Papers of John Adams, volume 7

Ralph Izard to the Commissioners, 12 January 1779 Izard, Ralph Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur JA First Joint Commission at Paris


Ralph Izard to the Commissioners, 12 January 1779 Izard, Ralph Franklin, Benjamin Lee, Arthur Adams, John First Joint Commission at Paris
Ralph Izard to the Commissioners
Gentlemen Paris 12th. Jany. 1779

I had the honor of writing to you, on the 2d. instant informing you that the credit which I had received from the Commissioners was exhausted, and that I shoud be obligd to you if you woud let me know whether it was most agreable to you to renew it, or that I shoud draw on you for what money I might have occasion for.1 As this matter appeard to require no great deliberation, I expected to have been favord with an immediate Answer. I find myself in arrear with the Banker to the amount of 2 or 3000 Livres and think it proper that the Account shoud be settled. I have therefore drawn on you for 500 Louis dores payable to his order, and you will be pleasd either to accept it immediately or inform me that you will not do it, that there may be no time lost in laying the matter before Congress. I have the honor to be Gentlemen yr. most Obedt. Hbl. Servt.

Signd. Ra. Izard

LbC in Arthur Lee's hand (PCC, No. 102, IV, f. 179–180).


Izard's letter of 2 Jan. 1778 1779 (PPAmP: Franklin Papers) with its request for 12,000 livres and that made by William Lee in a letter of 9 Dec. (above) for 24,000 livres, together provide a glimpse of the animosities existing among the Americans in Europe, for Benjamin Franklin refused to agree to either demand. In Feb. 1778 Izard and Lee had each been given 2,000 louis d'or—the French equivalent of the British guinea—or 48,000 livres to defray their expenses at the courts to which they had been commissioned by the congress: Izard to Florence, Lee to Berlin and Vienna (Foreign Ledgers, Public Agents in Europe, 1776–1787, DNA:RG 39 [Microfilm], f. 64, 65). Ralph Izard never went to Florence and William Lee was at Vienna and Berlin for only a short time in mid-1778—and then to no effect.

Izard and Lee based their new requests on a congressional resolution of 7 May 1778, which permitted them to draw on the Commissioners in France for their expenses ( JCC , 11:473). Despite this authorization, Franklin was adamant in his refusal and defended his position in letters to the Committee for Foreign Affairs of 15 Jan. (incomplete MS) and 26 May (Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:24–25, 190). Franklin believed that since neither man had carried out his mission as the congress had intended and thus had not incurred the expenses that the initial advance of 48,000 livres had been intended to defray, neither should expect any more money from the Commissioners.

On 4 Jan., Franklin drafted a reply from the Commissioners to Izard's letter of the 2d, which was never sent because his colleagues apparently refused to sign it. There, in terms that could equally be applied to William Lee, Franklin was even more explicit about his refusal than in his letters to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. After presenting a detailed picture of the Commissioners' finances on which there were so many competing demands, Franklin wrote: “we hope you will not insist on our giving you a farther credit with our banker, with whom we are daily in danger of having no farther 354credit ourselves.” Because the Commissioners were in such severe straits, and Izard had not accomplished his mission, Franklin continued: “we should rather hope that you would be willing to reimburse us the sum we have advanced to you” (same, 3:10–11).

On the 12th Izard went to Passy to discuss his demand and probably to deliver the present letter. Franklin remained adamant in his refusal but, according to later letters from Izard, promised to provide a copy of the draft letter of 4 Jan. containing his reasons for refusing so that Izard might submit it to the congress if he wished. There is no evidence that Franklin ever fulfilled this obligation (Izard to Franklin, 20 Jan., Cal. Franklin Papers, A.P.S. , 2:10; Izard to the Committee for Foreign Affairs, 28 Jan., Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 3:33–34; see also Izard to JA, 26 April and 21 May, both below).

Franklin's refusal to honor their demands did not mean that Izard and Lee were denied the money. Arthur Lee and JA apparently believed that the resolution of 7 May 1778 left them no recourse and on 12 Jan. approved Izard's draft, as they had that of William Lee on 8 Jan. (see letters of 13 Jan. from Arthur Lee and JA to William Lee, below, and to Ralph Izard, LbC, Adams Papers; and the Commissioners' Accounts, 12 Nov. 1778–11 Feb. 1779, entries for 8 and 12, above). Although he was paid, Izard continued to press the matter, presumably in an effort to embarrass Franklin, but nothing came of it. His protest to the Committee for Foreign Affairs of 28 Jan. did not reach the congress until 27 July, more than a month after he and William Lee had been recalled ( JCC , 14:892, 700–701, 703–704).