TO ALL PERSONS TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, GREETING. THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY HELD AT PHILADELPHIA FOR PROMOTING USEFUL KNOWLEDGE...HAVE ELECTED THE HONORABLE DOCTOR JAMES H. McHENRY OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND A MEMBER...[caption title].
[American Philosophical Society]: [McHenry, James]:
Philadelphia. Jan. 20, 1786. p. manuscript document, 9 1/4 x 15 1/4 inches, with the original seal of the Society affixed by ribbon. Old folds. Near fine. The original manuscript certificate naming Dr. James McHenry a member of the American Philosophical Society, the first learned society in America, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and others. The document is notable for being signed in manuscript by Benjamin Franklin as President of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin served in that role from 1769 until his death in 1790, but due to his prolonged absences from America in the 1770s and '80s, while he was away in Great Britain and France, very few official documents from American organizations he headed or of which he was a member carry his signature. The certificate is additionally signed by three vice-presidents of the Society, as well as four secretaries. James McHenry had garnered fame for his efforts during the Revolution, especially as a surgeon in the early years of the conflict, and it is likely for his medical contributions that he was made a member of the American Philosophical Society. Such original manuscript certificates electing members to the American Philosophical Society are quite rare, those signed by Benjamin Franklin as President are very rare and desirable indeed. James McHenry (1753-1816) was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland and educated in Dublin. He emigrated to America in 1771 and studied medicine with Dr. Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia. McHenry volunteered for military service on behalf of the colonies when hostilities with England broke out in 1775, and was assigned to a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In August 1776 he was named surgeon to the 5th Pennsylvania Battalion, and was captured at Fort Washington on Manhattan in November 1776, along with two thousand other American troops. He was paroled two months later, but was effectively under "house arrest" in Philadelphia and Baltimore until he was formally exchanged for British prisoners in March 1778. McHenry was then named senior surgeon of the "Flying Hospital" at Valley Forge, and was quickly made a secretary to George Washington. It was at this time that he forged close friendships with Washington and Alexander Hamilton that lasted for decades. McHenry served as Washington's assistant for two and a half years, without rank or pay, until he was transferred to Lafayette's forces as aide-de-camp in August 1780. He was made a major, and was at Yorktown in October 1781 before leaving the army in December of that year. McHenry was a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati in 1783. McHenry was politically active in his home state of Maryland for much of the 1780s and '90s. He served intermittently as a local justice of the peace, held a seat in the Maryland State Senate from 1781 to 1786 and again from 1791 to 1796, and in the Maryland Assembly from 1789 to 1791. He represented Maryland in the Confederation Congress in 1783-86, and also at the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, where he kept extensive notes that serve as a valuable record of the debates on the creation of the U.S. Constitution. A staunch Federalist, McHenry was intimately involved in helping George Washington fill political patronage positions, and in 1796 he was selected by Washington as the nation's third Secretary of War. He worked to reorganize the army in the late 1790s, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore is named for him. Disputes with John Adams led him to resign his post as Secretary of War in 1800, and he retired to his estate, Fayetteville, outside Baltimore. McHenry published a Baltimore directory in 1807. ANB 15, pp.80-82. DAB XII, pp.62-63.
(Item ID: WRCAM36787) $30,000.00