1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

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 Benjamin Bourne Papers

 Lawyer, U.S. Congressman and jurist, of Bristol and Providence, R.I.

 Papers, 1774-1820. Bulk, 1791-1809.

 Size: 1 linear foot

 Catalog number: MSS 11

 Processed by: circa 1979, probably by Harold Kemble

Updated through 2001 by Rick Stattler

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Benjamin Bourne was born at Bristol, Rhode Island, September 9, 1755. He died in the same town on September 17, 1808. He earned his law degree at Harvard and, in 1775, set up practice in Providence, R.I. When the state's General assembly organized the 2nd Regiment of Continental Troops after the disastrous Battle of Long Island, he was appointed ensign and later became the regimental Quartermaster until the disbandment of the Northern Army. In 1779-1780 he served in the Rhode Island General assembly; in 1779 Bourne was appointed to a committee to revise the state's militia laws; he was appointed a Collector of Excise for Providence Countyin 1783 and 1784; between 1785 and 1789 he was given successive appointments as a Justice of the Peace in Providence County. In 1789 Bourne, with the Rev. james manning, was appointed to petition Congress asking relief from import duties imposed upon Rhode Island as a foreign nation. A dedicated Federalist, Bourne was a key figure in obtaining Rhode Island's ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He was the first Rhode Island Representative in Congress, elected to four successive terms before he resigned in 1796 to succeed Henry Marchant on the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island. At this time he returned to live in Bristol, and remained there after leaving the bench in 1801.

            Bourne was married to Hope child of Warren. They had one son, Benjamin Franklin Bourne, and three daughters, one of whom, Julia, married Abel Jones, merchant of Bristol. Bourne's brother, Shearjashub, was a Bristol merchant and distiller, partner in the firm of Bourne & Wardwell.

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Scope and content:

            Benjamin Bourne was a wealthy and influential person who exchanged correspondence with individuals and businesses of a like station between the years 1774 and 1808. A partial calendar of correspondence was compiled in typescript in 1979. Subject matter ranges through local, national and international politics and commerce. Many of the letters found here were written to Bourne in his capacity as Rhode island's Representative to the Congress in Philadelphia, and include reports from and opinions of constituents and associates. The papers are arranged chronologically. At the end of the correspondence are found: undated and fragmentary letters; assorted financial records (receipts, accounts current, etc.); records of the Quartermaster General Department of the State of Rhode Island (1781-17820; ephemera; and letters of Benjamin Franklin Bourne, 1808-1820.

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            The largest gifts of Bourne Ppaers have been from collector Frederick Peck in 1943 and 1944, and from DeWolf Perry in 1977. However, this collection has been compiled from many different sources, including:


#1841.11.6       Gift of G.H. and C.F. Tillinghast              Letter dated 4/4/1792

#1943.11.1.1-  Gift of Frederick Peck                              Many letters, mostly from Browns

#1944.62.5.1-  Gift of Frederick Peck                              44 letters

#1953.15          Unknown donor                                        Letter dated 5/22/1781

#1956.24          Purchased from Walter Benjamin            Letter dated 5/1774

#1968.83.6.1-7 Purchase from H.P. Kraus                        7 letters, 1790-1806

#1970.139        Gift of Emily Driscoll                              Letter dated 11/21/1785

#1977.83.1.1-  Gift of DeWolf Perry                                140 items

#1984.58          Purchase, Harmer Rooke Autographs      Letter dated 12/16/1793

#1985.69.5       Purcahsed, Seaport Autographs                Letter dated 2/2/1808

#1994.165.8     Gift of Mildred Longo                              1798 receipt

#2001.5.1.1-4  Gift of Richard Bowen                             Four letters, 1792-1808

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Box 1

            Correspondence, 1774

            Correspondence, 1780-1790

            Correspondence, 1791

            Correspondence, 1792

            Correspondence, 1793

            Correspondence, 1794

            Correspondence, 1795

            Correspondence, 1796

            Correspondence, 1798-1799

Box 2

            Correspondence, 1800

            Correspondence, 1801

            Correspondence, 1802-1803

            Correspondence, 1804

            Correspondence, 1805

            Correspondence, 1806

            Correspondence, 1807

            Correspondence, 1808

            Correspondence, 1809

            Correspondence, undated and fragmentary

            Financial records

            Quartermaster General Department records


            Benjamin Franklin Bourne correspondence

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See typescript inventory. The following catalog entries were made after the compilation of the calender:


Alice (schooner). Letter from John Corlis & Co. of Providence to Benjamin Bourne, December 16 , 1793, re loss of schooner Alice.

Corlis, John. Letter from John Corlis & Co. of Providence to Benjamin Bourne, December 16 , 1793, re loss of schooner Alice.

Eddy, Samuel, 1769-1839. Two letters from Samuel Eddy to Benjamin Bourne, March 3, 1794 and May 14, 1794, recounting General Assembly sessions in detail.

Howell, David, 1747-1824. Letter, David Howell to Benjamin Bourne, February 2, 1808, submitting forms re Robbins case.

Malbone, Francis, 1769-1809. Two letters from Malbone to Benjamin Bourne dated August 23, 1794 and January 19, 1807. The 1794 letter gives a detailed account of Newport election politics.

Newport, R.I. - Politics and government. Letter from Malbone to Benjamin Bourne dated August 23, 1794, giving a detailed account of Newport election politics.

Peck, William, 1755-1832. Letter from Peck to Bourne, March 5 1808, re sale of rum replevined from Newport County sheriff.

Rogers, John, 1756-1810. Letter from Rogers to Bourne, April 20, 1808, re legal case.

Searle, Nathaniel Jr., 1773-1832. Letter from Searle to Bourne, March 14 1805, re forthcoming legal case.

Tyler, William. Letter from William Tyler to Benjamin Bourne, April 1792, re order drawn on Hazard & Sherbourn.

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