Item of the Day: Pickering’s Letter to Rufus King (1798)

(Click on letter to enlarge.)

This is a letter from Colonel Timothy Pickering in Trenton to Rufus King, Esq., in London, dated 15 Sept. 1798. In this letter, marked “private,” Pickering as Secretary of State brings King up to date on developments in the XYZ affair involving the three-man delegation sent to Paris to settle issues relating to French seizures of American ships. As a result of French efforts to solicit a bribe, two of the delegation had returned, and there was concern that Gerry, who remained in Paris, might act on his own. In describing Gerry, Pickering has enciphered the language in parentheses “I never met a man (so destitute of candour and so full of deceit as Mr. Gerry).” Note the index finger drawn in along the left-hand margin, announcing the death of a printer. In the continuation of the letter, Col. Pickering tells of the “absurd and preposterous conduct” of Mr. Gerry and of the “extensive calamity of the yellow fever,” which was “more malignant and mortal than in any former year.”

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Filed under 1790's, Letters, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

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