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Declaration-Signer Francis Hopkinson and Constitution-Signer Jared Ingersoll Sign Same Document in Philadelphia Admiralty Court

FRANCIS HOPKINSON, Autograph Endorsement Signed, Monition to James Read, April 15, 1784, on JARED INGERSOLL, Autograph Document Signed, Libel against Captain Stewart, Master of the Schooner Rebecca, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2 pp., 8ʺ x 10.375ʺ. Expected folds; some paper loss on one fold not affecting text; some water staining; very good.

By this monition (a summons in admiralty cases), Judge Francis Hopkinson of the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania orders James Read to summon Captain Stewart and others interested in the schooner Rebecca to court to respond to the complaint of three sailors for their wages in assisting in salvaging a part of the rigging and sails of a wrecked ship.

In February, the Rebecca had sailed from Jamaica to Havana, Cuba. On March 18, the Rebecca came upon the English ship Mercury, which had run aground on Jardin’s reef with a cargo of sugar bound for Bristol. The crew had abandoned the Mercury, and although newspapers reported that the Mercury was “an entire wreck,” the crew of the Rebecca apparently salvaged a portion of its tackle and sails. The Rebecca then sailed on to Philadelphia, where it arrived by April 12. The court evidently resolved this case quickly, as the Rebecca with Stewart as master left Philadelphia by April 28 for Jamaica.

In 1792, Hopkinson published forty-nine of his decisions from the Admiralty Court in the third volume of his Miscellaneous Essays and Occasional Writings. Although this case was not among those published, approximately one quarter of those Hopkinson included involved seamen who were suing for their wages. Hopkinson generally sided with aggrieved sailors, and in Patrick Mahoon et al. v. the Brig Glocester, Hopkinson held that “Mariners are generally engaged on shore, and always sue for their wages in this court. In the one case the mariners are paid monthly wages, or by the run, in the other by a share of the booty taken. There is the same reason in both cases. But I am of opinion that the articles are not the true foundation of a seaman’s claim. If one or more mariners should enter on board a vessel, with the knowledge and consent of the master, should receive his orders and perform the duties of the station, they would be entitled to customary wages, or a proportion of the booty taken in common with the rest of the crew, although they had signed no articles at all, the right is not founded in the articles, but in the service.”

After Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, admiralty jurisdiction transferred to federal district courts rather than state courts.

Complete Transcript:

To the Honourable Francis Hopkinson Esqr Judge of the Court of Admiralty of the State of Pennsylvania
The Libel of Barney Murray Charles Campble, Robert Stewart, Mariners
The Libellants propound and shew that they were shipped as Seamen by Capt Stewart of the Schooner Rebecca that in March last they met with a Wreck, That they assisted in saving a part of her rigging & sails &c, But the Master and owners refuse to pay them a proportionable part of the salvage, as a recompense Justly Due for their Labour.
Wherefore they pray that process and Monition may issue to the said Capt Stewart, for the payment of their share of the Salvage, which he has sold, & retains the money in his own hands. And they as in Duty Bound will every pray &c.
T. Ingersoll Proc

To James Read Esqr Reg &c
Please to issue attachment against Captain Stewart Commander of the Schooner Rebecca now in this Port, & a Monition to all concerned &c to appear at a Court of Admiralty to be held at my Chambers on Saturday next at 10 o’Clock in the Forenoon to answer to the within Libel.
Fras Hopkinson
April 15th 1784

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania) in 1757 with a bachelor’s degree and in 1760 with a master’s degree. In 1759, he became the first American composer of a secular song. He practiced law in Philadelphia from 1761 to 1766. After spending more than a year in England unsuccessfully seeking the office of Commissioner of Customs for North America, Hopkinson returned to Philadelphia, became a merchant, and served as Collector of Customs at New Castle, Delaware. From 1774 to 1776, he served as a member of the New Jersey Provincial Council and represented New Jersey in 1776 in the Second Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. He served in a variety of offices during the Revolutionary War, including member of the Navy Board (1776-1777), Treasurer of the Continental Loan Office (1778-1781), and Judge of the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania (1779-1789). As an artist, Hopkinson created designs for Continental paper money, the first United States coin, and two early versions of the American flag, one for the United States and another for the U.S. Navy (both originally with six-pointed stars). He also contributed to the design of the Great Seal of the United States. In addition, he was a member of the Pennsylvania Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, President George Washington appointed Hopkinson as judge of the new United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania, a position Hopkinson held until his death nearly twenty months later.

James Read (1718-1793) was born in Pennsylvania and went into business selling books with his widowed step-mother in 1737, in a shop next to Benjamin Franklin’s, who had married Read’s second cousin. Read gained admission to the Pennsylvania bar in 1742, and soon moved to Reading. There he held several offices, including clerk of several of the local courts. Berks County voters elected him to the Assembly in 1777 and to the Supreme Executive Council in 1778-1781 and 1787-1790. When the Register of the Court of Admiralty died in June 1781, Read resigned from the Supreme Executive Council, the remaining members of which elected him as Register, a position he held from 1781 to 1789. Apparently, his daughter Sarah Read (1756-1793) acted as his clerk and performed many of the writing tasks of the position. Both Read and his daughter died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.

Jared Ingersoll (1749-1822) was born in Connecticut and graduated from Yale College in 1766. He moved to Philadelphia, studied law, and gained admission to the bar. In 1773, he moved to London to study law at the Middle Temple. After completing his studies in 1776, he toured Europe for two years and transitioned from a Loyalist to a Patriot. He returned to Philadelphia and entered the legal profession, attending to the clients of family friend Joseph Reed, who was a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Ingersoll began to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1791. He represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress (1780-1781) and at the Constitutional Convention (1787), where he signed the U.S. Constitution. He later served as Attorney General of Pennsylvania (1790-1799, 1811-1817) and as U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania (1800-1801). In 1812, he was the unsuccessful Federalist candidate for Vice President.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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