DAVID MATHEWS (1739-1800) was a lawyer and a politician from New
York City. He was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War and was the 43rd
and final Colonial Mayor of New York City from 1776 to 1783. Mathews was one of the highest-ranking
authorities in the Colonies as New York City was the center of British control.
He was accused and officially charged with
supporting a plan led by Thomas Hickey to assassinate General George Washington.
William Tryon, the governor of the
Province of New York, and Thomas Hickey, a member of Washington’s Life Guard,
were also involved. Hickey was executed
for his role.
The New York Provincial Congress ordered Mathew’s arrest for “being in a conspiracy against the authority of the Congress and the Liberties of America.” Mathews was arrested at his Flatbush home on June 22, 1776. He was found guilty of treason and subversion, was sentenced to death and scheduled to be executed on August 25. He was sent to Hartford, CT and later to Litchfield, CT, where he was placed under house arrest in the home of Major Moses Seymour. Mathews denied his involvement. With the help of loyalist Joel Stone, Mathews escaped.
An ad was placed in the Connecticut Journal offering a $50 reward for help in recapturing Mathews.
Mathews subsequently resumed his office as mayor in late 1776 when the British were firmly in control.
The New York Assembly, on October 22, 1779, declared Mathews to be one of 59 state felons who was to be executed if found in the state. His property, which totaled nearly 27,000 acres, was confiscated.
Mathews was considered a scoundrel, even by fellow Loyalists. Among other activities, he sent men out to the countryside raid homes. He stated that the goods went to the poor house, but, in fact, Mathews helped himself to them.
Mathews fled to Nova Scotia with other Loyalists. He died on July 28, 1800, and was buried in Sydney.
Mathews’ activities are well documented and have been reported in The Washington Post and The New York Times. [Research is included.]
Offering a one-page autograph legal document signed by Mathews as an attorney involving the exchange of a seven-day-old slave girl named Dinah for services. Though it doesn’t mention the services involved, we have never seen a document like this.
Mathews writes, “Know all men by their presents that I David Mathews of the city of New York Attorney at Law as well for and in consideration of the sum of five shillings as for…other good causes & considerations are thereunto moving I have given or guaranteed by these presents do give my consent unto Joseph Meeks of the said city…a certain female Negro child named Dinah aged seven days. To have and to hold the said Negro child unto the service Joseph Meeks his executors, administrators and assigns forever and I do hereby for myself, my heirs, executors and administrations & assigns against all persons whomsoever in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this twenty-ninth day of November in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred & seventy.
“Sealed & Delivered
“In the presence of Amy Smith
Folds, toning with several small fold holes. Beautiful early American water mark. A rare document from a Loyalist, the last Colonial Mayor of New York City and a would-be Washington assassin.
Everything we sell is guaranteed authentic forever to the original buyer. We also offer a 30-day return policy. If you discover a problem or are dissatisfied with an item, please contact us immediately. Our goal is to please every customer. We are pleased to be members of The Manuscript Society, Universal Autograph Collectors Club, The Ephemera Society and the Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers. [RW 117]