Milton Social Library – 1822

By Muriel Bristol | January 2, 2018

Nine Milton men joined together as proprietors of the Milton Social Library in 1822. The following act of the New Hampshire legislature established them as a corporation, June 14, 1822.

The Milton Social Library was a private subscription library. Likely, its original books came from the personal collections of the proprietors. The act authorized them to set rules, choose officers, take subscriptions, receive donations (not to exceed $1,000), assess fines (not to exceed $4), and perform other necessary functions.

No hint is given here of the location of the Milton Social Library, other than it being somewhere in Milton. The proprietors came from all parts of Milton.

{State of New Hampshire}


[Approved June 14, 1822. Original Acts, vol. 27, p. 33; recorded Acts, vol. 22, p. 117]

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives General Court convened, That Gilman Jewett, Stephen Drew, David Wentworth, John Scates, Isaac Worster, Josiah Witham, Charles Ricker, Samuel Blaisdell, Hanson Hayes, and their associates, proprietors of said Library, and all who may hereafter become proprietors of the same be, and they hereby are incorporated into, and made a body politic and corporate, by the name and Style of the Milton Social Library with continuance and succession forever; and in that name may sue and be sued, prosecute and defend to final Judgment and execution, and are hereby vested with all powers and privileges of Corporations of a similar nature, and may enjoin penalties of disfranchisement or fine not exceeding four dollars for each offence, to be recovered by action of debt to their use in any court of competent Jurisdiction; and may purchase and receive subscriptions, grants and donations of personal property not exceeding the sum of one thousand dollars for the use of their association.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted that said proprietors be and hereby are authorized and empowered to meet at Milton aforesaid on the first Saturday of October annually, to choose all such officers as may be found necessary for the orderly conducting of the affairs of said association, who shall continue in office until others are chosen in their room. And the said corporation may convene as often as may be found necessary for the filling up of any vacancies may happen in said officers, and for transacting all other business for the benefit of said corporation except the raising of money, which shall be done at the annual meeting and at no other time, at which annual meeting they shall vote all such sums as shall be necessary to defray the annual expense of preserving said Library, and for enlarging the same; and may make and establish a constitution, rules and bye laws for the government of said corporation, provided the same be not repugnant to the constitution and laws of this State. 

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted that Gilman Jewett before named be, and he hereby is authorized and empowered to call the first meeting of said proprietors at such time and place as may be Judged proper in said town of Milton by posting up a notification of the same at the Meeting house in said town, and at some other public place therein, at least fifteen days before the time of holding said meeting, and the said Gilman Jewett may preside in said meeting until a Moderator be chosen; and the proprietors at said meeting shall have all the power and authority to establish such bye laws, and choose all such officers as they may or can do by virtue of this act at their annual meeting.

This act of incorporation designated Gilman Jewett (1777-1856) as moderator of the first library meeting, until someone might be chosen to fulfill that role. Gilman Jewett had been Milton’s first town clerk (1802-1806); he served on the executive committee designated to oversee construction of Milton’s first meeting-house.

Library proprietors Gilman Jewett, David Wentworth (1770-1832), John Scates (b. c1775), Josiah Witham (b. c1768), and Hanson Hayes had signed the Milton incorporation petition of twenty years before (May 28, 1802). (The other four library proprietors were either too young or resided elsewhere at the time).

Library proprietor Stephen Drew (1791-1872) was Milton’s first physician; he was a selectman in 1828. Isaac Worster (1772-1838) served as a Milton selectman in 1809-10 and 1814 (his son (1804-1870) and namesake was the ardent early supporter of abolitionism). Josiah Witham (b. 1768) served as a Milton selectman in 1812-13 and 1815-17.

Library proprietor Charles Ricker (1784-1836) served in Milton’s War of 1812 militia company. Hanson Hayes (1792-1851) served as lieutenant of that militia company; he served later as a Milton selectman in 1819-24.

Public libraries, as we know them, hardly existed at this time. (Maybe in a major city). Books were expensive. Only private subscription libraries could make them available for a subscribing clientele. Portsmouth’s private library, the Portsmouth Athenaeum, had been established just a few years earlier, in 1817.

Here follow some published notifications for similar Vermont libraries. They give some idea of the terms one might encounter at such private libraries: an initial subscription fee and signing of articles, followed by semi-annual fees or dues.

A LIBRARY. The utility, and benefit arising to every class of people, from Social Libraries, must be apparent to every intelligent mind. There is no member of society, who has not, at some Seasons, leisure to attend to the cultivation of his mind, and the increase of his knowledge, or to amusing himself by reading and perusing books of wit and humor. To effect this, a Subscription paper has been circulated, and a considerable number of subscribers obtained, who have had two meetings, formed and accepted a Constitution, and adjourned till Monday evening, the 21st inst. Any persons in this, or the neighboring towns, who are desirous of becoming Sharers in this Library are hereby requested to attend at the Academy, on that evening, at SIX o’clock (Green Mountain Patriot, January 11, 1799).

SOCIAL LIBRARY. THE Proprietors of the SOCIAL LIBRARY, in Rutland, are hereby informed, that the meeting of the said proprietors, is adjourned to the first Monday in April next, at two o’clock in the afternoon in the Library Room in Rutland. The Proprietors are requested to give a general attendance at that time, and to return all the books they shall then have taken out.

The Library, at present contains ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-ONE VOLUMES, OF VALUABLE BOOKS, which will be increased, as fast as the monies arising from new subscriptions, shall enable the proprietors to purchase new books. Any person living in Rutland, in Clarenden, as far south as the Mill River, and east of the hills, next west of Otter Creek, in Pittsford, as far north as the Meeting-House, and east of Otter Creek, and in Medway, west of the west mountain, may become a proprietor on subscribing the articles of the Library, and (if a minor) giving security to observe them, and paying two dollars at the time of subscribing, and securing to the librarian, the payment of two dollars, at the end of 6 months, and two dollars more at the end of twelve months, from the time of subscribing.

Frederick Hill, Clerk. March 11th, 1794 (Farmer’s Library, March 11, 1794).


Find a Grave. (2013, July 29). Gilman Jewett. Retrieved from

John B. Clarke Co. (1921). Laws of New Hampshire: Second Constitutional Period, 1821-1828. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 13). Subscription Library. Retrieved from

Authority and the Lack Thereof

By S.D. Plissken | January 1, 2019

Many have written on authority and its nature: what it is, how it is asserted, acknowledged, or granted, and how it may be ignored, withdrawn, lost, or refused.


The English word authority is derived from the Latin auctoritas. The Romans took that to refer to someone having a certain amount of prestige. Such a one would have the ability to rally others to support his (or her) endeavors. While it did have a political aspect, its use was not limited to politics. It would be possible to exert this quality in religious, judicial, commercial, familial, personal and other spheres.

It was partly a respect granted to those who were deemed wise, successful, or otherwise blessed. They had influence. Their endorsement or recommendation had weight.

For the Romans, it had roots also in ownership. The auctor was the author, creator, or founder. He (or she) was the maker, the homesteader, the originator, the inventor, the owner, or the one who augmented, enlarged, or expanded an existing property or enterprise.

The Romans made a political distinction between auctoritas (authority) and potestas (power). The Roman orator Cicero said, “Cum potestas in populo auctoritas in senatu sit,” which may be translated, “While power resides in the people, authority rests with the Senate.” The Classicist Theodor Momsen defined auctoritas as being “more than advice, but less than a command.”

Note that, as described, the components of auctoritas may be lost or withdrawn. The prestige of those whose advice, endeavors, or endorsements fail might be shaken. A succession of poor outcomes might cause one’s authority to diminish markedly or even evaporate entirely.

The Mandate of Heaven

The Chinese had a similar concept, which they expressed as the Mandate of Heaven. Its manifestation or evaluation seems to have been retrospective. Its expression might even be termed post hoc (or after the fact).

Heaven embodied the natural order and will of the universe. It bestowed its mandate on a just ruler. Heaven did not say so out loud or at the outset. The just and successful ruler was assumed to be enjoying the Mandate (or approval) of Heaven. The poor or unjust ruler, who experienced a succession of calamities, be they natural, military, or political, or who was overthrown or defeated, was presumed to have experienced Heaven’s disapproval: they lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Intrinsic to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven was the right of rebellion against an unjust ruler (Wikipedia, 2018)

A successful rebellion was taken as a sign that Heaven had withdrawn its approval from an unjust ruler and shifted it to the rebel leader. By virtue of his success, the new ruler now held the Mandate of Heaven.

The New England author, Miss Sedgwick expressed a similar line of thought, in which talent and worth deserve distinction, and of which the Almighty signifies his approval:

Talent and worth are the only eternal grounds of distinction. To these the Almighty has affixed His everlasting patent of nobility.

Voluntary Servitude

The sixteenth century Frenchman Étienne de la Boétie penned his seminal essay, the Discourse on Voluntary Servitude in or around 1576. (A fascinating read). In this essay, he introduced the concept of voluntary servitude, or political acquiescence, so to speak. Even the tyrant will have always his active supporters, his beneficiaries and hangers-on, his toadies, if you will. Those who benefit directly from his rule.

But neither these active supporters, nor the several layers of similar beneficiaries and partial beneficiaries beneath them, are enough to keep the ruler in his seat. It requires also that the bulk of the ruled at least acquiesce in their own enslavement. The tyrant remains in place only because the ruled permit it, albeit passively, and perhaps even contribute to it.

De la Boétie advised them:

Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.

Many writers, across a wide variety of academic disciplines, have acknowledged and echoed De la Boétie’s fundamental insight. Tyrants rule only because those ruled acquiesce in it. If the subjects withdraw their support, continued misrule becomes impossible.

The Lack Thereof

I have intended to write on this topic for some time. A recent social media post caught my interest and draws me out now. (Perhaps half-cocked). It pointed out that Milton’s various Boards and Committees have trouble finding members to serve upon them. Their meetings are sparsely attended. Voter apathy is at an all-time high. (A substantial majority of the registered voters do not bother to vote). These have not been my words. Its author is well intentioned, but is mistaken in thinking exhortations alone can change anything at this point.

Confucius said that the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names. Milton is a failed state. A succession of unjust rulers, running from near the turn of the current century, have all imposed the impossible: tax increases that were more than the rate of inflation. The current administration is only the most recent iteration of this pernicious run of failures.

Less than a year ago, one-sixth of the voters chose to dissolve the Town government entirely. Talk about withdrawing support. Bravo! I challenge the selectmen to put that measure back on the ballot themselves. Have the Town lawyer spruce it up, give it some real teeth. Do it as a sort of vote of confidence. You do imagine you enjoy the voters’ support, don’t you? The numbers of disincorporaters could not possibly increase.

From the social media description, it seems that Milton’s voters – those bearing the burden of its unconscionable tax increases – have already taken De la Boétie’s advice: few vote, fewer attend, and fewest of all fill seats on the boards and committees. The electorate need not put its hands upon the Town government, but only cease to support it.

And the effects may be seen in the Roman sense too. A succession of failures have reduced the Town government’s auctoritas. Its most recent budget failure has certainly diminished its authority, as it well it should have. No one wants to be a part of that.

The next administration must reverse course immediately, right from the outset, or they will fail too. One hopes that the change is not already too late. Budget cuts, large ones, with concomitant tax cuts, large ones, are the only path to restoring any kind of authority. Otherwise, it is just another exercise in potestas. And support ebbs even faster in the face of that.

Milton has not yet lost the Mandate of Heaven, although that must inevitably come. Nobody can say exactly when the tipping point will come. It is only after the Mandate is irretrievably lost that it is acknowledged to have been lost.


De la Boétie, Étienne. (1576). The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, November 11). Auctoritas. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 4). Catherine Sedgewick. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, November 21). Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, December 24). Mandate of Heaven. Retrieved from