Partly-printed DS as president, signed “G:o Washington,” one page, 12.5 x 15, June 26, 1794. Three-language ship's papers issued to "Joseph Brown, master or commander of the Schooner called Lively…lying at present in the port of Salem, bound for Cape Nicholas Mole, and laden with Fish, Flour, Lumber, Oyl & Butter." Signed in the center by President Washington and countersigned by Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. The white paper seal affixed to the left side remains fully intact. In very good condition, with light toning, light rippling, and old tape reinforcements to the intersecting folds on the reverse; George Washington's signature is large, crisp, and bold. Accompanied by a 1962 letter regarding the history of this type of document from noted autograph dealer Paul C. Richards.
When France declared war on England in February of 1793, the US was put in a precarious position, proclaiming neutrality but still formally allied with France under the treaty of 1778. Both sides harassed and seized American ships—especially those carrying provisions to the French colonial ports in the West Indies, where the Lively was bound. Used to establish proof of nationality and guarantee protection for ships, these documents were signed in bulk by Washington and Randolph, then forwarded to the collectors of customs at different ports for distribution. There, local officials would confirm the legitimacy of the vessels, their cargo, and their personnel. An attractive, very appealing format boasting the sought-after signature of the first American president.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.