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WASHINGTON, George] LEAR, Tobias Six transcriptions in Lear...

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Estimate: US$3,000 - US$5,000
Price realised:  US$2,750
Lot number 80, Views: 94

WASHINGTON, George]. LEAR, Tobias. Six transcriptions in Lear's hand of Washington letters to: Capt. George Deneale, 19 Feb. 1799; James Ewing, 26 Feb. 1799; Rev. Mr. Morse, 28 Feb. 1799; Maj. Gen. Heth, 1 March 1799; Timothy Pickering, 3 March 1799; and Alexander Addison, 4 March 1799. Together 2 pp., folio, edges shaved catching portions of a few words .
WASHINGTON, George]. LEAR, Tobias. Six transcriptions in Lear's hand of Washington letters to: Capt. George Deneale, 19 Feb. 1799; James Ewing, 26 Feb. 1799; Rev. Mr. Morse, 28 Feb. 1799; Maj. Gen. Heth, 1 March 1799; Timothy Pickering, 3 March 1799; and Alexander Addison, 4 March 1799. Together 2 pp., folio, edges shaved catching portions of a few words . WASHINGTON CRITICIZES ADAMS'S HANDLING OF THE XYZ AFFAIR, AND SCRAMBLES TO RAISE CASH A series of fascinating transcriptions of important letters from Washington's letterbook, kept by his personal secretary Tobias Lear (perhaps detached because of their controversial and critical content?). As France and America move to the brink of war, Washington provides Timothy Pickering some discreet and highly confidential criticism of the John Adams's handling of the crisis: "I was informed that there had been no direct overture from the Government of France to that of the United States for a negociation. On the contrary that Mr. Talleyrand was playing the same loose, and roundabout-game he had attempted the year before with our Envoys [the infamous XYZ episode of 1798].... Had we approached the anti-Chamber of this Gentleman when he opened his Door to us, and there waited for a formal invitation into the interior, the Government would have met upon equal ground.... In plainer words," Washington continues, he thinks the right response to the XYZ fiasco was to insist on American willingness to negotiate (without paying tribute, of course), instead of Adams's response, which was to storm away from the negotiating table in righteous indignation. The American should have told Talleyrand "we still are as we always have been ready to settle by fair negociation, all differences between the two Nations, upon open, just and honorable terms...." At this point in the final text of the letter Washington added a crucial passage not included in this draft: "...this would have been the course I should have pursued; keeping equally in view the horrors of War, and the dignity of the Government" (see Fitzpatrick 37-142-143). He makes clear in this draft, however, that he is not privy to all the facts and will keep his dissent to himself: "I may have taken a wrong impression, and therefore shall say nothing further on the subject, at this time." In the letter to Addison, Washington mixes comforting thoughts about the wisdom of the people, with grave worries over his cash flow: "the People of these United States...only require a proper understanding of...the Laws and principles of their Government...to judge rightly on all great national questions; -- but unfortunately infinitely more pains is taken to Blind them...than there is to open their eyes..." Turning to his personal finances, Washington, in almost desperate tones, insists that he receive the balance of monies due him from "the estate of the deceased Col. Ritchie.... I can assure you most truly that I am in real want of these payments [in the recipient's copy Washington underlined the word "real"] -- the most conclusive evidence I can give you of which is, -- that I am driven to the necessity of borrowing at the Banks by renewable notes every sixty Days, which I am sure you will allow is a ruinous mode of obtaining money; -- when I can receive common interest only for that out of which I am kept." In the 1 March 1799 letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath Washington thanks him for the gift of his new history of the Revolution, and promises to read it and comment upon it ("with the utmost candour and freedom") as soon as "the bustle in which we are now engaged, at the wedding of our Grand Daughter, Miss Custis, is over." Washington rebuked Heath sharply during the war for his bungling of operations against Fort Independence in 1777: "Your conduct is censured...as being fraught with too much caution by which the Army has been disappointed, and in some degree disgraced" (quoted in Freeman, 4:384).

Informations about the auction
Auction house: Christie's
Title: Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana
Date of the auction: 7 Dec 2012
Address: Christie's
7 December 2012, New York, Rockefeller Center