News of 1803

Photo of hollyhock bloom white with purple veins
From my garden this year, an extra-pretty hollyhock.
From The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, January 24, 1803, U.S. Library of Congress
[A weekly feature, sampling the news and opinions our ancestors might have been reading.]


Message from the President of the United States

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives


I enclose a report of the Secretary at War, stating the trading houses established in the Indian territories, the progress which has been made in the course of the last year, in settling and marking boundaries with the different tribes, the purchases of lands recently made from them, and the prospect of further progress in marking boundaries, and new extinguishments of title in the year to come, for which some appropriations of money will be wanting.

To this I have to add that when the Indians ceded to us the Salt Springs on the Wabash, they expressed a hope that we would so employ them as to enable them to procure there necessary supplies of salt. Indeed it would be the most proper and acceptable form in which the annuity could be paid which we propose to give them for the cession. These springs might at the same time be rendered eminently serviceable to our western inhabitants, by using them as a means of counteracting the monopolies of the supplies of salt, and of reducing the price in that country to a just level. For these purposes a small appropriation would be necessary to meet the first expenses, after which they should support themselves, and repay those advances. The springs are said to possess the advantage of being accompanied with a bed of coal.



January 13, 1803


Note, above, our third president proposes as the best solution to paying the annuity the U.S. government owes the Indians who’d just ceded rights to the salt springs, giving them salt from the springs! 



[A conflagration in the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire]


The late terrible fire with which Divine Providence has visited us, in a view of all circumstances, is believed to be without parallel in our common country. This town retarded in its early growth by many causes, seemed beginning to overcome those obstacles, when the revolutionary war, by its necessary effects, nearly annihilated its former and principal branches of Commerce. It was just emerging from this state; its trade began to revive and increase, and particularly in the central part of the town; where great exertions were made, and much money was laid out to render it commodious for the purpose, and even to embellish it.

This fair and beautiful part of the Town has in one short day become a heap of ashes and rubbish; exhibiting such a scene of devastation and ruin, as gives fresh pain at every new view. The number and value of the streets totally, or in a great measure destroyed— The number of inhabitants now exposed to sufferings and hardships, beyond the relief rendered by their sympathizing neighbors— The aged and infirm, widows and orphans unhoused in mid-winter— The stagnation of business, excepting the labor, patiently submitted to, and going on, of rearing or fitting up shelters for persons and property rescued from the flames— The great destruction of books, accounts, and papers of very great value— The inability of the inhabitants of the town, to preserve, without assistance, its trade with the interior, ready to fly off in many directions— And finally, the damages consequential to such a state of ruin, which, tho’ they may be conceived, baffle all description and calculation— ALL CONCUR to plead powerfully with the opulent and the prosperous; indeed with all in a comfortable state, who feel themselves exposed to like calamities, that relief is peculiarly desired and solicited— But injustice would be done to our own feelings, to those of our suffering friends and neighbors, to those of our benevolent fellow citizens in the union, did we not declare that the smallest donations which may be made by the compassionate of every class, will be gratefully received and with all others faithfully appropriated. This town has cheerfully had a fellow-feeling on like calamities taking place in distant parts of the union, and has no doubts of experiencing the sympathy it feels bound to shew.









Charleston, January 10



A plan of the most daring nature to rob the vaults of this bank, was discovered during the night of Friday last and on Saturday morning. About three weeks ago a corporal of the city guard informed the porter of the bank, that while standing at the corner of the bank, he heard a noise of some person working under the ground or in the bank. Mr. Harvey, the deputy sheriff, having heard the same noise, gave the like information; but on examination, nothing of the kind being discovered, it was tho’t no more of; but on Friday night about eleven o’clock, Mr. M’Neil and his clerks, who live at the corner opposite the bank, observed a man lurking about the pavement next to the bank wall, who frequently stooped down to the pavement as if in the act of listening; struck by his conduct they went out, when the man made off. On examining the pavement, they found a brick loose and out of its place; supposing that this was the beginning of an attempt, they gave no alarm that night; in the morning, the place was again looked at, when the brick was found in its place, and some fresh earth spread over it. On taking up this brick, it was discovered that the earth below was taken away, or had caved in. On digging a little way down, a large vacancy was discovered, and some provision found lying at the bottom, also some tools by which the excavation had been made. Immediately after, the legs of a man were seen, who appeared to be desirous of retreating to the drain in the street, but was prevented, the earth that had fallen in having blocked up the passage. Convinced that he could not escape, he told those at work to unearth him, that if they would stop, he would deliver himself up, this being affected to, he came up, was apprehended and immediately committed to jail. On examination, his name is found to be William Withers, that he came to this city about a year past from Kentucky, that he had brought some horses, which he had disposed of, and spent the money. It is also known that during the last summer, he was very sick in this city, and being destitute of money, he had been obliged to lay in the Hay-Market of South Bay, he was there seen by a benevolent gentleman of this city, who had him removed to his house, had medical assistance given, and supported him until his recovery, he then suddenly disappeared; it is supposed that he then began the nefarious business he was detected in; he says that he entered the public drain of Church-street, near the French church, on the 10th of October last, and that he had been underground ever since, but from appearances it is believed he had progressed from the grating which is in the intersection of Broad and Church streets. At any rate he had worked through the palisade wall, and through the foundation of the bank, the latter of which is three feet and a half thick, this brought him to the wood cellar; a considerable quantity of wood here prevented his progress to the vaults, but it is believed, that had he not been discovered, he would have found means to remove this. He owns, which cannot be doubted, that he has accomplices. On Saturday a man named William Butner was apprehended about eight miles from the city; he is the man Mr. M’Neil and his clerks saw; another man, named Abner Robinson, has been committed by James Bentham, esq., who is charged with being an accomplice. As the court of session is to sit shortly, no doubt but it will be in our power to give a fuller account of this daring combination of villains.





(2019, Stephanie Foster)



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