The presence of this letter and the two others in the French archives is interesting and, perhaps, significant. One possible explanation is that the letters were captured by the British and then recaptured by the French, who, before sending them on to JA, made copies. JA, however, notes in his reply to Lovell of 9 July
(calendared below) that his letter arrived at Nantes with “Dispatches from Congress which were sent by the Saratoga from Baltimore.” There is no indication that the passage of the Saratoga
was interrupted in any way.
A second explanation might be that JA showed this letter, and the others, to the French Ministry because they contained the first news of the American reaction to Lord North's conciliatory proposals. This seems unlikely because in the French translation the identities of the author and recipient are uncertain, the translation extends only to the first sentence of the third paragraph, and it is improbable that JA would have shown the French a letter in which Lovell wondered whether the French, rather than the British, had stolen the dispatches from Folger. It should be noted, however, that JA did show at least part of this letter to Edmé Jacques Genet, publisher of Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique
for the French Foreign Ministry, because a portion of the letter appears in that publication (see note 2; for Genet and Affaires
, see JA to Genet,
[ante 8 June]
, below). There Lovell was named as the author, an indication that Genet received the text from JA and that the Foreign Ministry's translation, because it does not identify Lovell, was done before the letter reached JA.
A third explanation, and the most plausible one, is that the French were reading the Commissioners' mail; that J. D. Schweighauser, to whom the letter was entrusted (William MacCreery to JA, 4 July
, below), or someone else opened the letters between Nantes and Paris and made copies. Ironically, Genet may well have known about the letter before JA showed it to him because, as head of the Foreign Ministry's translators bureau, he would likely have made or at least seen the translation that is in the archives. But without further evidence all explanations remain tentative.
3. In a speech to Parliament on 17 Feb., Lord North proposed a new reconciliation effort and on the 19th introduced two bills that, with significant changes and the addition of a third bill repealing the Massachusetts Government Act, were adopted on 9 March. The first declared that Parliament in the future would tax the colonies only to regulate commerce and not to raise revenue; the second created a royal commission, headed by the Earl of Carlisle, to treat with the Americans. In the hope of preventing ratification of the recently concluded Franco-American treaties, the Ministry immediately dispatched the two bills, in their draft form of 19 Feb., to America where they arrived in mid-April
(Alan Valentine, Lord North
, 2 vols., Norman, Okla., 1967, 1:505–506, 511, 515–516;
, 19:762–767, 775; Bemis, Diplomacy of the Amer. Revolution
, p. 67; JA to the president of the congress, 25 April, note 1
, above; for the text of the draft bills, see any of the broadsides and newspapers cited below; for the text of the bills as adopted, see, for example, Rivington's Royal Gazette
, 23 May).
Although they had little chance for success, either as presented or adopted, the proposals were received with enthusiasm by the loyalists and the British administration. Efforts were made to give them wide circulation through the publication of two broadsides, the first in Philadelphia under the auspices of Gen. Howe (Evans
, No. 15828) and the second in New York over the signature of William Tryon (Evans
, No. 15827), and at least 23 separate printings in the New York and Philadelphia newspapers (see Rivington's Royal Gazette
, 20, 27 April, 4, 11 May; Pennsylvania Evening Post
, 15, 17, 20, 27 April, 4 May; Pennsylvania Ledger
, 18, 23, 25, 29 April, 2, 6, 9, 13 May).
Lovell, here, and Washington, in his letter to William Tryon of 26 April, copied by Lovell, are concerned with the two broadsides. Washington received the Philadelphia broadside on 17 April and enclosed it in a letter of the 18th to the congress (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick
, 11:277–278). On 20 April a committee was formed to consider the broadside and Washington's letter. Its report, approved unanimously on 22 April, declared that although the authenticity of the two bills was doubtful, they should be printed “for the public information” in order to counteract the efforts to circulate them “in a partial and secret manner.” Under no circumstances, however, were negotiations to take place until the British withdrew their military forces or expressly acknowledged American independence (
, 10:367, 374–380). In view of the committee's report, the “inclosed Gazette, published the 24th. at York Town” that is referred to in Washington's letter was almost certainly the Pennsylvania Gazette
, which took its text from the Philadelphia broadside.
The New York broadside—“Tryon's certified Bills”—reached Washington on 22 April as an enclosure in Tryon's letter of the 17th. In a letter to congress on 23 April, Washington characterized Tryon's letter as an “extraordinary and impertinent request, that thro' my means the contents of them [the two bills] should be communicated to the Officers and Men of this Army” (Tryon to Washington, 17 April, PCC
, No. 152, V, f. 519; Washington to the president of the congress, 23 April, Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick
, 11:300–302). Although Washington indicated in a letter to the congress on 20 April that he had become convinced that the two bills were authentic, neither that nor Tryon's effort led either Washington or the congress to alter their resolve to reject the British proposals. Their determination was clearly indicated by Washington's letter to Tryon of the 26th and the refusal of the congress to weaken the committee report of 22 April (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick
, 10:382). Tryon's letter and Washington's answer were printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette
of 2 May that was sent to the Commissioners in a letter from the Committee for Foreign Affairs dated 14 May
7. Dumas' voluminous correspondence with the Committee for Foreign Affairs began with letter “A” of 30 April 1776. His letter “Y” was that of 16 Dec. 1777, while his latest was “H2” of 27 April 1778 (PCC
, No. 93,1). Although Lovell, in a letter of 8 Aug. 1777, had informed Dumas that it would be more appropriate for him to correspond with the Commissioners, the Committee for Foreign Affairs wrote to Dumas on 14 May 1778, noting that his
letters had proved invaluable as a source of European intelligence during the eleven-month gap produced by the loss of the Commissioners' dispatches in the Folger affair (PCC
, No. 79,1).
As for Dumas' compensation, he had been receiving payments from the Commissioners in Europe since 20 April 1777, when Ferdinand Grand paid him 2,242.19.9 livres. In 1778 he received two equal payments of 2,400 livres and from 19 May 1779 to 16 May 1785 he received twelve payments of 2,700 livres each. This totaled, for the nine-year period, 39,442.19.9 livres (DNA
39, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787 [Microfilm, Reel No. 1, f. 10]).