"The Cause of Liberty is a Cause which I always have had close at Heart".
Ellery came from a distinguished Rhode Island family, and only stepped out into public life during the Stamp Act crisis, joining the Sons of Liberty and leading a march through Providence in opposition. He told the crowd: "You must exert yourself. To be ruled by Tories, when we may be ruled...
Ellery came from a distinguished Rhode Island family, and only stepped out into public life during the Stamp Act crisis, joining the Sons of Liberty and leading a march through Providence in opposition. He told the crowd: "You must exert yourself. To be ruled by Tories, when we may be ruled by Sons of Liberty how debasing…There is liberty and fire enough; it only requires the application of the bellows.Blow, then, a blast that will shake this country."
Ellery started his own legal practice in 1770 and went on to gain prominence. However, great events decreed that he would only practice law from 1770-1776. In May 1776, he was chosen as delegate to the Continental Congress, and took his seat on the 14th of the month. He became an influential member of that body, serving on a number of important committees. During this session he signed the Declaration of Independence, and he was accustomed in later years to relate the incidents connected with that event. "I was determined," he said, "to see how they all looked as they signed what might be their death warrant. I placed myself beside the secretary, Charles Thomson, and eyed each closely as he affixed his name to the document. Undaunted resolution was displayed in every countenance." During the British occupation of Rhode Island, Ellery’s house was burned and much of his other property destroyed. Thus, it was not an empty gesture when he signed the great Declaration, pledging America his life, his fortune and his sacred honor. He continued a member of Congress until 1786 and then served as a Rhode Island official. In 1790 he was appointed by President Washington customs collector at Newport, a post he held for 30 years. Andrew Gautier, to whom the following letter was written, was an Alderman of the City of New York from 1768-1773. Ellery represented him as an attorney, and wrote to discuss a suit concerning destroyed goods. The letter was once four pages, but only the top portion of pages three and four remain. It is clear that this segment was kept because it was recognized as valuable, as Ellery chose to make a statement on liberty revealing the mindset of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Partial Autograph Letter Signed, 2 half pages 8vo, no date but 1770-1773, to Gautier. "…One of Hills Council told me that it appeared plainly from an Advertisement published by the Committee the morning after the goods were burnt, that they ordered Hills goods to be stored. I should be glad to see that Advertisement. Please send it to me- I don¹t take any York paper- You may depend upon my exerting myself in your Behalf in this Suit particularly; for the Cause of Liberty is a Cause which I always have had close at Heart; and I once had the Honor to be of the Committee of the Sons of Liberty in this Place…The enclosed order he gave me as a fee for my services. I hope William Burchill is an honest man, and that his future conduct will show him to be worthy of the character the Aldermen of the City of New York have given him…"
It is very revealing for a declaration about liberty to come up in a business letter, as it shows that Ellery had the subject often on his mind and saw it as important and part of his identity. Its date is clear, in that the only years in which Ellery practiced law and Gautier was alderman were 1770-1773. Very good condition with some imperfectations.
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