Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    A French Spy's Report on America Intercepted by Britain in 1756

    (French and Indian War) manuscript Letter, three pages, 8" x 12.5", [New York], January 12, 1756, a true copy of an intercepted letter addressed to the Duc de Mirepoix in Paris relating developments in North America in the early stages of the French and Indian (or Seven Years) War. This amazing piece of correspondence, from a spy for France who was based in New York, reports primarily upon recent German and "Irish" immigration into British North America and the likelihood they would fight for France. The preface notes that "The Original [intercepted letter] I have sent under Cover to Mr. John de Neufville Merchant at Amsterdam to be forwarded from New York & the Nightingale man of War, which I heard was soon to sail the Express to London." The text of the intercepted letter reads: "My Serjeants [sic] have within these three days Enlisted 600 Men my compliment is to be 15000 and if I should have Occasion I believe I could Raise 50,000 in Pensilvania [sic] Government only, for there has been Yearly vast Numbers of Germans imported from Holland, who are very Poor and wou[l]'d be glad to do any thing for a living as most of them are oblig'd to sell themselves to Pay their Passage thither; These People I am Persuaded, it wou'd be a Matter of Indifference to them (if they were paid) whom they Serv'd; wether [sic] the King of France or The King of England, and I know most of them wou'd from Principle rather choose to serve my Royal [sic] Master. There has also been from time to time, Transported from England, vast Numbers of Irish to Virginia and Philadelphia, for the Peopling The Kings Plantation most of these are of the true Roman Cathoick [sic] Faith. There has also been continually transported form England to the above Places, what they call Convicts, for Crimes committed there, for which they are Sold in Slavery for Seven years, some of these that I have happen'd to Speak to Have Profes[e]'d the true Cathoick Religion, but their Religion is much the same with most of the Hereitcks [sic] in this Country, who (by what I can perceive) mind no other than that of getting Money; and may be hir'd to do any thing. We have an Account here that a Body of Eleven hundred Indians had appear'd at Goshen & behav'd... very insolently that all the Country thereabout were in alarm, they were said to be Delawar[e] Indians, who always had profess'd themselves friends to the English -- But of late seem'd to be Wavering. Goshen is between New York and Albany up Hudsons River (call'd at New York) the North River) back of the Highlands, on the other side the River with New York at 60 miles from New York N.B. We've had the Winter hitherto very Moderate almost every day like Spring & can't hear of any Snow being fallin[g] yet to the Northward." An optimistic report based on vastly incorrect intelligence. The German and "Irish" immigrants to which the spy refers were almost entirely Protestant. The German settlers of Pennsylvania were mostly members of various Protestant sects; and the "Irish" were, in fact, mostly Scots-Irish, mostly Protestants as well. The Scots Irish settled on the Appalachian frontier and were directly threatened by Indian allies of the French. Even those who were Catholic had little reason to side with France as they did not experience a great deal of persecution in most of the American colonies, particularly in Pennsylvania. Even the spy's economic assumptions were flawed by the fact that indentured servants could just as easily escape their obligations by joining the militia to fight for Britain. Accompanied by a set of copies of another intercepted letter from the same correspondent now housed in the British Public Records Office. Provenance, Erik Von Scherling, Catalog 53, 1956. Light folds, a few pinholes, else Fine. Interesting, revelatory history articulating "might have been" assumptions. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2006
    20th-21st Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 775

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 39 days left to consign to the 2020 June 2 Taspen Ranch, Truckee CA Real Estate Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Thanks a million for getting approval to sell my Civil War Hospital Death Ledger! You made them AND ME , a nice profit. You are the best!
    Ed W.,
    Mount Vernon, OH
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2020 February 22 - 23 Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas
    2020 February 22 - 23 Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $2,349,427