1783 George Washington Signed Military-Discharge Document

Sold For: $10,665

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 1410

Item Year: 1783

Category: Historical/Political

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One page military-discharge document, dated July 10, 1783, signed by George Washington (1732-1799), first President of the United States. The document, which is scripted entirely by hand in black ink (written by an unknown military scribe) is the official military discharge paper for Robert Hargrove, a soldier in the Continental Army. In full:

By His Excellency George Washington Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States: Robert Hargrove Soldier in the Third Regiment of Massachusetts, having been reported by a Board of Officers appointed for the Examination of the Invalids of the Army - as unfit for any further Duty either in the Field or Garrison - being lame - is hereby discharged from the service of the United States. Given at head-quarters. New-burgh. This 10th day of July 1783.

The document is signed "G. Washington" in black ink. Washington's signature, which measures a full 3.5 inches in length, is beautifully scripted and grades "8." Washington was in his final days as commander of the Continental Army at the time this document was signed. Newburgh, New York, served as Washington's final headquarters and he resided there from April 1782 through August 1783. At that time, the war for independence was all but over, but while Washington patiently waited for the formal declaration, which would come in September 1793 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, he was faced with other problems. Most important was the Newburgh Conspiracy, in which a number of his prominent officers threatened mutiny if Congress did not honor its promise of back pay and pensions to the soldiers. (With the Treasury empty, soldiers had not been paid for years, but instead were motivated by promises of funds after the war.) Fortunately, Washington, was able to quell the uprising through his delivery of an impassioned plea in which he urged the men to place their confidence "in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious services." The sincerity and force of Washington's speech to the officers, known as the Newburgh Address, carried the day and all thoughts of rebellion were put aside. The soldiers were eventually rewarded after the war with a sum equal to five years' pay. In the fall of 1783, just months after signing the offered discharge papers, Washington disbanded his army and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief.

The document (8.25 x 13 inches) displays one vertical and five horizontal folds, along the lines of which are a number of small tears. A few tiny areas of scattered age toning are also evident, as are a number of minor surface blemishes. Although the document has not been examined out of frame, it is apparent that the piece has undergone professional conservation work on the reverse to reinforce the fold lines (the tears along the fold lines display white, which is not the color of the underlying blue mount, indicating a backing has been applied, possibly to the entire document and not just along the fold lines). In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. Mounted (most likely by means of adhesive) and framed together with a small illustrated portrait of Washington and a descriptive plaque. Total Dimensions: 28 x 25 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000/$10,000+. SOLD FOR $10,665

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