65
65
Gerry, Elbridge, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts
Estimate
18,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 25,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
65
Gerry, Elbridge, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts
Estimate
18,00025,000
LOT SOLD. 25,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Gerry, Elbridge, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts
Autograph letter (retained copy) signed ("Elbridge Gerry") with numerous revisions, 3 pages on a bifolium (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.; 241 x 188 mm), Marblehead [Massachussets], 2 November 1772, to Samuel Adams (in Boston), docketed on address leaf "copy of a letter to Mr. Adams Novem 1772"; formerly folded, second leaf inlaid, right edge of first leaf guarded touching one letter, smaller mends on other edges, some slight ink corrosion.
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Provenance

Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Foundation (Sotheby Parke Bernet, 3 June 1980, lot 917)

Literature

J.T. Austin, Life of Elbridge Gerry (1828), vol.1, pp. 12-15

Catalogue Note

"... being fully convinced & acquiescing entirely in your opinion that unanimity in our Measures is necessary & ... the only means by whc. we can save Ourselves 'united we stand, divided we fall.'"

The young twenty-eight-year old Elbridge Gerry, as member of the Massachusetts General Court, writes to his mentor Samuel Adams. The province had recently learned that the power of the Massachusetts Assembly to pay local British officials had been withdrawn, and Adams, along with Joseph Warren, was setting up a committee of correspondence to organize the localities.

Gerry advises that the plan should protect the participants from harm should it fail: "As in all or most human Affairs a successful beginning invigorates ye proceedings & generally carry us wth. Triumph to ye End, it appears necessary that a plan should be well concerted for ye whole to act upon and so concerted that if it should prove unsuccessful, individuals who have virtue enough to oppose ye wicked Designs of ye great may not fall a Sacrifice to their rage or ridicule, but have this for their boast, that they have struggled for & with an honest people."

Gerry observes that in these circumstances an appeal to the Governor for redress of grievances can no longer be relied upon to succeed: "... in a free state ye measure of petitioning the Governor for an assembly, would not only have been rational but would have insured success ... but Sir, we have lost our Glory in a great measure. We are not in that State and therefore I fear that all applications to those who are our oppressors will not only be fruitless but serve to hurt our cause & discourage us – our whole Dependance as a people seems to be on our own wisdom & valour & if a plan be devised I doubt not it will succeed."

He suggests that if the local Judges do not accept to be paid by the local assembly, they should be visited by several local committees: "Should this step taken only by one Town be treated by our Judges with indignity, it would prove discouraging; then in Conjunction with several other Towns it would have the Contrary effect & serve to animate each Town & the whole province."

He holds up the example of Benjamin Pratt (d. 1763), colonial chief justice in New York with whom "the people were disgusted & treated him with such indignity that (if my memory serves) it shortened his life..." suggesting that such treatment would have a similar impact here in the Bay Colony. "I doubt not the Judges would come to terms & replace their Dependence on ye people, but I do not so much depend on my own opinion in these matters, only given to collect your sentiments."

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York