Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Revolution and Founding Fathers (1765 - 1784) Offerings

More...


Other Declaration of Independence Offerings

More...

John Hancock’s Letter Proclaiming Independence, and Sending the Declaration to Georgia
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all Connection between Great Britain & the American Colonies, and to declare them free and independent States....

The important Consequences to the American States from this Declaration of Independence, considered as the Ground & Foundation of a future Government, will naturally suggest the Propriety of proclaiming it in such a Manner, that the People may be universally informed of it.

Hancock sent similar letters to each of the thirteen original states. All five that can be located today (Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Hampshire) have previously sold. The present example was first recorded at auction in 1899, in the estate auction of the preeminent collector of his day. It last changed hands privately more than 50 years ago.

The Declaration copies that Hancock sent with these letters are known as Dunlap Broadsides, after John Dunlap, who spent the night of July 4-5 printing them. The broadsides – single pages with all the information printed on one side – were all unsigned. Even so, the last Dunlap broadside to change hands sold for more than $20 million.

The original manuscript document that Hancock and Charles Thomson signed on July 4th has not been seen since.

Even the “National Treasure” document in the National Archives came later; it was penned after New York changed its instructions to allow the vote for Independence to be retroactively unanimous, and the signers’ “John Hancocks” were affixed on or after August 2.

Note that we will offer a generous discount to any buyer willing to bring the letter back to Georgia, or to place it in an appropriate museum or library.

JOHN HANCOCK. Letter Signed, text in a secretarial hand (likely Jacob Rust), to the Convention of Georgia [Council of Safety], Philadelphia, July 8, 1776, 2 pages, 8 x 12⅝ in. on the first leaf of a bifolium.

Inventory #26034       PRICE ON REQUEST

Transcript

                                                           Philadelphia July 8th 1776

Gentlemen

Altho it is not possible to foresee the Consequences of Human Actions, yet it is nevertheless a Duty we owe ourselves and Posterity in all our public Counsels, to decide in the best Manner we are able, and to trust the Event to that Being, who controuls both Causes and Events so as to bring about his own Determinations.

Impressed with this Sentiment, and at the same Time fully convinced, that our Affairs may take a more favourable Turn, the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all Connection between Great Britain, and the American Colonies; and to declare them free and independent States, as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, <2> which I am directed by Congress to transmit to you, and to request, you will have it proclaimed in your Colony in the Way you shall think most proper.

The important Consequences to the American States from this Declaration of Independence, considered as the Ground and Foundation of a future Government, will naturally suggest the Propriety of proclaiming it in such a Manner, that the People may be universally informed of it.

            I have the Honor to be

                        Gentlemen,

                        Your most obedt &

                        Very hble Servt

            John Hancock Presidt

Hone Convention of [Georgia]

 

PROVENANCE OF HANCOCK’S LETTER TO GEORGIA:

Hancock to the Convention of [Georgia – Council of Safety - Archibald Bulloch et al.] >

[Note: The Georgia State Archives was not established until 1918. It holds only a handful of records pertaining to Bulloch and the Revolutionary War.]

Col. Thomas Corwin Donaldson, a preeminent collector in the 1870s to his death in 1898[1] >

Stan V. Henkels (Donaldson Collection Auction), October 26, 1899, lot 198, $150.

“Howard,” marked as buyer in manuscript notations in at least two copies of Henkels’ catalog, likely Arthur P. Howard, according to Sotheby’s >

George Clifford Thomas, acquired before 1907 publication of his collection catalog >

Samuel T. Freeman (Thomas Collection auction), November 18, 1924, lot 94, sold for $3,800 >

Harry F. Marks, prominent N.Y. dealer, acquired prior to 1937, per accompanying typed note bound with the letter, and a 1937 profile in Avocations mentioning this letter. >

Private, descended in family > Sotheby’s, January 27, 2020, lot 2271 > Seth Kaller, Inc.

 

RECEPTION OF THE DECLARATION IN GEORGIA

At a meeting of the Georgia Council of Safety in Savannah on August 8, 1776, President Archibald Bulloch “laid before the Board a letter from the Honorable John Hancock, Esqr., together with a copy of the Declaration of Independency, which being read it was agreed that it be proclaimed in this Town on Saturday next....”[2]

On Saturday August 10, President Bulloch and the Council met again to read the Declaration.

“They then proceeded to the square before the Assembly House, and read it likewise to a great concourse of people, when the grenadier and light infantry companies fired a general volley. After this, they proceeded in the following procession to Liberty Pole: — The grenadiers in front— The Provost Marshal, on horseback, with his sword drawn— The Secretary with the Declaration— His Excellency the President— The Honourable the Council and gentlemen attending— Then the light infantry, and the rest of the militia … At the Liberty Pole they were met by the Georgia battalion, who, after the reading of the Declaration, discharged their field pieces … Upon this they proceeded to the battery, at the Trustees Gardens, where the Declaration was read for the last time, and the cannon of the battery discharged. His Excellency and Council, Col. Lachlan McIntosh, and other gentlemen, with the militia, dined under the cedar trees, and cheerfully drank to the United, Free, and Independant States of America.

In the evening the town was illuminated, and there was exhibited a very solemn funeral procession, attended by the grenadier and light infantry companies, and other militia, with their drums, muffled, and fifes, and a greater number of people than ever appeared on any occasion before in this province… ‘Forasmuch as George the Third, of Great Britain, hath most flagrantly violated his coronation oath, and trampled upon the constitution of our country, and the sacred rights of mankind, we therefore commit his political existence to the ground, corruption to corruption, tyranny to the grave, and oppression to eternal infamy; in sure and certain hope that he will never obtain a resurrection to rule again over these United States of America; but my friends and fellow citizens, let us not be sorry, as men without hope, for TYRANTS that thus depart; rather let us remember America is free and independent, that she is, and will be, with the blessing of the Almighty, GREAT among the nations of the earth. Let this encourage us in well doing, to fight for our rights and privileges, for our wives and children, for all that is near and dear to us. May God give us his blessing, and let all the people say AMEN.’”[3]

“With similar joy was the Declaration of Independence welcomed in the other parishes of Georgia. St. John’s Parish, the home of Hall and Gwinnett, two of the signers, was most pronounced in its demonstrations of approval.”[4] (Georgia’s three representatives in the Second Continental Congress, Lyman Hall (1724-1790), Button Gwinnett (1735-1777), and George Walton (1749-1804) had voted as a delegation for Independence on July 2, and each signed the engrossed Declaration in August.)

 

DEBATING, DECLARING, TRANSMITTING & PROCLAIMING INDEPENDENCE

Congress passed a brief resolution declaring independence on July 2.[5] After more debate, Jefferson’s Declaration was adopted on July 4. Though still not unanimous, Congress ordered: “that the committee appointed to prepare the declaration superintend and correct the press. That copies of the declaration be sent to the several assemblies, conventions and committees or councils of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the continental troops; that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the Army.”

Signed by John Hancock as the president of Congress, the document was taken to printer John Dunlap. Working through the night, likely supervised by John Adams[6], Dunlap set it into type. On July 5-8, Hancock sent copies to each of the now-independent states. The Declaration then spread quickly and widely.

On July 9th, George Washington received his own letter from Hancock with copies of the Dunlap broadside. He ordered officers of the Continental Army brigades stationed in New York City to pick up copies (quickly penned in orderly books) at the Adjutant General’s Office. Then, with the British ‘constantly in view, upon and at Staten-Island,’ the brigades were ‘formed in hollow squares on their respective parades,’ where they heard the Declaration read.”[7] The Declaration was reportedly “everywhere received with loud huzzas, and the utmost demonstration of joy. The same evening the equestrian statue of George III...was laid prostrate in the dirt, the just desert of an ungrateful Tyrant! The lead wherewith this monument was made, is to be run into bullets, to assimilate with the brain of our infatuated adversaries....”[8]

In White Plains, on July 9, the New York legislature finally viewed and ratified the Declaration, thereby making the American cause “Unanimous.” The manuscript Declaration, signed by the Congressmen on August 2, would reflect this change by replacing “A Declaration of the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled” with the more familiar “The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

 

JOHN HANCOCK SENDING DECLARATION TO OTHER STATES

Our notes on all the Hancock letters follow, including new research, not in Sotheby’s catalog.

Delaware                    July 5, To “Col. John Haslet[t], or Officer commanding the Battalion of Continental Troops in Delaware Government.”

            Location unknown.

New Jersey                 July 5, To “The Honble Convention of New Jersey.”

Letter Signed with autograph note.

            Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at New-York Historical Society, acquired 1990 < Private Collector < Raymond E. Hartz < Rosenbach Company catalog 14, lot 34 (1949) < Parke Bernet Galleries, 1/20/1947, lot 349, sold $550, auction of Mercantile Library Association of New York < Abraham Tomlinson

Pennsylvania              July 5, To the “Honourable Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania”.

Letter Signed.

            Historical Society of Pennsylvania < acquired (after 1889?) with Simon Gratz Collection of Signers of the Declaration < evidently acquired by Gratz after 1870. Per Lyman Copeland Draper.

Rhode Island             July 6, To “Honble Govnr [Nicholas] Cooke.”

Letter Signed, with additional paragraph asking that 50 ship-carpenters be sent to Albany. This is the only such letter that remains with the Dunlap broadside it was sent with.

            Lilly Library, Indiana University < ? < Scribner, sold in 1950, price unlisted

Connecticut                July 6, To Governor Jonathan Trumbull.

            Location unknown.

Massachusetts            July 6, To “Honble Assembly of Massachusetts Bay”

            Location unknown. Last noted in 1865, in Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office. David Pulsifer, The State House in Boston, Massachusetts (1865), p. 22.

New Hampshire         July 6, To “Honble Convention Assembly of New Hampshire.”

Letter Signed with autograph postscript: “Major Rogers of your colony is now here, the Congress had ordered that he’d be sent to New Hampshire to be disposed of as that Government shall judge best.

            Private Collection < Sotheby’s, May 23, 1984, lot 157 < Philip D. Sang < Rosenbach, offered in various catalogs from 1913 to 1937 <Dodd & Livingston, London < ? Stan Henkels auction, Oct. 26, 1904, Hampton L. Carson Collection.

New York                  July 6, To the “Honble Convention of New York”

            Location unknown. The original likely burned in the fire that destroyed much of the state archives in 1911. State archives/library indicates they have only one July 1776 letter from Hancock to the provincial government.

Georgia                      July 8. See details above.

Maryland                   July 8, To “Honbl Convention of Mary Land”

            Location unknown. As of 1893, the original was in the Collection of Mrs. J. H. C. Watts. Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, Official catalogue: Exhibition of Revolutionary Relics and Fine Arts... (1893), page 9, Item 122. A manuscript copy (not the original) is in the Purviance Papers, Maryland Historical Society.

Virginia                      July 8

            Location unknown.

North Carolina          July 8, To “Honble Convention of North Carolina”

            Location unknown, but taken by a Union soldier when Sherman’s troops entered Raleigh, April 14, 1865, per the New York Times, August 13, 1865, 8:4.

South Carolina          Date Unknown

            Location unknown.

 

ADDITIONAL HANCOCK LETTERS ANNOUNCING DECLARATION

July 6, to George Washington, in New York, with Continental Army

            Library of Congress (George Washington Papers)

July 6, to William Cooper, Boston.

Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pages.

            SK for Gilder Lehrman Collection on deposit at the New-York Historical Society, GLC 595, acquired 1991 < Bruce Gimelson as agent for Dr. Joseph Fields < acquired 1950s from Forrest Sweet. (Determined in 1992 to be ex-Massachusetts Historical Society.)

July 6, to Artemas Ward, in Boston, Continental Army

            Harvard University (John Hubbard Collection; Gift of Helen Fahnestock Hubbard, 1945.) < Thomas F. Madigan, Word Shadows of the Great: The Lure of Autograph Collecting, NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1930, ill. Ps 121.

 

John Hancock (1737-1793) was a Boston merchant and leader of the colonial resistance movement. Born in Braintree, his paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, adopted John after his father died in 1742. John graduated from Harvard College in 1754 and went to work for his uncle, from whom he learned the mercantile trade and was groomed for partnership. The Hancock family engaged in smuggling with the French West Indies in defiance of the Molasses Act. When his uncle died childless in 1764, John Hancock inherited the lucrative mercantile business and became one of the wealthiest men in New England. Named a Boston selectman in 1765, Hancock opposed the Stamp Act. Upon passage of the Townshend Duties in 1767, he resolved to prohibit British customs officials from setting foot on his ships. Hancock served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and, in 1774, he was elected president of the revolutionary Provincial Congress. He and Samuel Adams were the targets of General Gage’s projected campaign against Lexington and Concord in April 1775. During the war, Hancock served as President of the Continental Congress, 1775-1777, and in that capacity signed the Declaration of Independence in bold script on July 4, 1776. After Shays’ Rebellion embroiled Massachusetts in civil unrest in 1786 and 1787, Hancock’s support of the new federal Constitution was probably responsible for its ratification by Massachusetts, though by a narrow margin. Under a new Massachusetts constitution, he overwhelmingly won election as governor in 1780 and served until his resignation in January 1785. After Shays’ Rebellion confounded his successor James Bowdoin, Hancock returned to office as governor in 1787 and pardoned the rebels. He won reelection annually for the rest of his life.

Archibald Bulloch (1730-1777) was born in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was educated and began to practice law. The Bulloch family moved to Georgia in 1758, and Bulloch moved to Savannah in 1764. Later that year, he married Mary De Veaux, and they had one child. He was elected to the colonial legislature in 1768. An early supporter of the American Revolution in Georgia, Bulloch served as president of the 1st and 2nd Provincial Congresses of Georgia. He represented Georgia in the Continental Congress in 1775 and would have returned in 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence. Instead, Bulloch remained in Georgia to aid the revolution. John Adams was disappointed that Bulloch could not return to Philadelphia. Bulloch fought with the patriot militia under Colonel Lachlan McIntosh early in 1776, and became the first President and Commander-in-Chief of Georgia on April 19. He signed the new state constitution on February 20, 1777. Two days later, Bulloch died in Savannah, preparing to defend the state against an expected British invasion. Some speculate he was poisoned. The Council of Safety appointed Button Gwinnett as President, but he served for only two months before being replaced by a governor under the new state constitution that went into effect on May 1. Bulloch was the great-great-grandfather of President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

GEORGIA’S REVOLUTIONARY WAR HISTORY

Of the thirteen colonies that became the United States, Georgia was the youngest (chartered in 1732), the most remote, and the most sparsely populated. As the conflict developed, Royal Governor Sir James Wright used all of his influence and patronage to keep Georgia aligned with the Crown. Despite those efforts, in January 1775, a Provincial Congress met at Savannah, with five of twelve parishes represented, to respond to Britain’s punishment of Boston. Governor Wright adjourned the legislature to prevent it from supporting the Provincial Congress.

Georgia’s first overt revolutionary act occurred in Savannah on May 11, 1775, less than a month after Lexington and Concord. Patriots broke into a powder magazine and removed the gunpowder, sending some of it to South Carolina and concealing the rest in their cellars. In June 1775, a Council of Safety was elected, and in July, the Provincial Congress appointed delegates to the Continental Congress. In September, one of the five, Rev. John Joachim Zubly, was expelled for treasonous correspondence with Governor Wright. Zubly fled to South Carolina, escaping Georgia’s order to arrest him.

By the time Governor Wright called the legislature to reconvene in November, the province was in the hands of the patriots. After a small British fleet arrived off Savannah in mid-January 1776, the patriots briefly took Governor Wright prisoner, but he escaped on February 11 to the HMS Scarborough. During the night of March 2-3, despite militia opposition, British troops seized a number of rice boats for provisions. After an exchange of prisoners and the British seizure of several arriving vessels, the British fleet departed for Nova Scotia with 1,600 barrels of rice and the deposed governor.

In late February or early March, Georgia’s Provincial Congress appointed Archibald Bulloch, John Houstoun, Dr. Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton to represent it in the Continental Congress. In April, however, Georgia’s Provincial Congress appointed Bulloch as President and Commander in Chief of the Province, thus keeping him in Georgia. Houstoun also remained to work with the Committee of Safety.

Gwinnett served briefly as president of Georgia, and Hall and Walton both later served as governor of Georgia. Walton was expelled from office for conflict with Gwinnett, and was censured for supporting a duel in which his ally General Lachlan McIntosh killed Gwinnett.

After the Revolutionary War reached a stalemate in the north, British commanders turned south, looking for more Loyalist allies. In December 1778, a British expeditionary force captured Savannah. Early in 1779, they captured Augusta but soon abandoned it. Former Governor Wright returned to Savannah in July 1779, making Georgia the only colony restored to royal rule. The British then turned to Charleston. Following a two-month siege in the spring of 1780, General Benjamin Lincoln was forced to surrender his force of 5,000 men, and that city fell to the British.

After the Franco-American victory over the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, the British withdrew from Savannah in July 1782 and from Charleston in December. The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, formally ended the American Revolutionary War.


[1] From Henkels’ catalog introduction: Donaldson “was connected for many years with the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, and was on intimate terms with the foremost statesmen, authors, actors and art critics of the past thirty years… He was one of the pioneers of Idaho, and in 1880 was offered the governorship of the Territory by President R. B. Hayes.” He wrote The Public Domain (a codification of American land laws), Walt Whitman, the Man, The House in which Jefferson Wrote the Declaration of Independence, and other books. According to Henkels, “His Historical Papers are so important that they should find a resting-place in our National Museum, where many of them have already been on exhibition for years.” An important part of the Donaldson collection relating to Native American history was acquired for the University of Pennsylvania in 1899 by John Wannamaker.

[2] Journal of the Council of Safety, August 8, 1776, in Allen D. Candler, comp., Revolutionary Records of the State of Georgia, 3 vols. (Atlanta: The Franklin-Turner Company, 1908), 1:174, 176-77. Council members John Bohun Girardeau, Adam Fowler Brisbane, Benjamin Andrew, Samuel Saltus, Daniel Roberts, Jonathan Bryan, and John Houstoun were also present

[3] John Hampden Hazelton, The Declaration of Independence: Its History (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1906), 279-281, citing The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 9, 1776. See also Essex Journal, November 8, 1776.

[4] Charles C. Jones Jr., The History of Georgia, 2 vols. (Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1883), 2:244.

[5] “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

[6] See Seth Kaller, Inc. notes on the Dunlap broadside and the first newspaper printing of the Declaration.

[7] Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 156.

[8] The deposed king and horse were transported to Connecticut and cast into “melted majesty,” 42,088 musket balls.


Purchase Item Ask About This Item Add to Favorites