Dr. Alexander Hamilton had some fun at the expense of a nosy New Englander named Jerry Jacobs who accompanied him on his trip from Newbury, Mass., to Hampton, N.H. He recorded their dialogue as a typical specimen of his conversation with ‘these inquisitive rustics.’ Hamilton did not record what he said to a saucy fellow who ‘made free’ with his pistols, nor with the low rascally company in the house where he fed his horse.
Hamilton had left his home in Annapolis, Md., on May 30 and journeyed north with his slave, Dromo, to York in what is now Maine. The trip, by horseback and boat, took four months.
He published his lively and opinionated travel diary in a book he called Itinerarium, a rare account of colonial American life between 1730 and 1745.
On Aug. 1, 1740, Dr. Alexander Hamilton wrote about his trip to Portsmouth, N.H., in his Itinerarium:
Wednesday, August 1st.This morning proved very rainy, and therefore I did not set out till eleven o’clock. I crossed Newbury Ferry, and rid a pleasant even road, only somewhat stony, and in a perpetual drizzle, so that I could not have an advantageous view of the country round me. At half an hour after one I passed thro’ Hampton, a very long, scattered town.
Having proceeded some miles farther, I was overtaken by a man who bore me company all the way to Portsmouth. He was very inquisitive about where I was going, whence I came, and who I was. His questions were all stated in the rustic civil style. “Pray, sir, if I may be so bold, where are you going?” “Prithee, friend,” says I, “where are you going?” “Why, I go along the road here a little way.” “So do I, friend,” replied I. “But may I presume, sir, whence do you come?” “And from whence do you come, friend?” says I, “pardon me.” “From John Singleton’s farm,” replied he, “with a bag of oats.” “And I come from Maryland,” said I, “with a portmanteau and baggage.” “Maryland!” said my companion, “where the devil is that there place? I have never heard of it. But pray, sir, may I be so free as to ask your name?” “And may I be so bold as to ask yours, friend?” said 1. “Mine is Jerry Jacobs, at your service,” replied he. I told him that mine was Bombast Huynhym van Helmont, at his service. “A strange name indeed; belike you ‘re a Dutchman, sir,a captain of a ship, belike.” “No, friend,” says I, “I am a High German alchymist.” “Bless us! you don’t say so; that ‘s a trade I never heard of; what may you deal in, sir?” “I sell air,” said I. “Air,” said he, “damn it, a strange commodity. I ‘d thank you for some wholesome air to cure my fevers, which have held me these two months.” I have noted down this dialogue as a specimen of many of the same tenour I had in my journey when I met with these inquisitive rustics.
NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNMENT
HAVING now entered New Hampshire Government I stopped at a house within five miles of Portsmouth to bait my horses, where I had some billingsgate with a saucy fellow that made free in handling my pistols. I found a set of low rascally company in the house, and for that reason took no notice of what the fellow said to me, not being overfond of quarrelling with such trash. I therefore mounted horse again at half an hour after three, and having rid about two miles saw a steeple in a skirt of woods, which I imagined was Portsmouth; but when I came up to it, found it was a decayed wooden meeting house, standing in a small hamlet within two mile of Portsmouth. 414.
IN this part of the country one would think there were a great many towns by the number of steeples you see round you, every country meeting having one, which by reason of their slenderness and tapering form appear at a distance pretty high. I arrived in Portsmouth at four in the afternoon, which is a seaport town very pleasantly situated close upon the water, and nearly as large as Marblehead. It contains betwixt four and five thousand inhabitants. There are in it two Presbyterian meetings and one Church of England, of which last one Brown,’ an Irishman, is minister, to whom I had a letter recommendatory from Mr. Malcolm. I put up here at Slater’s, a widow woman, who keeps a very good house and convenient lodging. After I had dined, I waited upon Mr. Brown and he invited me to breakfast with him tomorrow. I returned to my lodging at eight o’clock, and the post being arrived, I found a numerous company at Slater’s reading the news. Their chitchat and noise kept me awake three hours after I went to bed.