Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Knox, William (1756-1795) to Henry Knox

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.04907 Author/Creator: Knox, William (1756-1795) Place Written: Dublin, Ireland Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 7 April 1791 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 23.1 x 18.7 cm.

Summary of Content: William had previously sent a packet to Knox that included "Paynes [Thomas Paine] pamphlet in answer to Burke on the french revolution." William tells his brother, "therefore the present is only to enclose you the papers since then, by which you will see from the debates in the English House of Lords and Commons and the preparations making, that Great Britain is about incurring a few more millions of debt, and (if the Empress should prove inflexible which in all probability she will) plunging the greater part of Europe into a War by sea and land - However distressing to humanity such an event may be, it appears America may keep herself entirely out of the scrape, and supply naval stores Iron etc. which were supplied from the Baltic, and once in possession of that advantageous trade by proper management may keep it." He notes that the impressment of seamen has begun in England and will likely spread to Ireland soon "in which case," William says, "there will be a repetition of those inconveniences which existed in England and here during the Spanish business, that is, impressing seamen from the vessels of Foreign nations, and leaving it to be proved afterwards that they were unwarrantedly taken - the Americans feel more of this from speaking the same language than any other nation - The English in the late business in many instances took sailors who had resided many years in America, married and settled there, but born in the British dominion; indeed they looked on every man born in the territories belonging at present to England as their lawful subjects, had their time of residence been long or short in America - " William says that an old law of Britain prevents any British citizen from expatriating himself . Comments he will do what he can in Ireland for American sailors so impressed and plans to write to the Secretary of State [Thomas Jefferson] on the matter. In a postscript, tells Knox that "the Whig Club here have resolved to have Paines pamphlet disseminated throughout the kingdom at their own expence."

People: Knox, William, 1756-1795
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: NavyFranceFrench RevolutionRevolutionary War GeneralLiterature and Language ArtsGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyPoliticsJournalismGovernment and CivicsDebtMilitary HistoryEconomicsFinanceWomen's HistoryMilitary SuppliesImpressmentNaturalizationLawMaritimePresidentWhigs

Sub Era: The Early Republic

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources