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[p. 17]

A recently discovered Letter written by Colonel Isaac Royall in 1779.

THE Society is indebted to Mr. George Y. Wellington, President of the Arlington Historical Society, for the accompanying copy of a letter by Col. Isaac Royall of Medford, written from Kensington, England, in 1779, to his old friend and tutor, Rev. Samuel Cooke, minister of the Second Parish in Cambridge, located at Monotomy (now Arlington, Mass.) The original of this letter was given by Miss Anna Bradshaw, granddaughter of Samuel Cooke, to Mrs. M. W. Hodgdon, and is now in the possession of her daughter, Miss Ellen W. Hodgdon. The original letter is beautifully written in a very fine and small hand, covering three pages of letter-sheet 9 1/2 × 15 inches; it is well preserved in a transparent silk cover and is kept in a safe in the State House, Boston.

Kensington May 29: 1779
Dear Sir

Our long acquaintance and the Friendship you profess'd and shew for me and my Children and Family induc'd me to write you soon after my arrival in England as I thought it would give you pleasure to hear from me I therein gave you a particular account of our voyage which Letter I hope you receiv'd at the same time I wrote my Worthy Friend Mr Turill but as I have not had the pleasure of hearing from either of you in return makes me fearful they did not get to Hand and meeting the other Day with Capt. Malachi Salter who is Uncle to Mr Willis Hall's Wife and who told me he was bound to Halifax and from thence home to Boston and if I had any Letters to send to my Friends would be glad to oblige me and would take particular care of them so that I thought this would be a good opportunity of sending you a Letter by him who will be able to tell you my state

note. Isaac Royall was born in Antigua in 1719, and died in England of small-pox in 1781. See Vol. III, p. 133. [p. 18] of Health and situation and can give you an account of my Dear Motherless Grand Children who he has seen and for whose Mother you always express'd so great an esteem and regard and Mary the second Daughter looks very much like her tho they are all very healthy fine promising Children as you would wish to see in a Thousand my Heart I confess is too much bound up in them tho I think they at present bid fair to deserve every esteem and regard I can possibly express for them by their sweetness of Temper and good Behavior that if you was to see them you would think so too but of this Capt. Salter can tell you more than I have time to write. In my former Letter I acquainted you that at the commencement of these troubles my Business call'd me to the West Indies to settle my affairs there and to look after that little Estate I had there and if I could to sell it and accordingly I bespoke my passage for myself and my nephew Doct. Charles Russell who offer'd to accompany me and to do some Business for his Mother in Law my Sister Vassall on board Capt. Mackay a Vessell belonging to Mr. Bileston I pack'd up my Sea Stores and Cloaths for the passage and came to Boston after attending the Public Worship on the Lord's Day Evening before the Battle of Lexington to take leave of my Children and Friends intending to have gone from thence to Salem to embark for Antiguas but unfortunately staid at Boston Two or Three Days and din'd with The Honble Capt. Erving the very Day the Battle happen'd after which it was impossible to get out of Town for Genl Gage had issued Orders to prevent any one coming in or going out upon which I thought it most prudent as my affairs call'd me to the West Indies and a good opportunity offering I went to Halifax expecting there to meet with a Vessell bound to Antigua but was disappointed I remain'd in Nova Scotia upwards of a Year the greatest part of the time in the Township of Windsor without meeting with a favorable opportunity till then for Antigua as the Small Pox being in Halifax prevented my going into that Town [p. 19] to get a passage and my Son in Law Mr. Erving and my Daughter to my very great surprise came down to Halifax in the Fleet after the Troops evacuated Boston before I ever heard of it they over perswaded me to give over my Voyage to Antigua and to accompany them to England as I did not know whether I should ever live to see my Grand Children again if I did not and therefore complied with their earnest solicitations and accordingly took passage with them in Capt. Hall and arriv'd after a very short and pleasant passage of One and Twenty Days and had the pleasure to find my Son in Law Sir William and his Family very well we all liv'd together for about a Fortnight and then Sir William's little Boy about Thirteen Months old was taken ill and he remov'd to Kensington where we tarried about a Month and then remov'd to Brighthelmstone for the benefit of the Childs bathing in the Sea Water where I had my Health very well for the first Six Weeks or Two Months after which I was taken very ill of a slow Nervous Fever which disorder continued the best part of the Winter following and I have never had my Health since from that time to this and that Sickness prevented my going to the West Indies wholly so that I have never been able to go there since as I wrote you my intention was to go there to settle my affairs and to sell my Estate if I could and then to return Home to Medford as soon as possible but Providence has seen fit not to permit these things and therefore I must make myself as easy as I can tho I was oblig'd to let the Lease run out which had got Two Years from next August before it expires. I little thought the last time I saw you that I should see England as I design'd for Antigua it was a thing foreign to my thoughts and quite unexpected to me as I never had the Small Pox upon that account did not think I should ever see England I have hitherto escap'd the Small Pox but have been pretty much confin'd and never ventur'd to London without going in a close Conveyance and then tho I have seen them in the Streets yet have been in a Coach [p. 20] I mention this to let you see how much a Slave I have been for fear of that Distemper so that I have been to no Public Diversions but to see One Play and Two Oratorios but that I don't so much regret if my Health was but in any degree restor'd I intended to have been Innoculated but my Sickness render'd it improper and which has been the case ever since. This is a Country where Gaiety and Dissipation are too apt to get the preeminence tho I have seen but few diversions and little Gaiety myself for neither my time of Life or Purse will admit of it and I thank God my inclinations do not now lead to it however they might have done some years past. I have not seen Lord North or any of the Ministry nor have I been in company with any of the Nobility nor have I been able to go either to the House of Lords or Commons to hear the Debates since I have been in England except Lord Edgcumb who I saw once or twice at my Son in Law Sir William Pepperells and once about a year ago had the pleasure of dining at a Friends House at Brighthelmstone with the Duke of Manchester who seems to be a very sensible and agreable gentleman. I have shewn Capt. Salter Copies of Two Letters I wrote Lord Dartmouth at the commencement of these troubles with an intent to convince him I did every thing in my power to prevent their taking place and to clear up the misrepresentations that might have been made to his Lordship concerning our Province I sent them enclos'd to my Friend and Correspondent Joseph Paice Esqr to deliver them with his own Hands which he has since inform'd me he did but they had not the desir'd effect Mr William Winter copied these Letters fair for me and if he is living can doubtless remember a good part of the contents of them and I think I shew them to Charles Pelham Esqr before I sent them. Upon my first arrival in England I thought it my Duty to wait upon Lord Dartmouth and accordingly did and likewise upon Lord North and Lord Germaine but had not the honor of seeing them as the Servant said they were gone out of Town [p. 21] and after I so far recover'd my Sickness as to be able to come to London I waited upon them again but was answer'd they were engag'd so that I never attempted to go afterwards and I have not seen any of the Ministry since as I mention'd before. I waited also upon Govr Pownall who I had the pleasure of having a long Conversation with and he ask'd very kindly after a great number of his Friends and acquaintances in particular after Mr Bowdoine and Mr Pitts and express'd a great regard for them both and for the Province in general as being a very fine Country and a good sort of People and was very sorry for the difficulties that have happen'd and said had his advice been seasonably taken it is likely it would have prevented all these troubles. Govr B——and Govr H——came to see me soon after my arrival and I return'd their visit and soon after Govr H. was so complaisant as to invite me to dine with him but I did not go so our acquaintance soon broke off. Lieut Govr Oliver has lost his Wife she died about Two Months ago and he is remov'd with his Family to Bristol as is Mrs Boarland and Family and Mr Lechmere and Family and a good many more of our Country People Mr Simpson talks of going in a few Days to live there so that I shall be left alone from all my American acquaintance except Mr Flucer who is but a little distance from me I never was at Bristol but they say it is a pleasant place and that they can live a third cheaper there than they could here I have thoughts of going there soon in about a Fortnights time to drink the Hott Well Waters which the Docters tell me is good for the Disorder I complain of upon my Liver that I have been for some years afflicted with tho I thank God I am much better than I have been for this Twelvemonth past and am in hopes this Journey to Bath and Bristol Hott Wells will recover me entirely. Some time past I receiv'd a Letter from my Attorney Dr Simon Tufts at Medford dated October 22 wherein he says that the Committee of Medford for the last year voted my Estate out of his [p. 22] Hands as they said I was an Absentee and forbad him having any thing further to do with it whereupon he applied to the General Court by Petition but could not get it reversed tho it past by no great Majority an answer to which I have wrote Doct. Tufts and desir'd him and Mr Hall to apply to Mr Dana or some other good Lawyer to draft up for him and Mr Hall to sign a suitable Petition or Memorial in my name and behalf and as my Attornies to the General Assembly setting forth the services I have formerly done the Province in my Legislative Capacity the true cause of my leaving the Province at the commencement of the War and the perfectly inoffensive conduct I have observ'd since and that I have not only shewn my compassion for the poor American Prisoners but my regard to my Country by giving last year to Mr Boddington The Treasurer of the Society for that purpose Six Guineas towards their relief and I wish it had been in my power to have given Ten times as much and that I have occasionally assisted my Countrymen here who ask'd assistance of me by giving some a Guinea and some Two Guineas as their necessities requir'd and I could spare the Money and pray that the Act so far as relates to me may be repeal'd and that they as my Attornies may be permitted to take Possession of the Charge I have by my Power committed into their Hands and the Rents and Issues of my Estate be appropriated to my use and further that I have no doubt on such a representation of my true Character and such a Prayer that Relief will be obtain'd and that they must also mention in the Memorial that it is my purpose and intention as soon as my Health will permit to return and reside in America I should have return'd with Mr Brattle when he went and even now with Mr Salter by this opportunity but my Health will not admit of it and besides I have lately been inform'd that [break in Ms.] Act past in the General Court or Assemby that any Person who has left the Massachusetts without leave and come to Great Britain who shall presume to return without leave [p. 23] from the Assembly to any part of the Massachusetts shall be sent back to the Kings Troops if they are able at their own expense if not to be paid by the Public and if ever they return again they are to be deem'd to forfeit their lives and to suffer Death without benefit of Clergy this I can hardly believe for I have never seen the Act tho I have made strict enquiry after it but have not been able to obtain it and what is very surprising I am inform'd my Name is mention'd in the Act likewise which I can scarcely believe as I had done every thing in my power to serve the Province but Business and my ill state of Health made me leave it. Now I request the favor of you as you are acquainted with the Gentlemen of the General Court and the Council that you would speak to them in my behalf and use your influence that my Attornies may improve my Estate for my use and that I may have leave to return home as you knew my conduct and character while I was concern'd in Public affairs and that I ever was a true Friend to the Province and I shall think it both my Duty and advantage as soon as I have leave to return home and get a good Wife as I have had an exceedingly good Wife already I hope I shall in some measure make up my loss (for I think it now my Duty to marry as I have had the misfortune of losing my beloved Daughter Lady Pepperrell) by getting another in my own Country and among my acquaintance and live and end my Days among you and be buried with my dear Wife and Father and Mother and the rest of my dear Friends hoping I shall hear from you soon I shall conclude with wishing you the continuance of your Health and every other Blessing and remain with my Respects to your Family and to your Brother Mr Hastings and his Wife and to all our Cambridge Friends

Dear Sir


Friend and h'ble Servt [p. 24]

P. S. I have taken this opportunity by Capt. Salter to send you a pair of the best Temple Spectacles with Silver Bows in a case with the Initials of your Name upon it which I beg your acceptance of as a token of my Respect and hope they will suit your Eyes. I have likewise sent you my own Picture fram'd in Profile and enclos'd the Picture of a surprising Musical Child the admiration of the whole Kingdom and a thing that perhaps mayn't happen again in a Century Mr Salter saw it with me and will be able to give you a more particular account of it

The above went by Capt. M. Salter but for fear you should not get it I send this copy by Mr Oliver Smith who will be able to inform you of my health &c and am with respects to yourself and Family and all Cambridge Friends

Dear Sir


Friend & h'ble Servt


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