Holding Authority Accountable
On 12 June 1766, minister Eliphalet Williams of East Hartford penned a letter to the printer of the Connecticut Courant. Since the explosion, rumors had circulated throughout central Connecticut that he had attended the celebrations in Hartford, but returned home across the Connecticut River after the explosion, failing to minister to the sick and dying. Ministers were major public figures in the late eighteenth century and communities had high expectations of them, especially in times of crisis.
In his letter, Williams claimed that he had only been in the city in the morning to visit a sick friend and had not heard of the disaster until later in the evening. He also stated that he had visited a grieving family on the request of a fellow minister.
What is the tone of his letter? What is most disturbing to him about these rumors?
Why would this rumor have started in the first place? Who do you think might have started it? How do public figures respond to similar rumors today?
No other record of these rumors has survived. If Williams had not written this defense, we would never have known about them.