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Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

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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 “He [John Adams] & myself have gone through so many scenes together…that I have never withdrawn my esteem, and I am happy that this letter gives an opportunity of expressing it to both of them.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

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 (see #26590). 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 ever 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

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

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, $48,000

Rare Important Declaration of Independence Linen Handkerchief

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Printed Cotton Handkerchief, ca. 1821. 31 x 33 in., framed to 35¼ x 37½ in.

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The intricate design of this handkerchief features images of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, beneath an eagle and flags. In the center appears the text of the Declaration of Independence, together with facsimiles of the signatures. An oak wreath with acorns surrounds the text and features images of the seals of the thirteen original states. An image at lower left depicts the Boston Tea Party with the caption, “The Patriotic Bostonians discharging the British Ships in Boston harbour.” An image at lower right depicts “General Burgoyne’s Surrender to General Gates at Saratoga.” Around the edge runs a stars and rope border with anchors at each corner and at the center of each side. The design was printed with red ink using a copper plate.

The design draws much from prints of the Declaration of Independence by William Woodruff, published in February 1819, and John Binns, published in October 1819.

Item #26474, $38,000

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

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

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

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 Jefferson Signed Act of Congress Extending Temporary Post Office

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Printed Document Signed, as Secretary of State, “An Act to continue in force for a limited time, an Act, intituled ‘An Act for the temporary Establishment of the Post Office,’” New York, August 4, 1790. 1 p., 9½ x 15⅛ in. , 8/4/1790.

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the act passed the last session of Congress, intituled ‘An act for the temporary establishment of the post-office,’ be, and the same hereby is continued in force until the end of the next session of Congress, and no longer.

Item #26264.99, $27,500

Rare French Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Copperplate engraving, “In Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…” Paris: Kaeppelin & Cie, 15 Quai Voltaire; engraved by F. Lepelle. [1840.] 25 x 32 in. Framed 30¾ x 38 in. 1p.

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Scarce French reproduction based on William J. Stone’s official copperplate facsimile done by order of Congress. This French edition was produced for an 1840 adaptation of Jared Sparks’s Life and Writings of Washington, appearing as plate 22 in the atlas accompanying the multi-volume work.

Item #20627.99, $20,000

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

Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Congress for Compensating Court Officers, Jurors, and Witnesses

FIRST CONGRESS. [THOMAS JEFFERSON], Printed Document Signed as Secretary of State. An Act providing compensations for the officers of the Judicial Courts of the United States, and for Jurors and Witnesses, and for other purposes. New York, N.Y., March 3, 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., 9 x 15 in.

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Under the new federal Constitution, the First Congress had the momentous job of creating the laws to govern the various branches of the new government, whether setting up the framework for executive departments such as Treasury and State, establishing its own rules and schedule, or, in this case, creating a federal court system. In its second session (January 4, 1790 through August 12, 1790) Congress passed the Crimes Act, which defined a plethora of federal crimes, punishments, and court procedures. Here in the third session, the Congress provides a schedule of compensation for officers and jurors, as well as a process for scheduling and meeting places for the various federal district courts around the new nation.

Item #26175.99, $16,500

Continental Congress July 1775 Message Asserting American Sovereignty & Rejecting Parliament’s Appeal for Peace. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Printed at Harvard. With Reports from London on Battles of Lexington and Concord

[SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS], Newspaper. The New-England Chronicle, or the Essex Gazette. August 31-September 7, 1775 (Vol. 8, No. 371). Printed at Stoughton Hall, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Samuel Hall and Ebenezer Hall. Includes front-page printing of Opinion of Congress in Response to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal (July 31, 1775), written by Thomas Jefferson, signed in type by John Hancock; and Resolution of Congress Clarifying Non-Importation Agreement (August 1, 1775). The original subscriber to this issue was Dr. John Wingate (1743-1819) of Hallowell, Maine (Massachusetts), who served as an army surgeon in the Revolutionary War. 4 pp., 10 x 15½ in.

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The colonies of America are entitled to the sole and exclusive privilege of giving and granting their own money...It is a high breach of this privilege for any body of men, extraneous to their constitutions...to take to themselves the authority of judging of their conditions.

it is the DESPOTISM of the CROWN and the SLAVERY of the people which the ministry aim at. For refusing those attempts, and for that only the Americans have been inhumanly murdered by the King’s Troops.

Historic background

On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode to Lexington to warn that the British were coming. 700 British troops were met on Lexington Green by local minutemen; the skirmish left eight Americans dead. As the British continued to the armory at Concord, hundreds of minutemen and militiamen responded. The British were forced to march back to Boston; on the way, American snipers took a deadly toll. The war had begun in earnest.

Item #30034.05, $7,500

President Jefferson Sends, Rather than Delivers, His First State of the Union

THOMAS JEFFERSON, State of the Union Message. Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy, Extra, December 18, 1801, signed in type twice. Broadside. Worcester, Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas Jr. 1 p., 12-1/2 x 19-3/4 in.

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Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are then most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.

This important first message contains his observations on Indian relations in America, the U.S. Navy versus the Barbary Pirates, the maintenance of armed forces, relying on a latent militia in peacetime while establishing the Navy and coastal defenses, the census and predictions of population growth along with “the settlement of the extensive country still remaining vacant within our limits,” decreasing the costs of government by removing unnecessary public offices, a laissez-faire approach to economics, the Judiciary, and taxation, foreseeing the removal of “all the internal taxes,” and stating that “sound principles will not justify our taxing the industry of our fellow citizens to accumulate treasure, for wars to happen we know not when, and which might not, perhaps, happen, but from the temptations offered by that treasure.

Unlike his predecessors, Jefferson did not deliver the message in person, but delivered it in writing through his personal secretary Meriwether Lewis. In doing so, Jefferson began a tradition that persisted until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his first State of the Union message to Congress in 1913.

Item #20822.99, $5,800

Large 1801 Folio Engraving of Thomas Jefferson as New President

[THOMAS JEFFERSON], Print. Engraved by David Edwin, published by George Helmbold Jr., 1801. 1 p., 13 x 19¾ in. (image); 14⅞ x 22 ½ in. (sheet). , 1/1/1801.

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This engraving by David Edwin pictures Jefferson standing beside a table, with his hand on a desktop globe. Edwin copied the head from the Rembrandt Peale portrait of 1800. Edwin placed Jefferson in a black suit in a formal setting, comparable to the 1796 portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (known as the “Lansdowne” portrait because it was commissioned as a gift for William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne).

Item #25421, $4,500
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