Silas Deane
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The Story

The decline and fall of Silas Deane

Arthur Lee, who unlike Deane came from an established and powerful Virginia family, seems to have taken a personal dislike of Deane and accused him of making personal financial gains while assigned to work on behalf of the colonies. Deane was recalled by Congress to Philadelphia, but never was given a hearing. His records were seized by the French and not released for him to use to exonerate himself, since they revealed France's involvement in the war prior to their official alliance with the colonists against Great Britain. In the end, those alleged financial gains were not at all lucrative, since Deane found himself bankrupt during the last twelve years of his life.

John Adams, who was considered above reproach in the public eye, replaced Deane in France. It is worth noting that while there both Deane and Adams had contact with a spy named Bancroft, who sold them information. What neither knew was that Bancroft was also working on behalf of the British as a double agent.

Still impoverished and living in self-imposed exile in Europe, Deane's reputation at home was further tarnished when some letters he had written in a state of depression advocating possible reconciliation with Britain were published in a loyalist New York newspaper after the defeat of Cornwallis in September 1781. Sadder still, Deane's relationship with his Webb stepchildren and even his own son had soured, mostly over money. Eventually he made plans to recoup his fortunes, and in 1789 booked passage from England. However, before his ship set sail Deane took ill and died. He is buried in Deal, England. Some historians have theorized that his mysterious death was no coincidence, and can be connected back to the double agent Bancroft, who might have been exposed by Deane's potential testimony.

Silas Deane was never found guilty of Arthur Lee's accusations. His granddaughter Philura through her husband pressed his case before Congress, and his family was eventually paid a lump sum apology payment about fifty years after his death. Without these financial problems, the public respect of a figure like John Adams, and accusation from a prominent Virginian, perhaps Silas Deane would still be in the history books.




Who was Silas

Silas Deane's
life and times

Silas Deane and
the Continental

Silas Deane's
decline and fall

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