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The Alexander Hamilton Collection: The Story of the Revolution and Founding

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND FOUNDING], The Collection features Highly Important Original Letters, Documents, & Imprints representing not just Hamilton, but also Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Paine, Burr, the Schuyler Sisters and Brothers, & Many More. Telling political and personal tales of the brilliant and sometimes tragic Founders, this Collection of more than 1,100 original documents is offered as a whole, but can be reconstituted to make it most appropriate for Federal Hall.

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Can you imagine a nation with no uniting banking system or currency? With insufficient revenue for even the most necessary expenses? With no ability to act as one nation on the world stage?

Clearly, Washington needed a right-hand man for the incredibly detailed work of building a government, formulating plans, and bringing them from conception to completion. His choice was obvious. Alexander Hamilton had revealed his unique energy and capability throughout the Revolutionary War, at the Constitutional Convention, and in the ratification battles. 

On September 11, 1789, the same day Washington signed his letters transmitting the Act of Congress Establishing the Treasury Department, he made his first cabinet nomination: Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Within hours, the Senate confirmed the appointment.

The financial system Hamilton designed created the possibility of a real United States of America, whose founding purpose was to advance the rights of the people to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Item #24685, $2,600,000

Rare First Printing of the U.S. Constitution

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The Independent Gazetteer, or, the Chronicle of Freedom. Philadelphia: Eleazer Oswald, September 19, 1787. 4 pp.

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We, the People of the United States…

This rare complete printing of the Constitution appeared on the first day it was publicly available, Wednesday, September 19, 1787. That same morning, the Constitution was published by four other papers, the Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, Pennsylvania Journal, Pennsylvania Gazette and Freeman’s Journal. The Independent Gazetteer is unique, in that it is the only one of the five first-day printings whose type was evidently not used to print another, stand-alone edition.

Item #21085.99, $325,000

Thomas Jefferson’s Tragic Loss Sparks Famous Reconciliation with John Adams

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to John W. Eppes, June 4, 1804, Washington D.C. 2 pp., 7¾ x 10 in.

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A remarkable, poignant letter from a crucial chapter in Jefferson’s life, his presidency, anticipating his famous reconciliation with his predecessor and longtime compatriot, Adams, but still holding one grudge. “He [John Adams] & myself have gone through so many scenes together…that I have never withdrawn my esteem, and I am happy that this letter gives an opportunity of expressing it to both of them. I shall do it with a frank declaration that one act of his life, & never but one, gave me personal displeasure, his midnight appointments. A respect for him will not permit me to ascribe that altogether to the influence of others, it will leave something for friendship to forgive.

Item #21161.99, $180,000

Washington Privately Asks John Jay If He Will Replace Pinckney as Minister to London

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to John Jay, April 29, 1794, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 2 pp., 9 x 7¼ in.

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President Washington, in a letter marked “Secret & confidential,” asks Chief Justice John Jay to consider becoming the U.S. Minister in London and discusses the difficulty in finding ministers to France. “Secret & confidential…after you shall have finished your business as Envoy, and not before, to become the Resident Minister Plenipotentiary at London....

Item #21635.99, $120,000

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, $115,000

John Adams Elevates the “Independent Executive” – With Exclusive Access to State Secrets – Over Public Opinion

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed as Vice President, to Dr. Benjamin Rush, February 1790, Richmond Hill, Mass. 3 pp., 7⅜ x 9 in.

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A revealing letter to fellow Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, arguing for a strong executive power in a discussion about the Constitution of Pennsylvania. “‘I love my friend as well as you / ‘But why should he obstruct my view?’ contains a Truth, which has laid the foundation for every Despotism and every Absolute Monarchy on Earth… Emulation almost the only Principle of Activity, (except Hunger and Lust) is the cause of all the wars Seditions and Parties in the world …

Item #21178.99, $100,000

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

Frustrated by Articles of Confederation, America’s Credit and Inability to Regulate Commerce, Adams Fails to Negotiate Treaty with Britain

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed, to Elbridge Gerry, May 24, 1786, Grosvenor Square [London]. 4 pp., 7⅞ x 12⅝ in.

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In London to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain, Adams writes of his inability to succeed with the British ministry because the states are not strong enough to support their own credit and regulate their own trade. Addressing his critics in Congress, Adams says anyone who thinks they can do better is welcome to his job. “A more disagreable Situation than mine no Man ever held in Life…making brick without straw, which has been my employment ever since I have been in Europe…was never reckoned an easy or pleasant task, from the days of the Israelites in Egypt…

Item #21463.99, $90,000

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

Jefferson Praises the Spirit of Innovation

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph Letter Signed to Robert Fulton, March 17, 1810, Monticello. 1 p., with autograph address leaf, free franked (“Th: Jefferson”). 7¾ x 9¾ in.

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Jefferson gives succinct expression to some of the prevailing impulses of the Enlightenment – confidence in the future, curiosity, and innovation – in this letter to inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton. “I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements, nor bigoted to the practices of our forefathers … Where a new invention is supported by well known principles & promises to be useful, it ought to be tried. Your torpedoes will be to cities what vaccination has been to mankind. It extinguishes their greatest danger.

Item #21474.99, $50,000

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

Thomas Paine Tries to Pull Strings in France for an American Friend

THOMAS PAINE, Autograph Letter Signed, to “Citizen Directer” [Philippe-Antoine, Comte Merlin, of Douai]. [ca. 1798-1799, Dieppe, France]. 3 pp., 8⅞ x 5⅞ in.

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Paine writes on behalf of a Connecticut-born merchant-adventurer, Nathan Haley, who had captured an American vessel, the Hare, because it carried British contraband. This occurred in 1797, a year before the “Quasi-War” between the U.S. and France. Haley and Paine were each violently opposed to Britain and to the pro-British Federalist Party in America. This letter does not paint Paine in a good light, as he is, by implication, advocating French attacks on American vessels. Paine refers to his famously harsh public letter to George Washington of July 30, 1796, written after Paine narrowly escaped the guillotine during the Reign of Terror, to appeal to his correspondent’s anti-British bias – therein, Paine had condemned Jay’s Treaty, negotiated between the United States and Britain. Paine writes this letter as Merlin of Douai’s “ancient colleague” in the hopes that Merlin of Douai would overturn the ruling that “condemned” Haley’s prize at Dieppe. “[Haley] had been cruelly treated by the British whilst he was their prisoner in the American Revolution, and, as I am informed, has been cheated by the London insurencers, and besides the British made no ceremony of seizing American vessels.... It was Hayley who carried my letter to America addressed to the ex-President Washington, on the subject of the British [Jay’s] Treaty, to be printed....

Item #21479.99, $45,000

President Adams in Suspense, Awaits News from France

JOHN ADAMS, Autograph Letter Signed as President, to son, Thomas Boylston Adams, March 1, 1798, Philadelphia, [Pa.] 3 pp., 9¾ x 8 in.

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At the height of the war scare with France, John Adams writes to his son, Thomas, then accompanying Adams’ 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 #21464.99, $40,000

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 #20887.99, $40,000

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, $30,000

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

Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures

BENJAMIN OWEN TYLER, Broadside, Drawn by Tyler and engraved by Peter Maverick, [Washington, D.C., 1818]. 1 p., 23⅞ x 31 in., archivally framed to approx. 32 x 40 in.

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“In Congress, July 4th 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”

Item #23683, $29,000

Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, Rare Printing on Silk

Thomas Jefferson, Broadside, The inaugural speech of Thomas Jefferson. Washington-City, March 4th, 1801 - this day, at XII o’clock, Thomas Jefferson, President Elect of the United States of America, took the oath of office required by the Constitution, in the Senate Chamber, in the presence of the Senate, the members of the House of Representatives, the public officers, and a large concourse of citizens. Previously to which, he delivered the following address.... [Boston]: From the Chronicle Press, by Adams & Rhoades, Court-Street. [March 19, 1801]. On silk. 16½ x 22½ in. 1 p.

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Jefferson’s most famous speech lays out his political program, but also makes a ringing call for patriotism beyond partisanship. It is considered to be one of the most important presidential speeches, and is widely quoted even today – by President Clinton, President Bush, and almost every other current political figure. Alluding to the recent controversial and acrimonious presidential election, Jefferson calls for a calming of partisan passions, and outlines “what I deem the essential principles of our government. . . . We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists.

Item #21089.99, $28,000

Thomas Paine Asks for Help with His Tenant Farmer and Encloses an Essay on “Hints” for Establishing a Deistical Church

THOMAS PAINE, Autograph Letter Signed, to John Fellows, July 9, 1804, New Rochelle, New York. 1 p., 6⅜ x 8 in.

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Item #25882, ON HOLD

Former President and Future Confederate Supporter John Tyler Forcefully Defends the Fugitive Slave Act and the “Southern Cause,” Attacks the NY Press, and Plays up His Own Service in the War of 1812

JOHN TYLER, Autograph Letter Signed and Autograph Manuscript Signed several times in the third person. Sent to S. Cunningham, from Sherwood Forest, October 12, 1850, 1 p., 9⅜ x 7¼ in. on blue paper marked “Private,” being the cover letter for the manuscript, written for anonymous publication: “The fugitive slave bill and Commissioner Gardiner,” [ca. October 12, 1850], 2 pp., 9⅜ x 7⅞ in. on blue paper.

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In the first fugitive slave law case, which came before his cousin Commissioner Gardiner: “The fugitive was promptly dealt by and restored to his owner in Baltimore. Mr. Gardiner has proven himself to be a faithful public servant, an honest man, and a Patriot. And yet, by a certain class of Editors in New York he is sneered at…

Tyler criticizes two NY editors in particular: “Now what jackasses are Mssrs Herricks and Ropes… These would-be somethingarians [a colloquialism, usually used as an insult] in the first place, deem it a matter of censure in a judge, to execute the law—and, in the next they show their ignorance … by ascribing to Mr. Tyler under their witty soubriquet of Captain (a title he is well content to wear since he enjoyed it during the war of 1812 with Great Britain)…

Item #24043, ON HOLD
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