Thomas Paine handwritten letter valued at $20,000

A handwritten letter by Thomas Paine, believed to have been sent to President Thomas Jefferson in 1806, is to cross the block at RR Auction.

Paine was one of the founding fathers of the United States.

Thomas Paine letter
Thomas Paine wrote to Jefferson asking to be sent to Europe to negotiate a treaty

In 1794 he published The Age of Reason, a pamphlet advocating atheism and freedom of thought. This saw him shunned by many of his previous supporters.  

The note likely relates to the letter Paine sent Jefferson asking to be sent to Europe to negotiate a treaty between England and France during the Napoleonic Wars.

Paine writes: "I am sorry I am obliged to renew again my solicitation for an answer to my letters. If you were in my place you would know and feel the propriety of this application.

"It is not a cold and formal request that I make."

Jefferson wrote back a few days later to decline.  

The auction house explains: "In two known letters to Jefferson from the period preceding this example, Paine makes similar complaints regarding the president's unresponsiveness.

"Just as this one does, those letters open with 'Dear Sir,' and close, 'Yours in friendship.'

"The closest in date is from two weeks earlier, March 15, and holds essentially the same plea, requesting a response to his letter of 'the last days of January' and closing with the repeated wish 'that you would not delay an answer as the want of it holds me in useless inactivity.'

"Paine is one of the rarest and most highly sought-after early American autographs, and the historical context of this example makes it all the more desirable."

The lot is valued at $15,000-20,000 ahead of a close date of January 13.

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