The Most Important Document of Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State

ANA Library Manager Akio Lis presents the highly important document.
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One of only six known surviving copies of Thomas Jefferson’s 1790 report to the House of Representatives on proposed weights, measures and coins for the young United States has been donated to the American Numismatic Association by collector and long-time ANA benefactor Dwight Manley of California.

“Thomas Jefferson was the Secretary of State in 1790 and his report to Congress is of extraordinary importance to U.S. numismatics as it led the way to the adoption of our uniform decimal system of money. The provenance of this copy dates back to a Maryland Revolutionary War veteran who later was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the book is hand-signed by him,” explained Manley.

“I purchased this historic book specifically for the ANA so that it can always be available to researchers and not hidden away in a private collection,” he stated.

Entitled, “Report of the Secretary of State, on the Subject of Establishing a Uniformity in the Weights, Measurements and Coins of the United States,” the 49-page book was recently purchased for $18,000 by Manley in an auction conducted by Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers.

In 2003, the ANA named its library in honor of Manley in recognition for his years of support to the Association and the reference library.

“The staff of the ANA Dwight N. Manley Library is thrilled to add this document to our holdings,” said ANA Library Manager Akio Lis. “One of a handful of existing copies, this is a foundational document in the establishment of the United States mint and monetary system.”

Thomas Jefferson’s 1790 report to the House of Representatives on proposed weights, measures and coins.

The Kolbe & Fanning description of the book stated:

“Of extraordinary importance and very rare. Considered to be the most important document written by Jefferson while Secretary of State under Washington, the Report on Weights, Measures and Coins is a breathtaking achievement. It is the culmination of many years’ thought for Jefferson, who had long pondered the best ways for a new government to address the chaos resulting from the alphabet soup of competing currencies and moneys of account in the colonial and confederation periods.”

“Recognizing that even the familiar British system left much to be desired, Jefferson felt strongly that the adoption of a uniform decimal system would not only be more convenient for daily transactions, but would ease the development of a national economic system in ways that would promote trade and encourage investment. The ramifications of this 1790 report are continually felt today.”

“This is the preferred printing of the Report, being the first edition, fourth printing. It was preceded by three folio editions, which varied only in the corrections Jefferson made to the text while it was being printed. The fourth printing, accomplished in a more convenient octavo form, was the final version, was supervised by Jefferson, and was the edition he kept in his own library. Very rare, with Rink listing only six copies, including Jefferson’s own, in institutional libraries. Rarely available in the private marketplace, this is the only copy we have ever offered, having last sold it in 2012.”

“This copy bears a contemporary inscription from George Gale to James Tilghman. George Gale (1756–1815) was a Revolutionary War veteran, a member of Maryland’s Constitutional Convention and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland. Philadelphia lawyer James Tilghman (1716–1793), originally from Maryland, held a number of public positions and served as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania (then the College of Philadelphia).”

The ANA’s Dwight N. Manley Library is open for lending, copying, and research services. The library is also open for in-person services during museum hours Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Please confirm the library’s schedule by phone at (719) 482-9859 or by email.

ANA members can access the world’s largest numismatic lending library and its more than 128,000 books, auction catalogs, periodicals and DVDs online. The library features resources and materials on subjects including but not limited to coins, paper money, tokens, medals, military orders and decorations, and stocks and bonds.