Monthly Archives: July 2007

Item of the Day: The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin (1793)

Full Title: The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. Late Minister Plenipotentiary from the United Sates of America to France, &c. &c. &c. Originally written by Himself, and now translated from the French. To which are added, Some Account of his Public Life, a Variety of Anecdotes Concerning Him, by M. M. Brissot, Condorcet, Rochefoucault, Le Roy, &c. &c. and the Eulogium of M. Fauchet . . . London: Printed for J. Parsons, No. 21, Pater-Noster Row, 1793.

PREFACE

TO THE

FRENCH EDITION.

 

I SHALL not enter into an unintesting detail relative to the manner in which the original mauscript of these memoirs, which are written in the Enlgish language, came into my possession. They appeared to me to be so interesting, that I did not hesitate a single moment to translate them into French.

The name of Franklin will undoubtedly become a passport to a work of this nature; and the character of truth and simplicity, discernible in every page, must guarantee its authenticiy; I have no manner of occasion to join other testimonies.

If, however, any critic chooses to disbelieve my assertion, and is desirous to bring the existence of the orignial manuscript into doubt, I am ready to verify it, by means of an immediate impression*; but, as I am not certain of the sale of a work written in a foreign language, I cannot publish it in any other manner than by means of a subsription, large enough to indemnify me the money advanced.

That part of the Memoirs of Franklin in my possession, includes no more than the first period of a life, the remainder of which has become illustrous by events of the highest importance; it terminates at the epoch when, after having married, he began to render himself celebated by plans and establishments of public utility.

It is very possible that he may have written more of his history; for the portion of it which I now present to the Publci, concludes, according to his own account, with the year 1771.

If this be the case, the heirs of that great man will not fail some day to publish it, either in England or in Pennsylvania, and we shall doubtless have a French translation, which will be received by the Public with great eagerness; but I am persuaded, that his family will not disclose any other than the most brilliant period of his life; and which is connected with the memorable part he acted in the world, both as a philospher and a statesman. They will never be prevailed upon to narrate the humble details of his early days, and the simple but interesting anecdotes of his origin, the obscurity of which, although it enhance the talents and the virutes of this great man, may yet wound their own vanity.

If my conjectures prove right; if the memoirs which they are about to publish under the name of Franklin should be mutilated; if the first part, so essential to readers capable of feeling and of judging, should be supressed, I shall applaud myself for having preserved it; and the world will be obliged to me for having enabled them to follow the early developments of the genius, and the first exertions of the sublime and profound mind of a man, who afterwards penetrated the mystery of electricity, and disconcerted the secret measures of despotism–who preserved the universe from the ravages of thunder, and his native country from the horrors of tyranny!

If I am accidentally mistaken; if the life of Franklin should appear entire, the Public will still have the advantage of anticipating the intersting part of a history which it has long and impatiently expected.

The principal object proposed by the American philosopher, in writing these memoirs, was to instruct posterity, and amuse his own leisure hours. He has permitted his ideas to flow, at the will of his memory and his heart, without ever making any effort to disguise the truth, notwithstanding it is not always very flattering to his self-love–but I here stop; it belongs to Frankin to speak for himself.

It will be easily perceived, that I have preserved as much as possible the ease and simplicity of his style in my translation. I have not even affected to correct the negligence of his language, or to clothe his sentiments with a gaudy dress, for which they have no manner of occasion; I should have been afraid of bereaving the work of one of its principal ornaments.

As these memoris reach no futher than his marriage, I have madeuse of other materials in order to complete so interesting a history; and I have also added a number of anecdotes and remarks relative to this philosphical American.

THE EDITOR

*Those who may be desirous of readin gthe Memoirs of the Private Life of Franklin, in the original, are requested to leave their names with Buisson, bookseller, Rue Haute-Feuille, No. 20. the work will be sent to the press as soon as there are 400 subscribers. The price is 48 sols.

 

_____________________________________________________

ADVERTISEMENT

TO THE

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

THE life of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin is, perhaps, a DESIDERATUM in modern biography; for the manner in which the statesman and philosopher, although destiture of birth, and of fortune, was enabled to struggle into opulence and celebrity, cannot fail to excite the interest, and gratify the curiousity of a liberal and enlightened age.

But this work is estimable in another point of view; for it may be considered as a treatise of enforcing the love of vitue and of industry, displaying the advantages arising form study, and exhibiting the most easy mode of acquiring literary and moral excellence.

Youth will be gratified by the early efforts of our Author’s rising genius, and old age comforted, at beholding that happy serentiy displayed in the latter period of his life.

The Translater would have presented the world with this volume long since, had he not been restrained by a certain degree of delicacy, mingled with veneration, towards the family of this great man; for on being informed by a respectable bookseller in St. Paul’s Church-yard, that the works of Franklin were about to be published by his grandson, he with-held the present publciation for seveal months, in expectation of that event.

He begs leave to add, that, throughout the whole work, he has attempted a plain, sober, unadorned style, as best adapted to convey the Author’s sentiments; and that, in the second part, he has supplied some erroneous dates, and cancelled a variety of unjust reflections which were thrown out in England against Dr. Frankin, during the late odious war with America, and too hastily adopted by the French Editor.

Feb. 1., 1793

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Filed under 1790's, Biography, Franklin, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Works of John Fothergill (1784)

Full Title: The Works of John Fothergill, M.D.  . . . with some Account of his Life by John Coakley Lettsom. London: Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Puultry, M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784] 

 

OF THE MANAGEMENT PROPER

AT THE

CESSATION OF THE MENSES

 

To the Medical Society in London.

Gentlemen,

THERE is a period in the life of Females to which, for the most part, they are taught to look with some degree of anxiety; as a period on which depends their enjoying a good or bad state of health during the residue of their lives.

The various and absurd opinions relative to the ceasing of the mentrual discharge, and its consequences, propagated through successive ages, have tended to embitter the hours of many a sensible women. Nor have these mistaken notions been confined to them only; they have occupied the minds of such who ought to have been better informed: some practitioners, in other respects able and judicious, if they have not favoured these erroneous and terrifying notions, seem not to have endeavoured to correct them, with the diligence and humanity which an object like this requires.

The design of this essay is to contribute my mite towards so necessary a purpose; to assist in removing these groundless apprehensions, and to substitute a reasonable confidence, that, with very little aid, Nature is sufficient to provide for her own security on this occasion.

You must forget for a moment that I am submitting these remarks to the judgment of a Society, every member of which, perhaps, is as capable of this work, and some much better than myself. I am writing to many sensible young men in the profession of physic, who, though they may have applied themselves to the general study and practice of our profession with diligence and success, may not yet, perhaps, know where to look for such information on this subject as may be sufficient to satisfy themselves and their patients, what managment is proper when the Menses are about to cease.

To propose a regimen that shall suit all the different cases that may occur, would require a volume. To give some general direction is all I intend, without entering into a minute description of the commencement, progress, and termination of the Menses. I must suppose every thing of this kind is already known, and that the single question is, What conduct, what management is necessary to be observed, when the Menses are about to cease, by the patient who consults her physician on the occasion? We are now sensible that the menstrual discharge is not, what it was too long and too generally believed be by many of the sex, an evacuation of peccant matter and morbid humour, sometimes acrimonious and malignant, whose retention, from its noxious qualities, never fails to be extremely injurious to the constitution. What opinion the ancients entertained concerning it, I need not repeat to you: that its malignancy was such as to affect even inanimate bodies. But these fables are wholly disbelieved, except by some of those who ought to be undeceived in a matter that so much concerns them.

It is now well known, and the sex cannot be too generally apprized of it, that the menstrual discharge possesses no such injurious or malignant properties; that it is solely a redundancy of that pure vital blood, which animates the whole frame of a healthy person; and that its retention is by no means attended, in general, with effects that are not as easily removed as any disorder to which they are subject.

That some acrimonious morbid humours may be discharged together with the Menses, when any such exist, is not improbable. So it happens likewise to men subject to piles, or other preternatural excretions.

Women who have unhappily imbibed that prejedice, are naturally alarmed at the consequences they apprehend must ensue from such a change in their constitution; and the more strongly they are preposessed with a belief, that by this channel has been regularly discharged whatever had a tendency to produce diseases, the more they are terrified with apprehensions of some of the worst complaints: and, indeed, it is not seldom that, by such anxiety, they bring on disorders that are not easily removed, attributing them to the cause we are speaking of, whilst they principally originate from anxiety.

 For the most part, the menstrual discharge, as has been mentioned, proceeds from a redundancy of good and healthy blood; this redundancy is formed for the most necessary purposes; continues whilst this necessity subsists; and ceases when, according to the constitution of the female frame, it is no longer required.

The powers communicated to the human system, generally expressed by the term Nature, are such as spontaneously bring about this cessation. The provision for the Mesnes ceases, and extra quantity of blood is not generated, and the vessels provided for its regular discharge by degrees collapse; and in general all this proceeds without any the least interruption to the health of the subject in which this alteration happens. Here it might not be improper to mention at what time this alteration first begins, and the general period of its cessation. These circumstances, however, may be found elsewhere so amply treated of, as to render it as unnecessary as it is foreign to my present design.

There are great numbers of women in whom the menstrual discharge ceases, without their perceiving any alteration in their usual health. There are some who, from being invalids during a part of the season which is appropriated to menstruation, find themselves by degrees recovering health and vigour, to which they have been strangers during that period, when this discharge leaves them entirely. Very tender, delicate, relaxed habits, subject to copious discharges, are often much benefited by the cessation. All, however, are not so fortunate. Some alterations frequently supervene, that render assistance necessary. . . .

 

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Filed under 1780's, Health, Medicine, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Women

Item of the Day: Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd (1822)

Full Title: Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd; Missionary to the Indians on the Borders of New-York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania: Chiefly taken from his own Diary. By Rev. Jonathan Edwards, of Northampton. By Sereno Edwards Dwight. New-Haven: Printed and published by S. Converse, 1822.

PREFACE.

THERE are two ways of recommending true religion and virtue to the world; the one, by doctine and precept; the other by history and example. Both are abundantly used in the holy scriptures. Not only are the grounds, nature, design, and importance of religion clearly exhibited in the doctrines of scripture–its exercise and practice plainly delineated, and abundantly enforeced, in its commands and counsels–but there we have many excellent examples of religion, in its power and practice, set before us, in the histories both of the Old and New Testament.

JESUS CHRIST, the great Prophet of God, when he came to be “the light of the world,” –to teach and enforce true religion, in a greater degree than ever had been done before–made use of both these methods. In his doctrines, he not only declared more fully the mind and will of God–the nature and properties of that virtue, which becomes creatures of our constitution, and in our circumstances, and more powerfully enforced it by exhibiting the obligations and inducements to holiness; but he also in his own practice gave a most perfect example of the virtue which he taught. He exhibited to the world such an illustrious pattern of humility, divine love, descreet zeal, self-denial, obedience, patience, resignation, fortitude, meekness, forgiveness, compassion, benevolence, and universal holiness, as neither men nor angels ever saw before.

God also in his providence, has been wont to make use of both these methods to hold forth light to mankind, and inducements, to their duty, in all ages. He has from time to time raised up eminent teachers, to exhibit and bear testimony to the truth by their doctrine, and to oppose the errors, darkness, and wickedness of thw world; and he has also raised up some eminent persons who have set bright examples of that religion which is taught and prescribed in the word of God; whose examples have, in the course of divine providence, been set forth to public view. These have a great tendency both to engage the attention of men to the doctrines and rules taught, and also to confirm and enforce them; especially when these bright examples have been exhibited in the same persons who have been eminent teachers. Hereby the world has had opportunity to see a confirmation of the truth, efficacy, and amiableness of the religion taught, in the practice of these same persons who have most clearly and forcibly taught it; and above all, when these bright examples have been set by eminent teachers, in a variety of unusual circumstances of remarkable trial; and when God has withal, remarkably distinguished them with a wonderful success of their instructions and labours.

Such an instance we have in the excellent person whose life is published in the following pages. His example is attended with a great variety of circumstances calculated to engage the attention of religious people, especially in America. He was a man of distinguished talents, as all are sensible, who knew him. As a minister of the gospel, he was called to unusual services in that work; and his ministry was attended with very remarkable and unusual events. His course of religion began before the late times of extraordinary religious commotion; yet he was not an idle spectator, but had a near concern in many things that passed at that time. He had a very extensive acquaintance with those who have been the subjects of the late religious operations, in places far distant, in  people of different nations, education, manners and customs. He had a peculiar opportunity of acquaintance with the false appearances and counterfeits of religion; was the instrument of a most remarkable awakening, a wonderful and abiding alteration and moral transformation of subjects, who peculiarly render the change rare and astonishing.

In the following account, the reader will have an opportunity to see, not only what were the external circumstances and remarkable incidents of the life of this person, and how he spent his time from day to day, as to his external behaviour but also what passed in his own heart. Here he will see the wonderful change he experienced in his mind and dispostion; the manner in which that change was brought to pass; how it continued; and what were its consequences in his inward frames, thoughts, affections, and secret exercises, through many vicissitudes and trials, for more than eight years.

He will also see his sentiments, frame, and behaviour, during a long season of the gradual and sensible approach of death; and what were the effects of his religion in the last stages of his illness. The account being written, the reader may have opportunity at his leisure to compare the various parts of the story, and deliberately to view and weigh the whole, and consider how far what is related, is agreeable to the dictates of reason, and the Word of God.

I am far from supposing that Brainerd’s inward exercises or his extenal conduct, were free from all imperfections. The example of Jesus Christ, is the only perfect example that ever existed in human nature. It is, therefore, a rule by which to try all other examples, and the dispositions, frames, and practices of others, must be commended and followed no further, than they were followers of Christ.

There is one thing in Brainerd, easily discernible by the following account of his life, which may be called an imperfection in him, which though not properly an imperfection of a moral nature, yet, may possibly be made an objection against the extraordinary appearances of religion and devotion in him by such as seek for objections against every thing that can be produced in favour of true, vital religon; I refer to the fact, that he was, by constitution and natural temper, so prone to melancholy, and dejection of spirit. There are some, who think that all religon is a melancholy thing; and what is called Christian experience is little else besides melancholy vapours, disturbing the brain, and exciting enthusiastic imaginations. But that Brainerd’s temper, or constitution inclined him to despondency, is no just ground to suspect his extraordinary devotion to have been only the fruit of a warm imagination. All who have well observed mankind, will readily grant that many of those who by their ntural constitution or temper, are most disposed to dejection are not the most susceptive of liveley and strong impressions on their imagination, or the most subject to those vehement affections, which are the fruits of such impressions. Many, who are of a very gay and sanguine natual temper are vastly more so; and if their affections are turned into a religious channel, are much more exposed to enthsiasm, than many of the former. As to Brainerd notwithstanding his inclination to despondency, he was evidently one of those who usually are the fatherst from a teeming imagination; being of a penetrating genius, of clear thought, of close reasoning, and a very exact judgment; as all know who knew him. As he had a great insight into human nature, and was very discerning and judicious in genral; so he excelled in his judgment and knowledge in divinity, but especially in experimental religion.  . . .

JONATHAN EDWARDS

 

 

 

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Filed under 1700's, American Indians, Colonial America, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: The Works of Laurence Sterne, Complete in Eight Volumes. (1803)

Full Title: The Works of Laurence Sterne, Complete in Eight Volumes. Containing I. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. II. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, and Continuation. III. Sermons. IV. Letters. V. The Fragment. VI. The Koran. VII. History of a Good Warm Coat. With A Life of the Author, Written by Himself. Vol. I. Edinburgh: Printed by J. Turnbull, Anchor-Close, for Gray, Maver, & Co. Booksellers, Glasgow, 1803.

ADVERTISEMENT.

 

The works of Mr. Sterne, after contending with the prejudices of some, and the ignorance of others, have at length obtained that general approbation which they are entitled to by their various, original, and intrinsic merits. No writer of the present times can lay claim to so many unborrowd excellencies. In none, have with, humour, fancy, pathos, an unbounded knowledge of mankind, and a correct and elegant style, been so happily united. These properties, which render him the delight of every reader of taste, have surmounted all opposition. Even envy, prudery, and hypocrisy are silent.

Time, which allots to each author his due portion of fame, and admits a free discussion of his beauties and faults, without favour and without partiality, hath done ample justice to the superior genius of Mr. Sterne. It hath fixed his reputation as one of the first writers in the English language, on the firmest basis, and advanced him to the rank of a classic. As such, it becomes a debt of gratitude, to collect his scattered performences into a compleate edition, with those embellishments usually bestowed on our most distinguished authors.

 This hath been attempted in the present edition, which comprehends all the works of Mr. Sterne, either made public in his lifetime or since his death. They are printed from the best and most correct copies, with no other alterations than what became necessary from the correction of literal errors. The letters are arranged according to their several dates, as far as they can be discoverd, and a few illustrations added, to explain some temporary circumstances mentioned or alluded to in them. Those which are confessedly spurious are rejected; and that no credit may be given to such as are of doubtful authority, it will be proper to observe, that the letters mumbered 129, 130, 131, have not those proofs of authenticity which the others possess. They cannot, however, be pronounced forgeries with so much confidence as some which are discarded from the present edition may be, and therfore are retained in it.

That no part of the genuine works of Mr. Sterne might be omitted, his own account of himself and his family is inserted without variation. But as this appears to have been a hasty composition, intended only for the information of his daughter, a small number of facts and dates, by way of notes, are added to it. These, it is presumed, will not be considered as improper additions.

It would be trespassing on the reader’s patience, to detain him any longer from the pleasure which these volumes will afford, by bespeaking his favour either for the author or his works. The former is out of the reach of censure or praise; and the reputation of the latter is too well established to be either supported or shook by panegyric or criticism. To the taste therefore, the feelings, the good sense, and the candour of the public, the present collection of Mr. Sterne’s works may be submitted, without the least apprehension that the perusal of any part of them will be followed by consequences unfavourable to the interests of society. The oftener they are read, the stronger will a sense of universal benevolence be impressed on the mind; and the attentive reader will subscribe to the character of the author, given by a comic writer, who declares he held him to be “a moralist in the noblest sense; he plays indeed with the fancy, and sometimes perhaps too wantonly; but while he thus designmedly masks his main attack, he comes at once upon the heart; refines, amends it, softens it; beats down each selfich barrier from abut it, andopens every sluice of pity and benevolence.

 

 

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Filed under 1700's, Fiction, Literature, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Notes on a Journey through France (1815)

Full Title: Notes on a Journey through France, from Deippe through Paris and Lyons, to the Pyrennees, and Back through Toulouse, in July, August and September, 1814, Describing the Habits of the People, and the Agriculture of the Country. By Morris Birkbeck. Second Edition, with an appendix. London: Printed and sold by William Phillips, George Yard Lombard Street; sold also by J. & A. Arch, Cornhill, and by J. Harding, 36, St. James’s Street, 1815.

Aug. 14 (St. Urban).  —In every part of France women employ themselves in offices which are deemed with us unsuitable to the sex. Here there is no sexual distinction of employment: the women undertake any task they are able to perform, without much notion of fitness or unfitness. This applies to all classes. The lady of one of the principal clothiers at Louviers, conducted us over the works; gave us patterns of the best cloths; ordered the machinery to be set in motion for our gratification, and was evidently in the habit of attending to the whole detail of the business. Just so, near Rouen, the wife of the largest farmer in that quarter, conducted me to the barns and stables; shewed me the various implements, and explained their use: took me into the fields, and described the mode of husbandry, which she perfectly understood; expatiated on the excellence of their fallows; pointed out the best sheep in the flock, and gave me a detail of management in buying their wether lambs and fattening their wethers. This was on a farm of about 400 acres. In every shop and warehouse you see similar activity in the females. At the royal porcelain manufactory at Sevres, a woman was called to receive payment for the articles we purchased. In the Halle de Bled, at Paris, women, in their little counting-houses, are performing the office of factors, in the sale of grain and flour. In every department they occupy an important station, from one extremity of the country to the other.

In many cases, where women are employed in the more laborious occupations, the real cause is directly opposite to the apparent. You see them in the south, threshing, with the men, under a burning sun; –it is a family party threshing out the crop of theeir own freehold: a woman is holding plough; –the plough, the horse, the land is her’s; or, (as we have it) her husband’s; who is probably sowing the wheat which she is turning in. You are shocked on seeing a fine  young woman loading a dung cart; –it belongs to her father, who is manuring his own field, for their common support. In these instances the toil of the woman denotes wealth rather than want; though the latter is the motive to which a superficial observer would refer it.

Who can estimate the importance, in a moral and political view, of this state of things? Where the women, in the complete exercise of their mental and bodily faculties, are performing their full share of the duties of life. It is the natural, healthy condition of Society. Its influence on the female character in France is a proof of it. There is freedom of action, and reliance on their own powers, in the French women, generally, which, occasionally, we observe with admiration in women, of superior talents in England. . . .

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Filed under 1810's, Culture, France, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel Literature, Women

Item of the Day: Letter from Silas Deane to the Committee of Secret Correspondence (1776)

Found in: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution  . . . Vol. I.  Edited by Jared Sparks. Boston: N. Hale and Gray & Bowen; G. & C. & H. Carvill, New York, 1829.

TO THE COMMITTEE OF SECRET CORRESPONDENCE.

Paris, 17th October, 1776.

 Gentlemen,

I once more put pen to paper, not to attempt, what is absolutely beyond the power of language to paint, my distressed situation here, totally destitute of intelligence or instructions from you since I left America, except Mr Morris’ letters of the 4th and 5th of June last, covering duplicates of my first instructions. Nor will I complain for myself, but must plainly inform you, that the cause of the United Colonies or United States has, for some time, suffered at this court for want of positive orders to me, or some other person.

It has not suffered here only, but at several other courts, that are not only willing, but even desirous of assisting America. Common complaisance, say they, though they want none of our assistance, requires that they should announce to us in form their being Independent States, that we may know how to treat their subjects and their property in our dominions. Every excuse, which my barren invention could suggest, has been made, and I have presented memoir after memoir on the situation of American affairs, and their importance to this kingdom, and to some others. My representations, as well verbally as written, have been favorably received, and all the attention paid them I could have wished, but the sine qua non is wanting, —a power to treat from the United Independent States of America. How, say they, is it possible, that all your intelligence and instructions should be intercepted, when we daily have advice of American vessels arriving in different ports in Europe? It is true I have effected what nothing but the real desire this court has of giving aid could have brought about, but at the same time it has been a critical and delicate affair, and has required all attention to save appearances, and more than once have I been on the brink of losing all, from suspicions that you were not in earnest in making applications here. I will only add, that a vessel with a commission from the Congress has been detained in Bilboa as a pirate, and complaint against it carried to the court of Madrid. I have been applied to for assistance, and though I am in hopes nothing will be deteermined against us, yet I confess I tremble to think how important a question is by this step agitated, without any one empowered to appear in a proper character and put in a defence. Could I present your Declaration of Independence, and shew my commission subsequently, empowering me to appear in your behalf, all might be concluded at once, and a most important point gained, —no less than that of obtaining a free reception, and defence or protection of our ships of war in these ports.

I have written heretofore for twenty thousand hogsheads of tobacco. I now repeat my desire, and for a large quantity of rice. The very profits on a large quantity of these articles will go far towards an annual expense. The stores, concerning which I have repeatedly written to you, are now shipping, and will be with you I trust in January, as will the officers coming with them. I refer to your serious consideration the enclosed hints respecting a naval force in these seas, also the enclosed propositions which were by accident thrown in my way. If you shall judge them of any consequence you will lay them before Congress; if not, postage will be all the expense extra. I believe they have been seen by other pesons, and therefore I held it my duty to send them to you. My most profound respect and highest esteem ever attend the Congress, and particiculary the Secret Committee.

I am, Gentlemen, &c,

SILAS DEANE

 

 

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Congress, Letters, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (1829)

Full Title: The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution. Being the Letters of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Dean, John Adams, John Jay, Arthur Lee, Ralph Izard, Francis Dana, William Carmichael, Henry Laurens, John Laurens, M. Dumas, and Others, Concerning the Foreign Relations of the United States during the Whole Revolution; together with the Letters in Reply fromt he Secret Committee of Congress, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. also, the Entire Correspondence of the French Ministers, Gerard and Luzerne, with Congres. Edited by Jared Sparks. Vol. I. Boston: N. Hale and Gray & Bown; G. & C. & H. Carvill, New York, 1829.

ADVERTISEMENT.

__________________

The Correspondence between the old Congress and the American Agents, Commissioners, and Ministers in foreign countries, was secret and confidential during the whole revolution. The letters, as they arrived, were read in Congress, and referred to the standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, accompanied with requisite instructions, when necessary, as to the nature and substance of the replies. The papers embracing this correspondence, which swelled to a considerable mass before the end of the revolution, were removed to the department of State after the formation of the new government, where they have remained ever since, accessible to such persons as have wished to consult them for particualr purposes, but never before published. In compliance with the resolution of Congress, of March 27th, 1818, they are now laid before the public, under the direction of the President of the United States.

On the 29th of November, 1775, a Committee of five was appointed to correspond with the friends of America in other countries. It seems to have been the specific object of this Committee, to gain information in regard to the public feeling in Great Britain towards the Colonies, and also the degree of interest which was likely to be taken by other European powers in the contest, then beginning to grow warm on this side of the Atlantic. Certain commercial designs came also under its cognizance, such as procuring ammunition, arms, soldiers’ clothing, and other military stores from abroad. A secret correspondence was immediately opened with Arthur Lee in London, cheifly with the view of procuring intelligence. Early in the next year, Silas Deane was sent to France by the Committee, with instructions to act as a commercial or political agent for the American Colonies, as circumstances might dictate. This Committee was denominated the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and continued in operation till April 17th, 1777, when the name was changed to that of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. The duties and objects of the Committee appear to have remained as before, notwithstanding the change of name.

In the first years of the war, it was customary for the Commissioners and Ministers abroad to address their letters to the Committee, or to the President of Congress. In either case the letters were read in Congress, and answered only by the Committee, this body being the organ of all communicaions from Congress on foreign affairs. The proceedings of Congress in relation to these topics were recorded in a journal, kept separately from that in which the records of other transactions were entered, and called the Secret Journal. This Journal has recently been published, in conformity with the same resoluion of Congress, which directed the publication of the foreign correspondence.

Robert R. Livingston was chosen Secretary of Foreign Affairs on the 10th of August, 1781, when the Committee was dissolved, and the foreign correspondence from that time went through the hands of the Secretary. As the responsibility thus devolved on a single individual, instead of being divided among several, the business of the department was afterwards executed with much more promptness and efficiency.

The plan adopted, in arranging the papers for publication, has been to bring together those of each Commissioner, or Minister, in strict chronological order. As there is much looseness, and sometimes confusion in their arrangement as preserved in the Department of State, this plan has not always been easy to execute. The advantage of such a method, however is so great, the facility it affords for a ready reference and consultaion is so desirable, and the chain of events is thereby exhibited in a manner so much more connected and satisfactory, that no pains have been spared to bring every letter and doucment into its place in the exact order of its date. Thus the correspondence of each Commisssioner, or Minister, presents a continuous history of the acts in which he was concerned, and of the events to which he alludes.

It will be seen, that the letters are occasionally missing. These are not to be found in the archives of the government. The loss may be accounted for in several ways. In the first place, the modes of conveyance were precarious, and failures were frequent and unavoidable. The despatches were sometimes intrusted to the captains of such American vessels, merchantmen or privateers, as happened to be in port, and sometimes forwarded by regular express packets, but in both cases they were subject to be captured. Moreover, the despatches were ordered to be thrown overboard if the vessel conveying them should be pursued by an enemy, or exposed to the hazard of being taken. It thus happened, that many letters never arrived at their destination, although duplicates and triplicates were sent. Again, the Committee had no Secretary to take charge of the papers, and no regular place of deposit; the members themselves were perpetually changing, and each had equal access to the papers, and was equally responsible for their safe keeping. They were often in the hands of the Secretary of Congress, and of other membres who wished to consult them. Nor does it appear, that copies were methodically taken till after the war. In such a state of things, many letters must necessarily have been withdrawn and lost. When Mr Jay became Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in the year 1784, that office had been made the place of deposit for all the foreign correspndence which then remained. Under his direction, a large portion of it was copied into volumes, apparently with much care, both in regard to the search after papers, and the accuracy of the transcribers. These volumes are still retained in the archives of the Department of State, together with such originals as have escaped the perils of accident, and the negligence of their early keepers . . .

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Filed under American Revolution, Congress, Early Republic, Government, Letters, Posted by Caroline Fuchs