“Lord Rodney’s flagship ‘Formidable’ breaking through the French line at the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782.” Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Collection.
WILLIAMSBURG, Va., Jan. 27, 2009 – Two documents relating to early government of the United States, a Brown Bess musket that passed from British to American hands during the Revolution, a 1780s painting of a naval battle between the French and British fleets, a late-18th-century portrait of French King Louis XVI, and a 1773 volume of poems by Phillis Wheatley, a first edition of the first book to be published by an African American, have been added to the collection of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a Virginia state agency that operates Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center history museums. The objects are intended for current and future exhibit at the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution.
“Extracts from the Votes and Proceedings of the American Continental Congress,” a pamphlet published by William and Thomas Bradford in Philadelphia in 1774, goes on exhibit this winter in the Yorktown Victory Center’s Declaration of Independence Gallery. The First Continental Congress, which met in 1774, sought the repeal of the Intolerable Acts, a series of measures meant to reform colonial government and restore British authority after the Boston Tea Party, and approved the Declaration of Rights, a precursor to the Declaration of Independence.
Brown Bess musket, 1776. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Collection.
The Brown Bess musket, also to be exhibited in the Declaration of Independence Gallery, has markings indicating it is of British manufacture. The stock is stamped with the date “1776,” and the bayonet, original to the piece, is marked with the name “HARVEY.” Below this name is the mark of David Ames, who examined and stamped confiscated weapons as they were deposited into the Massachusetts Committee of Safety arsenal at Springfield.“Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America,” published in 1789 in Richmond for the General Assembly of Virginia, is believed to be the first public printing of the Bill of Rights in the South and one of only three copies of this edition known to exist. The 79-page volume, acquired for future exhibit, contains the acts of the first Congress of the United States, including much of the legislation fundamental to the establishment of government under the Constitution.
“Lord Rodney’s flagship ‘Formidable’ breaking through the French line at the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782,” painted between 1784 and 1787 by Lieutenant William Elliott of the Royal Navy, depicts a three-day battle that occurred in the spring of 1782 – after the Siege of Yorktown and before the formal end of the Revolution – when the French, under Admiral Comte de Grasse, attempted to seize from Britain the important sugar-producing island of Jamaica. The British, under command of Admiral Lord Rodney, won a decisive victory. The painting will help illustrate the international aspects of the American Revolution.
The portrait of Louis XVI, the French monarch who played a pivotal role in the success of the American Revolution, is attributed to the studio of Count Joseph Boze. The 16- by 13-inch portrait is a variation of Boze’s original portrait of the king done in 1784 and shows Louis in court attire. During Louis’s reign, France signed the Treaty of Alliance in 1778 with the American colonies. France’s military and financial contributions to the war effort made possible the victory at Yorktown.
Frontispiece of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Collection.
The Phillis Wheatley volume, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” contains an engraved portrait frontispiece and a statement from legal authorities assuring readers that the poetry was indeed Wheatley’s. Born in Gambia, Phillis Wheatley became a slave at age 7 and learned to read and write while working for the Wheatley family of Boston. She was freed from slavery in 1773, the year of the book’s publication, and as a result of her celebrity status was presented to George Washington. She was a strong supporter of the Revolutionary War and abolitionism.
Acquisition of the six artifacts was funded with gifts to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., which coordinates fundraising in support of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation programs.
For more information about the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation museums, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.