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Adams Defends U.S. Constitution, First French Edition

[CONSTITUION]. JOHN ADAMS, Défense des Constitutions américaines, ou, de la nécessité d’une balance dans les pouvoirs d’un gouvernement libre. Paris: Chez Buisson, 1792. 2 volumes, 8vo (197 x 124 mm). Half-titles; a fresh, bright copy. Contemporary French paste paper boards, vellum-tipped corners, smooth mottled calf spines gilt, red and green lettering and numbering pieces; some worm damage to joints.

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First French edition, issued at a crucial moment in that country’s history, as the Revolution was becoming more radical. In 1792 the French Assembly stripped Louis XVI of his power and declared him a prisoner of the nation. They called together the Convention, in order to draft a new constitution to replace that of the prior year. Adams’s treatise explaining and defending the principles of the constitution of the government of the United States would have been a timely and informative work for the emerging French government.

Item #26600.99, $2,000

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

Early Printing of a Bill to Establish the Treasury Department

[ALEXANDER HAMILTON], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, June 11, 1789 (No. 3233), Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole, including the Bill to establish the Treasury Department, 4 pp., 11 x 18.25 in.

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Excerpt

it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury, to digest and report plans for the improvement and management of the revenue, and for the support of public credit—To prepare and report estimates of the public revenue, and the public expenditures—To superintend the collection of the revenue—To decide on the forms of keeping and stating accounts, and making returns, and to grant, under the limitations herein established, or to be hereafter provided, all warrants for monies to be issued from the Treasury, in pursuance of appropriations by law—To conduct the sale of the lands belonging to the United States, in such manner as shall be by law directed—To make report, and give information to either branch of the Legislature, in person or writing, (as he may be required) respecting all matters referred to him by the Senate or House of Representatives, or which shall appertain to his office, and generally to do or perform all such services, relative to the finances, as he shall be empowered or directed to do and perform.” (p3/c2)

Item #25031, $2,000

The Justice Department’s First Publication: Attorney General Edmund Randolph’s Suggestions to Improve the New Federal Judiciary, Including Supreme Court Fixes

EDMUND RANDOLPH, Report of the Attorney-General. Read in the House of Representatives, December 31, 1790. Philadelphia: Francis Childs & John Swaine, 1791. 32 pp., Folio 8 x 13 in.

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The House of Representatives asked Attorney General Edmund Randolph to report on the working of the system established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. Randolph responded with this report, delivered on December 27, 1790, provided criticisms and suggestions that became a blueprint to improve the Federal judiciary. Specifically, Randolph wanted Congress to assert the exclusive jurisdiction of federal courts in certain areas; to relieve Supreme Court justices from the duty of presiding in circuit courts; and to adopt explicitly the common law of the United Kingdom as a basis for judicial decisions unless superseded by specific American legislation. 

The latter two-thirds of the report presents Randolph’s proposal for “A Bill for amending the several Acts concerning the Judicial Courts of the United States,” with his explanatory notes. Before Congress acted on Randolph’s suggestions, in August 1792, all of the Supreme Court justices complained in a letter to President George Washington that circuit travel was too onerous. In response, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1793 (see #26594) that required only one, rather than two, justices to sit in each circuit court. Congress did not relieve the justices of circuit-riding duties until 1911.

Item #26590.99, $18,000

Steamboat Inventor Robert Fulton and Six Other Commissioners Ask the Governor of Georgia to Support Federal Funding of the Erie Canal

ROBERT FULTON, Printed Document Signed, October 8, 1811, New York. Letter to the Governor of Georgia David Brydie Mitchell announcing the formation of what would become the Erie Canal Commission. Also signed by GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, DEWITT CLINTON, SIMEON DE WITT, WILLIAM NORTH, THOMAS EDDY and ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON. 2 pp., 10 x 15½ in. Together with: ELISHA JENKINS Document Signed as New York Secretary of State. “An Act to provide for the Improvement of the Internal Navigation of the State,” April 8, 1811, Albany, NY; certified, sealed, and signed, July 10, 1811. 1 p. with docketing, ordered to be filed, Nov. 4, 1811, 8 x 10 in.

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“this Canal … will encourage agriculture, promote commerce and manufactures, facilitate a free and general intercourse between different parts of the United States, tend to the aggrandizement and prosperity of the country, and consolidate and strengthen the Union.

Item #26559, $17,500

President John Quincy Adams’ Remarks & Toast Commemorating William Penn’s Landing

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, Autograph Manuscript, Remarks and Toast to Penn Society, October 25, 1825, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1 pp., 8 x 9¼ in.

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The Land of William Penn, and his ‘Great Town,’ the City of brotherly Love.”

In these brief remarks at Masonic Hall in Philadelphia in October 1825, President Adams proposed the above toast at the second annual meeting of the Penn Society and the 143rd anniversary of William Penn’s landing in America.

Item #27469, $6,800

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

President Washington Approves Establishment of Mint and Issues First Veto

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Columbian Centinel, April 21, 1792. Boston, MA. 4 pp, 10.5 x 16.75 in.

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This newspaper includes the full text of “An Act establishing a Mint and regulating the Coins of the United States” of April 2, 1792, signed in print by Speaker of the House Jonathan Trumbull, Vice President John Adams, President George Washington, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The bill established a mint, specified its officers, and reaffirmed the Congress of the Confederation’s adoption of decimal currency in 1785 (p1/c1-p2/c1). President Washington appointed David Rittenhouse of Pennsylvania as the first director of the mint on April 13, 1792.

It also includes President George Washington’s first veto message, in which he vetoed “An Act for an Apportionment of Representatives among the Several States, according to the First Enumeration” on April 5, 1792 (p3/c1). The bill introduced a new plan for dividing seats in the House of Representatives that would have increased the number of seats held by northern states. After consulting with his divided cabinet, Washington decided that the plan was unconstitutional because the Constitution provided “that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000; which restriction is, by the context, and by fair and obvious construction, to be applied to the separate and respective numbers of the States; and the bill has allotted to eight of the States more than one for 30,000” (p3/c1). Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had suggested that apportionment be derived from arithmetical calculations.

When Washington’s veto arrived, Congress considered overriding the veto by a two-thirds vote, but only 28 representatives still favored the bill, while 33 opposed it (p3/c1). Ultimately, they threw out the bill and passed a new one that apportioned representatives at “the ratio of one for every thirty-three thousand persons in the respective States.”

Item #26258.01, $3,250

John Quincy Adams Campaign Song Handbill, to the Tune of Yankee Doodle

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, Printed Document, “John Quincy Adams,” Songsheet. Providence, RI: [Henry Trumbull], ca. 1828. 1 p., 8 x 10 in.

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“John Quincy Adams is the man,/ Round whom the people flock, Sir, / And none the worse for Uncle Sam, / Because of Yankee stock, Sir.”

This songsheet provides the lyrics for “John Quincy Adams” to be sung to the tune Yankee Doodle. It compares incumbent “commander” John Quincy Adams to challenger Andrew Jackson, who “shoots a score or two, When e’er he wants a frolic,” a reference to Jackson’s controversial decision to execute deserters among his militia forces. The lyrics seem to have first appeared in print in the Newburyport Herald on July 11, 1828, under the title “’Tother Yankee Doodle” and with the preface, “The following song, composed for the late celebration at Portsmouth, contains the yankee properties of broad humour and truth.” The song later appeared in several newspapers in New England and as far away as Frankfort, Kentucky, and New Orleans, Louisiana.[1]

Supporters of JQA’s administration held a celebration of the Fourth of July at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. William Plumer Jr. gave the primary oration, and in the afternoon, a large number dined in Jefferson Hall, drinking toasts to the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence Charles Carroll of Carrollton, President John Quincy Adams, the memory of George Washington, Henry Clay, and many others.[2]

Item #27393.02, $4,000

Justice William Paterson Hold State Law Unconstitutional in Charge to Jury

WILLIAM PATERSON, The Charge of Judge Paterson to the Jury in the Case of Vanhorne’s Lessee against Dorrance: Tried at a Circuit Court for the United States held at Philadelphia, April Term 1795: Wherein the Controverted Title to the Wyoming Lands, Between the Claimants under Pennsylvania and Connecticut, Received a Decision. Philadelphia: Samuel H. Smith, 1796. 42 pp., 3.5 x 5.75 in.

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The case of Van Horne’s Lessee v. Dorrance (1795) was one of the earliest cases in which a federal court asserted the right to disregard a state law that conflicted with the state constitution. Justice William Paterson insisted that a Pennsylvania law that divested one person of property and vested it in another was inconsistent with the “inherent and unalienable rights of man” and a violation of the sanctity of contracts as guaranteed by both the Pennsylvania constitution and the Constitution of the United States.

Item #26251.10, $3,500

The Second Naturalization Act - Establishing Laws for Citizenship

EDMUND RANDOLPH, Document Signed as Secretary of State. An act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization; and to repeal the act heretofore passed. January 29, 1795. Philadelphia: Francis Childs. Signed in type by George Washington as President, John Adams as Vice President, and Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as Speaker of the House of Representatives. 2 pp., 8¼ x 13½ in.

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

The Constitution gave Congress the right to determine the process by which foreign-born residents could obtain citizenship, and a 1790 Act of the First Congress laid out the process. This 1795 revision required all persons who wished to become naturalized citizens to go to a court to declare their intention at least three years prior to formal application. They would have to take an oath of allegiance, be a person of good moral character, agree to support the Constitution, and renounce any former sovereign and hereditary titles.

any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or any of them, on the following conditions, and not otherwise....

By limiting naturalization to “free white” persons, the early acts effectively prevented any people of color or indentured servants from gaining citizenship. Over the next century and a half, these restrictions were at first reinforced (for instance in the notorious Naturalization Act of 1798, part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which extended the required residency period to fourteen years), but then eventually eliminated by subsequent revisions.

Item #24428.26, $7,500

Jefferson-Signed Act of Congress Funding the Federal Government for 1791

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Document Signed as Secretary of State. An Act making appropriations for the support of government during the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety one, and for other purposes, February 11, 1791. [Philadelphia: Childs and Swaine, 1791]. Signed in type by George Washington as President, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams as Vice President and President of the Senate. 2 pp., 9¼ x 15 in. Variant of Evans 23860.

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

Secretary of State Jefferson signs an Act making appropriations for the federal government in 1791. The figures cited—expenses of the “civil list” and the War Department—were taken directly from Treasury Secretary Hamilton’s Estimates for 1791 Report to the House of Representatives.

This is the only Jefferson-signed copy known in private hands. The only two known institutional copies are at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the New York Public Library.

Item #23982, SOLD — please inquire about other items

An Act to Incorporate the Subscribers to the Bank of the United States

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, March 2, 1791. Philadelphia: John Fenno. 4 pp. (765-768), 10½ x 17 in. Includes full text of February 25 Act to Incorporate the Subscribers to the Bank of the United States.

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

“The establishment of a bank for the United States … upon the principles which afford adequate security for an upright and prudent administration.”

Item #23392, $2,500

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

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 Pays Import Duty on Famous Louis Chantrot Obelisk Clock

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Manuscript Document Signed, October 17, 1791, [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. 1 p., 8 x 13 in.

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This declaration notes that Thomas Jefferson imported a clock, which arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Minerva from La Havre, France, on October 17, 1791. On May 12, 1792, Jefferson paid the import duty of $7.52 according to the provisions of the Tariff of 1790.

Consisting of a pair of black marble obelisks between which a brass clock was suspended, Jefferson commissioned this in the Spring of 1790 to replace a similar piece stolen from his Paris residence. He later had it mounted on a shelf above the foot of his bed. Susan Stein, the Richard Gilder Senior Curator at Monticello, described the obelisk clock as “arguably one of the most important and interesting objects at Monticello.” After Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha called it the object “I should have prized beyond anything on earth.”[1] The original clock was passed down through the Jefferson family until it was donated to Monticello in 2016.

This is a rare record of payment of the tariffs that funded the nascent federal government, in effect bringing together Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, in the temporary capital of Philadelphia. Jefferson’s correspondence to William Short arranging for the purchase and delivery of the clock also mentioned obtaining two artists proofs for the Congressional Medal of Honor voted for John Paul Jones, which had yet to be completed.



[1] Martha Jefferson Randolph to her daughter, February 13, 1827, quoted in Sarah Butler Wister and Agnes Irwin, eds., Worthy Women of Our First Century (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1877), 59. Randolph wrote, “The marble clock I should have prized beyond anything on earth, and if, in our circumstances, I had felt myself justifiable in retaining a luxury of that value, that clock, in preference to everything else but the immediate furniture of his bedroom, I should have retained. However, in addition to the loss of the clock, which I regret more bitterly since I know how near we were getting it, let us not alienate so near a relation and friend, who, I dare say, is sorry for it now that it is past.”

Item #27514, $14,000

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

“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

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

Henry Clay ALS, Responding to St. Nicholas Society Speech, Takes a Jab at Martin Van Buren

HENRY CLAY, Autograph Letter Signed, to Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, December 30, 1837, Washington, DC. 1 p., 8¼ x 10¼ in.

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This letter is addressed to the president of the St. Nicholas Society of the City of New York, Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, and signed twice within the text as “H. Clay” and “H. C.” Clay thanks Verplanck for sending a copy of his recent speech to the Society’s annual meeting, praises it for its substance and cleverness, and wishes Verplanck could change places with President Martin Van Buren.

Item #27308, $950
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