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Silas Deane to the Secret Committee



Paris, October 8, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: Your Declaration of the 4th of July last has given this Court, as well as several others in Europe, reason to expect you would, in form, announce your independency to them, and ask their friendship; but a three months' silence on that subject appears to them mysterious, and the more so as you declared for foreign alliances. This silence has given me the most inexpressible anxiety; has more than once come near frustrating my whole endeavours, on which subject refer you to mine of the 1st instant.

Employ must be found for the forces of Great Britain out of the United States of North America. The Caribbs in St˙ Vincent, if set agoing, may be supplied through Martinico with stores. The mountain negroes in Jamaica may employ a great number of their forces. This is not employing slaves, which, however, the example of our enemy authorizes. Should there arise trouble in these two islands, which a very little money would effect, the consequence would be, that Great Britain, which can by no means think of giving them up, would be so far from being able to increase her forces on the Continent, that she must withdraw a large part to defend her islands.

I find every one here acquainted with Bermuda is in my sentiments; and by the officiousness of the treacherous Hopkins, the Ministry here have got it by the end. This makes me the more solicitous that the island should be fortified this winter, if practicable.

Tobacco in Holland is at the enormous price of seven stivers, and will soon be as dear in France, Germany, &c, I have promised that you will send out twenty thousand hogshead this winter, in payment of the articles wanted here. Let me advise you to ship the whole to Bordeaux, after which it may be shipped in French bottoms to any other port; the price will pay the convoy, therefore I would recommend the vessels in which it should be shipped should be armed, and that each ship sail under convoy of one of your frigates, which may also ballast with it: this will be safer than coming in a fleet. On your arrival, Messrs˙ Delap, whose zeal and fidelity in our service is great, will be directed by me, or, in my absence, by Mr˙ B˙ M˙ , or ostensibly Messrs˙ Hortalez & Co˙, where to apply the money.

Eight or ten of your frigates, thus collected at Bordeaux, with a proper number of riflemen as marines, where they might have leisure to refit and procure supplies, would strike, early next season, a most terrible blow to the British commerce in Europe, and obtain a most noble indemnity. The appearance of American cruisers in those seas has amazed the British merchants, and insurance will now be on the war establishment. This will give the rival nations a great superiority in commerce, of which they cannot be insensible; and as our vessels of war will be protected in the ports of France and Spain, the whole of the British commerce will be exposed.

I hope to have a liberty for the disposal of prizes here, but dare not engage for that. The last season, the whole coast of England, Scotland, and Ireland, has been, and still


remains unguarded. Three or four frigates, arriving, as they certainly might, unexpectedly, would be sufficient to pillage Port Glasgow or other western towns. The very alarm which this-would occasion might have the most surprising and important effects, and in this method it might be effected with the utmost certainty, if entered upon early next spring: but should that be laid aside, the having five or six, or more, of your stoutest ships in these ports, where you may every day receive intelligence of what is about to sail from England, would put in our power to make great reprisals.

I wrote for blank commissions, or a power to grant commissions to ships of war: pray forward them, as here are many wishing for an opportunity of using them in this way; they will take a cargo in an armed vessel for America, and if they meet with any thing in their way take it with them. The granting commissions against Portugal would insure the friendship of Spain .

Grain will bear a great price in this kingdom and the south of Europe; and I have made application to the Minister of the Marine to supply masts and spars from America for the French navy: pray inform me how, and on what terms, the British navy formerly used to be supplied from New-England.

I am fully of opinion that war must break out soon, and become general in Europe .

I need say no more on the situation I am in for want of your further instructions. I live in hopes, but should I be much longer disappointed, the affairs I am upon, as well as my credit, must suffer, if not be absolutely ruined. My most respectful compliments to the honourable Congress.

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient and very humble servant,