Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Scot’s Invoice for Executing an Indian Medal, with Jefferson’s Memoranda, [13–21 October 1780]

Robert Scot’s Invoice for Executing an Indian Medal, with Jefferson’s Memoranda

[Richmond, 13–21 October 1780]

His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr to Rot. Scot Dr.

Oct 13 To Engraving and making a Medalion mould in Brass
 and casting paterns £3150. 0.0
To Pewter for paterns 15. 0.0
To Cash payed on Acct Express as
 pr. receipt
37 Silver dollars estimated @ 140 for 1.
 To 37 Silver Dollars 1554.   

In Council Oct. 21. 1781

The within service was performed on requisition from the Executive.

Th: Jefferson

The within Account of £3206.14 was presented to the Auditors the 21st of October 1780 a warrant for which together with the value of 37 silver dollars will be issued when the Treasurer is in a Situation to discharge it.


In Council. Oct. 21. 1780

The Auditors alone have a right to say what Mr. Scott deserves to receive. The Executive think his account not unreasonable. The workmanship was extraordinary good.

Th: Jefferson

MS in two slips, among Contingent Fund Vouchers (Vi). Scot’s Invoice is evidently in his own hand; the first of TJ’s two notes, together with the Auditors’ statement, is on its verso. TJ’s second note is on a separate slip. A covering sheet bears arithmetical calculations on recto and the following endorsement on verso: “April 2d. 1781 Robt. Scott £4760.14. Contingent. [In another hand:] Exd.” (For a note on the Contingent Fund Vouchers in Vi, see George Brooke to TJ, 25 Jan. 1781.)

From this and related documents it is clear that TJ had called on the Richmond artisan Ro[ber]t Scot to execute the earliest Indian medal issued by the State of Virginia or perhaps by any state of which an example is known to survive (though it will be noted that the term Indian medal is not used in the present paper). There can be little doubt that this was done on the occasion of a visit to Richmond by Potclay and other Cherokee Indian chiefs, whom TJ planned to have continue their travels northward to Congress and Washington’s army (see entry for TJ to Huntington, 10 Oct.; Page to TJ, 20 Oct.; and Huntington to TJ, 21 Oct. 1780). Examples of the Virginia Indian medal of 1780 survive but are of great rarity; the illustration of the medal in the present volume is taken from an example in the Appleton Collection in the Massachusetts Historical Society. C. Wyllys Betts, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals, N.Y., 1894, p. 261–2 (No. 570), records this and one other example (in the British Museum) and gives the following description:

“Obv. Rebellion to Tyrants is obedience to god. On a label in the upper part of the field, Virginia. Arms of Virginia; a woman in armor, with a sword in right hand and a spear in her left, presses her right foot on a man lying prostrate, and with her left foot secures a chain, which he clutches with his left hand; on the ground is a crown.

“Rev. happy while united. In exergue, 1780. At the right is a strange sort of tree, under which an Indian at the left and a white officer at the right, are seated; the Indian holds a pipe; at the left is an open sea, on which are three vessels; near them is a rocky point with a house.”

In design, this medal continued a well-established tradition: the reverse and the loop (calumet and eagle’s wing) are quite similar to those found in several Indian medals issued during the colonial period (e.g., Betts, No. 510, dated 1764; compare Nos. 509, 511), but in the obverse Scot substituted the seal of Virginia and TJ’s favorite motto, “Rebellion to tyrants …,” for the usual portrait of the sovereign.

As for Robert Scot (frequently written Scott, but not by the engraver himself), a contribution to The Numismatist, liv (1941), 84–5, entitled “Robert Scot, First Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint,” gives most of the details of his career that are known. He was born in Edinburgh, 1745, and was at first a watchmaker, then an engraver. It is not known when he came to Virginia, but on 12 May 1780 he was paid £2103.8 “for his Services & expences in detectg some persons concerned in counterfietg the paper currency” (Va. Council Jour., ii, 257). On 30 May 1781 TJ wrote Scot by express from Charlottesville requesting him to “make a medal of the kind formerly made” and to send it at once so that it could be presented to an Indian chief from Kaskaskia then visiting the Governor. Scot settled in Philadelphia in 1782, where for many years he was active as an engraver of maps, portraits, heraldic devices, diplomas, and book illustrations. See N.Y. Publ. Libr., Bull., liv (1950), 123. He was appointed engraver to the United States Mint by TJ as secretary of state, 23 Nov. 1793, and died in prosperous condition, 1823.

In an answer to queries submitted by the editors after the present note was in the press, Mr. William J. Van Schreeven, Head Archivist, Virginia State Library, pointed out that on 21 June 1780 Nicholas Gauteir was paid £900 by the state for “5 silver medals made for the Cherokee indians” (Va. Council Jour., ii, 258). This clearly indicates that there were earlier medals issued by the state. Of Gauteir nothing is known except that he probably lived in Norfolk. Of Scot, however, more is now known. He wrote a letter from Fredericksburg, [14?] Sep. 1778, to George Webb at Williamsburg urging Webb to send him type metal for use in engraving “Money Plates” for printing state currency. This letter (in Vi; photostat in TJ Editorial Files) is printed in Virginia Imprint Series Number 4, Preliminary Checklist for Fredericksburg 1778–1876, ed. Carrol H. Quenzel, Richmond, 1947, p. 99–100, where will also be found some other biographical data on Scot.

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