April 8, 1778 — Today, future US President John Adams (1735-1826) arrived in Paris to replace Silas Deane as the American commissioner representing the interests of the United States.
A former Continental Congress member, Deane’s assignment was to bribe Indians to cooperate with Americans and to persuade the French government to supply arms, ammunition, and uniforms for the Continental Army. However, Deane’s conduct aroused the suspicions of fellow diplomat Arthur Lee, who accused Deane of financial mismanagement and corruption. As a result of Lee’s charges, Deane was recalled by Congress.
Historians explain that Lee never got along with his two colleagues in part because the two came from different cultural backgrounds in the Colonies. Deane was born and raised in Connecticut and educated at Yale, while Arthur Lee was a Virginian who followed the educational and career path of the British elite before Revolutionary politics intervened.
Adams, who was also a New Englander (from Massachusetts and Harvard), defended Deane, but was unable to clear his name. Deane was forced to live his life in exile until his death in 1789. In 1842, Congress reopened the investigation into his accounts and, finding no evidence of misconduct, ordered that his heirs be paid $37,000 in reparations.
After Adams had spent 18 months in Paris, along with Benjamin Franklin, Congress decided to name Franklin the sole minister to France. Although reportedly humiliated by the decision, Adams was elected part of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention upon his return; he was put in charge of drafting the state’s first constitution. It became the core of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 and shaped the future American Constitution.
Words of Wisdom
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.