Historically Significant John Jay Signed 1779 20,000 Livres Bill of ExchangeUnited States of America June 15, 1779 Fourth of Exchange for 20,000 Livres Tournois, pay to Mr. Caron de Beaumarchais, or Order... To the Hon. Benjamin Franklin and signed by John Jay PCGS Very Fine 35.
The Beaumarchais-Franklin-Jay is an extremely historical early American financial document with myriad facets. So much so, that an entire book was written about the espionage and details behind the weapons dealing operations. Authorized by the Continental Congress by an Act of June 5, 1779, when the earlier victories at Saratoga seemed to have been forgotten and the war was arduous for the patriots. Ambitious financing and intrigues were necessary for American survival. This certificate is directly linked to winning the American Revolution. Signed boldly by Founding Father John Jay as President of the Continental Congress and later named first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Unlisted in Hessler U.S. Loans and the Anderson reference. There is only one other offering of this exceedingly rare Bill of Exchange in a numismatic sale at the 2012 Philadelphia ANA Sale, from the Kensington Collection, that realized $32,200.00 in enthusiastic bidding.
Diagnostics: Uniface printed certificate, style of Livre Tournois forms (i.e. "Hopkinson" certificates), on watermarked laid paper. Pattern edge watermark and quartering down the vertical, partial CONTIN visible [CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, likely]. 14 cm by 26 cm. Text and titles primarily in italics, various styles. Top: EXCHANGE for_____LIVRES Tournois. Below, 'In CONGRESS, Philadelphia, June___1779.' Text for obligation: 'SIR:/ pursuant to a Resolution of Congress, passed the fifth Day of/ June, 1779, pay Mr. Caron de Beaumarchais, or Order, of/ the___Day of June, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty___/ this Fourth of Exchange for the Sum of_________Livres/ Tournois, the First, Second, Third, Fifth, and Sixth of the same/ Tenor and Date, not paid, for Value received by the United States.' Signed, By the Order of CONGRESS [signature of President of Continental Congress]. Under, to left, Attest. [signature of Secretary]. Lower left, smaller printing: 'To the Hon. Benjamin Franklin, Esq; Minister/ Plenipotentiary, or any other Representative for the/ United States of America at the Court of France.' Note, no serial number box engraved nor serial numbered by hand. Fully accomplished Fourth of Exchange for '20,000' Livres Tournois (an immense sum) and dated '15' June 1779. Payable in '1782.' Signed lower right by John Jay Prest. [of the Continental Congress]. Lower left, signature of Chas. Thomson Secy. [as Secretary of the Continental Congress]. Left wide margin, 'Entered in the Treasury Office/ June 22, 1779' and signed by 'John Gibbons Adj. Gen.'
Historical: Inflation of Continental paper money saw its initial May 10, 1775 Session notes being revalued at 40 to 1 ratio by 1780. Continental Army financing was tenuous at best and the outlooks were bleak. At the same time though in France, Benjamin Franklin's diplomacy was negotiating for critical armament and other financing. He was respected for his demeanor, genius and much beloved in Paris. He proved the charismatic presence at every turn; essential for success in ambitious financing. Sophisticated secret agents, intriguers, and allies to the American cause surreptitiously dealt weapons through several avenues, particularly Spain, an intense enemy of Britain, to arm Americans. But of course, how to move the loaned money?
This 20,000 Livres (French silver dollar size coins) exchange is an artifact from one of the most fascinating and least told stories of the American Revolution. Though a footnote in mainstream American history, it helped win the Revolution. The players involved orchestrated an arms dealing conspiracy right out the movies or a mystery novel. The full story inspired the book Unlikely Allies by John Richard Paul which recounts the story in the greatest detail, but here we will discuss the main points. While the certificate features a historic and rare signature of John Jay (first Chief Justice of the United States), it is the central part of the engraved obligation that is most intriguing. Mr. [Pierre-Augustin] Caron de Beaumarchais was the integral architect within a spy trio (the other two were Silas Deane of Connecticut and Chevalier D'Eon) who created the European arms deals that were essential for the ultimate Continental Army victories through Yorktown. Their spy craft, immense bravery and tact helped save the American Revolution.
Before France entered the war officially, the King of France sanctioned Caron de Beaumarchais to commence arms dealing through a phantom firm based in Spain. Caron had fallen on some hard times, but was quite the worldly man himself who wrote the Figaro plays such as the famous "The Barber of Seville." The weapons needed to be paid for secretly, but with Franklin's and the Continental Congress's knowledge; the plans were placed into action. For the American side, Franklin requested Silas Deane from Connecticut to be part; believing the British would not think him involved with spies due to his merchant status. Chevalier D'Eon wore disguises and was a cross-dresser, he proved a successful flamboyant spy.
The money authorized to be paid by this Philadelphia issued certificate theoretically did not exist since these earlier arms deals were done secretly. Note the exchange was to be paid by Franklin at his United States ministry at the Court of France. They could be countersigned by Caron de Beaumarchais as they are clearly created for him as international agent of the arms dealing. If the money was actually paid, the First is always the most likely be returned explaining the existence of this "Fourth." This is fully issued and properly signed by the highest officials of the Continental Congress, John Jay and Charles Thomson. That in itself makes this an immensely important, Anderson unlisted fiscal form. Some light folds are noted, but the overall condition is truly superb with bright paper, bold embossing and the signature of John Jay magnificent, just some razor thin ink erosion at the tip of his "Y".
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