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Letter from Baron de Beaumarchais to the Committee of Secret Correspondence of Congress




Paris, August 18, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: The respectful esteem that I bear towards that brave people, who so well defend their liberty under


your conduct, has induced me to form a plan concurring in this great work, by establishing an extensive commercial house, solely for the purpose of serving you in Europe, there to supply you with necessaries of every sort, to furnish you expeditiously and certainly with all articles, clothes, linens, powder, ammunition, muskets, cannon, or even gold for the payment of your troops, and in general everything that can be useful for the honourable war in which you are engaged. Your deputies, gentlemen, will find in me a sure friend, an asylum in my house, money in my coffers, and every means of facilitating their operations, whether of a publick or secret nature. I will, if possible, remove all obstacles that may oppose your wishes, from the politicks of Europe.

At this very time, and without waiting for any answer from you, I have procured for you about two hundred pieces of brass cannon, four pounders, which will be sent to you by the nearest way; two hundred thousand pounds of cannon powder, twenty thousand excellent fusils, some brass mortars, bombs, cannon balls, bayonets, platines, clothes, linens, &c˙, for the clothing of your troops, and lead for musket balls. An officer of the greatest merit for artillery and genius, accompanied by lieutenants, officers, artillerists, cannoniers, &c˙, whom we think necessary for the service, will go for Philadelphia, even before you have received my first despatches. This gentleman is one of the greatest presents that my attachment can offer you. Your deputy, Mr˙ Deane agrees with me in the treatment which he thinks suitable to his office, and I have found the power of this deputy sufficient, that I should prevail with this officer to depart, under the sole engagement of the deputy respecting him, the terms of which I have not the least doubt but Congress will comply with. The secrecy necessary in some part of the operation; which I have undertaken for your service, requires also, on your part, a formal resolution, that all the vessels and their demands should be constantly directed to our house alone, in order that there may be no idle chattering or time lost — two things that are the ruin of affairs. You will advise me what the vessels contain, which you shall send into our ports. I shall choose so much of their loading, in return for what I have sent, as shall be suitable to me, when I have not been able beforehand to inform you of the cargoes which I wish. I shall facilitate to you the loading, sale, and disposal of the rest. For instance, five American vessels have just arrived in the port of Bordeaux, laden with salt fish; though this merchandise coming from strangers is prohibited in our ports, yet as soon as your deputy had told me that these vessels were sent to him by you, to raise money from the sale for aiding him in his purchases in Europe, I took so much care that I secretly obtained from the Farmers-General an order for landing it without any notice being taken of it. I could even, if the case had so happened, have taken upon my own account these cargoes of salted fish, though it is not very useful to me, and charged myself with its sale and disposal, to simplify the operation and lessen the embarrassments of the merchants, and of your deputy.

I shall have a correspondent in each of our seaport towns, who, on the arrival of your vessels, shall wait on the Captains and offer every service in my power; he will receive their letters, bills of lading, and transmit the whole to me; even things which you may wish to arrive safely in any country in Europe, after having conferred about them with your deputy, I shall cause to be kept in some secure place; even the answers shall go with great punctuality through me, and this way will save much anxiety and many delays. I request of you, gentlemen, to send me next spring, if it is possible for you, ten or twelve thousand hogsheads, or more if you can, of tobacco from Virginia, of the best quality.

You very well understand that my commerce with you is carried on in Europe, that it is in the ports of Europe I make and take returns. However well bottomed my house may be, and however I may have appropriated many millions to your trade alone, yet it would be impossible for me to support it, if all the dangers of the sea, of exports and imports, were not entirely at your risk. Whenever you choose to receive my goods in any of our Windward or Leeward Islands, you have only to inform me of it, and my correspondents shall be there according to your orders, and then you shall have no augmentation of price, but of freight and insurance. But the risk of being taken by your enemies, still remains with you, according to the declaration rendered incontestable by the measures I shall take by your deputy


himself. This deputy should receive, as soon as possible, full power and authority to accept what I shall deliver to him, to receive my accounts, examine them, make payments thereupon, or enter into engagements, which you shall be bound to ratify, as the head of that brave people to whom I am devoted; in short, always to treat about your interests immediately with me.

Notwithstanding the open opposition which the King of France, his Ministers, and the agents of Administration show, and ought to show to everything that carries the least appearance of violating foreign treaties and the internal ordinances of the Kingdom, I dare promise to you, gentlemen, that my indefatigable zeal shall never be wanting to clear up difficulties, soften prohibitions, and, in short, facilitate all operations of a commerce which my advantage, much less than yours, has made me undertake with you. What I have just informed you of is only a general sketch, subject to all the augmentations and restrictions which events may point out to us.

One thing can never vary or diminish: it is the avowed and ardent desire I have of serving you to the utmost of my power. You will recollect my signature, that one of your friends in London some time ago informed you of my favourable disposition towards you, and my attachment to your interest. Look upon my house, then, gentlemen, from henceforward as the chief of all useful operations to you in Europe, and my person as one of the most zealous partisans of your cause, the soul of your success, and a man most deeply impressed with respectful esteem, with which I have the honour to be,

P˙ S˙ I add here, to conclude, that every American vessel, though not immediately armed or loaded by you, will be entitled to my good offices in this country; but yours, particularly addressed to my house, will receive a particular preference from me. I ought also to intimate to you, gentlemen, that from the nature of my connexion, it is to be wished you would use discretion, even in the accounts that you give to the General Congress. Everything that passes in your great assemblies is known, I cannot tell how, at the Court of Great Britain. Some indiscreet or perfidious citizen sends an exact account of your proceedings to the Palace of St˙ James. In times of great exigency, Rome had a Dictator; and in a state of danger the more the executive power is brought to a point, the more certain will be its effect, and there will be less to fear from indiscretion. It is to your wisdom, gentlemen, that I make this remark; if it seems to you just and well planned, look upon it as a new mark of my ardor for your rising Republic. R˙ H˙ & Co.



*This signature was assumed by M˙ Beaumarchais for the purpose of concealment.