Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2013 Issue

American Manuscripts from the William Reese Company

Hanmc

John Hancock relays some tragic news.

Here is another letter from a signer of the Declaration of Independence to his wife. This one comes from the man with the most famous of signatures, John Hancock. Hancock generally wrote affectionate letters back home, but this is a brief one, requesting the relaying of a very sad message. Hancock requests his wife Dolly send their servant, Harry, quickly to Captain McPherson to tell him that his son was killed in action. The letter was probably written in early January, 1776, and referred to actions in Quebec at the time. Hancock also notes that General Montgomery has died. Hancock enclosed a letter for Capt. McPherson and requests that Harry be sent on horseback, rather than carriage, to speed its delivery. Item 15. $9,000.

Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were bitter opponents during the 1820s. In the election of 1824, Jackson had the most votes in the four-way race, but Henry Clay threw his support to Adams, enabling the latter to prevail in Congress. Jackson believed Clay supported Adams as a result of a “corrupt bargain,” whereby Adams supposedly promised him the position of Secretary of State. In the election of 1828, charges flew between the candidates and their supporters, with Jackson emerging victorious the second time around. Item 3 is a letter from Adams from 1832 to his friend Robert Walsh, Jr. It discusses several issues of the day, including federal assumption of state debts, the national bank, and the very contentious issue of tariffs, over which South Carolina almost seceded. Adams agrees with Jackson on the issue of assumption of state debts, though he is only able to refer to him as “my successor.” In an indication of the lingering hard feelings, Adams writes that “much as he has wrong'd me, he shall receive from me no wrong.” $8,500.

Item 18 is a letter from President Jefferson giving some pecans to British Ambassador David Erskine (the pecans are no longer present!). This may not sound like much of a gift from a president, but the intention was not to provide the ambassador with some snacks to put in a bowl. These were meant to be grown. Jefferson intended for Erskine to convey the pecans to his father back in England. England may not sound like pecan country, but Jefferson assures, “They bear our climate to the northward of this where the degree of cold is much greater than in the middle parts of England.” The letter is from 1807, and the U.S. and England were hardly on the best of terms, what with impressment of American seamen and all, but Erskine was more pro-American in his views than most of his countrymen and Jefferson appreciated his attitude. $19,000.

The William Reese Company may be reached at 203-789-8081 or amorder@reeseco.com. Their website is www.reeseco.com.

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