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Letter from Silas Deane to the Secret Committee



Paris, October 25, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: I have purchased two hundred tons of powder, and ordered the same to be shipped to Martinico, to the care of Monsieur Deant, to direction of Mr˙ Bingham, for your use. The first cost is eighteen sols per pound, or ten pence sterling. The charges will be added, the amount of which I have not as yet ascertained, and the interest at five per cent, until payment.

I must again urge you to hasten your remittances. Tobacco, rice, indigo, wheat, and flour, are in great demand, and must be so through the year. Tobacco is nine stivers per pound in Holland; rice fifty shillings sterling per hundred weight; flour is already from twenty to twenty-three livres per hundred weight and rising. I have engaged a sale for twenty thousand hogsheads of tobacco, the amount of which will establish the credit of the Congress with the mercantile interest in France and Holland. Let me urge your attention to these articles, though I must say your silence ever since the 5th of June last, discourages me at times; indeed it well nigh distracts me. From whatever cause the silence has happened, it has greatly prejudiced the affairs of the United Colonies of America, and, so far as the success of our cause depended on the friendship and aid of Powers on this side the globe, has occasioned the greatest hazard and danger, and thrown me into a state of anxiety and perplexity which no words can express. I have made one excuse after another until my invention is exhausted, and when I find vessels arriving from different ports in America, which sailed late in August, without a line for me, it gives our friends here apprehensions that the assertions of our enemies, who say you are negotiating and compounding, are


true; otherwise, say they, where are your letters and directions? Surely, say they, if the Colonies were in earnest, and unanimous in their independence, even if they wanted no assistance from hence, common civility would cause them to announce in form their Independent States. I will make no other comment on the distressing subject than this. Were there no hopes of obtaining assistance on application in a publick manner, I should be easier under your silence; but when the reverse is the case, to lose the present critically favourable moment, and hazard thereby the ruin of the greatest cause in which mankind were ever engaged, distresses my soul, and I would if possible express something of what I have undergone for the last three months, until hope itself has almost deserted me.

I do not complain for myself, but for my country, thus unaccountably suffering from I know not what causes.

I am, gentlemen, with most respectful compliments to the honourable Congress, &c˙,