1829: B. Curtis to Rev. Abiel Abbot

Except for his strong political opinions, little else is revealed in this letter to aid in the identity of its author who’s signature appears as “B. Curtis.” The Curtis family had deep roots in this region of Connecticut so I feel confident he was a member of that family — possibly William (“Bill”) Curtis.

Rev. Abiel Abbot

Rev. Abiel Abbot

Curtis wrote the letter to Rev. Abiel Abbot (1764-1859), a Unitarian minister in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Abbot graduated from Harvard in 1787; he taught in Phillips Andover Academy until 1789, studied theology, and worked as a missionary in Maine. In 1794, he tutored Greek in Harvard. In 1795, he was ordained a minister of a church in Coventry, Connecticut, then dismissed in 1811 because of some of his theological opinions. Until 1819, he taught at the Dummer Academy, then became a farmer in North Andover until 1827, when he became pastor of church in Peterborough, New Hampshire, until 1848. [Source: Philosopedia]

We learn from the letter that Curtis believes the country is on the road to ruin due to the political policies of the Jackson administration, which included the wholesale replacement any appointed office holders who did not share the same views as the administration, and also to relax suffrage requirements. Likewise, Curtis shares his opinion that politicking for office has been reduced to shameful attacks on the character of one’s opponent.

In the 1 April 1829 issue of the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, CT), the sentiment of one Connecticut elector who shared Curtis’ opinion was expressed in the following article:

“Let men of sound judgement, and incorruptible integrity be chosen to the next general assembly — men who, regardless of their party considerations, will independently do their duty. Discard such men as claim to themselves unbounded influence and talents, and who are unblushingly immodest. There are in every community, men … who will boast of their political achievements … [who] will barter away any thing to secure themselves an election — and who are as ignorant of the first principles of government as they are deficient in modesty. Beware of such men. Their only object is self-aggrandizement.”

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Rev. Abiel Abbot, Peterborough, New Hampshire

Windham [Connecticut]
March 17th 1829

Dear Sir,

I received yours requesting me to procure you some Mulberry seed & doing the best I possibly could. You wrote for seed of the last year’s growth. After conversing with several Gentlemen, they informed me that they thought it was out of their power to procure any of the last year’s growth & doubted whether I should be able to procure seed of any year’s growth. Not willing to believe that you should be disappointed, I went to Mr. Stoors & requested to procure some & on Saturday he brit me a trifle over 4# & said a part of it was of the last year’s growth & presumed that it would nearly all sprout & grow. He said the season was bad last year to raise good seed & presumed there was not a pound raised in the place & it was with difficulty that he got what he did as the call was great & if he had any quantity of new seed, it would have brit any sum asked. I have done the best I could & requested the most intelligent men to procure the seed, mentioning to them where I wanted to send it & to whom. The seed cost $1 per lb. & Mr. Stoors was paid for his trouble & about $-75 unto in my hands. I shall pay freight to Providence.

I have nothing new to inform you of that is of any importance. In our State Election, there is a great number of candidates for members of Congress & State Senators. There will be considerable miscellaneous voting this spring. Among all the candidates for Congress, there might be selected about half a dozen of the ablest men in the State, but the probability is there will not but a few of them be chosen as we are so much in the habit of choosing men that are not fit to fulfill the stations they are designed for that it will be next to impossibility to elect one.

The last spring (regular) caucus ticket is miserable. The Jackson Ticket is more miserable, but there has appeared two or three other tickets that are made up principally of men of the first rate talents; men that would do honor to any state & an enquiry made whu we cannot send men to Congress that will take a stand & defend the nation from such low intrigue as is about to be practiced in our country. We were in hopes that [President Andrew] Jackson would have pursued the path he pointed out to Mr. Monroe but he has made a general sweep of every office that did not come fully into his views & if this is a going to be the policy of all our future Presidents, I think our country had better petition to become a colony of Great Britain. It looks so much like boys play, I feel perfectly ashamed of our rulers. Such a course will always keep the country in a tumult.

I have a very low opinion of your Mr. [Levi] Woodbury. I believe him to be a man without talent or principle & a man tool of a party. I am sorry that your Mr. [Ichabod] Bartlett declines being considered a candidate for Congress. We consider him here an honest politician — a man of talents & trust. If our Congress was made up of such men as Mr. Bartlett, Mr. [Rollin Carolas] Mallary, & a few more that might be selected, our newspapers would not be filled with such low abuse.

It does not appear to me that it needs a great prophet to foretell the downfall of our country & I believe from the foolishness of universal suffrage. You may always remark that a fool will always shop a foot to play with. We have no reason to boast of the talents of the representation from this state & you will agree with me when I tell you that I verily believe that Mr. [John] Baldwin stands at the head of our Delegation & a little more than two weeks will show whether we have a man who will legislate for the [page torn] of the whole or whether we are to be kept along still further in the blind path of intrigue or not. I have conversed with Mr. Baldwin since his return from Congress & I have made up [my] mind that the Politicks of the United States in general are to turn out, & get in: & the more they can succeed in destroying the character of our best men, the more glorious the cause & greater the triumph. I feel sick & disheartened when I view & see the course that all seem to be pursuing. Stump orators & midnight intriguers I hold in utter contempt & view them in the same light that I would a midnight robber.

I will stop for I know that I give no new light to you on the subject. Yet when I am thinking of the course that mankind are pursuing to get into office, I am vexed & cannot help expressing my feelings on the subject if it is in a broken way.

We are all well & send much love to you & family.

— B. Curtis


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