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Williams, Jonathan (1750-1815) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.05156 Author/Creator: Williams, Jonathan (1750-1815) Place Written: Warm Springs, Virginia Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 14 September 1791 Pagination: 1 p. ; 32 x 19.8 cm.

Writes to send an extract of a letter from Kentucky, which is on the other side of this letter (not included - the reverse of this letter is blank). Adds, "I leave this letter to its fate, & from the frequent passing of people from these fountains of salubrity I hope it will soon arrive at some place where there is a post office." Is on his way home and hopes to see Knox in early October. Postscript claims the letter is genuine as he read it himself. The extract referred to is likely GLC02437.05135.

Williams was born on May 26, 1750 in Boston; son of Jonathan Williams, merchant, and Grace (Harris) Williams, daughter of Benjamin Franklin's sister, Anne; educated in Boston schools; in 1770 went to London to complete training and to make contacts under Franklin's tutelage; in 1776 joined Franklin in France and was immediately appointed by the commissioners of the Continental Congress to France as their agent at Nantes; became involved in a controversy between Silas Deane and Arthur Lee and resigned as agent, but remained in Europe engaged in various business ventures until Franklin returned home in 1785; married Marianne Alexander of Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 12, 1779; in 1796 became associate judge in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia; served at different times as secretary, councillor, and vice-president of the American Philosophical Society; scientific interests brought him into contact with Thomas Jefferson, who appointed him Inspector of fortifications and superintendent at West Point with the rank of major in 1801; resigned, 1803; reappointed in 1805 with the rank of lieutenant colonel of engineers; planned and supervised the construction of defenses of New York Harbor; resigned from army, July 31, 1812; in War of 1812 served as brevet brigadier general of New York Militia and on a committee in Philadelphia for preparing defenses for the Delaware River; elected to Congress in 1814 but died on May 16, 1815 before taking office.

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