• 1814 American Merchant Frederick Wm Paine Wants Jefferson Gunboats; Critical Of Sloppy Fort Construction

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    2 ½ pp, 7 ½ x 9, Puto Penang, March 16th, 1814, FREDERICK WILLIAM PAINE, ALS, to J.W. Starke in Calcutta.  Paine was one of the third generation of Paines, originating in Worcester, MA. He traveled widely as an agent of J. & T. H. Perkins. In the late 1820s, he settled in Worcester and involved himself in local affairs.  He married Ann Cushing Sturgis and they had two children.


    Paine provides a colorful description of his ship and the nearby fort in Puto Penang and its artillery, with an interesting remark that he would like to see two or three of Mr. Jefferson’s gunboats come and lie in the town.  Although Thomas Jefferson was no longer president, the U.S. was in the middle of a war against Great Britain (War of 1812) because Britain and France were harassing American ships.  Paine feels the artillery in the fort is so sloppily arranged that he doesn’t have to worry about it firing upon the ship.  He writes, “I can see the head and shoulders of the sentinels who walk in this hideous abyss.”


    Paine’s letter to Starke begins, “The Cambridge being on the eve of sailing for Calcutta, I must just inform you that we arrived here on the 15th after an…uninteresting passage during which I could find nothing to amuse myself with but a playful shield of Capt. Hampton’s and a funny little puppy dog Capt. Smith has got, and who will have to be my principal amusement on the remaining passage. I have not been onshore yet as I have been severely visited by your friend, the toothache, which has had the effect of making me quite sick. However, I shall muster up courage I believe tomorrow and go to town…The place looks well enough, 3 miles off, that is to say that as pleasant as high hills and green trees commonly look; but it is dreadfully hot notwithstanding the atmosphere is on fire with constant flashes of lightning all night as well as the ship is in a constant agitation. You know I have no great opinion of Yankees in the construction of Forts but my opinion is considerably heightened in their favour once I have been in this place, at least I am sensible that even John Bull can commit errors and oversights in the science of fortifications. You must know that they have a fort which is said to have been everted in order to defend the town and harbor.  I can count forty embrasures from the ship which are doubtless supplied with as many guns. From this redoubtable fort we lie a short mile and directly in front of its…extensive side. This tier of artillery would frighten us a little but luckily it is so sagaciously arranged that not a single individual gun of the whole forty could by any common means be brought to bear upon us. This consideration allows us to sleep in quiet. And then the ditch!  I can see the head and shoulders of the sentinels who walk in this hideous abyss. I would like to see two or three of Mr. Jefferson’s notorious gunboats come and lie in the town under contribution from where we now lie. It could be done so cooly and quietly.


    “I am quite pleased with my accommodation on board. I have one half the great cabin and a quarter gallery to my own use and benefit. Capt. Smyth is also a very good sort of a man, rough outside with good heart beneath. He feeds us well and were his wine a little better, I should have nothing to complain of…


    “P.S. I smoke six cheroots a day…I believe it is because I have no one to join with me in the business for a hearty smoke, like yourself.”


    Folds, light toning. Overall excellent condition and a wonderful early merchant letter written during the War of 1812.


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