Hudson NY: Sept. 22, 1835. Manuscript letter from a member of an old Hudson NY family member William Ashley, to his son, Col. Chester Ashley (then living in Arkansas Territory), asking for help with family land which Ashley senior refers to as the "French Claim prior to 1800". William appeals to his son Chester who had settled in Little Rock in 1820, a powerful lawyer and political operator, one of the founders of the Rose Law Firm.
William Ashley specifically asks Chester to intercede with "Col. Sevier" who was a political ally of Chester's and serving at the time as an elected territorial delegate to Congress:
"I calculate that Col. Sevier will be starting for Washington about the time you will review this letter; wish you to get him [engaged] in supporting The French Claim prior to 1800, as you know I have a deep interest at Stake, and I am inford (sic) by Some of our members of Congress that Col. Sevier has as much influence amongst the Members as any other man..."
Ambrose Hundley Sevier (1801 - 1848) was a political ally of Chester Ashley in Arkansas Territory. Sevier too had settled in Little Rock in 1820, where he began a long political career. By 1827, he was elected territorial delegate, taking his seat in Congress in 1828. He quickly aligned himself with President Andrew Jackson, and secured Arkansas’s bid for statehood, which was approved in 1836. Directly following statehood Sevier was elected one of the state's first US senators; he was reelected in 1837 and 1843.
The reference by William Ashley to the French claim likely concerns land in the strategic corridor running from New York City to Montreal via Lake Champlain and along the Hudson River, which the French wanted to control as early as the 1690s. By 1753 Great Britain controlled the 13 colonies and as far west as the Appalachians, but everything to the north and west was New France. Borders were continually in dispute, and the Ashley land that William Ashley refers to had no doubt been claimed by the French.
William Ashley also describes to his son the rapid rate of change in Hudson NY: land speculation; the laying out of a new railroad from Stockbridge to Hudson; the building of a new Court House and Jail; and a debt owed to pay the executors of the Elisha Williams estate. In reference to his debts, Ashley refers to a possible panic in the markets: "I fear it will be as bad as the panick (sic) was before; which ruined thousands who were men of property but could not command the money to save their credit...". The panic he refers to was the worldwide panic of 1825 which has been called the first modern financial crisis; the one he predicts is the panic of 1837, a financial crisis in the US that touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s.
Chester Ashley, William's son (1791 - 1848) played an important part in the early history of Arkansas. Born in Hudson, he settled in Little Rock in 1820, and partnered with the future Territorial Governor Robert Crittenden to form a law firm which became the Rose Law Firm, the oldest west of the Mississippi. Ashley became wealthy through real estate speculation, investing in what is now downtown Little Rock. He was a powerful political figure, and served as a director of the government-chartered Arkansas State Bank. He was elected US senator in 1844 and served until his death in 1848.
The letter is addressed to Col. Chester Ashley, Little Rock, Arkansas Territory, U. S. There is a circular Hudson NY cancel, with the 25 cent postage in mss. 16 x 12 3/4", folds to 8 x 12 3/3", written on 3 sides. Very good condition. Item #23271