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.


Paris, 17th October, 1776.


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,






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

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