Signer Thomas McKean writes to Thomas Mifflin discussing the decreasing crime rate and that the people "...are contented with their present Constitution, Laws and Magistrates; and of course enjoy civil, political and religious liberty and happiness"
Thomas McKean Autograph Letter Signed "Tho. M:Kean"
as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, two pages, legal folio, 7.5" x
12.5", Philadelphia, December 20, 1790. Addressing Thomas Mifflin,
President of the state's Executive Council, he writes: "The
Justices of the Supreme court propose to be at Chester this
Forenoon, in order to hold courts there for the county of Delaware,
which will conclude their Circuit... For several years past public
wrongs or crimes have been gradually decreasing...In half of the
counties there has not been a single conviction for any capital or
other offence commonly prosecuted in [our co] urts...nor a
single indictment for any such presented to us...We have also the
pleasure to inform you, that the controversies and disputes of
Individuals have been without exception accommodated by themselves
or their neighbours, or admitted to the courts of Justice, where
the decisions have...given very general satisfaction..." He
adds that the state is growing in population and productivity,
"...From these observations it may safely be concluded, that the
people are actuated by a just regard for industry, frugality,
order, morality and religion..." Two matters require attention:
a provision for sentencing those convicted under a recent statute,
and the problem that "...Some doubts have arisen respecting the
existence of the High court of errors and appeals under the new
Constitution..." Also signed by Justices "Geo. Bryant"
and "Jacob Rush." Blank integral page detached. Age-toned,
with one hole affecting two words, weak folds with separations
thereat including one fold split repaired with transparent paper,
otherwise in very good condition.
Pennsylvania had just ratified its new Constitution, which McKean had helped draft, earlier in 1790. Interestingly, Thomas Mifflin was not President of Pennsylvania; three days before the present letter, the new Constitution went into effect, and he was now Governor. When he retired in 1799, McKean would succeed him. Docketed by Mifflin on separated integral sheet. This is among the finest letters of this particular signer extant. Although routine McKean documents are common, only 7 ALS's have sold at major auctions in the last 25 years. Of those, only two compare in content: In 2006 at Christies, an 1814 letter to Adams recollecting the vote for independence, with signature removed and replaced with a substitute sold for $72,000; and in 1995, at Sotheby's, a 1791 letter defending Caesar Rodney against political attacks sold for approximately $6000.
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