(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--1782.) Laurens, Henry. Letter detailing his imprisonment and release from the Tower of London. Contemporary copy of a letter to John Hanson as the president of Continental Congress. 7 manuscript pages, 13 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches, on 2 folding sheets, plus docketing on final blank, all in an unidentified hand with secretarial signature "H Laurens"; folds, minor wear. Amsterdam, 30 May 1782
Estimate $1,000 - 1,500
Henry Laurens (1724-1792) served during the Revolution as vice president of South Carolina, president of the Continental Congress, and then minister to the Netherlands. While returning to the United States in the fall of 1780, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was exchanged for General Cornwallis in December 1781. Upon his release, he wrote a letter to Congress, then "penciled several copies of this letter, passed the whole into the hands of a friend in London . . . for distribution on board eight vessels bound to America." He then returned to Amsterdam to continue his work for the cause. There he wrote a long letter to the Continental Congress detailing his trials of the past 18 months. The present copy, headed "2nd copy," may reflect his strategy of having a clerk make multiple copies, or it may have been made upon receipt for distribution among members of Congress. The content of the letter is dramatic, and makes repeated reference to Benjamin Franklin. Laurens recalls that in the darkest hour of his time in the Tower of London, someone slipped him a letter from Franklin, who "expressed some satisfaction in having heard from high authority that I was well satisfied with the treatment I had received in my imprisonment (the contrary was notorious to all the world) & he directed the pittance of one hundred pounds to be paid to me if I should stand in need." This modest offer was received scornfully by Laurens as "like a drop of water from the very tip of Lazarus's little finger" (a reference to the Gospel of Luke), but even that sum never arrived.