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A Soldier's Declaration of Independence

Letter from William Bayley to mother, September 11, 1782

Letter from William Bayley to mother, September 11, 1782

Item 10558 info
Maine Historical Society

After an absence of some four years, Bayley writes to his mother, Jean Bayley of Falmouth, a widow, that he had married Sarah Linch a month previous and expected to visit Falmouth in the winter.

Click on the play button to hear Professor Leamon's comments:

Transcription of Professor Leamon's comments:

In short, William Bayley's military experience in the Revolution had gradually severed his ties to family and to Falmouth, Maine. The last letter of the collection, dated 1782 from West Point, reveals the final step in the process. Note the stiff formality of the salutation (Dear Madam) as opposed to the usual 'Honored Mother' even 'Dear Mother' in one letter, and the startling revelation that he is married without his mother's approval. "Dear Mother I hope you will not take it hard but excuse me when I tell you of my marriage. I could have wished for your advice and approbation but the distance between us would not admit of it. Tis needless for me to say much of the reason or of her character. If I had not have liked her I should not have had her. However I think her deserving of as good as I am."

A second startling comment is when Bayley writes, "She was bred at a place called Smith's Clove where I now make my home although I work at West Point. Tis hardly a month since our marriage. I do expect to see you next winter if I am well. Let the consequences be what will." The important point is that Bayley's home is no longer Falmouth, Maine. And while he promises to return to Falmouth to visit his mother, it will only be as a visitor, who intends to return to his new home and new wife.

This letter is William Bayley's declaration of independence from the traditional ties that bound him to Falmouth and to his family there. Now a new life with a new wife in a new location - upper state New York - beckons. Thus was the Revolution as radical an experience for William Bayley as it was for the thirteen colonies that broke their traditional ties to their mother country.

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