"I CANNOT PREVAIL ON MYSELF TO LEAVE MORE ACCOUNTS UNSETTLED BEHIND ME": ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPH LETTER WRITTEN AND SIGNED BY JOHN JAY TO ANGLO-AMERICAN PATRIOT WILLIAM DUER REGARDING THE DEATH OF DUER'S BROTHER AND JAY'S PLANS TO LEAVE FRANCE FOLLOWING THE COMPLETION OF THE TREATY OF PARIS
JAY, John. Autograph letter signed. Chaillot near Paris, March 28, 1784. Two sheets of unlined cream paper, measuring 7-1/4 by 9 inches and 8-3/4 by 5-3/4 inches, both affixed to blank page. $4600.
Original autograph letter, written and signed by Founding Father, Supreme Court Justice, and United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay, just after completion of his negotiations for The Treaty of Paris, encouraging his close friend, William Duer, a New York Federalist who attended the Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Confederation, to delay a planned trip to China due to the death of Duer's brother and detailing his plans for wrapping up his tenure in Paris, additionally signed as part of the return address on the sheet that once enclosed the letter.
The letter, dated "Chaillot near Paris 28 March 1784" and written entirely in Jay's hand to "The Honb. William Duer," reads in full: "Dear Sir, I was this moment informed by Mr Mackonnon [? possibly William Mackinnen, longtime Member of Council in Antigua] of an event which he thinks you may be ignorant of, & which you should speedily know in —- of the intention it is said you have of going to China—I mean the decease of your brother John; in consequence of which an Estate in Antigua has become yours, and may require so much of your attention as to render your proposed voyage unseasonable. I expect to be with you this Summer, and should certainly embark in the April —-, but Mr Carmichael, whom I have been for several weeks expecting with the public accounts, did not arrive till yesterday; and Mr Barclay who is to settle them has not yet returned from England. I cannot prevail on myself to leave more accounts unsettled behind me, and therefore must postpone my voyage until that obstacle shall be removed— Mrs. Jay joins with me in presenting our best compliments to Lady Kitty [Catherine Alexander], and in assuring you and her of our Regard and best wishes—I am —— your most obt servt. John Jay." This letter was written to William Duer, a lawyer and developer, as well as an American Revolutionary. Although Duer, originally from Britain and Antigua, was initially a conflict-resistant Whig, he soon came over the American cause, having spent much of the 1770s in New York. As part of the Provincial Congress in 1775, he was part of the committee that drafted the original New York Constitution. Duer also advocated in writing for the signing of the American Constitution, served on the Continental Congress, and signed the Articles of Confederation. He ran in circles including some of the most prominent patriots of the day, including John Adams and Robert Morris. Here, Jay shares the news of Duer's brother's death, having evidently learned of it from an Antiguan contact. Jay also promises to spend time with Duer in short order, but points out the difficulties with relocating from France, where he had been negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the agreement that ended the Revolutionary War, and then recuperating from the stress in Chaillot, on the outskirts of Paris. Accompanied by an engraved portrait of John Jay. This item was bound into an extra-illustrated copy of the "History of the City of New York" circa 1872, in the possession of Emery E. Childs, and while the book—expanded to 21 volumes—has passed through several hands, this particular autograph letter has not been on the market since it was bound in, a happy circumstance that has also maintained this fragile letter in its current condition.
Very nearly fine condition.