Sent to Samuel Helme at Tower Hill (now South Kingston), Rhode Island: 1794. Envelope or Cover. This two-page stampless letter measures approximately 6.5” x 7.75”. It is dated “May the 2: 1794” and sent by Samuel Potter in reply to a letter from Samuel Helme at Tower Hill, Rhode Island. It bears no postmark indicating that it was hand carried, perhaps by “Esquire Browne,” the man the text notes delivered Helme’s letter to Potter. The letter is in nice shape. A transcript will be provided.
In this letter to Sam’l Helme Esqr, Deputy Governor (and future Senator) Potter defends his brother who, after suffering intensive verbal abuse from a female enemy of the family had even trespassed onto his property to berate him, whipped the woman with a birch, i.e. a bundle of several smooth leafless twigs:
“I Recd yours by Esqr Browne wherein you mentioned that Ruhamah Lock has maid a complaint against my Brother Christy for beating her. . .. Birching or a pare of Bridel Raines to her I should think Aught not to be Noticed as I am shure she is as foule a mouth person as ever I heard & as Abrasive. She has bin by my Howse for three or foure Days past with her Sausey Jaw, & has said Every thing about him that her Toung Coud Express I am shure was it in my place as it is in his I would get me a passal of Burches & would whip her till I maid her Tung still about me for that is all the satisfaction a man can have. . .. Sam’l Congdon & Silvester Robinson may Incorig hur as much as they pleas I no it is nuts for them for they have a Dislike for Oure family & I dispise them as much, & I believe they would bite if they had a chance, Congdon & Robinson recommended her to you Christy could not go about the Farme but what she would run & meet him in order to give him sum of her sausey jaw & I do not blame him for whipping her and shall support him in it as far as my power for I due not believe there is a man on Earth that had any sperit but what would have dun as he did as for the Law I no Every Justice is clothed with power to take notis of Complaints that [are] Just & Honorable & there is also discreationery power expected what aught to be noticed but as for that I shall leave that for you to judg of these. . .." Very good. Item #009420
From the context of Potter’s letter, Helme may have been a justice of the peace or similar official at Town Hill as he took the woman’s complaint. Further, Potter’s closing statements appear to remind him that while judges must act upon “Just & Honorable” complaints, they should use their discretion and ignore those that are unfounded. Clearly, he is attempting to convince Helme that his brother’s action was justified and that the complaint filed against him was part of a continuing vendetta by enemies--probably political--of his family. A remarkable, eye-opening letter that vividly documents an 18th century point of view that is considerably different than those held today.