Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters
October 19, 1822
SFL to Jacob Babbitt - Bristol, Rhode Island
From Dr. Alfred Dayton - Taunton, Massachusetts
Concerns obtaining assistance for Babbitt's two Sisters

(Scroll Down for Text of Letter, Bio and Background History)

The Stampless Folded Letter (SFL) above was sent to Jacob Babbitt, a rich Bristol merchant by Dr. Alfred Dayton in Taunton, Massachusetts on October 19, 1822. There is a black October 19 Taunton CDS at top left with a paid stamp, also in black and a script (rate) 6 at top right. The letter was charged at the single sheet rate of 6 cents for mail traveling a distance of less than 30 miles set by the Postal Act of April 9, 1816; effective May 1, 1816. (The distance between Taunton and Bristol is 18 miles.) Dr. Dayton is writing to Babbitt concerning the condition of his two sisters' home, which is in a state of very poor repair. He is asking Babbitt to provide repairs and also informs him of the sisters' poor health and lack of finances. It appears to me that Mr. Babbitt, in spite of his riches was quite a tightwad. Although the tone of the letter is friendly; reading between the lines; I don't believe Babbitt had provided very much help (if any) to his sisters in the past. 

Jacob Babbitt was born in Taunton, Massachusetts on October 22, 1769. He moved to Bristol, Rhode Island in 1790 and was apprenticed as a silversmith. Young Babbitt invested his earnings in the purchase of shares in West Indies sailing vessels and by 1805 he had earned enough to to buy a warehouse and several ships of his own. During the War of 1812, with the use of forged Danish papers he was quite successful at running the British blockade and further enhanced his fortunes.

Beginning around 1820, many Rhode Island and New England merchants began buying and running sugar plantations in the area of Matanzas, Cuba. Many of these families became quite wealthy during this period. Jacob Babbitt's firm was heavily engaged in providing supplies, extending credit, leasing warehouse space, managing the estates, (including the DeWolf estates) and in shipping the sugar to market.
SEE: The DeWolf Family Letters

Babbitt was also associated with the firm of Babbitt & Greene from 1833 to 1836 and acted as one of the principal agents for the DeWolf family. By the mid-1830s, Babbitt had become involved in the thriving textile industry and was the owner of two cotton mills in the Bristol area.

Jacob Babbitt married Bersheeba (or Bathsheeba) Stoddard (born 1773) on September 7, 1789 and they had two children Sarah (born 1790) and Jacob, Jr. (born 1809). Jacob died in Bristol, Rhode Island on March 8, 1850.

There is some evidence that Jacob was personally engaged in the slave trade, (as late as 1820). The schooner "Cintra" was captured by the British with 26 slaves on board. She carried Portuguese papers and a French captain, however most of the crew were from Bristol. There is also a letter in existence from Edward Spalding in which a Mr. B. of the firm Messrs. B.&Co of Bristol, RI claims ownership of the vessel.

As can be seen from the above, by 1822 when this letter was written, Jacob was doing very well for himself and there is no good reason that he could not have been a little more charitable to his two sisters. I could not identify the names of his two sisters and do not know how they fared that winter. I would certainly hope that Jacob sent them some assistance.

The Complete Text of the Letter Follows Below:

Jacob Babbitt Esq.                                                             Taunton Oct 19th 1822

Sir, I appear before you in behalf of your widowed sisters, in the character of beggar.
Beggars in general are not very well received -- but in the present instance, I hope my
petition may be cordially received as the objects of it might desire. A few facts in relation
to them will not be out of place at this time -- I have been well acquainted with your 
sisters for about fifteen years, having attended them as physician in their friendship
during that time and truly the hand of affliction has been placed upon them with no
sparing force and during all this time their means of support has been small in the
extreme -- Yet with it all, there has been no idle complaining, nor swerving from straight
integrity. Their great misfortune is, they are poor -- infirm in health and aging towards
the downhill of life. Without doubt you have helped them much and a bountiful providence
has given you much wherewith to help the needy -- and surely none can be greater objects
of your benevolence than your own flesh & blood. All I ask for them at this time is, that
you make a thorough repair of their house in which they live -- It needs an entire new
covering and some internal repairs. A long cold winter is coming on, and to live in it
in the state that it now is in, they must either suffer extremely or expose their lives to
almost certain death. A loan so trifling and to your own sisters too, cannot be received
in the light of meddling interference. Imagine for a moment yourself in their position
and they in yours, what would be your wish? Would it not be that they in their blessed
course would cheer and warm a hearth so cold and cheerless? I hope you will not let
this petition come to you with indifference -- but will accept it with a hearty welcome
and may you realize the blessing & comfort of making two worthy sisters happy.

                                                                                       Respectfully Yours,
                                                                                       Alfred Dayton

RI Historical Society
Stampless I
Stampless II

Stampless III
Stampless IV
Stampless V
Stampless VI
Brown & Ives Letters
The Hazard Family Letters
Joseph Tillinghast
Free Franked Letters
DeWolf Family Letters

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