Lot 10
  • 10

John Jay, as President of the Continental Congress

2,000 - 3,000 USD
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  • “Circular Letter from the Congress” concerning Revolutionary War finances, in The United States Magazine: A Repository of History, Politics, and Literature. Philadelphia: Francis Bailey, November 1779
  • Paper, Ink
8vo (8 5/8 x 5 1/2 in.; 218 x 140 mm).  32 pages (paginated 447-478), uncut. Uniformly lightly browned. Disbound.

Catalogue Note

A particularly significant issue of what was during its period of publication (January through December 1779) the only magazine printed in the United States, led by Jay’s influential circular letter. With America’s currency losing value—giving rise to the idiom “not worth a Continental”—John Jay sought to stabilize the nation’s Revolutionary War finances. He began with the problems of inflation and whether the new nation would be able to pay its debts and make good on the bonds issued during the war. While part one (in the previous issue) discusses the problem of depreciation of the currency, in this issue, John Jay tackles questions about the willingness of Americans to pay. He warns that “Having shewn that there is no reason to doubt the ability of the United States to pay their debt, let us next enquire as whether as much can be said of their inclination.… A bankrupt faithless republic would … appear among reputable nations like a common prostitute among chaste and respectable matrons. … It has been already observed, that in order to prevent the further natural depreciation of our bills, we have resolved to stop the press. … Let it never be said that America had no sooner become independent than she became insolvent.”

Also printed in the November issue is “The Constitution or Form of Government … of Virginia. In a general Convention held at Williamsburgh on the 6th of May & continued by Adjournment to the 5th of July, 1776,” drafted by George Mason and James Madison. This vital Revolutionary document is printed in full on pages 451-455.

A Declaration of Rights & the Constitution & Form of Government agreed to by the Delegates of Maryland in Free & Full Convention Assembled, enacted in November 1776” is also printed in this issue, on pages 455-472. This document runs to nearly eighteen pages and its forty-two articles foreshadow themes that would reach fruition a decade later in the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights.