• Major James Fairlie of New York, Aide-De-Camp to General Von Steuben--Post-War ALS to Secretary of State John Van Ness Yates

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    MAJOR JAMES FAIRLIE (1757-1830) was the son of a New York merchant and the grandson of a Scottish midshipman who settled in America early in the eighteenth century. 

    While still in his teens, Fairlie became an ensign on the 1st NY in February of 1776; was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd NY in November 1776 and to Major and Aide-de-Camp to General von Steuben in July 1778 (in which position he served to the close of war).  He was considered a delightful companion, and his sallies of wit often caused outbursts of laughter from George Washington.

    After the war, he sought to acquire and trade in military bounties and bounty rights. He settled in Albany after the war and in 1791, he was accorded a pension for service. Fairlie was one of the founding members of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.

    In August 1786, he married Mary Yates, the daughter of Albany leader and well known Patriot Robert Yates. Fairlie was a noted Federalist and was Marshall of the Albany ratification parade in 1788. By 1800, he had relocated to New York City, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

    He was clerk of the Circuit Court of New York City for 30 years and a New York City alderman. In 1796, he was named clerk of the New York State Supreme Court.

    JOHN VAN NESS YATES (December 1779-January 1839) was a New York lawyer, a Democratic-Republic politician and Secretary of State for New York.  His father was the prominent Anti-Federalist attorney and jurist Robert Yates.  John Van Ness Yates was a captain of a light infantry company in 1806, master in chancery in 1808, recorder of the city 1809-1816 and Secretary of State from 1818-1826.

    2 pp, 7 ¾” x 9 ¾”, ALS to J.V.N. Yates, Esq. of the famous Albany, NY Yates family, and at that time Secretary of State of New York. Dated, New York, 12 Sept. 1818, the letter reads in part:

    “Your letter of the 8th I received yesterday, and I this day called at the Ocean Insurance office and read to the president your proposal.

    “The Second Prop(osal) would not be acceded to at all. The first—to pay annually five hundred dollars—was rather more favorably received, but no decisive reply was made. I am to reduce the proposition to writing….make a copy from your letter and present it to the company—a statement of the sums due by you or you and the heirs…jointly…

    “I would advise you to converse with him on the business. I have no doubt time can be obtained from the office for payment if proper security can be given, costs paid, etc…I shall not be able to procure an answer from the company until Mr. Goodwin’s return.

    “Your most obed’t.,

    “Ja. Fairlie”

    Toning. Folds. A couple folds reinforced with archival tape. Some bleed through and one ink burn. Minor edge chipping and usual seal tear. Letter is separated from the integral address leaf, which has a fine New York red postmark next to the address.

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