Lot 94 of 395:
ALs from 1802 Washington’s favorite historian of the Revolution  

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Autograph Letter Signed - 1802 Washington’s favorite historian of the Revolution

Gordon, Rev. William

Ipswich, [England]


Sept. 9, 1802


Autograph Letter Signed (for himself and his wife Elizabeth). 1pg+ stampless address leaf.

To Joseph Savill, St. Neots. “…It is no small satisfaction to find that you and others have great pleasure in our being comfortably situated and it being your hope that the remainder of both our lives may be a season of tranquility both spiritual and temporal…May not my example, wherein it was right, together with my public ministrations be soon forgotten…We shall not be likely to see each other more in the flesh, but that we may meet in the heavenly regions…” Gordon was a British clergyman who immigrated to America in 1770, serving as Pastor of a Boston Church throughout the Revolution, while using every spare moment to collect imprints, private letters and confidential documents and interviewing Generals and statesmen – including Washington and Jefferson – in order to write the first history of the Revolution. As soon as the War ended, Gordon began work on his manuscript, given extraordinary access to private records of the Continental Congress and invited by Washington to stay at Mt. Vernon while perusing his own private papers. Completing the manuscript in 1786, Gordon returned to England, hoping to retire on the proceeds of his book – only to find his work bitterly “damned” (according to his friend John Adams) for “strong American bias”, and full of “libels” on British Generals who would surely sue him into a debtors prison.  In despair, he allowed some unknown editor to emasculate his manuscript (which then disappeared), to make it, as Adams put it, “more to British taste and feelings”. Published in London in 1788 and in New York in 1789, the work was still a commercial failure. Impoverished, Gordon spent his last years serving poor congregations at St. Neots and Ipswich - and reduced to “hopeless imbecility”, according to British critics, who also retailed the myth that he had been Washington’s private secretary. Nonetheless, Gordon’s ‘”History of the Rise, Progress and Establishment of the Independence of the United States”, was considered by Howes “the first full-scale history” of the Revolution “by an American”. Though letters to Gordon from Washington and other founding fathers have survived, we could locate no letter written by Gordon himself in any American institution.

Lot Amendments

Repaired at fold with archival tape; very good.

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