Sale 15BP02 | Lot 287

LEWIS, MERIWETHER Document signed as the Territorial Governor of Louisiana appointing George Armistead Justice of the Peace in the Arkansas Township

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs
LEWIS, MERIWETHER  Document signed as the Territorial Governor of Louisiana appointing George Armistead Justice of the Peace in the Arkansas Township

Lot Details

Lot 287
LEWIS, MERIWETHER Document signed as the Territorial Governor of Louisiana appointing George Armistead Justice of the Peace in...
. St. Louis: 18 May 1808. Partly printed document accomplished in manuscript, the document headed in print "Meriwether Lewis/Governor and Commander in Chief of the Territory of Louisiana," signed in ink by Lewis and countersigned by Frederick Bates as Secretary, the document retaining its paper-covered seal, the verso with a manuscript attestation signed by Bates. 7 3/4 x 12 5/8 inches (19.5 x 32 cm). Folds with one panel cleanly detached affecting the Bates signature, small loss to the edges of this fold, one inch old tape repair to one fold at upper margin, some faint toning.
An important and rare territorial document in which Meriwether Lewis promotes George Armistead, the future Commander of American forces during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Upon Lewis' return from his overland expedition to the Pacific with William Clark in 1806, he was appointed by President Jefferson, a fellow Virginian, to the post of governor of the Louisiana Territory where he settled in its seat of government in St. Louis. Arkansas, before gaining territorial status in 1819, was initially part of the New Madrid district in the original division of the Louisiana Territory and was made its own district in 1806. Frederick Bates, as Secretary (basically Lieutenant Governor), abolished this district soon after and was Acting Governor during the period between Lewis' appointment and arrival in St. Louis in March of 1808. Lewis re-established the District of Arkansas in August of 1808 and established the first courts of record there, thus the appointment of Armistead as Justice of the Peace.

In St. Louis, Lewis and Bates were quickly at odds with one another over Lewis' handling of Indian affairs, the fur trade, and conflicts of interest in the nascent political entity that was the Territory. Bates began writing frequent complaints of Lewis to the President and is sometimes implicated in Lewis' mysterious death. In August 1809, Lewis, in traveling to Washington to collect debts incurred in the Territory, to attempt to clear his name, and, at the request of Jefferson, to deliver the journals that would form part of the published account of his expedition with Clark, died of gunshot wounds in his room at Grinder's Stand along the Natchez Trace. While many considered Lewis' death a suicide due to his erratic behavior and issues with alcohol, others suspect foul play. Thus examples of Lewis signature are scarce in any form and especially on printed documents in his role as governor of the Louisiana Territory.

This document is further enhanced by its association with George Armistead, another fellow Virginian, who bravely commanded over the twenty-five hour bombardment of Fort McHenry and who commissioned the "flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance" that of of course became the motivation of Frederick Scott Key's anthem, The Defense of Fort McHenry or the Star Spangled Banner.


Estimate: $15,000 - $20,000
Sold for $18,750 (includes buyer's premium)

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Estimate: $15,000 - $20,000
Sold for $18,750 (includes buyer's premium)

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Rare Books, Autographs & Photographs

Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 10am EST
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