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Revolutionary War
John Hancock Pens a Letter in August, 1776, Remanding Three Men Suspected of Sedition to the Council of Safety in Philadelphia; Written on the Back of an ALS of Robert Hanson Harrison, Naming the Three Men and Sending Them to New York
John Hancock (USA, 1737 - 1793)

JOHN HANCOCK (1737-1793). Merchant, statesman, patriot; first to sign Declaration of Independence. ALS, 1p, 4to, [Philadelphia], August 22, 1776. “To the Officers of the Guard at the Indian Queen”.

“You are to take the within nam’d persons now in your Custody, to the Council of Safety of Pennsylvania, who are Requested to Examine them touching the matters alledged against them and if nothing be found against them they be discharg’d. By order of Congress

Augst 22d: 1776 John Hancock, Presid’t

Note: The”Indian Queen” was a hotel in Philadelphia which was used to house prisoners.

ROBERT HANSON HARRISON (1745-1790) American lawyer and jurist; aide-de-camp to General George Washington from 1775-1781, the second longest serving in that capacity next to Tench Tilghman. ALS, “Robt H Harrison Secy” with a postscript signed “R H Harrison”.

Harrison had served as Washington’s lawyer in Virginia and had accompanied him for three days in 1769 to obtain the land of his neighbor John Posey, in payment of a debt. In 1775 Washington summoned Harrison help him and he became the only Virginian on his staff. In addition to secretarial duties, Harrison also helped Washington execute many official military duties as is evidenced in this letter:

“To Jacob Shafer of the City of New York

Whereas there is full reason to Apprehend that Certain Thomas and Patrick Ballantine & Robert Gilmore late of the Colony of Virginia and who Passed from the above said City this morning to (Powder Hart?) are persons unfriendly to the Rights and Liberties of the United States of America, and are Carrying on Sundry Malpractices against the Interest of the said States- These are therefore to Require you to make Diligent Pursuit after all and every of the Person aforesaid and them having (been) found, the same and all Sincerely Delivered to the Committee of the Town or County that shall be most Contiguous to be by them safely Conveyed to th City of Philadelphia and then Delivered to the Honorable President of the Continental Congress. By His Excellency’s Command, Robt. H.Harrison Secy Head Qrs N York Augt. 17th 1776

All Friends to America are requested to aid & assist the said Jacob Shafer in the Execution of this Warrant”

There was a Jacob Shafer in the Berks County militia who may have been stationed in New York in 1776.

An amazing pair of letters linking two great American patriots just a month or so after the Declaration. Also note the early use of the term, “United States of America” in Harrison’s letter.

After the War Washington nominated Harrison to the Supreme Court of the United States, which he refused because of ill health; he died a few months after he had been confirmed by the Senate.