Printed Writ of Judgment with manuscript additions, signed by Cheswell in his capacity as Justice of the Peace for Rockingham County, New Hampshire.
Signed Judgment as Justice of the Peace
In a long career full of noteworthy accomplishments, Cheswell is perhaps most celebrated as one of two African-American men to sign New Hampshire's revolutionary Association Test document in April 1776, pledging to take up arms against the British at the risk of the signatories' lives and fortunes. As town messenger for the Committee of Safety, he, like Paul Revere, made a midnight ride from Boston to warn his townsfolk of the British invasion. He also enlisted for a short time in Col. John Langdon's Company to fight with the Continental Army. Cheswell, the author of an early archaeological report and an avid local historian, was also co-founder of the first library in Newmarket, and directed in his will that his personal library be kept together as a collection and lent to members of the public.
The grandson of an enslaved man who became the first recorded Black property owner in New Hampshire, Cheswell held numerous offices in local government before becoming Justice of the Peace; his 1768 election as constable is now generally held to be the first election of an African American to public office. This writ describes the damages and fines owed to one Josiah Giles of Portsmouth by William Hooke in the matter of Giles v. Hook. A wonderful survival issued by the African-American founding father Wentworth Cheswell.
Rockingham [New Hampshire]: n.p, 1812. Also known as Wentworth Cheswill. 7.5'' x 8''. Single sheet, printed recto with manuscript additions in ink, signed "Wentworth Cheswill" in lower corner; docketed in ink with other notations in various hands on verso. Two horizontal letter-fold creases. Sealing-wax remnant to upper corner. Archival tissue repairs to verso; wear and some chipping to edges, not affecting text or signature.
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