Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Finance, Stocks, and Bonds Offerings


Other Great Gifts Offerings


Other Early Republic (1784 - c.1830) Offerings


Benjamin Franklin, President of Pennsylvania, Signs Deposition of John Rice Against His Bankrupt Brother, During Constitutional Convention
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

Joseph Rice is become Bankrupt within the meaning of the Acts of Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

John Rice, a ship’s carpenter in Kensington, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, filed this deposition stating that his brother, Joseph Rice, owed him more than £200 and had become bankrupt within the meaning of the Acts of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Franklin signed the deposition as President of the Council of Pennsylvania, a position he held from 1785 to 1788.

When he signed this document on Saturday, August 18, 1787, Franklin was also the oldest member of the Constitutional Convention, which was meeting in Philadelphia. The Convention agreed to a committee consisting of one member per state to consider the assumption of state debts and continued its discussion of Article VII, Section 1, the enumeration of Congressional powers.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. Document Signed, August 18, 1787, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1 p., 6½ x 8¼ in.

Inventory #26405       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Complete Transcript
John Rice of Kensington in the Northern Liberties and County of Philadelphia Upon his solemn Oath saith That Joseph Rice of the City of Philadelphia Sailmaker and Dealer, is indebted unto this Deponent in the Sum of Two hundred Pounds & upwards And that the said Joseph Rice is become Bankrupt within the meaning of the Acts of Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as this Deponent is informed and believes.

                                                                        John Rice
Sworn before me this 18th day of August 1787

                                                                        B Franklin Presidt

Historical Background
In September 1785, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed “An Act for the Regulation of Bankruptcy.” The act provided for the discharge of the debt and the debtor and was to continue in force for seven years. However, one section of the act provided that if the bankrupt committed fraud, he would be set upon the pillory for two hours and have one of his ears nailed to the pillory and cut off. The General Assembly in 1794 extended the act for a few months, but no other act was ever passed in Pennsylvania. The new federal Constitution prohibited states from impairing the obligation of contracts (Art. I, sec. 10).

John Rice’s deposition was part of the evidence presented to Franklin to establish that Joseph Rice was indeed a bankrupt and should be allowed to obtain the relief provided by the state’s bankruptcy law. Three days after signing this document, Franklin signed the order, “Let a Commission issue as within prayed, directed to Matthew Clarkson, George Hughes, Peter Baynton, and Richard Bache, Esqrs or any three of them.” The order carried the endorsement: “1787 August 21st Petition of John Rice in the case of Joseph Rice a Bankrupt.”

Together, Clarkson, Hughes, Baynton, and Bache formed a body called the Commissioners of Bankrupts. Matthew Clarkson (1733-1800) went on to serve as mayor of Philadelphia from 1792 to 1796. Peter Baynton (1754-ca. 1825) was a Philadelphia merchant who also served as comptroller of the general post office and postmaster in Philadelphia from 1776 to 1782 and as treasurer of Pennsylvania in 1798. Richard Bache (1737-1811) was a businessman, the son-in-law of Benjamin Franklin, and Postmaster General of the U.S. Post Office from 1776 to 1782.

Also on August 21, the Commissioners of Bankrupts issued the following notice:

Whereas a commission of bankrupt is awarded and issued forth against JOSEPH RICE of he city of Philadelphia, sail-maker and dealer, and he being declared a bankrupt, is hereby required to surrender himself to the commissioners in the said commission named, or the major part of them, on Wednesday the 22d day of August instant, on Friday 21st of September next, and on Tuesday the 2d of October following, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon of each of the said days, at the State-house in the city of Philadelphia, and make a full discovery and disclosure of his estate and effects, when and where the creditors are to come prepared to prove their debts, at the second meeting to chuse assignees, and at the last meeting the said bankrupt is required to finish his examination.

            All persons indebted to the said bankrupt, or who have any of his effects, are not to pay or deliver the same, but to whom the commissioners shall appoint, but give notice thereof to the subscriber.[1]

Joseph Rice seems to have recovered from his financial difficulties after his bankruptcy. On July 4, 1788, Philadelphia celebrated the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine states after New Hampshire ratified it on June 21, 1788. The procession included more than eighty military, trade, and professional groups, approximately twenty of which were accompanied elaborate floats or carriages. One of the floats was “The Federal Union” a 33-foot-long ship mounted on a carriage with a crew of 25 men and boys and drawn by ten horses. A canvas painted to represent the sea hung around the entire ship to the ground to conceal the wheels. Following this float was a group of sail-makers led by Captain Joseph Rice carrying a flag “representing the inside view of a Sail Loft, with masters and men at work; on the top 13 stars; in the fly 5 vessels – Motto – ‘May Commerce flourish, and Industry be rewarded.’” Rice’s brother John Rice followed in the next group of ship carpenters.

John Rice, shipwright, of the county of Philadelphia, became a bankrupt in January 1792.[2]

Provenance:John Heise Autographs, Syracuse, New York, 1939.

Condition: Very good.

[1]The Independent Gazetteer; or, the Chronicle of Freedom (Philadelphia, PA), August 22, 1787, 3:3, September 19, 1787, 4:1, October 1, 1787, 4:1.

[2]General Advertiser (Philadelphia, PA), February 4, 1792, 3:3.