Silas Deane House and the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum
This historic home was the residence of Silas Deane, a supporter of the American Revolution who joined Benjamin Franklin in his mission to secure assistance from France. Prior to this time, Deane was an attorney and Connecticut’s delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774. The home is now part of a complex of historic homes that are operated by the National Society of The Colonial Dames. Visitors can tour the Silas Deane House along with several other historic homes and buildings within the state's largest historic district.
Backstory and Context
In 1777, Deane's reputation came under suspicion when his colleague Arthur Lee accused him of misusing government money. Despite these accusations, Deane served alongside Franklin and Lee as an American representative at a 1778 ceremony with French King Louis XVI, celebrating the successfully forged French-American alliance. Several months later, Deane returned to the United States, where he had to answer to the accusations about his finances. Though he tried to defend himself, he faced considerable hostility from Lee and his supporters, including famous patriot Thomas Paine, who denounced Deane as unpatriotic.
Meanwhile, Deane was struggling financially because he had been counting on Congress to reimburse him for work expenses while in France. Although Congress ordered an auditor to assess what was owed Deane, the audit progressed extremely slowly. Deane traveled back to France, and then to Belgium and London, where he received a visit from an old friend, Benedict Arnold. By this point, Arnold had already been exposed as a traitor. Deane's meeting with him further alienated him from Americans, even his former supporters. As his financial position and reputation declined, so did his health. In 1789, he set sail back to the United States but died only four hours after leaving the shore.
In 1841, the audit was finally complete, and Congress granted $37,000 to Deane's descendants.
Deane, Silas, and Charles Isham. The Deane Papers ... 1782-1790. Vol. 5. New York, NY: New York Historical Society, 1887.
Drury, David. "The Rise and Fall of Silas Deane, American Patriot." Connecticut History. Accessed February 19, 2017. https://connecticuthistory.org/the-rise-and-fall-of-silas-deane-american-patriot/.
James, Coy Hilton. Silas Deane, Patriot or Traitor? East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1975.
Morton, Brian, and Donald Spinelli. Beaumarchais and the American Revolution. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003. p. 334.
"Silas Deane House." Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum. Accessed February 19, 2017. http://webb-deane-stevens.org/historic-houses-barns/silas-deane-house/.