It turns out I’m not the only person writing about Richard Stockton this month. Boston 1775 reader Bill Welsch alerted me to Donald Johnstone Peck’s “New Jersey’s Darkest Hour” in the debut issue of Garden State Legacy, an online magazine of New Jersey history. You can download Peck’s article in P.D.F. form from that website. It offers much more context for Stockton’s choices in 1776-77. Other articles in the magazine discuss whether “urban spelunking” is a way to explore history and how two state authors popularized astronomy, so it’s quite wide-ranging.
Another online resource about the Stocktons comes from the OurStory Project, hosted by Bergen County Technical Schools. Its resources on the Revolutionary War in New Jersey include a “Poem for Washington.” That link brings a P.D.F. file of material from the New Jersey Historical Society: an image from a Stockton family commonplace book with the first lines of a poem by Annis Stockton (shown above), plus background information.
Annis Stockton, Richard’s wife, apparently wrote this poem in honor of Gen. George Washington soon after his victories at Trenton and Princeton in December 1776 and January 1777. Since she lived in Princeton, those battles were very important to her. She probably shared the poem with her friends, but didn’t have it published until ten years later, in the Columbian Magazine for January 1787.
The P.D.F. download contains only the first lines of the poem, and they’re not precisely transcribed. The full text appears in Carla Mulford’s collection of Stockton’s poetry, titled Only for the Eye of a Friend. Washington had obviously inspired Stockton to work in the epic mode, starting with an invocation:
The muse affrighted at the clash of arms,The reference to “George’s hostile slaves” didn’t mean Washington and his actual slaves, but George III and the soldiers working for him.
And all the dire calamities of war,
From Morven’s peaceful shade has long retir’d,
And left her faithful votary to mourn,
In sighs not number’d, o’er her native land.
Dear native land! whom George’s hostile slaves,
Have drenched with blood and spread destruction round.
But thou[,] my country’s better genius comes[,]
Heroic Washington[,] and aid my song!