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Ellery, William (1727-1820) to William Stedman

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00298 Author/Creator: Ellery, William (1727-1820) Place Written: Newport, Rhode Island Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 February 1807 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 25 x 20.5 cm

Summary of Content: Writes that he received his last letter and had hoped Stedman would provide some political news but since Stedman is apathetic about politics, Ellery must read the newspapers. Asks who originated the suspension on Habeas Corpus and mentions that General James Wilkinson wants it suspended. Shares a recollection about Wilkinson at Valley Forge and his role in the Conway Cabal. Comments that he expected to have heard more about Burr's rebellion. Asks his opinion of Napoleon's blockade and states, "It seems to me that it will prevent our filling the Treasury as fast as he draws from it . . . But no matter; a naked Treasury affords no invitation to Enemies. . . We hedgehogs can live by ourselves." Discusses family and local matters and the weather. Ends by giving advice about success.

Background Information: Ellery was elected to Continental Congress, 1776-1785, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Stedman was his son-in-law and a congressman from Massachusetts. The Conway Cabal was a conspiracy to ruin ...the reputation of George Washington, and to make General Horatio Gates the commander-in-chief of the armies. It was rumored that Brigadier-General Conway was to be appointed a major-general in the Continental Army, which Washington opposed. Conway was instrumental in spreading the conspiracy. In 1805, Burr had begun to plan a rebellion against the United States. He hoped to break away the western territories from the Union and form a new country with him as the leader.See More

Full Transcript: Newport Feby 19th. 1807 -

My dear Sir,

I have received your letter of the 9th instant with the News papers that accompanied it; and hoped to have been entertained with ...some of your sagacious political observations, but alass! & alass! Your apathy to all occurrences is so great that I must be referred to the newspapers, and they, the Natl. Intelligencer I mean, furnishes but little new. - Several matters have been taken up in your house; but nothing of importance yet decided. - It seems that Mr. Eppes and Mr. Randolph draw together, but do not agree in sentiments with the P. - How is this? - Is not Mr. E. P's son in law. - Who originated the business of suspending the Habeas Corpus in the Senate, and how did Masss. vote there on that occasion? - but I recollect the doors of the Senats were closed when this subject as discussed, and I suppose that no secret attached to it flew off when the doors were opened. -
Genl. Wilkinson wanted to have the Habeas Corpus Act suspended; for then it would
seem he would have [f]illed Washington with Conspirators [inserted: and his conduct would have been justified]. - I rcollect when, for his activity as a Messenger of glad tidings, it was proposed that his agility should be rewarded with a pair of spurs. - It was when, I believe, he was sent express to Congress by Genl Gates with the news of his victory over Burgoyne, - when he made a long stop at Valley - forge, and some of the officers drew from him some secrets concerning a correspondence between that Genl. and Genl. Conway. - If I should have erred in these anecdotes Col. P. can rectify the errors. - He doth not now want spurs; he seems rather to need a curb; and altho' he be very communicative, yet I doubt whether he has told all he knows. - I expected before this time to have heard something more definitive about Burr's rebellion as some call it, and his intrigue as it is called by others, - to have heard that he was apprehended, and his Myrmidons dispersed. - How came R. to mention the Western insurrection? It was not indeed improperly introduced when he was inveighing against the suspension of the Heavy ars'd Porpus as I have heard Miers Fisher say a Delaware Clk of a Court called that liberal, beneficial Act, but did it not touch blood, as is vulgarly said, when any thing is mentioned which affects the character of a dear friend. - For what secret services is it [2] that the F: Minister demands a Million of dolls. of the U.S. - I thought that all Beaumarchais's accounts had been settled. - But no explanation is to be expected, especially of secret services from the Minister of an Emperor whose dictum is enough to extort millions from our infant nation. Pay it we must. What is become of the two millions granted the last Session? - I am afraid I shall disturb your apathy with my questions: - But I cannot forbear venting a lamentation when I see that money issuing from our Treasury to gratify the [cerberus] of which I had fondly hoped was to be expended in erecting a National University, and in cutting canals, and making roads, which, by infusing similar political sentiments, and facilitating the intercourse between the States, would destroy party - spirit, and unite us all like a band of brothers. - What think you of Napoleon's blockade? - It seems to me that it will prevent our filling the Treasury as fast as he draws from it, and that we shall with difficulty find enough for our civil list. But no matter: A naked Treasury affords no invitation to Enemies, &, forgive me, nullus ad amissas ibit amicus opes. - We hedgehogs can live by ourselves. - You are sick at present of your mode of life, and I do not wonder at it; for when things do not [inserted: and we cannot make them] go according to our minds, it is no wonder that we should repine; - but is it philosophical, is it Christian like to involve ourselves in torpid apathy, or melancholy despair? - For such cases we should oppose a firm breast to the torrent, and if we cannot advance against it, take advantage of the eddies, and consult the tides. - I thank you for your information relative to the petition for a new District. - I presume the Petition will not be granted; for the trade on the Westside of Narraganset bay is so very small that I am sure it will never support the Officers necessary to a district; but I do not wish you to exert yourself agst the Petition. - I have been applied to by some persons in Wickford to write to my friends [struck: against] [inserted: to expose] it; but have declined it. - I believe you [struck: will] have found by the letters you received on your Mail day from your [Rib], that she was better. - I received a letter from her dated Feby. lst.. The hand writing did not betray any disorder of consequence in her hand, and her stomach was better than it had been. I answerd it on the 6th. Her letter was long and the writing equal throughout. - I presume you [inserted: have] received no answer to your letter to Judge D. - I have rec'd none from his wife - I rec'd one from Richard, which only gave me an account of his journey home. - Not a word have I written to you about Thermometers. We have had some as cold days & nights as in any I believe preceding Winters, and altho' the degrees of cold cannot be as accurately defined by my Thermometer as by Farenheit's; yet I presume by the appearance of the former that the Mercury in the latters has been several days below 0. [3] These cold spells have been soon succeded by warm easterly winds & rain; - It rained a deluge last saturday night. The two Bridges leading to Providence, the Bridges built by John Brown & his brother Moses, are both destroyed by the ice and the [freshest] occasioned by, I believe, the rain of that night. - The great changes in the weather have caused great colds. I have hitherto escaped. - That same humour [inserted: long complained of] has not left me intirely, and probably it is best for me to be moderately afflicted. - Perhaps a little irritation of this or any other sort would remove your apathy. - At all events, our Representatives should not go to Sleep. - Altho' there may not be a speck in the horizon at present, there may be soon a violent storm, and what a figure would you then cut asleep like Jonah in the side of the Ship; - Or like Palimerus - Wake up - look about you - If you can't do as you would do as well as you can. Deserve success. -

Return via Newport. - Yrs affectionately Wm Ellery.

[address leaf]:

William Stedman

Honble William in Congress

City of Washington

Feby 19. 1807
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People: Ellery, William, 1727-1820
Stedman, William, 1765-1831
Gates, Horatio, 1728-1806
Conway, Thomas, 1735-ca. 1800
Wilkinson, James, 1725-1825
Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 1769-1821

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Habeas CorpusGovernment and CivicsLawPoliticsValley ForgeConway CabalPresidentRevolutionary WarRebellionVice PresidentGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFranceMaritimeNavyFinanceEconomicsMerchants and TradeCommerceTreasonMilitary History

Sub Era: The Age of Jefferson & Madison

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