Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category


Letters from an American Farmer

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Jacob Miller ’14, for AMST 838/438 “America Collects Itself”]

J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur is an 18th century French writer, most famous for his expository work recounting the cultural and structural identity of the newly forged American colonies to the European world. At a time where colonists were fashioning their own identity and Europeans wondered about the makeup of this “new world” society, Crevecoeur attempted to bring his own interpretation of this new American identity. One of Crevecoeur’s most popular works both today and during his writing career was a volume of narrative essays published under the title, Letters From an American Farmer.   Written from the perspective of a fictional American farmer, James, living in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, these essays are a direct attempt at depicting the American condition from the corrupting evils of slavery, to descriptions of local animals, plants and trees, as well as descriptions of Quaker society on the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Crevecoeur spent an extensive amount of time in the colonies of New York and Pennsylvania before the Revolutionary War, even purchasing 120 acres of farmland in Orange County, New York and marrying Mehitable Tippet, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. He even became a naturalized citizen in New York in 1765.[1]

Letters From an American Farmer ImageIn the Watkinson, I handled and read sections from a copy of the text published in 1783 in London, printed by T. Davies. One of the most interesting aspects of this particular book was the incredibly detailed and expertly inserted foldout map of the island of Nantucket. This version of the text also bore the lengthy original title of Letters from an American farmer: describing certain provincial situations, manner, and customs not generally known; and conveying some idea of the late and present interior circumstances of the British colonies in North America. While thorough, this title has been shortened in the more recent publications. While the subject matter of this letters is extensive, I found Letter III and Letter IX to address the most interesting aspects and problems facing our newly forged nation.

Letter III is titled “What is An American?” This letter attempts to assign meaning and parameters to the culture of America. Recognizing the multi-cultural heritage of the new nation, Crevecoeur, as James, writes, “The next wish of this traveler will be to know whence came all these people? They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes. From This promiscuous breed, that race now called Americans has arisen.” With this mosaic of cultural heritage as the foundation, Crevecoeur builds to address the very question of citizenship as a right. “Can a wretch who wanders about, who works and saves, whose life is a continual scene of sore affliction or pinching penury; can that man call England or any other kingdom his country?” While part of a multifaceted depiction, I think this argument is one of the more poignant pieces of Crevecoeur’s constructed American identity. For Crevecoeur, the removal of predetermined societal clout based on birth or caste is the basic right of every American. The removal of monarchical society and the ability to be socially mobile, based solely on how hard you are willing to work is an idealized, and arguably accurate depiction of the early years of colonial life. In order to examine this depiction critically, one must compartmentalize the reality that these rights were only allotted to white men, and this land, which is depicted as free and ready for cultivation and enterprise originally belonged to now displaced native populations. In some ways, the recognition of this reality taints the idealized tone of this early work of America cultural study.

Crevecoeur does mention the Indian tribes in this letter; however, it is part of a comparison that contains the lingering social hierarchies that he celebrates absence of in American society. One of the sections deconstructs the structure of society to a primal level. In this letter Crevecoeur also argues that colonists brought order and structure to a savage world. The settlements, buildings, religious and governmental organizations that have been established are in many ways an inherently positive civilizing force in the region. He compares these interior and coastal towns with the frontier areas near the “great woods.” “There, remote from the power of example and check of shame, many families exhibit the most hideous parts of our society.” He goes on to state that they exist and live off the wild; therefore, this wild permeates its way into their existence and behavior.

Letter IX titled “Description of Charles-Town; Thoughts on Slavery; On Physical Evil; A Melancholy Scene” is also very interesting and an important critique of slavery. Crevecoeur paints a portrait of the stanch contrast in the populace of this town.  “The inhabitants are the gayest in America; it is caked the centre of our beau monde, and is always filled with the richest plants of the province, who resort hither in quest of health and pleasure.” This is the Charles-Town at the top of the social spectrum, those lawyers, planters and merchants who reap the rewards of an economy based on the sweat equity of slaves. The world of the slave is depicted much differently as “they are obliged to devote their lives, their limbs, their will, and every vital exertion to swell the wealth of masters.” This contrast is chilling and Crevecoeur seems ahead of his time stating through James, “I hope the time draws near when they will be all emancipated.”

This collection of letters is any incredibly important depiction of early life in our country. It shows the founding principles and cultural identity that resulted from the conditions and societal climate of early colonial America. While slightly hypocritical and shaped by a catering to its largely European audience, this work contextualizes and provides an insider look at the founding of a nation. Crevecoeur brought the American colonies and frontier to a worldwide audience and handling a text from the very time that people were reading about the nation I call my home for the first time was a fascinating experience.

[1] J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur. (1735-1813). E-publisher LiterNet. Edited by Albena Bakratcheva. 2009


Washington’s Will

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Mollie Scheerer ’14 for AMST 838/438 “America Collects Itself”]

IMG_7338George Washington died on December 14, 1799 at his Mount Vernon home in Virginia. Upon his death the total sum to which his property and land amounted was $530,000 and was divided among his family, friends, and organizations and causes close to his heart. A copy of it is at the Watkinson published in New York on January 23, 1800 by J. Furman. The original will was printed in Alexandria but the copy in particular at the Watkinson is an authenticated copy as noted by George Deneale, Clerk of Fairfax County Court in Virginia. The original was printed in his office and on the page preceding the title page, Deneale writes that this copy, with the schedule of Washington’s property directed to be sold annexed, is a “True Copy from the Original.” His name was signed at the bottom of every page in the original manuscript but was not included in the copies printed in January of 1800.

Washington’s will is a window into the life and values of the first President of the United States. He bequeathed his entire estate and everything “real and personal” to his dearly beloved wife, Martha for the remainder of her life. He also gave his property on Pitt & Cameron Streets in Alexandria to her and her family for the rest of its legacy. His love and devotion to his wife during his lifetime is apparent in his will as he respects and trusts her by leaving decisions about his property to her best judgement. Even in his bequests to other family members and friends, much of it has to do with Martha’s well-being after he dies as he wanted to ensure she live the best life possible even without him.

IMG_7339Perhaps the most interesting and well-known part of his will is the freeing of his slaves, however. In his will he states that after Martha’s death all slaves that he owned were to be emancipated. He waited until after her death to ensure she was taken care of after his passing but both wanted their slaves to find freedom when they were gone. Being the noble man that he was,
however, he makes sure that they were not released into the free world without being able to land on their feet. He intended for his heirs to make sure the slaves who were too old, young, crippled, or sick were comfortably fed and clothed. For the young slaves with no parents alive, able, or willing to provide for them in freedom, they were to be bound by the court until they were twenty-five years old. He further protected their well-being by forbidding the sale and transportation of any slave out of the commonwealth of Virginia, wanting to keep families together and near their home. The release of his slaves, even in his death, was a powerful statement to make at the time. Washington also wanted to ensure his slaves lead good lives after their freedom, going a step further than most would have done.

Washington also granted immediate freedom upon his death to William, his valet, or whom he called his “Mulatto man.” Again, just as he did for the rest of his slaves after Martha’s death, Washington wanted to ensure William was able to lead a satisfactory life after his master’s death. Due to his position as Washington’s valet, however, William received even more advantageous options. In his will Washington gave William the choice of immediate freedom or, if he so chose, to remain working for Washington’s estate. Washington alludes to William’s situation of being crippled due to accidents that had befallen him rendering him incapable of walking or any active employment. With either option William chose, however, Washington states that he was to receive thirty dollars a year for the rest of his life. Washington’s bequest toWilliam is unlike many master-slave wishes in a last will and testament. Not only is it extremely generous and unprecedented, Washington also speaks to William’s faithful services during the Revolutionary War and their attachment to one another. Another indication of his character, Washington left four thousand dollars to the Trustees of the Academy in Alexandria to support a free school for orphans and the poor annexed to the current Academy. He believed in the power of educating the youth of the United States in strong institutions on our own soil and planned for the establishment of a university in the District of Columbia in his name. There, he intended students to complete their education in all branches of “polite literature; in arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good Government; and…by associating with each other, and forming friendships in Juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree from those local prejudices & habitual jealousies.” Washington also gave a generous endowment to Liberty Hall Academy, later named Washington & Lee University which carries on the President’s legacy and interest in education today.

Although George Washington did not have any children his many nieces and nephews benefited from his will, as did other relatives and friends and their heirs. A great many interesting objects were left for those especially fortunate, such as a gold cane left to him by Dr. Benjamin Franklin to his brother Charles; spy glasses to one of his childhood friends that Washington revealed “constituted part of my equipage during the late war”; and for the Earl of Buchan, the box made out of the legendary Elderslie Oak that sheltered Sir William Wallace after the Battle of Falkirk near Paisley, Scotland. Most of the bequests in Washington’s will are thoughtful and seem personal, again showing his character as well as his respect for those close to him. The physical document itself is interesting as in this edition a schedule and breakdown of Washington’s property to be sold is included. He had a great deal of livestock to be sold including horses, donkeys, mules, cattle, sheep, and hogs totaling to around $15,658. This copy also includes a note from the publisher revealing that the document states it was sealed on July 9, 1790 but the testator omitted the last nine. Although the will states it was finalized that year, it was actually sealed in 1799 just months before Washington’s passing. He also signed the bottom of every page in the original manuscript but his signature was not included in later copies produced. Although the original document is always interesting to explore, sometimes the following copies and editions can be even more revealing about the true nature of the original, as seen with the Watkinson’s copy of George Washington’s Last Will and Testament.


Prayer-books for Native Americans

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Professor Sarah Rivett, Princeton University]

Abenaki Prayer Book IHoused in the American Indian Vocabulary Collection of the Watkinson Library are two manuscript prayer books from the eighteenth century, written in the Abenaki language. The prayer books are in the same hand, and on the inside of the front cover of one of them, we have a clue as to who the author might have been: “Father Germain, the last Jesuit missionary of the St. Francis.” Ordained in Belgium, Charles Germain decided to work as a missionary in New France.  He lived among the Abenaki for twenty-nine years, from 1739 until his death in 1779.

Germain lived through tumultuous times of a war-ravaged northeast that culminated with British dominion of North America following the Seven Years War (1754 – 1763). When Germain arrived in the Abenaki community in Acadia, the region was already under British control, as a consequence of the Treaty of Paris (1713) that ended the War of Spanish Succession. Germain was a military strategist as well as a missionary. He worked as a liaison between the government of New France and the Abenaki Indians under his pastoral care. His aim, like that of his predecessor, Sebastian Rale, was to consolidate Acadian resistance by ensuring that Franco-Catholicism left a lasting mark on North America. Committed to his faith and his country of origin, Germain’s proselytizing of Abenaki souls was intimately connected to his disdain for the Anglo-Protestantism.

Language was Germain’s tool of both Abenaki conversion and war strategy. Speaking the language of the indigenous inhabitants of North America proficiently was the best means of communicating Christian doctrine and establishing alliances. Since the French presence in North American paled in comparison to the British, in terms of population and cosmopolitan development, the Indian-French alliance was France’s only hope of survival. Luckily for Germain, his Jesuit predecessors were accomplished linguists. Sebastian Rale lived among the Abenaki in Norridgewalk from 1691 until his death at the hands of the British in 1722. He composed an extensive dictionary that is now housed at the Houghton Library in Cambridge Massachusetts. For Rale, learning Abenaki was an incredibly difficult task. There were no books on the topic, no grammars, and no teachers other than the Abenaki themselves. Rale describes going to sit in Abenaki wigwams for eight to nine hours every day as “a child goes to school.” He spoke as best he could and the Abenaki corrected him. Because of Rale’s work, Father Germain entered a community with a fairly substantial written record of Abenaki. Indeed, we might even speculate that Germain developed his prayer books from Rale’s scribal publications of similar texts. Additionally, some of the Abenaki would have known French while others were used to playing the role of teacher to the Jesuit missionaries in an ironic process of role reversal where the European became the student and the American Indian the teacher.

Abenkai Prayer Book IIScale is the most striking material difference between the Abenaki Prayer Books composed by Germain and Rale’s Abenaki Dictionary, or the monumental Illinois-French Dictionary compiled by Jacques Gravier and also housed at the Watkinson Library. Gravier’s dictionary contains over twenty-two thousand words listed alphabetically, with the Illinois preceding the French. The writing is small, economizing space in the enormous tome bound in marbled leather. Composed over decades, words were crossed out. Corrections were made, sometimes in Gravier’s hand and sometimes in a different hand, possibly that of his successors, Julien Binneteau and Gabriel Marest. By contrast, the Abenaki prayer books are small enough to fit in a missionary’s pocket. Composed of only about twenty leaves, they are sewn together with a thin piece of leather. The design ensures that the books function as useable texts in liturgical and ritual worship. The contents are equally succinct: morning prayers, evening prayers, the Ave Maria, the ten commandments, catechisms, confessional prayers, and psalms. Each title appears in French, as a clue to the priest leading the service, while the text itself is in Abenaki. It is likely that these prayer books were used by priests other than Germain. Such was the case with the Illinois prayer book written by Claude Allouez for Father Jacques Marquette to take on his travels along the Joliet trail. With the aid of such a prayer book, a priest could get by with minimal language skills. The prayers were mnemonic, sung within the context of a primarily oral indigenous language culture. Additionally, many of the Abenaki who had already converted to Catholicism lead the prayers during ritual worship, often more effectively than the priests who were bound by a partial understanding of both the language and the worldview that it represented.

Germain entered into Abenaki territory with the goal of controlling the Abenaki people for imperial purposes. The Abenaki-French alliance during the Seven Years War is the dominant narrative that we associate with this time period. Yet texts such as these Abenaki prayer books suggest an alternative perspective, one in which language both facilitated French desire for indigenous dominance and undermined it. To learn the language, missionaries had to submit to instruction. They had to suspend their education and their linguistic training in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in addition to several European languages. The indigenous languages of North America were nothing like they had ever encountered, nothing that they could have planned for upon leaving the Old World. To become proficient in Abenaki, Rale would assemble a group of native speakers whom he felt to be the most intelligent and eloquent. Before them, he would recite the catechism and hear their corrections. In doing so, he learned how different the language was from European languages, how delicate the mode of correct expression was. The massive dictionaries produced by Jesuit missionaries at the turn of the eighteenth century were attempts to visually capture the phonetic sounds of the spoken words around them. The catechism functioned as an educational text for native proselytes and missionaries alike. In some cases, this is all we have left of an otherwise lost language.

As anyone who has studied a language other than his or her own mother tongue knows, language is a window into a worldview. Language gives us unique access to another culture. Something is always lost through translation, but in the case of the Abenaki prayer books, something was also gained. These texts became mnemonic tools for priests and proselytes alike. The form of translation reflected in the prayer books was cyclical, from oral to written and then back to oral. In learning the Abenaki language, the Jesuits also learned of Abenaki culture. And while Christianity was a tool of colonization, it also changed through translation. Doctrine, pious practice, and religious expression took on new resonance when expressed through words intended to represent an entirely different cosmos.


BIG music in the Watkinson!

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator]

These large musical scores were printed in 1851 on “White & Potter’s Steam Press—4,000 impressions per hour—Spring Lane, Boston.” As a printing feat they are impressive—rich black notes, easily seen at a distance.  Lowell Mason’s Musical Exercises for Singing Schools promotes the use of the large printed score as a way to speed along the teaching of music in the classroom.  They were meant to free the teacher from drawing scores on the blackboard. The exercises accompany Mason’s Manual of the Boston Academy of Music.  Mason and George James Webb established the Academy to promote music education in general and to raise the standards of church music.  The academy had enrolled 3,000 students by its 2nd year.  Mason was credited with introducing music education in public schools.  His influence on church music was equally felt, promoting classical European music rather than the American music of the revivalists, such as Joshua Leavitt’s Christian Lyre.

Here is our intern Dahlia Romanow (from Smith College) demonstrating the beat: Demonstration


The Americanization of a British hymn

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Glenda Goodman, a visiting researcher on a fellowship sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America]

“It is now translated to America”: British Hymns in the Revolutionary Era

The Watkinson Library at Trinity College has an impressive collection of manuscript music from the late eighteenth century. Thanks to a grant from the Bibliographical Society of America, I spent a few weeks in June on a research road trip in New England, and Trinity was my first stop. Although I was focusing on musical commonplace books and copybooks, at the suggestion of librarian Sally Dickinson I also worked with their collection of annotated hymnals. It was while perusing these volumes that I came across something I hadn’t seen before: a hymnal in which every reference to Britain had been crossed out and replaced with the word “America” or related terms (New England, Western States, United States, etc.) As the assiduous penman noted at the bottom of one page, the entire volume had been “translated to America.”

This volume, owned by one Alexander Gilles, is a copy of Isaac Watts’s Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.[1] Isaac Watts is a major figure in early American music history. His psalm paraphrases and hymns were sung to existing sacred tunes throughout the British colonies from the time they were published in London in the early 18th century (1707 for his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1719 for The Psalms of David). Decades after Watts died in 1748 his poetry exerted a strong influence on musical trends, inspiring the New England psalmodists who were America’s first homegrown composers to write more elaborate and demanding music in the 1770s and 1780s.

Yet while Watts’s poetry remained immensely popular during and after the American Revolution, his frequent references to “Northern Isles,” Britain, and kings were awkward for patriotic church-goers. In 1781 Newburyport printer John Mycall brought forth a new edition of Watts’s psalms from which all references to Britain had been scraped away by a committee of ministers. Four years later Joel Barlow released a “corrected and enlarged” edition of Watts’s psalms. Barlow had been commissioned by the General Association of Connecticut, which decided in June 1784 that they needed a version that omitted all references to Britain. In 1797 Timothy Dwight was asked to make a new revision by that same General Association. From 1781 to 1832 there were nine distinct revision projects that yielded at least 75 different editions or printings of Watts’s psalter.[2]

Alexander Gilles’s patriotic enthusiasm for revising Watts surpassed the official revised versions. His corrections are largely based on Mycall’s 1781 edition, but Gilles added further changes wherever he felt Mycall’s ministers failed to be thorough or go far enough. In more than one instance where Mycall’s edition left “islands” or “islands of the Northern sea” Gilles wrote “nations” or “Western lands.” Bound in with Gilles’s copy of the psalter are a 1772 Boston edition of Watts’s collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs and a collection of hymn tunes by the Connecticut composer Andrew Law, and Gilles made adjustments to the language throughout those materials as well. Even the index is redacted.

Occasionally Gilles contributed entirely new poetic lines that highlighted his patriotic and anti-British sentiment. For example, in Psalm 147 he wrote corrected the subtitle and first line of lyrics based on the Mycall edition, but also suggested changing the lines “He bids the ocean round thee flow / Not bars of brass could guard thee so” to “He bids the seas before thee stand / To guard against yon distant land.” It’s not hard to imagine that “yon distant land” is Britain, against which Gilles summoned God’s protection for the young nation.

The American Revolution and its aftermath receives plenty of attention at the blog I write for, The Junto, particularly with our coverage of The American Revolution Reborn conference in Philadelphia. Yet much remains to be said about the Revolution’s cultural reverberations, particularly when it comes to sacred music. Gilles’s annotations bespeak a man of diligence and creativity who committed to aligning his religious practice with his patriotism. One wonders if there are more annotated hymnals out there that display other attempts to reconcile sacred worship to patriotic politics. Moreover, further examination could reveal musical consequences from the changes to the psalms and hymns. Last week Roy Rogers suggested we need more sources on the intersection of Christianity and the Revolution. Gilles’s volume seems like a great example of such a source, leading me to wonder if we should be paying more attention to how sacred music responded to and was affected by the Revolution.


[1] Isaac Watts, The Psalms of David: imitated in the language of the New-Testament (Boston: J. Hodgson, 1772). Watkinson Special BS1440 .W3 1772

[2] Louis F. Benson, “The American Revisions of Watts’s ‘Psalms’,” Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society 2, no. 1 (1903): 18-34.


The Farmington Canal Trail

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Brent Bette for AMST 838: America Collects Itself: From Colony to Empire]

With the warm weather and sweet smell of green grass in the air, one of my favorite “rites of spring” is to take a walk on the well-known Farmington Canal Trail.  The path is long and straight with very little in the way of hills, making it ideal for the long-distance runner or the young ‘un who wishes to cast off his or her training wheels.  However, I often wonder how many people actually know why such a walk exists? Where would I find my answer?  At the Watkinson, of course!

The New Haven and North Hampton Railroad was built alongside the original 78-mile Farmington Canal.  In 1836 a Southport man by the name of Joseph Sheffield became the primary stockholder.  Realizing canals were far less efficient than railroads, Sheffield hired Professor Alexander Twining of Yale to survey the line from New Haven to Plainville.  What Twining found was that the paths created for the animals to tow the barges up and down the canal were an ideal roadbed on which to lay tracks.  However, the question remained, what would be the northern terminus of the railroad?

In the towns of western Massachusetts, where politicians and businessmen alike realized the construction of a railroad would yield instantaneous prosperity (and perhaps reelection!), a flurry of lobbying began.  Westfield was no exception.  On April 9, 1849, the town held a meeting where a resolution was passed stating two points.  First, the town publicly acknowledged the suffering of its citizens who made sacrifices (giving up land, etc) to allow for the building of the canal.  Unfortunately, the canal never produced the type of economic prosperity promised by the company, leaving Westfield with nothing more than an artificial river. Therefore, restitution needed to be made in the form of a railroad.  The resolution further states “that while construction of the proposed Railroad to Springfield could add little or nothing to the prosperity or business of that town…the Legislature, whenever it is possible, [should] encourage the establishment and growth of other such centres of activity and business.” In other words, Springfield already received their share; it was time to spread the wealth.

The pamphlet goes on to explain that a letter had been received from Mr. Sheffield in which he remarked, “We are pleased to learn that you are awake on the subject of Railroad extension.” The town was then asked to provide the amount of tonnage local industry could provide year-to-year. This was seen as an obvious positive sign that Westfield could indeed become the northern terminus of the railroad. However, as was typical of railroad tycoons (often known as robber barons) of the late 19th century, Sheffield was stacking the deck. The data provided by the town was used as a means to determine which would be most profitable for the company.  Towns throughout central Massachusetts, whether they knew it or not, were being pitted against one another as a means of getting the “best deal” for the railroad.

Westfield, perhaps due to this resolution, did in fact get its railroad.  However, it would not be the northern terminus. Northampton was chosen instead as it would interchange with the Troy and Greenfield railroad.  In 1887, the New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad began leasing the line and would eventually purchase it outright.

You can still travel on the New Haven and Northampton railroad, albeit only on foot (or bike).  Great progress has been made to convert it to a rail-to-trail, with 72% complete in Connecticut and 47% in Massachusetts.  So, the next time you are out enjoying the trail, impressing your companions with your knowledge of historic facts about the line, be sure to say, “And I found it all out at the Watkinson!”


The Election of 1800

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Len Banco for AMST 838: America Collects Itself: From Colony to Empire]

The election of 1800 was pivotal in American history, ultimately resulting in the first democratic peaceful transfer of power between two opposing political groups – the Federalists of John Adams who was the sitting President, and the Republicans of Thomas Jefferson, who was the sitting Vice President.  What I searched for and found at the Watkinson were two issues of a 4-page Connecticut newspaper, the Norwich Packet, published on February 24 and March 3, 1801.  My purpose in finding those newspapers was to understand what an ordinary American citizen of the time would be reading about the election and its immediate aftermath.  We began our search the old-fashioned way, using a card catalog, and after a bit of hunting, found a cache of original newspapers unbound as readers over 200 years ago would have read them.  I wondered if anyone back then could have possibly anticipated that a newspaper they used one day and threw out the next would survive for so long.

In a section headed simply, “Election of a President” the results of the election of 1800 (as reprinted from the Philadelphia Gazette of February 14) were officially recounted thus – “According to the rules of the proceeding established by the House, they proceeded to the Senate chamber where….the votes were counted and the result declared by the Vice President [Thomas Jefferson] as follows:  Thomas Jefferson 73, Aaron Burr 73, John Adams 65, C.C. Pinckney 64, John Jay 1”.  The tie vote between Jefferson and Burr required the House of Representatives to determine the winner through a process prescribed by the constitution, with each state having one vote and it being necessary to have a simple majority of the states to win.

In that same issue, the repeated indecisive votes in the House of Representatives were relayed – “Eight states for Jefferson, Six for Burr, 2 divided” along with a description of the actual method of balloting.  One of the representatives from Maryland was so ill he was unable to go to the House chamber, “and had a bed prepared for him in one of the committee rooms to which the ballot box was carried to him by one of the tellers appointed on the part of the state”.  The deadlock continued for days.

In the issue of March 3 it was related that on the 35th ballot taken on Tuesday, February 17, the deadlock was finally broken, resulting in the election of Thomas Jefferson as president with 10 states for him, only 4 New England States for Aaron Burr, and two states with blank ballots.

In a small “Public Notice” on the third page of the paper there appeared a notice that “A Day of Thanksgiving is to be kept in Wallingford on the 11th day of March next”…and “at 6 in the evening on the same day an oration will be delivered by Abraham Bishop esq, of New Haven” . “All real friends to our happy constitution and to our illustrious Thomas Jefferson, President-elect, and to Aaron Burr, our patriotic and worthy Vice-President, elect, are invited to attend”.  Interestingly, the transcript of Mr. Bishop’s remarks was subsequently published in New Haven that same year, an original copy of which also resides at the Watkinson Library.

This is what a citizen of Norwich, Connecticut would have read in 1801, two weeks after the actual event.  They would not have known yet how or why the change in vote occurred that ultimately resulted in Jefferson’s election.  The political intrigue and bargaining that resulted in the final outcome has taken over 200 to understand and ponder and the debate continues to this day.