A Rhode Island Patriot in Newport Jail: The Diary of Benjamin Underwood of Jamestown, 10 February-5 March 1783
On the first anniversary of his incarceration, the infuriated prisoner blurted out his unmitigated contempt for that "Miserable impertinent Rascally Ignorant Mule headed puppy of a Judge Sam!. Babcock' who put me to Jail and [offered] to let me out if l would procure him Sucurety [security] for the Money which I told the sheriff I should not." It was February 21, 1783, and the inmate's indignation is clear, but neither his identity nor the reason for his confinement is revealed in the few surviving pages of his diary. Motivated by the tantalizing prospect of learning the author's name and the circumstances of his predicament. Fortunately, the anonymous diarist mentioned the first names of a few family members and the surnames of two sons-in-law. As I pored over the early vital records of Jamestown, each of those names surfaced, and each was linked with Benjamin Underwood. Later, a diligent search within the extraordinary collection of documents at the Rhode Island Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Center in Pawtucket, yielded an order of execution for insolvency against Underwood dated February 21, 1782. Other official court records confirmed his status as an insolvent.
Wood, Virginia Steele Editor
"A Rhode Island Patriot in Newport Jail: The Diary of Benjamin Underwood of Jamestown, 10 February-5 March 1783,"
Newport History: Vol. 71:
246, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol71/iss246/2