On January 26th, Keno Auctions of New York City sold a highly important and historically significant document entitled Letter fromthe Twelve United States Colonies, by their delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of GreatBritain. After heated competition between several phone bidders, the gavel dropped at $912,500 (including Buyer’s Premium), well above its presale auction estimate of $100,000 to $400,000.
This document was long thought to be lost, but in July 2013 archivist Emilie Gruchow discovered it in the attic of the Morris-Jumel Mansion inside a folder of colonial doctor’s bills tucked away in a drawer. The document, penned by Robert R. Livingston, was a final plea for peace by the Continental Congress to the people of Great Britain to avoid the Revolutionary War. It was also a prelude to the Declaration of Independence, which Livingston helped draft with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin less than a year later. This working draft fundamentally changes our understanding of the final document which was printed in July 1775 and is complete with fascinating edits, including entire paragraphs crossed out and rewritten in the margins. Scholar Michael Hattem of Yale University stated, the document is “… the missing piece from the culminating moments in which the colonists began to think of themselves not as British subjects, but as American citizens”
The winning bid of $912,500 was from a private collector on the phone with manuscript specialist Seth Kaller. This price is the highest for any item auctioned off during Americana week 2014 in New York
Leigh Keno, President of Keno Auctions, said, “I am elated that the manuscript did so well. All of the proceeds benefit one the finest museums in New York City. The board of the museum was here in the room when it sold, and they were thrilled."
Carol Ward, President of The Morris- Jumel Mansion, said after the sale, “I am still in a state of shock. It was so beyond our expectations. This auction quadruples the size of our endowment and ensures that the mansion can serve the public for generations to come."