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    David Humphreys: 1786 Autograph Letter Signed Regarding Shay's Rebellion "C. D. Humphreys". Two pages, 7.75" x 12.5", December 18, 1786, Hartford, Connecticut, to Governor Samuel Huntington of Connecticut reporting on difficulties recruiting militia to suppress Shay's Rebellion. David Humphreys (1752 - 1818) was a Revolutionary War colonel and aide de camp to George Washington, American ambassador to Portugal and then to Spain, entrepreneur who brought Merino sheep to America and member of the Connecticut state legislature. This ALS is an important communication from the Connecticut officer who would lead the only Congressionally-mandated expedition against Shay's Rebellion. The small force assembled under his command constituted the only troops (besides Massachusetts) mobilized in response to Congress' call. Here, Humphries reports on officer resignations underscoring the difficulties even Connecticut had in assembling a body of soldiers: "It has not been in my power, before the present moment, to inform your Excellency of all the resignations which have taken place together with the names of such persons as might be proper to fill their vacancies. Captains Clift & Robinson, Lieut. Hart & Ensign Keller have declined accepting their appointments. After making unsuccessful overtures to Captn. Rodgers, M. Benjamins & Mr. Mix to know whether they would accept of Captaincies, in case of appointment: - I beg leave to recommend, to your Excellency, the following Gentlemen to supply the following vacancies, viz.-- Captain Moses Cleveland (of Canterbury) to be Captain... Lieut. Joseph Wilcox (now in Serving at West Point) to be Captn... Mr. Russel Bissel (of Windsor, formerly a Lt. in the State Service recommended by Capt. Buell to whom Compy be may be annexed) to be Lieutenant... Tho' no public money has been advanced, several Officers have made considerable progress in inlisting men. About twenty Recruits have arrived in this Town, where I have made arrangements with Colo. Wadsworth to furnish them will all necessary supplies. Being desirous of forwarding as much as possible the recruiting Service; and in hopes that Your Excellency (agreeably to your polite intimation) may be pleased to signify to me, at this place, your approbation of the foregoing nomination; I shall not delay to forward recruiting Instructions to those Gentlemen, to be made use of as soon as they shall be duly authorised thereto..."

    Shay's rebellion threatened not only Massachusetts but the neighboring states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The possibility of a seizure of the federal arsenal at Springfield by Daniel Shays and his followers could have undermined the entire Union. The Continental Congress, fearful of a general agrarian revolt, requested the states to contribute to a force to suppress the rebellion authorizing the raising of 1800 troops to march into Western Massachusetts. The states were slow to comply, and most did not bother at all, starkly illustrating the weakness of the Articles of Confederation and bolstered the position of those who advocated a stronger central government. Located directly to the South, Connecticut was more immediately threatened than most. Nevertheless, although the state authorized raising it's share of the 2040 requested by Congress (which was a mere 180 men), it did not provide for funds to pay them. Hence, recruitment was frustratingly slow as noted here by Colonel Humphreys. Not finding adequate funds from the state, Humphries applied directly to Congress for financial support. Without a national treasury, Congress was unable to comply. And the small force assembled in Hartford quickly withered. Similarly challenged, Massachusetts began raising its own militia of 4400 soldiers under the command of Benjamin Lincoln on January 4, 1787. In the end it was a tiny force of 124 men under Humphreys' command that constituted the only outside help given to Massachusetts to suppress the rebellion. He arrived on February 14 in Springfield to relieve the local militia stationed at the federal arsenal. By that point, Shays and his followers had been scattered, but many continued to conduct minor raids in the countryside. The arrival of Connecticut troops allowed Massachusetts forces to further secure the countryside. Reinforced along left margin with tissue, light creases, portrait toned into first page, else fine. A most interesting and unusual piece of manuscript Americana related to Shays' rebellion. Material like this is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in the market today.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2007
    25th-26th Thursday-Friday
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