Ezekiel Williams to Oliver Wolcott, 1785

Print of a post rider on horseback
image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Ezekiel Williams (1729-1818) was a successful merchant from Wethersfield, Connecticut and an extremely energetic public servant. A contemporary account observes that “[h]is zeal was boiling.” Williams was a captain in the Continental Army in 1761, sheriff of Hartford County, Connecticut from 1767 to 1789 and a member of the Committee of the Pay Table for Connecticut beginning in 1775. This letter was written by Williams when he was U.S. Deputy Commissary of Prisoners for Connecticut.

Williams’ letter is a frantic appeal to Oliver Wolcott, a member of the Committee of the Pay Table in Connecticut for help in settling his financial affairs. Williams describes his arrival in New York City (then the capital of the United States), the difficulty he encountered there and his current situation that forced him to remain in New York until his business was successfully concluded. Williams keenly felt the separation from his family, which was quite large – 11 children and 50 grandchildren. This sentiment provides a glimpse of a man known for his affection, hospitality and fatherly dedication.

Although Williams was not authorized to frank this letter, he evaded the need for postage another way. The message on the cover provides detailed delivery instructions to Mr. Curly, a post rider, whom Williams engaged to carry his letter “by favor.” Williams left his letter open and unsealed so that it would not have to be placed into the official mails and could instead be carried to Wolcott in Hartford, Connecticut.

Full Size Cover | Transcript

Full Size Letter | Transcript

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