Description

    Edmund Randolph writes to John Quincy Adams Important Manuscript Letter Signed: "Edm. Randolph", one page, 7.75" x 9.75", Department of State, August 14, 1795. In full: "I do myself the honor of repeating to you by way of London my letter of the 21st ultimo, relative to the late treaty between the United States and Great Britain. Since that time, the President has resolved upon his final measures; and has thought proper to use you, as the agent in their execution. You will therefore be pleased to repair without any delay to London, where you will find instructions and other documents for your information and guide. You will take care to observe the attentions, which are usual upon a temporary absence; and to obviate any impressions, if such should arise, which may be made by your going to London; situated as the English and Dutch now are towards one another - Money will be placed in London for your supplies on this mission; and for those expenses, which for the sake of expedition and fidelity, you will incur in messengers &c. For the time of your absence, you will commit the affairs of the United States to the charge of your Secretary. I have the honor, Sir, to be, with great respect and esteem, your most obedient servant." Marked "Triplicate" on top by Randolph. Duplicate and, if the letter was important, triplicate copies would be written and sent overseas on different ships, especially in time of war. If a ship was sunk or captured, the copy would still reach its destination. This letter went by ship from Philadelphia to the Netherlands.

    The first Attorney General of the United States (1789-1794), Edmund Randolph left that post to succeed Thomas Jefferson as Washington's Secretary of State on January 2, 1794. 28-year-old John Quincy Adams, son of then-Vice President John Adams, had been appointed in 1794 as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands. The "late treaty between the United States and Great Britain"referred to by Randolph is known as the Jay Treaty. President Washington had sent Chief Justice John Jay to London to meet with British leaders to discuss problems which were not resolved by the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War. By the provisions of the Jay Treaty, the British agreed to vacate a number of forts they still occupied on U.S. territory in the Great Lakes region and to compensate American ship owners whose goods and ships were confiscated during the war. In return, the Americans gave most favored nation trading status to the British. There were other issues the treaty didn't deal with such as the impressment of U.S. sailors, which became one of the causes of the War of 1812.

    On August 14, 1795, the very day this letter was written, President Washington signed the ratification of the Jay Treaty. He then told his Secretary of State to write to John Quincy Adams that "the President has resolved upon his final measures, and has thought proper to use you as the agent in their execution." At the time, Great Britain was at war with France. France had seized the Netherlands in early 1795 and established the Batavian Republic, and William V of Orange, the last Dutch stadtholder, had fled to England, so Secretary of State Randolph instructed Adams to "obviate any impressions, if such should arise, which may be made by your going to London." Adams must make sure that it is known that his trip to London concerns the Jay Treaty and has nothing to do with British-Dutch foreign affairs.

    On another matter, five days after Randolph wrote this letter, President Washington, in the presence of Secretary of War Timothy Pickering and Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr., presented Randolph with a captured dispatch from French Minister to the United States Joseph Fauchet, who had worked to oppose the Jay Treaty, which suggested that Randolph had solicited a bribe to oppose the treaty. Although Randolph denied the charges of bribery, an angry Washington forced his old friend to resign which he did the following day, just six days after writing this letter! With this action, a precedent was set. The Constitution empowers the President to nominate cabinet members with the advice and consent of the Senate; it says nothing, however, about his authority to dismiss appointees. For the first time, the President dismissed a member of his cabinet. A truly remarkable letter of historic importance in very fine condition. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2006
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
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