Sought-after partly-printed DS, signed "Go: Washington" as president and "Th: Jefferson" as secretary of state, one page, 12.5 x 15.75, December 23, 1793. Three-language ship's papers issued to "John Latimer, master or commander of the Brigt called Mary & Elizabeth…lying at present in the port of Philad'a, bound for Hispanola, and laden with Merchdze per Manifest." Boldly signed in the center by President Washington, and countersigned by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Collector of Customs Sharp Delany. The embossed white paper seal affixed to the left side remains intact. In very good condition, with trimmed edges, irregular overall toning and staining, complete silking on the reverse, as well as old tape reinforcements to all of the intersecting folds.
When France declared war on England in February of 1793, the U.S. 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.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.