LEE, William. Les Etats-Unis et L'Angleterre, ou Souvenirs et Reflexions d'un Citoyen Americain. Bordeaux: Chez P. Coudert, December 1814.
8vo., (7 6/8 x 5 inches). Half-title. Contemporary half calf, vinegar marbled paper boards, gilt (rebacked preserving the original spine).
Provenance: Ex-Libris Jean R. Perrette, his sale, Christie's New York, 5th April 2016, lot 418
Lee was an American diplomat in Bordeaux from 1801. A self-described "Yankee Jeffersonian", he had been a merchant in France from 1796 to 1798, he was well-suited to oversee 'neutral' American trade with Britain and Europe from the important port. However, the Napoleonic Wars soon made things very difficult for American ships trying to trade with Britain. From 1807 the French Milan decree proclaimed that any ship that had traded with the British lost its protection of neutrality and would be subject to seizure by the French. At the same time Britain passed the Orders in Council, which required neutral countries to obtain a license from its authorities before trading with France or French colonies. Lee's official letters, and private too, provide evidence of the difficulties faced by Jefferson, and then Madison, as he tried to maintain a difficult detente with the British on the one side and the French on the other.
Eventually America chose a side, and in the conflict now known as the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in a conflict that would have an immense impact on the young country’s future. Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment of American seamen and America’s desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American troops over the course of the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans, boosting national confidence and fostering a new spirit of patriotism. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, ended the war but left many of the most contentious questions unresolved. Nonetheless, many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a “second war of independence,” beginning an era of partisan agreement and national pride.