D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) Hurd.

History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 37 of 118)
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will be that a long continued conflict between two great mari-
time powers will embroil the whole commercial world.

" Conceiving this to be a correct view of the subject, this would
be cause of multiplied observations upon the manifest impolicy
and injustice of a war with Great Britain, commenced at a
period und under auspices the most unfavorable to the Eastern
States, exposing them to immense losses and accumulated dis-
tresses, but they will not trespass upon your time, as their
losses and distresses have been depicted in numerous addresses
with a force of reasoning and splendor of eloquence that have
seldom been equalled. From tho circumstances and manner in
which the revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees was
lately made known, they have the most mortifying suspicion
that a war with Great Britain was the express condition of their
revocation, nor can they express their indignation at tho im-
position attempted to bo practised on tho credulity of their
government by the disgusting pretext that their obnoxious de-
crees were revoked in April, 1611, and had a retrospect tu tho
November before, in direct coutrudiution of every act public and
private at the Court of St. Cloud, legerdemain worthy indeed of
that prostituted Court, where tho basest perfidy is openly re-
warded, and a man of integrity and honor finds no ticket of

" Among the innumerable train of evils that a war with Great
Britain will produce, the one conspicuous above all others as
pregnant with universal political and moral ruin, und which
cannot be too often repeated and deprecated, is an alliance with
the French einpiro, at the head of which is placed a desperato
adventurer, who, to accomplish his infernal purposes of avarice
and ambition, would waste countless millions of money and
destroy whole generations of meu ; they sicken at the thought
of their fellow-citizens being amalgamated with the slaves of
this monster, and of co-operating with them in eliminating
from the Globe the residue of virtuous freedom that yet remains ;
they invoke the genius of their fathers to save them from this



base and contaminating confederacy, and if tbey are destined
to be wretched, ttaut their wretchedness may nut be embittered
by a servile connection with profligate and intidel France.

" Thus, sir, witit much brevity, but with a frankness that the
magnitude of the occasion demands, they have expressed their
honest sentiments upun the existing offensive war againstGreat
Britain, a war by which their dearest interests as men aud Chris-
tians is deeply affected, und in which tbey deliberately declare
as they cannot conscientiously so they will not have any volun-
tary participation. They make this declaration with that par-
amount regard to their civil and religious obligations which
becomes the disciples of the Prince of Peace, whose kitigdom
is not of this world, and beforo whose impartial tribunal Presi-
dents and Rings will be upon a level with the meanest of their
fellow-men and will be responsible fur all the blood they shed
in wanton and unnecessary war. Impressed with these solemn
considerations, with an ardent love of country and high respect
for the uniou of the states, your memorialists entreat the Pres-
ident immediately to begin the work of peace with that unaffected
dignity and undisguised sincerity which distinguished one of
your illustrious predecessors, and they have the most satisfac-
tory conviction that upright, sincere efforts will secure success,
while the land is undented with the blood of its citizens, and
before the demon of slaughter, thirsty for human victims, ' cries
havoc and lets slip the dogs of war.' "

After the adoption of the memorial several spirited
resolves were passed, of which the following is one:

" lieaalval, That, as neither the government or inhabitants of
Great Britain have evinced any disposition to be at war with the
people and Government of the United States, and that the ex-
istence of the present war is to be attributed to French intrigue
and domination, it will be disrespectful in the inhabitants of
this town to have any voluntary connectiou iu the prosecution
of it, either by engaging in privateering or any other species
of plundering unoffending men, but that, with fraternal sym-
pathy, they alleviate the misfortunes of each other under the
heavy pressures that await them, associate to suppress riotous
proceedings, and to support each other against all attempts of
whatsoever nature to injure them for anything they rightfully
do or say."

The above extracts from the records of the town
are quoted for the purpose of showing the spirit and
energy with which the war of 1812 was opposed and
the character of the men who at that time gave tone
to the sentiment of the town.' There is an expression
of thorough independence characterizing all the pro-
ceedings rarely found in a small community, or, if
found, rarely declaring itself with so clear and em-
phatic a voice. In these latter days, when the
reserved rights of individuals and states are swal-
lowed up in the vortex of a powerful centralized
gdvernuieut, such declarations as these addresses and
memorials convey would have the sound and would
wear the badge of treason. They will serve as land-
marks to the present generation to show how far we
have drifted from what our fathers considered the
permanent mooriugs of the government under which
we live. But the framers of our institutions builded
better than they knew. They laid no foundations of

fixed dimensions and of unyielding material, precisely
adapted to a structure of definite height and breadth
and weight, never to be changed because never des-
tined to bear a heavier burden ; but, like the mass-
ive oak, whose roots stretch out beneath the surface
of the soil and take stronger hold as its branches
expand, the foundations they laid meet new condi-
tions, with new elements of strength, and gain ampler
dimensions and form with the increased dewaud on
their sustaining power.



By such men as those indicated in the last chap-
ter it may be easily believed that disaster was not
looked upon as ruin, that suffering was not mistaken
for death, aud that the elastic texture of their active
natures promptly manifested itself when once relieved
from the actual pressure of tho war. They were far
from disheartened by the losses they had incurred,
and at once readopted navigation, which had been the
vehicle of their disasters, as the only true aud legiti-
mate means of a complete recovery. Befure the year
1820 the number of fishing-vessels, which had been
reduced to five during the war, increased to forty-six,
and the foreign and coasting trade, which had been
completely destroyed, was represented by more than
one hundred vessels. In the year 1819 the amount
of duties on merchandise actually landed on the
wharves amounted to sixteen thousand dollars, and
in 1829 had increased to thirty-one thousand. As
an indication of the character of the trade with for-
eign countries, it may not be out of place to include
in this narrative the following list of entries from
foreign ports during the year 1819, the only year
which happens to be at present under the author's

Barks. Captain. Port. Cargo.

Hannah Bartlott Martinique Molasses.

" " M Molasses &. coffee.

Roseway Simmons St. Ubes Salt.

" " Gibraltar "

Independence Finney Turk's Island,.. "

Primrose Robbins Isle of Mayo... "

Dolphin Burgess Bona vista "

Maria Finney Guadaloupe Molasses.

William Nelson Martinique "

Pilgrim Soule Rum Key Coffco.

White Oak Brewster Figueira Salt.

Economy Winsor St. Andrews "

Aurora Hall Halifax "



Si liuuuura. Captain. Purt. Cargo.

Rover Finney Guadaloupe Molasses.

Only Son Fuller Halifax **

Tbree Friends. ..Clark Turk's Island. ..Salt.

Lucy Kubbina Porto Rico Molasses <k sugar.

Collector Soule Oporto Salt.

Grampus..- Sylvester Lisbon *'

Cowlstatf.„ Bradford Figueira. "

Guslavus Southwortb..Exuina '*

Ann Gurley Bradford Figueira "

St. .Micbael's Bourne Gottenburg Sugar.

Tbotnas I.eacb Figueira Salt.

Caravan Paty Gottenburg Sugar.

Miles Standisb... Carver " "

Cainillus Jones Liverpool Molasses *fc coffee.

These figures, however, far from represent the actual
foreign trade in which Plymouth capitalists were en-
gaged. The process of centralization had already
begun, which in later years made Boston and New
York and other cities farther south the promiuent
poiuts of trade, and which was destined, at least tem-
porarily, to absorb the business of the outports and
doom their wharves and warehouses to gradual decay.
Between the Revolution and the embargo the foreign
trade had so rapidly increased that in 1S0G the duties
paid in Plymouth amounted to ninety-eight thousand
dollars. Notwithstanding the business revival after
the war of 1812, no year since has seen so large an
importation as that of 1806, because Boston became
the distributing point for molasses and sugar and
coffee and salt, and consequently the port of arrival
and departure of vessels owned in Plymouth, which
would otherwise have sought the channels and wharves
of their own town. Aside from those centralizing
tendencies, which must operate in every country, ves-
sels were gradually built of larger tonnage and found
it difficult to enter a shallow harbor. Those of the
present generation who hear of the trade once carried
on at the wharves naturally attribute its decline to a
gradual shoaling of the harbor. There is no reason,
however, to believe that such is the case. The author,
after fifty years of careful observation, is satisfied that
during that time no material change in the harbor
has taken place. The precise boundaries of channels
have from time to time been changed by the deposits
or losses of saud on one side or the other, but he is
convinced that at no time since the landing of the
Pilgrims could a larger vessel enter the harbor than
the soundings would admit to-day. How soon this
process of centralization will cease it is difficult to
say ; that it will cease sooner or later is as sure as the
growth of our country. The condition of things
which will check it is already visible in the future.
It will be controlled by the same law which carries
tributary waters through artificial channels to a cen-
tral reservoir, which, after it has reached a certain
level, can rise no higher without feeding and filling
the tributaries themselves. In a rapidly expanding

country like ours, destined to contain within its
borders before another half-century expires a hun-
dred millions of inhabitants seeking an outlet for
their products and an inlet for their pay, it is absurd
to suppose that any harbor along our seaboard can long
remain idle. Already Boston and New York afford
poor facilities for the successful and economical man-
agement of the grain and cattle trades, yet in their
infancy, and the improvement of our water outlets by
the general government, once resisted as unconstitu-
tional, but now a well-grounded policy, cannot fail to
furnish needed depth of water in the deserted out-
ports as rapidly as the demands of trade shall re-
quire it.

The men who represented Plymouth during the
two generations succeeding the Revolution were
marked by other characteristics than those of busi-
ness enterprise. This period, with the interruption
of the war of 1812 and its foreshadowing clouds, was
one of expansion and growth, both in population and
wealth. During these fifty years Plymouth had
doubled its number of inhabitants, and largely in-
creased its circle of families who were warranted in
the indulgence of something more than the ordinary
comforts of life. Like all such periods in the life of
every community, it developed a class of liberal, public-
spirited, benevolent, upright, noble men. Those who
were looked upon as the leaders in social and muni-
cipal life felt a pride in the welfare of the town, which
no spirit of mean economy could crush ; they used
all the influence they possessed in securiug a faithful
and dignified administration of municipal affairs, and
while conscious of their social rank were unbounded
in their charities among those who, though depend-
ents, were treated as neighbors and town.iuieu and
friends. In those days the system of municipal and
associated charities, which, it is to be feared, is doing
much to extinguish the beauty and grace which ouly
a personal contact with the poor, aud the response of
a grateful heart, can lend to benevolence, had not
come into life. Charity was a virtue which bound
the rich and poor together, aud not a principle of
political economy, which regards poverty as a burden,
which the tax-payer must be assessed to sustain. It
is a practical question for political economists them-
selves to answer, whether charitable organizations are
not deceptive in their promises, inasmuch as the per-
sonal gifts on which they depend may in time utterly
fail unless the heart of the givers be kept sympa-
thetic aud warm by contact with the recipients of
their bounty.

Among those who lived during this period were
Thomas and William Davis, father and son, both



enterprising and successful merchants, to the first of
whom the town is indebted for the trees in Town
Square, which were planted by him in 1784 ; John
Russell, a merchant, from Scotland, the progenitor of
a family which has since filled a large space in the
social and civil ranks of the town ; Barnabas Hedge,
a Harvard graduate of 1783, whose intelligence and
sagacity, while building his own fortune, were fruitful
instruments in the promotion of the welfare of others ;
James Warren, whose special field of usefulness,
already referred to, was found in the councils of the
nation during the war of the Revolution ; Joshua
Thomas, a Harvard graduate of 1782, judge of pro-
bate, moderator of town-meetings, a member of the
Committee of Correspondence during the war, a man
whose patriotism and learning may be discovered in
the addresses and memorials of the town ; Ephraim
Spooner, a respected deacon of the First Church, jus-
tice of the Court of Common Pleas, and mauy years
clerk of the town ; Isaac Lothrop, an active merchant,
register of probate, aud an early member of the
Massachusetts Historical Society ; William Watson,
a Harvard graduate of 1751, the first postmaster of
the town, and collector of the port; John Watson, a
Harvard graduate of 1766, and the secoud president
of the Pilgrim Society; and George Watsou, of
whom the inscription on his gravestone says, —
" With holiest fame and sober plenty crowned,
lie lived and spread his cheering inlluence round."

To these must be added Daniel Jackson, largely
and honorably engaged in commercial pursuits, which
he transmitted to his sons; Nathaniel Goodwin, an
officer in the Revolution, and afterwards a major-
general in the State militia ; Ichabod Shaw, an in-
genious and skillful artisan ; Joseph Bartlett, to
whom the town was long indebted for liberal drafts
on a fortune which the misfortunes of war seriously
impaired ; Benjamin and Isaac Barnes, brothers,
whose influence in the town as active promoters of
its industry was long and conspiouously felt; Na-
thaniel Carver, an intelligent and successful ship-
master, and afterwards merchant ; James Thacher, a
native of Yarmouth, who, after seven years' service as
surgeon in the Revolution, settled in Plymouth, and
added to a reputation already secured by professional
and literary labors ; Nathan Hayward, a Harvard
graduate of 1785, a native of Bridgewater, and sur-
geon in the army under Wayne, who, as physician
aud high sheriff, held a high position iu the com-
munity ; Rossiter Cotton, a practicing physician and
register of deeds ; William Goodwin, the first cashier
of the Plymouth Bank ; Nathaniel Lothrop, a Har-
vard graduate of 1756 ; and Samuel Davis, the recip-

ient of an honorary degree from Harvard in 1819, in
token of his modest but unwearied services as an
antiquary and historian of the Old Colony. It may
be invidious to mention these, where so many were,
perhaps, equally couspicuous as citizens of the town,
but they are such as most readily occur to the author
in a cursory glance at the period under consideration.
On the 22d of December, 1820, the celebration of
the two hundredth anniversary of the landing of the
Pilgrims occurred, on which occasion Mr. Webster
delivered his memorable oration. The celebration has
been so fully described by Dr. Thacher in his history
of Plymouth, that little further need be added in this
narrative. It was at a period when, among men below
middle life, small-clothes or breeches were beginning to
disappear. By those who were older, to whom change
of fashion was more difficult, they were worn during
their lives. The last in Plymouth to wear them was
Barnabas Hedge, who died in 1841. On this occasion
Mr. Webster wore small-clothes and a silk gown, and
stood during the delivery of his oration on a platform
in front of the pulpit of the meeting-house of the First
Parish. The scene has been described to the author
by a gentleman who was present. Several clergymen,
among whom was Dr. Kirkland, took part iu the exer-
cises, and during the oration stood leaning over the
rail of the pulpit looking down on Mr. Webster and
catching every word of his impassioned oratory.
Finally, in concludiug his denunciation of the slave
trade, Mr. Webster said, " I would invoke those who
till the seats of justice, and all who minister at her
altars, that they execute the wholesome and necessary
severity of the law. I invoke the ministers of our
religion that they proclaim its denunciation of these
crimes, and add its solemn sanctions to the authority
of human laws. If the pulpit be silent whenever or
wherever there may be a sinner bloody with this guilt
within the hearing of its voice, the pulpit is false to
its trust." As he uttered these scathing words he
turned his face upward and backward, aud the clergy-
men, whose silence on the subject was one of the
extraordinary phenomena of the times, slunk back to
their seats mortified aud chagrined. The evening
before the celebration Mr. Webster spent with a few
friends at the house of William Davis, and seemiug
somewhat depressed, was asked if he was ill. He
replied that he was perfectly well, but felt over-
whelmed by a sense of the responsibility resting ou
him. The town was full of visitors, every house had
its guests, and the representatives of the most culti-
vated families in New Englaud were present to listen
to the great orator of the age. A parchment pre-
served in Pilgrim Hall contains the autographs of



those who were present at the diuner on that occasion,
both gentlemen and ladies, and the curious will find
it indeed a notable list.

At this celebration escort duty was performed by
the Staudish Guards, a military company organized in
1S18, and which made its first public parade on the
22d of December in that year. Its original members
were :

Jauies II. I [ ■ > I n j i- - .
George Cooper.
John W. Cotton.
Charles Brainhall.
Henry Seymour.
Willinui Knowles.
Thotnus Cooper.
Daniel Gale.
Thomus Heilgo.
J antes G. Gleason.
John Washburn.
William H. Bradford.
James llollis.
Charles Bradford.
Isaac Torrey.
William RauduII.
Lewis Churchill.
Coomer Weston.
James Morton.
Caleb A. Delano.
Thomas Durfey.

William Straffin.
James Tufts.
William Nelson, Jr.
Isaac Barnes, Jr.
Isaac C. Churchill.
Elijah Macomher.
Elkanah Barnes.
Robert Clark.
James Bradford.
Bridgham Russell.
Israel Hoyt, Jr.
Thomas Jackson, 4th.
Isaac M. Sherman.
Robert Davie.
John Burbank, Jr.
Perez Peterson.
Thomas Tribble.
Samuel Nelson.
John Saunders.
Southwick A. Howland.
Timothy Berry.

All of these are dead. The oldest living member of
the company is Sidney Bartlett, of Boston, who joined
Sept. 28, 1819. The autographs of the members of
the cumpany in 1820 may be seen on the parchment
already referred to, coutaiuiog the names of the guests
at the dinner in that year. The company up to the
time of its disbaudment in 1883, which it is hoped
may be only temporary, was commanded at various
times by Coomer Weston, Bridgham Russell, James
G. Gleason, John Bartlett, William T. Drew, Jere-
miah Parris, Coomer Weston, Jr., Barnabas Church-
ill, Benjamin Bagnall, Sylvanus H. Churchill, Charles
Raymond, Joseph W. Colliugwood, Charles C. Doteu,
Josiah R. Drew, Herbert Morisscy, and Joseph W.

Oue other volunteer company, the Plymouth Ar-
tillery Company, was organized in 1809, but dis-
banded before the war of the Rebellion. In 1840
the town conveyed to the State such a portion of
Training-Green as might be required for the erection
of a gun-house for this company; but on the disbaud-
ment of the company the building was sold by the
adjutant-general and the land restored to the town.
The buildiug was bought by Henry Whiting, and
moved to a lot near Hobshole Brook, where it was
converted into the dwelling-house which he now oc-
cupies. Until the old militia laws were repealed

there were, after the old train-bands were abolished,
two militia companies in the town, including all
within the ages prescribed by law, except members
of the volunteer companies and certain specified ex-
empts, called the North and South Companies, which
were required to parade once annually for inspection.

In 1835 the General Court passed an act estab-
lishing the Plymouth Fire Department. Uuder this
act the selectmen anuually appoint a board of en-
gineers, who have the control and management of
the fire apparatus, and all fires except those in the
woods, which are managed by a committee annually
chosen by the town. For more than a hundred years
Plymouth had no means of extinguishing fires ex-
cept wells of water on every man's premises. Iu
March, 1727, a committee was chosen by the town,
consisting of Isaac Lathrop, Benjamin Warren, John
Dyer, John Foster, Josiah Morton, John Watson,
John Murdock, Havilaud Torrey, John Barnes, and
Stephen Churchill, to devise some method of con-
trolling fires. In January. 1728, it was, voted il that
every householder shall from time to time be pro-
vided with a sufficient ladder or ladders to reach
from the ground to the ridge of such house, at the
charge of the owner thereof; and in case the owner
or owners of such house or houses be uot au inhabit-
ant of the town, then the occupiers thereof to provide
the same, and deduct the charge thereof out of his or
their rent, on pain of the forfeiture of five shillings
per month for every month's neglect after the tenth
day of June next." It was also voted " that from
the first day of March to the first day of December,
yearly, and every year hereafter, every householder
that lives between the house of Deacon John Wood,
iu Wood's Laue, and Eleazer Churchill, at Jabez
Corner, shall at all times, within the limitations afore-
said, keep in their house-yards or backsides, nigh to
their houses, a hogshead or two barrels full of water,
or a cistern to the value of two hogsheads, on pain of
forfeiture of the sum of five shillings for every such
neglect, it being provided that, notwithstanding this
order, any house which stauds tweuty rods from the
highway or king's road shall be exempt."

In 1752 lire wards were chosen, aud thereafter
annually until the organization of the tire department,
iu 1835. In 1757 it was voted " to purchase an engine
for extinguishing fires, and that the said engine be of
the largest sort called garden engines, that will throw
about fifty gallons of water in a minute." Before
1770 another engine was purchased. Iu 1798 the
town bought a bucket-engine, which iu 1829 was
altered to a suction-engine, aud is now owned by the
town. In the same year, after the construction of



the aqueduct bringing water into the town from a
point uii Town Brook, near Deep-Water Bridge, an
association with tweuty-five members was formed, for
mutual protection against fires, called the Plymouth
Fire Association. The members were provided with
bed-screws, canvas bags, and leather buckets beariug
the name of the owner and the inscription, " For
ourselves and neighbors." In 1801 another bucket-
engine was procured. In 1823 an engine, bought
by Barnabas Hedge, William Davis, and Nathaniel

Online LibraryD. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) HurdHistory of Plymouth County, Massachusetts : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (Volume 2) → online text (page 37 of 118)