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Charles Thomson’s Secret Journal of the Confederation Congress, Including Detailed Description of the Great Seal and Negotiations for the Treaty of Paris to End the Revolutionary War

CHARLES THOMSON, Manuscript Document, Journal as Secretary of Confederation Congress, 1782-1783. 104 pp., 6½ x 7⅞ in. Contemporary marbled boards; sympathetically rebacked; burgundy cloth chemise and slipcase, burgundy morocco spine lettered gilt. Together with: Mrs. Charles Thomson’s three calling cards.

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The Devise for an Armorial Achievement and reverse of a great Seal for the United States.... The Escutcheon on the breast of the American bald Eagle displayed...and in his beak a scroll inscribed with this motto ‘E pluribus unum.’

This remarkable handwritten journal includes a description of the Great Seal of the United States; Thomson is now credited with being the final designer. There is also a crucial diplomatic report by Edmund Randolph entitled “Facts and Observations in support of the several claims of the United States not included in their Ultimatum of the 15 of June, 1781”; the text of the Preliminary Articles of Peace between the United States of America and Great Britain, signed on November 30, 1782; summaries of the treaties between Great Britain and France and Great Britain and Spain, signed on January 20, 1783; and correspondence in French between British negotiator Alleyne Fitz Herbert and American Peace Commissioners John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, also of January 20, 1783.

Randolph’s report comprises two thirds of the text in this journal and was not made public until 1820-1821, when the “Secret Journals” of Congress were first published under the direction of President James Monroe in conformity with resolutions of Congress.

Item #26592, $925,000

George Washington’s “Justice and Public Good” Letter, Written Just Before Becoming the First President of the United States

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to Frederick Phile, March 15, 1789, Mount Vernon, Virginia. Washington’s retained copy, written on blank leaf of Phile’s letter to him as evidenced by partial address on verso: “[George] Washington / [Moun]t Vernon.” 1 p., 8 x 6¼ in.

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“I will go into Office totally free from pre-engagements of every nature whatsoever, and in recommendations to appointments will make justice & the public good, my sole objects.”

The still unofficial President-elect George Washington writes in March 1789 about his determination to go into the presidency with no pre-existing commitments, ready to purely judge the“justice & the public good” of every appointment. He would extend that sentiment to every aspect of his presidency.

Washington referred to the standard of “justice & the public good” only a few times, and the present letter is the only example we know of that has ever reached the market.

Item #27734, $550,000

Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Congress Authorizing Copper Coinage (the First Legal Tender Produced by U.S. Government)

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, “An Act to provide for a copper coinage,” May 8, 1792, Philadelphia. 1 p., 9⅝ x 15 in.

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That the director of the mint…purchase a quantity of copper...and…cause the copper...to be coined at the mint into cents and half cents...thence to issue into circulation….

That after the expiration of six calendar months from the time when there shall have been paid into the treasury by the said director, in cents and half cents, a sum not less than fifty thousand dollars … no copper coins or pieces whatsoever, except the said cents and half cents, shall pass current as money, or shall be paid, or offered to be paid or received in payment for any debt … and all copper coins or pieces, except the said cents and half cents, which shall be paid or offered to be paid or received in payment contrary to the prohibition aforesaid, shall be forfeited, and every person by whom any of them shall have been so paid … shall also forfeit the sum of ten dollars…”

Item #27505, $235,000

Thomas Jefferson Signed Judiciary Act of 1793

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, “An Act in addition to the act, entitled, ‘An act to establish the judicial Courts of the United States,’” Philadelphia, March 2, 1793. 2 pp., 9⅝ x 15⅛ in.

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That the attendance of only one of the justices of the supreme court, at the several circuit courts of the United States, to be hereafter held, shall be sufficient....

At the request of Congress, Attorney General Edmund Randolph offered his critique of the new federal justice system with suggestions for improvements. Chief among them was his recommendation to remove justices of the Supreme Court from their circuit court duties to allow them to focus on more important appellate decisions.[1] Soon after, all of the Supreme Court Justices together wrote to President Washington complaining of the burden of their duties. Congress took up the issue two days after Washington mentioned it in his November 6, 1792 State of the Union Address, and a day after he forwarded the Justices’ letter to Congress. This Act was passed on February 27, and signed into law by Washington on March 3, 1793.

Jefferson was required by a prior Act to authenticate two copies for each state of every Act of Congress. By this time, there were 15 states, so Jefferson would have signed only 30 copies, of which very few survive. 



[1] Edmund Randolph, Report of the Attorney-General. Read in the House of Representatives, December 31, 1790 (Philadelphia: Francis Childs & John Swaine, 1791), 7-10.

Item #26594.99, $150,000

Jefferson-Signed Patent Act of 1793

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State, An act to promote the progress of useful arts, and to repeal the act heretofore made for that purpose, February 21, 1793. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Jonathan Trumbull as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams as Vice President and President of the Senate. [Philadelphia: Francis Childs and John Swaine?, 1793], 4 pp. Evans 26309

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Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson signs the second U.S. Patent Act, which played a signal role in the commercial development of the United States. A key difference between this act and the one it replaced was that, in addition to new inventions, patents could be issued for improvements to existing products. The measure helped foster American innovation, successfully ushering the nation into the Industrial Revolution. We locate no other signed copies of this milestone act.

Item #22424.99, $125,000

Jefferson’s Excessively Rare Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom

[THOMAS JEFFERSON], Prominent front-page printing of “A Bill for establishing religious Freedom, (Printed for the Consideration of the People),” The Providence Gazette; and Country Journal (Rhode Island), May 13, 1780, 1:1-2.

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One of the three achievements of which Jefferson was most proud, as listed on his epitaph.

Only the second known newspaper printing, and the first front-page printing.

Item #25999.99, $105,000

Thomas Paine: “Contentment”

THOMAS PAINE, Autograph Poem Signed “T.P.,” to Mrs. Barlow. [c. 1798-1799]. 2 pp., 7¼ x 9⅜ in.

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“This prayer is Common Sense./ Let others choose another plan,/ I mean no fault to find,/ The true Theology of Man/ Is happiness of Mind. T.P.”

The original manuscript of a poem by the great Revolutionary pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, written to Mrs. Joel Barlow, the wife of a famed American poet. In the poem, Paine explains his ideas on happiness and love and makes direct references to America and his most famous work, Common Sense. The poem, entitled “Contentment or, If You Please, Confession,” was written in response to a comment by Mrs. Barlow (the Barlows were living in Paris at the time). Turning away from what he calls “the superstition of scripture Religion,” Paine proposes a new religion—“happiness of mind.”

Item #21491.99, $100,000

To Avoid Abuse from “bigots in religion...politics, or...medicine,” Thomas Jefferson Declines to Publish Benjamin Rush’s Private Correspondence

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed, to James Mease. With conjoined franked address leaf in Jefferson’s hand. August 17, 1816. Monticello, [Charlottesville, Va.]. 1 p., 9¾ x 8 in.

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Thomas Jefferson, long since retired to private life, declines the request of Dr. James Mease for copies of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s correspondence with Jefferson. Mease had hoped to include them in a volume of Rush’s letters to be published and specifically requested letters pertaining to Rush’s personal views on religion and politics. After demurring, Jefferson discusses at length the differences between personal and official correspondence, with philosophical thoughts on public versus private expression. He closes with assurances that his decision is nothing personal, and of his great respect for Mease: “I hope, my dear Sir, you will see in my scruples only a sentiment of fidelity to a deceased friend.”

Item #23233, $75,000

Alexander Hamilton’s Initial Steps to Create a National Banking System

Alexander Hamilton, Circular Letter Signed as Secretary of the Treasury, “Alexr Hamilton/Secy of the Treasury,” to Stephen Smith Esq., Collector of the Customs for the Port of Machias, Massachusetts [Maine], September 22, 1789, New York, New York. 2 pp., 7¾ in. x 9¼ in.

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Also see the Alexander Hamilton Collection: The Story of the Revolution & Founding

On his 11th day as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton orders Customs Collectors to accept Bank of North America and Bank of New York notes as the equivalent of gold or silver, and hints at forthcoming procedures to guard against counterfeit currency.

“In consequence of arrangements lately taken with the Bank of North America, and the Bank of New York for the accommodation of the Government, I am to inform you that it is my desire that the Notes of those Banks payable either on demand, or at no longer period than Thirty days after their respective dates should be received in payment of the duties, as equivalent to Gold and Silver . . .”

Item #26524, $70,000

George Washington Signed Military Commission, Preparing for a Decisive Victory Against Native Americans and the British in the Midwest

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Document Signed, Philadelphia, Pa., March 19, 1793, appointing William Winston as Captain of Light Dragoons. Co-signed by Henry Knox, Secretary of War, and John Stagg, Chief Clerk of the War Department. Imprint at bottom, “Drawn and Engrav’d by Thackara and Vallance, Philada.” With paper seal of the United States. 1 p., 16 x 20 in., on vellum. Framed with rag mats and UV-filtered plexiglass to 29 x 34¼ in.

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Two weeks after his second inauguration, President George Washington appoints William Winston as Captain of Light Dragoons. By the time Winston joined the army in the Northwest Territory, he had been promoted to command the entire cavalry of the new Legion of the United States. In that position, he fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the decisive U.S. victory against the Native American confederation and their British allies in that area.

George Washington-signed military commissions are rare on the market, and we don’t recall ever seeing a more attractive example.

Item #20626.99, $55,000

Congress Begs the States for the Power to Regulate Trade and Negotiate Treaties

CHARLES THOMSON, Document Signed as Secretary of Congress. Resolutions Concerning Foreign Commerce. April 30, 1784, [Annapolis, Maryland]. 1 p., 7¾ x 12¾ in.

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“The fortune of every citizen is interested in the success thereof [of trade]; for it is the constant source of wealth and incentive to industry; and the value of our produce and our land must ever rise or fall in proportion to the prosperous or adverse state of trade.…”

Item #20874.99, $54,000

Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania Ratification Debates, More, in 1787 Newspaper Run

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], The Pennsylvania Herald, and General Advertiser, January 3 to December 29, 1787. Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, Christopher Talbot, and William Spotswood. Bound volume of 83 issues of 4 pages each. 332 pp., 11 x 19 x 1½ in. Normally published semi-weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but from September 11 to October 6, it was published on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. (Lacking issues of Jan. 20, 24, 27, 31, Feb. 3, 7, 17, 24, March 17, May 9, 12, 16, 23, July 4, 14, 18, 28, Aug. 11, Sept. 11, 20, 29, Oct. 2, 31, Dec. 1, 5.)

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The year 1776 is celebrated, says a correspondent, for a revolution in favour of liberty. The year 1787, it is expected will be celebrated with equal joy, for a revolution in favour of government. The impatience with which all classes of people wait to receive the new federal constitution, can only be equalled by their zealous determination to support it.” Sept. 8, 1787.

This fascinating extensive run of the Pennsylvania Herald gives a sense of the anticipation over the results of the closed-door U.S. Constitutional Convention, which deliberated from May through September in Philadelphia. It follows with in-depth coverage of the debates in the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention in November and December, also in Philadelphia.

Item #24828, $48,000

Charles Thomson (One of Only Two Men to Sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4) Sends Treaty of Paris Proclamation Officially Ending the Revolutionary War

CHARLES THOMSON, Manuscript Letter Signed, to Georgia Governor John Houstoun, January 16, 1784, Annapolis, Maryland. 1 p., 6¼ x 7¾ in.

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Charles Thomson of Pennsylvania served as Secretary of the Continental and Confederation Congresses throughout their entire fifteen-year existence, from 1774 to 1789. In that position, he signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. With a very small executive department, the role was much more than clerical; especially when Congress was not in session, he essentially acted as the prime minister of the pre-Constitutional United States.

This letter to the governor of Georgia transmitted printed copies of the Proclamation of the Treaty of Paris and Congressional Resolution (both no longer present), written by Thomas Jefferson, recommending that the states restore the confiscated property of all British subjects who had “not borne arms against the...United States” in a “spirit of conciliation.” The recipient, John Houstoun, had taken office as governor of Georgia one week earlier.

Item #27680, $37,500

President Adams Writes to His Son Thomas While Anxiously Awaiting News from Europe as America Prepares for War with France

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to son, Thomas Boylston Adams. Philadelphia, [Pa.], March 1, 1798. 2 ½ pp. on a bifolium (watermarked Curteis & Sons), 8 x 9¾ in.

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At the height of the Quasi-War with France, John Adams writes to his son, Thomas, then accompanying Adams’s eldest son, John Quincy, who had just been commissioned Minister to Prussia, a neutral power in the ongoing war between France and Britain. He encourages brevity in his correspondence, given the tense nature of European diplomacy and the seeming imminence of war between France and the United States. “We are all in suspense … without news from Europe. We learn that General Buonaparte has been at Paris and is gone to the Congress. But we know no more …”

Item #27562, $35,000

Jefferson’s Autograph Notes Explaining Napier’s Rule on Spherical Triangles, a Branch of Geometry Crucial to Astronomy, Geodesy, Navigation, & Architecture

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Manuscript. Notes on Napier’s Theorem. [Monticello, Va.], [ca. March 18, 1814].

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John Napier, who is also credited with inventing logarithms and pioneering the use of the decimal point, first published his rule in 1614. While spherical trigonometry was the foundation for many scientific pursuits including astronomy, celestial navigation, geodesy (the measurement and mathematical representation of the Earth), architecture, and other disciplines, Napier’s Theorum remained largely unknown in America because of its complexity. Since it was so important to his own scholarly pursuits, Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, was the perfect person to school a professor friend on this important, but complicated mathematical formula.

For instance, a navigator’s distance and position can be determined by “solving” spherical triangles with latitude and longitude lines—essentially very large triangles laid out on a curved surface. Astronomers apply similar principles; stargazers imagine the sky to be a vast dome of stars, with triangles laid out on curved (in this case concave) surface. The distance of stars can be calculated by the viewer, who is considered to be standing at the center (the Earth) and looking up at stars and planets as if they were hung on the inside surface of the sphere. In architecture, spherical triangles fill the corner spaces between a dome that sits on foursquare arches—called a dome on pendentives.

Item #23358, $35,000

Declaration of Independence Signer Samuel Huntington’s Copy of an Act of Congress Signed by Thomas Jefferson

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State. “An Act to alter the Times and Places of holding the Circuit Courts in the Eastern District, and in North-Carolina,...” Philadelphia, Pa., March 2, 1793. 2 pp., 9¾ x 15 in. Signed in Type by George Washington as President. Lengthy docket by Samuel Huntington.

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This act establishes the exact places and dates for the spring Circuit Courts to meet for the eastern districts of New-York, Connecticut, Vermont, New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. This copy of the act, duly signed by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson a day before the official date of the end of the Second Congress, was sent to Governor Samuel Huntington of Connecticut because the act specified that the spring circuit court “shall henceforth be held … for the district of Connecticut, at New-Haven on the twenty-fifth day of April…”

Item #23042.99, $30,000

Thomas Jefferson Transmits the First Patent Act to Governor of New York George Clinton, Who Later Replaced Aaron Burr as Jefferson’s Vice President

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Letter Signed, as Secretary of State, to Governor George Clinton of New York, April 15, 1790, New York. 1 p., 7¾ x 9½ in

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In his position as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson conveyed copies of new federal laws to the governors of each of the states. This letter, signed by Jefferson, conveyed the First Patent Act, formally An Act to Promote the Progress of Useful Arts, to New York Governor George Clinton, who would later serve as Jefferson’s second vice president.

Item #26389.99, $28,000

Rare Paul Revere-Signed “Rising States Lodge” Masonic Certificate

PAUL REVERE, Printed Document Signed. Boston, Mass., September 3, 1800. 1 p., Countersigned by John Bray, Enoch Baldwin and Joseph Clark (secretary). On vellum, with original red silk ribbon attached. 16 x 13, 31½ x 21½ in.

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Revolutionary Boston hero Paul Revere was a founding member of the Rising States Lodge of Massachusetts Freemasons. This Masonic initiation certificate for the Lodge, elaborately engraved by B. Hurd, (“Brother B. Hurd del.”), depicts an elaborate arched pediment supported by two columns, large Masonic symbols (crossed keys, sun, moon and stars with comet, crossed quills) and, in the center portion, an open coffin, drafting implements and two candleholders resting on a large altar. To the side are cherubs on pedestals, one holding an open book, the other a mallet.

Item #23700, $26,000

“Black Sam” Fraunces as Steward of George Washington’s Presidential Household

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Samuel Fraunces. Manuscript Document Signed, with the text likely penned by presidential secretary Bartholomew Dandridge Jr., March 10, 1794, Philadelphia, PA. 1 p., 6 x 3¼ in.

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“10th March 1794 recd of Bw Dandridge one hundred & forty six dollars and thirty two cents to purchase sundries for the President’s Household.  146 32/100      Saml Fraunces”

Documents signed by Samuel Fraunces, the famous tavern keeper and steward of George Washington’s presidential households in New York and Philadelphia, are exceptionally rare. During the British occupation of New York, Fraunces had been captured and impressed into the service of British officers. While doing so, he was able to help feed American captives, and was credited with providing information to American troops and preventing an assassination plot against Washington. 

Item #27320, $25,000

President Adams Writes to an Old Friend, Reflecting on the Vicissitudes of High Office

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed, as President, to Tristram Dalton, March 30, 1798, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 2 pp., 8 x 9⅞ in.

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A wistful letter to a boyhood friend in which Adams mentions some guileful political colleagues and laments the “popular Passions of the times” and the general neglect of his political writings. “The Difficulty of leading or guiding Millions, by any means but Power and Establishments can be known only to those who have tried Experiments of it.

Item #27564, $25,000
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