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    [Andrew Jackson]. Archive of Ten Letters by Mary Coffee, Including Two with Free Franks Signed by President Jackson. The two free franks, dated December 23, 1832, and February 10, 1833, are written from Washington and read, "Free Andrew Jackson". All letters are dated between August 1829 and February 1833, during President Jackson's first term, with news and descriptions from inside White House, shortly before Jackson's second inauguration. Some of these letters are written from Tennessee and contain information about President Jackson's visits there. All letters are written from the perspective of Mary Coffee, the daughter of John Coffee, one of the president's oldest and closest friends.

    Chronologically, the first four letters in the archive were written from Nashville, Tennessee, between 1829 and 1831, and are addressed to either Mary Coffee's father or her mother, Mary Donelson Coffee. In these letters, Mary, still a teenager, communicates family news, which includes details of her Uncle Andrew Jackson, whom she often simply called "Uncle". The letters also contain content on Andrew Jackson, Jr., and Mary's Aunt Emily Donelson, the official White House hostess. In the first letter, dated August 7, 1829, Mary writes to her father of the president's health during one of his visits to Tennessee, "Cousin Andrew Jackson [Jr.] is here at present. Says he left all well in Washington. Uncle[']s [President Jackson] health is much better." Mary was often concerned about her uncle's health, with good reason since he suffered from ill health throughout most of his presidency. During another Tennessee visit in August 1830, the family was concerned that he would not recover from a "violent attack": "Uncle is now in Franklin on his return he will start to Washington in a day or two. I believe it is decided that Aunt Emily will stay until Winter although to tell the truth I believe it is much against her inclination to do so, unless Uncle Andrew would stay too. His health not being very good, he had a very violent attack of billiosis collick a few days ago. Indeed it was so violent we did not expect he would survive it."

    Mary had a close relationship with her aunt, Emily Donelson, the niece of Andrew and Rachel Jackson and the wife of Andrew Jackson Donelson. (Andrew J. Donelson had grown up under the guardianship of Andrew and Rachel Jackson after his father, Samuel Donelson, the brother of Rachel, died in 1805. A favorite of Andrew Jackson, the young Donelson entered West Point in 1817 and married Emily in 1824.) After Jackson was elected president and Rachel had died, Emily and Andrew Donelson moved to the White House where she served as the White House hostess and he served as President Jackson's private secretary. Throughout most of his presidency, Jackson and the Donelsons were very close. When the president visited Tennessee in March 1831, "Aunt Emily", as Mary called her, visited also, though often arriving at separate times: "Aunt Emily was down here a few days ago she expects Uncle Andrew about the 16 or 17th of this month, but she does not know whether they will go immediately on." A few days later, Mary reports in another letter that the president had arrived: "Uncle Andrew arrived here a few days since from Washington. He said he expected to start about the 15th of April but he had not since Aunt Emily and I had not time to ask him many questions but as soon as it is finally determined I will write you. Uncle Andrew tells me that Pa is going down in the Indian Country."

    In the remaining six letters in the archive, dated December 1832 through February 1833, Mary writes from President Jackson's White House during her visit for his second inauguration in March 1833. In these letters, she describes a White House full of activities, including parties, balls attended by dignitaries, visits to senate debates, and a constant flow of people coming to the White House and thoughtlessly taking President Jackson's time: "I am certain that he has very few moments of perfect ease, constantly harassed either with business or company. People come here who have nothing to do, and seem to think that the President has nothing else to do but listen to them. He never gets to bed before eleven o clock. His health however has been very good until yesterday and to day he is complaining a good deal about a very severe cold. . . . Uncle has not been well . . . he would however not have time to think of it he is kept so constantly employed never a moment he can call his own except the few hours he devotes to sleep and they are sometimes terribly broken through. People come here sometimes who think the President has nothing to do but entertain them. People whose heads, as Uncle says, contain no more brains than a pins head."

    Mary also noted, in a December 1832 letter, other unpleasantness in Jackson's White House: "I like Washington so far very well but I like home better. My situation in some respects is a very pleasant one. Uncle and Aunt Emily are very kind to me, but it is rather disagreeable in another. Cousin Mary [McLemore] and Aunt cannot agree. Cousin Mary will never do anything Aunt asks her to do. . . . there is seldom a day passes in perfect harmony. I am very glad that Uncle does not know this for I am sure it would make him uneasy."

    The constant parties, dinners, and unexpected guests took their toll on Mary: "We have a very tiresome time of it here nothing but balls and parties, visiting and receiving visits, one soon gets tired of it. . . . We have large dinners twice a week at the Presidents house as stiff and ceremonious as possible." Some dinners, though, were more memorable, such as one describe in a January 1833 letter: "We have had a very amusing dinner to day given to the Indians. There was about 20 of them I suppose. They were very much pleased from their looks, however we cannot always judge of an Indians feelings by his looks or white peoples either if they are all like the good people of Washington."

    Coinciding with Mary's visit to Washington was the senate's momentous debate over South Carolina's nullification of federal law. As the senators assembled in the capital, Mary attended some of the spectacle. In a February 1833 letter, she reports on two of the main adversaries in the debate, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster: "The two great opponent[s] Calhoun and Webster are each anxious for the other to speak first." She preferred Webster, whom she liked "very much": "He is very dignified, very graceful, and one of the finest looking me I ever saw." Mr. Calhoun, though, "is not a fine looking man, no far from it. He looks more like his Satanic Majesty when he gets into one of his violent passions, as he always does when he speaks himself." The senate's "great debate", Mary wrote, consumed Washington: "The Washington world is in a perfect hubbub about the great debate that is now going on in Congress. Nothing else is heard of, or thought of. The senate chamber is crowded every day with ladies. I went up yesterday to hear Mr. Clay speak."

    In the last letter of the archive, written only days before Jackson's second inauguration, Mary found time in her busy schedule for the "gratification of satisfying [her] curiosity" by meeting John Randolph of Roanoke. "He called to see the President and Aunt Emily and I dropped in as if by accident to see him. It was the first time he had ever called to see a President. . . . He is a very singular looking creature." Mary planned to return home on the day after the March 4, 1833, inauguration. Already a part of President Jackson's family, she later married Andrew Jackson Hutchings, the son of one of Jackson's earliest business partners, John Hutchings. (After John died in 1817, Andrew and Rachel Jackson had become guardians of Andrew J. Hutchings.) Mary died in 1839.

    Condition: Some letters contain tears near their original seals. The December free frank has two tears resulting in paper loss (missing are the "rew" from "Andrew" and "so" from "Jackson"). The February free frank has a tear through the "n" in "Andrew"; some paper loss and fold-separation exist above the signature. Overall, this historically important archive is in very good condition.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2017
    11th Thursday
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