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Item   Title MB Now at Next bid Bids New bid Max bid  
915   George Washington  $5000 $6655 $7321 4 You must login to place a bid.

#915 - George Washington

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From Washington’s 1789 inaugural draft: “We are now to take upon ourselves the conduct of that government”
Description                           Estimate: $20,000+          

This item is listed online only and does not appear in our print catalog.

Historically significant and extremely rare handwritten fragment from Washington’s first draft of his inaugural address on both sides of a 7 x .75 slip, unsigned, circa 1789. Portions of the second and third sentences from the opening of Washington’s discarded draft for his first inaugural address, which was given on April 30, 1789. On the front, Washington writes, “not as a ceremony without meaning, but with a single reference to our dependence,” and on the reverse, “we are now to take upon ourselves the conduct of that government.—But be.” Front of the slip is annotated in the right margin by historian and educator Jared Sparks, “Washington’s hand-writing. J. S.” In fine condition, with an archival repair at center fold. Jared Sparks, who served as president of Harvard from 1849 to 1853, acquired a substantial portion of Washington’s papers from his ancestors, including the sixty-four page first draft of his inaugural address. Sparks eventually dismembered it page-by-page and sentence-by-sentence to fulfill requests of curiosity seekers. Accompanying this fragment is Sparks’s original transmittal letter, an ALS signed “Jared Sparks,” one page, February 20, 1857, to Reverend Samuel A. Smith, in full: “I regret that I cannot furnish you with any autographs that will be interesting to your friend. I have had many, but the collectors have exhausted my stock. I enclose a scrap of Washington’s hand-writing, but am unable to supply a signature.” Includes the original mailing envelope addressed in Sparks’s hand. Also accompanied by a 1958 Manuscript Society booklet about Washington’s discarded inaugural address, signed by the Society’s current president Nathaniel Stein; and an 1852 hardcover copy of A Reply to the Strictures of Lord Mahon and Others, on the Mode of Editing the Writings of Washington by Jared Sparks.

Washington’s lengthy original draft of his inaugural address gave detailed consideration to a host of policies and issues facing the newborn nation, including the implementation of the Constitution, organization of the judiciary, the duties of the office of the president, problems of national defense, and international trade and commerce. Reflecting on it as the inauguration drew nearer, Washington decided the speech was far too long with too many radical ideas. With the help of James Madison, he drafted a dramatically shorter version that, while embodying the spirit of the original, did not comprehensively review every single point. The draft was relegated to his personal files, which were eventually inherited by his nephew Bushrod Washington, an associate justice of the Supreme Court. The inaugural manuscript passed into the hands of Jared Sparks in 1827 while editing The Writings of George Washington, lent to him by Bushrod in exchange for a share of the book’s profits. When George Corbin Washington, the heir of Justice Washington, sold the papers in 1837, Sparks was allowed to keep some of them. Since that time, the fragments of Washington’s autograph draft of his inaugural address have been dispersed far and wide, with most tragically lost. According to the most thorough register of surviving fragments and leaves, thirteen complete leaves, twelve half pages, and a few sentence fragments such as this can be located, and many are held in institutional collections. A remarkable autographic piece of great historical interest. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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