Middletown 150 Yrs. Ago: Christmas shopping in Middletown!

Whiskey ad, 1863
Whiskey ad, 1863
From The Constitution, Wednesday, December 16, 1863 (volume 27, number 1355)

The President’s Message.

The Message of the President which we present to our readers this week, is worthy a perusal. Matters of vital interest to the country are dealt with in a fair, candid and masterly manner. Mr. Lincoln has, beyond all question, the power of dealing with great subjects in noble simplicity, and the merit or divesting statesmanship of its mystery and truth of its disguise. The document which he now presents to the country, briefly rehearses the events of the year, fully states the condition of our country, our relations with foreign Powers, the progress of the war, and discusses in a fair and open manner the vital principles of the contest. But this is not all. It suggests what the country has long been waiting for, a practical plan for the restoration of the rebellious states to their privileges in the Union.

There are three passages in the Message worthy of special attention. The President asserts that “the crisis which threatened to divide the friends of the Union is past.” Cheering words; that after a long and terrible struggle with traitors in arms, to have the ruler of the nation, who has thus directed our armies, proclaim that the crisis has passed, and be able to say, “I shall not return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of the Proclamation or by any act of Congress.” He then says: “I proclaim full pardon to all who solemnly swear to henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder.”

The first is the truth upon which all our hopes are based; the second a declaration that henceforth freedom is the law of the land, and the third a noble appeal to the South, that the war is not upon them, but upon their leaders, and the cruelty of their purpose. The conditions of the President’s offer are most generous, and most effectually does away with the bugbear which the leaders at the South have made good use of during the war—that of subjugation. The conditions now offered are easy to fulfil. Every right which they formerly possessed is restored, and they can assume their former position with honor.

It is a good sign, that the President has not gone back, but has advanced. He stands firm upon his first principles and feels that he is able, by the support of the people to carry them out. It augurs well for the future of our country.

Rebel Pirates.

The steamer Chesapeake, plying between New York and Portland, Me., was seized by a party of rebels who were on board the vessel in the guise of passengers, while off Cape Cod, on Sunday morning the 6th inst. Capt. Willets was fired at nine times, but not hit, and was finally put in irons. The second engineer was shot dead while attempting to throw hot water on the party. The captain and passengers were put ashore at Partridge Island. The first engineer was taken with them to manage the engines. The vessel was valued at about $160,000. Lieut. Parr, one of Morgan’s men, is second in command. Several fast vessels have been sent by government in pursuit.


There was a boiler explosion at the factory of the American Suspender Company in Waterbury, one day last week. Two stories of the building were destroyed. Fortunately no one was in the building at the time; two or three persons who were near by were somewhat injured. The building was insured in eight companies, for $28,000.


John Keehan, a boot and shoe maker in Norwich, eloped recently, with Mrs. Ringrose, a war widow, and a neighbor of his. She left three children behind her. On the morning of the departure of the twain, Mr. Ringrose arrived home from his regiment.

New Britain and Middletown Railroad.

The subscription books for this company will be open to receive subscriptions at the McDonough House, in this city, on Saturday, Dec. 19th. They will be open in New Britain on the 18th. The Capital stock of the company is seventy-five thousand dollars. By reference to the adv. it will be seen that some of the first men of New Britain are interested in the subject. The extension of the Middletown branch has long been needed, and we hope that by next summer to see it accomplished.

Important Law Decision.

Samuel Babcock vs. Henry A. Balcam—This is the case in which the copperhead papers in the state stated last summer, that Mr. Balcam had been mulcted in fine and costs for unlawfully suspending Mr. Babcock’s son from the High School, on account of the son insisting upon wearing a copperhead badge by the order of his father, so to do, against the rule of the school. The case came to the Superior Court by appeal, and was tried to the jury. The pltf. claimed that it was unlawful under any circumstance to suspend the child from school, and much less for the patriotic act of wearing the head of the goddess of liberty, which was stamped into the aforesaid piece of copper. A. Hall Esq., appeared for pltf. The charge of the judge was an admirable exposition of the law, upon the subject, and was replete with common sense. The jury, we understand, were equally balanced politically, who, after being out about five minutes, returned their verdict for deft., thus reversing the decision of the Justice.

The Weather.

Thursday was the coldest day of this winter—the mercury was at 7 degrees at sunrise. The river closed that day. Saturday morning we opened our eyes upon nearly two inches of snow, which quickly disappeared with the rain following. Sunday it rained drenchingly, with a south wind, putting to a severe test the water-proof of church going habits. Monday morning the mercury stood at 34, rainy still. Average temperature of the week at sunrise was 21.


The River closed on Thursday of last week. The Granite State came up on Wednesday and got as far as Rocky Hill, and then returned to New York. The City of Hartford left New York on Wednesday afternoon, but did not come into the river. On Thursday the ice was hard and fast. Owing to the storm on Sunday and Monday, the river is open again.


The Photographic Rooms of W. F. Burrows are attracting general attention. The reason is that they do take good likenesses. And by the way, there is nothing better for a christmas present, than to give your friends a good photographic likeness of your own individual self.

Various Matters.

A gold pencil has been found at McDonough Hall.

H. Woodward, 124 Main st., has a large variety of articles for Christmas.

A. J. Spencer will give a Social Hop at Eagle Hall this (Tuesday) evening.

There was good skating in this vicinity last week. The snow storm on Friday, however, spoilt the calculations of the boys and girls for Saturday’s skating.

High School Exhibition on Thursday evening of this week at McDonough Hall.

Bradley & Treadwell are not to be outdone in the way of Christmas presents. Read their adv. and judge for yourselves. …

Attention is called to the adv. of Collector of Internal Revenues.

At Carroll’s store you can find a fine assortment of Christmas presents. …

D. Barnes at his book store, has a variety of beautiful books, large and small, well adapted to the coming holidays.


At one of the fashionable hotels in New York there boarded last week, a weak and nasty Copperhead—one of the New England and so worst kind—and a chivalric, spirited Major General of the army, minus a leg, and hobbling about on his crutch.—Fired by natural folly and a luxurious dinner, the former insulted the latter, as he was passing through the halls with loud and coarse denunciations of the war, and all who fought on the loyal side in it. The cripple turned and faced the coward, demanding apology and retraction. They were denied. The man of the crutch and soul then asked the name of the Copperhead traducer of his country and her patriots. With natural instinct, a wrong one was given. Other words followed; another insult was added by the copperhead; whereupon the hero of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg ‘shouldered his crutch and showed how fields were won’ by breaking it over the head of the degenerate son of Adam and Amherst. The latter then sneaked off, with at least one new idea in his head; and the next crippled soldier of the army he insults won’t be Dan Sickles. …


An infatuated man took 48 fair damsels to a lecture in Cohoes, N. Y., the other night, on the spur of a prize offered to him who should bring the most. Think of the happiness of taking one dear creature and then multiply it by 48! Is his name Brigham Y.?


A patriotic writer is of the opinion that the ladies of the present day would make good soldiers, because the dress they wear by day they might make a tent of at night.


A slight domestic breeze prevents stagnation. Archdeacon Palsy, on having a case of conjugal harmony commended to him, remarked that though it was ‘verra praiseworthy, it must have been verra cool.’ …


It is said that the President’s son Robert or Bob o Lincoln, as he is called, has made half a million dollars as government contractor.


For more articles from The Constitution, go to the Middlesex County Historical Society blog.

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