Catalog Archive
Auction 180, Lot 779

An Uncommon Signature During Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia

"[Thomas Jefferson Appointment Signed]", Jefferson, Thomas

Subject: Document - Thomas Jefferson

Period: 1779 (dated)


Color: Black & White

10.6 x 6.1 inches
26.9 x 15.5 cm
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This appointment for the Commonwealth of Virginia was boldly signed by Thomas Jefferson in Williamsburg on August 27, 1779. The document appointed justices of the peace for Brunswick County, located along the southern border with North Carolina. The individuals appointed include " James Wall, James Tomlinson, Philip Pers[on], Henry Haley, Drury Stith, Jos. Greenhill, William Batte, Thomas Haynes, John Haskins, Robert Rivers, Littleberry Robinson & James Marshall."

The justice of the peace system was inherited from English practices and these county-level positions had wide powers in colonial Virginia. In Richard Starke's 1774 The Office and Authority of a Justice of the Peace, job responsibilities were noted to include the handling of homicides, forgeries, weights and measures, and even pork inspections to name a few. Some of the more famous justices of the peace in Virginia include Jefferson himself, George Wythe, John Randolph, and Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee). Despite the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Virginia's 1776 constitution confirmed the existing colonial practice of the governor appointing justices for a life term.

Thomas Jefferson served as Virginia's second governor from 1779-1781 during the thick of the American Revolution. Jefferson letters during his short governorship like this are scarce compared to his presidential letters, making this an unusual and desirable piece for any Jefferson or Virginia collector.


Condition: B+

Issued folding with old tape repairs to short centerfold separations at top and bottom. There is some light staining along the right sheet edge, minor toning along the fold lines, and light show-through at top from manuscript notations on verso.

Estimate: $9,500 - $11,000


Closed on 11/18/2020