Lot 399: American general (1718–1790) who played a pivotal role in the planning and execution of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Rare Revolutionary War–dated autograph endorsement signed "Israel Putnam MG" on the reverse of a manuscript DS, four pages on two adjoining sheets, 8.25 x 12.5, dated "Piekskil ye 16 July 1777." Putnam's six-line autograph endorsement, in full (spelling and grammar retained): "I have considred the Evedancys and the doings of the court marshol and aprove of the sam and ordor that William hopkins be executed on mondy the 21 instant betwen the hours of 10 and a 11 A.M. at fort Mongomry and that Jacob vantosel be put on bord the Gally Shark and be kep to hard duty." The document describes court martial proceedings at Fort Montgomery, in part: "William Hopkins, being brought before the Court charged with going to & holding a correspondence with the Enemy—for enlisting men for the Enemy's service—and for stealing horses & carrying them to the Enemy. Prisoner pleads not guilty. Samuel Garrison being sworn…Saith that…The Deponant was at Mr. Ryley's Tavern…where William Hopkins was & after drinking together sometime, said Hopkins pulled down his stocking & shewed the Deponent that he the s'd Hopkins has white breeches & stockings on, said Hopkins asked said Deponent whether he knew what his white breeches & stockings meant, That he told the Prisoner he did, That he the Prisoner invited him to go with him to New York that he would live better there…the Prisoner told him that he came up with an intent to inlist men for the Enemy if he could get some likely men—That the Prisoner told him he had a pass from General Putnam…The Deponent further saith that the Prisoner drank the King's health…The Court upon deliberation adjudge the Prisoner to be guilty…for which he should suffer the pain and & penalty of death by being hanged by the neck until he be dead." In very good condition, with scattered toning and soiling, and paper loss to the lower corner of the second page.Putnam is an incredibly rare autograph in private hands, especially so in Revolutionary War military documents. Earlier in the summer a British spy had been caught nearby and, unbeknownst to Putnam, immediately ordered to be hanged; the general was shocked upon learning of an execution without a trial and saw that it would not happen again. In a statement issued by Putnam on July 27, one week after Hopkins was hanged, he emphasized his position on the matter: 'Spies are the most detestable of all enemies and ought to be speedily executed, though not without trial and legal conviction.' In another of Putnam's letters from the same period, concerning a different case, he famously wrote to the British general Henry Clinton: 'Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy's service, was taken as a spy lurking within our lines; he has been tried as a spy, condemned as a spy, and shall be executed as a spy.' This lengthy example demonstrates Putnam's absolute intolerance of traitors as well as his respect for due process, a foundational American value. Given both its extreme rarity and its embodiment of these definitive ideals, this is a remarkable document of true historical significance.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 462
Wednesday, 14th October 2015
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