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Lot #299
Timothy Pickering Autograph Letter Signed as Secretary of State

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Estimate: $200+
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ALS as Secretary of State, one page, 8 x 10, October 26, 1797. Handwritten letter to Fulwar Skipwith, who had recently resigned from his post as the Consul-General in Paris, in full: “I have received your letters of 2nd April, 3 July, 10 Sept 1796, 10 Feby, 17 March, 17 April, 10 May and 28 June 1797, with their several inclosures. In your letter of the 10th February 1797, you declare the resignation of your office, and express your expectation of receiving a reimbursement of the expenditures necessarily incurred in the execution of your official duty, and such compensation as your services may be thought to entitle you to. On presenting your account of expenditures, with proper vouchers, it will be decided upon in the usual course: but as to compensation, you have not explained, whether you expect it for Special Services performed, or whether you consider yourself entitled to a salary proportioned to the nature of your employment. If you contemplate the former you will be pleased to detail those services, which would also serve to regulate an allowance in the form of a salary.” In fine condition, with seal-related paper loss to the integral address leaf. Accompanied by an engraving of Pickering bearing a facsimile signature. Fulwar Skipwith was an American soldier and diplomat (1765-1839) who served as a U.S. Consul in Martinique and later as the U.S. Consul-General in France. He was instrumental in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and was the first and only governor of the Republic of West Florida in 1810. This letter dates to the very start of the XYZ Affair, a political and diplomatic episode in 1797 and 1798, early in the presidency of John Adams, involving a confrontation between the United States and Republican France that led to the Quasi-War. In early October 1797, the American diplomatic commission of John Marshall, Charles Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry arrived in France to negotiate issues threatening war between the two nations, namely privateering and the illegal seizure of American vessels. With talks at an impasse and French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand requesting a loan and bribes through a group of informal agents, Marshall and Pinckney left France in April 1798. Gerry, also desirous of returning, was informed by Talleyrand that the Directory would declare war if he left France. Despite his reservations concerning Talleyrand’s threats, Gerry remained; negotiations were eventually reopened when Talleyrand sent representatives to The Hague, and Gerry returned home in October 1798. Months earlier on March 20, President Adams turned over the commission report to Congress, redacting and replacing the names of Talleyrand’s agents with the letters X, Y, and Z, and prompting an immediate division amongst his cabinet, with Secretary of State Pickering arguing for a declaration of war.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Presidents
  • Dates: #658 - Ended February 08, 2023

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