COLLECTION GUIDES

1834-1847

Guide to the Collection

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Representative digitized documents from this collection:

Restrictions on Access

Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below). Black and white microfilm is also available for use in the library.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of one box of letters written by Maria Revere Balestier, daughter of Paul Revere, to her sister Harriet Revere (1783-1860) and brothers Joseph Warren Revere (1777-1868) and John Revere (1787-1847). The letters span 1834 to 1847. Also included are letters by Joseph Warren Revere Balestier and Joseph Warren Revere (1812-1880).

Biographical Sketch

Maria Revere Balestier was born on 14 July 1785, a daughter of Paul Revere and his second wife, Rachel Walker. She married Joseph Balestier, likely born around 1788 in France or the United States, on 8 May 1814. Their son Revere was born on 15 May 1819. Joseph Balestier, a merchant and plantation owner until his business failed in 1830, procured a position as the American Consul at Rhio (now known as the Riau Islands, Indonesia) "and such other places as are nearer thereto than to the Residence of any other Consul or Vice Consul of the United States." At this time Singapore, a valuable location for trade, was under the jurisdiction of the British East India Company. American trade in the area was nearly nonexistent due to the HMS Larne incident of 1825, in which a British ship mistakenly seized an American trading vessel en route to Singapore, but Balestier recognized Singapore as a valuable trading port and requested a post there rather than the quieter port at Rhio. The Balestiers arrived at their new post in Singapore on 24 May 1834. After some negotiation, Joseph Balestier was able to reopen Singapore to American trading ships. He was officially appointed as Consul of Singapore by 1837.

Joseph Balestier's work as Consul primarily involved the fostering of American trade, as well as overseeing the welfare of American seamen and shipwrecked citizens and handling legal matters relating to American affairs with surrounding peoples. He also participated in local politics and continued work on the side as a merchant and planter, selling a variety of goods from ships to sugar to French wine. These satellite ventures were meant in part to assist the Balestier family in maintaining a comfortable home as well as upholding the manifold and often expensive duties of an American Consul, which the American government's annual stipend could not fully cover. The family was shocked by the death of Revere Balestier, whose health was always fragile, on 2 March 1844 at only 24 years old. The Balestier family remained in Singapore until shortly after Maria's death on 22 August 1847. Joseph Balestier continued his diplomatic work as a Presidential Envoy from 1849 to 1851, followed by a brief return to his work as Consul in Singapore before retiring in 1852. He remarried that year but died only six years later on 12 November 1858.

Collection Description

This collection consists of one box of letters written by Maria Revere Balestier, daughter of Paul Revere, to her sister Harriet Revere (1783-1860) and brothers Joseph Warren Revere (1777-1868) and John Revere (1787-1847). The letters span 1834 to 1847 and are arranged chronologically. They concern family news, travel, and descriptions of life at Bintang (Singapore) beginning with the family's voyage abroad and ending near Maria Revere Balestier's death in 1847. The letters provide rich details of home life, social functions, and diplomatic relations in Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Also included are extensive and often racist descriptions of the Malay, Chinese, and Indian people with whom the family interacted in various capacities. The collection also includes letters written by Joseph Warren Revere Balestier and Joseph Warren Revere (1812-1880).

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Walter Muir Whitehill. Removed from the Walter M. Whitehill papers.

Restrictions on Access

Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below). Black and white microfilm is also available for use in the library.

Other Formats

The collection is also available on microfilm, P-367, 1 reel.

Preferred Citation

Maria Revere Balestier papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Balestier, Joseph, 1788?-1858.
Balestier, Joseph Warren Revere, 1819-1844.
Revere, Harriet, 1783-1860.
Revere, John, 1787-1847.
Revere, Joseph Warren, 1777-1868.
Revere, Joseph W. (Joseph Warren), 1812-1880.
Revere, Paul, 1735-1818.

Organizations:

East India Company.

Subjects:

Bintang--Description and travel.
Diplomatic and consular service, American--Southeast Asia.
Singapore--Description and travel.
Southeast Asia--Commerce--19th century.
Women travelers.