Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth 1776 Revolutionary War Document Signed
Document Paid Amasa Hitchcock for Saltpeter for Making Gun Powder
Document Signed Month Before Declaration of Independence, Still Refers to State as "Colony"
This historic document is on 8.5 by 5.5 inch laid and watermarked paper drafted and signed by Oliver Ellsworth one of the important Founders of the American Republic. This document is clean and complete with nice signatures by both Ellsworth and Ezekiel Williams.
The 1776 document was written and signed on June 5, 1776, two days before Richard Henry Lee's resolution urging the Continental Congress to declare independence and a month before Congress adopts the Declaration drafted by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the rest of the Declaration drafting. The Ellsworth document authorizes the payment of 236 pounds, 11 shillings to Williams for "Salt Petre by him manufactured in & sold to this Colony." Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) was a critical component for making gunpowder, which was in high demand by the Continental Army.
The book "Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution" on p. 29 in a section entitled "The Ticonderoga Enterprise" notes that Ezekiel Williams who signed the document with Ellsworth was one of the originators and financers of the scheme to take the guns at Fort Ticonderoga to use to defend Boston. Williams also was Deputy Commissioner of Prisoners for Connecticut during the Revolutionary War and a member with Ellsworth of the Connecticut committee which authorized all Revolutionary War expenditures, which is the reason for his signature on our document purchasing saltpeter.
Oliver Ellsworth has a very distinguished career as a Member of the Continental Congress (1778-1783), Superior Court Judge (1785-1789), Delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention (1787) and the state ratifying convention (1788), U.S. Senator, Connecticut (1789-1796), and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court( 1796-1799)
Ellsworth while serving as Chief Justice was appointed by President John Adams to serve as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France to negotiate a treaty with Napoleon (1799), which he did successfully. As a result of this trying assignment from Adams Ellsworth fell sick in 1800 and his sickness had a momentous result: Ellsworth resigned as Chief Justice in late 1800 before Thomas Jefferson became President, thus giving President Adams the opportunity to appoint John Marshall to succeed Ellsworth in early 1801. Marshall ended up leading the Supreme Court for the longest tenure on record, until 1835. Adams later stated, "My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life."
At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Ellsworth played an influential role in the discussions leading to the "Connecticut Compromise" establishing the structure of Congress and proposed the title "United States" for the new government. During the debate on the Constitution in the states he penned an influential series of essays in 1787 and 1788 under the pseudonym "A Landholder" in support of the Constitution.
As head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ellsworth helped to draft the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, and the Judiciary Act of 1789 which organized the Federal court system in a manner that has continued to this day.