United States and American History 1817

About the history of the United States in 1817, the beginning of the Erie Canal, the Shakers persecuted, Monroe purchases more land.


--Machine-made paper was produced by Thomas Gilpin near Wilmington, Del., making available custom-made paper.

--The New York legislature authorized building of the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo.

--William Read, a black boy, blew up a ship in Boston harbor when he couldn't take part in Election Day festivities.

--Cup plates were in vogue and continued to be fashionable until just prior to the Civil War, when it was no longer fashionable to drink from saucers.

Jan. 22 The House of Representatives debated over privateering by American ships. This was being practiced against the lawful commerce of Spain and her colonies, which the United States Gazette said "has been known and connived by the Government."

Jan. 23 The United States Gazette of Philadelphia reported that fire broke out in a Pennsylvania poorhouse when an old woman threw the contents of her tobacco pipe into a spitting box.

May 21 A letter was presented to the legislature of the State of New York signed by Peter Dodge, Seth Y. Wilson, and Joseph Hodgson from Watervliet, dated March 20, 1817, in defense of Shakers. This stemmed from charges leveled by Eunice Chapman, a nonbeliever, whose husband James had left her and taken their children to live with the Society.

The letter pointed out that married couples who joined the Shakers could remain married and bring up their children without control of the Society; that parents and other relatives could visit loved ones if they conducted themselves civilly; that married men without their wives were rarely accepted into the Society, and then only with their wives' consent.

The apologists for the Society indicated the couple had had difficulties before the husband attempted to join the Society and the Shakers had tried to reconcile them. They disputed charges of hiding children by saying that in the past 3 weeks 20 children had been urged on them and they had reluctantly accepted 3 only because the children would have died of starvation if they hadn't. They said that the Chapman children were brought to them when James left his wife and refused to leave the children in her care. They further noted that James was "pacifick" when in their Society, but Eunice was abusive in conduct and conversation. Further, they invited examination of their Society and questioned the State legislature whether abstinence from sexual cohabitation for conscience's sake was sufficient cause for divorce.

Aug. Gloucester's magistrate, Lonso Nash, saw a sea serpent off the coast of Gloucester, and 10 others testified to having seen it also. The sea serpent was dark in color and 80' or 90' long; its body was the size of a half barrel; and its tongue resembled a harpoon. Witnesses estimated that the beast swam between 12 and 14 mph and said that it had sunk into the water like a rock, rather than swimming downwards.

Dec. 2 President James Monroe in his message to Congress told of purchases made from Indian tribes that included land in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. An exchange was made with the Cherokee for lands beyond the Mississippi and for lands in the States of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Alabama territory was also expected to be acquired.

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