[AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED, FROM WILLIAM ELLERY TO HIS DAUGHTER, ALMY, SENDING ADVICE AND GOOD WISHES FOR HER RECOVERY FROM ILLNESS]
by Ellery, William
Newport, 1803. pp. Small quarto, on a folded folio sheet. Old folds. Closed tear, with minor loss, repaired on first leaf. Small loss to second leaf from wax seal, affecting four lines of text (about ten words). Lightly soiled. Good. In a folio- sized tan cloth folder, gilt leather label. William Ellery, a Rhode Island lawyer and politician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, writes to his daughter, Almy Stedman, dispensing concern and advice for Almy's health. Ellery (1727-1820) was by turns a merchant, a customs collector, and a clerk before taking up the law in 1770. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1776, where he signed the Declaration of Independence and served until 1785, while simultaneously holding office on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Ellery was the first Collector of Customs for the port of Newport under the dictates of the new federal Constitution, a position he held until his death in 1820. In this letter he dispenses fond advice to his daughter, Almy, wife of U.S. Congressman William Stedman, who represented Massachusetts in the legislature. Stedman was elected to Congress in March 1803, and, as the letter notes, he was away attending to the needs of his constituents. Ellery's letter encourages Almy to keep a calm mind and body, defer cleaning her house, and to take the open air. He closes with news of some friends. His letter reads, in part: "Your infirm state requires great attention, and fortitude of mind, especially at this juncture, when he who was faithful, and provided almost every thing for his family, is gone to fulfill his engagements to his constituents, and the whole care of it is devolved upon you. It is vain to repine and give way to any things which occur in this checker'd state. What cannot be corrected becomes lighter by patience, and I need not even hint to whom we are to repair when we are in affliction....I wish you had a cordial companion to converse with, and to participate in the cares of your family. But if such an one cannot be obtained, you must not suffer the weakness of your disposition to induce any bodily or mental fatigue. You must not iron; nor exercise the brush or broom; and you are not to be distressed if the tables and hand irons should not shine; nor even if a web should be woven in the obscure corner of one of your rooms. Your exercise is to be taken in the open air, whenever the weather will permit, and you are to preserve a mind as composed as possible, let what will happen. I know it is much easier to give advice than to take it, and Dean Swift, in his manner, has observed that he never knew a person who could not bear the affliction of another perfectly like a Christian....Altho' I have for a long course of years endeavored to stand buff against the calamities of life, and, perhaps...appeared not to be possessed of those very fine feelings with which your delicate spirits are tormented...I am a Father, and never gave a stone to a child when it asked for a fish. I hope I shall not be thought too apt to give advice. That which I have given and now give to you I am sure will, if it be complied with, prove beneficial."
(Inventory #: WRCAM42841)
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