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    When in the Course of human Events...

    The Declaration of Independence: Rare July 1776 Broadside Printing by Ezekiel Russell of Salem, Massachusetts-Bay, the Colony's Authorized Edition, Sent to an Ipswich Pastor to be Read to His Congregation. The eleventh broadside printing overall. One page on laid paper, 15.5" x 19.5" untrimmed, docketed on verso: "To the Revd Mr. Frisbie/ Ipswich". Printed at bottom: "Salem, Massachusetts-Bay : Printed by E. Russell, by Order of Authority." Matted in museum board and framed under UV-filter Plexi to an overall size of 20" x 24".

    The Declaration was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, proclaiming the thirteen American colonies to be independent sovereign states, no longer part of the British Empire, but rather part of a new nation, the United States of America. Once the text of the Declaration was ratified, the Congress issued it to be read to the public throughout the colonies. The first printing was a broadside printed in Philadelphia by John Dunlap on the evening of July 4, likely copied from a handwritten version by Thomas Jefferson. Throughout the next several weeks, additional versions were printed as broadsides, in books, and published in newspapers. On July 17, 1776, the Massachusetts Bay Council resolved to order an official printing. The following, over the names of R. Derby (president) and John Avery (secretary), is printed just below the text of the Declaration: "Ordered, That the Declaration of Independence be printed; and a Copy sent to the Ministers of each Parish, of every Denomination, within this State; and that they severally be required to read the same to their respective Congregations, as soon as divine Service is ended, in the Afternoon, on the first Lord's Day after they shall have received it: --- And after such Publication thereof, to deliver the said Declaration to the Clerks of their several Towns, or Districts; who are hereby required to record the same in their respective Town, or District Books, there to remain as a perpetual Memorial thereof."

    This copy of that printing was sent, based on the docketing, to a minister in Ipswich, the Rev. Levi Frisbie. He was born in Branford, Connecticut, on July 6, 1748. He was graduated with the first class at Dartmouth in 1771, studied theology under the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock at Hanover, and was ordained there in 1772. Frisbie at once engaged in missionary service among the Delaware Indians, and afterward labored with the Canadian tribes, and among those in Maine. The mission was ended by the Revolutionary war, and on February 7, 1776, he was installed as the tenth pastor of the First Congregationalist Church at Ipswich, Massachusetts where he served until his death on February 25, 1806. This was an historic church, having been founded in 1634 as the ninth church in the Massachusetts Colony. It is likely that Rev. Frisbie read this very copy of the Declaration aloud to his congregation on the afternoon of July 21, 1776, or the next Sunday at the latest. What an exciting event that must have been for his congregants.

    Ezekiel Russell (1743-1798) was a Boston-born printer, whose first apprenticeship was to his brother Joseph at the Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser. He began his first newspaper in Boston in 1771, The Censor, a Loyalist political publication designed to be a forum for pro-Crown views; it lasted only a few months. He then moved to Salem and founded the Salem Gazette and Newbury and Newbury-Port Advertiser which, again, lasted only a short while. During the Revolutionary War he began The American Gazette or The Constitutional Journal, also in Salem. The text of the Declaration was printed in that paper's July 16th issue and then this broadside version just a few days later. He eventually moved back to Boston where he continued his printing business until his death.

    It is a common but erroneous assumption that the familiar handwritten Declaration with its numerous signatures below was the original drafted version of the document. That version was not engrossed until July 19 and not signed until early August. The text of this present broadside precedes that and contains the original opening title: "In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled." Originally, it was not a unanimous vote with twelve affirmative votes and one abstention. On July 9, when New York finally yes voted for independence, the opening title was changed to: "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" which is the version we all know. This Salem broadside text was signed in type by only two at the close: "Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest, Charles Thompson [sic], Secretary". The later engrossed version is, of course, signed by fifty-six delegates.

    The document's second sentence, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" is one of the greatest statements ever made on the subject of human rights. Abraham Lincoln quoted it in his Gettysburg Address; he considered the Declaration of Independence to be the foundation of his political and personal philosophies. This Declaration would inspire similar documents throughout the early nineteenth century. The earliest broadside printings were ephemeral in nature and extremely few have survived to this day. Even fewer are in private collections. It is a rare opportunity to own a copy of this landmark document printed within days of its adoption. Our research shows that the last time a copy of this Salem broadside sold at public auction was in 2004 and the price achieved was $456,000. Obviously, this is worthy of the finest private or institutional collections.

    Condition: Toned overall, edges rough and somewhat uneven, original folds. The lower left quadrant, from the lowest horizontal fold down and the center fold to the left, has been expertly replaced in facsimile.

    References: Sotheby's checklist S11a; Walsh 13; Evans 15163; Ford Massachusetts Broadsides 1955.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 14,507

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