Francis Dana in St. Petersburg U.S. Department of Seal
Department of State

American diplomacy during the War for Independence was short on financial and military assets and long on optimism. This was particularly true of Francis Dana's mission to Russia. In 1781 the Continental Congress sent Francis Dana, John Adams' private secretary in Paris, to the Court of Catherine II at St. Petersburg to convince Russia to recognize American independence, sign a commercial treaty, and allow the United States to join the League of Armed Neutrality. Catherine II was the moving force behind the League, which was formed in 1780 to protect the rights of neutrals to trade with belligerents in the war pitting the United States, the Netherlands, Spain, and France against Great Britain. The British were determined to use their naval power to prevent neutrals from trading with Americans or their other enemies. It is a measure of the naiveté of the Congress that it hoped that Catherine would sponsor American membership in her league of neutrals, given that America was one of the principal belligerents. The belief that Russia, which wished to act as a mediator between Britain and the 13 States, would recognize American independence proved equally unfounded. Dana, lonely and unable to speak French or Russian, spent almost 2 years in St. Petersburg, accomplishing little.