Columbia Library columns (v.15(1965Nov-1966May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



Jump to page:

Table of Contents

  v.15,no.1(1965:Nov): Page 4  

4                                  Richard B, Morris

The average person, although exposed on some four or five
levels in the school system to courses in American liistory, has
only the foggiest notion of undercover operations during the
War for Independence. Of course, he knows of Nathan Hale's
martyrdom and that iMajor Andre was executed as a spy, a role
for which lie technically quahfied. A reading of James Fenimore
Cooper's Spy sheds some light on the espionage operation that
Patriot John Jay ran in New York before he left his home state
for greater duties at Philadelphia and Adadrid. Those who are
somewhat better informed may have known how a double agent,
in tlie person of the American turncoat Dr. Edward Bancroft, had
penetrated the secrets of tlie American mission to France and
sent back to the British items about supplies and ship sailings that
he had pickxd up at Benjamin Franklin's residence at Passy. The
history texts will give him little more.

There is a large and fascinating story still to l)e told, however,
and so far we have had only little pieces of it. In my recent book,
The Peacemakers, the first monograph to come out of the John
Jay Papers project, I ha\'e had occasion to dwell upon the espio¬
nage which accompanied the diplomatic negotiations that ended
the American Revolution. Assisted in some cases by clues offered
by the Donovan Collection, I ha\e traced the labored efforts of
the French Foreign Ministry to obtain documentary evidence of
Spain's double-crossing tactics in negotiating for peace with the
Britisli behind Louis X VI's back. I have also revealed how France's
Foreign Minister, the magisterial Comte de Vergennes, went to
great lengths to secure through espionage agents incriminating
documents that would prove that Jacques Necker, France's
Director General of Finances, was making covert appeasement
moves toward the British ministry. How a British double agent
was used by some one high up in British government circles to
frame the anti-administration leaders, Lord Shelburne and the
Duke of Richmond, is revealed by a study of intelhgence
correspondence, and how a counterintelligence agent sought to
mislead the French and their Dutch ally regarding British naval
  v.15,no.1(1965:Nov): Page 4