WILLIAM ELLERY of Newport, RI, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Born into a family of privilege, he entered into Harvard in 1743, where he was better known for his humor than academic achievement. He began the practice of law in 1764 after securing income from his father’s estate. That year, he also developed a political interest as increasing British taxes wrought unprecedented resentment among his fellow Newporters. Ellery’s place in history was secured in 1776 when his political associate, Samuel Ward, died. Ward had served as one of Rhode Island’s representatives in the Continental Congress. Ellery was elected as his successor and traveled to Philadelphia, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. After nearly a ten-year career in Congress, Ellery held a number of other occupations including Lord of Admiralty, Judge, Continental Loan Officer and Customs Collector, appointed by President George Washington. For a time, he was Chief Justice of Rhode Island. In 1778, he signed the Articles of Confederation, the first Constitution of the United States.
Ellery supported Rufus King in his efforts to abolish slavery throughout the country.
Throughout his life, Ellery expanded his knowledge of the arts and sciences. He united with his good friend Ezra Stiles, a Congregationalist minister, in scientific pursuits, including chemical experiments with rum and observations of meteorological phenomenon. [Research on Ellery included]
Offering a fine diminutive document, 1 ½ x 3 ¾, in Ellery’s hand and signed by him in the text, involving the Ellery’s purchase of rum, likely for his experiments.
“Received/Newport Feby 15, 1768 of William Ellery Thirty four gallons of Jamaica Rum in full all accounts. J.F. Prehm, apparently a Jamaica rum dealer, has signed the receipt.
Very clear and quite readable. A wonderful example of American history from an extraordinary signer of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
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