<br /> Lee Letter: n772

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Benjamin Franklin

Sir

I have the honor to enclose to your Excellency a resolve of Congress passed
this Day, the arrival of which in due season to prevent the signing of
the convention alluded to, until an Opportunity of reconsidering it in
full Congress may be had, will be very agreeable to that
Body.1

I have the honor to be with the highest esteem and regard, Sir, Your
Excellency’s Most Obedient Servant,

Richard Henry
Lee P.2

Notes:

Letter book, Papers of Continental Congress, item 16, U.S. National
Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

1 Congress had resolved that “in case the convention proposed for regulating
and ascertaining the powers and privileges of consuls should not be
already signed,” Franklin should delay the signing until he received
“further instructions.”

In his February 8, 1785, response to this letter Franklin explained that
this resolve “came too late to suspend signing the convention, it
having been done July last, and a copy sent so long since that we now
expected the ratification.” Diplomatic Correspondence, 1783 – 89,
1:393. For the instructions Congress had adopted for the negotiation
of a consular convention January 25, 1782, and the convention
Franklin and Vergennes had signed July 29, 1784, see these Letters,
18:303 – 4; and JCC, 22:46 – 54, 31:725 – 35. See also James Monroe to
Thomas Jefferson, August 15, 1785, note 4. At issue was the suspicion
that the convention Franklin had negotiated granted excessive
privileges and immunities to French consuls, “incompatible with
American sovereignty,” a view held especially by John Jay who was
about to assume the office of secretary for foreign affairs, which he
subsequently used to prevent its ratification and to force the
negotiation of a new convention which was not ultimately ratified
until 1788.

2 Lee sent this letter to Franklin under cover of the following brief letter
of this date to the marquis de Lafayette. “In the name of Congress I
am to request that you will be so kind as to deliver the enclosed
letter to the Minister plenipotentiary of the United States at your
Court, as soon after your arrival as may be convenient.” PCC, item
16, fols. 316 – 17.

And the letter to Lafayette was sent under cover of the following note to
“The Post Master at New York.” “I am directed by Congress to desire
that you will immediately on the receipt of this, yourself deliver
the enclosed packet to the Marquis de La Fayette who is now in New
York with design to sail to-morrow. The business requires punctuality
and dispatch, therefore you will please loose no time in delivering
the packet.” Ibid., fol. 317.