1814: Apollos Cushman to Gen. William Barton

This letter was written by Apollos Cushman (1782-1864) to his father-in-law, Gen. William Barton (1748-1831). Apollos was the son of Zebedee Cushman (1745-1831) of Plymouth county, Massachusetts. He married Anna Maria Barton (1788-1868).

William Barton (1748–1831) was an officer in the Continental Army during the American War of Independence who retired with the rank of colonel. He later served as adjutant general of the Rhode Island militia.

Barton was born in Warren, Rhode Island on May 26, 1748. He worked as a hatter in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1771, he married Rhoda Carver. In 1775, he enlisted in the Continental Army as a corporal. He fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1777, as a major in the Rhode Island state troops, he planned and led a raid on British headquarters, capturing Major General Richard Prescott. For this exploit, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and honored by a resolution of the Continental Congress. When Rhode Island ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1790, Barton was sent to New York to notify George Washington.

In 1781, Barton petitioned the governor of Vermont for a grant of unsettled land near the Canadian border. He was joined in this petition by Ira Allen (brother of Ethan), John Paul Jones, and others. The town of Barton, VT came into existence at this time.Then Col. Barton was jailed over a land dispute. He refused to pay a real estate tax on some land he had sold to a party named Wadhams. This put the title in dispute. Wadhams found out about that, repurchased the land from another man, and then demanded that Barton return his money to him. After several court actions, Barton was ordered to pay the original amount, plus court costs. He refused to do this, insisting he would “go to jail and rot” before paying. In 1812, Barton was imprisoned in Danville for his refusal to pay.

At the age of seventy-seven, he was finally released at the initiative of the visiting Marquis de Lafayette, who agreed to pay the balance of his fine. Barton died on October 22, with the year of death being given variously as 1831 or 1833. He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island. Fort Barton in Rhode Island was named after William Barton.

Addressed to Gen. William Barton, Danville, Vermont

Attleborough [Massachusetts]
August 1st 1814

Dear Sir,

Yours of the 10th ult. duly came to hand, in which you inform of the commencement of a suit in the Circuit Court of the United States against you. It will utterly be impossible for me to do you very good, unless you in the first place inform me, who id Plaintiff in the suit, if Joseph Peck is, no testimony of his can be received as evidence. If Dr. Allen is Plaintiff, then it may be said that no privity of Contract ever existed between him & you relative to the purchase money & besides, he ought not to have purchased what he [   ] might be a quarrel. It will therefore depend on who is Plaintiff whether Peck can do any good. If however you should think best to call on Peck, I wish you to state the substance of what you think he will testify [and] also send me the time where the court is to be holden & whether the circuit or district court.

I have perused all the Vermont papers [    ] your deeds at home & can find no Vermonter deed from Gillson to you. I find however a why of a mortgage given by you to him to seize the payment of money & his discharge of the same mortgage which I enclose.

If I can be of any service in the Chancery business by giving my deposition, I shall have no time in doing it & will be as particular as my recollection will permit.

Mr. Draper will not be satisfied with the answer which you have given respecting his note & it must be paid as it seems by your writing you have the money.

In the prosecution of the war, the administration have shown all the folly & weakness which has ever been attributed to them. In attempting the conquest of Canada, they have reaped nothing but defeat & in every instance have involved the country in new disgraces. And were it not for our little Navy — which certainly is the child of Federalism — there would not be more luminaries point in the whole American hemisphere but from them, here and there, is seen a faint glimmer which offers a faint hope of better times if those who now hold the negroes should be drawn from their seat. I, however, say the Lord have mercy on the people when the wicked bear rule.¹

As it respects my own family, I and my wife are in tolerable health. She is now in Providence on a visit. Charles has for some time been unwell and I believe is much troubled with worms for which we are doctoring him. Our little one appears to be a very healthy child and very regularly featured. She has no turn with her eyes. Her mother has named her Harriet Sterling. They are both with her.

As to the people in Providence, they are all well. Hannah about the time the Presbyterian Meeting House was burnt got to bed with a son but I believe the birth was rather premature. The child seems to be well. As to particulars, you will have them from Providence as Ann told me she was about to write for her mother to you.

If I can be of any further service to you in accomplishing your business and hastening you home, I shall be ready to perform it. I presume the deed purchased is all the deed there is among your papers. If any other was given, you can find a copy in the register of deeds for the county of Caledonia or in the Clerk’s Office.

Your affectionate son, — Apollos Cushman

¹ Apollos is stating the Federalist point of view regarding the war which was seen as a “costly, futile, and partisan venture that was likely to produce little good and much evil. The best way to bring the conflict to an end, most Federalists agreed, was to oppose it. Hence they wrote, spoke, and preached against the war; they discouraged enlistments in the army and subscriptions to the war loans. The Federalists vigorously condemned all who supported the war and worked for their defeat at the polls.” [John B. Hoey]

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