Gerard a visit, I engaged to do it the next morning at ten o’clock; but as I considered myself standing on a nice and critical ground, and lest my reputation should be afterwards called in question, I judged it best to communicate the whole matter to an honorable friend before I went, which was on the 14th of January, the very day on which Mr. Gerard’s answer to Mr. Jay’s letter is dated.
While with Mr. Gerard I avoided as much as possible every occasion that might give rise to the subject. Himself once or twice hinted at the publications and added that, “he hoped no more would be said on the subject,” which I immediately waived by entering on the loss of the dispatches. I knew my own resolution respecting the offer, had communicated that resolution to a friend, and did not wish to give the least pain to Mr. Gerard, by personally refusing that, which, from him might be friendship, but to me would have been the ruin of my credit. At a convenient opportunity I rose to take my leave, on which Mr. Gerard said: “Mr. Paine, I have always had a great respect for you, and should be glad of some opportunity of showing you more solid marks of my friendship.”
I confess I felt myself hurt and exceedingly concerned that the injustice and indiscretion of a party in Congress should drive matters to such an extremity that one side or other must go to the bottom, and in its consequences embarrass those whom they had drawn in to support them. I am conscious that America had not in France a more strenuous friend than Mr. Gerard, and I sincerely wish he had found a way to avoid an affair which has been much trouble to him. As for Deane, I believe him to be a man who cares not whom he involves to screen himself. He has forfeited all reputation in this country, first by promising to give an “history of matters important for the people to know” and then not only failing to perform that promise, but neglecting to clear his own suspected reputation, though he is now on the spot and can any day demand a hearing of Congress, and call me before them for the truth of what I have published respecting him.
Two days after my visit to Mr. Gerard, Mr. Jay’s letter and the answer to it was published, and I would candidly ask any man how it is possible to reconcile such letters to such offers both done at one and the same time, and whether I had not sufficient authority to say that Mr. Jay’s letter would be truly laughable, were all the circumstances known which happened at the time of his writing.
Whoever published those letters in last Tuesday’s paper, must be an idiot or worse. I had let them pass over without any other public notice than what was contained in the note of the preceding week, but the republishing them was putting me to defiance, and forcing me either to submit to them afresh, or to give the circumstances which accompanied them. Whoever will look back to last winter, must see I had my hands full, and that without any person giving the least assistance. It was first given out that I was paid by Congress for vindicating their reputation against Mr. Deane’s charges, yet a majority in that House were every day pelting me for what I was doing. Then Mr. Gerard was unfortunately brought in, and Mr. Jay’s letter to him and his answer were published to effect some purpose or other. Yet Mr. Gerard was at the same time making the warmest professions of friendship to me, and proposing to take me into his confidence with very liberal offers. In short I had but one way to get thro’, which was to keep close to the point and principle I set out upon, and that alone has rendered me successful. By making this my guide, I have kept my ground, and I have yet ground to spare, for among other things I have authentic copies of the dispatches that were lost.
I am certain no man set out with a warmer heart or a better disposition to render public service than myself, in everything which lay in my power. My first endeavor was to put the politics of the country right, and to show the advantages as well as the necessity of independence: and until this was done, independence never could have succeeded. America did not at that time understand her own situation; and though the country was then full of writers, no one reached the mark; neither did I abate in my service, when hundreds were afterwards deserting her interest and thousands afraid to speak, for the first number of the Crisis was published in the blackest stage of affairs, six days before the taking the Hessians at Trenton. When this State was distracted by parties on account of her Constitution, I endeavoured in the most disinterested manner to bring it to a conclusion; and when Deane’s impositions broke out, and threw the whole States into confusion, I readily took up the subject, for no one else understood it, and the country now sees that I was right. And if Mr. Jay thinks he derives any credit from his letter to Mr. Gerard, he will find himself deceived; and that the ingratitude of the composition will be his reproach, not mine.
To the PEOPLE of AMERICA
On the expences, arrangements and disbursements for acrrying on the war and finishing it with honour and advantage.
From the Frreman’s Journal, March 13, 1782.
WHEN any necessity or occasion has pointed out the convenience of addressing the public, I have never made it a consideration whether the subject was popular or unpopular, but whether it was right or wrong; for that which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong, though by mistake it may obtain the cry of fashion of the day, will soon lose the power of delusion, and sink into disesteem.
A remarkable instance of this has happened in the case of Silas Deane; and I mention this circumstance with the greatest ease, because the poison of his hypocrisy spread over the whole country, and every man, almost without exception, thought me wrong in opposing him. The best friends I then had, except Mr. Laurens, stood at a distance, and this tribute, which is due to his constancy, I pay to him with respect, and that the readier, because he is not here to hear it. If it reaches him in his imprisonment it will afford him an agreeable reflection.
“As he rose like a rocket, he would fall like the stick,” is a metaphor which I applied to Mr. Deane in the first piece which I published respecting him, and he has exactly fulfilled the description. The credit he so unjustly obtained from the public, he lost in almost as short time. The delusion perished as it fell, and he soon saw himself stripped of popular support. His more intimate acquaintances began to doubt and to desert him long before he left America, and at his departure he saw himself the object of general suspicion. When arrived in France, he endeavoured to effect by treason what he had failed to accomplish by fraud. His plans, schemes and projects, together with his expectations of being sent to Holland to negociate a loan of money, had all miscarried. He then began traducing and accusing America of every crime, which could injure her reputation. “That she was a ruined country; that she only meant to make a tool of France, to get what money she could out of her, and then to leave her, and accommodate with Britain.” Of all which, and much more, Colonel Laurens and myself, when in France, informed Dr. Franklin, who had not before heard of it. And to complete the character of a traitor, he has by letters to this country since, some of which, in his own hand writing, are now in the possession of congress, used every expression and argument in his power to injure the reputation of France, and to advise America to renounce her alliance, and surrender up her independence. (1) Thus, in France he abuses America, and in his letters to America he abuses France, and is endeavouring to create disunion between the two countries, by the same arts of double dealing by which he caused dissensions among the commissioners in Paris, and distractions in America. But his life has been fraud, and his character is that of plodding, plotting, cringing, mercenary, capable of any disguise that suited his purpose. His final detection has very happily cleared up those mistakes and removed those uneasinesses which his unprincipled conduct occasioned. Every one now sees him in the same light; for towards friends or enemies he acted with the same deception and injustice, and his name, like that of Arnold, ought now to be forgotten among us. As this is the first time I have mentioned him since my return from France, it is my intention it shall be the last. —
(Editor’s Note: The remainder of this article has never before been printed since it’s first appearance in 1782.)
From this degression, which for several reasons I thought necessary to give, I now proceed to the purport of my address.
I consider the war of America against Britain as the country’s war, the public’s war , or the war of the people in their own behalf, for the security of their natural rights, and the protection of their own property. It is not war of congress, the war of assemblies, or the war of government, in any line whatever. The country first, by a mutual compact, resolved to defend their rights and maintain their independence, at the hazard of their lives and fortunes. they elected their representatives, by whom they appointed their members to congress, and said, act you for us, and we will support you. this is the true ground and principle of the war on the part of America, and, consequently, there remains nothing to do, but for every oneto fulfil his obligation.
It was next to impossible that a new country, engaged in a new undertaking, could set off systematically right at first. She supposed every step she took, and every resolution she formed, would bring her enemy to reason, enclose the contest. Those failing, she was forced into new measures: in these, like the former, being fitted to her expectations, and failing in their turn left her continually provided and without system. The enemy likewise was induced to prosecute the war from the temporary expedients we adopted for carrying it on. we were continually expecting to see their credit exhausted, and they were looking to see her currency fail; and thus, between their watching us and we them, the hopes of both have been deceived, and the childishness of the expectation has served to encrease the expence.
Yet who, through this wilderness of error, has been to blame? Where is the man who can say, the fall has not been part been his? They were the natural unavoidable errors of the day. they were the errors of the whole country, wish nothing but experience could detect, and time remove. Neither could the circumstances of America admit of system, till either the paper currency was fixed or laid aside. No calculation of finance could be made on a medium falling without reason, fluctuating without rule.
But there is one error which might have been prevented, and was not; and as it is not my custom to flatter but to serve mankind, I will speak it freely. It certainly was the duty of every assembly on the continent to have known, at all times, what was the condition of his treasury, and you have ascertained that every period of depreciation, how much the real worth of the taxes fell short of their nominal value. This knowledge, which might have been easily gained, we have enabled them to have kept their constituents well informed, which is one of the greatest duties of representation. They want to have studies and calculated the expences of the war, the quota of each state, and the consequent proportion that would fall on each man’s property for his defence; and this must easily have shewn to them, that a tax of an hundred pounds could not be paid by a bushel of apples or an hundred of flour, which was often the case two or three years ago. But instead of this, which would have been plain and upright dealing, the little line of temporary popularity, the feather of an hour’s duration, was too much pursued: and in this involved condition of things, every state, for the want of a little thinking, or a little information, supposed that it bore the whole expence of the war, when in fact his fell, by the time the tax was levied and collected, above three fourths short of its own quota.
Impressed with a sense of the danger to which the country was exposed by this lax method of doing business, in the prevailing errors of the day, I published, last October was a twelvemonth, The crisis extraordinary, on the revenues of America, and the yearly expence of carrying on the war. My estimation of the latter, together with this civil list of congress, and the civil list of the several states, was two million of pounds sterling, which is very nearly nine millions of dollars.
Since that time, congress have gone into a calculation, and have estimated the expences of the war department and the civil list of congress (exclusive of the civil list of the several governments) at eight millions of dollars; as the remaining million will be fully sufficient for the civil list of the several states, the two calculations are exceedingly near each other.
This sum of eight millions of dollars they have called upon the states to furnish, and their quotas are as follows which I shall preface with the resolution itself.
By the UNITED STATES in CONGRESS assembled,
October 30th, 1781.
Resolved, That the respective states be called upon to furnish the treasury of the united states with their quotas of eight millions of dollars, for the war department and civil list for the ensuing year, to be paid quarterly in equal proportions, the first payment to be made on the first day of April next.
Resolved, That a committee, consisting of a member from each state, be appointed to apportion to the several states the quota of the above sum.
The committee, appointed to ascertain the proportions of the several states of the monies to be raised for the expences of the ensuing year, report the following resolutions —
That the sum of eight millions of dollars, as required to be raised by the resolutions of the 30th of October last, be paid by the states in the following proportion:
New Hampshire, — 373,598
Massachusetts, — 1307,596
Rhode Island, — 216,684
Connecticut, — 747,196
New York, — 373,598
New Jersey — 485,679
Pennsylvania, — 1120,794
Delaware, — 112,085
Maryland, — 933,996
Virginia, — 1307,594
North Carolina,— 622,677
South Carolina,— 373,598
Georgia, — 24,905
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states to lay taxes for raising their quotas of money for the united states, separate from those laid for their own particular use.
On these resolutions I shall offer several remarks.
First, On the sum itself, and the ability of the country.
Secondly, On the several quotas, and the nature of a union. And,
Thirdly, On the manner of collection and expenditure.
First, On the sum itself, and the ability of the country. As I know my own calculation is as low as possible, and as the sum called for by congress, according to their calculation, agrees very nearly therewith, I am sensible it cannot possibly be lower. Neither can it be done for that, unless there is ready money to go to market with; and even in that case, it is only by the utmost management and oeconomy that it can be made to do.
By the accounts which were laid before the British parliament last spring, it appeared that the charge of only subsisting, that is feeding, their army in America, cost annually four million pounds sterling, which is very nearly eighteen millions of dollars. Now, if for eight millions, we can see, close, arm, provide for, and pay an army sufficient for our defence, the very comparison shows that the money must be well laid out.
It may be of some use, either in debate or conversation, to attend to the progress of the expences of an army, because it will enable us to see on what part any deficiency will fall.
The first thing is, to feed them and provide for the sick.
Secondly, To clothe them.
Thirdly, To arm and furnish them.
Fourthly, To provide means for removing them from place to place. And,
Fifthly, To pay them.
The first and second are absolutely necessary to them as men. The third and fourth head, the means of removing the army from place to place; and in this case, the Army must either stand still where you can be of no use, or seize on horses, carts, waggons, were any means of transportation can lay hold of and in this instance the country suffers; in short, every attempt to do a thing for less than it can be done for, for sure you become at last both the loss and a dishonour.
But the country cannot bear it, say some. this has been the most expensive doctrine that ever was held out, and cost America millions of money for nothing. Can the country bear to be over run, ravaged, and ruined by an enemy, which will immediately follow where defence is wanting, and defence will ever be wanting where sufficient revenues are not provided. But this is only one part of the folly. The second is, when the danger comes invited in part by are not preparing against it, we have been obliged, in a number of instances, to extend double the sums, to do that which at 1st might have been done for half the money. But this is not all. A third mischief has been, that grain of all sorts, flour, beef, fodder, horses, carts, waggons, or whatever was absolutely poor immediately wanted, have been taken without pay. Now, I ask, why was all this done, but from that extremely week expensive doctrine, that the country could not bear it? that is, that she could not bear, in the first instance, that which would have saved her twice as much at last; or, in proverbial language, that she could not bear to pay a penny to save a pound; the consequence of which has been, for she has paid a pound for penny. Why are there so many unpaid certificates in almost every man’s hands, but from the parsimony of not providing sufficient revenues? Besides, the doctrine contradicts itself; because, if the whole country cannot bear it, how is it possible that a part should; and yet this has been the case: For those things have been had, and they must be had; but the misfortune is, they have been had in a very unequal manner, and upon extensive credit, whereas with ready money they might have been purchased for half the price, and no body distressed.
There is another sort which ought to strike us, which is, — How is the army to bear the want of food, cloathing in other necessaries? The man who is at home can turn himself a thousand ways, and find as many means of years, convenience for relief: But a soldiers life admits of none of those: Their once cannot be supplied from themselves. For an army, though it is the defence of a state, is at the same time the child of a country, and must be provided for in every thing.
and lastly, the doctrine is false. There are not three millions of people, in any part of the universe, who live so well, or have such a fund of ability is in America. The income of a common labourer, who is industrious is equal to that of the generality of tradesmen in England. In the mercantile line, I have not heard of one who could be said to be a bankrupt since the war began and in England they have been without number. In America almost every farmer lives on his own lands and in England not one in a hundred does. Insured seems as if the poverty of that country had made them furious, & they were determined to risk all to recover all.
Yet notwithstanding those advantages on the part of America, true it is, that had it not been for the operation of taxes for our necessary defence, we had sunk into a state of sloth and poverty: For there was more wealth lost by neglecting to till the earth in the years 1776, 77 and 78, then the quota of the tax amounts to. That which is lost by neglect of this kind, is lost forever; whereas that which is paid, and continues in the country, returns to us again; and at the same time that it provides us with defence, it operates not only as a spur but as a premium to our industry.
I shall now proceed to the second head, viz. On the several photos, and the nature of the union.
There was a time when America had no other bond of union, then common interest and affection. The whole country flew to the relief of Boston, and, making her because their own, participated her cares and administered to her wants. The fate of war, since that day, has carried the calamity in a ten fold proportion to the southward; but in the mean time the union has been strengthened by a legal compact of the states, jointly and severally ratified, and that which before was choice, or the duty of affection, is now likewise the duty of legal obligation.
The union of America is the foundation stone of her independence; The rock on which it is built; and is something so sacred in her constitution, that we like to watch every word we speak, and every thought we think, that we injured it not, even by mistake. When a multitude, extended, or rather scattered, over a continent, in the manner we are, mutually agree to form one common centre whereon the whole shall move, to accomplish a particular purpose, all parts must act together and alike, or act not at all, and a stoppage of one is a stoppage of the whole, at least for a time.
Thus the several states have sent representatives to assemble together in congress, and they have empowered that body, which thus becomes their centre, and are no other than themselves in representation, to conduct and manage the war, while their constituents at home attend to the domestic cares of the country, their internal legislation, their farms, professions or employments: for it is only by reducing complicated things to method and affordably connection that they can be understood with advantage, or pursued with success. — Congress, by virtue of this delegation, estimates the expence, and apportions it out to the several parts of the empire according to their several abilities; and here the debate must end, because each state has already had its voice, and the matter has undergone its whole portion of argument, and can no more be altered by any particular state, then the law of any state, after it is passed, can be altered by an individual. With respect to those things which immediately concern the union, and for which the union was purposely established and is intended to secure, each state is to the united states what each individual is to the state he lives in. It is on this grand point, this movement upon one centre, that our existence as a nation, our happiness as a people, and our safety as individuals, depend.
It may happen that some state or other may be somewhat over and under rated, but this cannot be much. The experience which has been had upon the matter has nearly ascertained their several abilities. But even in this case, it can only admit of an appeal to the united states, but cannot authorise any state to make the alteration itself, any more then our internal government can admit and individuals to do so in the case of an act of assembly; for if one state can do it, then may another do the same, and the instant this is done the whole is undone.
Neither is it supposeable that any single state can be a judge of all the comparative reasons which may influence the collective body in quotaing out the continent. The circumstances of the several states are frequently varying, occasioned by the accidents of war and commerce, and it will often fall upon some to help others, rather beyond what their exact proportion at another time might be; but even this assistance is as naturally and politically included in the idea of a union, as that of any particular assigned proportion; because we know not whose turn it may be next to want assistance; for which reason, that is the wisest state which sets the best example.
Though in matters of bounden duty and reciprocal affection, it is rather a degeneracy from the honestly and ardour of the heart to admit any thing selfish to partake in the government of our conduct, yet in cases where our duty, our affections, and our interest all coincide, it may be of some use to observe their union. The united states will become heir to an extensive quantity of vacant land, and their several titles to shares and quotas thereof will naturally be adjusted according to their relative quotas during the war, exclusive of that inability which may unfortunately arise to any state by the enemy holding possession of a part; but as this is a cold matter of interest, I pass it by, and proceed to my third head, viz.
On the manner of collection and expenditure.
It hath been our error, as well as our misfortune, to blend the affairs of each state, especially in money matters, with those of the united states; whereas it is to our ease, convenience and interest to keep them separate. The expences of the united states for carrying on the war, and the expences of each state for its own domestic government, are distinct things, and to involve them as a source of perplexity and a cloak for fraud. I love method, because I see and am convinced of its beauty and advantage. It is that which makes home business easy and understood, and without which every thing becomes embarrassed and difficult.
There are certain powers which the people of each state have delegated to their legislative and executive bodies, and there are other powers which the people of every state have delegated to congress, among which is that of conducting the war, and, consequently, of managing the expences attending it; for how else can that be managed, which concerns every state, but by a delegation from each. when the state has furnished his quota, it has an undoubted right to know how it has been applied, and it is as much the duty of congress to inform the state of the one, as it is the duty of the state to provide the other.
In the resolution of congress already recited, it is recommended to the several states to lay taxes for raising their quotas of many for the united states, separate from those laid for their own particular use.
This is the most necessary point to be observed, and the distinction should follow all the way thro’. They should be levied, paid, and collected separately, and kept separate in every instance. Neither have the civil officers of any state, or the government of that state, the least right to touch that money some people pay for the support of their army in the war, any more than congress has to touch that which each state raises for its own use.
The distinction will naturally be followed by another. It will occasion every state to examine nicely into the expences of its civil list, and to regulate, reduce, and bring it into better water than has hitherto been; because the money for that purpose must be raised apart, and accounted for to the public separately. But while the monies of both were blended, the necessary nicety was not observed, and the poor soldier, who I too have been the first, was the last who was thought of.
Another convenience will be, that the people, by paying the taxes separately, will know what they are for; and will likewise no, that those which are for the defence of the country will cease when the war, or soon after. For although, as I have before observed, the war is their own, and for the support of their own rights, and the protection of their own property, yet they have the same right to know what they have to pay, and it is the want of not knowing, that is often the cause of dissatisfaction.
This regulation of keeping the taxes separate, has given rise to regulation in the office of finance, by which it is directed,
“That the receivers shall, at the end of every month, make out an exact account of the monies received by them respectively, during such month, specifying therein the names of the persons from whom the same shall have been received, the dates and the sums; which account they shall respectively cause to be published in one of the newspapers of the state; to the end that every citizen may know how much of the monies collected from him, in taxes, is transmitted to the treasury of the united states for the support of the war; and also, that it may be known that monies have been at the order of the superintendent of finance. It being proper and necessary, but in a free country the people should be as fully informed of the administration of their affairs, as the nature of things will admit.”
He is an agreeable thing to see a spirit of order and oeconomy taking place, after such a series of errors and difficulties. A government tort administration, who means and acts honestly, has nothing to fear, and consequently has nothing to conceal; and it would be of use, if a monthly or quarterly account was to be published, as well of the expenditures as of the receipts. Eight millions of dollars must be husbanded within exceeding deal of care to make it do, and therefore, as the management must be reputable, the publication would be serviceable.
I have heard of petitions which have been presented to the assembly of the state ( and probably same may have happened in other states) praying to have the taxes lowered. Now the only way to keep taxes low is, for the united states to have ready money to go to market with; and though the taxes to be raised for the present year will fall heavy, and there will naturally be some difficulty in paying them, yet the difficulty, in proportion as money spreads about the country, will every day grow less, and in the end we shall save some millions of dollars by it. We see what a bitter revengeful enemy we have to deal with, and any expence is cheap, compared to their merciless paw. We have seen the unfortunate Carolineans hunted like partridges on the mountains, it is only by providing means for our defence, that we shall not be in the same condition. When we think or talk about taxes, we ought to recollect that we lie down in peace, and sleep and safety; that we can follow our farms and stores, or other occupations, and prosperous tranquillity; and that these inestimable blessings are procured to us by the taxes that we pay. In this view, our taxes are probably our insurance money; they are what we pay to be made safe, and industry policy for the best money we can lay out.
it was my intention to offer some remarks on the impost law of five per cent. recommended by congress, and to be establishedas a fund for the payment of the loan-office certificates, and other debts of the united states; but I have already extended my piece beyond my intention. This fund will make our system of finance compleat, and is strictly just, and consequently requires nothing but honesty to do it, their needs but little to be said upon it.
Philad. March 5, 1782.
- Mr. William Marshall of this city, formerly a pilot, who had been taken at sea and carried to England, and got from thence to France, brought over letters from Mr. Deane to America, one of which was directed to “Robert Morris, Esq.” Mr. Morris sent it unopened to Congress, and advised Mr. Marshall to deliver the others there, which he did. The letters were of the same purport with those which have been already published under the signature of S. Deane, to which they had frequent reference.