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Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

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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, ON HOLD

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, $150,000

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

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.

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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

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

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

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

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, $6,500

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

Draft of Thomas Jefferson Circular, Addressing Duties of Consuls & Vice-Consuls

[THOMAS JEFFERSON], Letter, to Consuls and Vice-Consuls, August 26, 1790, New York. Draft or copy in the hand of a clerk. 2 pp., 7¾ x 9¼ in.

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In this letter, Thomas Jefferson provides initial and basic instructions to the consuls and vice-consuls of the United States in European and Caribbean ports. It focuses primarily on the logistics of monitoring and reporting the presence of American vessels in the ports under their authority and on other “political and commercial intelligence as you may think interesting to the United States.” It authorizes consuls and vice-consuls to wear the uniform of the U.S. Navy if they choose to do so and provides details on the features of the uniform. Finally, Jefferson offers advice on maintaining good relationships with the governing authorities. He urges the consuls to avoid minor quarrels and to use the utmost respect in communications with governing officials, “never indulging in any case whatever a single expression which may irritate.”

Item #25721, $3,500

Madison, Monroe, Talleyrand and Jefferson’s “Crimes” and “back door pimps” in Negotiations to Buy Florida From Spain

KILLIAN K. VAN RENSSELAER, Autograph Letter Signed, April 2, 1806. 4 pp.

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Randolphs charges agt. Jefferson are that he recommended one thing in his private message, which he counteracted by his ‘back door pimps’ and obtained 2 Millions of Dollars to give Talleyrand, to open the door with Spain for Negotiation //- Also, for having nominated Gen.l Wilkinson Governor of upper Louisiana - blending the military with the civil.

R[andolph]- remarked in a reply to B[idwell], that he considered the ‘half formed opinion, from the half bred Attorney, as not worthy an answer, unless it was to tell him, that he was like the rest of the political wood cocks, with which he associated, that had run their Bills in the mud, and therefore wished not to see, nor to be seen.’

Item #22274, $2,750

In His State of the Union Address, Thomas Jefferson Commends Lewis and Clark for Their Successful Explorations

THOMAS JEFFERSON. [LEWIS AND CLARK], Newspaper. Connecticut Courant. Hartford, Conn., December 10, 1806. 4 pp, 12½ x 20½ in.

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Item #22459, $2,000

Jefferson’s Attempted Seduction
of His Friend’s Wife - the Alleged Affair

[THOMAS JEFFERSON], Newspaper. Boston Gazette, July 18, 1805. 4 pp., 13½ x 20 in.

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A piece in the Boston Gazette criticizing a passage in the Richmond Enquirer, “a partisan paper of Mr. Jefferson” that defended his attempt to “seduce the wife of his friend.” They ask “has the spirit of party, then, so far subdued the sense of moral right in our country…to rescue a vile Letcher from the merited reproach.”

Item #30004.014, $1,000
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