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Congress Reimburses an Advocate for American Sailors Impressed by the British (SOLD)
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[THOMAS JEFFERSON]. Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State. An Act concerning the claim of John Brown Cutting against the United States. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Jonathan Trumbull as Speaker of the House, and Richard Henry Lee as President Pro Tem of the Senate. Philadelphia, Pa., May 8, 1792. 1 p., 9¾ x 16 in.

Inventory #23361       SOLD — please inquire about other items


Be it enacted by Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That in consideration of certain expenditures on behalf of the United States, made by John Brown Cutting in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety, there be advanced and paid to the said John Brown Cutting, the sum of two thousand dollars, out of any public money not otherwise appropriated.

And be it further enacted,That the secretary of state be authorized to enquire into the entire claim of the said John Brown Cutting, against the United States, and upon receipt of the proofs and exhibits in support thereof, to ascertain what sum shall thereupon appear to be due to or from him, in account with the United States, including the advance hereby directed, and to report the same to the next session of Congress.”

Historical Background

John Brown Cutting claimed to have spent $6,786.41 on behalf of American seamen impressed into the British navy. He also claimed to have paid $555.78 in interest between June 19 to October 22, 1790 while crediting the United States with $226.67 (paid by Jefferson on February 12, 1791 and $13.11 in interest. He claimed a balance of $7,102.41 due him.  Jefferson enclosed the accounting in his February 7, 1792 letter to George Washington. The Secretary of State went on to list British depredations against American sailors to bolster Cutting’s case. The impressment issue would simmer for the next two decades, culminating with a second conflict with Britain: the War of 1812.

Upon receipt of Jefferson’s letter, George Washington himself advocated for Cutting’s case. On February 8, 1792, the first president wrote to the Senate and House of Representatives, included a letter from Jefferson detailing Cutting’s expenses, and asked the Legislature to “do...what you shall find to be right.”

What the Senate and House found to be right was to award Cutting some payment while investigating the entire claim.

John Brown Cutting (?-1831) served during the Revolution as an apothecary in the Hospital Department, 1777–79, service that probably accounts for the title of “doctor” that he frequently used in later years. By the mid–1780s Cutting was studying law in London, and in May-June 1787 he accompanied John Adams to Amsterdam as a temporary secretary. In 1788 and early 1789 Cutting appeared in Charleston, S.C., as an agent for the prince of Luxembourg to settle the prince’s claims against South Carolina. He returned to Europe later in the year, living briefly in Paris and Bordeaux while he worked on the settlement of outstanding Revolutionary War accounts, and by 1790 had become involved in the plight of American seamen impressed by the British navy. Between 1794 and 1798 Cutting spent considerable time in Charleston but probably at some point moved to Virginia. Highly regarded by some Americans in Europe—William Stephens Smith considered him a “Gentleman of genius and merit”—his correspondence, particularly with William Short and John Rutledge, Jr., indicates that he also was a master gossip. Gouverneur Morris indicated after one encounter that Cutting had, as usual, “a World of News.” Source:

Congressional Acts Signed by Thomas Jefferson

Following a law passed on September 15, 1789, Thomas Jefferson, as Secretary of State, signed two copies of each law, order, vote, or resolution of Congress for distribution to the executive of every state. Kentucky entered the Union as the 15th state less than a month after this Act was passed, and considering the lengthy statehood process, as well as delays in printing, it is likely that 30 copies of this large-format certified copy were signed by Jefferson. By the same law, a single copy was distributed to each U.S. senator and representative, though these did not require Jefferson’s authentication. Surviving copies are unsigned and printed on much smaller paper.


Jefferson to Washington re Cutting

Washington to Congress


Very good. Treated by a professional paper conservator