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Silas Deane manuscripts and documents (copies)


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

It is unclear who copied the letters in this collection, but it was likely a Silas Deane scholar planning on writing a book or paper. The majority of these letters and documents were copied from the originals held in the Silas Deane papers at the Connecticut Historical Society; however the source of a few letters and documents are unknown. It appears that the manuscript copies were made sometime during the late 19th century.

Silas Deane was an American merchant, politician, and diplomat who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a diplomat to France. Deane was born in Ledyard, Connecticut on December 24, 1737 and died in London on September 23, 1789 while attempting to return home to America. He graduated from Yale College in 1758 and married Mehitable Webb in 1763. After Webb's death in 1767, Deane married Elizabeth Saltonstall in 1770. Active in Connecticut's political scene and passionate about colonists' rights, Deane was appointed as a delegate from Connecticut to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia where he served on 40 committees. In the fall of 1775, Deane was appointed as Congress' agent to France to procure supplies for America and was chosen by the Committee on Secret Correspondence to promote a treaty of alliance with France. In part due to the supplies and guns which Deane sent from France, the Americans achieved victory at Saratoga which swayed the French towards agreeing to an alliance. As a commissioner of the newly formed American Commission at Paris, Deane and his fellow commissioners Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee signed a treaty of alliance with France on February 6, 1778. Despite this success, Deane had enemies in Congress and France who claimed that he had misused government funds and he was advised to return to America to account for his spending. He received little satisfaction from Congress and by 1780, Deane returned to Paris as a private citizen hoping to collect vouchers to substantiate his claims so he could be compensated for the money he lost. Deane then moved to London where, concerned about Congress's financial problems, he wrote letters suggesting the negotiated settlement of war. The letters were published in New York just before England's surrender and, as a result, he was advised by his brother not to return home to America. On September 23, 1789, Deane was finally to board a ship to return to America when he suffered an abdominal attack that took his life.

For a more detailed biographical sketch, refer to the Connecticut Historical Society.

This collection contains manuscript copies of correspondence and documents of Silas Deane during his time as an American diplomat in France during the American Revolution. The copies were probably made circa 1850-1900.

The originals, the bulk of which can be found in the Silas Deane papers at the Connecticut Historical Society, date between 1776 and 1785. In these letters, Deane communicates with several major figures in Revolutionary America, including Thomas Barclay, Samuel Chase, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison V, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Captain John Paul Jones, Arthur Lee, Benjamin Lincoln, Robert Morris, General Philip Schuyler, Samuel Wharton, James Wilson, and Captain John Young. This copied material also includes correspondence between Deane and important French supporters of the American Revolution, such as Georges René Pléville Le Pelley and Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont. Researchers will also find checklists of the letters copied and several loose letters and documents.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kelin Baldridge
Finding Aid Date
2017 February 7
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Checklist of letters, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 1
Letterbook, 1776-1785, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 2
Letterbook, 1781-1784, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 4
Letterbook, 1777-1781, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 3
Loose documents, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 5
Loose letters, circa 1850-1900.
Box 1 Folder 6

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