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First Person ever to Collect a Complete Set of the Autographs of the Declaration of Independence Signers Rev. Ashbel Green 1837 Church Missions Appointment

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REVEREND ASHBEL GREEN (1762-1848). Black Revolutionary War Soldier, 3rd Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives (1792-1800); 8th President of Princeton University (1812-1822); Green Emancipated his family's Slave Betsey Stockton in 1817, recommended her as a Missionary to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, making her the First Single Female (Black) Overseas Missionary.

August 1837-Dated, Rare Large Ornately Engraved Printed Certificate of the Presbyterian Church Missions, Appointment Signed by Reverend, “Ashbel Green President,” Very Fine. Ashbel Green was a historic American Presbyterian minister and academic and served as a sergeant of the New Jersey militia during the American Revolutionary War. He was a major Autograph Collector, becoming the first person ever to gather a Complete Set of the autographs of the Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Reverend William Sprague makes a $50 donation payment. Here, he receives this Honorary Ornate Engraved Presbyterian Missions Appointment, large size measuring 11.5” x 15”, 1 page, Philadelphia. Moderate scattered foxing to the heavy wove period paper with right side deckled edge. Decorated with an Illustration Engraving of a scene from the New Testament, this ornately printed Vellum Certificate is appointing Rev. William Sprague (1795-1876), being an important and noted New England clergyman and author, as Honorary Member of the Board of Missions. Signed by Reverend Ashbel Green as head of Presbyterian Missionary Board.
Ashbel Green was born in Hanover Township, New Jersey. He served as a sergeant of the New Jersey militia during the American Revolutionary War, and went on to study with Dr. John Witherspoon and graduate as valedictorian from the College of New Jersey, known since 1896 as Princeton University, in 1783.

Green later became the third Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives from 1792 to 1800, the eighth President of Princeton University, from 1812 to 1822 (and highly unpopular, due to what many students saw as his heavy-handed leadership style).

Served as the second President of the Bible Society at Philadelphia (now known as the Pennsylvania Bible Society) after having been one of its founding members in 1808.

Green was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1789 and the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.

He emancipated his family's Slave Betsey Stockton in 1817, taught her and recommended her as a missionary to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, making her the First Single Female Overseas Missionary. He also published a periodical entitled the Christian Advocate.

Green married Elizabeth Stockton on November 3, 1785. They had three children: Robert Stockton Green (1787-1813), Jacob Green (1790-1841), and James Sproat Green (1792-1862), the latter of whom served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and was the father of Robert Stockton Green (1831-1895), Governor of New Jersey. After his first wife died in January 1807, he married Christina Anderson in October 1809. They had one child: Ashbel Green, Jr. (b. 1811).

Ashbel Green died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 19, 1848

After becoming the eighth President of Princeton University, in 1817, Green freed his family slave, Betsey, who took the name Stockton, from the maiden surname of Green’s wife, who had received the young Slave as a wedding gift from her father. Green gave her an education and then recommended her to the Presbyterian Missionary Board of which he was President, to become the first unmarried American woman missionary abroad.

Though she had expressed a desire to go to Africa, when another clergyman, a relative of Green’s whose family had befriended her, sailed for Hawaii, she accompanied him, spending three years in the Hawaiian Islands as a teacher of native Hawaiians, returning to the United States in 1825. She then taught Black children in Philadelphia and Indian children in Canada, before returning to Princeton to teach Black students at a school sponsored by the University and to help found the first Princeton African-American church.

_____

William Buell Sprague (October 16, 1795 Andover, Connecticut - May 7, 1876 Flushing, New York) was an American Congregational and Presbyterian clergyman and compiler of Annals of the American Pulpit (nine volumes, 1857-1869), a comprehensive biographical dictionary of the leading American Protestant Christian ministers who died before 1850.

He was educated at Yale under Timothy Dwight IV, graduating in 1815, then studied at Princeton Theological Seminary under Dr. Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller. He became assistant to Rev. Joseph Lathrop at the West Springfield, Massachusetts, Congregational church in 1819.

The following year, when Lathrop died after sixty years as pastor there, Sprague became senior minister and served there nine more years. Thereafter, he accepted a call to pastor the Second Presbyterian Church, Albany, New York, where Edward Norris Kirk had been an assistant, and where Sprague ministered for forty years.

Sprague wrote numerous books, including Lives of Rev. Edward Dorr Griffin, D. D, (1838), Timothy Dwight (1845), and Rev. Jedidiah Morse (1874), his greatest contribution to literature being his Annals of the American Pulpit, an invaluable compilation of Trinitarian Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Unitarian Congregationalist, and other biographies. Although no edition of his collected works ever was published, Sprague's published individual sermons, discourses, and addresses in pamphlet form exceed 150 in number.

Sprague was also a major collector of historical documents and pamphlets and became the first person ever to gather a complete set of the autographs of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence. He completed this task by February, 1833, according to correspondence with friend Jared Sparks at about that time.

He also gathered a collection of the signatures of all of the members of the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States in 1787, and a Complete Set of the Autographs of the Presidents of the United States and all the officers of the United States government during the administrations of Presidents Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams. This latter collection included signatures of the presidents, vice presidents, all the members of the Cabinet, and all of the justices of the United States Supreme Court and all of the foreign ministers. Further, he collected the signatures of all the military officers involved in the American revolutionary war, from all nations, during the whole war.

He collected signatures of great men of the Reformation and great skeptics. He even owned a copy of the autograph of Saint Augustine. He was America's foremost philographer by the time of his death. His autographs, numbering nearly 100,000, probably the largest private collection in the world at that time, were left to his son.

He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1846.

He was married three times and had children. After his retirement from the Albany pulpit in 1870, he and his wife lived with his son Edward Everett Sprague, a lawyer, in Flushing, New York. He died there in 1876 and was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York.
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Lot Number: 207
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