A letter signed by Gen. George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War and stolen 60 years ago has been returned to the Massachusetts Archives after being intercepted before it could be sold at auction.

The letter, dated April 14, 1783, asked the states to settle their financial accounts with the army before it was disbanded following the war. Copies were delivered to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

A staffer at the Massachusetts Historical Commission spotted the letter in February in a catalog from Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers of Dallas, which valued it at $60,000 to $80,000.

The letter was among 750 items from a collector who bought it 50 years ago, apparently from a now-closed Boston book shop, said Tom Slater, director of Americana for the auction house.

Alan Cote, secretary of Massachusetts' supervisor of public records, called the Texas gallery two days before the Feb. 21 auction and persuaded the owners to withdraw the letter from the sale.

"No one conceded it was stolen," Slater said of the letter. "There was an arrangement made whereby it would go to the state of Massachusetts, and it was withdrawn" from the auction.