George Clinton was the son of Irish immigrants, born in Little Britain, New York. At the at the age of 18, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the French and Indian War. He later served in the colonial assembly and was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and a leader in organizing the state militia. He became a close friend of George Washington and was briefly a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. He served as governor of New York from 1777 to 1795, which distinguishes him as the first and longest-serving governor in state history. He became vice president under Thomas Jefferson, and continued under James Madison, until he died in office of a heart attack in 1812.
Clinton’s public papers were published as a 10-volume series in Albany, between 1899 and 1914. In 1911, most (or all) of the originals were destroyed in a fire at the New York State Library. The New York State Archives now possesses only the following resources: portions of the official gubernatorial records and personal papers of Clinton (originally bound into 48 volumes, the records suffered extensive damage and some loss in the 1911 Capitol fire and were subsequently disbound); a letterbook of official correspondence and proclamations, 1787-1795 and 1802-1804, together in one volume of 132 pages. The letterbook offered here, dated from October 1781 to December 1787, spans the Yorktown Campaign to the end of the Revolution, the peace treaty in 1783, the years of the Confederation, the admission of the state of Vermont, and Shays’ Rebellion. The earliest entry in the book is a speech delivered to the New York legislature, dated “Pokeepsie 23rd October 1781.” Shortly thereafter, in an entry dated “Pokeepsie 25th October 1781," Clinton writes:
“It gives me the most sensible Pleasure to be able from undoubted Authority to inform you of the Surrender of the British Army under Lord Cornwallis at York Town in Virginia on the 19th Instant to the Allied Army commanded by his Excellency General Washington.— This signal manifestation of the Smiles of divine Providence on the Justice of our Cause calls for our most devout acknowledgments and while it reflects the highest Lustre on the combined arms affords us the well founded Prospects of Consequences the most interesting and agreable—”
Further highlights from this letterbook include: a speech discussing letters from Superintendent of Finance, settling public accounts, taxes, currency rates, need to ensure that “Burthen of War” does “not principally fall upon the most zealous friends to their country” (dated 23 October 1781) — citing a Congressional proclamation of Day of Thanksgiving for December 13th (dated 9 November 1781) — a speech passing along documents and discussing treasonable intercourse between leaders of revolt in northeastern territory (presumably the New Hampshire Grants) and the common enemy (dated 21 February 1782) — a speech regarding the need for the revision of tax laws, and the continuing problems with New Hampshire Grants (dated 27 January 1783) — a proclamation regarding British withdrawal from New York City (dated 15 November 1783)
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