WASHINGTON, GEORGE, President. Engraved document signed ("G:Washington") as President, also signed by Henry Knox, Secretary of the Society of the Cincinnati, New York, 15 August 1790. One page, a large oblong, 360 x 495mm. (14 1/8 x 19 7/16 in.), ON PARCHMENT, elaborately engraved by J.J. Le Veau after Lavelle with large vignettes surrounding the calligraphic text: an American eagle flanked by clouds at top, in the lower left section, an armed man holding an American flag and a flying eagle drive a frightened woman (Brittania) wearing a crown and a British lion into the sea, while the Union Jack lies trampled on the round; in the right foreground are a fleet of warships under full sail and an angel blowing a trumpet trailing a banner; two circular medallion devices bearing the Society's mottos are incorporated at left and right, accomplished in manuscript, the parchment with minor surface soiling, the handwritten portions and signatures faded (as usual) but legible.
PRESIDENT WASHINGTON SIGNS A CINCINNATI CERTIFICATE FOR A FRENCH ALLY
The elaborately engraved certificate grants to "Louis Vicomte de la Couldre de la Brettonniere, Capitaine de Vaisseaux, Commandant de la Marine /ga Cherbourg," membership in the Society of the Cincinnati, "instituted by the Officers of the American Army, at the period of its Dissolution, as well to commemorate the great Event which gave Indepenence to North America, as for...inculcating the Duty of laying down in Peace arms assumed for public defence...."
The Society, open to all former officers of the Continental Army and its foreign allies who served during the Revolution, was founded with Washington's approval by Henry Knox, Jedidiah Huntington and Baron Von Steuben. Its constitution was formally adopted on 13 May 1783. The order was named after "that illustrious Roman, Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus," who had left his prosperous farm on two occasions to take up arms in defence of his homeland. On 19 June Washington agreed to become President of the Society; Alexander Hamilton filled the post after Washington's death. Surviving certificates of membership in the Society are seldom found in good condition: many were framed at an early date, with consequent fading; others were folded and refolded to ÿirtual destruction. The present example, while not in such fine condition as that sold at Christie's on 8 June 1990, lot 153 (signed before Washington became President, $10,450), is in far better condition than usual.