Private letters are rare in an archives originally created to care for official records. This on was written in 1772. Here is the transcription
To: Mrs. Mary Payne in St. Christopher’s
St. Croix, 6th May 1772
Your kind favor of 18th March, came to hand the 30th last month by Mr. Newton. I am very sorry to hear of Col. Payne’s death, which had not reach’d my ear before the rect. of yours; I heartily condole your loss in him, and am very glad to hear that you enjoy a good state of health, which I pray God to continue, as it is certainly the greatest blessing in this life.
You are pleas’d to request my sendg. you my daughter. The proposal is too kind, generous, and friendly to be rejected. I am most gratefully oblig’d to you for the good you mean to do me, in the tender care, which I am persuaded you will take of her, and pray God, that he may bless her with grace of a grateful heart, that she may be always obliging, thankfull, and strictly observe every good good advice you give her. I would have gladly sent her up immediately to you, but she has been ill some time. She is healthy again, and hope in a few weeks to either send her or bring her up myself.
As you have offer’d to do me one friendly service, I must beg leave to ask another. As I am persuaded, his Excellency General Payne cannot otherwise than have the greatest respect and esteem for you; you certainly must have some influence there, and endeavour to procure some vacancy for one, as I shou’d be truly glad to return to St. Kitts. I rented the King’s Surveyor’s post here, and he is now return’d and acts himself; so that there is nothing to be done here, and I must endeavour by some means or other to throw myself into some way at St. Kitts. I am told that Charles Fort is vacant. If I could get the command of that or indeed any place or management of an Estate, that will just support me, I shall be satisfy’d, for I assure you the level of stress I have met with has humbled my once ambitious heart and taught me to be content with little matters.
I shall leave to your judgment and friendship to act for me in the above and your kindness to inform me thereof.
My daughter Nancy returns you her hearty thanks and begs to be remembered to you, also my son Edmund. As I hope the pleasure soon to see you & personally thank you for the many obligations I owe you, I shall conclude this epistle which I am afraid will tire you. I am with the greatest respect and esteem
Your most affect. oblig’d
& most H Servt.
Please to request if you write to the care of James Warden @ Base End [?] in St. Croix, Mercht.
This is a letter between two cousins and shows how important family connections were. Peter Brozet needed his cousin Mary Payne, a member of one of the powerful families on St. Kitts, to help him find work. On the other hand Mary who was newly widowed and in need of companionship, asked Peter to send his daughter to her. We can almost see a Jane Austin story evolving from the lines of this letter. At a time when there was very little to fall back on, a person had to rely on connections. Also interesting is how people communicated, With no post office in place, letters were sent in the care of merchants and depending on how direct a route the ship was taking , it could take weeks and months for a letter to reach its destination. This one also bore a seal – a way of ensuring (as far as possible) that it was only opened by the person to whom it was addressed.
(Special thanks to Ruth Case who photographed and transcribed this document in our collection and to Tamara O’Flaherty for creating the image out of the two photos.)