The Weare Papers and Gen. Moulton
By F. B. Sanborn
The Granite Monthly, 1909
Among his papers appear several memorials of a very different character, Colonel Jonathan Moulton of Hampton, whose fine old house, now going to decay, stands about two miles seaward from President Weare's, beyond the long causeway that connects the two villages of Hampton and Hampton Falls, along which the electric railway now runs, passing in sight of both houses. Moulton succeeded Col. Weare at the head of the Hampton regiment, and even rose to the rank of brigadier general; but he is very differently remembered by his neighbors and fellow-citizens. That caustic commentator on his contemporaries, William Plumer of Epping, senator in Congress, and for several years governor of New Hampshire, who could find no fault with Mr. Weare, had much to say against General Moulton, whom he knew personally and by repute in the courts and politics of the little state. In Plumer's diaries and letter-books, which several years ago passed under my inspection, occurs this passage about Moulton:
(Sept. 18, 1786). Jonathan Moulton Esq. of Hampton is the president of a self-created Convention at Rochester in Strafford County; and he is one of the Brigadier Generals of our militia. Here is his biography: His parents were poor, and lived in obscurity. Jonathan was bound apprentice to a cabinet-maker. When he was about 20 he purchased the residue of his time of service, and opened a huxter's shop. By his unwearied attention in buying and selling small articles, he soon became an extensive dealer in English and West India goods. The property that he obtained from a valuable ship wrecked on Hampton Beach, gave him increased credit and business. The instances of his fraud and deceit, injustice and oppression are numerous; he has reduced many families from affluence to beggary. For 20 years he has been a constant suitor in the courts of law, where he has often attempted to corrupt judges, bribe jurors, suborn witnesses, and seduce the counsel employed by his opponents. I have evidence of his conveying a right of land to a judge who was to decide the title to that and all the other lands that he claimed in that township. The fact was discovered, and the judge never decided the case. I know an instance of his making liberal promises to an influential juryman.
His own influence in the courts was extensive, and his success ruined many; but now he is unable to obtain justice. It is difficult to obtain a jury some of whom or their relations or connexions he has not wronged. A few months since, lamenting to me his condition, he said, "Such are the prejudices against me that I cannot obtain that common justice that is administered to the most obscure man."
He is the owner of immense tracts of uncultivated wilderness; he has expended much money in making settlements in new townships near Lake Winnipisiogee, and in making and repairing roads. In this point of view his labors have been useful to the country; but many of those settled in his townships complain of his having ruined them. Those most intimate with him censure him most.
He is a man of good natural abilities; his address is pleasing and his manners easy. He has uniformly and sedulously flattered the vices and follies of mankind. He does business with great despatch. He is hospitable at home and abroad, -- nay, more, he is often generous, even to profusion. Notwithstanding his immense tracts of land, the money due to him, and the relief he has obtained by the Tender Law, yet his debts, taxes and suits threaten him with imprisonment. This has made him an advocate for paper money."
Consequently General Moulton was a promoter of the insurrection in Rockingham County in 1786, which General Sullivan and the old soldiers of the Revolution so speedily suppressed in 1786, and which Plumer has graphically described. According to local tradition, Plumer was right in his description of this local usurer and venturesome speculator in wild lands. General Moulton was the by-word of the next generation for tricks and financial tyranny; so much so that he was charged with the old trade of selling his soul to the Devil for a bootful of money. It was asserted that in his fine new Hampton house, to which he invited his honest neighbor, Colonel Weare, to dinner, he had hung a cavalry boot in the fireplace of his ''parlor-chamber,'' which Satan promised to fill with gold doubloons. But the crafty colonel cut off the foot of his old boot, and before the silly Devil found it out, he had filled Colonel Moulton's chamber with the coveted gold. But Satan got even with him, for when he died, in 1787, according to Lydia Blaisdell. a hag whom I remember in her disgraced old age, she saw the Devil fly away with old Moulton across the ''heaterpiece'' or triangular corner lot near his house, the day of Moulton's death. It was in the later marsh season. September 18, 1787, and the haymakers were working on the extensive salt marshes between Hampton village and the Merrimack River. My grandfather. who remembered it well, assured me that the news of Moulton's death ran across the meadows as fast as a bird can fly, repeated from one gang of rakers to another. -- "The old devil's dead!" Perhaps his memory has suffered unjustly, but such was the fact.
Now among the Weare papers occurs the roll of Colonel Moulton's regiment, which the historian of Hampton supposed to be lost, and also this handsomely written invitation to dinner to his respectable neighbor across the Hampton River, on the hill near the Falls:
Colo Moulton's Compliments wait on his Excellency President Weare, & if his Health permits, will be exceeding glad to be honored with his Company at Dinner toDay; & if acceptable will direct his Carriage to wait on him 12 o'Clock, M.
Monday. A. M. 8 o'Clock.
The date of this ceremonious invitation is uncertain, but it was before 1783, and probably in 1782, when the stress of the war was over, and the failing old leader was willing to relax a little his strict attention to the business of his burdensome offices. He died a year and a half before his neighbor, General Moulton, although thirteen years older. But the perplexed merchant and land-speculator had grown old in those anxious days and years of which Plumer speaks, and was barely sixty-one at his unhonored and desired death. President Weare, on the other hand, though he did not reach the eighty-seven years of his much-traveled grandfather, had passed his three-score and ten at his demise in 1786, a little more than a year after he retired from the government of the state, which he more than any one man helped to create and set on its feet.