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1824 Historic Letter to General William Barton While in Debtor's Prison Regarding the General's Pension Certificate and General Lafayette's Visit... Pleading for His Return

General WILLIAM BARTON, (1748-1831). 1775 enlisted in the Continental Army, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1777, he led a daring raid on British Army headquarters, capturing Major General Richard Prescott and was honored with a Presentation Sword by a Resolution of the Continental Congress.

September 10, 1824-Dated, Important Autograph Letter Signed, "Jno B. Barton," (John Barton, the Son of Revolutionary War General William Barton), Providence, Rhode Island, Choice Very Fine. This original Handwritten Letter is dated September 10, 1824, at the time General Marquis de Lafayette was on his historic return tour of America from France. This Letter has 1.5 pages on one sheet front & back. It is nicely written in rich brown on fine quality watermarked laid period paper with one trivial internal fold split, overall measuring 7.75" x 10". John Barton has written his father, the famous American Revolutionary War General William Barton, regarding the arrival of the General's Pension Certificate, and also mentions his attempt at meeting with General Lafayette during a recent visit.

At age 77, General William Barton was finally released from Danville Prison in Vermont having been imprisoned for debt. His release was made possible by the initiative of the visiting Marquis de Lafayette. Learning of General Barton's distress was likely from John Barton himself, who expresses his intention to meet with Lafayette on a later occasion in this very Letter. It was indeed Lafayette who agreed to pay the balance of General Barton's court fine debt and win his release. This wonderful, historic and extremely personal letter expresses John Barton's concern that his father is basically in Prison as a matter of his personal pride and on principle! An amazing, important letter to General Barton, written by his son John, with an insightful prediction of the future release (aided by Lafayette). It reads, in full:

"Dear Father, -- I herewith inclose your original (Revolutionary War) Pension Certificate hoping that you may have made up your mind to make the best of a bad affair and return to your connections and friends in this Town. You may rely upon it you have many Friends in this place who have not forgotten you, and who are continually asking after you and enquiring why you do not return, saying that it is a shame for you, in your declining years to be from your Family, as all this I believe to be true, and knowing as I do that you can by a small sacrifice return, I am many times at a loss how to answer them. - When Gen. Lafayette was here numbers said to me how I wish your Father was here to see him.

I was not introduced to the General in consequenceof his short Stay and my own modesty in not oushiung forward enough thru (the) crowd, when he again visits this place I calculate on an introduction to him and should you not be here, shall certainly mention something of your situation but I should be mortified to inform him that you were confined in prision when you have property enough to keep you clear of such places. Your Pension arrive in April is at interest and ready at a fortnight. Notice, had you not better draw your Pension for the last six months. Put them together an(d) if it is not enough we will raise some money here, and make a compromise with the Vermonters, one thing I do desire respecting this business, that is, that you will go to the Prison of giace and ask direction from the heavanly Father whether under all circumstances you ought not to Return; thus going without any will of your own.

I believe the path of duty will be made plain before you and God will enable you to walk therein, respecting you will which you desire advice about. I have only to say; that Uncle Thornton and others do not Know what advice to offer without a statement of your concerns in Vermont,

Brother Robert in his last letter to me gives the following inteligence that he has 5000 Acres of Land and personal property to pay his debt, although he complains of the scarcity of money in the Country. The Family is in usual health and are sending rememberance to you with many of your friendsin this place. I hope you will give the subject matter of this Letter a careful and ( - ) consideration. Although it has been so many times the subject of other Letters. Thus much more I will say that is firmely Fixed in my mind; that your duty to your Family & Friends, to your Country and your God requires of you your immediate return to this place. And that God may in his infinite mercy direct your mind into the Service of duty and enable you to perform the same as the Sincere Prayers of your Affectionate Son. -- (Signed) Jno B. Barton".

Expected folds with minor paper loss, some dampstaining, otherwise fine condition.

Additional Information:

William Barton (1748-1831) was an officer in the Continental Army during the American War of Independence who retired with the rank of colonel. He later served as Adjutant General of the Rhode Island militia. Barton was born in Warren, Rhode Island on May 26, 1748. He worked as a hatter in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1771, he married Rhoda Carver.

In 1775, he enlisted in the Continental Army as a corporal. Barton fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1777, as a major in the Rhode Island State Militia with the Continental Army, he planned and led a raid on British headquarters, capturing Major General Richard Prescott.

For this heroic exploit, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and honored by a resolution of the Continental Congress. When Rhode Island ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1790, Barton was sent to New York to notify George Washington.

In 1781, Barton petitioned the governor of Vermont for a grant of unsettled land near the Canadian border. He was joined in this petition by Ira Allen (brother of Ethan), John Paul Jones, and others. The town of Barton, VT came into existence at this time.

Then Col. Barton was jailed over a land dispute. He refused to pay a Real Estate Tax on some land he had sold to another party, named Wadhams. This put the land Title in dispute. Wadhams found out about that, and then repurchased the land from yet another man, and then demanded that General Barton return his money to him.

After several court actions, Barton was ordered to pay back the original amount, plus court costs. He refused to do this, insisting he would "go to jail and rot" before paying. In 1812, Barton was imprisoned in Danville for his refusal to pay.

At the age of seventy-seven, he was finally released at the initiative of the visiting Marquis de Lafayette, who agreed to pay the balance of his fine. Barton died on October 22, with the year of death being given variously as 1831 or 1833. He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island. Fort Barton in Rhode Island was named after William Barton.
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