Ploughs and Politicks: Charles Read of New Jersey and His Notes on Agriculture, 1715-1774

By Carl Raymond Woodward | Go to book overview

Fourteen: Exile

WHILE from year to year Governor Franklin was seeking earnestly to stem the rising tide of rebellion in the province, misfortune was making gradual inroads upon the Read family. Financial loss, failing health, and death followed quickly upon each other, and exacted their inevitable toll of body, mind, and spirt. The "remarkable Fall in the price of Lands"1 in 1765 that came with the post-French-and-Indian- War depression, was a severe blow to one who had invested heavily in land. At this time, too, Read plunged deeply into his iron enterprises, which absorbed a large capital outlay. As the years of depression dragged on, he became more and more involved in debt. The revenues from his law practice and his public offices were not sufficient to carry his commercial enterprises. A loan of £500 from William Logan in 1768 secured by a mortgage on the Etna tract helped for a time.2

Another source of worry to Charles and Alice Read was their second son, Jacob. The older son, Charles IV, in large measure was fulfilling his parents' hopes. Though not measuring up to the stature of his father, he nevertheless had shown capacity for accepting responsibility, had taken over the management of the ironworks at Etna, in 1767 had married Anne Branin, daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Branin, of Burlington County, and was rearing a family. He was in a fair way to succeed to his father's estate. But not so Jacob. He was of a shiftless, intemperate disposition, irresponsible alike as to both money and morals. He did learn the silversmith's trade, and his father set him up with tools and a small shop in Burlington, which he operated in indifferent fashion.

Recurrent illness, too, was becoming a serious handicap to Charles Read. In 1767 he complained that he had "suffered

____________________
1
Richard Stockton to Charles Read, Dec. 2, 1765. Gratz Collection, case 1, box 20.
2
Charles Read to William Logan, mortgage, May 10, 1768. Allinson Papers.

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