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Constitution and Bill of Rights

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Declaration of Independence Centennial (SOLD)

[HARPER’S WEEKLY], Newspaper. July 8, 1876.

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The July 8, 1876 issue of Harper’s Weekly, containing a supplement celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, complete with a centerspread facsimile of one of Jefferson’s draft manuscripts and the signatures of the signers, along with related engravings.

Item #30011.003, SOLD — please inquire about other items

A Stone/Force Printing of the Declaration of Independence (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving printed on thin wove paper. Imprint at bottom left, “W. J. STONE SC WASHN” [William J. Stone for Peter Force, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series 5, Vol I. Approx 26 x 29 in.

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IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

Item #25743, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration of Independence William Stone/Peter Force Facsimile, 1833 (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving printed on thin wove paper. Imprint at bottom left, “W. J. STONE SC WASHn” [William J. Stone for Peter Force, Washington, D.C. ca. 1833]. Printed for Peter Force’s American Archives, Series 5, Vol I. 25¼ x 30⅞ in.

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Item #24402, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Declaration of Independence - Huntington Printing (SOLD)

ELEAZER HUNTINGTON, Engraved Document. Ca. 1820-1825. 20 x 24½ in.

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Scarce early engraving of the Declaration of Independence.

Item #21539, SOLD — please inquire about other items

John Binns Scarce and Most Decorative Early 19th century (1819) Declaration of Independence Facsimile

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Engraved Broadside. “In Congress July 4th. 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.” [Philadelphia:] John Binns, 1819. Text engraved by C.H. Parker, facsimiles of signatures engraved by Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co. Ornamental border incorporating the seals of the thirteen original states after Thomas Sully. Medallion portrait of Washington (after Gilbert Stuart, 1795), Jefferson (after Otis, 1816), and Hancock (after Copley, 1765). 24½ x 34½ in.

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Item #23834.99, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The First Engraving of the Declaration of Independence - The Only Known of the 3 Ordered on Linen (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE]. BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside on linen, engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, 1818], approximately 24½ x 31 in.

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“To Thomas Jefferson, Patron of the Arts, the firm Supporter of American Independence, and the Rights of Man, this Charter of Freedom is, with the highest esteem, most Respectfully Inscribed by his much Obliged and very Humble Servant Benjamin Owen Tyler.”

Benjamin Owen Tyler’s engraving was the first decorative print of the Declaration. A self-taught calligrapher and instructor of penmanship, Tyler copied and designed the text of the Declaration, and made exact copies (facsimilies) of the signatures from the engrossed manuscript. The exactness of his work is particularly impressive given the limitations of copying them freehand prior to engraving on a copper plate. Richard Rush, son of the signer Benjamin Rush and acting Secretary of State in 1817, gave a strong endorsement which is printed on the bottom left corner.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Tompkins are among the many notables who ordered copies in advance.

Tyler’s subscription book was donated by Albert Small to the University of Virginia, and now can be viewed online. After extensive study, we count approximately 1650 orders for copies on paper at $5 each, and 40 for copies on vellum at $7 each. 3 noted special orders on silk, 2 of which are known to survive. Only 3 were ordered on linen, of which this is the only copy known to survive. Silk and linen copies also apparently cost $7 each. The three purchasers of premium copies on linen were John G.[?] Camp, Buffalo, N.Y., J. C. Spencer, Canandaigua, NY and John Savage, Salem, N.Y. We don’t know which of the original subscribers ours belonged to, but it does have distinguished provenance, selling in 1979 in the Nathaniel E. Stein auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet, January 30, 1979, lot 47. Stein also owned Tyler’s subscription book, lot 46.

Item #23754, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Rare “Address to the People of the State of Connecticut,” the Report of Delegates from 97 Towns Who Met to Call for a Democratic Non-Theocratic State Constitution

[CONNECTICUT], “Address to the People of the State of Connecticut,” broadsheet, August 29, 1804, New Haven, CT. Signed in type by William Judd, Chairman. 2 pp., 10½ x 18 in.

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An important document in American constitutional and religious history.

“Excellent as may appear the government of Connecticut to those, who have administered it… yet to us… it has been and is an unequal government, constantly tending to the increase of aristocracies and to the consequent humiliation of men and principles, friendly to our revolution. The government is indeed good for those, who have enjoyed all power and privileges under it…”

Three months earlier, Abraham Bishop gave an oration celebrating the re-election of President Jefferson. In it, he argued that the Declaration of Independence made the 1662 Royal Charter void, and that Connecticut’s General Assembly had “usurped the rights of the people” by preventing the passage of a State Constitution. “Thus all the abuses inflicted on us when subjects of a crown, were fastened on us anew... We still suffer from the old restrictions on the right to vote; we are still ruled by the whims of seven men…. Not only do they make laws, but they plead before justices of their own appointment, and … interpret the laws of their own making…. Is this an instrument of government for freemen?... We demand a constitution…”

On August 29, 1804, responding to Bishop’s call for a gathering in New-Haven to discuss replacing King Charles II’s Charter, delegates from 97 towns met, and adopted and ordered the printing of this Address. The Federalist-Congregationalist governing party reacted by warning that everyone should fear these radical Jeffersonian Democratic Republican underminers of all religion. “All the friends of stable government [should] support the Standing Order,”they said, as the five state justices who attended the meeting, including its chairman, were fired.  

The harsh reaction of Church and State government actually proved the point of the Address. But it still took the War of 1812, the trial of journalists and other political enemies by partisan judges, culture wars as the officially established Congregational church become more fundamentalist (ie, a “Society for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Good Morals,” ultimately causing many members to fly from the church of eternal damnation to less Calvinist denominations), the foundation of a Toleration Party that voted with Republicans, the collapse of the national Federalist Party, and the “Revolution of 1817” before succeeding. Fourteen years after this Address, a new Constitution that dis-established the Congregational Church and created separate executive, legislative and judicial branches in the “Constitution State.”

Item #26603.99, $7,500

Georgia Constitution of 1798 Prohibits Both the Importation of Slaves and Emancipation by Legislation

[GEORGIA], The Constitution of the State of Georgia. As Revised, Amended and Compiled, by the Convention of the State, at Louisville, on the Thirtieth Day of May, MDCCXCVIII. Augusta: John Erdman Smith, 1799. 36 pp., 4¾ x 8 in. Browned throughout; half calf over marbled boards.

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There shall be no future importation of Slaves into this State, from Africa or any foreign place, after the first day of October next. The legislature shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of each of their respective owners, previous to such emancipation.

This 1798 Georgia Constitution, the state’s third, better defined legislative power, established popular elections for the governor and authorized a state supreme court. Unlike its predecessors that made no mention of slavery, this Constitution prohibited the further foreign importation of slaves into Georgia. However, it also forbade the legislature from emancipating slaves without the consent of their owners or restricting the immigration of slaves from other states with their owners. Practically, it also did not prevent the extensive internal slave trade from other slave-holding states.

Item #26589.99, $19,000

Ratification of The Bill of Rights

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Columbian Centinel, March 14, 1792. Boston, Mass.: Benjamin Russell. 4 pp., 10½ x 16½ in.

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Item #25046, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Early Printing of the Original Twelve Articles of the Bill of Rights

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Acts Passed at the First [-Third] Session of the Congress of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, in the Year M,DCC,LXXXIX. Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, 1791. 3 volumes bound in one, 8vo (368 x 305 mm, uncut). Library stamp on B1 of the first session, repair to lower right corner of Yy4 in the third session. Modern quarter morocco over marbled boards.

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Early reprint of Childs and Swaine’s first official printing, which was issued in New York in 1789. This issue appeared in Philadelphia after the nation’s capital was moved there, and the printers had set up shop. All early printings are scarce, especially those of the first three sessions.

Item #26629.99, $20,000

Connecticut Broadsheet Reports Ratification of U.S. Constitution by Rhode Island, Hamilton’s Funding and Assumption Plans, and Other Debates

[CONSTITUTION], Broadsheet, Supplement to the Connecticut Courant, Aug. 23, 1790. Hartford: Barzillai Hudson and George Goodwin. 2 pp., 10 x 14⅜ in.

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A message was received from the President of the United States, with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States by the State of Rhode Island.” (p1/c1)

This very rare broadside Supplement to the Connecticut Courant details congressional proceedings from June 16-25, 1790, including the announcement of the ratification of the Constitution by Rhode Island, debates surrounding the assumption of state war debts by the federal government, a bill regulating trade with Native American tribes, a committee report on books “necessary for the use of Congress,” a committee report on providing “the means of intercourse between the United States and foreign nations,” and other matters.

Item #26597, $35,000

U.S. Constitution – Contemporary List of States with Ratification Dates and Votes

[CONSTITUTION], Manuscript Document, ca. July 1788-1790. List of the first thirteen states and dates of ratification with votes. 1 p., 4 x 7 in.

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Item #24876, $3,500

Final Version of the Bill of Rights
as Sent to the States with 12 Proposed Amendments (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Providence Gazette and Country Journal. October 24, 1789, Providence, R.I. 4 pp., 10½ x 15 in. The complete text of the Bill of Rights is on pp 2-3.

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Item #22997, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Bill of Rights: September 1789 Printing with Penultimate Text of 2nd Amendment (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. New York: John Fenno, September 23, 1789. 4 pp., 10 x 16 ½ in. Disbound.

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“Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion,or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.”

After the House of Representatives proposed seventeen amendments (“Articles”), the Senate took up the debate and reduced the number to twelve. Even after the reduction, the House and Senate continued wrangling over language, especially in the third article (which would become the First Amendment) and the eighth article regarding trials (which would become the Sixth Amendment).

The Proceedings of Congress report in this issue bears the same September 23 date as the paper itself, but that is unlikely; the House and Senate Journals do not reflect any debate on amending the Constitution that day. Instead, this is most likely the working draft of September 21. It reflects language at the time the House agreed to ten points proposed earlier by the Senate. The House and Senate remained in disagreement and established a conference to resolve sixteen other points of disagreement.

On September 24, the House dropped its objections to the sixteen points, insisting only on changes in the third and eighth articles. Agreement on these two areas established the final text of the Bill of Rights. The Senate concurred on September 25, and the House re-affirmed its approval on September 28th when at least one engrossed copy was signed, marking the Bill of Rights’ final legislative hurdle before being sent to the states for ratification.

Item #30020.05, SOLD — please inquire about other items

(On Hold) The U.S. Constitution – Very Rare Printing on the Second Day of Publication

[U.S. Constitution], The Pennsylvania Herald, Thursday, September 20, 1787. Philadelphia: William Spotswood. Alexander J. Dallas, editor. 4 pp. 11¾ x 19 inches folded, 23½ x 19 inches opened.

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We are not aware of any other example in private hands, and only six institutions list runs that should include this issue. 

Item #27499, ON HOLD

One of the Last Drafts of the Bill of Rights (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper, New-York Daily Gazette. New York: Archibald M’lean, Friday, September 18, 1789. 4 pp.

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“Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America … That the following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States….”

Very rare printing of twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution, as approved by the Senate on September 9, 1789, but not yet reconciled with the House. Article 3, guaranteeing freedom of religion, underwent the most substantial changes between this and the final version ten days later. 

Item #22100, SOLD — please inquire about other items

First Draft of the Bill of Rights:
17 Amendments Approved by the House (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Connecticut Gazette. September 4, 1789 (Vol. XXVI, no. 1347). New-London, Connecticut. 4 pp.

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Remarkable full printing of the seventeen amendments to the Constitution approved by the House of Representatives on August 24th. Ultimately, ten of these amendments would be ratified by the states as the Bill of Rights. On May 4, 1789, two months into the first session of the First Federal Congress, James Madison had announced to the House of Representatives that he intended to propose amendments that would guarantee basic civil rights. The absence of such language had almost waylaid acceptance of the Constitution. In the end, New York and several other states had agreed to ratify the Constitution with the understanding that a Bill of Rights would be added at a later date.

Item #20650.12, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Bill of Rights: Early N.Y. Printing of First Draft Approved by the House of Representatives - 17 Proposed Constitutional Amendments

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, August 29, 1789. New York: John Fenno. Includes a complete printing of the first House of Representatives proposal for amending the Constitution on page 2. 4 pp., 10 x 15¾ in.

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Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for a redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed....

After months of work, on August 24, 1789, the House of Representatives approved seventeen Constitutional amendments, including the first to use the exact phrase, “freedom of speech.” This newspaper includes the full text of the resolution sent by the House to the Senate for approval. The Senate began deliberating the next day, approving some articles and rejecting or altering others.

Item #25430, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Debating the Bill of Rights Amendments in 1789

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, August 22, 1789 (No. 3295). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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Mr. [Egbert] Benson [of New York] moved that the words ‘but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms,’ be struck out. He wished that this humane provision should be left to the wisdom and benevolence of government. It was improper to make it a fundamental in the constitution.”

This issue of the Pennsylvania Packet includes key debates in the House of Representatives on the developing set of amendments that were later ratified as the Bill of Rights. It also prints the Act establishing the War Department.

Item #24831, $7,500

Bill of Rights - After James Madison’s Initial Proposals, the First Congressional Draft: The Report of the Committee of Eleven (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. August 1, 1789. New York: John Fenno. 4 pp. (125-128), 10 x 16 in.

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To ensure ratification of the Constitution, the founding fathers promised that Congress would address guarantees of specific liberties in their first session. After a list of minor textual changes, a series of protections beginning with “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed” followed by “The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for the redress of grievances shall not be infringed” goes on to enumerate most of what would become the Bill of Rights. This is the Report of Mr. Vining and the Committee of Eleven “to whom it was referred to take the subject of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, generally into their consideration...”  in essence the first Congressional draft of the Bill of Rights submitted to the House of Representatives. Several weeks later, the whole House would take up the Committee report pass an official draft of 17 amendments. The fine-tuning between House and Senate versions would continue for the rest of the Congressional session. But the initial report of the Committee of Eleven was the first time the enumerated amendments were revealed.

Item #23567, SOLD — please inquire about other items
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