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George Washington
George Washington

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Original 1789 First Inaugural Button: “Memorable Era / March the Fourth 1789

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], 1789 "Memorable Era" Inaugural Button. 34 mm brass with original shank. Word "Era" weakly struck, as is typical. GW-1789-4, Albert WI-1a.

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Item #25446, $11,000

George Washington’s Second Thanksgiving Proclamation, Sent to American Consuls

EDMUND RANDOLPH, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, this copy sent to Nathaniel Cutting, American Consul at Havre de Grace, France, December 31, 1794, 3 pp and blank on one integral leaf. Randolph’s circular on page one notes that he is attaching a reprint of Thomas Jefferson’s August 26, 1790 letter to our Consuls, and an extract of Jefferson’s May 31, 1792 letter calling attention to a part of the Act of Congress governing the security that consuls have to give to insure they can meet obligations they take on for the United States. He then attaches the full text of Washington’s Second Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was publicly issued a day later, on January 1, 1795. 15½ x 12⅞ in.

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When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction.

A day before it is publicly issued, Secretary of State Edmund Randolph Sends Washington’s Proclamation to all American Consuls, as “a better comment upon the general prosperity of our affairs than any which I can make.” According to the President, “the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war; and increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption; the great degree of internal tranquility we have enjoyed…Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I GEORGE WASHINGTON, President of the United States, do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations, and to all Persons whomsoever within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday the nineteenth day of February next, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer…to beseech the Kind Author of these blessings…to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.

Item #24141, $19,000

The United States Constitution – Early Connecticut Printing

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The New-Haven Gazette, and The Connecticut Magazine. September 27, 1787. M.DCC.LXXXVII (No 32.) Printed and Published by Josiah Meigs. Signed in type by George Washington and the other 38 delegates who signed the Constitution. 8 pp. Quarto (8.625 x 10.125 inches). ([249]-256, though what should be page 255 is mis-numbered 247, as is the case with the other copies we have seen of this edition). Accompanied by title and index leaves printed slightly later, for binding after end of year.

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WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

Item #26098, $25,000

Washington Anticipates the Arrival of Count Rochambeau’s Expeditionary Force

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Letter Signed, to [Captain William Dobbs], July 11 [clerical error in text states June 11], 1780, Headquarters, Col. Theunis Dey’s House [N.J.]. 1 p., 8 x 13¼ in.

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Washington, preparing for a joint offensive with the French, awaits news of the arrival of Count Rochambeau’s expeditionary force and gives instructions to William Dobbs, a pilot who had agreed to act as a guide for the French Navy in navigating unfamiliar American waters. “The French fleet have been seen and are hourly expected … you will be pleased to repair to this place … bringing with you, such pilots, as may be acquainted with the navigation into the Harbour of New-York.

Item #21195.99, $37,500

One of the Earliest Announcements of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The Pennsylvania Magazine; Or American Monthly Museum for January-July, 1776. Philadelphia: Robert Aitken. [5]-344pp.

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A bound volume containing a remarkable issue—one of the most historic magazines ever printed.

July 2.  This day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

Item #21422.99, $42,000

General Washington Orders Declaration of Independence Read to Army in New York

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Manuscript Orderly Book. Headquarters [New York City], [July 8, 1776 – August 21, 1776]. Containing two overlapping sequences in different hands: one 145-page sequence runs from July [9], 1776 to August 21, 1776, and another 13-page segment (written from the other end of the book) runs from July 8-13, 1776. 158 pp. 7½ x 6 in. Both versions vary slightly from the published text of Washington’s General Orders of July 9. This volume, with Brigade and Regimental orders, was either kept by battalion adjutant Aaron Comstock or an orderly sergeant in one of Gold S. Silliman’s eight companies enlisted in Connecticut shortly before. This is likely the battalion’s first orderly book after arriving in New York with approximately 415 men.

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the Honble Continental Congress … haveing been plead to Desolve Connection Between this country & great Britain & to declare the united Colonys of North America free & Independent States the Several Brigades are to be Drawn us [up] this Evening on their Respective Parades at 6 oclock when the Deleration of Congress Shewing the grounds & Reasons of the Measures to be Read with Laudable [audible] Voice the genl [George Washington] Hopes that this important Point will serve as a fresh incentive to Every officer and soldier to act with fidelity & courage as knowing that now the Peace and Safety of this country Depends under god solely on the success of our arms....” (July 9, 1776)

the gel being informed to his great surprize that a Report prevails & Industrously spread far and wide that Lord how [British General Lord William Howe] has made <145> Propositions of Peace Calculated by disguiseing Persons most Probably To Lull us into a fatal Security his Duty obliges him to Declare that No such offer has been made by Lord how but on the Contrarary from the Best inteligence he can Procure the army may Expect atack as soon as the wind and tide proves favorable He hopes theirfore every mans mind & arms may be Prepared for action and when caled to it shew our enemies & the whole world that free men Contendin for their own Land are Superior to any Mercenaries on Earth.... (August 20th 1776)

Remarkable manuscript book containing two separate versions of Washington’s General Orders of July 9, 1776, announcing to the Continental Army in New York that Congress had formally declared the 13 colonies to be independent of Great Britain. Of course, Washington’s name is notably absent on the Declaration of Independence, as he was in New York preparing to face the music of the inevitable British invasion.

Item #21461.99, $115,000

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

Washington Cryptically Dreams of Resigning, Feigns Insult and Teases McHenry for Delayed Answer to Queries on Funding the Army

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to James McHenry. August 15, 1782. Newburgh, N.Y. 2 pp., including integral address leaf. 7½ x 11½ in.

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I was in pain … resolving (like a man in the last agony) not to follow the trade & occupation of a G---- [General] any more.… Do not my dear Doctor tease your Mistress in this manner – much less your Wife, when you get one.”

In this highly personal letter, Washington offers a glimpse of the man behind the otherwise stolid image. After victory at Yorktown, Americans were awaiting news of a final peace treaty from Paris. Washington remained head of the Continental Army, and warily watched British General Sir Henry Clinton’s army in New York City. For all its friendly tone and nebulous phrases, Washington and McHenry are actually discussing the very serious business of funding and maintaining troop levels to discourage future British actions.

Item #20987.99, $120,000

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

The United States Constitution – Very Rare October 1, 1787 Connecticut Printing In Bound Volumes of The American Mercury, 1785-1788

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The American Mercury, Two Bound Volumes, published in Hartford, Connecticut, each 10 x 16 in., in original quarter sheepskin and paper boards. Covers inscribed with name of owner*, Charles D’W. Brownell of Bristol, Rhode Island. Vol. IV, No. 169. The first volume contains 99 issues from February 7, 1785 to December 25, 1786, missing seven. The second volume runs from January 1, 1787 to December 29, 1788, likewise missing seven.

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WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

Item #26054, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Original 1789 First Inaugural Button: “Memorable Era / March the Fourth 1789

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], 1789 Inaugural button. Brass, original shank (slightly bent over), 34 mm.

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Item #25794, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Jefferson Signs Appropriations Bill Funding Federal Government and Making Hamilton’s Assumption Act Payments in 1792

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Document Signed as Secretary of State, December 23, 1791, Philadelphia [Pa.] Signed in type by Jonathan Trumbull as Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Adams as Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate, and George Washington as President. 3 pp.

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The “ACT making APPROPRIATIONS for the SUPPORT of GOVERNMENTthe federal budget for 1792—was passed by the Second Congress during its first session and approved by President George Washington on 23 December 1791. It includes appropriations to pay off foreign debts incurred during the Revolutionary War, pay salaries and expenses, and fund the defense of the country and the departments of government. “There shall be appropriated a sum of money not exceeding three hundred and twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and fifty-three dollars, and fifty-six cents…

Item #21495.99, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Remarkable Linen Textile, Rich in Patriotic Imagery, is Rare Icon of the American Revolution

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Textile. “America Presenting at the Altar of Liberty Medallions of Her Illustrious Sons” ca. 1783-1785. 26¼ x 44 in.

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Item #24406, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The earliest obtainable printing of George Washington’s Clearest Statement on Religious Freedom: “the Government of the United States...gives to bigotry no sanction...” (SOLD)

[GEORGE WASHINGTON. AMERICAN JUDAICA], Newspaper. Newport Mercury, September 13, 1790. Newport, Rhode Island: Henry Barber. Moses Seixas’ letter to Washington, and his response, the “Touro Synagogue letter,” both printed in full on page 1. 4 pp., 8⅛ x 13 in. This printing, while sold, is available for appropriate museum loans.

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From fifteen Sephardic families who arrived in 1658, Newport’s Jewish community grew to be the largest in the colonies by the Revolutionary War. Many Jews left during the British occupation, but a significant number returned. By the time of Washington’s visit, there were approximately 300 Jews in the thriving Newport community.

On August 17, 1790, on behalf of the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Israel, Newport merchant and banker Moses Seixas wrote an address to welcome George Washington. Seixas’ letter (see below) welcomed Washington to Newport, and congratulated his ascendancy to the Presidency. Seixas also expressed his hopes for the new government’s success and its commitment to religious freedom, that a “government erected by the majesty of the people, a government which to bigotry gives no sanction, persecution no alliance, but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience,” would be created under the new Constitution. Seixas most likely gave Washington the letter on the morning of August 18, when other Clergy and townspeople met with Washington to express their regard for him.

Washington replied later on August 18. He thanked the community for its warm welcome, and assured the congregation that in his administration, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship....” He then echoed and built on Seixas’ words, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

The original letter is owned by the Morris Morgenstern Foundation, and is on long-term loan to the National Museum of American Jewish History. We were honored to have appraised the original prior to its exhibit, and to have arranged several loans to the museum. Each year, members of the Touro Synagogue in Newport read the letter in a public ceremony.

The Boston Herald of Freedom first published both Seixas’ letter and Washington’s reply on September 7, 1790, followed by a Newport printing on September 9.

Washington echoed Seixas’ words, and built on them, to make his most celebrated statement on religious freedom.

Item #25029, SOLD — please inquire about other items

George Washington Signed Ship’s Passport (SOLD)

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Partially Printed Document Signed as President, counter-signed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and Customs District Collector Francis Cook. New York, N.Y. and Wiscasset, Maine, November 12, 1796. 1 p., folio, with paper Great Seal of the United States. Strong, large Washington and Pickering signatures.

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A three-language ship’s passport, in French, English and Dutch, for Captain Spencer Tinkham of the Astrea, out of Wiscasset, Maine bound for Liverpool. The Astrea was pictured on a Liverpool Jug, likely right after this voyage. It was lost at sea six years later.

Item #23998, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Washington’s First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, The Bill of Rights, and Establishment of Treasury Department (SOLD)

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Newspaper. The United States Chronicle. Providence, R.I.: Bennett Wheeler, October 22, 1789. 4 pp., 10 ½ x 17 in. With masthead featuring the seal of the United States and the fouled anchor “Hope” device of the state of Rhode Island.

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“for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge”

On October 3, 1789, the day after sending engrossed copies of the 12 Constitutional amendments passed by Congress out to the states for ratification, Washington issued America’s first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. Both the Thanksgiving Proclamation and the Bill of Rights are printed here on the front page. This exceptional paper also includes a complete printing of “An Act to establish the Treasury Department” [p.1-2], and a September 10 report from North Carolina supporting the ratification of the Constitution now that passage of a bill of rights seemed likely: “The amendments... will undoubtedly satisfy the minds of all its [the Constitution’s] enemies. Not a door is left open for complaint....It is an almost unparalleled instance of a public body possessed of power abridging it, and fully contradicts the grand argument of the opponents of the Constitution, that, ‘if Congress are once possessed of the power vested in the Constitution, they never will relinquish or amend it conformable to our wishes’.”  [p. 2 col. 1]. The Chronicle also reports from New York that President Washington was about to embark on his famous tour of New England [p. 2, col. 3].

Item #23813, SOLD — please inquire about other items

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (SOLD)

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Manuscript Document Signed as President. Proclaiming “Thursday the 26th day of November” as “a day of thanksgiving and prayer.” New York, N.Y., October 3, 1789. 1 p., 9⅝ x 14⅝. The text of this, and the other known copy (acquired by the Library of Congress in 1921) was penned by William Jackson, a personal secretary to the president and previously the secretary to the Constitutional Convention.

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Washington issues the first Thanksgiving proclamation under the new Federal Constitution, one of only two known copies, and the only one in private hands.

“for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness... for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge”

On September 25, 1789, as the momentous first Federal Congress drew to its close in New York, the new national capital, Representative Elias Boudinot introduced a resolution calling on President Washington to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer . . .  acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” 

A leading opponent of the resolution, Thomas Tudor Tucker, asked, “Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?” The skeptical Congressman noted that the people “may not be inclined to return thanks for a Constitution until they have experienced that it promotes their safety and happiness.” He also argued that it was a religious matter and thus proscribed to the new government. Regardless, the House passed the resolution — one of their last pieces of business before completing the proposed Bill of Rights. The Senate concurred three days later, and a delegation was sent to meet the President. George Washington, who had in fact anticipated the question in a letter to James Madison a month earlier, readily agreed. 

On October 3, George Washington signed the document offered here, America’s first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. Washington employed the exact language of the resolution to begin his proclamation, though he went further, giving thanks for “tranquility, union, and plenty” and asking the Almighty to guide the new nation’s leaders and government. He used the same approach a year later when he wrote what is now one of his most celebrated letters: “For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, [and] requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” Washington willingly echoed Moses Seixas’s stance on tolerance and added to it, just as he did in his Thanksgiving Proclamation when asking the Almighty “To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and Constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.”

Item #23201, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Major Washington Serves Notice to the French that They Were Encroaching on Crown Property (SOLD)

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Newspaper. Maryland Gazette. January 23, 1755, Annapolis, Md. Jonas Green. 4 pp. (complete), 9½ x 14½ in.

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The Maryland Gazette took a particular interest in Washington, being the first to publish his Journal describing his expedition to the Ohio.

Item #21557.06, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Miniature Portrait of George Washington (SOLD)

[GEORGE WASHINGTON], Painting. George Washington miniature. ca. 19th century. Approx. 2½ x 3¼ in. overall, signed “Beck,” in 4½ x 6⅛ in. hardwood frame.

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Demonstrating the lasting appeal of Washington in the decorative arts, this nineteenth-century miniature on ivory in a later, early 20th century frame, is a fine example of the style. Acquired in Scotland.

Item #22317.01, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence:
The First Newspaper Printing, the Second Publication in Any Form and the First to Closely Follow Thomas Jefferson’s Style (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, Saturday, July 6, 1776, Philadelphia: Benjamin Towne, 4 pages (8½ x 10 in.)

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Item #DOI - 7-6-1776, SOLD — please inquire about other items
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