William Babcock Weeden.

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000 in three or more vessels consigned to Esek Hopkins.
Sales to be made jointly, and any tobacco lost at sea was
to be treated pro rata. The matter was to be kept secret
and the West Indian price maintained until February 1,
following. They hoped to buy all the tobacco in the colony.
October 19, it was further agreed between the Browns,
Jenckes and Angell, not to give directly or indirectly more
than 5s. O. T. at six months for the whole quantity raised.
If payment should be anticipated, ten per cent, should be
deducted. February 2, 1767, there was too much tobacco
on hand for Surinam, for a twelve months' shipment ;
Jenckes & Son having 116,000 lbs., N. Brown & Co. 120,-
000 lbs., Angell and Smith 30,000 lbs. The parties were
to ship pro rata for 12 months. If more should be bought
" that is now grown " the same rule was to apply.

In 1767 and the years following, agitation for improve-
ment in the town of Providence showed the increasing
prosperity. Brick houses of good design had been built
from the wealth acquired during the Spanish war. The
local improvements were chilled by the gloom of the year
1772. The town did not advance materially until after
the Revolution.

4 Nicholas Brown & Co. MS.



322 Revolutionary Period

The inventories 5 show gradually increasing comfort in
living. In 1762, the widow Mehitable Carpenter, with a
personal estate of £1287, expended £104*. 16 in wearing
apparel. Silver plate — spoons at least — in moderate quan-
tity', was in all good homes, and twelve <; Baker " (beaker)
glasses showed a well served table. She had a large look-
ing gass at £100. Osenbrig towels and Russia diaper
napkins indicated the varying kinds of napery. Three
small bound books and three pamphlets at £3 are evidence
of the good lady's narrow reading.

Benjamin Hunt, with an estate about £10,000, put the
value of the widow's mirror into two examples at £70 and
£30. He had clothes worth £127, and carried a watch at
£100. At home his mahogany case of drawers stood for
£110, and there was £275.16 in " wrought plate." Two
wigs 6 and the box cost £25. His clock and case was val-
ued at £220; nine beds and bedsteads £1100, including
one at £310. He drove out accordingly with a horse at
£175, in his best riding chair at £160, or in another at
£100. In three saddles £68, was invested. Altogether a
sprightly man for the time.

The citizens bought these articles along " Cheapside,"
as the way above Market Square was called. The Square
had not come as yet, for a long dock still opened there.
Below was the " town wharf," on the western side of the
ancient river bed and flats, while a bridge only eighteen

s Probate Rec. MS. Prov., V., 363, et seq.

6 The wig was a serious matter. Simeon Thayer, afterward dis-
tinguished in the Revolution, advertised from the Sign of the Hat,
at the North end in 1763: " Bagwigs, paste, brigadiers, scratch dress
and Tye wigs," and he was assisted by Michael Cummings, late of
London. The rivalry of T. Healy speaks out in his self-glorifica-
tion. He " cuts, curls, frizzes gentlemen's and ladies' hair and en-
grafts a tail." " He engages to give the ladies equal satisfaction
with any London hair cutter in Providence."



1768] The Providence Gazette 323

feet wide, with creaking draw, 7 afforded passage for
travel, both domestic and foreign. The classic whipping-
post near by, amid heaps of stones and rubbish, adorned
these early street prospects. Severity of punishment was
hard enough in Rhode Island, though the locality was
more humane than its time. In 1766, Joseph Hart, a
stout, able-bodied man, was advertised for sale at auction,
being sentenced to serve three years for stealing; the
prosecutors to pay costs.

Providence Gazette, June 25, 1767, describes the whip-
ping of a convict sold for one year for stealing. " Yells
of the patient " confirmed the conscientious work of the
constable. Strangely, such barbarity lasted until about
1830, according to Dorr.

Along the north side of the present Square was a row
of old wooden houses with heavy projecting gables. The
eastern steep bank rose high enough for an aristocratic
outlook, and there lived Dr. Ephraim Bowen and Geo.
Jenckes. Next, Daniel Abbott's Inn entertained travel-
ers. In 1768, the Providence Gazette passed to John
Carter, ancestor of John Carter Brown, the well-known
literary benefactor.

Specie brought difficulties of its own as well as paper
money in those rough times. Captain Falconer came up
the Bay in Corry's boat with 83 chests money, and " no
carts to be had in town." James Doggett, living near
the meeting house in " Seconck," procured 5 carts. Dog-
gett was efficient in the frequent freighting by wagons to
Boston.

Eccentric signs — an inheritance from old England —
everywhere prevailed, and must have affected both the
education of youth and the daily life of grown-up per-
sons. The intelligent " Elephant," just above Steeple

7 Dorr, Planting & Growth, p. 201.



324 Revolutionary Period

Street, beckoned the multitude to James Green's whole-
sale and retail stock of " Braziery and Piece goods, rum,
indigo and tea." Most traders kept a like medley. Jere-
miah Fones Mason, royalist and Free Mason, had the
greatest array of fancy goods, " silks, linen, scarlet and
blue broadcloths." He bought the property across the
Bridge, next beyond that of the Providence Washington
Insurance Co., and died rich in 1812. Joseph and Wil-
liam Russell dealt largely in 1762, at " the sign of the
Golden Eagle," near the Court House. Clark (John
Innes) and Nightingale were their greatest rivals. The
house of Col. Nightingale on Benefit Street later passed to
John Carter Brown. Richard Olney kept an inn at the
sign of the " Crown," a two-storied house of wood, two
doors above the Court House. The Town Council occa-
sionally met there. July 11, 1767, Thomas Sabine ran a
stage coach thence to Boston on Tuesdays ; the weekly
trips gradually increased the business. Hacker ran a
sloop to Newport every day, collecting 9d. fare. Great-
est of these condensed memorials of the time, retained in
the conservative Plantations after they were abandoned
elsewhere, was " Turk's Head," that bent " his grim and
frowning aspect," according to Dorr, for fifty years at
the corner of Town Street and Market Square. Then he
was removed to Whitman Corner, across the Bridge where
the highway divided. In 1815, the tremendous gale
swept away and buried him in the Cove. The whimsical
Moslem survives in the name of the busiest spot in a
growing city.

The assured place of the merchant, as distinguished
from the casual trader, was illustrated in the case of the
Browns. Nicholas and John had stores and offices on
Town Street, below the Square, but no symbolic signs.
Inferior traders, not noted in themselves, advertised as



1768] Quaint Sign-Boards 325

near some prominent sign like the " Bunch of Grapes."
John Adams, attorney, used this custom in advertising
himself " near Silas Downer, graduate of Harvard," in-
asmuch as Adams was reinforcing his professional work
by writing letters for ignorant correspondents. In 1763,
there were few shops on the West side. The Town Coun-
cil migrated across occasionally, from motives of policy,
meeting at Luke Thurston's inn under the sign of the
" Brigantine." About 1763, James Angell's " distill-
house " was still working on the land now occupied by the
First Baptist Church.

It was one of the grievances of Providence that
all vessels had to be entered at Newport. Before the
Revolution, the town had no custom-house and only a
" Surveyor of the King's Customs." To D. VanHorn
in New York, N. B. & Co., say there is but little silver
and gold passing in the colony. They ship to " settled
correspondents " in the neighboring colonies, sperm can-
dles, oil, rum, molasses, etc., to raise hard money for the
sperm business. Also they desire returns in New York
produce.

For the manners and customs of these people, we must
consult their inventories. In 1763, John Dexter, 8 with
moderate estate, had a fair domestic outfit with £92. in
pewter. His wardrobe was £258; but he had one pair
gold buttons, sixteen silver buttons, four buckles and a
tooth pick, costing altogether £46. He expended £4.15.
in a band buckle, a pair for his shoes, one pair brass but-
tons and three silver links. A cane stood at £5.12. One
right in " the Library " was valued at £80, and a cow at
£75 ; almost a parity of milk and learning.

The widow Deborah Baster had a comparatively small
estate, spending £149, for dress and £74, for pewter ware.

s Probate Rec. Prov. Ms. V. 369.



326 Revolutionary Period

But she had 82 gold beads — 5 pwt. 8 grains — valued at
£32.13, and silver plate, including a cup, at £418. Dr.
John Bass gives us an example of the few private libra-
ries. Sermons to the number of sixty-four, pamphlets
and five magazines were appraised at £10. The medical
collection, including five lexicons and Bailey's dictionary,
was worth £106.10. In general literature amounting to
£138.15, were many theological works, Paradise Lost,
Tate & Brady, Iliad, Euclid, Milton's Latin Works, at
£20. Night Thoughts, Pope's Essays, Thompson's Sea-
sons, Pascal, Butler's Analogy. The book case was £14.
After his theology and necessary medicine, the worthy
doctor indulged in some poetic visions.

In 1764, Samuel Angell, having a fine estate, left six
Bannister back chairs at £18, six do. inferior at £12, and
a round back chair at £2. There were six chocolate
bowls at £6, pewter at £69, plenty of China, and no sil-
ver, which was unusual. He was of the family of distil-
lers, and in the " Distill House " was 248 g. rum and
" Low wines " equal to 116 galls, more. We have an
anonymous set of tools for block making at £500, and a
stock of the lignum vitae wood at £500. A coffee mill
at £10, and the very singular item " six turtle shell
plates" at £3.12.

We must give a little patience to the account of John
Martin in 1765, for detailed items of male and female
apparel are rare. One Duroy coat £1, " Calimink "
jacket 10s, plush breeches 9s, coat 24s, a full cloth great
coat 28s, old do. 8s, Fustian Jacket 4s, flannel do. 2s, 3
pair trowsers 9s, 3 checked shirts 9s, 1 Holland shirt 6s,
2 frocks 3s, stockings, yarn and thread 5s, one female
callico gown 14s, 2 small frocks 4s. 6d, 1 shirt 4s. 6d, 1
checked apron 2s. 6d, 1 silk and cotton handkerchief 2s.

James Brown had a silver tankard in 48| oz. of plate.



1770] A Large Library 327

Gold rings, and sometimes buttons of the same metal ap-
pear. These rings had become more frequent in the half
century past, and one with a " Cizers Chane " stood at
16s. 6d. Most inventories contained a few books. Lydia
Wheaton, a maiden, probably, had three gowns at 15s.
each, 1 long cloak 8s, 1 short do. and hood 8s, bonnet and
shade 9s, linen and handkerchiefs 15s, 2 petticoats £1.4,
1 man's coat £1.4. ; and £20.15 in pewter ware, China
and delph bowls. In another case silver plate, including
7 spoons, 2 shoe and 1 knee buckles 9-| oz. 20 grains, was
valued at £84.16 lawful money. A cooper had an estate
of £99.8, with wearing apparel at £8.8, a watch at £4,
and f of sloop Industry at £45.

A few slaves appear here and there ; in 1769 two negro
women and their bedding at £90. As an example of the
demised effects of the poor classes a " mariner " in an es-
tate of £258.11 had £5.16 in wearing apparel. A modest
array of " Chaney " pewter and a block tin tea pot stood
at 4s, while wooden plates, a bread tray and bowl figured
at 3s ; there was a small quantity of earthen ware.

Very fortunate was the preservation of the list of John
Merrett's books July 17, 1770 ; 9 the largest library re-
corded in this time. We cite 2 vols. Chambers' Dictionary
£3, 5 vols. Bayle's do. £5, 3 vols. Tillotson's Sermons
£1.16, 2 vols. Temple's Works £1.10, Taylor's Christ 3s.
6d, Lawrence's Agriculture 6s, Shettlewell Belief 3s, Des-
sieu Painting and Drawing 18s, Rennet's History of
England 4s. The above are folio editions ; we follow with
quartos. Bacon's Philosophical Works, 3 vols. £1.10,
Boerhave Chmistry 12s, 5 vols. Atlas Geography 30s, 6
vols. Mayher Brittania 39s, 1 vol. Wollaston Religion of
Nature 4s. 6d, 1 vol. Herodotus 5s, 2 vols. Spanish and
French Dictionary 6s, 2 old Bibles 9s, 1 vol. in paper,

9 MS. Probate Rec, Prov., V., 517.



328 Revolutionary Period

Pemperton on Newton 20 vols. Ancient History £4, 40
vols. Modern £8, 8 vols. Plutarch's Lives 32s, 4 vols. Pre-
dux Connections 12s, 3 vols. Luckford 9s, 15 vols. Smol-
lett History of England £3, 3 vols. Howel History of the
Bible 9s, Caesar's Commentaries 3s, 1 vol. Dr. Taylor 3s,
1 vol. Sherlock 6s.

These two divisions comprised about 130 vols. ; in
addition were some 170 vols., including 10 vols. Lon-
don Magazine, 8 vols. Shakespeare's Plays, Classics,
Plutarch's Morals, Pope's Iliad, Paradise Lost, Don
Quixote, History Massachusetts Bay, Hutchinson's His-
tory, Spectator, Waller, Prior, Telemachus, Cowley, Con-
greve and the Dramatists, Bailey's Dictionary, Thomson.
In considering values, it is embarassing that Lawful
Money and Old Tenor standards are both used and not
specified. His personal estate was £3205.

The public library had circulated for nearly twenty
years, and probably while this collection was being
formed. The collection shows the influence of books and
the spirit of culture, which was laying the virtual foun-
dations of Brown University. Gabriel Bernon's " learned
men " 10 of 1820 had studied the Bible and formed their
own opinions, which were to be voiced and exercised in the
life of the new American citizen, by men like Stephen
Hopkins. Now, the literary spirit and use of the printed
word were taking effect to form the men of the Revolu-
tion. Merrett's classics even were not selected in the old-
fashioned exclusive way. The historic range was en-
larged, and the reader assimilated matter more, as his
reading extended.

Do not imagine that the simple eighteenth century —
though destitute of steam-rails, electric machinery, stock-
tickers and curb brokers — did not comprehend or apply

io Ante, p. 209.



1770] An Old-Time Trust 329

any of the mechanism of modern civilization. Rockefeller
and Carnegie were unborn, but sharp calculators with
long heads existed even in those days. What says the
reader to a full iron-bound trust in sperm oil? In 1763,
a solid agreement made " all Headmatter brought into
North America one common Stock or Dividend," 1J who-
ever owned the vessels importing it. It was divided between
ten manufacturers ; Nicholas Brown & Co. getting 20
bbls. in each 100; Palmer, 14; Robinson of Nantucket,
13 ; " the Philadelphians," 7, etc. The Jews of Newport
were among the contractors. If any forfeited their share
"by such dishonorable conduct" (minutely specified), it
was divided pro rata. It was agreed to pay only ten
pounds sterling per ton for headmatter, above the price of
" body brown sperm oil," to be fixed by merchants of
Boston according to the London market. They frowned
on more spermaceti works " because present are more than
sufficient." The arrangement was renewed from year to
year until 1769, when the unit was changed from 100 gal-
lons to one hhd. 112 gallons, the proportionate shares
being the same. The Philadelphians dropped out and
George Rome, of Newport and Narragansett, afterward
the famous Tory, took a share of 12 8-10 gallons.

Titles, the marks of recognized honor, the familiar ex-
pression of rank and reputation — though not established
by authority — were the mode in this century ; when cus-
tomary, they were strictly used in designating and address-
ing citizens. Often, we cannot perceive the method of
application, but the impressive force of the dignity pro-
claims itself. They were sometimes cumulative, as if dig-
nity could be augmented by prescription. An example
appears in Furnace Hope on the Pawtuxet, organized in

ii Nicholas Brown & Co MS.



330 Revolutionary Period

1765, and which was to cast cannon in the Revolution.
The organization revealed the scale of rank among the
promoters, as it prevailed then. Stephen Hopkins, " Es-
quire," was of the first part ; his only appellation, and he
alone had that title. Of the second part, were the four
brothers Brown, called " merchants," Israel Wilkinson of
Smithfield, " worker of iron," Job Hawkins of Coventry,
" physician^" Caleb Arnold of Smithfield, " yeoman."

This manufacture of iron was of the greatest service to
the colony and state. In the fourth blast, 1770, the com-
missions and expenses to N. Brown & Co. were £139.
The net profit of the blast was £1157. In the seventh
blast, 1773, net profit was £80, on the overturn of £3,946.
Expenses and commissions were £150. Interest for £360,
on value of estate £6,000. 1,091 tons ore were used, 384
tons pigs were on hand. The " piggs " were constantly
wanted for ballast, Lopez and the Newport Jews, with
others, appearing as purchasers. Captain Esek Hop-
kins was ordered to get information of the kinds of cast
iron needed in the Islands. The iron went to London —
fifteen tons at once to Hayley & Hopkins — and the con-
signees always insisted on certificates to show the " Planta-
tion manufacture." At Bristol, England, Henry Cruger,
in 1769, having sold Hope Pigs for £168, at 5fo com-
mission, would advance £3 per ton on any quantity. At
this time exchange on London from New York was 70 to
72-J%. The meeting, May 30, 1767, shows some inter-
esting methods in conducting a manufacturing business.
John Brown was going westward and was to get an ex-
perienced Founder and Refiner to adapt the pigs for ship-
ment " home." Jabez Bowen was to go eastward for " 8
tonage, Ward Moulders and Atherton, Moulder of
Bakepans." The moulders and laborers were to receive
£ money and f goods. If possible " all business was to



1770] Barter Instead of Money 331

be done without any money." The " fine ore only " was
to be used for hollow ware. The Furnace also stimulated
domestic trade. Peter Oliver, Middleborough, Mass.,
had sent Nicholas Brown & Co. good hoops, and could not
receive some poor pigs in exchange. To Norwich, Ct.,
there were sent potash kettles, pearl-ash pans and four
iron bars. Exchanges of merchandise, with Philadelphia,
Virginia and Charleston were of vital importance to
Rhode Island. The Southern ports took candles, rum, oil
and iron, returning flour, corn, rice, etc. Our favorite
sloop Four Bros, on one voyage from the Pamunkey
River, Va. (whose banks the present writer afterward pa-
trolled with a field battery) brought 8 cwt. barrel staves,
10 bbls. flour, 2,058 bushels Indian corn. Archibald
Gary had a forge in Virginia and took 58 tons of pig
iron at once. He manufactured flour also. It was cus-
tomary to ship candles, iron, etc., and take Virginia prod-
uce after some six months' credit. In an earlier transac-
tion, 12 boxes sperm candles were sent to South Carolina,
the value to be returned in beeswax at 6s. 9d. " Dear-
skins " or other goods.

The repeal of the Stamp Act in 1765 was joyfully re-
ceived in our colony. The new measures for British taxa-
tion in 1767 were detested in the same degree. The grow-
ing spirit of resistance revealed itself in 1769, by the first
overt act of colonial rebellion. 13 The British armed sloop
Liberty brought two Connecticut vessels suspected of il-
licit trade into Newport harbor. The sloop was boarded
from the shore, scuttled and sunk and the traders escaped.

The popular mind was being prepared by these overt

acts for the rebellion and revolution which was g*atherino\

Taverns were not politically so important as earlier in the

century, when they were the only places where people

is Brigham, p. 221.



332 Revolutionary Period

could meet. Now, Joseph Olney dedicated a great elm
in front of his tavern as a " Liberty Tree." An oration
was delivered advocating the patriotic cause.

Stephen Hopkins prevailed in local politics over Sam-
uel Ward, in 1757, as has been noted. The growth of
Providence in the decade succeeding had been remarkable.
Commerce was nearly doubled, with trade and manufac-
tures increased in proportion. 14 This was coincidental
rather than essentially political. There was revival of
the old agitation in 1767, when the supporters of Hopkins
were again under the Shibboleth of " Seekers of Peace "
inscribed on their proxies. Certainly, the prospect of
difference with Great Britain tended to pacify local poli-
tics. Providence was much interested in this canvass, and
the account of contributions for " sinews of war " is a
vital document. 15 The subscription was over $1,600, the
four brothers contributing $100 each. Nicholas Cook
and Nathan Angell the same, Jabez Bowen, Jr., Daniel
and John Jenckes gave $50 each, Abraham Whipple,
Daniel Tillinghast, Obadiah Sprague and many of the
best citizens of Providence contributed. The money was
disbursed in £, probably Old Tenor. To " Glocester "
£24, Warren £68, Coventry £1040, Scituate £120, West
Greenwich £11.5, Johnson £200, North Kingstown £800,
East Greenwich, £320, North Providence £104, Bristol
£212. There was paid out for proxies £160. Abraham
Whipple carried to Wanton at Newport $60. Nicholas
Brown & Co. kept the accounts in the scrupulous method
used in all their affairs. Rum, sugar, a few nails, cloth
for breeches, etc., were charged. A small, quaint receipt
for one-third of a dollar shows that John Brown paid the
town tax of J. Jones.

14 Brigham, p. 614.

is Nicholas Brown & Co. MS.



1770] The College Comes to Providence 333

The embers of these political disputes were not extin-
guished, but continued to affect the social movements of
the time. Rhode Island College had been founded under
President Manning at Warren in 1764. Its first class of
seven was graduated in 1769, containing James Mitchell
Varnum, whose single career would have justifed such an
institution. A constitutional lawyer, his argument in the
Trevett vs. Weeden case in 1786 helped Marshall in the
judicial establishment of the constitution of the United
States. The college was moved to Providence and Uni-
versity Hall was built in 1770, after great struggles on
the part of Newport to obtain it. This issue was another
mark of the turn of the tide of culture from the southern
part to the more slowly developed northern portion of our
state. John Brown laid the cornerstone and was Treas-
urer of the Corporation for many years. The name was
not changed to Brown University until a generation later,
when Nicholas, the son of Nicholas, became a benefactor.

We have alluded to differences between Nicholas and
John Brown. In 1770 John made an offer for a division
of their joint properties. Nicholas would not cause a
" Break among brothers, who in the eye of the world have
lived in unity." Not convinced and holding his opinion,
" I accept." Moses made up the books, and with Joseph,
adjusted the valuations, including " all interesting matter
for the division of our father's estate." John accepted
from Nicholas £150, lawful money, " for what your house
and furniture cost more than mine, also for my extra
servises in doing the business, etc." In 1774, Moses with-
draws from Nicholas Brown & Co., recommending " con-
tinuance of the division to Nicholas and Joseph. At that
time N. Brown & Co. owned f and John Brown £ of the
spermaceti works. Nicholas laid the cornerstone of the
Market House — an important public improvement — and



334 Revolutionary Period,

was much respected by his fellow citizens. Prudent, ac-
quisitive, methodical, he was a fine counterpoise to John,
with his " magnificent projects," in the future Revolution-
ary ventures.

A letter of Col. J. Wanton, Jr., 16 from Newport, while
the discussion for locating the college was going on, re-
veals influences working beneath the surface of society.
Increased subscriptions at Providence in his opinion would
" Counter Ballance any advantage they may Desire from
their present Clamour against me and mine in a Political
Light. I view it in no other light than as the expiring
efforts of a Disappointed Envious Cabal." Nicholas
Easton had " been made to offer " land valued by him at
£6000, O. T. for the College. In another letter Wanton
is very spicy commenting on the Newport politicians.
" The Zeal (or rather Fury) — of the two brothers (re-
specting the College) is near blown out. S. W. (Samuel



Online LibraryWilliam Babcock WeedenEarly Rhode Island; → online text (page 25 of 29)