Signer of the Declaration Samuel Huntington congratulates the French Foreign Minister on "the Important & glorious success of our combined forces..."Samuel Huntington Historic Draft Autograph Letter (unsigned), 1.5 pages, 8" x 13.25". Norwich [Connecticut], November 7, 1781. Docketed by Huntington "Copy of letter to/the Minister of France/Novr 7th 1781." With corrections and additions; words crossed out are in brackets. In full:
"I cannot deny myself the pleasure of Congratulating you on the Important & Glorious Success of our Combined Forces in the compleat Capture of Ld Cornwallis and all his Army. [I am truly charmed with] The conduct of Count de Grasse so far as [it] hath come to my knowledge charms me; his drupping the British fleet sufficient to [Convince] teach them [they might not & could] to keep at due distance & not [until the Cheasapeake or] again attempt to Interrupt the siege, & at the same time not Suffering himself to be too far diverted from his first & main object, Evinces that he possesd Tallents & accomplishments equal to his Station worthy of so Important Command in the Navy. May our Successes this Campaign be in proportion to the Generous & imparalled aids [which these United States have] receivd from his most Christian and proved Eventually productive of the happiest Consequences to [France and America] the perpetual advantage of both nations. I have the honour to be &c"
On laid paper watermarked "I Taylor." Thin mounting strip at right edge on second page. Minor chipping at lower right edge. With ink burn occurring in Huntington's straight line cross-out of 'the Cheasap" resulting in a narrow strip of paper loss. Show-through because of dark ink does not affect legibility at all.
Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes (1717-1787), served as Foreign Minister of France under King Louis XVI from 1774 until his death. On February 6, 1778, de Vergennes and U.S. commissioners Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and Silas Deane signed a Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France. The Treaty of Alliance contained the provisions the U.S. commissioners had originally requested, and also included a clause forbidding either country to make a separate peace with Great Britain, as well as a secret clause allowing for Spain, or other European powers, to enter into the alliance.
Declaration Signer Samuel Huntington was the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the nation's first constitution. He retired on July 6, 1781, and returned to his home in Norwich, Connecticut, from where he wrote this letter four short months later.
General George Washington and his French allies were planning a move against British occupied New York City in May 1781 when news came from General Lafayette of the possibility of attacking and trapping General Lord Cornwallis in Virginia. The British commander had moved his 7,000 troops to the Chesapeake in order to link up with supplies and reinforcements on the way from the Royal Navy. But Washington had his own powerful naval weapon (as Huntington notes in this letter): Admiral J.P. Comte De Grasse. The arrival of 29 French warships and 3,000 troops off the coast of Virginia on August 26, 1781 was crucial to victory. De Grasse defeated a British squadron under British Admiral Thomas Graves in the Battle of the Chesapeake, leaving Cornwallis without reinforcements or supplies. The combined British and Hessian forces were trapped, their escape routes blocked on the sea by Admiral De Grasse and on land by Generals Washington, Lafayette, and Rochambeau. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington. French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes served as the chief French representative at the peace negotiations between Great Britain and the United States, France, and Spain which resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1783 formally ending the Revolutionary War.
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