EXCEPTIONAL MANUSCRIPT PROMISSORY NOTE PLEDGING THAT JOHN NICHOLSON WILL PAY HIS BUSINESS PARTNER, "FINANCIER OF THE REVOLUTION" ROBERT MORRIS, $1500 WITHIN 90 DAYS, SIGNED BY NICHOLSON AND ENDORSED BY ROBERT MORRIS
(MORRIS, Robert) NICHOLSON, John. Manuscript promissory note signed. Philadelphia, June 8, 1793. Slip of beige paper, measuring 7-1/4 by 3-1/4 inches; pp. 2. $1100.
Exceptional promissory note in a secretarial hand vowing that John Nicholson will pay his business partner—financier and Constitution-signer Robert Morris—$1500 dollars within 90 days, endorsed on the verso with a signature by Robert Morris.
The promissory note, written in a secretarial hand, reads in full: "Ninety days after date I promise to pay to Robert Morris on Order One thousand five hundred Dollars for value received. Dollars 1500. Philad. June 8 1798. [signed] Jno. Nicholson," with Robert Morris' signed endorsement on verso. A number of promissory notes are known to have passed between Robert Morris and his business partner, John Nicholson. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Morris was a partner at a shipping firm and a prominent opponent of British taxation. While he was merely regarded as a merchant at the time, he threw himself into the war, becoming a leading procurer of arms and ammunition. In 1781, Morris became the Superintendent of Finance, a newly created position responsible for dealing with the financial hardships facing the Revolution. Morris' business acumen and loyalty to the cause led to various political appointments: he served as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature, the Second Continental Congress, and the United States Senate. Morris was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Morris' business partnership with Nicholson took place after the war. Nicholson had been a Pennsylvania state official, but resigned following an unsuccessful impeachment attempt by the legislature. Nicholson had been a clerk to the Continental Congress during the war and earned himself sufficient credibility that he was eventually named Comptroller General of Pennsylvania. However, Nicholson was believed to have run afoul of the law while handling federal securities. He was evidently still trusted by Morris and the two became involved in a real estate speculation and development venture. They later formed the North American Land Company, which came to own six million acres in six states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, the accumulation of such vast tracts of land led to internal irregularities from bad title to the acquisition of non-arable land. Morris and Nicholson's third partner, Greenleaf fell into financial peril and embezzled from the company to pay his debts. He was forced to sell his interest in the North American Land Company to Morris and Nicholson. When they too were forced to default, they ended up in debtor's prison. Morris was only saved, after nearly four years, by the passage of the Bankruptcy Act of 1801, which was passed largely to free him. Additionally endorsed by "Jackson L. Evans."