Page images
PDF
EPUB

letter about bishops, was dated December 30, 1784, and the President says,

"YOUR letter relating to ecclesiastical matters, after perusal, I communicated to my ministering brethren of the episcopal church in my vicinity, who took a copy of it. I then took it to New York, and communicated it to some of the members of congress; lent it to Dr. Prevost the rector, who desired liberty to copy it, which I granted him; withal, requesting him to communicate it to his brethren. He proposed doing so, and laying it before the convention of the episcopal clergy, of Virginia and New York, inclusive, to meet at Philadelphia in September

next."

In answer to this, Mr. Sharp wrote December 11, 1785, and said,

"I AM much obliged to you for so candidly communicating my former letter, respecting the nonjuring bishops of Scotland, to so many respectable persons, and especially to Dr. Prevost, as his intention was to lay a copy of it before the general convention of the episcopal churches at Philadelphia. Having received a letter from Dr. Franklin (written just before his departure from Passy) on the subject of episcopacy, I thought it right to acquaint him that I had already wrote a letter on that subject to a friend in America (without mentioning names) wherein I had expressed my doubts concerning the nonjuring bishops of Scotland: and as these doubts and suspicions have been confirmed in my late journey to Scotland, wherein I received much more information concerning them than I was aware of, when I wrote to you, I thought it my duty to declare it without reserve in a letter to Dr. Franklin; and the same reasons, which prompted me to write him, induce me to send also to you a copy of that letter; because it was not for the sake of individuals that I wrote so long a letter, but for the information of the publick. However, if you think there is any impropriety in communicating the copy of a letter addressed to an individual, before he himself may have received it, you will do well to conceal the address of the letter, and forbear to mention Dr. Franklin's name in the matter; but I must entirely leave to your better judgment the propriety of doing so or

not.

"I am happy to find you have reason to think, that "in process of time the slavery of the Africans throughout the United States must be abolished: that the plan formed for the peopling of the new states does not admit of personal slavery, and as these will be contiguous to those where it still obtains, owners of slaves will derive but little advantage, as stepping over the line will ensure them their liberty. This will surely be a desirable happy effect! but yet I cannot help being jealous lest custom (which has for many years so shamefully prevailed in America) of taking up runaway slaves and delivering them up to their masters, for the sake of the advertised rewards, should still continue, if it is not prohibited by express laws, and a repeal of those by which it was wickedly encouraged; because use (even to a proverb) is second nature.

I have therefore enclosed an argument on that subject, which I drew up many years ago, when I first began to vindicate the rights of poor negro slaves in England, against the established opinions of some great lawyers (the Lords Hardwick and Talbot, Judge Blackstone, &c.) and my endeavours, thank God, were not in vain, but proved in the end, completely effectual to the enfranchisement of every slave (I mean every domestick or private slave) that touches English ground!

I remain,

With great esteem,

Dear Sir,

Your obliged humble servant,

GRANVILLE SHARP.

"P. S. I have an earnest desire to see an account of the determination of the late convention of the episcopal churches, at Philadelphia. "Rev. Mr. Manning."

The foregoing letter to Dr. Franklin hath been transcribed with great care, from the copy which Mr. Sharp sent to President Manning, which is now before me; and the extracts of the other letters have also been carefully made, for the use of the Massachusetts Historical Society, by their humble servant,

Middleborough, May 6, 1794.

ISAAC BACKUS.

A TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE TOWN OF RAYNHAM, IN THE COUNTY OF BRISTOL, FEBRUARY 6, 1793. BY THE REV. PERES FOBES, LL. D.

R

AYNHAM is distant from Boston, the capital of the state, about thirty-six miles; in a southerly direction. This town, which, with a number of others, originally belonged to the old township of Taunton, was taken off and incorporated, in the year 1731. It is bounded on the east by Bridgewater; on the west by Taunton; on the south by the river called Taunton Great river, and on the north by Eastown, Bridgewater, and a part of Nippaniquet pond. It is about eight miles in length and four miles and a half wide. This town makes a part of those lands which originally were known by the name of Cohanat, in the colony of New Plymouth. They were first purchased of Massasoit, the Indian chief, by Elizabeth Pool and her associates

The lands in general are level and smooth. A stranger, riding through the town, will form but an indifferent opinion of the whole, if he judges from that part only, which he sees. The roads are excellent,

but the soil is penurious. This however is not characteristick of the whole. The soil, in general, has sufficient variety, and yields, under the hand of industry, almost every kind of production in tolerable plenty. Rye and Indian corn are in general raised here with great ease, and in such quantities as not only to supply the inhabitants, but to afford considerable for market. There are indeed two kinds of soil here, of which the farmers frequently complain. The one is the clayey cold kind; the other is the light spungy soil: but as these are often found near together, and will, by mixing, correct and meliorate each other, this complaint, it is hoped, will not long continue.

The timber here growing is principally oak, white, red, and black oak; walnut, maple, black and white birch, elm, pine, cedar, locusts, spruce, beech, buttonwood, hornbine, and sassafras; the last of which, when used for posts, or any other way, is found to be the most incorruptible of any wood hitherto known.

A considerable part of the town lies upon a circular bend of Taunton river. This river is between seven and eight rods wide, and affords a great plenty of herrings and other fish: but so unfavourable is it, in this place to seining or fishing, that the exclusive privilege of fishing is annually sold for less than twelve shillings, while the same privilege in Bridgewater and Middleborough, (towns which lie above this) is annually sold for more than two hundred and fifty pounds. Justice perhaps in this case pleads for indulgence from government, or the grant of some artificial convenience, where nature seems to have denied one. Besides the great river, there are several other useful streams, upon which, in different places, stand six saw mills, three grist mills, one furnace, a forge, and fulling mill. It is remarkable, that notwithstanding the quantity of pine timber sawed at these mills, the logs rafted down the river, and the pine consumed in furnaces, in slitting mills, and common fires; yet it is confidently affirmed, that there is now standing in this town as much pine timber as on the first day of its settlement; such has been the growth of swamp pine. But of no other kind of wood or fuel can it be said, that the growth has been equal to the consumption. The large quantities of coals, consumed in carrying on the iron manufacture in all its branches, has, within a few years past, greatly enhanced the value of wood. This has already occasioned emigrations, and will probably produce more. But when the rapid growth of wood in general, of white birch and pine in particular, is considered; when the late use of this species of pine, as an article of firing, which is known to grow faster in our most barren uplands, than even in the swamps; but especially when some of the late discoveries in the philosophy of heat, and its operations on the human body, become more generally known, it is very probable that the want of fuel will not be the cause of so much complaint. Upon the northerly part of the town, there is a large and valuable tract of cedar swamp; and towards the centre, are two considerable tracts more. The one is called the Dead, and the other, Titicut swamp.

On the easterly side of the town is a pond, which is about two miles in circumference. It joins to Titicut swamp, and is supplied with pike, or pickerel, perch, and other kinds of fish. On the westerly boundary are two ponds more, called the Forge, and Fowling ponds. There is also a large pond, which makes part of the northerly boundary of this town, and divides it from Bridgewater.

This pond is two miles in length and one in breadth, and is called Nippaniquit, or Nippahonsit pond. Here alewives in millions annually resort, and leave their spawns. An excellent kind of ore, and various kinds of fish are found here. Allured, perhaps, by the pleasures of fishing, and the beauty of the prospect, that curious political character, Dr. Benjamin Church, of Boston, came here; and in the year 1768, built an elegant house upon one of the elevated sides of this pond.

Although the lands in this town are in general level and smooth, yet there are some considerable elevations or hills. The principal ones are known by the names of Tareall and Smooch hill. The first is exceedingly fruitful; the other is equally barren. There is another situated near the line between this and the town of Taunton, which is called Steep hill.

The first meeting house was built the year preceding the incorporation of the town. It then contained about thirty families; over which, in the month of October 1731, was ordained the Rev. John Wales, father of the Rev. Doctor Samuel Wales, late Professor of Divinity at Yale College in Connecticut. He was blessed with talents, which rendered him very amiable and entertaining in social life. In publick prayer, his performances were eminent, and on some occasions almost unequalled. He was a faithful plain preacher; and having served in the gospel ministry thirty-four years, he died February 23d, 1765, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. To him succeeded the Rev. Peres Fobes, LL. D. He was graduated at Cambridge college, 1762, ordained November 19th, 1766, and is now in the twenty-seventh year of his happy ministry, among a happy people.

The first meeting house was conveniently situated for the first inhabitants; and continued, as the place of publick worship, for more than forty-two years, that is until June 9th, 1771; when a new meeting house was erected nearly in the centre of the town. It stands upon a level spot of ground, near the intersection of two roads. It has an elegant steeple lately built, is pleasantly situated, decently painted, and is about the distance of three miles from the county court house.

The number of families in this town is near two hundred, which, according to the late census, contains about a thousand souls. Of this number nearly one sixth part are of the baptist denomination; of whom some attend worship with the congregationalists in the meeting house, others attend baptist meetings in the neighbouring towns; and some are contented with few occasional meetings at private houses. If it has been said of the baptists in general, that they were rather un

friendly to government and learning, yet in justice to that denomination it ought now to be said, that they are improving in their friendly regard to both.

[ocr errors]

If the salubrity of the air and soil can be accurately determined by a philosophical instrument, called an eudiometer: yet, among us, it is perhaps best known at present, by the health and longevity of the inhabitants. From a careful inspection of the bills of mortality, which in this place have been kept for more than twenty years past, and which might here have been inserted, it appears that the air is by no means unfavourable to health and long life. In one family born in this place, there were living not long since, five brothers and one sister, whose ages, taken together, amounted to more than five hundred

years.

The people of this town are principally farmers, with a proportion of mechanicks, traders, and professional characters. Besides the usual business of husbandry, numbers are here employed in the manufactories, of bar iron, hollow ware, nails, irons for vessels, iron shovels, pot ash, shingles, &c. These, together with the late rapid increase of buildings, as well as improvements in agriculture and iron manufacture, bear unquestionable attestation to the industry and enterprise of the people.

Raynham has been considered as one of the most patriotick towns in the state. The inhabitants, especially those who attend publick worship here, have been distinguished for their zealous attachment to republican government, to learning, to military discipline, and church musick..

The unanimity and ardour of their publick decisions during the late war; their cautious, but spirited exertions, their prompt and peaceable compliances with the numerous calis of government in the days of exigence and danger, are well known; and perhaps ought the rather to be remembered, as their patience long endured the trial of cruel opposition, and the shock of ridicule, from the tongues, the pens, the publick votes, and contradicting examples of great numbers all around them. The people here can appeal to the living and the dead, when they say that not among their number was ever yet found, either a tory, a paper money man, or insurgent. Fired at the name of insurgency, and hearing that a conspiracy was formed to prevent the sitting of the October court of 1786, the troops of this little town, consisting of two small companies, roused unanimous; and at the first call of their leaders, mustered in arms, marched alone to Taunton, entered the court house as a preoccupant guard, there lay upon their arms through the whole of the night, preceding the day of the court's sitting; and in open defiance of all the bloody threats of an unprincipled and outrageous mob, in constant expectation of hundreds in arms ready for battle, they stood firm, but alone; until the next day about noon, when by a reinforcement of troops from the county of Plymouth, and a number gleaned from different parts of this county, they formed, and under the command of General Cobb, the insurrection was crushed, VOL. III.

X

« PreviousContinue »