Nov 17, 2016 - Sale 2432

Sale 2432 - Lot 317

Price Realized: $ 1,625
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 800 - $ 1,200
(WASHINGTON, GEORGE.) Anderson, John. Letters concerning a Scottish professor's offer to sell his artillery innovations to America. 3 Autograph Letters Signed as Professor of Natural History at the University of Glasgow, to Tobias Lear in London. 5 pages on 3 folding sheets with integral address panels, two with inked Glasgow postmarks, various sizes; seal tears and minimal wear. (MRS) Glasgow, January to May 1794

Additional Details

Scientist John Anderson (1726-1796) of the University of Glasgow was a sympathizer with the American experiment and friend of several prominent Americans. Late in his career, he invented a means of removing the recoil from artillery guns, and had offered the innovation to President George Washington in a 20 August 1793 letter, adding that he would be honored to be appointed "Engineer, Artillerist, and Director of the Gun-Foundery, to the United States of America."
The present series of three letters represents Anderson's effort to follow up with Washington through his trusted aide and confidant Tobias Lear, then serving as American consul in London. The first of Anderson's three letters to Lear makes reference to Washington and the gun project, noting that "my packet directed to General Washington had arrived safely. . . . I received a letter which he was so good to write to me by post." He also asks Lear to examine a model artillery gun on display in Leicester Square and report on the recoil checks employed. On 31 March, he follows up by noting that "I have got no answer directly or indirectly to the packet which I sent to Mr. Washington. It is reported that Mr. Jefferson is at present upon the Atlantic, for London, in his way to Paris . . . perhaps he brings with him some answer to me." On 29 May, anxious to settle his plans with his college vacation approaching, he asked again "whether Mr. Jefferson is really arrived in England, whether there is any answer to the letters which I wrote to the gentlemen in Philadelphia." Washington's 6 May letter to Lear on the subject (now at the Library of Congress) was likely already on the way: "I wish most sincerely that some inducement could be offered Professor Anderson which would bring him to this Country. His labours are certainly ingenious, & worthy of encouragement; but I fear it will not be in my power to avail these states of them. His communications however, are under consideration." Provenance: Hamilton sale, 1 February 1967, lot 250, to the consignor.