Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 147

Price Realized: $ 625
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 600 - $ 900
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--1776.) Eleazer Fitch. A Loyalist Connecticut sheriff complains of his unfair treatment, and hints at retribution. Autograph Letter Signed "Fitch" to his brother [Samuel Fitch?]. One page, 9 x 7 inches; moderate wear at folds, laid down on tissue. [Windham, CT], circa October 1776

Additional Details

This letter is the key turning point in an interesting story, though if you are squeamish about bad language you might want to skip to the next lot. Eleazer Fitch (1726-1796) was a very prominent resident of rural Windham, CT: a Yale graduate, sheriff from 1752 to 1776, colonel in the French and Indian War, and a huge man for his era at 6'4" and 300 pounds. In the 1770s, Windham became one of the more radical towns in eastern Connecticut, but Fitch did not join in the sentiment, and became an increasingly outspoken Tory. By 1774, the town radicals had arranged a total boycott on Fitch, but he remained sheriff. Even after independence was declared, when Tories were being rounded up across the new nation, the people of Windham petitioned the state government in September 1776 only to remove Fitch as sheriff--either out of deference to his high station or naked physical fear. While this petition was being considered, the local Committee of Inspection intercepted a damning letter from Fitch--the letter offered here:

"It will be no news to tell you the infamous storey of my treatment here as you must have heard it before this time. They begin to be very much ashamed of their conduct, and I believe wish most heartily they had let me alone. Butt whether that be so or not, I despise them all together. That you may rely upon is a sacred truth. I am not att liberty to say many things that I want to communicate to you. Butt the time will soon com, I hope, when we may all speak our minds without fear or restraint."

The letter, which concludes with family pleasantries and travel plans, was written to a known Tory, likely his brother Samuel Fitch (1724-1799), a Boston attorney. Despite this evidence, and having in another instance told the governor and council to take "his sheriff's commission and wipe there damned arses with it," Fitch was not brought to trial for disloyalty until September 1778. Even then, despite substantial evidence, he was acquitted. By this point, though, he was ostracized and rapidly sinking into debt. He moved to Nova Scotia at the end of the war. Part of this letter was published (without giving a source) in William Willingham's "The Strange Case of Eleazer Fitch: Connecticut Tory," in the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, July 1975 (40:3), page 75-79.