May 21. 1778
But I find the other Gentlemen have expended, from three to four Thousand a Year each, and one of them from five to six. And by all the Enquiries I have been able to make, I cannot find any Article of Expence, which can be retrenched.
The Truth is, in my humble Opinion, our System is wrong in many Particulars. 1. In having three Commissioners at this Court. One in the Character of Envoy is enough. At present each of the Three is considered in the Character of a Public Minister; a Minister Plenipotentiary, which lays him under an absolute Necessity of living up to this Character. Whereas one alone would be obliged to no greater Expence, and would be quite sufficient for all the Business of a Public Minister. 2. In Leaving the Salaries of these Ministers at an Uncertainty. You will never be able to obtain a satisfactory Account, of the public Monies, while this System continues. It is a Temptation to live at too great an Expence, and Gentlemen will feel an Aversion to demanding a rigorous Account. 3. In blending the Business of a public Minister with that of a Commercial Agent. The Businesses of various departments, are by this means so blended and the public and private Expences so confounded with each other, that I am sure no Satisfaction can ever be given to the Public, of the disposition of their Interests and I am very confident that jealousies and Suspicions will hereafter arise against the Characters of Gentlemen, who may perhaps have Acted with perfect Integrity and the fairest Intentions for the public Good.
My Idea is this, seperate the Offices ofcommercial agent Public Ministers from those of commercial Agents.... Recall, or send to some other Court, all the Public Ministers but one, at this Court. Determine with Precision, the Sum that shall be allowed to the remaining one, for his Expences and for his Salary, i.e. for his Time, Risque, Trouble &c., and when this is done see that he receives no more than his allowance.
The Inconveniences arising from the Multiplicity of Ministers and the Complications of Businesses are infinite.
Remember me, with the most tender Affection to my worthy Colleagues, and to all others to whom you know they are due. I am your Friend and Servant
The Honourable Samuel Adams
This Letter was received by Mr. Adams in due Season, who and by him
to Mr. Richard Henry Lee and others. Mr. R. H. Lee wrote me immediately that he had seen it and was entirely of my Opinion. It was communicated to so many members of Congress that it produced the Revolution which followed, My Friends and the Friends of Mr. Arthur Lee uniting with those of Dr. Franklin, Mr. Deane and Mr. Izzard, in introducing the new Plan.
The representation in my Letter of the Expences of the Commissioners, related only to the State of Things before my Arrival. My Expences were very trifling. I had no House rent to pay seperate from Dr. Franklins. I kept no Carriage and used none but that of Dr. Franklin and that only when he had no Use for it. I had very little Company more than Dr. Franklin would have had, if I had not been there. But before my Arrival, Mr. Deane had his House and Furniture and Establishment of Servants as well as his Carriage in Paris, and another Establishment for his Appartments in the Country at Passy and another Carriage and Set of Horses and Servants, besides his Libertine Expences. Mr. Lee had an House, furniture, Carriage and organization of Servants at Challiot. Dr. Franklin had his in the Basse Court de Monsieur Le Ray de Chaumont at what rent I never could discover, but from the Magnificence of the Place it was universally expected to be enormously high. Making the best Estimate I could from the representations that were made to me I wrote as I then believed. But after a longer Residence, more experience and further Inquiry, I was convinced that I had admitted much exaggeration into the Account. Nevertheless the Expences of Mr. Deane never have been known and never I presume can be known.
I had taken pains to perswade my Colleagues to take a House in Paris, and have but one establishment for Us all. Mr. Lee, whose Opinion was that We ought to live in Paris, readily consented but Dr. Franklin refused. I proposed that Mr. Lee should take Appartements with Us at Passi, and there was room enough for Us all, and I offered to resign my Appartments to him and take others which were not so convenient: but he refused to live together unless it were in Paris, where the Americans in General and the French too, seemed to think We ought to live. All my proposals were therefore abortive.
Before I wrote the Letter to Mr. Adams I had many Things to consider. What would be the Consequence if my Plan should be adopted? Dr. Franklins Reputation was so high in America, in the Court and Nation of France and all over Europe, that he would undoubtedly as he ought to be left alone at the Court of Versailles. Mr. Lee held two Commissions, one to the Court of France and one to the Court of Spain. If that to the Court of Versailles should be annulled, the other to the Court of Madrid would remain in force. It would therefore make little Odds to him.
I had but one and that to the Court of Versailles. If this were annulled, what would become of me. There was but one Country to which I thought it possible Congress would send a Minister at that time, and that was Holland. But there was no hope that Holland would then receive a Minister, and I thought Congress ought not to send one there as yet. I thought therefore that there was no Alternative for me, but to return to America: and I very deliberately determined, that I had rather run the Gauntlett
again through all the British Men of War in the Bay of Biscay, the British Channel and the Gulph
Stream with all their Storms and Calms than remain where I was under a System and in Circumstances so ruinous to the American Cause. I expected however that Congress would make some provision for my return by giving me orders to receive Money enough for my Expences
, and give me a Passage in a Frigate if any one should be in France. In this last expectation alone I was disappointed.
May 21. Thursday. 1778.
Dined at home.
May 22 Fryday.
We sent the following Letter.
To the Honourable the Council and the Honourable the House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts.
May 22. 1778
May it please your Honours Passi
Mr. Joseph Parker of London has made Application to Us concerning a Claim, that he has of Property in a certain Vessell, which has been as he informs Us, in the Custody of the Public, since the Spring of the Year 1775, requesting Us to write to your honours, on the Subject.
From what some of Us know and all of Us have heard of Mr. Parker, We have reason to think him a worthy Man, who has always been a Friend and connected with the Friends of America in England, by whom he is strongly recommended: and from his representations to Us, his present Circumstances render it very necessary for him to obtain this Property from America, if it is practicable, as the longer detention or confiscation of it, will be inevitable Ruin to him and his Family.... As the Affair is represented to Us, the Ship was detained by an order of the Honourable General Court, before the tenth of September 1775.... If this is the Case, it may be perhaps justly thought an hard one upon Mr. Parker, and therefore We cannot but become petitioners for Mr. Parker, that his case may be taken into consideration and determined as soon as possible; which We hope may be in his favour.
It is to be observed, that though considerable Property belonging to Americans, was in the hands of Merchants in England, and in the
public Funds, before and at the time of the commencement of the War, there is no instance come to our Knowledge, that the Government have seized and confiscated such property, or made any Inquiry after it: and perhaps it may be prudent in Us not to be the first, in giving an Example of such Severity: especially as by the common practice in Europe, frequently confirmed by Treaties, so as to have become in a manner part of the Law of nations, no such Advantage is taken, but at least six months is allowed after a War commenced, for the Subjects on both Sides, to withdraw their Effects. We have the honor to be with great respect.
Signed by Franklin, Lee and Adams.
Dined at home this day, with a great deal of Company. Went After dinner to see the [Misanthrope] of Moliere, which was followed by The Heureusement. Mr. Amiel went with me. We called at the Microcosme and at Mr. Amiels at the Pension.
May 23. Saturday.
We wrote this Letter [To Capt. John Paul Jones]
Passi May 23. 1778
A Pilot being wanted to conduct an Advice Boat to America, if you have in your Ship, a suitable Person that can be spared, the Commissioners request, that you would permit him to go on that Service. We have the honour to be, Sir your most obedient humble Servants
B. Franklin, Arthur Lee, John Adams
Dined at home with Company.
May 24. Sunday 1778.
I was so uneasy at the difficulty of getting any Business done and at the distracted Condition of our Affairs, that I thought it my duty to write in a private Capacity to the Commercial Committee of Congress.
Passi May 24. 1778.
I find that the American Affairs, on this Side of the Atlantick, are in a State of disorder, very much resembling that, which is so much to be regretted on the other. Our Resources are very inadequate to the demands upon Us, which are perhaps increased unnecessarily increased, by several irregularities of Proceeding. We have, in some places, two or three Persons, who claim the Character of American Agents; Agents for commercial Affairs; and continental Agents, for they are called by all these different Appellations.
In one quarter, one Gentleman claims the Character from the Appointment of Mr. William Lee, Another claims it from the Appointment of the Commissioners at Passi, and a third from the Appointment of the commercial Committee of Congress. This introduces a tripple Expence and much Confusion and delay. These Evils have been accidental, I believe, and unavoidable, but they are Evils still, and ought to be removed.