Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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ALSOP, John. of the continental congress, born in Middletown, Connecticut: died in Newtown, Long Island, 22 November 1794. He was a prosperous merchant of unquestioned patriotism and integrity, and was a worthy member of the first American congress in 1774-'76. On the occupation of New York by the British forces he withdrew to Middletown, Connecticut, remaining there until peace was concluded°
*His son, Richard, author, born in Middletown, Connecticut, 23 January 1761 ; died in Flatbush, Long Island, 20 August 1815, studied at Yale College, but did not complete the course, preferring to devote himself exclusively to languages and literature. Although he was brought up to a mercantile life, it proved so irksome that he soon devoted himself to letters, and formed a kind of literary league, popularly known as the "Hartford Wits." These included Theodore Dwight, Lemuel Hopkins, and Benjamin Trumbull. The association, informal as it was, made a notable literary hit,, all of its members being among the intellectual lights of the time. Alsop was the leading spirit and the principal writer of the " Echo," a series of burlesque essays (1791-'95). It, comprised travesties and exaggerations of current publications, state papers, and the like, making a target of anything, in fact, that offered a mark for the active wits of its editors. These papers were mostly done into polished pentameters, somewhat ponderous but instinct with fun, and not without latent wisdom.
Most of the "Wits" were federalists, and the "Echo" soon became bitterly anti-democratic. The whole series was published in a volume in 1807. Alsop's other works include a "Monody on the Death of Washington," in heroic verse (Hartford, 1800); "The Enchanted Lake of the Fairy Morgana" (1808); "The Natural and Civil History of Chili," from the Italian of Molina, and fugitive pieces. In 1815 he edited the "Captivity and Adventures of J. R. Jewett among the Savages of Nootka Sound." He was an accomplished linguist, acquiring languages, as it seemed, by a sort of intuition, and made a distinct impression on the drift of public thought.
*Another son, John (poet, born in Middletown, Connecticut, 5 February 1776; died in Middletown, 1 November 1841), was a pupil of Dr. Dwight. He studied in the law school of Judge Reeve at Litchfield, was admitted to the bar, and began practice in New London. He afterward became a bookseller in Hartford, and still later in New York. The latter part of his life was spent in retirement in Middletown. His poems were never issued in book form, but appeared in various periodicals and collections.
ALSTON, Willis, statesman, born in Halifax County, North Carolina He first appears in the colonial records of the Halifax district, North Carolina, in 1776, was a member of the provincial house of commons 1791-'92, and member of congress from 1799-1803.
His son, Willis, Jr., died 10 April 1837, was a member of the state legislature in 1794 and afterward, and a member of congress in 1803-'15 and in 1825-'31. During the war of 1812-'15 with Great Britain, he was chairman of the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives.
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