By Ken Daigler - Posted at the Journal of the American Revolution:
On September 26, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed an official Commission to France. Itwas composed of Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee. The Paris Commission, America’s first diplomatic mission abroad, opened in late December of 1776. Franklin was its de facto head of mission, and it was located in the Hotel de Valentinois, in the Paris suburb of Passy.
Obviously, its personnel, and its mission of seeking French assistance and eventual formal alliance, were of significant interest to the British Government and its intelligence organizations. In France, British intelligence collection was directed by Lord Stormont, its Ambassador to the French Government, and its capabilities were extensive. For most of the war Britain had the Commission thoroughly penetrated with reporting agents, including the Commission’s private secretary Dr. Edward Bancroft.
Where the Reverent John Vardill comes into the picture is not in France but rather in London, where his job was to recruit American seamen whom he could then direct to the Paris Commission for employment in arranging shipments of military supplies, funds and Commission communications back to the Continental Congress and army.
Read more here.