87
87
Hooper, William, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina
Estimate
35,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 206,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
87
Hooper, William, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina
Estimate
35,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 206,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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Hooper, William, Signer of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina
Autograph letter signed ("Wm Hooper"), 4 pages (14 3/4 x 9 1/8 in.; 373 x 233 mm) on a bifolium (watermarked posthorn in shield | LVG), Halifax, North Carolina, 17 April 1776, to Joseph Hewes ("My dear Friend," at Philadelphia); separated at central fold, a few tiny holes at intersecting folds and elsewhere costing bits of letters from about eighteen words, neatly tissue-encapsulated. Half green morocco portfolio, green morocco label gilt.
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Provenance

John Gilliam Wood, Hayes Plantation, Edenton, North Carolina (Christie's, 22 April 1983, lot 57) — John F. Fleming (Christie's, 18 November 1988, lot 179)

Catalogue Note

"God give peace to this bleeding Country." A spectacular letter, written by Hooper from the Provincial Congress of North Carolina, while on a brief hiatus from attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Hooper alludes to the Halifax Resolves (by which North Carolina became the first colony to empower its delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for America's independence), reports on his colony's increasing sentiment for full separation from Great Britain, and describes the military situation in the South.

Although Hooper describes his eighteen-day journey from Philadelphia to North Carolina, marked by bad weather and bad roads, as "fatiguing beyond all description," he is nonetheless encouraged by the political climate he has encountered. "The Language of Virginia is uniformly for Independence, if there is a single man in that province who preaches a different doctrine I had not the fortune to fall into his Company. But rapid as the changes have been in Virginia, North Carolina has the honor of going far before them. Our late Instructions [that is, the Halifax Resolves] afford you some specimen of the temper of the present congress and of the people at large. It would be more than unpopular, It would be Toryism to hint the possibility of future reconciliation, for my own part if it were my sentiment that such conduct was premature I should not think it prudent to avow it. One cannot stem a torrent and one had better swim on the democratic flood than vainly attempting to check it [and] be buried in it."

Hooper provides Hewes the latest military intelligence: the supression of a Loyalist uprising by North Carolina militiamen at Moores Creek Bridge; the location of the deposed royal governor, Josiah Martin; and the progress of Sir Henry Clinton's expedition through the South. "The Congress has hitherto been employed in voting troops and recommending officers, Committees have been sitting to enquire into the Conduct of the prisoners taken at Moore's bridge & since that in the pursuit. ... There are at present 70 or 80 in the Gaol here, a different disposition will be immediately made of them and Ringleaders distributed in the colonies to the northward of us. ... There are at Wilmington about 2700 men chiefly Militia & Minute Men. Governour Martin is near Brusnwick with 35 Vessels great & small armed & unarmed. Clinton is with him expecting Cornwallis with 4000 men."

Hooper assures Hewes that their fellow Tar Heels will do all they can to resist the British advance, but he asks his colleague's assistance in procuring funds and munitions from the Continental Congress: "With a few musquets & those bad, no cannon, little powder must we oppose them—but the spirit of this people is equal to anything. If they fall be assured that victory of Britain will not be bloodless. The Congress must direct their particular attention at this Colony. Our Strength I am well assured is not equal to our Spirits, and dreadful would it be should we sink in the generous effort to preserve our Liberties. We must be immediately supplied with field pieces and other Articles of defence, let the expense to the continent be what it will."

Hooper acknowledges that North Carolina slaves are taking advantage of the skirmishing to escape their bondage ("The negroes are deserting from the Sea Coast to Gov. Martin. Three of mine were lately intercepted on their way ..."), and with no sense of irony he complains bitterly in his next paragraph of Great Britain's unjust treatment of her American colonists. "God give peace to this bleeding Country. Britain  has lost us by a Series of impolitick, wicked and savage actions as would have disgraced a nation of Hottentots. Human patience can bear no more and all ranks of people cry "that the Cup of bitterness is full & running over, let the miseries of Seperation be what they will they cannot enhance our misery. We may be better. We cannot be worse.["] He reports that Provincial Congress continues to work on a constitution for the colony (which would not be completed until the following year), although delegates Abner Nash and Thomas Burke "differ very materially in their Ideas from Mr. [Samuel] Johnston, [John] Penn or myself."

Hooper continues his letter with further military information, describing recent movements of Continental generals John Armstrong and Charles Lee and expressing the hope that Virginia and Maryland might quickly send reinforcements to help North Carolina in resisting the advance of General Clinton: "In the Cant of the Day—Hannibal is at the door." Hooper abruptly breaks off his extensive missive in order to return to his legislative duties: "Apologize for me to all my friends in Congress that I do not write them—I have at my Ear a Baptist preacher urging me to attend a Committee—I can baffle his Importunity no longer. ..."

William Hooper is one of the rarest of the Signers, and his autograph letters with Revolutionary content—particularly written to a fellow Signer—are especially uncommon. Evidently only one other autograph letter fully dated by him with the year 1776 has appeared at auction since a Parke-Bernet sale of letters and documents of the Signers, 16 May 1967.

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

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New York