1845: Isaac B. Barber to Hon. Marcus Morton

This letter requesting a government job was written by Isaac B. Barber (1787-1864) who was married to Nancy Chandler (1796-1851). The couple had nine children, seven of whom were living when this letter was written in 1845. Isaac was the son of David Barber and Lois Dutton. Nancy Chandler was the daughter of Clark Chandler and Nancy Lyon.

Gov. Marcus Morton

Isaac wrote the letter to the Hon. Marcus Morton (1784-1864) — a lawyer, jurist, and politician from Taunton, Massachusetts. He represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and served two terms as 16th and 18th Governor of Massachusetts, as well as a portion of an unexpired term in 1825, as Acting Governor.

In 1845 President Polk appointed Morton collector of the port of Boston; he served four years. In 1848 he refused to run for Vice President with Van Buren, as he could not bring himself to bolt his party. However, his life-long opposition to slavery led him to join the Free Soil Party. He was a delegate of that party to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853, and was elected on its ticket to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1858, serving one term.

Morton was a man of unquestioned honesty, whose poise, serenity, and character made him generally admired. In his championship of the lower classes, his distrust of over-large corporations, and his advocacy of shorter working hours he was a man ahead of his time (perhaps accounting for his somewhat sporadic level of political success). He was an overseer of Harvard University for thirty-two years.

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Addressed to Hon. Marcus Morton, Taunton, Massachusetts

Halifax, Vermont
March 21, 1845

Hon. Marcus Morton

Dear Sir,

Being in much tribulation, and advanced in years with many infirmities – having a large family and a small farm upon which I cannot labor – without any professional business or friends in political life, or acquaintances, even, in this state to whom I can apply for a helping hand in this extremity, I have thought of you, only, as able and perhaps willing to aid me in the attainment of some appointment under the General Government is some of the Executive Department at Washington – in the Custom House at Boston, or elsewhere – or some other business, for which you may deem me qualified. And I beg leave to remark that I was appointed a Clerk in the General Land Office early in 1837 at a salary of $1,000 for annum, upon which I exchanged the little real estate we had in Colerain [Massachusetts] for this farm, and after about 2 ½ years, I returned here, being then unable to live in W. and greatly embarrassed by losses and the cares of this farm. My commendatory notices for the attainment of that appointment were then forwarded to Washington by Mr. Henshaw and were urged upon the particular consideration of the President. It is now eight years since I left Massachusetts, and have not continued either business, or social relations with my former friends there – and having been occupied almost exclusively with this little farm since my return from Washington.

I have formed no acquaintance with any democratic gentleman in political life in this State, of whose friendship and influence I can now avail myself for the attainment of this object of my present wishes. It has occurred to me, that if you deem me worthy of your sympathy and aid, you may through Mr. Bancroft, at Washington, obtain for me something that may effectually and fully relieve me from this grievous pressure, and prolong my days in the land of the living. I am now 57 and have a wife and seven children yet with me, and feel that my former salary of $1,000 would be now, as it was then, inadequate to our support. I beg leave to say, sir, that there are very many clerkships in all the Departments of 1200 – 1300 – 1400 – 1500 and 1700 & 1800 dollars – and even in the Land Office, the salary of the Records is $2,000 or 2,500. That of the Solicitor is about the same. I beg leave to ad___ also to the many Land Offices in the States & Territories – Requirements & Receiving, Collectorships, &c. &c.

If, sir, I have awakened your sympathy by this appeal, will you have the goodness to write to me, and direct me as to any preparatory action that may be suggested to your mind as either expedient or necessary.

I am, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant, — Isaac B. Barber


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