University Archives


U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Blair asks Treasurer Samuel Meredith to Pay Part of His Salary to a Williamsburg Minister and Educator

JOHN BLAIR JR., Autograph Letter Signed, to Samuel Meredith, September 12, 1792, Williamsburg, Virginia. Includes endorsement by Meredith. 1 p., 7.75? x 5.625?. Some mat burning on edges; tape on verso to repair tears; discoloration on verso; strong, dark text; good.

Associate Justice John Blair Jr. instructs U.S. Treasurer Samuel Meredith to pay a portion of Blair’s salary to Rev. John Bracken of Williamsburg. Bracken, in turn, endorses the letter, asking Meredith to pay the amount to Philadelphia merchant John Barnes. Meredith approves the payment, and Barnes acknowledges receipt.

For his services as Chief Justice, John Jay received an annual salary of $4,000, while Associate Justices like Blair received $3,500 per year.

Complete Transcript:
                                                                  Wmsburg, Septr 12th, 1792.
At the close of this month please to pay to the Revd Mr John Bracken, or order, four hundred dollars, in part of my salary which will then become due.
                                                                Your most obedt Servant
                                                                John Blair
To Samuel Meredith Esqr
Treasurer of the United States

[Endorsement:] Pay the above to Mr John Barnes
John Bracken

[Endorsement:] Accepted to pay the 1 or 2d of October 1792
Saml Meredith

[Verso Endorsement:] Recd the within full
John Barnes

John Blair Jr. (1732-1800) was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1754. After studying law in London, he returned to Virginia and began a law practice. He served in the House of Burgesses from 1766 to 1770 and then as clerk of the Royal Governor’s Council, the upper house of the legislature, from 1770 to 1775. Initially a moderate Patriot, in contrast to the more extreme views of Patrick Henry and others, Blair became more radical when Parliament dissolved the Virginia House of Burgesses. During the American Revolution, he helped to draft Virginia’s 1776 constitution and served on the Privy Council as an advisor to Governor Patrick Henry from 1776 to 1778. Blair served as a judge in the general court, then on Virginia’s high court of chancery. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and served as a strong ally of James Madison. In September 1789, President George Washington nominated Blair as one of the first justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Blair took office in February 1790. He resigned from the court in 1795.

Samuel Meredith (1741-1817) was an American merchant from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented the state in the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788. President George Washington appointed Meredith as Treasurer of the United States in 1789, and he held the office until his retirement in 1801.

John Bracken (ca. 1747-1818) was born in England and ordained as a minister there. In 1773, he was elected as rector of Bruton Parish, in Williamsburg, Virginia, a position he held until his death forty-five years later. In 1775, he took over the College of William and Mary’s grammar school, but the school was abolished in 1779. He twice sued the college to regain his position and lost both times. The College revived the grammar school in 1792 and appointed Bracken to the faculty. He served for several years in the 1790s and 1800 as the mayor of Williamsburg. Bracken served as president of the College of William and Mary from 1812 to 1814, but was ineffective, and the College had few students.

John Barnes (ca. 1730-1826) was born in England and moved to New York in 1760. In 1790, he moved to Philadelphia, where he was a banker, commission agent, grocer, and tea merchant. He served as Thomas Jefferson’s private banker, and in 1800, Barnes moved to Georgetown, where, Jefferson appointed Barnes collector in 1806.

From the famous Supreme Court collection of Scott Petersen.

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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