Offering a 2 pp, 6 ¼ x 8 ¼, ALS, Albany [New York] 9 March 1780, with superb content around the Revolutionary War, diplomat John Jay’s escape from the British while sailing to France, Vermont’s problems with the British and the its attempt to join the United States, paying government officers during a period of monetary depreciation and the departures of generals [John Morin] Scott and [Philip] Schuyler, who were heading to Philadelphia to join the Second Continental Congress.
Signed only with an initial, our writer doesn’t mention the recipient’s name but his reference to him as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780, points to Robert R. Livingston as the recipient. Livingston was chancellor of New York and member of the Committee of Five who drafted the Declaration of Independence, though he didn’t contribute to the draft. His contemporaries Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Roger Sherman, served with him on the committee.
Livingston supported the Declaration of Independence and helped arrange for the military defense of New York. With John Jay and Gouveneur Morris, he drafted the New York Constitution of 1777. Thus, he remained a power in New York state government. Livingston administered the oath of office to George Washington when he assumed the presidency in 1789.
The writer of our letter begins by expressing his concern and interest in the welfare of John Jay. “I am favored with your letter of the 15 Ult[imate] & am sorry to hear of the Dangers & Disappointments our Friend Mr. Jay had to encounter in the beginning of his voyage but I admit there is [in] it a Happiness that [he] has escaped the Hands of the Enemy and I flatter myself that before this he has reached his destined Port without further Accident. I feel myself deeply interested in his Welfare and it will always give me Pleasure to hear of him. Genl. Scott has long since set out for Congress—he has with him Papers relative to the Vermont Business properly authenticated and if he has not been as Dilatory on his Journey as he was on setting out he must be soon with you. You are continued as a Delegate. Genl. Schuyler who left this place ab’t 10 Days ago for Philadelphia took with him (as the Atty Genl. Informs me) the concurrent Resolutions of the Legislature on this Subject.
“No Support Bill has been passed at this present Meeting of the Legislature – the Reason they assign is that it might be productive of Injustice if the Money continues to depreciate, to grant nominal Sums to the Officers of Government which as the Treasury is exhausted cannot now be paid to them. They talk however of providing for them more generously tho’ how far their Liberality will carry them you are able, as I am, to determine.
“A Tax Bill has passed – little different in its Principles from the last – there is however some slight alteration in the mode of assessing and an appeal to the assessors is granted to any Person who shall conceive himself aggrieved!”
JOHN JAY (December 23, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was a Founding Father of the United States, an abolitionist and a diplomat. He negotiated and signed the Treaty of Paris of 1783, was second Governor of New York and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He directed foreign policy through much of the 1780s and was an important leader of the Federalist Party after the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. Jay was a strong proponent of centralized government and co-authored The Federalist Papers along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.
JOHN MORIN SCOTT (1730 – 1784) was a Delegate from New York who graduated from Yale College in 1746 and was admitted to the bar in 1752. He was one of the founders of the Sons of Liberty. He was a member of the New York General Committee in 1775, the Provincial Congress 1775 – 1777 and served as brigadier general in the Revolutionary War. He was also a member of the committee to raw up the state’s constitution in 1776. He was a member of the Continental Congress in 1780 and 1782.
PHILIP JOHN SCHUYLER 1733 – 1804) was a general in the Revolutionary War and a United States Senator from New York. He fought in the French and Indian War and he planned the Continental Army’s Invasion of Quebec in 1775. He prepared the Army’s defense of the 1777 Saratoga Campaign. He served in the New York Senate for most of the 1780s but lost his seat to Aaron Burr in 1791. He also represented New York in the 1st United States Congress. He was also a delegate to the Continental Congress
The Vermont Business referenced in the letter is the HALDIMAND AFFAIR, a series of negotiations conducted in the early 1780s between Frederick Haldimand, the British Governor of the Province of Quebec and his agents and several people representing the independent Vermont Republic. Vermonters had been battling Indian raids, sponsored by the British, and were engaged in a long running dispute with New York State over jurisdiction of the territory. At issue was Vermont officially joining the British. Just as Haldimand offered generous terms for reunion in 1781, the main British army surrendered at Yorktown, and the United States would clearly achieve independence. Vermont, surrounded on three sides by American territory, rejected the British overtures and negotiated terms to enter the United States as the 14th state in March 1791.
Toning, folds. One small fold tear reinforced with archival tape. The writer has made edits on the first page.
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