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    Commodore Hull informs "Mad Jack" Percival of an assignment where Percival would command the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Hawaii

    Isaac Hull Autograph Letter Signed "I. Hull." Two bifolium pages, 7.75" x 9.5", Baltimore, September 14 [1823], with integral address leaf with red "BALTIMORE SEP 15? cancellation and addressed in his hand to Lt. John Percival (1779-1862) in Boston. Hull (1773-1843) was the celebrated American naval officer best remembered for the defeat of the HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812 while commanding the USS Constitution. Hurriedly preparing to leave for New Haven for a last-minute visit before assuming command of the Pacific Squadron, Hull gives Percival in this letter advance notice of Percival's assignment to the USS United States, cautioning him not to report for duty until he receives official word from the Department of the Navy: "I have this moment arrived here from Washington and take the boat in half an hour for New York & Connecticut- I have therefore only time to say that you will be ordered to the [USS] United States shortly-" Hull requests that Percival not arrive for duty "until you get your orders. You could then make your arrangements. I shall be at New Haven & shall write you from there. [Lt. William K.] Lattimer I wrote. Paulding & Talman[?] will go out in the ship unless the announcement is changed. You need not say anything about your being ordered to the ship." In a postscript, Hull adds: "Tell John Bate to write me at Newhaven as soon as he can." Minor partial separations at expected folds, else very good. Address panel bears an inscription vertically along the left margin from noted Massachusetts antiquarian and author Frederick F. HASSAM: "Letter & Signature of Isaac Hull from the collection of Fredk. F. Hassam, Antiquarian, Presented to Genl. Carrington June 1890, with fraternal love! Frek. F. Hassam" with Hassam's personal stamp at bottom left. Ex Allyn K. Ford Collection.

    Hull's cautioning of Lieutenant Percival to refrain from reporting for duty prior to receiving formal notice appears to have been made for political considerations. Hull had first met John Percival in 1816 at the Charles Town Navy Yard near Boston and the two struck up a fast friendship. Hull, a Republican, had numerous Federalist enemies in Massachusetts, including War of 1812 hero William Bainbridge who was in command of the yard until 1815 when he was ordered to the Mediterranean. Bainbridge assumed he would regain his command of the yard upon his return, was dismayed when Hull did not relinquish it. A simmering feud ensued which culminated in accusations of corruption on Hull's part that resulted in a series of trials in the early 1820s. Although vindicated in the end, Hull, embittered by his treatment at the hands of his fellow officers, decided to leave Boston obtaining a transfer to command the Pacific Squadron.

    Hull turned over command of the Charles Town Navy Yard to William Bainbridge in August 1823. Soon afterwards, Bainbridge suggested that Percival transfer from the Charles Town Navy Yard. When Percival pressed the commodore for his reasons, Bainbridge alluded vaguely to Percival's testimony in favor of Hull during one of the corruption trials. As early as July 1823, Hull lobbied the Secretary of the Navy to appoint Percival to a command in the Pacific Squadron, but the initial application was turned down. Hull persisted and landed Percival a post on the squadron's flagship, the USS United States. In his caution to Percival, Hull may have wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism toward his loyal supporter, and deny Bainbridge any opportunity to sabotage the appointment. Although Bainbridge clearly wanted Percival to depart, he had no interest in seeing the lieutenant advance his career.

    Percival and Hull sailed aboard the USS United States from Norfolk on 5 January 1824, spending the next several years cruising the west coast of South America - an important mission following the recent promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in December 1823. The tiny squadron was charged with protecting American shipping along the west coast of South America as the Chilean and Peruvian rebellions against Spain gathered momentum. The Navy Department directed Hull that if it became practicable to leave the coasts of Chile and Peru, the squadron should visit the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) as well as the mouth of the Columbia River.

    In the autumn of 1825, Hull placed Percival in command of the USS Dolphin tasking him with the capture of mutineers from an American whaling ship. During his mission he stopped in Hawaii, becoming the first American naval officer to visit the islands. Unhappy with recently enacted vice laws restricting the sale of alcohol and the taking of local women aboard sailing vessels, Lt. Percival threatened to use force unless his crew was made exempt. Queen Kaahumanu resisted, and a few days later, a mob, including members of his crew, staged a riot attacking the Queen's residence and the home of the most prominent missionary on the island. Although Percival personally intervened to prevent further violence and punished his crewmen for their transgressions, he continued to press his case, threatening to remain in Hawaii until his demands were met. Kaahumanu, eager to be rid of the American seamen, acquiesced and allowed local women to visit the Dolphin by canoe for a party that appears to have satisfied Percival and his lonely crew. The United States disavowed Percival's actions, sending a formal envoy to the Hawaiian court to smooth things over and establish formal diplomatic relations.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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