May 2, 1828 Letter from H. Webster to Brother
Newport Red Oval (Old English Typeface)
(Scroll Down for Explanation of Rate, Cancel
and Text of Letter)
cents was the rate for a single sheet letter weighing
less than one ounce and traveling a distance between 30
and 80 miles, (Newport to Boston).
The rate was set by the Postal Act of April 9, 1816
and became effective on May 1, 1816.
This zone rate remained in effect until July 1,
1845. Newport, RI Oval
Cancels are relatively rare and sought after cancels. This 41
x 34 mm Red Newport Oval
is the "Old English Print"
type and was in use from 1826 to 1830.
Letter with Newport Green Oval "Regular Print" 1821-1829)
The letter itself was written by
H. Webster to his brother Samuel
in Boston, while being held as a material
witness in the murder trial
of Alfred Knight, a fellow sailor on Webster's ship.
Needless to say Mr. Webster is quite unhappy with his accommodations
even though as he states, "They are
paying him at $1.25 per day."
(A pretty decent amount for the times.)
I have reproduced the letter below with H.
Webster's actual spelling, punctuation, and grammar - for
instance: doe for do
and whilst, etc.
Newport 2nd May
I am now enclosed within the
walls of a prison, and for what no offense whatever. I was confined here as a
witness in the case of Alfred Knight against the U.S. or I mean the U.S.
against Alfred Knight for murder whilst on board our vessel.
This confinement appears very hard to one who never before was confined within
the walls of a prison, to be sure I receive the recompense allowed by the
Government $1.25 per day, but my liberty is dearer than all that for what is
money compared with my liberty or what good doe I see of my life whilst in
confinement. You should consider all this, and if you have any feeling within
you, you will surely say my case is desperate.
Now just as likely as not my relations expect that I am confined here for some
crime or other, and may attach some blame to me but if they doe they are wrong
for I am not here for any crime committed against the laws of my country but
purely for safekeeping till the latter part of next June. The room in which I
am confined is about 10 by 14 feet square no fireplace, and but poor lodgings.
When I wrote you last I little thought of being confined in this solitary cell
for it really deserves that appellation. It would give me much pleasure to see
you, but I rather think it impractical for you to come to me but feel fully
persuaded you will write me in answer to this and my other letter as soon as
you receive it or them. My reasons for writing or addressing my letters to the
care of Henry Chapman & Co. was that I was pretty sure you was still in
their employ and you would be more likely to get sooner.
I have no more to say at present, write how all the family is, and
me to be your
Very Affectionate Brother
At some time during this
letters lifespan; a recipe for some type of punch was written on
the reverse of the cover as shown at left. The recipe contains 4
types of tea, one pepper, a dozen lemons, 10 pounds of sugar,
cinnamon, and another ingredient that I couldn't make out.