Multi-language Sea Letter
Issued November 30, 1832
This document was issued in New Bedford to the ship Massachusetts, which was under the command of George F. Brown. The vessel was heading from New Bedford bound for the Pacific Ocean, with provisions and stores with utensils for a whaling voyage. Captain Brown had served as master of the Hesper in 1828 and 1831.
This sea letter is in four languages: French; Spanish; English; and Dutch. It is signed by President Andrew Jackson, who served two terms from March 4, 1829 until March 4, 1837. Jackson was something of a renegade as President. As a heroic general in the War of 1812, he was used to giving orders but also championed the common man. In office he seldom deferred to Congress and used his veto and his political power to assert his authority. He argued against the Electoral College and entrenched office holders. Out of the controversy he created, the old Republican party split into the Democratic Republicans (Democrats) and the national Republicans (Whigs). His popularity grew so that in the election for his second term he received 56% of the popular vote and nearly five times the electoral votes as his opponent. His Secretary of State, John Forsyth, also signed this sea letter. Forsyth served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S Senate, was Governor of Georgia and had been Minister to Spain before being appointed Secretary of State. With Jackson, he resolved a long-standing dispute with France over reparations due to the U.S. for the damage inflicted on U.S. commerce during the Napoleonic Wars. Ultimately, France paid $5 million to settle the claim and the U.S. lowered the import duty on French wines! Another signer to the document was the New Bedford Collector of Customs, Lemuel Williams, who succeeded Russell Freeman after the two physically fought in the streets of New Bedford. The other signer was Notary Public John Burrage, who, after graduating from Brown University where he was a fine student, studied law in the office of William & Warner. He opened his practice in New Bedford and worked there until 1843.
This document is printed on rag paper and bears the Great Seal of the United State in the center.
[Description provided by J. Revell Carr, former President and Director, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of American and the Sea]