Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: The Pastor's Salary Under A Depreciated Currency

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The Pastor's Salary Under A Depreciated Currency

On account of the depreciation of the paper currency, the value of Mr. Cotton's salary was considerably less, a few years after his settlement, than at the time when the contract with him was made. To indemnify him for this loss, the town at many different times, granted to him additional sums. The first instance of such a grant was on the 13th of March, 1739, when the sum of £20 money in bills of credit was voted to him for the ensuing year. The same sum was voted from year to year, till 1743, when it was voted to add £40 old tenor to his salary for the ensuing year. In March of the year preceding, the town also voted "that the Revd. Mr. Cotton should have a contribution given him by the town on the sacramental Sabbath in April for his more than ordinary labors among his people that year."

There is no intimation in the last vote as to the occasion of the increase of the pastor's labor at that time. On turning to the church records, however, it will be seen that there was then an unusual amount of religious interest in the town. It was the period of "The Great Awakening" -- the time when Rev. George Whitefield was laboring with great success among the New England churches. The pastor of this church sympathized with Mr. Whitefield in his views and practices. As the result of the awakening in this town, ninety-three persons were received to the First Church during the year 1742. Of this number, forty-one were admitted in March, and thirty-three in April. At this time, the limits of the parish had been very much reduced, on account of the formation of the church and parish in the north part of the town, a few years before.

A contribution for Mr. Cotton was afterward taken in the month of April, annually, the town voting it from year to year, and generally without assigning any particular reason; but in 1743 it was said to be "for his great labor," and in 1745, "for ye support of ye Lecters."

As the currency depreciated, the sum voted, to make good the pastor's salary, was necessarily increased, till in 1750 his £120 had become £480 old tenor. After this, for several years, the annual salary was £360. In 1756 however, the currency still depreciating, £560 were paid. The next year, Col. John Weeks, Capt. Jonathan Moulton and Jonathan Shaw were chosen a committee to determine what sum should be allowed. In this manner or by the selectmen, the sum needed to make good the salary was determined annually, during the remainder of Mr. Cotton's ministry.

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