Bancroft, Edward, 1744–1821, spy in the American Revolution, b. Westfield, Mass. He studied medicine and natural history, producing a book (1769) on Guiana's flora and fauna, a defense of the colonies in their controversy with Britain (1769), and an epistolary novel (1770). While living in London, he was elected (1773) to the Royal Society and set up a medical practice. There he became a friend and supporter of Benjamin Franklin and later acted as his aide in France. In the Revolution Bancroft began to operate as an American secret agent. He reported to the American commissioners in France, but, unknown to them, he was a double agent and reported their movements to the British. Bancroft in 1778 gave advance information of the Franco-American alliance to the British. Evidence of his duplicity was revealed by Paul L. Ford in 1891.
See biography by T. J. Schaeper (2011).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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