Arthur Lee

The First American in Spain

[object Object]

Arthur Lee was a medical doctor from Virginia, commissioned in 1777 to solicit the support of Spain, France, and Prussia for the North American Revolution.\n\nOn November 29, 1775, the Continental Congress created the Committee of Secret Correspondence, initially composed of John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Jay, Thomas Johnson, and Robert Morris. Its purpose was to manage foreign affairs, including intelligence gathering and the secret acquisition of arms through intermediaries, via ships sailing under a foreign flag. The committee sent Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin to France in 1776 and John Jay to Spain in 1778, in order to forge alliances with the Bourbons and to arrange for the delivery of weapons, military equipment, and cash in support of the war.\n\nLee was born in Stratford, Virginia, in 1740. In 1764, he moved to Great Britain to pursue his studies, first at Eton and then in Edinburgh, where he was graduated with a degree in medicine. He studied and subsequently practiced law in London between 1770 and 1776. When the American Revolution broke out, he immediately declared his support for independence. The Continental Congress appointed him envoy to the Kingdom of Prussia, where he was unable to garner any support for the war effort, and then to the Kingdom of Spain. _\n\nSince Spain had not yet declared war on England and was concerned about ruffling diplomatic feathers, Lee was not authorized to enter Madrid. Instead, he met with the former prime minister, the Marquis of Grimaldi, and with Diego de Gardoqui in Vitoria. During those meetings, held in March, 1777, Spain agreed to provide 24,000 muskets and 30,000 blankets, as well as white and blue cloth for rebel uniforms, all of which would be sent, secretly, on private commercial vessels. The shipments were repeated the following year.\n\nUpon his return to France, Lee became one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Alliance signed in 1778, although his relations with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, the other two American negotiators in Paris, were often frayed. He also acted as a spy in England, France, and Spain, gathering intelligence about the plans and maneuvers of the three warring countries. In 1780, he was replaced in Spain by John Jay, and in 1782 the Congress ordered his return home, where he served as Virginia delegate for several years. He never married and died childless in Urbanna, Virginia, in 1792.

José Manuel Guerrero Acosta
La Habana George Washington Arthur Lee Fernando de Leyba Marblehead John Jay Bilbao Oliver Pollock El Conde de Aranda José Solano y Bote El Conde de Floridablanca México Francisco de Miranda Nueva Orleans José Antonio George Farragut Pensacola Bernardo de Gálvez Mobile Juan Miralles San Luis Bárbara de Arias Macharaviaya Diego Gardoqui Nueva York