Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Archival Treasures: The First News of Peace

One of the joys of working in a historic house is finding creative uses for the existing space. Right now, the archives are in a modest walk-in closet on the second floor. Most of our collection comes from the last John Henry and Alice, including a stunning number of pictures from their travels. However, we do have a fair amount of material that is much older, with some dating back to the days of Robert the Founder.

As I'm trying to get better acquainted with the archives, I thought it might be nice to transcribe some of the more interesting documents and post them here. Here's a letter from Chancellor Livingston, acting as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, announcing the first news of a peace treaty ending the Revolutionary War. It's addressed to the Governor of Georgia, a state that had seen it's share of fighting during the war.

Office, Foreign Affairs
24 March 1783

The Honorable Governor of the State of Georgia,


I have the honor to enclose an abstract of the preliminary articles for a generous peace, signed the 20th January 1783. They were brought by the vessel that arrived last night from Cadiz, dispatched by Count d' Estaing to recall the cruisers and privateers of his most Christian Majesty and his subjects. Tho' not official, they leave no room to doubt this happy event, on which I sincerely congratulate Your Excellency. When the wisdom of the United States shall have reestablished their credit and strengthened their bond of union, which will doubtless be the first work of peace, we shall have

every reason to hope that this will be a happy and flourishing country.

I have the honor to be,

With great respect,

Your Excellency's

Most obedient & humble servant

RR Livingston

The “Count d' Estaing” mentioned is Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing, the French admiral. He led the French fleet to the aid of the Americans after the French entry into the war in 1778. His efforts in the siege of Savannah failed, however, and he returned to France.

Three years later, Hector was placed in command of a new French-Spanish fleet assembled in Cadiz, on the coast of Spain, with the intention of sailing to once again aid the Revolution. However, peace was declared before he could sail. In this letter, it appears that Hector sent word to his ships in American waters to return home, and that this was the first word of the peace that the Americans in the New World heard.

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