"Material Change" - Important American Documents from Seth Kaller
By Michael Stillman
Seth Kaller, Inc., Authentic Historic Documents and Artifacts has released a new catalogue: "Material Change" Documents That Shaped America. Kaller offers more than items from notable Americans, but documents that are of historic significance, and from some of the most important of American names, including Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. These are the sorts of things you don't really expect to still see in private hands. In time, most probably will wind their way to museums and similar settings, but for now, they are still available to private as well as institutional collectors. Here are a few of these wonderful documents still obtainable.
The catalogue starts with a remarkable letter from George Washington which explains this catalogue's title of "Material Change." Written on October 22, 1780, to George Mason, a fellow patriot and later promoter of the Bill of Rights, he speaks almost from despair of his army's situation. At the time, Washington was still holed up in New Jersey, short of money, supplies, and with many enlistments soon to expire. The outlook was bleak. "Unless there is a material change," he writes, "...it will be in vain to contend much longer." Washington then calls for the creation of a permanent force, though he acknowledges the financial challenges of accomplishing this aim. He calls for securing loans to complement taxes, and that more power be granted Congress to carry out the war. Price on request.
A copy of the New England Chronicle from July 18, 1776, is offered. Communications were slow in those days, so this was the edition that brought the news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence to Bostonians. News would have reached some in Boston a few days earlier, but it was on the 18th that the Declaration was read from the state house balcony and published for all to see. Other news of the day, including the "acclamations of joy" expressed by Continental troops in New York on hearing it read, are presented. The paper reports that up to 10,000 British troops have landed on Staten Island, and that a statue of King George in New York has been knocked down and broken to pieces. $190,000.
Next we have a letter from a man anything but an American patriot. John Andre was a British officer during the American Revolution who managed their spying operations. He would be Benedict Arnold's contact, and it was Andre's capture which uncovered Arnold's treachery. The joy in this letter is certainly ironic considering the fate that was soon to befall Andre. In September 1780, he writes with pride to his mother in England of his promotion to Adjutant General. "Good fortune still follows me..." pens Andre, and "I...can hardly look back at the steep progress I have made without being giddy." He also speaks of his growing self-confidence. Perhaps it was overconfidence, as the good fortune which had been following Andre would soon desert him. Nineteen days later, he would clandestinely meet with Benedict Arnold, to discuss the latter's plan to turn West Point over to the British. Unfortunately for Andre, there was a problem with his return plans, and he was captured by American militiamen. Arnold's plans were disrupted, and he was forced to give up his cover and flee to British lines. Andre was not so lucky. On October 2, 1780, he was hanged as a spy. $50,000.