Apr 07, 2022 - Sale 2600

Sale 2600 - Lot 14

Price Realized: $ 2,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--PRELUDE.) Receipt for drinks and damages incurred by the New York Triumvirate at a famed Sons of Liberty tavern. Manuscript document, 5 3/4 x 4 inches, almost blank on verso; folds, minor wear. [New York], 7 February 1769

Additional Details

In the years before the American Revolution, a group of three New York lawyers became known as "The Triumvirate": William Smith (1728-1793), William Livingston (1723-1790), and John Morin Scott (1730-1814). In 1752, they founded a short-lived but influential weekly political journal called the Independent Reflector, the only of its kind in the colonies. As the colonies veered toward rebellion, the three friends took different paths: Scott became an outspoken member of the Sons of Liberty, Livingston was a moderate patriot who opposed independence, while Smith became a prominent Loyalist.

This document places the Triumvirate together in a very interesting time and place: Bolton & Sigell's tavern, where the New York Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1768, and where in March 1769, New York merchants active in the Sons of Liberty met there to enforce their non-importation boycott. It was leased from Samuel Fraunces, and still stands today as the legendary Fraunces Tavern. In this hotbed of liberty, the three friends were joined by William Bayard (1729-1804), a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 and member of the Sons of Liberty, although he later cast his lot with the Loyalists.

Knowing the background of these men makes this humble tavern receipt more interesting. The bill is for supper, spruce beer, punch, porter, a large quantity of madeira wine costing twice as much as supper, and 15 shillings for "china plates broke." The total cost is billed to "Mr. Wm. Bayard, Mr. Smith, Mr. Wm. Livingston, Mr. Scott," and is signed "Received the contents, Bolton & Sigell."

At a time when New Yorkers were anxiously picking sides between loyalty and rebellion, these four strong-willed leaders with very different paths met in the hotbed of rebellion and shared more than a few drinks. Plates were broken--innocently dropped, or hurled across the room in anger, in a fight about a drunken insult, or over the fate of America--we will probably never know.

Provenance: recently acquired from a dealer who also offered other William Bayard documents.