Henry Hulton’s Writings

    Henry Hulton wrote a fair amount—official reports, private letters, journals, reminiscences, personal essays, and poems—but most of what survives is not in his hand. Many of the reports that he authored when he was a customs commissioner were put into their final form by clerks. When Hulton returned to England and began collecting his letters and collating them with other writings, he employed scribes, at least in one case to produce multiple copies.1 The two letterbooks that he left were prepared, in part, by copyists from originals that have not been located. Consequently there is no way of knowing how complete that collection is, nor can we know which letters were copied in their entirety and which only in segments.2 Even Hulton’s “Account” appears to have been revised over time, and written by a number of hands.3

    Short of subjecting all of the documents to the intense methods used to enhance ancient texts, I cannot be sure that what is still visible on the page is all that was ever there. There are even questions about what is still visible. Is what appears to be a comma actually a period? Or is what appears to be a comma simply a point where the pen dragged? Moreover, was an individual letter written in lower case, but larger than others nearby in lower case, capitalized in the writer’s mind—or not? I cannot profess to know. Even so, I have not presumed to make changes beyond the obvious and ultimately—I think—minor. I have filled in words with missing letters, such as expanding “wch” to “which” and “threatned” to “threatened,” and other words where Hulton (or his copyists) shortened a suffix, as in writing only the “g” of an “ing.” I also inserted apostrophes where called for in the possessive case, which Hulton almost never did. By contrast, Hulton often used an apostrophe as a type of shorthand, such as “cou’d” instead of “could”; likewise for should and would. I produced the words in full, so that readers would not get the mistaken impression that Hulton was unusually informal in his habits and casual in his language. For the same reason I substituted “and” whenever Hulton (or, again, his copyists) used “&,” and I put periods after most of his abbreviations (such as with “Mr.”), which he did rarely.

    I made these and a few other changes—including commas or semicolons or periods, inserted here or deleted there—silently, for fear that long lines of brackets and a parade of footnotes would prove too distracting.4 I do not want readers stumbling where Hulton assumed they could pass through quickly. The only name whose spelling I changed was “Barnard” to Bernard, which a copyist—or perhaps even Hulton himself, misremembering—might occasionally offer as a phonetic rendering of the onetime governor’s last name. Other names, even if misspelled—such as “Guadalupe” for the West Indies island of Guadeloupe—I kept as they were. I left other nouns that appeared to be capitalized in that form, as was the eighteenth-century convention. Hulton dated his correspondence in a variety of ways and not always in the same place. I moved all of the dates to the top, organized chronologically and identified by day, month, and year, when known.

    Other than that, and what I have already enumerated, I changed very little. I did not add words (unless so indicated by brackets) or bowdlerize to improve Hulton’s prose. The words as well as the ideas are Hulton’s, not mine. Hulton’s poetry I left untouched, on the assumption that his contractions, ampersands, and punctuation had a more deliberate literary purpose than in his prose.

    Included here are Hulton’s “Account” of the American rebellion, all of the letters from Hulton’s two-volume letterbook, twenty-one letters to Hulton’s friend Robert Nicholson that came from a different source, a couple of letters from yet another source, and many of the essays that Hulton wrote later for his sons when he was retired, which he seems to have begun at Burcott, continued at Blissmore Hall, and worked on even after he moved to Andover.5 I put the page numbers to Hulton’s “Account” in brackets; I deleted them from his other writings. I included too most of Ann Hulton’s surviving letters.6 I made the same changes to Ann’s writings that I did to her brother’s, all of which were intended solely to make the Hultons more accessible to modern readers. I hope that they would have approved of my choices.

    What follows is admittedly one-sided and incomplete. All of the letters are from the Hultons, none are to them; and it is quite possible that the letters I turned up are only a small part of their total correspondence. But a close reading of them can reveal much. They can, for example, show how people separated by thousands of miles used letters to keep alive a sense of kinship and community. The long-distance friendship that joined Henry Hulton and Robert Nicholson, the similar friendship that sustained Ann Hulton and Elizabeth Lightbody, were hardly unique. Transatlantic ties, called on to stretch over years at a time, were formed by countless others in Britain and the Americas as well. They carried on correspondences that survived, even without a postal service as we would know it, with letters that kept personal connections vital. In those letters can also be found information about public affairs that we now know to be wrong—about the fighting at Lexington and Concord, about the casualty rates of Americans there and at Bunker Hill—but that was the result of misinformation, not disinformation, mistakes sometimes corrected with time, sometimes not. It is even interesting to see, in the case of Henry Hulton finding a job in the customs service for the ne’er-do-well John Hincks, a nepotism that even then could extend to public posts as well as to family businesses. Hulton’s world was different from ours; it was also very much the same.