<br /> Lee Letter: n487

Washington and Lee University

The subscriber Certifies, that in a conversation which he had the honor of
holding sometime after his arrival at Philadelphia with Messrs.
Colonel Lee & Samuel Adams, the latter spoke to him of reports
which circulated that Mr. Arthur Lee was anti-gallican & averse
from the Alliance of France with the United States, that the answer
of the subscriber was, that in fact a great number of persons among
whom were some of distinguished rank, were persuaded of it & had
strove to inspire the King’s Ministers with the same sentiments, that
the subscriber recounted to Messrs Lee & Adams the principal
facts upon which that opinion was founded but that the Ministers of
His Majesty had not adopted that mode of thinking in regard to the
attachment of Mr. Arthur Lee for the cause of America & for the
Alliance.

It is proper to add that there was no mention in that conversation of the
confidence or of the full confidence of the french Ministry in Mr.
Arthur Lee.

Mr. Samuel Adams may at his will make such use of the present Certificate
as he shall judge proper. At Philadelphia the 21st of April 1779.

Seal.

signed Gerard2

I the subscriber do Certify, that in a conversation which the Honorable Mr.
Gerard honoured me with, at my own House, & which he introduced
on Sunday the December 1778, He informed me that Mr. Arthur Lee had
given much dissatisfaction to the Ministers at the Court of France by
his manner of enquiring into & interfering in transactions at
that Court relative to America, that he had at different times
discovered such jealousies & suspicions as had obliged the King’s
Ministers or Mr. Gerard himself to signify to Mr. Lee that his
conduct was disagreeable, but in other respects Mr. Lee stood
fair – that there had been reports circulated of Mr. Lee’s too strong
attachment to the English & an equal dislike to the french Nation
& that such reports had made an impression upon the minds of
several persons of Rank about Court & had even reached the King
& his Ministers & caused some uneasiness – that the King or His
Ministers had thereupon caused the fullest enquiry to be made (had
taken the proper means for enquiring) the result of which was, the
Court were perfectly satisfied the Reports were groundless – this was
repeated, as I understood it, to impress my mind.

I received in Congress a Note from Mr. Gerard intimating that he had just
called at my House & requesting I would give him an opportunity
of speaking one word to me. I immediately waited on Mr. Gerard, who
told me he had been informed Mr. Samuel Adams had said in Congress,
“he had the highest authority for beleiving that Mr. Arthur Lee was
in the full confidence of the Court of France” – that he should be
sorry to meddle in that matter, but if he was called upon, if he was
forced, he would speak out – that he wished to have nothing to do with
it, but if he was forced he should declare very plainly what he knew,
the same terms were often repeated by Mr. Gerard, in a manner which
discovered that he was more than a little affected.

I reminded Mr. Gerard of what he had done me the honor of communicating to
me in December, as above recited – Mr. Gerard replied, “you are very
right, it was precisely so.”

If I understand you rightly Sir, said I, Your representations concerning
Mr. Lee amount to this – “Here is a Gentleman in my House whose manners
do not please the family, therefore it is necessary he should
withdraw from it, but if I am asked the cause of the seperation, I
will not say he is a Rogue, I will say his dispositions were not
pleasing to me, I found it therefore necessary we should live under
different Roofs, but I beleive him nevertheless to be an honest
Man.[“]

Mr. Gerard said, “you understand me perfectly & have explained the case
according to my meaning.” When I was taking leave Mr. Gerard repeated
that he should be sorry Mr. Saml. Adams should force him to speak, he
wished to have nothing to do in the matter. 16th April 1779.

Henry Laurens

It is easy to account for the Reports of Mr. A. Lee’s anti-gallicanism. Mr.
Deane was in Paris.

Mr. Lee had, as much as in him lay, been a Check upon Mr. Deane’s schemes
of private Trade & of too freely fingering public Money.

Mr. Beaumarchais, who was in all appearances a Partner of Mr. Deane’s, was
also in Paris, Mr. Lee had also been a check upon him & he could
with equal facility & Success, help Mr. Deane to circulate
Reports.

Reports were accordingly circulated & had made impressions so deeply as
to reach the King.

Mr. Lee to whose prejudice the whispers had gone round, was put into the
Court Alembick, what came forth? a Jealous troublesome, but, Honest
Man.

Dare Mr. Deane stand such a trial, I should say, such an ex-parte
Inquisition? No, he has told you he would not answer questions which
might tend to criminate himself.

But why was Mr. Lee troublesome? Because he checked the unfaithful acts
& attempts of Mr. Deane & his Partners & because he was
faithful to the United States of America & insisted upon making a
better Treaty with the Court of France than Mr. Deane had submitted
to. Mr. Deane was therefore a favorite, a despisable one indeed! even
in the Eyes of those who Palmed him. Mr. Lee was comparatively, a
troublesome Man to the french Court; but the French Court do him the
justice & the honor of saying, he was faithful to his
constituents & that they had found him to be so upon the fullest
investigation.

Query. Who informed Mr. Gerard that Mr. S. Adams had in Congress said, so
& so? Mr. Adams had not quoted Mr Gerard, as his authority.
Unless therefore some Member of Congress had asserted or insinuated a
falsehood, or, if you please, a Lie, to Mr. Gerard, he could not have
made the applications or drawn the inferences he did in his
conversation with me.

Notes:

Henry Laurens PapersSouth Carolina Historical Society

Endorsed “Mr.
Gerards conversation with Mr. Samuel Adams.” The document consists of
four distinct sections, which Laurens put together in their present
form sometime after 21 April, the date of Gerard’s “Certificate” for
Samuel Adams, which constitutes the first section. The second section
pertains to an incident involving Laurens and Gerard in December
1778; the third to Laurens’ meeting with Gerard on 16 April 1779;
and the document concludes with a number of Laurens’ summary
“Remarks” concerning various aspects of the long-simmering Deane-Lee
controversy.

1 Congressional attention was refocused on the issue of the French
government’s confidence in Arthur Lee on 15 April when Samuel Adams
asserted – during a foreign affairs debate concerning “the conduct of
the late and present commissioners of these states” – that he
understood, “from the highest authority in America” [i.e., Gerard],
that Lee was “possessed of the confidence of the Court of
Versailles.” For the primary evidence relating to the efforts of
Lee’s friends and detractors to determine the accuracy of Adams’
assertion, see Thomas Burke’s Statement respecting Gerard’s Views,
c.16 April; Henry Laurens’ Notes of Debates, 26 and 30 April; and
William Henry Drayton and William Paca to Congress, 30 April 1779.

2 There is a copy of this “Certificate,” in the hand of James Lovell, in the
Samuel Adams Papers, NN. Since Lovell was fluent in French, it seems
reasonable to conjecture that the original had been given to him to
translate. That the original “Certificate” was in French seems clear
from the copy of it, which is in the hand of Richard Henry Lee, that
is in the Lee Papers, University of Virginia Archives. At the bottom of the Lee copy, which
differs only slightly from Laurens’ transcript, appear the following
notations:

“True Copy, R. H. Lee.

“Mais que le Ministere de sa Majeste n’a pas adopte cette facon de penser
sur l’attachement de Monr. Arthur Lee pour la cause Americaine et
pour l’alliance.

“Directed A Monsieur

“Monsieur Samuel Adams Delegue au Congres de la part de l’etat de
Massachusets Bay.”