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Lot #173
Alexander Hamilton Twice-Signed Autograph Document on Shipwreck Lawsuit

Alexander Hamilton litigates a shipwreck in a scarce twice-signed handwritten legal document

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Estimate: $12000+
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Alexander Hamilton litigates a shipwreck in a scarce twice-signed handwritten legal document

ADS, signed “Hamilton Proctor for Libellants,” three pages on adjoining sheets, 8 x 13, no date but circa 1783. Lengthy handwritten legal document by Alexander Hamilton, being a lawsuit addressed to Lewis Graham, Judge in the Court of Admiralty, made on behalf of James Dall and John Heathcote against Thomas Coates, master of the ship "Betsey," for non-payment of a loan of one thousand pounds. Hamilton explains that while sailing for London from New York harbor, the "Betsey" had run aground "by accident or by other means unknown to your libellants…and was disabled from pursuing her said voyage and hath ever since that time remained and still remains in the said harbour of New York not in a condition to put to sea and to perform her said voyage whereby the same hath been totally defeated." Hamilton concludes the complaint: "Wherefore your Lybellants pray due process of law and the decree and sentence of this Honorable Court against the said ship or vessel; and that the said Ship or vessel with her tackle and apparel may be sold and out of the monies arising from the said sale much as may be necessary to satisfy the amount of the said three sets of bills and exchange together with the interest and damages in like cases allowed may be ordered to be paid to your said Lybellants and the overplus, if there be after all reasonable costs and charges deducted disposed of in such manner as to this Honorable Court shall seem honorable lawful just and right." Hamilton signs at the conclusion, "Hamilton Proctor for Libellants," and signs again in the same manner on the docketing panel. In fine condition, with light toning to the edges and folds, and professional repairs to very minor losses. During this early period of his legal career, Hamilton often represented libellants and claimants in suits involving bottomry bonds and civil salvage in New York‘s Admiralty Court. From these experiences, he learned not only the particulars of American admiralty process (a hybrid mixture of English admiralty procedure, combined with elements of the common law), but also the practice of enforcing customs laws within admiralty jurisdictions. These experiences helped to inform policy during his time as Secretary of the Treasury, specifically in directing and advising his customs collectors when they became involved in revenue-related libels. Provenance: Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive Of Letters And Manuscripts, Sotheby's, January 2017.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Presidents
  • Dates: #658 - Ended February 08, 2023

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