Deane, Silas

Deane, Silas,

1737–89, political leader and diplomat in the American Revolution, b. Groton, Conn. A lawyer and merchant at Wethersfield, Conn., he was elected (1772) to the state assembly and became a leader in the revolutionary cause. He was (1774–76) a delegate to the Continental Congress, which sent (1776) him as diplomatic agent to France. There Deane worked with Pierre de BeaumarchaisBeaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de
, 1732–99, French dramatist. Originally a watchmaker, he rose to wealth and position among the nobility. His two successful comedies were Le Barbier de Séville (1775), the basis of an opera by Rossini, and
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 in securing commercial and military aid for the colonies, obtaining supplies that were of material help in the Saratoga campaign (1777). He recruited a number of foreign officers, such as the marquis de Lafayette, Casimir Pulaski, Baron von Steuben, and Johann De Kalb. Late in 1776, Congress sent Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee to join Deane. Together they arranged (1778) a commercial and military alliance with France. Deane, however, was soon recalled by Congress and was faced with accusations of profiteering made against him by Lee. Embittered, unable to clear himself, and accused as a traitor after publication of some pessimistic private letters, Deane lived the rest of his life in exile. In 1842 Congress voted $37,000 to his heirs as restitution and characterized Lee's audit of Deane's accounts "a gross injustice."

Bibliography

See C. Isham, ed., The Deane Papers, 1774–1790 (5 vol., 1887–91); biography by G. L. Clark (1913).

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Deane, Silas

(1737–89) diplomat, legislator; born in Groton, Conn. He was the first diplomat sent abroad by the united colonies. He went to France in 1776 and managed to persuade the French government to send cargoes of military supplies to the colonies under the guise of a holding company. He also obtained the services of Europeans such as Lafayette, Johann Kalb, Casimir Pulaski, and Baron von Steuben. In concert with Arthur Lee and Benjamin Franklin, he negotiated and signed two treaties with France (1778). Following this triumph, he was recalled to America after insinuations of disloyalty and embezzlement were made against him. Lacking documentary proof of his transactions, he went back to Europe. He became embittered and advocated reconciliation with the British. After the American Revolution he lived as an impoverished exile in Belgium and then London. In 1842, Congress reexamined the evidence in his case and made restitution of $37,000 to his heirs.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.