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of public ministers from those of commercial agents, recall all the envoys except one, define with precision the salary he should receive, and see that he got no more.
This is what Lee should have done long before. Franklin had indeed recommended a change in one of his letters, but not with such force as to cause its adoption. Now that Adams had set the example, they all wrote letters in the succeeding months begging for reform. The wisdom of Adams's plan was so apparent that when the facts were laid before Congress it was quickly adopted and Franklin made sole plenipotentiary.
But Lee and Izard retained their missions to other countries and remained in Paris, renewing their discussions and attacks on Franklin until the subject was again brought before Congress, and it was proposed to order all of them back to America and send others in their stead. Franklin had a narrow escape. The large committee which had the question before it was at one time within a couple of votes of recalling him and sending Arthur Lee in his place, which, whatever were the failings of Franklin, would have been a terrible misfortune. The French minister to the United States, M. Gérard, came to the rescue. He disclosed the extreme favor with which the French government regarded Franklin and its detestation of Lee. Franklin's wonderful reputation in Europe saved him, for it would have been folly to recall under a cloud the
man whom our allies took such delight in honoring.
PLEASURES AND DIPLOMACY IN FRANCE
CONGRESS not only refused to recall Franklin, but relieved him entirely of the presence of Lee and Izard, so that the remaining six years of his service were peaceful and can be very briefly described. The improvement in the management of the embassy which immediately followed shows what a serious mistake the previous arrangement had been. Left entirely to his own devices, and master of the situation, he began the necessary reforms of his own accord, had complete books of account prepared, and managed the business without difficulty.
It is curious to read of the diverse functions the old man of seventy-four had to perform in this infancy of our diplomatic service. He was a merchant, banker, judge of admiralty, consul, director of the navy, ambassador to France, and negotiator with England for the exchange of prisoners and for peace, in addition to attending to any other little matter, personal or otherwise, which our representatives to other countries or the individual States of the Union might ask of him. The crudeness of the situation is revealed when we remember that not only was Congress obtaining loans of money and supplies of arms in Europe, but several of the States were doing the same thing, and it was often rather difficult for
Franklin to assist them all without discrimination or injustice.
Paul Jones and the other captains of our navy who were cruising against British commerce on that side of the Atlantic made their head-quarters in French ports, and were necessarily under the direction of Franklin because the great distance made it impossible to communicate with Congress without months of delay. That they were lively sailors we may judge from the exploits of the “Black Prince," which in three months on the English coast took thirty-seven prizes, and brought in seventy-five within a year.
Franklin had to act as a court of admiralty in the matter of prizes and their cargoes, settle disputes between the officers and men, quiet discontent about their pay by advancing money, decide what was to be done with mutineers, and see that ships were refitted and repaired. A couple of quotations from one of his letters to Congress will give some idea of his duties :
“In the mean time, I may just mention some particulars of our disbursements. Great quantities of clothing, arms, ammunition, and naval stores, sent from time to time ; payment of bills from Mr. Bingham, one hundred thousand livres ; Congress bills in favor of Haywood & Co., above two hundred thousand ; advanced to Mr. Ross, about twenty thousand pounds sterling ; paid Congress drafts in favor of returned officers, ninety-three thousand and eighty livres; to our prisoners in England, and after their escape to help them home, and to other Americans here in distress, a great sum, I cannot at present say how much ; supplies to Mr. Hodge for fitting out Captain Conyngham, very considerable ; for the freight of ships to carry over the supplies, great sums; to Mr. William Lee and Mr. Izard, five thousand five hundred pounds sterling ; and for fitting the frigates Raleigh, Alfred, Boston, Providence, Alliance, Ranger, &c., I imagine not less than sixty or seventy thousand livres each,
taken one with another; and for the maintenance of the English prisoners, I believe, when I get in all the accounts, I shall find one hundred thousand livres not sufficient, having already paid above sixty-five thousand on that article. And now, the drafts of the treasurer of the loans coming very fast upon me, the anxiety I have suffered, and the distress of mind lest I should not be able to pay them, have for a long time been very great indeed.'
“With regard to the fitting out of ships, receiving and disposing of cargoes, and purchasing of supplies, I beg leave to mention, that, besides my being wholly unacquainted with such business, the distance I am from the ports renders my having anything to do with it extremely inconvenient. Commercial agents have indeed been appointed by Mr. William Lee; but they and the captains are continually writing for my opinion or orders, or leave to do this or that, by which much time ost to them, and much of mine taken up to little purpose, from my ignorance. I see clearly, however, that many of the captains are exorbitant in their demands, and in some cases I think those demands are too easily complied with by the agents, perhaps because the commissions are in proportion to the expense. I wish, therefore, the Congress would appoint the consuls they have a right to appoint by the treaty, and put into their hands all that sort of employment. I have in my desk, I suppose, not less than fifty applications from different ports, praying the appointment, and offering to serve gratis for the honor of it, and the advantage it gives in trade; but I imagine, that, if consuls are appointed, they will be of our own people from America, who, if they should make fortunes abroad, might return with them to their country.”
He was, in fact, deciding questions and assuming responsibilities which with other nations and afterwards with our own belonged to the home government. He had great discretionary power, an instance of which may be given in connection with the subject which was then agitating European countries, of “free ships, free goods." He wrote to Congress, telling that body how the matter stood :
“Whatever may formerly have been the law of nations, all the neutral powers at the instance of Russia seem at present disposed to