1812: Jacob Gates to Messrs. Fletcher & Gardiner

Jacob Gates (17xx-Aft1839) was a physician in Boston who resided at 13 Franklin Street. He wrote the letter to Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner of Philadelphia.

Thomas Fletcher

Thomas Fletcher

Thomas Fletcher transformed himself from a craftsman into an artist. In 1810, Thomas and Sidney established the upscale firm of Fletcher and Gardiner, silversmiths and jewelers, in Philadelphia. Thomas Fletcher was born in Alstead, New Hampshire, to Timothy Fletcher and Hannah Fosdick on April 3, 1787. The sitter is first listed as a jeweler in the 1809 Boston directory, where his name already appears in conjunction with that of Sidney Gardiner, with whom he had gone into business in 1808. Although the firm succeeded in Boston, Fletcher and Gardiner moved to Philadelphia in 1811. By the next year, they were already sufficiently well respected that they were chosen to make several trophies commemorating American victories in the War of 1812. Fletcher traveled to England and France in 1815 to buy merchandise to be retailed in Philadelphia. The partnership with Gardiner continued until his death in 1827, when Fletcher brought Calvin W. Bennett into the business. Fletcher’s silver was in demand, but he suffered financial reversals in the 1830s, and by 1842, his manufactory was repossessed by his creditors. In May 1842, the firm was sold at a loss. Fletcher married Melanie Degrasse Veron on 29 September 1818. They had eight children. After the sale of his firm, Fletcher ran a boarding house in Philadelphia until 1850, when he moved to Delanco, N.J., where he lived until his death in 1866.

The letter was written on the eve of the Presidential Election of 1812 which pitted incumbent James Madison, who had recently declared war on the United Kingdom, and Dewitt Clinton. In an age without mass media, Clinton remarkably campaigned as an anti-war candidate in the Northeast and as a war hawk in the south and west. Madison won the election by a popular majority of only 50.4% though he won handily in the electoral college (58.7%). This letter suggests that the campaign was creating the impression abroad that America was a “divided and enfeebled people.”

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Messrs. Fletcher & Gardiner, Jewelers, Philadelphia

Boston [Massachusetts]
September 11, 1812

My dear friends,

I received yours of the 23rd of August which I have omitted to answer intending to write by Mrs. Veron as she contemplated leaving Boston next week; but business of moment respecting the young ladies at Medford will protract her visit with her friends a fortnight or more at which period, perhaps, you will hear something more.

About the arrangement, unless some disaster overtakes me, I shall have no aversion to call for payment which will render it inconvenient for you to make. I may in the course of twelve months and, if so, I will give you timely notice.

I saw the young ladies the other day at Mr. Sigourney’s & from the questions that I asked them concerning their articles, I should infer that they are making very little progress. They seem to be as little acquainted with English grammar now as they were a year ago. So deeply in the spirit of liberty implanted in the human breast that the mind is sound, revenge is nourished, whenever one is obliged to move at the nod of a despot. According to the representation made to me of the manner of instruction in this Academy, the scholars are not taken by the hand & invited to go on in a friendly manner to the fountains of science, but they are to be frown’d & punished into the rudiments of their education. They are literally taught to hate rather than to love their studies. I might say that they are taught to be ignorant & peevish rather than amiable & accomplished by such instructors.

All the friends of Mrs. Veron have set their faces against this barren instruction & say the young ladies must be immediately removed elsewhere.

W. has done nothing more about your estate. I know but little of what is or can be in the bosom of futurity as to the approaching election. If our speculators in political affairs should happen to be correct, there will be a surprising change in times as well as in things, by means of a new administration. Peace, say they, will be restored, together with the rise of real estate. As this revolution will take place in the course of three months, the period is short. On the contrary, if the present administration are destined to remain in office, we must be prepared to have everything sink but the earth, even life itself will be rendered less precious. But God deliver us from the fulfillment of these baleful predictions & let our political horizon once more beam with its usual splendor & serenity. Let our Administration assume the true American character & act with one heart in promoting the energies & interests of the country. Then we shall no more be deemed a divided & enfeebled people. But as long as they are crying on the one side I am for Paul, & on the other I am for Apollos, the divide, it is to be feared, will give the increase.

Yours affectionately, — J. G.


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