Summer Auction 2019 Sale 76
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 7/31/2019
An extraordinary collection of signed letters, contemporary retained signed copies of letters, and accounts concerning the events leading to Andrew Jackson’s ex-Secretary of the Navy and South Caroline Rep. JOHN BRANCH (1782-1863) demanding that Georgia Sen. and ex-Governor JOHN FORSYTH (1780-1841), who would soon become Jackson’s Secretary of State, meet him on the field of honor for a duel. The grouping originates from Branch’s papers and contains three letters (signed retained copies) from the aggrieved Branch, four from Forsyth, and three other documents signed by North Carolina Rep. Samuel P. Carson and Rep. William S. Archer who mediated the dispute, a newspaper editor, and others. The dispute started with newspapers publishing what purported to be Senate speech made by Forsyth, on the nomination of Martin Van Buren as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James, in which Forsyth was quoted as referring to "a late Secretary" as a "volunteer repeater of confidential conversations with the Chief Magistrate." Convinced he was the subject of the scandalous accusation, Branch wrote to Forsyth on Feb. 5, 1832, 1p. 4to., Washington, in part: “…I have read the printed report of your speech, prepared by you for the press, purporting to be the remarks which you made in the Senate…I should ask of you to state to me, explicitly, whether you did or did not know, or had reason to believe…that I was the "somebody, one of the late Secretaries" to whom you refer as the volunteer repeater of confidential conversations with the Chief Magistrate? Your reply to this communication will regulate my future action on this subject…” This note was conveyed to Forsyth by Carson, who chose not to explain due to Branch’s implied threat. He sent the following letter, an A.L.S., 1p. 4to., Washington, Feb. 5, 1832 via Rep. William S. Archer of Virginia. In part: “…Although perfectly satisfied with your verbal declaration, on reflection, since we separated this morning, I think it indispensable that the concluding paragraph in the enclosed letter should be omitted, or that your remarks to me on the subject of it should be in writing before an answer to it is transmitted to you...” After consulting with intermediary Carson, Branch consented to withdraw the objectionable paragraph, and Carson replied to Forsyth from the House with an A.L.S., 1p. 4to., Feb. 6. In part: “…If the simple interrogatory contained in the letter of Governor Branch, would be more acceptable to you, without the paragraph with which it concludes, I am authorized, as his friend, to state to you that that paragraph may be considered as stricken from his note, not deeming it essential to the substance of his inquiry…” Feeling now free to answer Mr. Branch's letter, Forsyth sent this 1p. 4to. reply, also on Feb. 6th. In part: The remarks of mine, to which you point my attention, were made in answer to Mr. Poindexter [Gov. of Mississippi], and intended to apply to the person referred to by him, without knowledge of that person, on my part, then, or at the time my remarks were prepared for the press…” On Feb. 7th, Branch sent Forsyth another letter, 1p. 4to., in part: “In your answer to my note by Colonel Carson, you state that you did not know that I was the person referred to by Governor Poindexter as having held a conversation with the President. It being now made known to you that I was the person, I wish to inquire whether you feel yourself at liberty to disavow the application of those remarks to me?...” The matter was concluded to the satisfaction of all parties when, on the same day. Senator Forsyth sent the following 2pp. 4to. disclaimer: “…Having submitted the subject to some of my friends, who unite in thinking that the inference from the observations of Mr. Poindexter, under which my remarks were made, that the conversation referred to had been confidential, was not warranted, and satisfied that the view of the subject is correct, I have no hesitation in disclaiming the application to you of the charge, imported by these remarks, of having repeated a confidential conversation...” The above correspondence was made public by Carson and Archer in an effort to clear the names of Branch and Forsyth, particularly with President Andrew Jackson. Included in the grouping is a manuscript D.S. by Archer and Carson addressed to “The Press” sending copies of the letters exchanged between Branch and Forsyth, and these letters appeared in The United States Telegraph and were copied in Niles' Weekly Register of Feb. 11, 1832. However, this was not the end of the story. Discovered with these letters were three heretofore unknown letters and documents. They include an A.L.S. (retained copy) of a 1p. 4to. Feb. 6 letter from Branch to Forsyth demanding satisfaction following receipt of Forsyth’s first letter: “…I have received your answer to my note…It is no reply to the interrogatory put by me to you. I take it for granted that you admit the fact…that I was the person referred to, and to whom you deliberately applied the epithets...[I] shall therefore proceed to demand the atonement, which is due to me for so gross an outrage on my honor, aggravated by the circumstance...wholly unprovoked...My friend Col. Carson, is authorized to make the [proper?] arrangements to bring this affair to a close..." Carson notes on the verso of the letter that it was handed to Archer on the evening of the 6th and withdrawn on the 7th after Forsyth's explanation. Also present is an unknown letter from Forsyth (retained copy), 1p. 4to., Feb. 6, giving the same explanation that satisfied Branch the next day, but as Carson notes on the verso, was withdrawn on the 7th. Finally, included is a 4pp. 4to. set of confidential notes in Carson's hand setting out the chronology of events which he notes is "not to be made public". It highlights the roles of Archer and Carson as mediators, and also mentions Branch's challenge. He refers to Forsyth's rather petulant first response: "...That note was considered by us as an equivoke [ie: a pun, double meaning] & Govr. B. immediately challenged him...some conversation took place between Mr. A[rcher] and myself, & we agreed that the challenge should not be considered as peremptory till we had a meeting the next day to see if we...could come to any understanding...We did so meet & a basis was agreed on which was carried into full effect...the challenge was withdrawn upon the understanding a satisfactory answer would be given...Gov'r Forsyth had not been informed that Mr. A. had the challenge in his possession..." Overall very good. Carson and Branch had experience with dueling. Carson had previously killed ex-Congressman Robert Brank Vance, and Branch had witnessed the famous duel between Henry Clay and John Randolph in 1826. Ten pcs.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $500.00
Final prices include buyers premium: $0.00
Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500
Auction closed on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
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