Francis Lewis – The Only Hope Britain Has Left Is To Divide Us

My Notes

The first quote below is a letter written by Francis Lewis to George Clinton, the first Governor of New York. Mr. Lewis expresses “great news received from Europe but for reasons of State, think it improper at this time to be devulged”. The headline to the letter states that the good news is improved relations with France which help strengthen the military position of the United States. Upon this strengthened relationship, Mr. Lewis gives a call for unanimity, “for the only hope Britain has now left, is to divide us.”

This letter seems to be typical of Mr. Lewis’ writings. I have not found any great works of philosophy by him but he was certainly a man of action. I found a couple of other writings where he is instrumental in securing munitions and supplies for the military.

The second letter below is actually from Benjamin Franklin to Mr. Lewis. He is responding to an earlier letter from Francis Lewis. I find it interesting that Mr. Franklin is willing to cover the bill for items that were “drawn for public service.” Again, I see Mr. Lewis having great influence to get needed supplies for the military when it was needed.

Looking at Mr. Lewis’ picture I would want to be in agreement with that strong face and noble chin. If he requested anything of me, I would most likely say, “Yes Sir! Right away Sir! Whatever you say Sir!”

Quotes I like from Francis Lewis

Francis Lewis Reports Closer Relations on the Part of France Carrying a Strong Moral Effect
Phila. 20th Febry. 1779.   

   Dear Sir, I have been honoured with your letter of the 1st Instant.
   You will undoubtedly ere this reaches you hear the current bruit of the present time, i.e. that Congress are possessed of great news received from Europe but for reasons of State, think it improper at this time to be devulged; this has raised the curiosity of the public to know what the mighty Secret is. As a member of Congress I am enjoined to Secrecy, but think myself at liberty to communicate to your Excellency (in confidence) that Mons’r Gerrard has given Congress such intelligence as will put our affairs upon a more respectable footing than ever, but then it will be necessary that we exert ourselves in our military appearances, but above all in our unanimity, for the only hope Britain has now left, is to divide us.
   The Rumor has this good effect, that Engrossers & monopolizers are at a stand, many offer goods for Sale, but few choose to buy, so that goods fall in price, and our money appreciate; the Express waiting obliges me to conclude. Your Excellency’s most Obed’t Humble Servant

Fra. Lewis.   

State Of New York. Public papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777-1795, 1801-1804. James B. Lyon State Printer. 1900
Passy 16 May 1781   

   I received the letter you did me the honor of writing to me the 1st of January. The bill for four thousand four hundred and forty four Mexican dollars, which you remitted to Mr. Schweighauser, being refused payment by Mr. Jay, for want of a regular endorsement by Mr. Laurens, in whose favor it was drawn, and which endorsement could not now be obtained, Mr. Schweighauser applied to me, informing me, that he should not send the things ordered by your Board, unless the bill was paid; and it appearing on the face of the bill, that it was drawn for public service, I concluded to take it up, on which he has purchased the things and shipped them. Colonel Laurens has put on board some other supplies for the army, and I suppose the vessel will now sail directly.
   The drafts from Congress upon me for various services, and those on Mr. Jay and Mr. Laurens, all coming upon me for payment, together with the expenses on the ships, &c. &c., have made it impracticable for me to advance more for loading the Active; but as we have obtained lately promises of a considerable aid for this year, I shall now try what I can do, as the money comes in, towards supplying what is demanded in the invoice you mention. You will receive, I hope, twenty eight cannon, and a large quantity of powder and salt-petre by the ship Marquis de Lafayette. I have, by several opportunities, written in answer to your questions relative to the ship Alliance. I have the honor to be, &c.

B. Franklin   
P.S. Please to present my respects to the Board.

Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks. The Works Of Benjamin Franklin: Containing Several Political And Historical Tracts Not Included In Any Former Ed., And Many Letters Official And Private, Not Hitherto Published; With Notes And A Life Of The Author, Volume 9. Hillard, Gray, and Company. 1839

Brief Biography

Francis Lewis, a Delegate from New York; born in Llandaff, Wales, March 21, 1713; attended Westminster School, London; entered the countinghouse of a London merchant; immigrated to the United States in 1735 and established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia; secured a contract to clothe the British Army in America in 1753; participated in the French and Indian War as an aide to General Mercer; was captured in Oswego, N.Y., and taken as a prisoner to France; on his return the colonial government gave him 5,000 acres of land in recognition of his services; delegate in the Stamp Act Congress that met in New York City in 1765; retired from business in 1765 and located in Whitestone, Long Island, N.Y.; Member of the Continental Congress 1775-1779; was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; delegate to the provincial convention in 1775; member of the Committee of One Hundred in 1775; served in the Provincial Congress in 1776 and 1777; commissioner of the board of admiralty in 1779; died in New York City on December 30, 1803; interment in Trinity Churchyard.

1 Comment

  1. Francis Lewis was staunch supporter of the Liberal branch of the New York rebel parties. One fascinating event that is spoken of in his biography by his granddaughter is that during the French and Indian war at Fort Otswego he was captured by the Native ‘Americans’ and the French under the Marquis de Montcalm. Well Lewis was a speaker of the Welsh branch of the Celtic languages. (Actually he spoke Gaelic, the other branch as well) It seems the fact that he spoke Welsh out loud and his ‘Indian’ captives understood him. Both he and the Indians were amazed! Apparently this might have saved his life and contributed to the belief in The pre-Columbus voyage of the Welsh Prince Madoc! As unlikely as this seems when the good Christian and Mason, Francis Lewis passed to Heaven, George Washington in eulogy ended by calling Francis Lewis “A Right and Prudent Whig.” Can that be said of you?