AUTOGRAPH LETTER, James P. O. Lesesne, Thos. B. Merry.


written on the Steamship 'Mariposa', 'off Honolulu, June 25, 1890.' Six page letter (2 closely written sheets, one of which is folded to form 4 pages) from American Thomas B. Merry to Colonel J. D. McCutcheon, written near the start of Merry's return trip from Australia to San Francisco. *The Mariposa, built in 1883 by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, made several transpacific voyages for the Oceanic Steamship Company during the latter part of the nineteenth century, carrying passengers and mail. The subject of the letter is the controversial American civil war veteran James P. Lesesne (1847-1892), who in 1888 had been appointed by President Grover Cleveland as the U.S. Consul General to Melbourne. After his arrival in Australia, Lesesne developed a gambling problem, which Thomas Merry's letter suggests was common knowledge in Melbourne at the time: 'The Consul-Generalship at Melbourne should be made a vacancy as soon as possible and some decent Republican put in place of J. P. Lesesne, the man who now disgraces it. A petition for his removal, if circulated in Melbourne, would be signed by every American resident of the place. ... I write this as a life-long Democrat. ... in October last he won about \'a3340 on the Caulfield's races. The bookmakers took his word just as if he had put up the coin. When it came to the Melbourne Cup races, they did likewise and were obliged to settle for about 60% of what he owed them.' The letter gives details of several more debts unpaid by Lesesne (including borrowing \'a3100 'on his word as a Mason \ul which he has never paid'\ulnone ) and an unsuccessful writ against him 'but he had nothing to attach'. Legal action to recover unpaid debts was taken against Lesesne on more than one occasion. Eventually, in June 1892 his body (with a pocketful of betting stubs) was found floating in Sydney Harbour. An inquest concluded that 'the death of James P. Lesesne took place on or about the 13th June in Sydney Harbour and that same arose from asphyxia by drowning, but how or through what means deceased got into the waters there is no evidence to show'. . Item #116364

Price: $800.00