<br /> Lee Letter: n745

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Arthur Lee
Recipient: Robert Morris

Sir,

Mr. Silas Deane in his Accounts against the U.S. says that – “Congress by
their Secret & Commercial Committee contracted with Silas Deane
Esqr. to embark for France as the political & commercial Agent of
the 13 then U. Colonies & instructed him to purchase for & on
account of sd. U.C. Woolens & other Merchandise to the amount of
forty thousand pounds stlg. also Cloathing, Arms, Ammunition &c
sufficient for an Army of 25000 Men, as may be seen by the Contracts
& Instructions of the 19 of Feby. & 2d March 1776, for which
purchases it was stipulated & agreed to allow the sd. Silas Deane
Esqr. a commission of 5 pr Ct. independent of his Charges in making the
purchases – it was at the same time agreed, that, as the sd. S. Deane
Esqr. besides the commercial transactions entrusted to him, was
commissiond. & authorizd to act as the political Agent of the sd.
13 Colonies, his expences shoud be paid, & an adequate &
honorable compensation made him by Congress for his
time.”1

The Committee have endeavord, in vain, to find among the Papers of Congress
the Contracts & Instructions referrd to by Mr. Deane, & as the
Committee are desirous of doing that Gentleman the justice of reporting
them to Congress if they exist, they will be obligd to you Sir, for any
information you can give them, of the reality of those Contracts &
Instructions, or where they are to be
found.2

I have the honor to be &c &c

A Lee

Notes:

Transcription, Papers of Continental Congress, item 54, U.S. National
Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

1 For this prefatory statement to Silas Deane’s accounts, see PCC, item 54,
fols. 69 – 70.

2 In his October 4 response to Lee, Morris enclosed a copy of Deane’s
February 19, 1776, contract with the Secret Committee (PCC, item 54,
fols. 11 – 12), and explained that he presumed that Deane’s
instructions would be on file in the office for foreign affairs. For
both Deane’s contract with the Secret Committee and March 2, 1776,
instructions from the Committee of Secret Correspondence, see these
Letters, 3:313 – 15, 320 – 23.

Silas Deane had been attempting to secure a settlement of his accounts as
Continental agent in France since December 1778, and had renewed this
effort in March 1782 when he wrote to both the president of Congress
and to Thomas Barclay, the commissioner for settling Continental
accounts in Europe. In response to this appeal from Deane, now widely
regarded as an apostate since the publication of his correspondence
urging negotiations with the North ministry in October 1781, Barclay
had forwarded Deane’s accounts to the secretary for foreign affairs,
who had submitted them to Congress, which in turn has assigned them
to a committee consisting of Lee, George Clymer, and Eliphalet Dyer
in September 1782. Although the committee had taken no action on the
accounts, it was “Revived” on April 23, 1783 (with John Lewis Gervais
replacing Clymer), and “Renewed” on July 23 (James McHenry and
Stephen Higginson replacing Dyer and Gervais, with Elbridge Gerry
later replacing Higginson). See PCC, item 54, fols. 49 – 52, item 79,
1:476 – 77, item 103, fols. 207 – 8, item 185, 3:41, item 186, fols. 54,
97, 113; and these Letters, 13:481 – 84, 18:195 – 96n.3.

Lee had finally written a letter to Morris on August 24 (not found)
requesting the Deane accounts in the treasury office, which the
superintendent sent to the committee on the 29th. PCC, item 54, fol.
5. For the continuation of the committee’s work with Deane’s
accounts, see Lee to James Milligan, October 4, and to Morris,
October 9, 1783.