Description

    Signed by three Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Members of the Secret Committee

    Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Autograph Letter Signed, "Richard Henry Lee" also signed by fellow Signers Francis Lewis, "Fra: Lewis" and William Whipple "Wm. Whipple" all as members of the Secret Committee, three pages, 8.5" x 13.25", Baltimore, February 6, 1777 to an unknown recipient, possibly Robert Morris. An excellent content letter describing efforts to finance the ongoing Revolutionary War through trade with France and her Caribbean colonies. "...We have received your favor of the 31st Jan[uar]y. and have laid your reasons before Congress for not complying very quickly with the desire of Congress touching the amount of our exports & imports on their account... We find ourselves here under such inseparable difficulties in the right conduct of business whilst we remain without the books or a Clerk, that we must entreat you to loose [sic] no time in getting both here as soon as your necessary attention to other things will permit... since we came here, we have purchased a Ship and a Brig, both Prize Vessels, one of them carries about 600 h[ogs]h[ea]ds Tob[acc]o. and the other between three & four hundred, which we propose to load with Tobo. so soon as the Enemies ships in the Bay will permit us to move... We have agreed with Mr. Fitzsimmons for two thirds of his Brig, and we shall put on board about 80 hhds of Fish purchased here from a Prise [sic] on pretty reasonable terms... This Cargo, will follow your advice, and go to Mr. Curson, St Eustatia. Not that we mention Mr. Curson, we must inform you that we found a Brig here that was chartered by Messrs. Lewis Livingston & Alsop about 12 months ago and loaded at N. Yorke with 710 barrels of flour to be delivered to Mr. Curson. The Captain (on various pretences) went to... Hispanola & delivered the four to a Monsr. Croix who has acknowledged the receipt to Mr. Curson but the often promising remittance to him as not [been] made... The Capt. without any authority that we know, pretends he sold the Vessel likewise to Monsr. Croix -- The captt. & Vessel has since been in Monsr. Croix's employment to Old France, return to Hispaniola, and from thence came here in some business - Here we found him, his Vessel navigated with French men & with a French Captain, himself super Cargo - The Brig loaded with Flour from the sale of her Cargo here, and depts. dueto the amount of £2500 over & above her Cargo on board. All this transaction shews [sic] a wicked system of fraud between the Captain and Monsr. Corix - We laid the matter before Congress & the desired the Secret Committee to do therein what was just & for the public good - We have stopt the Vessel, & the Super Cargo is fled - The French Captain is clamorous & demands his Vessel! What is your opinion of the best to be done in this matter?..." Interestingly, a postscript notes that "We think the Inclosed Letter from Mr. B. Deane should be communicated to the Clother Genl. & he to issue his orders accordingly..."

    The Secret Committee was the first intelligence directorate for the United States. They dealt with a variety of issues and addressed all foreign affairs including arranging for trade to obtain military stores. They often used intermediaries to mask the fact that Congress was the purchaser of these supplies. One of those intermediaries was Samuel Curson at St. Eustatia who was a significant supplier of powder to the United States. This was a risky venture at best. In 1781, when the British captured St. Eustatia from the Dutch, Curson and his partner were arrested. Benjamin Franklin wrote from Paris, "...Mr. Samuel Curson and his Partner Mr. Isaac Governeur junr. after St. Eustatius was taken were put on board the Vengeance Man of War, Comdore. Hotham, to be sent to England stripped of every Thing but their wearing apparel, their Books, Papers & Slaves having been taken from them and Mrs. Governeur with a young Infant turned out of Doors. Special Severity, it is supposed, has been shewn to them in Consequence of their acting as Agents to Congress." Letters regarding foreign trade to finance military operations in the Revolutionary War are significant -- one signed by three Founding Fathers has tremendous verve attached. An incredible piece of history. Light dampstain at top left, usual folds, else very good. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.


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    Auction Dates
    February, 2006
    20th-21st Monday-Tuesday
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