William Seward 1866 Manuscript Letter Signed – Accepting Connecticut’s Ratification of the 14th Amendment


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American statesman (1801-1872) who served as secretary of state in the Lincoln administration and who was severely injured in an attack that was part of the assassination conspiracy. His greatest political achievement was the purchase of Alaska from Russia, derided by contemporary skeptics as ‘Seward’s Folly.’

Manuscript letter signed “William H Seward” as Secretary of State under President Andrew Johnson, July 9, 1866, to “L.E. Pease, Esq. / Secretary of State of Connecticut / Hartford, Conn.”, in full:

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th instant, in which is enclosed an attended copy of a Resolution of the legislature of Connecticut, approved June 30th, 1866, ratifying the amendment to the Constitution of the United States recently proposed by Congress as a Fourteenth Article.  The letter and its enclosure have been placed on file in this Department.

Extensive docketing on verso detailing that the letter was received on July 10, 1866 on behalf of L.E. Pease.

In fresh condition.  One vertical line of toning, else truly fine.

The Fourteenth Amendment is arguably one of the most consequential amendments to this day as the amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection under the law and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves following the Civil War.  On June 16, 1866, Secretary of State William Seward transmitted the Fourteenth Amendment to the governors of the several states for its ratification.  On June 30, 1866, Connecticut was the first state to ratify the amendment.  It would be exactly two years after this letter, on July 9, 1868, when the Amendment was fully adopted.

Documents directly relating to the amendment, especially ones from the very start of its inception, are nearly unheard of.  The only item we could find comparable to this letter is one of the formal letters sent by Seward on June 19, 1866 – and that reached $18,000 via a small auction house.

For further historical relevance on the 14th Amendment:

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

  • June 8, 1866 – The Senate passed the 14th Amendment by a vote of 33 to 11.
  • June 13, 1866 – The House of Representatives passed the 14th Amendment by a vote of 120 to 32.
  • June 16, 1866 – The text of the 14th Amendment can be found in the United States Statutes at Large, volume 14, page 358 (14 Stat. 358).
  • June 22, 1866 – President Andrew Johnson submitted a message to Congress announcing that the Fourteenth Amendment had been sent to the states for ratification. Johnson voiced his displeasure with the amendment by stating that his actions should “be considered as purely ministerial, and in no sense whatever committing the Executive to an approval or a recommendation of the amendment to the State legislatures or to the people.”
  • June 30, 1866 – Connecticut becomes first state to ratify the Amendment
  • July 28, 1868 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a proclamation certifying the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the states.