George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Chace, 26 April 1792

From Samuel Chace

Providence April 26. 1792

Most Dear and Respectable Sire

Pray permit the address of your Servant who wishes every happiness to your Excellency. I Samuel Chace father in law to Majr William Blodget Son of John Chace Esqr. a Gentleman native of Barbadoes who married Honorably in Newport Anno 1713 and was a magistrate there much respected many years.1 A Church warden With Godfrey Malbone Esqr. the elder—They together with greatest zeal and exertion had built that noble edifice the Episcopal Church in that Town. Being left at my Hon’d Fathers death Anno 1738 I was kindly taken care of by my hond Uncle Danl Updike Esqr. King’s attorney or attorney General for the then Colony2 till Anno 1742: then being twenty years old he Kindly assisted me to Credit in a good Store of goods in which being attentive I soon paid for them and went into navigation with Governor Hopkins Judge Jenckes and other respectable Characters here3—were concerned in upwards twenty sail of vessels, but in the French and Spanish war by various ways and means lost my property.

When prosperous I entertained gratis all Gentlemen travellers passing thro’ Providence—In Anno 1754 I went to Philadelphia on a party of pleasure and was by good letters To Mr Franklin an invited guest at his house to dine with other Gentlemen, and I was his Deputy Post Master near ten years, and had the honor of his company to dine at my house. I have been honor’d in acquaintance in New York with many first Characters there and in Boston with Governors Shirley—Pownall—and Hutchinson, and with them dined by invitation—as also with very many first Merchants there where I was in good credit and trade for upwards thirty years—and have dined at sixteen different Gentlemens tables in Sixteen days there—Also at Portsmouth dined with the Elder Govr Wentworth and afterwards for a week with the principal Gentlemen of that Town—Sed Tempora Mutantur nos mutamur in illis.4

In Anno 1774 I was obliged to open house for boarding and had the pleasure of seeing at that time your excellency Genl of our armies at our house by invitation of Mr Blodget, and I then lodged all your life guard with pleasure gratis.5 When Genl Sullivan commanded here and we a garrison’d Town the Marquis Fayette visited him and us often upon business of importance, and we had as visitors and many of them lodgers—Genls Lee—Gates—Steuben—Lyncoln—How—Bailey—and Spensor—with Brigadiers Huntingdon Douglas—Glover—The Duke de Lauson—Starke—Varnum and Cornal.

I was honor’d in my early days in our Episcopal Church here—made a Warden anno 1743—and so—many times after, and ever since one of the Vestry and as a psalmodist to this day, in which I serve gratis. Mr Blodget served on our Organ for some years—my son Doctr John Chace succeeded him and served gratis near twenty6 years—he is very lately deceased to my great discomfort.7 When he married about 13 years since, I had with him and wife then attending the ceremony Twelve children reckoning my own and sons and daughters in law all men and women in full health rejoicing on the occasion—It has pleased God to take them almost all away since save only one daughter—one daughter in law—with Blodget and Malcolms 2 sons in Law—I have served this Colony and state as a justice of the peace from Anno 1754 to this year 1792—and held Commissions under nine different Governors—Being the eldest I’ve served as Coroner twenty three years—and as Notary Public twenty years past.

My house which has covered us near fifty years having suffered in trade, I was obliged to mortgage and that is now call’d for, so must I be deprived of not only a covering, but being no longer a free holder must of course lose the little offices also—Alas who is sufficient for such trials without the interposition of Gods great and peculiar mercy and grace!

May I not with the great Chaldean Job cry out pity me Oh my friends, for the heavy hand of affliction by Gods permission is upon me.8 My children as many as his and my property all gone—what can I do without some friendly assistance at seventy years of age—Oh the ways of God are unsearchable and past finding out—I see no way to keep up my spirits—my dignity—my power of doing good of which I have been formerly possessed.

Could I be so happy as to meet your excellencys pity and compassion under these my distressed circumstances how happy should I be—Oh! I beg your blessing as Esau of old begged of his father Jacob—saying hast thou not reserved a blessing for me—Bless me even me also O my father9—With prayers for Gods blessing upon your most important Person, I rest your humble faithful Servant.

L, RHi.

1Samuel Chace (b. 1722) was the eldest son of Capt. John Chace (d. 1738) and Anne Arnold Chace. He married Freelove Lippitt (c.1720–1801) in 1743, and the couple had ten children, including a daughter, Ann (Anne) Phillis, who married Maj. William Blodget (1754–1809). Blodget served as one of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene’s aides-de-camp between 1776 and 1779.

2Godfrey Malbone, Sr., was a prominent Newport merchant who outfitted privateers for the Royal Navy and served as a militia colonel during the 1740s and 1750s. Daniel Updike (c.1693–1757) served as attorney general for the colony of Rhode Island from 1722 to 1732 and from 1743 until his death. Updike’s first wife, Sarah Updike, was the daughter of Gov. Benedict Arnold.

3Stephen Hopkins (1707–1785) was a member of the Rhode Island general assembly 1732–52 and 1770–75, chief justice of the court of common pleas in 1739, chief justice of the superior court 1751–54 and 1773, and colonial governor 1755, 1756, 1758–61, 1763, 1764, and 1767. He also served in the Continental Congress 1774–76 and was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Judge William Jenckes (1675–1765) had been the first chief justice of the court of Providence, Rhode Island.

4The following translation appears in the margin: “But the times ⟨are altered⟩ and ⟨we are⟩ altered with them.” Chace is referring to Massachusetts governors William Shirley (1694–1771), Thomas Pownall (1722–1805), and Thomas Hutchinson (1711–1780) and Gov. Benning Wentworth (1696–1770) of New Hampshire.

5Chace probably is referring either to GW’s stay at Providence in April 1776 on his way to New York or his visit in March 1781 (see GW to Nicholas Cooke, 6 April 1776).

6“Ten” was later written in above this word.

7John Chace of Providence, R.I., headed a household of six persons in 1790 (Heads of Families [Rhode Island] description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Rhode Island. 1908. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1963. description ends , 34).

8Chace is quoting roughly from Job 19:21.

9Chace is quoting from Genesis 27:34. Jacob was Esau’s brother; Isaac was their father.

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