Historic manuscripts by three of America’s founding fathers are amongst the highlights of the current RR Auction sale.
The online sale features letters written by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock, all of whom were signatories of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
First is a handwritten letter by Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration who later serves as the nation’s third President.
Dated August 17, 1816, the letter was addressed to the prominent Philadelphian doctor and horticulturalist James Mease, and written at Jefferson’s famous Monticello home in Virginia.
Mease had asked Jefferson to send him any correspondence the former President had enjoyed with Dr Benjamin Rush, as reference material for a book on the physician’s work. However, Jefferson politely refused, as he believed private letters should remain private, and wrote in reply:
"When we are pouring our inmost thoughts into the bosom of a friend, we lose sight of the world…we are off our guard; write hastily; hazard thoughts of the first impression; yield to momentary excitement; because, if we err, no harm is done; it is to a friend we have committed ourselves, who knows us, who will not betray us… To fasten a man down to all his unreflected expressions, and to publish him to the world in that as his serious & settled form, is a surprise on his judgment and character."
The eloquent and beautifully penned letter will be offered with an estimate of $35,000+.
The second item on offer is a letter written by Benjamin Franklin, the declaration’s oldest signatory at 70 years old.
Dating from 1779, the letter is a reply to Jean-Paul Marat, a political theorist and amateur scientist who had invited Franklin to observe his latest experiments. Marat believed that fire was in fact a type of liquid, and that he could capture the fluid produced by flames using an instrument he invented called the microscope solaire.
Franklin took up the invitation, and often assisted Marat with his experiments, although the results were met with scepticism by the members of the Academie des Sciences. This reply, which speaks to his continued passion for science in his later years, is also estimated at $35,000+.
The third item on offer, estimated at $15,000+, is a letter written by the man with the declaration’s most famous (and biggest) signature: John Hancock.
Dated December 1760, the letter was written by Hancock whilst living in London, as he worked for his family’s firm of merchants. Addressed to his brother Ebenezer Hancock, the letter concerns the family’s marriages, relative and even the well-being of their slaves, whom by all accounts Hancock regarded as members of the family.
The RR Auction sale end on July 13.