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Lot 2: John Q. Adams Free Frank Addressed to Widow of U.S. Navy Hero Stephen Decatur
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: John Q. Adams Free Frank Addressed to the Widow of Naval Hero Stephen Decatur********** ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY. (1767-1848). Sixth president of the United States. Free Frank. (“J.Q. Adams”). 1p., 12mo. Washington, D.C., January 11, N.y. (Circa 1829-1836). A self-folded envelope to philanthropist SUSAN DECATUR (1776-1860), the widow of celebrated American naval officer Stephen Decatur. ********** Adams was a successful diplomat, congressman and secretary of state (1817-1825) before his election as sixth president of the United States in 1824. He served one term and was defeated in his bid for a second by Andrew Jackson. Upon leaving office, he represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 1831 and is the only ex-president to have served in Congress. In fact, it was on the House floor that he fell fatally ill, dying two days later from a cerebral hemorrhage. ********** The daughter of Norfolk Virginia’s mayor, Susan Wheler was a renowned beauty, courted by both Aaron Burr and Jerome Bonaparte. In 1806, she married Stephen Decatur, who had achieved fame during the Tripolitan War (1801-1805), and, later, as commandeer of the United States in the War of 1812. In 1819, the couple moved into what is now known as Decatur House, located near to the White House. Following Decatur’s death in a famous duel with Captain James Barron in 1820, Susan moved into a rented home in Georgetown, undergoing financial hardship until friends secured prize money that had been owed to her late husband for the burning of an enemy ship. With Adams’ assistance, Congress awarded Susan a pension in 1834, and in a letter dated January 10, 1832, now in The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Adams wrote that he would find it “highly gratifying” to aid Decatur in claiming a widow’s pension. ********** Having converted to the Catholic faith around 1828, Susan devoted her life and the pension she received to charity. “In 1834 Susan Decatur advanced $7000 (circa three million dollars today) to Georgetown College, which was in dire financial straits, in return for which Decatur received a[n]…. [annual] payout of $630 for the rest of her life. Decatur lived out her days on this annuity in a cottage on the college campus, and when she died in 1860, at age 84, she was laid to rest, just steps from where she had resided, in the College Ground, a burial ground of Georgetown’s Holy Trinity Church,” (“The Unquiet Grave of Susan Decatur,” Glover Park History website). ********** With a red-ink postmark in the left margin and the word “FREE” stamped in red underneath Adams’ frank. Dust stained with normal wear. The envelope has been carefully cut open to avoid paper loss at the seal. In very good condition and a nice association.