Scope and arrangement
The Philip Mazzei papers, dated 1775-1785, consist of letters and writings by Mazzei pertaining to his service as state agent for Virginia in Europe during the American Revolution, 1779-1783, and letters to his friend and business associate John Page of Rosewell, Virginia, 1775-1785.
Letters sent by Mazzei to Virginia governors Thomas Jefferson, 1779-1781, and Benjamin Harrison, 1782, along with two related narratives, describe his attempts to fulfill his mission to obtain loans in gold and silver for the state, to purchase supplies in Italy for use by the army, and to generally serve the American cause, as seen in his accounts of his social and business engagements and efforts to gather useful intelligence. Letters recount his departure from Virginia with his family en route to Europe, his capture and imprisonment by the British and his escape to France, his movements in France and Italy, difficulties caused by the loss of his papers and related financial problems, and encounters with European merchants and nobility and Americans abroad, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Mazzei also provides intelligence on European political and military affairs in relation to America; reactions to American military events, such as the surrender of Charleston, South Carolina; and the reception of wounded naval officer Count d’Estaing in France. His attempts to support the Revolution in his personal conversations and writings in the press are also described. Letters, numbered by Mazzei, include memoranda listing the means by which they were sent to America; some were carried by the Marquis de Lafayette and John Paul Jones. Related writings consist of Mazzei’s narrative of his capture and imprisonment by the British, and a comprehensive summary of his work as agent entitled “A Representation of Mr. Mazzei’s Conduct, from the time of his appointment to be Agent of the State untill his return to Virginia.” This document provides a detailed account of his correspondence, including content from letters not present in the collection. Letters to John Page, 1775-1785, concern Mazzei’s experience with viticulture in Virginia, difficulties with his work in Europe, and personal matters.