1837: Dr. Benjamin Abbot to Rev. Abiel Abbot

This letter was written by Benjamin Abbot (1762–1849) —  an American schoolteacher. His most significant work was his work as a teacher at the Phillips Exeter Academy.

Benjamin was born in Andover, Massachusetts, the son of John Abbot from a family settled in Andover since its earliest days. He entered Phillips Academy, Andover in 1782, then entered Harvard University, graduating in 1788. He married his first wife, Hannah Tracy Emery, in 1791. Later, in 1798, he married again, to Mary Perkins. He had four children.

In 1811, he received a LLD degree from Dartmouth College. He was a teacher and the principal of the Phillips Exeter Academy, teaching such subjects as Latin, Greek, and mathematics. His students included such prominent individuals as Lewis Cass, Daniel Webster, Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, and Francis Bowen. Daniel Webster paid tribute to him at his retirement.

He died in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1849. Abbot Hall, the oldest dormitory at Phillips Exeter Academy, is named for Benjamin Abbot, the school’s second principal.

Abbot wrote the letter to his relative, Rev. Abiel Abbot (1765-1859) — a Unitarian minister who is said to have originated the idea of a free, tax-supported public library. A Harvard graduate in 1787, Abbot taught in Phillips Andover Academy until 1789, studied theology, and worked as a missionary in Maine. In 1794 he tutored Greek in Harvard. In 1795, he was ordained a minister of a church in Coventry, Connecticut, then dismissed in 1811 because of some of his theological opinions. Until 1819, he taught at the Dummer Academy, then became a farmer in North Andover until 1827, when he became pastor of church in Peterborough, New Hampshire, until 1848. Abbott in 1811 published an account of his difficulty with the Coventry congregation. In 1829 he wrote History of Andover, and in 1847 he wrote the Genealogy of the Abbot Family.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Rev’d Abiel Abbot, Peterborough, New Hampshire

Exeter, [New Hampshire]
February 25, 1837

My dear Brother,

Page 1

Our brother reached this place last evening at eight o’clock, fatigued & chilled with cousin Ann, whom he took from Beverly the day before; & rode all day in the snow storm & reached Andover eight or nine at night — destitute of money — & clothing & equipments suitable to such exposure. He left us this morning for Portland from necessity as he said, & could no be persuaded to remain longer with us. Of his movements after he left you, we could gather little. He is cautious of relating his movements here knowing we do not approve his eccentric rovings alone at this inclement season. He seemed more excited than we have seen him — his confidence in his own powers physical & intellectual much elevated.

Page 2

I had received a line from his guardian, Mr. Steele, written on the day he left Portland, informing that he left Waterford displeased with Mr. Douglass for attempting to obstruct his extravagant plans for wasting his property — & the imposition of worthless fellows who were fleecing him of it. Mr. Steele declined furnishing him with money hoping to prevent his exposure in the plight he was in to his friends this way & to the dangers he would be exposed to at this season, but without effect. I am sorry to find he is losing confidence in his best friends & transferring it to himself. They, I fear, have a hard task to manage with him. Mrs. Douglass told him, by way of discussion, that we should not be glad to see him & he avoided us on his way up & I thought it best to follow up the hint, & assured him that as much as his friends this way loved him, we were sorry to see him here under his present circumstances. I fear he has laid his friends under contributions, where he has stopped both of money & anxiety. I am grieved that a brother whom we have long loved for his generous benevolent character — after a long life of useful service, should be left in his old age to weaken the very favorable impression of character already made on those who will remember him. But his friends have this satisfaction & it is no small one; that it is not vice, but misfortune, that brought him to his present state of mind, & my most constant & ardent prayer is that I may not be left to a similar state of mind.

Page 3

But forgive me this hasty scrawl. I was desirous of complying with your request & ___ing myself to the continuance of your favors, which we value much. We are gratified to hear that you & yours, whom we cordially greet, are now so well. I have been confined for a week past by a severe cold or influenza, but am again out. My wife too has had her rheumatics & a throw from the sleigh, but is tolerably recovered from both.

Yours affectionately, — B. Abbot


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