Portsmouth Asylum
Thomas R. Hazard Bio From Bayles' History

  Thomas Robinson Hazard - Bayles1

THOMAS ROBINSON HAZARD - A history of Newport county, or, indeed, of the state of Rhode Island, would be incomplete without at least a slight sketch of the life and achievements of Thomas Robinson Hazard, who, for nearly half a century, and up to the time of his death in 1886, was a resident of the town of Portsmouth.

Mr. Hazard was a lineal descendent of Thomas Hazard, who settled in the same town about the year 1638, and who was one of the original incorporators of the town of Newport. Born of Quaker ancestry, at Tower hill is South Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island , January 3d, 1797, he was trained, from early years, to the business of woolen manufacturing, which his father had established at Peace dale in the same town, and , at the age of sixteen, he engaged in the same business on his own account. In this he continued, through all the vicissitudes incident to the establishment of an infant industry on a firm basis, until 1842, when, having a few years before purchased the fine old country seat called "Vaucluse," in the town of Portsmouth, he retired from active business, and devoted much of his time to agricultural pursuits, of which he had always been extremely fond.

Though never holding political office of any kind, Mr. Hazard always took a deep interest in every movement in the direction of reform and improvement of the conditions of life, and was ever ready to use his pen, without fear or favor, in aid of any cause which he believed to be just. He was the first in the state to establish an evening school, in 1821, in his factory, and he built, largely at his own expense, in Portsmouth, the first school house on the improved plan in any country town in Rhode Island. He also joined in writing the call for the first large meeting ever held in behalf of educational interests in Providence or the state, at which the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction was organized. He visited every public poorhouse in the state, except on Block Island, made a full report of their condition to the general assembly, and succeeded in bringing about a thorough reform in their management. He began an agitation in behalf of the insane poor, and did not abandon the cause until after the Butler hospital was in successful operation. It was through his application to the general assembly that fixed appropriations were made for the maintenance of the insane, and for the education of the deaf and dumb and the blind. It was through his untiring efforts, and the influence of a report compiled and written by him, that the legislature abolished capital punishment in Rhode Island by a majority of four in the senate, and afterward by more than two to one in the house.

Mr. Hazard also took an active interest in the work of the African Colonization Society, and always maintained that, if the aims of this organization had been adequately aided by the general government, the great question of slavery would in all probability have been settled without bloodshed. In politics he was an ardent whig and an earnest supporter of Henry Clay and his American system of protection to home industry; and in the wisdom and beneficence of this principal he was, to the day of his death, an unfaltering believer. In aid of the whig campaign of 1840 he wrote and published in the Newport papers of the time a series of articles entitled, "Facts for the Laboring Man," which the New York Courier and Enquirer, then the recognized organ of commercial and financial interests, referred to as being "the best exposition of the financial policy of the present (Van Buren) administration that has appeared."

During the later years of his life Mr. hazard spent much of his time in compiling a very thorough genealogical record of the Hazard and Robinson families, prefaced by many interesting recollections of olden times and he also published in the newspapers a series of articles entitled, "Jonny Cake Papers," relating to the early customs and traditions of the state. These were afterward printed in book form, and together with his volume of "Miscellaneous Essays and Letters," made a valuable contribution to the historical literature of his state and time.

Transcription (C) 2004, William Saslow from:
[1] The History of Newport County, Rhode Island, Richard M. Bayles, 1888, New York, E. Preston & Co., pp 693-695


Portsmouth Asylum Links
  Historical Context
  Act Establishing (1832)
  Inventory Report (1833)
  Rules & Regulations (1838)
  Committee Report (1840)
  Committee Report (1857)
  The Portsmouth Cripple (1848)
  Produce Sold (1849)
  Meat Sold (1849)
  Town Council Excerpts
  1865 Census Excerpts
  1875 Census Excerpts
  1892 Account Book
  Committal Letters (1867)
  Oakum and Idle Hands
  Newport Daily News Clips (1851)
  Site Mapping (10/5/01)
  NPR Interview

Historical Texts:
  Report on Poor & Insane (1851)
  Fales Memoir (1851)
  Peterson's History (1853)

Selected Biographies
  Thomas R. Hazard -1
  Thomas R. Hazard -2
  Seth R. Anthony
  William R. Fales

Fun and Games
A Day at the Portsmouth Asylum

Other Poorhouse Links
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