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L'Orient the beginning of March. The aid obtained from France was six million livres as a present, and ten millions as a loan borrowed in Holland on the security of France. We sailed from Brest in the French Resolve frigate the first of June, and arrived at Boston the 25th of August, bringing with us two millions and a half in silver, and conveying a ship and a brig laden with clothing and military stores. The money was transported in sixteen ox-teams to the national bank at Philadelphia, which enabled the army to move to York Town to attack, in conjunction with the French army under Rochambeau, the British army under Cornwallis. As I never had a cent for this service, I feel myself entitled, as the country is now in a state of prosperity, to state the case to Congress.
As to my political works, beginning with the pamphlet Common Sense, published the beginning of January, 1776, which awakened America to a declaration of independence, as the president and vice-president both know, as they were works done from principle I cannot dishonour that principle by asking any reward for them. The country has been benefited by them, and I make myself happy in the knowledge of it. It is, however, proper to me to add, that the mere independence of America, were it to have been followed by a system of government modelled after the corrupt system of the English government, it would not have interested me with the unabated ardour it did. It was to bring forward and establish the representative system of government, as the work itself will shew, that was the leading principle with me in writing that work and all my other works during the progress of the revolution: And I followed the same principle in writing the Rights of Man in England.
There is a resolve of the old Congress, while they sat at New York, of a grant to me of three thousand dollars—the resolve is put in handsome language, but it has relation to a matter which it does not express. Elbridge Gerry was chairman of the committee who brought in the resolve. If Congress should judge proper to refer this memorial to a committee, I will inform that committee of the particulars of it.
I have also to state to Congress, that the authority of the old Congress was become so reduced towards the latter end of the war, as to be unable to hold the States together. Congress could do no more than recommend, of which the States frequently took no notice, and when they did, it was never uniformly,
After the failure of the five per cent, duty, recommended by Congress to pay the interest of a loan to be borrowed in Holland, I wrote to Chancellor Livingston, then minister for foreign affairs, and Robert Morris, minister of finance, and proposed a method for getting over the whole difficulty at once, which was by adding a continental legislature to Congress, who should be empowered to make laws for the Union, instead of recommending them. As the method proposed met with their full approbation, I held myself in reserve to take the subject up whenever a direct occasion occurred.
In a conversation afterwards with governor Clinton, of New York, now vice-president, it was judged, that for the purpose of my going fully into the subject, and to prevent any misconstruction of my motive or object, it would be best that I received nothing from Congress, but leave it to the States, individually, to make me what acknowledgment they pleased.
The State of New York made me a present of a farm, which, since my return to America, I have found it necessary to sell:* and the State of Pennsylvania voted me five hundred pounds, their currency. But none of the States to the eastward of New York, nor to the south of Philadelphia ever made me the least acknowledgment. They had received benefits from me, which they accepted, ana there the matter ended. This story will not tell in history. All the civilized world knows I have been of great service to the United States, and have generously given away talents that would have made me a fortune.
I much question if an instance is to be found in ancient or modern times of a man who had no personal interest in the cause he took up, that of independence and the establishment of the representative systen of government, and who sought neither place nor office after it was established, that persevered in the same undeviating principles as I have done for more than thirty years, and that in spite of difficulties, dangers and inconveniences, of which I have had my share.
* To Mr. Shute, in 1800, but as Mr. Shute died shortly after, and his widow found it to be an inconvenience, Paine, at her solicitation, took it hack.
Citizen Representatives, New York, Feb. 14, 1808.
In my memorial to Congress of the 21st of January, I spoke of a resolve of the old Congress of three thousand dollars to me, and said that the resolve had relation to a matter it did not express; that Eldridge Gerry was chairman of the committee that brought in that resolve, and that if Congress referred the memorial to a committee, I would write to that committee and inform them of the particulars of it. It has relation to my conduct in the affair of Silas Deane and Beaumarchais. The case is as follows:
When I was appointed secretary to the committee for foreign affairs, all the papers of the secret committee, none of which had been seen by Congress, came into my hands. I saw by the correspondence of that committee with persons in Europe, particularly with Arthur Lee, that the stores which Silas Deane and Beaumarchais pretended they had purchased, were a present from the court of France, and came out of the king's arsenals. But as this was prior to the alliance, and while the English ambassador (Stormont) was at Paris, the court of France wished it not to be known, and therefore proposed that "a small quantity of tobacco or some other produce should be sent to the Cape (Cape Fran case) to give it the air of a mercantile transaction, repeating over and over again that it was for a cover only, and not for payment, as the whole remittance was gratuitous." See Arthur Lee's letters to the secret committee. See also B. Franklin's.
Knowing these things, and seeing that the public were deceived and imposed upon by the pretensions of Deane, I took the subject up, and published three pieces in Dunlap's Philadelphia paper, headed with the title of" Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane's affairs." John Jay was then President of Congress, Mr. Laurens having resigned in disgust.
After the third piece appeared, I received an order, dated Congress, and signed John Jay, that " Thomas Paine do attend at the bar of this house immediately," which I did.
Mr. Jay took up a newspaper and said, " Here is Mr. Dunap's paper of December 29. In it is a piece entitled Common Sense to the Public on Mr. Deane's affairs, I am directed by Congress to ask you if you are the author." "Yes, sir, I am the author of that piece." Mr. Jay put the same question on the other two pieces and received the same answer. He then said, you may withdraw.
As soon as I was gone, John Pen, of North Carolina, moved that " Thomas Paine be discharged from the office of secretary to the committee for foreign affairs," and prating Governor Morris seconded the motion, but it was lost when put to the vote, the States being equally divided. I then wrote to Congress requesting a hearing, and Mr. Laurens made a motion for that purpose which was negatived. The next day I sent in my resignation, saying, that "as I cannot consistently with my character as a freeman submit to be censured unheard, therefore, to preserve that character and maintain that right, I think it my duty to resign the office of secretary to the committee for foreign affairs, and I do hereby resign the same."
After this I lived as well as I could, hiring myself as a clerk to Owen Biddle of Philadelphia, till the legislature of Pennsylvania appointed me clerk of the general assembly. But I still went on with my publications on Deane's affairs, till the fraud became so obvious that Congress were ashamed of supporting him, and he absconded. He went from Philadelphia to Virginia and took shipping for France, and got over to England where he died. Doctor Cutting told me he took poison. Governor Morris by way of making apology for his conduct in that affair, said to me after my return from France with Colonel Laurens, " Well! we were all duped, and I among the rest."
As the salary I had as secretary to the committee of foreign affairs was but small, being only 800 dollars a year, and as that had been fretted down by the depreciation to less than a fifth of its nominal value, I wrote to Congress, then sitting at New York, (it was after the war) to make up the depreciation of my salary, and also for some incidental expences I had been at. This letter was referred to a committee of which Elbridge Gerry was chairman.
Mr. Gerry then came to me and said that >the committee had consulted on the subject, and they intended to bring in a handsome report, but that they thought jfc,best not to take any notice of your letter or make any reference to Deane's affair or your salary. They will indemnify you, said he without it. The case is, there are some motions on the journals of Congress, for censuring you with respect to Deane's affair, which cannot now be recalled, because they have been printed. Therefore, will bring in a report that will supersede them without mentioning the purport of your letter.
This, Citizen Representatives, is an explanation of the resolve of the old Congress. It was an indemnity to me for some injustice done me, for Congress had acted dishonourably to me. However, I prevented Deane's fraudulent demand being paid, and so far the country is obliged to me, but I became the victim of my integrity.
I preferred stating this explanation to the committee rather than to make it public in my memorial to Congress.
TO THE HONOURABLE THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Sir, New York, March 7, 1808.
I Know not who the Committee of Claims are, but if they are men of younger standing than " the times that tried men's souls" and consequently too young to know what the condition of the country was at that time I published Common Sense, for I do not believe independence would have been declared had it not been for the effect of that work, they are not capable of judging of the whole of the services of Thomas Paine. The president and vice-president can give you information on those subjects, so also can Mr. Smilie, who was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature at the times I am speaking of. He knows the inconveniences I was often put to, for the old Congress treated me with ingratitude. They seemed to be disgusted at my popularity, and acted towards me as a rival instead of a friend.
The explanation I sent to the committee respecting a resolve of the old Congress while they sat at New York should be known to Congress, but it seems to me that the committee keep every thing to themselves and do nothing. If my memorial was referred to the Committee of Claims, for the purpose of losing it, it is unmanly policy. After so many years of service my heart grows cold towards America.
Yours, in friendship,
P. S. I repeat my request that you would call on the Committee of Claims to bring in their report, and that Congress would decide upon it.