France and America in the Revolutionary Era: The Life of Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, 1725-1803

By Thomas J. Schaeper | Go to book overview

6
CONGRESSIONAL SUPPLIES

CHAUMONT AND OTHER MERCHANTS

Chaumont's most tangible contribution to the American Revolution came in the form of supplies. From 1776 to 1781 he was very probably the single most important foreign source of arms, saltpeter, clothing, and other materials. He sold these provisions to America either through the American commissioners in France or through his private correspondents stationed in America and the West Indies. A few authors have alluded to his importance in this regard, but until now no one has attempted to examine the full range and volume of his activities. There have been two principal reasons for this neglect. One is that many scholars have viewed the whole subject of munitions, cloth, and other supplies as "prosaic"1 -- less interesting than the private lives or military exploits of personalities like Franklin or Lafayette. A second reason is that many of the details remain murky.

Despite the lacunae in the surviving documents, it is possible to give a reasonably accurate estimate of the total value of the supplies and related services that Chaumont provided officially to the United States via the American representatives in Paris. This can be done thanks to the records kept by Ferdinand Grand. Approximately 38 of the 47 million livres that France lent or gave to the United States from 1776 to 1783 passed through Grand's bank for disbursement.2

In a series of documents sent to Congress in 1783 Grand summarized all of his expenditures, listing the different individuals to whom he had given money over the years. About two million livres went to Franklin, Deane, Arthur and William Lee, John Adams, Ralph Izard, John Jay, and other American agents. This

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France and America in the Revolutionary Era: The Life of Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, 1725-1803
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Preface viii
  • 1 - CHAUMONT'S FIRST FIFTY YEARS 1
  • 2 - FRANCE AND THE COMING OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 38
  • 3 - CHAUMONT ENTERS THE PICTURE 63
  • 4 - BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S LANDLORD 92
  • 5 - CHAUMONT AS FRIEND, ASSOCIATE, AND ENEMY 122
  • 6 - CONGRESSIONAL SUPPLIES 156
  • 7 - PRIVATE TRADE WITH AMERICA 194
  • 8 - JOHN PAUL JONES: FRIEND 227
  • 9 - JOHN PAUL JONES: ENEMY 254
  • 10 - FINANCIAL RUIN 290
  • 11 - TWILIGHT YEARS 319
  • Appendix 348
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 377
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