• Early Pennsylvania Patriots, Vice Presidents Sign Debt Document Recounting Travels To Plantation

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    GEORGE ROSS (1746 – 1801) was elected Vice-President of Pennsylvania, a position equivalent to that of lieutenant governor, on November 7, 1788.  He was re-elected in 1789 and served until 1790. Ross, not the signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the last man to hold the position of vice-president. The vice-presidency along with the rest of the Supreme Executive Council was dissolved by the 1790 State Constitution

    A highly unusual deposition, 2 pp, 7 3/4 x 13, “In the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania,” dated December 6, 1790, signed by Ross while he was vice president detailing his conversation with the plaintiff, Andrew Graff, while the two were traveling to the plantation of the defendant, John Mischi, whose father owed Graff a sizable debt. Ross recounts Mischi’s various statements to Graff regarding the debt and his possible willingness to repay it. “...Much conversation passed between the said Andrew & John on the occasion...[Ross recounted his conversation with Andrew.] At one point, Graff said he questioned Mischi’s ability to purchase such a valuable tract of land from his [Andrew’s] father since he was such a young man and Mischi told him his family had sold a large tract in Virginia. Ross writes, “...John admitted the debt...to be just and that his case was a hard one but the said John [stated] that the said Benjamin, his Father, had made over the Plantation to him, the said John...Andrew should not lose his debt...” 

    The document was witnessed by GEORGE BRYAN, also a one-time vice-president of Pennsylvania, serving from 1777 to 1779, with ties to resisting the Stamp Act and holding together factions that emerged during the Great Awakening in the Presbyterian Church.

    When the Stamp Act was passed in 1765, Bryan took resisted the oppressive act by joining other Philadelphia merchants in signing the Non-Importation Agreement to resist the Stamp Act and Townshend Duties. The action likely contributed to his bankruptcy in 1771. While vice-president, Bryan focused his efforts on mobilizing the state’s resources to combat Tory and Indian harassment of settlers on the frontier. He also pushed for emancipation of all enslaved people in Pennsylvania, which served as a model for gradual emancipation in all of the northern colonies. He felt that slavery was a moral disgrace. In the late 1780s, he fought against the federal constitution advocating for a bicameral legislature and a single executive. He lost these fights but continued to press for small, uncomplicated government that would be directly responsive to the people. He served as a trustee of the University of the State of Pennsylvania until his death.

    Some damp staining mostly in the margins, but very readable and a highly unusual example of early Americana signed by two patriots.

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