Nov 25, 2014 - Sale 2368

Sale 2368 - Lot 24

Price Realized: $ 75,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 12,000 - $ 18,000
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION.) Russell, Thomas. Letter copy book of a Boston merchant during the war. 637 manuscript letters in [557] pages. Folio, contemporary vellum; minimal wear, each letter numbered in red ink; signed by Russell and later owners on front free endpaper. Boston, 8 December 1777 to 4 October 1781

Additional Details

Thomas Russell (1740-1789) was a Boston merchant who was active throughout the war in running the British blockade, sending ships up and down the Atlantic coast, though he did not directly engage in privateering. This volume is filled with copies of his letters to fellow merchants and partners. Probably the most regular correspondent was the great financier Robert Morris, who appears as the recipient of 90 letters. Morris first appears on 18 January 1779, with Russell agreeing to send a ship to Martinique on his behalf. Russell's letters to Morris sometimes discuss the war. On 1 July 1779, he wrote "I most heartily congratulate you on the success of the American arms on So. Carolina, hope it will be a means of facilitating a happy peace." On 1 September 1779, he tells Morris "at present for some private reasons I have not chose to be concern'd in privateers. I am now about engaging with a ship builder for a small vessell of 130 ton built on the new construction, will carry 14 guns on a letter of marque." He reports on a privateer on 20 October 1779: "The brig't Hound, Capt Bunker, sailed the 17 instant, well officered and man'd, making 70 men. On the whole this vessel sails so well, is so completely fitt'd as a privateer, I think he must have a good chance of success." The ship's eventual wreck is discussed extensively. Russell gives Morris a report on Rochambeau's fleet on 1 August 1780: "The French fleet & army at present is in a disagreeable situation by a superior British fleet being off Rhoad Island. I hope the Second Division expected will soon arrive and give a superiority to her allies who have so nobly exerted themselves in our cause." On 21 March 1781, he wrote: "I approve much of the new ship coming to your port, my only fear is that she cannot be got ready before your coast is infested with British cruisers. If the Dutch are at war with the British, the channel of getting English goods must be shut up, which I think will soon give a chance for the sale of your linnens."
There are very few personal comments in the letters, but Russell does acknowledge condolences upon the 2 May 1781 death of his wife Elizabeth. Provenance: Thomas Russell to his daughter Elizabeth Russell Sullivan (1779-1854); by descent to her great-grandson James Avery Sullivan (1875-1961) of Ashfield, MA; sold to benefit Historic Deerfield, Inc.