Lot 4: Magnificent vellum manuscript DS, signed "Th: Jefferson" as president and "James Madison" as secretary of state, one page, 15.5 x 14.25, August 4, 1802. President Jefferson appoints Walter Story Chandler as "Major of the first Legion of the Militia of the District of Columbia." Beautifully signed at the conclusion by President Jefferson and countersigned by Secretary of State Madison. The crisply embossed white paper seal affixed to the lower left remains fully intact. In fine condition, with intersecting folds (vertical folds passing through single letters of each signature), scattered creases and wrinkles, and a trivial hole to lower right; overall an impeccable, remarkably clean and bright early American presidential appointment. Despite being similar in appearance to a typical partly-printed document, this example was accomplished entirely by hand; even the minutely detailed lettering at the top was done by a skilled calligrapher.
Thomas Jefferson's presidency was largely defined by the tension between his Republicans and Alexander Hamilton's Federalists, an ideological conflict easily observed in his administration's military policy. Jefferson wanted to work toward having a very small standing peacetime army supported by militias in times of war, while Federalists advocated for a large regular army and proportionate budget. Congress introduced Jefferson's policies with the Military Peace Establishment Act in March 1802, after which Federalist officers were purged from the corps in favor of loyal Republicans. This heavy-handed 'Republicanization' of the army resulted in numerous resignations by those who opposed the administration's tactics. Several of Jefferson's letters to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn from this period mention enclosures of multiple resignations, and at least nine officers in the District of Columbia militia resigned between July 20 and August 5. This commission for that very same militia was certainly made to fill one of the vacated positions. An extraordinary document embodying the greatest domestic political conflict of the nation's early years.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 458
Wednesday, 12th August 2015
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