1816: Isaac Wilbour to James Fenner

Isaac Wilbour

This letter was written by Isaac Wilbour (1763-1837) of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Isaac held several political offices, including the sixth Governor of Rhode Island.

Wilbour served in the state legislature in 1805 and 1806. From October 1805 to May 1806 he served as speaker. He was Lieutenant Governor from 1806 to 1807. There had been no winner in the gubernatorial election in 1806, so he was Acting Governor from May 7, 1806, to May 6, 1807. Wilbour represented Rhode Island in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic-Republican from 1807 to 1809. He ran again in 1808 and 1812 but lost both times. He served as Lieutenant Governor again from 1810 to 1811.

In 1818 he became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island and acted as Chief Justice of that court from 1819 to 1827. Wilbour died in Little Compton, Rhode Island, and his remains were buried in the Seaconnet Cemetery.

Wilbour wrote this letter to James Fenner (1771-1846) who served as a United States Senator as well as the 7th, 11th and 17th Governor of Rhode Island (on three separate occasions). He was the son of Arthur Fenner, the fourth governor of Rhode Island.

RI Governor James Fenner
James Fenner

Fenner was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Brown University in 1789, and was married to Sarah Whipple Jenckes (his first cousin, once removed) on 17 November 1792. He served as United States senator from 1805 to 1807, then gave up his senatorship to become Governor of Rhode Island, two years after his father died in office. Fenner served as governor from 1807 to 1811, from 1824 to 1831, and from 1843 to 1845. Fenner was elected to his first two terms as a Democratic-Republican and as his third term as a member of the Law and Order Party of Rhode Island. In his final term, Fenner became the first governor to serve under the Rhode Island Constitution, adopted in 1842.

Fenner died in his mansion “What Cheer” in 1846, and was interred in the North Burial Ground in Providence.


Addressed to Hon. James Fenner, Providence
Postmarked Newport, Rhode Island

Little Compton [Rhode Island]
November 4, 1816


I am told that it id now pretty well ascertained that there will be no opposition to the Republic Electors. Should that ultimately prove to be the case, I earnestly solicit the appointment by the Electors to carry their tickets for President & Vice President to Washington.

I never have but once before solicited employment — either publick or private — success then attended & I really hope I shall not fail. Having always felt an abhorrence to frequent prayers of this kind from any one Man, nor would application now be made if much interest in the occasion was not felt by your obedient servant, — I. Wilbour

P. S. After I left you, I came to a conclusion to put up that night in Trenton which I did to see some of the old patriots for Town Meeting & did not return home till near night next day.

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