[AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED, FROM WILLIAM SHORT TO ELBRIDGE GERRY, DISCUSSING SHORT'S RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES]
by Short, William: [Gerry, Elbridge]
Paris, 1802. pp. on a folded sheet. Old fold lines. Significant ink stain on bottom half of first page, not affecting legibility of text. Minor soiling. Else very good. In a green half morocco and cloth clamshell case, spine gilt. A fond and lengthy letter from American diplomat William Short to Elbridge Gerry, Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence. William Short (1759- 1849) was an American diplomat who spent much of his political career in France. Beginning in 1784 he served as Jefferson's secretary while Jefferson was U.S. Minister to France; he subsequently served as chargés d'affaires when Jefferson left, overseeing U.S. interests in France. He served as Minister to the Netherlands in 1792, and briefly as Minister to Spain in 1795, after which he returned to France to live with his mistress. In 1802, after nearly twenty years abroad, Short finally took Jefferson's advice and returned to revisit his native land; in the present letter he mentions to Gerry that he is planning to embark in the next month or so. Short was not entirely impressed with America, however, nor it with him - he earned James Madison's lasting enmity when he derided Madison's naive belief that all French directors were good republicans. After a brief return to France in 1808, Short settled in Philadelphia in 1810 and lived out his days as a wealthy man. Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) served in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was an early and vigorous advocate of American Independence, and played a crucial role in the formation of the new United States government, insisting on a bill of rights being added to the new constitution. His name is perhaps most remembered, however ignominiously, in connection with the term "gerrymandering." In his second term as governor of Massachusetts, Gerry redrew district lines to consolidate his party's control in the state senate. Though this was not necessarily a new practice, the name stuck. Gerry ran on the ticket with President Madison in 1812, for Madison's second term as president, and died in office in November 1814. Gerry had served in France on the commission involved in the famous XYZ affair, in which the French attempted to extort bribes from the American commissioners (which inspired fervent anti-French sentiment in the States). It is likely that he became friendly with Short at that time. Short writes that he hopes to see Gerry upon his arrival back in the States, and that he plans to travel extensively upon his return. The letter reads, in part: "I can assure you I shall never forget the sentiments which you inspired [in] me during the short time I had the pleasure of cultivating your acquaintance, & shall always put at an high price every proof of not being forgotten by you. After our separation I wished to hear from you the account of your arrival in America before writing to you, except that of Augt. 27 which I wrote you a few days after my return to Paris from Havre. Having learned that every thing which came from this quarter was at that time liable to suspicion in our country, & supposing it might be peculiarly so under your circumstances, I did not chuse [sic] to obtrude a letter to you until I should first receive yours. Your silence therefore regulated mine. Times have much changed since then my dear sir all over the world; & events which could not have been expected, have taken place almost everywhere. Those which have been exhibited here have been of course, & according to usage, on the great scale & marked in light colors." Short then remarks that he would have thought Gerry an excellent choice for Minister to France, given his experience, and says that he had received some letters and papers mistakenly stating that he had been nominated to that position: "...so that I was receiving letter & compliments on the subject, until the arrival of the frigate which brought the official account of the person designated." He continues: "The accounts which we receive here from our country give us the most pleasing view of its prosperity & tranquility. There is nothing which can be more satisfactory to a true American; & I do really believe that it gives him still a more exalted satisfaction when he is in a foreign country than when at home....This mode of feeling I do not suppose peculiar to Americans, but common to all men of all countries. I learned from Mr. Skipweth that you had a good passage out. I have frequently regretted since that I had not continued my voyage with you. The year after you left us was a terrible one to pass here - ruin and desolation hung on the heads of all my friends from that time until the revolution of Brumaire. It was really a most distressing and hopeless scene....At that time I had hopes of being able to arrange my affairs in America by proxy - but every year since has continued to shew the contrary - of course I have every year since been meditating a voyage....The moment is now at hand when I shall experience it, as I am preparing for the voyage. I expect to embark in the month of May. It is yet uncertain at what port I shall land, but wherever it be I shall certainly ere long after my arrival have the pleasure of seeing you, as it is my intention to travel through all the states, at least those north of Virginia. I have so often repented having not visited & made myself acquainted with the different parts of my own country before visiting foreign ones, that I will not fail executing this plan as soon as practicable." The letter is docketed on the verso of the second leaf in Gerry's hand: "Paris letter / Honble Wm Short / rec. April / 8th 1802, ansd. / 21 July 1802."
(Inventory #: WRCAM42835)
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