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Colt, E. R.,
Autograph Letter Signed. Pittsfield, Mass. January 7, 1842, to George N. Briggs, Member of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Quarto, 1 page, plus stamp less address leaf, formerly folded in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Colt, a Massachusetts rural banker, refers sarcastically to $10 cash which the Congressman had sent him: “…How lucky that you sent the money then – for I suppose you would find it difficult at the present time to raise so large a sum – on account of the low state of the United States Treasury – to what a disgraceful state have we finally reached! And when will the country be in a better condition? It is truly a gloomy time – U.S. 6% stock one or two percent below par!! I believe the people have pretty much done looking to Congress for any measures to relieve the country. What can you do?...”

In that fifth year of a major American depression in which profits, prices and wages fell, unemployment rose, workers starved and “pessimism abounded”, the Democrats, who had lost the presidency to Whig William Henry Harrison, blamed the crisis on East cost bankers. Harrison died soon after taking office and was succeeded by his Vice President, John Tyler, elected as a Whig but constantly at odds with his party over banking policy. Six months after this letter was written, congressional Whigs attempted to have Tyler impeached. That failed, but did not ease the President’s ongoing conflict with Congress, which rejected most of Tyler’s Cabinet nominations. One exception was Secretary of the Treasury. Walter Forward, mentioned in Colt’s letter, whose proposals for fixing the financial system brought him into constant conflict with the President who had appointed him. Whig Congressman George Briggs, to whom this letter was written, was elected Governor of Massachusetts the following year. His tenure was marked by conflict with anti-slavery reformers, but he was not notable for taking any position on the country’s financial crisis which finally ended during the six years that he held office.