Goldberg Coins and Collectibles

Sale 86

Lot 290

Marshall, John (1755-1835) Fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1801-1835). The leading Federalist of his day, he supported a stronger federal government, over the objections of the Jeffersonian Republicans, who wanted stronger state government. His court opinions helped lay the basis for U. S. constitutional law and made the Supreme Court a coequal branch of government, along with the legislative and executive branches.

Autograph letter signed, 2 pages plus integral holograph address leaf, on laid watermarked paper, Antwerp, Sept. 22, 1797. Written to Rufus King, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States in London, as Marshall made his way to Paris on a delicate diplomatic mission which would become the famous XYZ affair. Marshall refers to a letter he had written King from the Hague, concerning some bills of exchange he had sent at his brother's request, to be opened by Sir Robert Herries, a banker in London, from whom Marshall had heard nothing. Marshall asks King to communicate with the banker and to let him know the result.

He continues: "We are thus far on our way to Paris to which place we proceed slowly in the hope that Mr. Gerry of whose arrival at Helvoet we have been informd will overtake us. We possess no information which would lead us to augur well of the result of our negotiations. A Mr. Riou who has movd to rescind the resolution referring the proposition of Partout to a committee has assignd among other reasons for the measure that the resolution had a tendency not intended by the council, to discourage & alarm the privatiers. It seems to be expected here that neither the negotiations with the Emperor nor at Lisle will terminate in peace. To day, being the anniversary of the foundation of the french republic, was celebrated in the church with music & in the fields & street by military exercises. The exhibition was by no means crouded. This is probably attributable to the deep impression made on the inhabitants of Antwerp by the late proclamation concerning their priests & external symbols. I regret very much that I cannot have the pleasure & advantage of an hour with you. I woud for that purpose have passd through England had I not apprehended that my doing so might have been considerd on both sides the atlantic as an evidence of partialities I never felt…."

Relations between the U.S. and France had been strained since Jay's Treaty with Great Britain in 1795. French privateers were harasssing American merchant ships and the two nations seemed headed for war. Marshall, along with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Elbridge Gerry, were dispatched to Paris to try to resolve the differences between the two countries, but French Foreign Minister Talleyrant refused to meet with them and demanded a $250,000 bribe before he would even consider normalizing relations. President John Adams was outraged and, after much urging from Republicans, who believed he had trumped up the story, released the diplomatic documents, replacing the names of the French agents with the letters X, Y, and Z. The entire nation was outraged and the slogan of the day became: "Millions for defence, but not a cent for tribute." There followed an undeclared naval war with France, known as the Quasi-War, which lasted for two years. U.S. and French negotiators restored peace with the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine. Under the terms of the Convention, France accepted U.S. neutrality rights at sea and discharged the U.S. from its obligations under the alliance signed with France in 1778. In return, the United States granted France most-favored-nation status as a trading partner.
Estimated Value $7,000 - 9,000.
R.M. Smythe & Co., Inc., May 11, 2000, lot 197.

Realized $11,100

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