Lord Brougham, in his sketch of the character of Mr. Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Loughborough, recently published, has unguardedly repeated a false report, respecting the signing of the treaty, which was circulated soon after that even but promptly refuted.
In alluding to Mr. Wedderburn's abusive speech against Dr. Franklin before the Privy Council, Lord Brougham says; "It is well known, that, when the ambassadors were met to sign the peace of Versailles, by which the independence of America was acknowledged, Franklin retired, in order to change his dress and affix his name to the treaty in those garments, which he wore when attending the Privy Council, and which he had kept by him for the purpose many years."
This statement is entirely erroneous. The report was fabricated in England, at a time when the treaty was a topic of vehement discussion; and it was eagerly seized upon to gratify the malevolence of a disappointed party.When it appeared in print, it was immediately contradicted by Mr. Whitefoord, who was present at the signing of the treaty, and affixed his name to it as the secretary to the English commissioner.
"This absurd story," says Mr. Whitefoord, has no foundation but in the imagination of the inventor. He supposes that the act of signing the peace took place at the house of Dr. Franklin. The fact is otherwise, the conferences were held, and the treaty was signed, at the hotel of the British commissioner, where Dr. Franklin and the other American commissioners gave their attendance for that purpose. The court of Versailles having at that time gone into mourning for the death of some German prince, the Doctor of course was dressed in a suit of black cloth; and it is in the recollection of the writer of this, and also he believes of many other people, that when the memorable philippic was pronounced against Dr. Franklin in the Privy Council, he was dressed in a suit of figured Manchester velvet."
See the whole of Mr. Whitefoord's letter in the Gentleman's Magazine, for July, 1785, p. 561. The error may have arisen from the circumstance, stated on the authority of Silas Deane and Edward Bancroft that, when the treaty of alliance between France and the United States was signed, Franklin was dressed in this suit of velvet. See Vol. IV. p. 453.