To John Stevens1
New York, October 26, 1795. “Lady Sterling2 has consulted me on the subject of the enclosed letter but without more facts than she is possessed of, I cannot judge with certainty in whom the right to the certificates is. Prima facie it is not in Mr. Dayton.3 But I shall write to that Gentleman to know precisely the grounds of his claim. This information obtained I shall be able to form a final opinion on the right. It will be adviseable for you in the mean time to defer a compliance with Mr. Dayton’s demand.…”4
ALS, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey.
1. Stevens, a successful businessman who lived in Hoboken, was a pioneer in the development of steamboats.
This letter concerns a complicated and protracted dispute between Lady Stirling and her late husband’s creditors over certain unspecified certificates. Stevens’s interest in this dispute arose because his mother was the sister of Lord Stirling; because his father, who had died in 1792, had at one time controlled some of the certificates in question; and because he was the executor of his father’s estate.
2. Lady Stirling, Sarah Livingston Alexander, was the daughter of Philip Livingston, second lord of the manor, and widow of William Alexander, self-styled Lord Stirling, a major general in the American Revolution who had died in 1783.
3. Jonathan Dayton, a veteran of the American Revolution, had served in the New Jersey Assembly in 1786, 1787, and 1790 and was a Federalist member of the House of Representatives from 1791 to 1799. Dayton was Speaker of the House from March 4, 1795, to March 3, 1799.
For an explanation of Dayton’s claim to the certificates in question, see Dayton to H, January 15, 1796.
4. H had been involved earlier in the disposal of Stirling’s estate, as is shown in the following item, dated, December 28, 1791, from The [New York] Daily Advertiser, January 4, 1792:
“To Be Sold,
“At the Merchants coffee-house, in the city of New-York, on Tuesday the seventh day of February, one thousand seven hundred and ninety two, at public auction (unless sold at private sale before)
“That elegant country seat, formerly belonging to the earl of Sterling, and well known by the name of Baskingridge. It lies on the Pasaick river in the county of Morris, state of New-Jersey, near the great road which leads from Morristown to Philadelphia, and is about thirty miles from New-York. This place when in the possession of Lord Sterling, was considered as one of the best farms in the country, and is still accounted, by those who are judges of soil and situation, to be an excellent tract of land, and capable of high and productive cultivation. There is a large orchard and several meadows upon it, of good quality, and more may be easily made. The mansion house and numerous out houses, will require some repairs. The farm contains between ten and eleven hundred acres, but will be sold in smaller parcels, if convenient to the purchaser; a good title will be given for the premises; any person wishing to view the place may apply to Daniel M’Call, who lives upon a part of the land.…” The advertisement was signed by H, Thomas Jones, J. H. Livingston, and Brockholst Livingston.