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
the DeWolf estates) and in
shipping the sugar to market.
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.
Babbitt married Bersheeba
on September 7, 1789 and they had two children
Sarah (born 1790)
and Jacob, Jr.
Jacob died in Bristol, Rhode Island
on March 8, 1850.
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.
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:
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