George Washington Acts of Congress May Fetch $3 Million

Acts of Congress
The first page of the first Acts of Congress. The book includes the ratified Constitution, the proposed Bill of Rights and acts establishing the executive, state and treasury departments. Source: Christie's Images Ltd. 2012 via Bloomberg

George Washington’s copy of a book recording early acts of the new U.S. Congress, which features his handwritten notes on the Constitution, could sell for as much as $3 million at auction this week.

Washington received the 106-page volume in 1789, his first year in office as U.S. president. It was a record of the momentous first session of Congress, March 4 to Sept. 29 that year.

The book, which is being sold at Christie’s in New York on June 22, includes the ratified Constitution, the draft Bill of Rights and acts establishing the executive, state and treasury departments.

“They were busy,” said Chris Coover, Christie’s senior specialist for books and manuscripts, in a phone interview. “During that session they passed 90-some acts.”

The title page has Washington’s large signature and on another page is a bookplate bearing his motto, “Exitus acta probat” (“the end justifies the deed”), and his family coat of arms.

Washington wrote notes in the margins next to key passages concerning the president’s responsibilities.

“It shows his continued concerns that he do the right thing,” Coover said. “He was a very conscientious leader, and it’s part of his tremendous appeal today.”

The book comes from the estate of H. Richard Dietrich Jr., a collector of American painting and furniture, who bought it at auction for $27,000 in 1964.

In January, Christie’s sold for $782,500 a wine cooler that the president gave to Alexander Hamilton. A 1787 letter to his nephew Bushrod Washington on the ratification of the Constitution set a record for a Washington document of $3.2 million in 2009.

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