Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Mr. Thayer's Salary, Depreciated

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Mr. Thayer's Salary, Depreciated

As Mr. Thayer's ministry extended through the whole time of the American Revolution and of the Confederation that preceded the adoption of the Federal Constitution, he and his people were subject to the toils and trials attendant upon our country's struggle for liberty. The fluctuating state of the currency occasioned them not a little embarrassment. The people endeavored to act justly towards their minister, but on account of the great depreciation in the value of paper money, it was difficult to know when they had fulfilled the contract made with him at the time of his settlement.

The first vote on record regarding this subject was passed about three years after the commencement of the war, in these words:

"To make the Revd Mr. Thayer some consideration, on account of the depreciation of the money, by subscription." the sum raised is not known.

Near the close of the year, the town passed the following votes:

"To make the Rev. Mr. Thayer some allowance in consideration of the advanced prices of the necessaries of life."

"To raise £135, Lawful money, for Rev. Mr. Thayer over & above his money salary, for the present year, on account of the advanced prices, etc."

In the warrant for the next annual meeting the following article was inserted by request of ten or more of the inhabitants:

To see if the town will reconsider a vote passed the last town meeting to make an addition to the Rev. Mr. Thayer's salary for the year 1779."

This article called forth from Mr. Thayer the following communication:

"To the Inhabitants of the Town of Hampton in Town meeting assembled,Mar: 16th, 1779.


I am extremely sorry that any of my Friends -- for I esteem all my People Friends, tho' they don't think exactly with me -- should be uneasy on account of what the Town voted me at their last meeting, as a Compensation for the Fall of money. I mention this because I have been informed of some who petitioned to have it inserted in the Notification to have that vote repealed -- which, if I mistake not, is not in their Power -- . What they voted I was satisfied with -- tho' I don't think it made the money good -- and had they voted sixfold instead of three, it would in my apprehension have fallen short of a sufficient Compensation, -- & this is not only my mind, but the mind of many others.

When the affair was first mentioned, I had not the least Thot -- nay I had not the most distant Desire -- of being made whole. That something should be done, I thot was but an act of strict Justice, which was the Reason of my offering what I then did to the Town, and I am still of the same Mind.

When I first settled among you, what you then voted for my annual Support, was generous. It was as much as I desired, -- yea more perhaps than I should in Modesty have asked, -- though but little more than was necessary for the increasing Expenses of my Family; and I think it highly reasonable for Ministers, as well as other men, to have more than a bare Support, that they may be able to leave something to their Families in case they should be taken from them, and not leave them Beggars. -- For they any more than other men, are not suffered to continue by Reason of Death.

But, Gentlemen, you must all be sensible that the Times are greatly altered. The Money part of my Salary is comparatively nothing. The Wood & Provision, I allow, remain good. The Money Part was added that I might be able to furnish myself with those Articles the Town could not supply me with, -- such as Sugar, etc. -- Things we can't well do without. But it would be needless to mention how little it will purchase now. However, I shall just mention one or two Particulars; for Instance, Sugar. My Salary five years ago would have purchased Three thousand weight, whereas now it will purchase but one hundred weight, or a little more. -- A great Odds, indeed! Again, -- One Article that I have purchased in Town, & which you will all acknowledge to be absolutely necessary, used to cost me, at most, half a Pistareen, or seven Pence, for which I gave, not long since, Five Shillings ; -- & so I could go on & mention with Respect to most other Articles, the great Difference in the Price now & when I settled. You must acknowledge that my Salary cannot be sufficient, and I wonder you don't see it. I can't but think you will see & acknowledge it.

But notwithstanding what I have said, I am far -- very far -- from desiring to give the least uneasiness to any one of my Friends. I profess to be a Disciple of Jesus Christ who is styled the Prince of Peace, I am a Preacher of Peace, & I mean to be a Practiser & a Promoter of Peace & to be an Example herein to you. I, therefore for the sake of Peace, which has ever been my aim, now freely, & before this assembled Town, relinquish to every one who is not disposed to assist me in this difficult Day, & to do me Justice, their Part of what was voted me. It is hard, but I had rather suffer wrong than do wrong, & part with my Right rather than make Uneasiness.

I therefore do this purely for the Sake of Peace. I don't do it Gentlemen, because I think it is not my Right, for I do think it is. I don't do it because I think you are not in Justice bound to make me some Consideration, for I think you are. I don't do it because I could not recover what was voted me; for I think I could. But I do it because I love Peace, & would do all in my Power to preserve & promote it; Tho' at the same Time I can't but lament that the Love of so many waxes cold to Religion & to the Ministers of Religion.

Religion alone tends to promote the Peace & Happiness of Individuals, & of Societies: without it, we should run into all manner of Disorders & Confusion. Surely then we ought to love Religion; & if we love Religion, we shall love the Ministers of Religion, & do all we can to render their Circumstances agreeable. I am engaged in a good cause — it is the Cause of God, -- & I mean not to desert it, so long as I can live. If I am faithful, I doubt not I shall have my Reward; and I live among so kind a People, that I don't think they will let me suffer.

Upon the whole, I hope, Gentlemen, as I so freely for the Sake of Peace, give up what I look upon as my just Due, there will be no Uneasiness among you on my account, nor on any other. May you all study the Things that make for Peace. May you act now and at all Times, as under the immediate Inspection of the Omniscient God. May all Things be done decently & in order; and God grant we may all so conduct here as that we may meet at last in the world of perfect Peace & Love. -- Amen.

  Ebenr Thayer."

This communication appears to have had some influence upon those who had asked for a reconsideration of the vote for indemnifying Mr. Thayer. The article in the warrant, which called forth this letter from the pastor, appears to have been passed over without being acted upon at all, so far as we can judge from the record of the meeting. For nine years longer, however, the question remained unsettled, but in December, 1788, the town voted: "That on condition of the Revd Ebenezer Thayer's giving the town of Hampton a Receipt in full for his money salary up to March, 1786, the selectmen [should] give to him their note of hand for the sum of £67~10s Lawful Money, it being for making good to him [his loss by] the depreciation of money." This appears to have been a final settlement of that embarrassing subject.

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