Lovers of Newport and her history are endlessly fascinated with the ten or fifteen years before the Revolutionary War. Like the people in many doomed societies, Newport’s prewar inhabitants seem fixed forever in a golden glow that was to be extinguished, in this case by the British occupation and the consequent diaspora. Cleric Ezra Stiles was a multi-talented man who kept obsessive records. In his Bills of Mortality for Newport he carefully noted the deaths of many Newport residents, and others, between 1760 and 1776. Stiles did not keep records only of his congregation or only of the rich and powerful Newport merchants and their families, he recorded every single death, including deaths of enslaved people, impoverished people, of non-Newport residents who died in Newport and Newport residents who died far from home. Stiles’ Bills of Mortality create a broader, more realistic picture of Newport by their inclusion of people of color, transients, servants, sailors, and small children. His short notes offer one last glimpse of a Newport that was about to disappear.
Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher
"A New Look at Ezra Stiles and His Bills of Mortality for Newport,"
Newport History: Vol. 86
, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol86/iss275/3