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Lot # 1605 (of 1807)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1798 John Adams Signed Ship's Papers

Starting Bid - $2,000.00, Sold For - $5,332.50

Official government document, dated August 10, 1798, signed by John Adams, second President of the United States. This document, known as “ship's papers,” grants Robert Lawrence of New York permission to sail his commercial schooner Nancy to “Curracoa” and serves as official notice of such activity to foreign nations. Because of its international nature, the document is printed in four separate columns, each transcribed in one of four languages: French, Spanish, English, and Dutch. It has been boldly signed in black ink by both John Adams, as President, and Timothy Pickering, as Secretary of State. Adams’ signature has been beautifully scripted in grandiose style (grading “9”), measuring 3.5 inches in length. Its size, coupled with the exceptional contrast it displays against the light background of the piece, makes it one of the finest John Adams signatures imaginable. Both the Presidential seal and the smaller seal of New York remain firmly affixed to the document. The notary seal of Charles Adams is also present. The document, which is both printed and handwritten, makes note that the schooner Nancy is laden with food, including beef, pork, shad, butter, oil, cheese, flour, crackers, onions, and apples, is sailing under the auspices of the United States of America, and that “no subjects of present belligerent powers [France and Britain, specifically, at the time] have any part or portion therein.” This document was signed by Adams during the height of the “XYZ Affair,” a diplomatic episode that strained international relations between the United States and France. Although neither country ever made a formal declaration of war, United States merchant ships were often at the mercy of French privateers on the high seas at the time. Interestingly, according to author Greg H. Williams, the schooner Nancy, referenced in this document, may have been one such victim. In his reference work, The French Assault on American Shipping, 1793-1813, A History and Comprehensive Record of Merchant Marine Losses (McFarland & Company, Inc., North Carolina, 2009), Williams cites the schooner Nancy, owned by Robert Lawrence, in a long list of such victimized vessels for which an insurance claim was later dismissed by the Court of Claims under the Act of January 20, 1885. The document (19.25 x 15.25 inches), which appears to be sheepskin, displays normal fold lines and is slightly toned. A few small tears are evident along the ends of a few fold lines, otherwise the piece is in Excellent condition overall. This is an extraordinary John Adams signed document penned during his term as President. The document has been handsomely mounted and framed together with a small portrait image of Adams to total dimensions of 33.5 x 24 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000++. SOLD FOR $5,332.50


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