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Lot 1003: Matthew Thornton

American Revolutionary War Collection of Richard Newell

by RR Auction

December 15, 2012

Amherst, NH, USA

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  • Matthew Thornton
  • Matthew Thornton
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Description: Signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire (1714-1803). Scarce and fine content war-dated ALS, signed "Matthew Thornton," as President of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, one page, 6.75 x 11.5, October 16, 1775, Londonderry, [New Hampshire], addressed in his hand on the transmittal panel on verso to "the Honble. Committee of Safety Exeter." Thornton, as head of the revolutionary government of New Hampshire, was invited to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to meet with representatives of the Continental Congress, General George Washington, and fellow New England political leaders to discuss the reorganization of the Continental Army-but in light of the continuing ill-health of his wife, asks if someone else from the New Hampshire Committee of Safety could be sent in his stead. Thornton writes, in full, "Last Thursday I set out for Cambridge I got there fryday [sic] P. M. was informed that the Gentn. did not leave Philadelphia till the Sixth Instant & were not expected till the 15 or 16 Instant, when at Home my Cloase [sic] has not been off but one night for ten past & if my wife is not better [word missing] not possibly leave Home[.] If you Send a Committee tomorrow & Can goe [sic] it will be exceeding[ly] agreeable to me to meet them & take their advice, & in Case I Cannot, they will be ready to Represent the Colony. I leave all to your wisdom." In very good condition, with intersecting folds (vertical fold passing through the signature), scattered soiling, old reinforcements on the reverse to vertical edges, and two small areas of paper loss (one resulting in the loss of one word, and repaired from behind).Thornton was expecting to meet with a delegation of three members of the Continental Congress charged "to repair immediately to the camp at Cambridge, to confer with General Washington, and with the governor of Connecticut, and the lieut-Governor of Rhode Island, the council of Massachusetts, and the President of the convention of New Hampshire, and such other persons as to the said Committee shall seem proper, touching the most effectual method of continuing, supporting, and regulating a continental army." (Congress, Journals, Sept. 29, 1775) The next day, they appointed Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison and Thomas Lynch, Sr. to the delegation. Hearing of their arrival, Thornton travelled to Cambridge in early October, but when the committee failed to appear, he returned to attend to his sick wife. (Charles Thornton Adams, Matthew Thornton, 30-31) The delegation arrived soon after Thornton's departure and met in Cambridge from October 18 to 23, 1775, to discuss the reorganization of the Continental Army with George Washington and representatives of the New England Colonies. On those recommendations, Congress approved the reorganization of the Continental Army into 26 regiments on November 4. A superb early letter from the first year of the Revolutionary War concerning a key conference that set the organizational structure of Washington's army for the year 1776. War-dated examples of Thornton's hand in any form are scarce. American Book Prices Current identifies only seven examples selling at auction since 1975.

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