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Francis Hopkinson

William Bingham

Hopkinson authorizes payment at Paris of interest on money

 borrowed to finance the Revolutionary War

Francis Hopkinson, 1737–1791.  Signer of the Declaration of Independence; designer of the first American flag.  Partially printed Document Signed, F. Hopkinson, one page (recto and verso), 8" x 3½", [no place], January 28, 1779.  Countersigned, Tho. Smith, and endorsed, Wm Bingham.

This sight bill has an excellent association.  Hopkinson, the American Treasurer of Loans, authorizes payment of interest on the American debt incurred to finance the Revolutionary War.  The bill, which is directed to "the Commissioner or Commissioners of the United States of America, at Paris,” provides:  “At Thirty Days Sight of this Third Bill, First, Second and Fourth not paid, pay to Mary Rogers or order, Thirty-six Dollars, in One Hundred and Eighty Livres Tournois, for Interest due on Money borrowed by the United States." 

Hopkinson, of New Jersey, entered the Second Continental Congress of June 22, 1776, and left some five months later in order to serve on the Navy Board at Philadelphia.  During his short service in Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence.  He served as Treasurer of the Continental Loan Office, in which capacity he signed this sight bill, beginning in 1778.  President George Washington appointed him to the new position of judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1789, a position that he held only 20 months until his early death from a sudden apoplectic seizure at age 53.

William Bingham (1752–1804), a delegate to the Continental Congress 1786–1788, was a wealthy businessman.  He wrote the bylaws for the national Bank of North America.  In 1777, Bingham aided the revolution through the capture of several British ships and the return of several loads of ammunition, guns, and other goods necessary to fight the war.  Congress sent him on several diplomatic missions to France, where he met with American informant Silas Deane.  By the end of the war, Bingham had become one of the wealthiest men in Pennsylvania.  His land developments in upstate New York and Maine added to his fortune.  Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury under the Constitution, turned to Bingham for advice on managing taxes and creating a national bank.  Bingham served as a Senator from Pennsylvania during the administrations of Presidents George Washington and John Adams and was President pro Tempore of the Senate toward the end of his service.  Later, working with his son-in-law Alexander Baring, he helped to broker the Louisiana Purchase.

Thomas Smith (d. 1793) served as the Commissioner of the Continental Loan Office of Pennsylvania from 1777 until his death.  In 1789, he sought an appointment from President George Washington of a similar office under the new United States Constitution, since, he wrote, it was “necessary for me for the support of a large family—as my attention to the business of my office has thrown me out of every means of maintaining them."  His friend Richard Peters supported his entreaty by telling Washington that “from the Circumstances of the Congress sitting at Philadelphia & the considerable Sums loaned in this State I know he has had much more of the Bussiness thrown on him than has fallen to the Share of any Officer in his Line in other States."  In 1790, Washington appointed Smith to be the federal commissioner of loans for Pennsylvania.

This is a nice document.  Hopkinson, Bingham, and Smith have all signed in dark brown.  Some of the handwriting on the back shows through to the front behind Hopkinsonʼs signature.  The irregularly trimmed piece has one vertical fold and a bend at the lower right corner, which affect none of the signatures.  Overall the piece is fine to very fine.




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