AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY A COMMITTEE REPRESENTING NEW YORK CITY AUCTIONEERS, TO T.K. JONES & CO., A PROMINENT BOSTON AUCTION FIRM, SEEKING ITS AID IN LOBBYING AGAINST LEGISLATION TAXING AUCTION SALES: "NEW YORK 19 DEC. 1817| MESSRS. T.K. JONES & CO.| THE ABROGATION OF THE LAW TOUCHING INTERNAL TAXES & WITH IT THE DUTY OF TWO PER CENT ON SALES BY AUCTION MUST BE A SUBJECT OF CONGRATULATION TO EVERY ONE INTERESTED IN AUCTION SALES. BUT SERIOUS APPREHENSION IS ENTERTAINED OF A NEW BILL ORIGINATING WITH THE SAME COMMITTEE THAT RECOMMENDED ITS REPEAL. THE DUTY IT IS SAID IS TO BE COLLECTED THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE CUSTOM HOUSE & FROM THAT DEPARTMENT THE AUCTIONEERS ARE TO DERIVE THEIR AUTHORITY, PARTICULARLY WHERE STATE REGULATIONS DO NOT INTERFERE TO THE CONTRARY: THIS IS A NEW PROJECT NOW BEFORE THE SAID COMMITTEE. IN SUPPORT OF THIS POSITION THE "MERCHANTS & TRADERS" HAVE IN CIRCULATION FOR SIGNATURES, A MEMORIAL OF SOME LENGTH & A GOOD DEAL OF ABILITY WHICH IS TO BE FORWARDED TO CONGRESS, IF NOT ALREADY DONE. IN TRUTH WE ARE INFORMED THAT THIS THING HAS BEEN IN AGITATION FOR MANY MONTHS & DIRECTED FROM ONE EXTREME PART OF THE UNION TO THE OTHER & THAT MUCH INDUSTRY HAS BEEN USED TO INTEREST EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS ON WHOM THEY COULD MAKE ANY IMPRESSION. OUR OBJECT THEREFORE IS TO MAKE YOU ACQUAINTED WITH THESE FACTS & TO INVITE YOUR COOPERATION WITH US. IN THE FIRST PLACE WE INTEND TO WRITE TO THE COMMITTEE OF WAYS & MEANS, INDIVIDUALLY OUR OBJECTIONS TO ANY DUTY WHATEVER ON SALES AT AUCTION AND DENY THAT ANY FACILITIES ARE AFFORDED BY AUCTION SALES TO DEFRAUD THE REVENUE &C AS HAS BEEN SO ERRONEOUSLY ASSERTED... WE ARE A COMMITTEE OF CORRESPONDENCE APPOINTED AT A MEETING OF OUR AUCTIONEERS HELD IN THIS CITY A FEW EVENINGS SINCE & WE SHALL COMMUNICATE OUR OPERATIONS ON THE OBJECTS CONNECTED WITH IT TO OUR BRETHREN IN PROVIDENCE, PHILADELPHIA & BAL[TIMORE] & WE BEG THAT YOU WILL MEET TOGETHER & UNITE WITH US IN DESTROYING WHAT WE CONCEIVE A DANGEROUS COMBINATION AGAINST THE FAIR & MOST USEFUL TRADE FOR PUBLIC GOOD & PUBLIC CONVENIENCE..."
New York: 1817. Folio leaf folded to 7 1/4" x 9". , [1 blank], [1-address] pp. Light tanning, old folds, small tear at main fold from opening wax seal [most letters of the word 'Baltimore' are lost], small 2" x 3" rectangle cut from blank leaf [no text loss]. Addressed on final page with red date stamp "NEW YORK DEC 19." Paper watermarked "1812." Signed in ink by Martin Hoffman, Philip Hone and David Dunham. Good+ to Very Good.
Three men representing four New York City auction houses write to Boston auctioneer T.K. Jones & Co., seeking its aid in avoiding duties on auction sales. The signers-- Martin Hoffman, Philip Hone, and David Dunham-- are a "Committee of Correspondence" in contact with "our Brethren" in Providence, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Auction houses and established retail merchants were, in many respects, competitors. Merchants resented auctioneers' disruption of their retail markets; auctioneers, on the other hand, argued that they contributed to market efficiency and hence the public good. Retailers lobbied for Congress and local governments to impose taxes and other burdens on auctioneers to diminish the latter's competitive advantages.
Philip Hone (1780-1851), later a Mayor of New York City, was a partner in one of the most successful auction firms in New York City. In 1795, Martin Hoffman founded the auction and commission house of Hoffman & Seaton which, by the time of this letter, had been renamed Hoffman & Glass. David Dunham was a partner of Matthew L. Davis in the auction firm of Dunham & Davis. Davis was the friend and biographer of Aaron Burr. [Barrett, The Old Merchants of New York City. Second Series. New York, 1863.] Thomas Kilby Jones [c.1758-1841], the founder of T.K. Jones & Co., was one of the leading Boston auctioneers for 40 years, as well as a merchant, trustee and vice-president of the Massachusetts Fire Society, and trustee of the Roxbury Latin School. Item #33526