Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX A Chapter of Altercations

IN the spring of 1778 Franklin writes two significant letters. One is to the president of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. It is meant to anticipate the arrival there of Silas Deane, who has been called home to give an account of his operations as American agent in France before the coming of Franklin and Lee. John Adams has been appointed to succeed him. Franklin's letter praises Deane as "a faithful, active and able minister."

The other letter is to Lee. The old gentleman must have been choked with suppressed ire for some months, to have been able to use, even towards a trouble-making colleague, such scorching language:

"It is true that I have omitted answering some of your letters, particularly your angry ones, in which you, with very magisterial airs, schooled and documented me, as if I had been one of your domestics. I saw in the strongest light the importance of our living in decent civility towards each other while our great affairs were depending here; I saw your jealous, suspicious, malignant, and quarrelsome temper, which was daily manifesting itself against Mr. Deane and almost every other person you had any concern with. I therefore passed your affronts in silence, did not answer, but burnt your angry letters, and received you, when I next saw you, with the same civility as if you had never wrote them. Perhaps I may still pursue the same conduct, and

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