Partly Engraved Document Signed “James Monroe” as President and “John Quincy Adams” as Secretary of State, one page, 14½x10¼". Completed in manuscript. On vellum, scalloped at top edge. Superb vignettes of a clipper ship and an American harbor. Countersigned “Jonathan Thompson / Collector” at lower right. Dark signatures of Monroe and Adams. Complete 2.5”-diameter paper seal affixed with red wax at lower left.
In full, “By the President of the United States of America Suffer the Brig Nancy of New York David Matthews master or commander of the burthen of one hundred Eighty six 50/95 tons or thereabouts mounted with no guns navigated with Nine men To Pass with her Company Passengers Goods and Merchandize without any hinderance seisure or molestation the said Brig appearing by good testimony to belong to one or more of the Citizens of the United States and to him or them only.” Because ships leaving U.S. ports needed ship identification papers before a voyage, documents such as this one were signed by the President and Secretary of State ahead of time and forwarded to the port. The required information and date would be filled in and then it would be signed by the Collector of the Port, in this case Jonathan Thompson (1773-1846). This document was signed in Washington, D.C., prior to May 8, 1821, but was issued in New York City on that date. Thompson had been appointed Collector of the Port of New York in November 1820. He held this office until 1829, when he was removed by President Andrew Jackson. Thompson was a Director (from 1813) and President of the Bank of the Manhattan Company (1840-1846), the first corporate bank in New York, and, through mergers and acquisitions, is known today as JPMorgan Chase. On verso appear two Autograph Endorsements Signed by Deputy Collector John Kearny: “District & Port of New York Novr 1st 1821. I Certify that the within Vessel mounts Two Guns. Jno Kearny DColl” and “District & Port of New York Decr 21st 1822. I Certify that the within named Brig is navigated with Eleven men & Mounts Four Guns. Jno Kearny DC.” An advertisement from the September 18, 1826, edition of the “Connecticut Courant” [photocopy present] notes that S. & W. Kellogg are selling “100 Hhds Jamaica Rum” and “1,000 Lb. Old Copper. Landing from Brig Nancy.” This would indicate that the “Brig Nancy” was doing business in the Caribbean. By 1821, there were six U.S. Navy ships assigned to antipiracy operations in the West Indies. In September 1821, three American merchant ships were captured near the entrance to Matanzas harbor in Cuba. Most of the members of the crews were killed and the ships were burned. On October 16, 1821, while cruising off Cape Antonio, Cuba, U.S.S. “Enterprise,” mounted with 12 guns, caught four pirate vessels robbing three American merchant ships. Spanish corsairs captured another merchant ship in November 1821 and marooned the crew on a deserted island. This continued into 1822. On December 6, 1822, President Monroe wrote Congress, in full, “Recent information of the multiplied outrages and depredations which have been committed on our seamen and commerce by the Pirates in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, exemplified by the death of a very meritorious officer, seems to call for some prompt and decisive measures on the part of the government. All the public vessels adapted to that service, which can be spared from other indispensable duties, are already employed in it; but, from the knowledge which has been acquired of the places from whence those out-laws issue, and to which they escape from danger, it appears that it will require a particular kind of force, capable of pursuing them in to the shallow waters to which they retire, effectually to suppress them. I submit to the consideration of Congress, the propriety of organizing such a force for that important object.”