[1764 Autograph Document Signed for Surgeon’s Necessaries by Captain Archibald Kennedy, Royal Navy; During the Stamp Act Crisis: Kennedy in charge of protecting the Tax Stamps in New York City].

Rare 1764 colonial American autograph, Kennedy signs as frigate HMS Coventry commander

During the 1765 Stamp Act taxation crisis, Captain Archibald Kennedy (bef. 1736–1794), commander of the frigate HMS Coventry, was stationed in New York Harbor; his duty would be to protect the transit of the actual tax stamps and to assist in keeping order in the city in the face of heated opposition.

Kennedy’s position in New York, as the husband of Catherine Schuyler, a wealthy land-owning heiress, and as a senior officer in the Royal Navy, placed him in an interesting position. That year, New York’s Lieutenant-Governor, Cadwallader Colden observed: “Archibald Kennedy possessed more houses in New York than any other man.” Colden too was aware of Kennedy’s situation.

In April 1765, news of Parliament’s passage and King George III’s signing of the Stamp Act reached New York City. This legislation enabled a direct taxation of American colonists, who were without representation in Parliament, and was met with great opposition.

In June and July 1765, further news reached America that stamp agents had been appointed and that the Stamp Act would be enforced beginning on November 1. Before this date, several colonies agreed to deal with the crisis by summoning a Stamp Act Congress to meet in October in New York City.

Tensions were building and Captain Kennedy, due to his position, was caught up in the unfolding crisis. Lieutenant-Governor Cadwallader described his plans:

I desired the Captains of His Majesty’s Ships of War now in the river to protect the ship in which they [the tax stamps] should come. For this purpose a sloop was placed at Sandy Hook and a frigate midway between that and this place, while the Coventry [Kennedy’s ship] lay before the town.

On November 2, 1765, the tax stamps, which by then had arrived, were ordered to be placed on board the Coventry, but Captain Archibald Kennedy declined to accept them. Within a few months, in March 1766, Kennedy was relieved of his command. During the American Revolution, Captain Kennedy withdrew from public life and was able to preserve his properties. Archibald Kennedy returned to Scotland in 1792 when he succeeded to the Earldom of Cassilis. He died there two years later.

This autograph document signed is a Bill of Exchange addressed to “The Honorable the Principal Officers and Commissioners of his Majesty’s Navy,” signed by Peter Blair, and dated April 24[?], 1764. It is Blair’s third attempt to be paid. He requests eights Pounds be paid to Mr. Richard Carson “[F]or six months Surgeons Necessaries supplyd his Majesty’s Ship Coventry…”

Captain Archibald Kennedy, on board the HMS Coventry in New York Harbor endorses Blair’s request writing:

I do hereby certify that the above Bill was drawn by my order & for the purpose therein mentioned.” Kennedy’s large, bold signature reads “Archd Kennedy.” [On the verso of the document, on May 12, 1764, Richard Carson, in turn, endorses the Bill of Exchange:] Pay Richard Smith Esq. of London On Order.

Created on the eve of the Stamp Act crisis, and firmly associated with both Captain Archibald Kennedy and Kennedy’s frigate, HMS Coventry, a desirable colonial American document.

Description: [1764 Autograph Document Signed for Surgeon’s Necessaries by Captain Archibald Kennedy, Royal Navy; During the Stamp Act Crisis: Kennedy in charge of protecting the Tax Stamps in New York City].

[New York and on board the ship Coventry in New York harbor. April and May 1764]. Autograph Document Signed with manuscript certification and docketing. [2] pp. 5 x 7 inches. Fold lines; minute chipping along edges at three places; removed paper mend shadows; paper losses to text, not affecting sense or any autographs. Overall, good condition with the large, bold signatures of Captain Archibald Kennedy, Peter Blair, and Richard Carson.


Refs. NYHS, The Colden Letter Books. Vol. I, 1760–1765 (New York, 1877). Keys, Cadwallader Colden (New York, 1906). Schuyler, Colonial New York (New York, 1885) Vol. II. Wilson, The Memorial History of the City of New-York (New York, 1892), Vol. II.