Lap desk and quill used to end the Mexican-American War in 1848 will be sold at auction Sept. 7 The lap desk and quill belonging to Nicholas Philip Trist, used to write and sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, will be sold at auction Friday, Sept. 7, by Aumann Auctions in Pierce, Neb.
In September 1847, Scott surrounded and took the capital, Mexico City, forcing Santa Anna to call for an armistice. By October, Polk became frustrated with the wait and recalled Trist, but news of his recall didn't reach him until Nov. 16, 1847 – after the Mexican special peace commission had finally been appointed.
Trist felt the only opportunity for peace was at hand so he defied President Polk and continued working toward a peace treaty. In a December 4, 1847 letter to his wife, Trist wrote, “Knowing it to be the very last chance and impressed with the dreadful consequences to our country which cannot fail to attend the loss of that chance, I decided today at noon to attempt to make a treaty; the decision is altogether my own.” Trist effectively defying a presidential directive only enhances the legend and cache of the lap desk and quill.
The historic Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed at the main altar of the old Basilica of Guadalupe at Villa Hidalgo, in the northern part of Mexico City, on Feb. 2, 1848. It was not known at the time, but the signing was nine days after gold was discovered in California.
Trist sent the signed treaty to Washington by the fastest means possible, but no one could foresee how the Polk administration would receive an agreement negotiated by a now unofficial agent. The treaty did meet the minimum demands as set forth in the instructions from Polk, so he had no choice but to forward the treaty to the Senate, where it was reluctantly ratified on March 10, 1848 (by a vote of 34-14). However, Trist was immediately fired from public service and his expenses during his time in Texas were not paid until 1871, leaving Trist in financial ruin.
Not only do the lap desk and quill have a connection to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, they also have a link to Thomas Jefferson as well. Trist married Virginia Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson's granddaughter, at Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, on Sept. 11, 1824. He lived and worked at Monticello and acted as Jefferson's secretary. He was also co-executor of Jefferson's estate following his death in 1826.
The lap desk and quill will be sold as one lot to the highest bidder. In addition to live bidding, there will be Internet simulcast bidding, for people unable to travel to Nebraska. Multiple photos, additional information, complete terms of the auction and bidding registration information can be found at the Aumann Auctions, Inc., website, www.AumannAuctions.com.
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