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Letter to U.S. Constitution Signer from New Hampshire Reflects Difficulty of Resuming Trade after Revolutionary War

"who wou'd have expected to have liv'd to see such sudden and such an unexpected change in Politics. when your country and ours will be enabled to make a good and generous agreement together is what I cannot say. of this one thing you may be assur'd the nation has as much Trade as it possibly can wish for, & seems to be in a much more florishing state after an expensive war, that the most sanguine man cou'd have expected."

This letter from merchants in London to New Hampshire merchant and statesman John Langdon illustrates the complications of reestablishing commercial relations between Great Britain and the United States after the Revolutionary War. A year later, Langdon would represent his state in the Constitutional Convention and sign the United States Constitution.

[JOHN LANGDON.] Lane, Son & Fraser, Manuscript Letter Signed, to John Langdon, September 1, 1786, London, England. 2 pp., 7.625" x 9.625". Expected folds; general toning; tear to integral leaf on original opening; small holes at intersections of folds with minimal impact on text; very good.

Complete Transcript
⅌ Captain Stewart
John Langdon Esqr London ye 1st Septr 1786
Your very kind & friendly letter of the 15th July is now before us, we thank you much for your kind offers of service. Of all the transactions we have had since we have been in Trade, none has surpriz'd us so much as our being call'd upon both by you & your Brother to bring back to your credit the Money we absolutely paid your said Brother, who as we told you before ordered us to credit him for the balance of the Ship Unions Account, which he claimed by virtue of the Ships Papers standing in his name. he took what he thought proper in specie which left about £500 upon the balance and for which he pass'd Bills from New England, say New York. As you justly say we are full as much master of the subject as you can be, & were we to write volumes on the business it wou'd not alter the Fact you have always acted so very honourably by us that to keep peace & quietness and our friendship uninterupted, we have given up the point & depend upon your Brothers honour to pay our just demand, in the adjustment of which we may have occasion for your friendly aid you say he waited some time for some accounts. We will frankly confess, the great cause of the delay proceeded from a wish we entertain'd of your being contented to the settling with your Brother the balance we have since made good to you, but find we have been mistaken. the long friendship that has subsisted between your Brother and ourselves, encourages us to think that we shall have no dificulty in settling at last. from the commencement of the correspondence he was welcome to everything a reasonable Man cou'd desire, & we are heartily sorry the calamitous times has occasion'd such a dreadful alteration in the Trade to and from your place. Hope you will see Captain Scott in Boston & that he will settle with you for the Glasses, if not we must see what we can do for you here. When Captn Hall arrives we will acquaint him what you write concerning the chalk, and credit you for what we receive of him. Our Treaty of Commerce with France is nearly finish'd. who wou'd have expected to have liv'd to see such sudden and such an unexpected change in Politics. when your country and ours will be enabled to make a good and generous agreement together is what I cannot say. of this one thing you may be assur'd the nation has as much Trade as it possibly can wish for, & seems to be in a much more florishing state after an expensive war, that the most sanguine man cou'd have expected.
we wish you much health & happiness & remain respectfully
Sr Your most hle Servts
Lane, Son & Fraser

Historical Background
This letter was one of a long series of letters regarding a dispute between Thomas Fraser of Lane, Son & Fraser, John Langdon, and his brother Woodbury Langdon, and the general state of trade between the two nations. On October 8, 1785, Thomas Fraser wrote to John Langdon, "I count it one of the greatest Afflictions of my Life that I have liv'd to be witness to a Separation from your Country...just at a time when the Trade to your Place was increasing & I may say flourishing to a great degree then a stop was put to it & perhaps for ever, for what I can tell to the great loss of this country in its consequences, at any rate to me."

On February 10, 1786, Fraser wrote to John Langdon, "No one sure has so much reason to be sorry for the late change in the system of trade as myself" and later added, "I hope your Brother will pay his ballance."

On July 7, 1786, Fraser again wrote to John Langdon, "My old friend W.L. [Woodbury Langdon] certainly ought to have given you the money he took with him to New York because he ordered to his own credit the balance due on your ship Juno."

Lane, Son & Fraser was a merchant bank firm in London, formed by a partnership between Thomas Lane (ca. 1707-1784), his son John Lane (1743-1829), and Thomas Fraser (b. 1736). It was particularly influential in the pre-Revolutionary Anglo-American trade. By 1781, Thomas Boylston (1720-1798) of Boston had joined the firm, but the firm could not recover from the shocks it suffered in the American Revolutionary War. The firm failed in bankruptcy in 1793 for about £1 million, taking several other provincial banks in Britain with them. Bankruptcy proceedings continued until 1817.

John Langdon (1741-1819) was born in New Hampshire to a prosperous farmer, and he and his older brother Woodbury Langdon (1739-1805) apprenticed themselves to naval merchants. By age 22, John Langdon was the captain of a cargo ship trading with the West Indies, and he and his brother quickly became some of Portsmouth's wealthiest citizens. He was a strong supporter of the revolutionary movement of the 1770s and served on the New Hampshire committee of correspondence. He represented New Hampshire in the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1776 and then supervised the construction of several warships. He served as president of New Hampshire from 1785-1786 and again from 1788-1789. He was a member of the Confederation Congress and the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and signed the U.S. Constitution. He supported the ratification by New Hampshire, which became the ninth and sufficient state to ratify the Constitution for it to take effect. Elected to the U.S. Senate, he served from 1789 to 1801. Returning to New Hampshire, he served in the New Hampshire legislature (1801-1805) and as governor of New Hampshire (1805-1809, 1810-1812).

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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