This is a letter from John Hancock, who was Governor of Massachusetts during the
Revolutionary war. It is written to a Captain Nicholas Bartlett giving him command of a war
schooner “The Adventurous Fisherman” And is signed by John Hancock.
His letter of command is a great piece from the American Revolutionary War period. And is guaranteed to be authentic and original. It came from the collection of a Mr. Brian Booth, an attorney and well known and respected historian here in Portland OR. Mr. Booth had many
accomplishments, but his love was American History and this document as well as the George Washington piece were the prizes of his collection.
The document measures 12 in by 11 ½ in (visible) and is in good condition, framed between two pieces of glass. It is torn at the folds. The seal has faded and there is some minor water damage to the very bottom edge. However the letter is quite readable and the signature is very strong and clear. A truly wonderful piece of American history.
(This letter compliments the ships papers we are selling separately. They are for Captain
Bartlett to command the Nancy, which was a sailing ship with cargo headed to Bilboa in 1796.
They are signed by George Washington.)
The letter reads:
“By His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governor and Commander in Chief in and over the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
To Nicholas Bartlett gent. Greetings –
You being appointed to take command of the armed Schooner called The Adventurous
Fisherman of the burthren of twenty tons or thereabouts mounting Two swivels ten Murquets
and navigated by ten men fitted out at the expense of Fortesque Vernon and others of Boston.
Merchants for the purpose of cruising against the enemies of the United States. By virtue of
the power vested in me, I do by these presents (reposing special trust and confidence in your
ability courage and good conduct commission you accordingly and give you the said Nicholas
Bartlett full power with such persons as you shall engage to your assistance, by the force of
arms to attack, seize and take the ships and other vessels belonging to the inhabitants of Great
Britain or to any subject or subjects there of with their tackle, apparel, furniture and ladings on
the high seas, or between high water and low water marks and to bring the same to some
convenient port in this commonwealth in order that the courts which have been or shall be
hereafter appointed to hear and determine maritime causes, may proceed in due form to
condemn the said captures if they be adjudge lawful prizes the said Nicholas Bartlett having
given bond to the Treasurer of the United States of America with sufficient sureties that
nothing be done by said Nicholas Bartlett or any of the officers mariners or company of the said
schooner contrary to or inconsistent with the usages and customs of nations and the
instructions that are or may be given to him by Congress. And I will and require all officers to
give succor and assistance to the said Nicholas Bartlett in the premises. This commission to
continue in force until further orders.
Given under my hand and the seal of the said Commonwealth at Boston this Twenty ninth day
of August A. D. 1782 in the Seventh year of the Independence of the United States of America
By His Excellency’s command
John Avery sect.”
Massachusetts Privateer Schooner Adventurous Fisherman was commissioned under Nicholas Bartlett of Marblehead, Massachusetts, with a bond of $20000 being given by the commander, owner Vernon, and Joseph Prince of Boston. She was listed as having a battery of two guns and a crew of ten men. 1 Bartlett was a veteran privateersman, Adventurous Fisherman being his fourth command. 2
(American War of Independence at sea)