Documents of this type were issued by various states, counties, and towns to help raise money for bounties to entice young men to join military units being formed in that locale. This particular piece was issued from the “County Commissioners’ Office” in “Doylestown, Bucks Co., Pa.” and is dated “September 1st, 1864 . The financial obligation states that “This is to Certify, that the Bearer will be entitled to the sum of THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS, With Six per Cent. Interest from the date,” and that it was “Payable out of the Bucks County Bounty Fund, on the First day of July, Anno Domini 1865, at which time the Interest on this Certificate will cease”. This obligation is guaranteed by the signatures of “Eli Hofford, Jesse Black” and “Peter Staales” who sign as “Commissioners” and by “L. S. Bodder” (Lycurgus S. Bodder) who signs as “County Treasurer”. The left end of the document is dominated by a vignette of the “Statue of Freedom”, the statue found on the United States Capitol dome. The denomination, presented in written and numerical form appears above and below the vignette, with the manuscript serial number on a scroll beside the upper figure. A second vignette, this time depicting three women dominates the right end of the document, with the denomination again appearing above and below. The woman at the left holds a sickle and was intended to represent Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, while the one in the center holds the scales of justice. The one at the right leans on a column, indicative of Securitas, the Roman goddess of security, though she may also represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune and good luck (below the three figures are depicted a sickle, a sheaf of wheat, and a rudder, the last of which is associated with Fortuna). The document was printed by the “Doylestown Democrat Print.”, with their imprint appearing below the commissioners names at the lower right. A light green geometric overprint covers the majority of the document, though a large white border surrounds the entire design. The verso is blank. An impressed county seal is present at the lower right, and an official 15¢ United States Internal Revenue stamp has been affixed at the left center. Stamps of this type were added to documents indicating that a tax had been paid on the transaction, the proceeds of which went to pay for the growing Union war debt. This particular stamp features a portrait of George Washington with the denomination in each corner and “U. S. INTER. REVENUE. INLD EXCHANGE.” printed above and below.
The bounty system emerged early in the Civil War, with Congress authorizing a $100 payment in July, 1861, to men who would enlist in the Union Army for three years. In March, 1863, with the passage of the Enrollment Act, Union volunteers would receive $300 for a three year enlistment and $400 for a five year enlistment. Unlike earlier bounties, these sums were divided and paid to the men at specified internals to discourage men from enlisting, receiving their bounty, and then deserting the army and enlisting again under another name. Though bounty-jumping, as this practice was termed, was a very serious offense, the financial opportunities were so great that many men could not resist the temptation (one offender admitted to jumping 32 times before he was finally caught). Some state and local authorities would offer as much as $1000 for an individual to enlist in their area, since by meeting their manpower quota, the locality would be spared the indignity of a draft. It has been estimated that during the Civil War, the Federal government, as well as state and local authorities, paid out between 600 and 750 million dollars in recruitment bounties (a massive sum for any era).
The presently offered document is in excellent condition, with sharp contrast and lovely eye appeal. The ink uptake is very nice, both on the printed and manuscript portions, with all wording legible, even with the light green protectorate. Several light foxing spots are mentioned for accuracy, with these being most noticeable when the piece is viewed from the back. Two “X” punch cancellations are present to the left and right of center, one barely touching the affixed revenue stamp and the other touching the top commissioner’s signature. The top margin is slightly uneven, while the other three are sharp and straight. One diagonal corner fold can be found at the upper left, with some minor wrinkling noted around the cancellations. A very attractive document, measuring approximately 4.50 x 8.25 inches. A rarely offered reminder of this Civil War incentive.