FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN, Signer (Pennsylvania). Autograph letter signed ("B Franklin") TO SILAS DEANE in Toulon, Passy [France], 7 April 1778. One page, 4to, integral blank with address panel in Franklin's hand, small seal hole in address leaf, minor browning, otherwise in very good condition.
"FOR THE GOOD OF THE SERVICE"
An important letter revealing the jealousies and dissensions between Arthur Lee on the one hand and Franklin and Silas Deane on the other, which ended with Deane's being recalled in disgrace by the American government. "I have had a long and very angry Letter from Mr. [Arthur] Lee, about your going without acquainting him with it, in which his Disorder seems to encrease, for he raves not only against you and me, but seems to resent the Court's sending a Minister to Congress without advising with him. I bear all his Rebukes with Patience, for the good of the Service: but it goes a little hard with me.
"The Negociator is gone back apparently much chagrin'd at his little Success. I have promised him faithfully that since his Propositions could not be accepted they should be buried in Oblivion. I therefore desire earnestly that you would put the Paper immediately in the Fire on the Receipt of this, without taking or suffering to be taken any Copy of it, or communicating its Contents. Mr. [John] Adams is not yet arriv'd. My best wishes attend you. I am ever, with the greatest Esteem....."
Arthur Lee had been sent (after Jefferson declined the mission) to join Franklin and Deane in Paris in their attempt to bring about the French Alliance. Deane's efforts on behalf of the American cause had already been quite successful. With the help of Beaumarchais (whom Lee already knew), Deane had set up a fictitious firm called Hortalez & Cie, established with credit secretly provided by both France and Spain, which purchased and clandestinely exported to America a vast quantity of desperately-needed supplies and arms for Washington's army. Lee, who appears to have been an unbalanced personality with a penchant for trouble, arrived in Paris in December 1776, and at the request of Deane and Franklin went first to Madrid and then to Berlin in quest of support for the Americans. Although Congress had asked Deane to take Lee into his confidence about the secret aid. Deane, not trusting Lee, had kept the inner workings of the system secret from him. Lee was indignant at being left out of the arrangement, especially since he felt the scheme was at least partially his idea, due to his earlier contacts with Beaumarchais. Upon his return to Paris in July 1777 he delved persistently into the matter and began to concoct and spread vicious allegations that Deane was enriching himself in the transactions of Hortalez & Cie. In the meantime, the negotiations of Franklin and Deane had borne fruit and the American alliance with France was signed in January 1778. At the date of this letter two treaties, one for a military alliance, the other for commerce, were awaiting ratification by Congress (which came in May). Congress, disturbed by Lee's reports concerning Deane (and unhappy because he had sent to America a number of French adventurers to serve in the Army) recalled Deane. John Adams was appointed by Congress to replace him; Adams and his 10-year-old son, John Quincy Adams, embarked in February. Deane himself left Paris for America in haste, without adequately organizing the papers regarding the financial affairs of Hortalez & Cie, an omission which prevented him from defending himself against Lee's charges and made an accurate accounting virtually impossible. At the time of this letter Deane, in Toulon, was probably seeking passage to America. The unfortunate Deane returned to Europe two years later as a private citizen in hopes of straightening out his accounts, but had become skeptical of the American cause, doubts he unwisely expressed in letters, these were intercepted by the British and published by loyalists in New York. Branded a traitor as well as an embezzler, he lived the remainder of his life impoverished and in exile, dying in 1789.