Wednesday, July 26, 2017

James Steptoe to Sarah "Sally" Tate Steptoe Massie, July 19 and 25, 1815

Federal Hill, near New London, Virginia. Virginia Department of Historic Resources
[James Steptoe [at Federal Hill, Virginia,] to Sarah Tate Steptoe Massie near Rose’s Mill, Nelson County, Virginia, July 19 and 25, 1815. Massie Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society. This is my rough, annotated transcription from a copy graciously provided by William Myers. Extra paragraph breaks inserted for easier reading.]

Dear Sally,

I have received yours of the 8th of this month. Having been unexpectedly, and unavoidably, detained at Home, so late this Summer, I find that I cannot now visit the warm Springs this Season, and stay there the length of time I would wish, for less than six weeks. I cannot think of staying.

I must therefore try to defend myself against my Rheumatic Complaints, as well as I can next Winter, and take an early start in the Summer. should I be so lucky as to weather the cold storms of the winter.

If nothing unusual happens, I think you will see me at Colo. Massie's between the first and the fifteenth of the next month.

                                                               Yr. affect. Father 
                                                                 Ja. Steptoe
                                                                    July 19, 1815

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My dear Sally,

I have at last determined to make an effort to get over to the Warm Springs, and shall set off in three days.

I expect to be at Home by the first of September and count upon it as a thing certain, that I shall find you at my House on my return Home.

Present my most respectful compliments to Colo. Massie and assure him that I shall see him in Nelson, if alive, am able to Travel, before the setting in of the Frost next Autumn.

                                                                Yr. affect. Father
                                                                  Ja. Steptoe
                                                                     July 25, 1815

[Sally = Sarah Tate Steptoe Massie (1796-1828), who was married to William Massie (1795-1862) and was the daughter of James Steptoe (1750-1826). There is a massive Massie collection at the University of Texas here.

James Steptoe (1750-1826), whose home base was “Federal Hill.” Harvey Mitchell (1799-1866) later painted his portrait here. See this link. The Federal Hill estate was located very close to New London and also Lynchburg, Virginia; about three miles or so away from Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Was in Bedford County, but now it’s in Campbell County. Picture here.]


[Many thanks to Sue Davis, William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their ongoing research collaboration.]  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Frances Callaway Steptoe to Sarah Tate Steptoe Massie, June 25, 1815

[Frances Callaway “Fanny” Steptoe at Federal Hill, Virginia, to Sarah Tate Steptoe Massie near Rose’s Mill, Nelson County, Virginia, June 25, 1815. Massie Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society. This is my rough, annotated transcription from a copy graciously provided by William Myers. Extra paragraph breaks inserted for easier reading.]

                                                         Federal Hill, June 25th 1815

I am truly sorry of your indisposition as I shall loose [lose] the pleasure of your visit and not only for that, but on your own account, if you think you will not be able to come up before Papa goes to the springs, which he will do immediately after harvest, I will go down and stay a week or two with you as I am so very anxious to see you. 

No doubt but you have been surprised at my not writing to you before this; believe me Sally it is not for the want of an inclination but for the want of nice paper to write on.

My letter is short, news is scarce; and my paper is bad.

Adieu my dear sister and believe me to be affectionately yours
                                                                            Frances Steptoe

[Sally = Sarah Tate Steptoe Massie (1796-1828), who was married to William Massie (1795-1862) and was the daughter of James Steptoe (1750-1826). There is a massive Massie collection at the University of Texas here.

Frances Callaway “Fanny” Steptoe (1798-1832), sixteen years old (nearly seventeen) when she wrote this letter. On March 13, 1816, she would marry Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne (1790-1854).

Papa = James Steptoe (1750-1826), whose home base was “Federal Hill.” Harvey Mitchell (1799-1866) later painted his portrait here. See this link. The Federal Hill estate was located very close to New London and also Lynchburg, Virginia; about three miles or so away from Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Was in Bedford County, but now it’s in Campbell County. Picture here.]

[Many thanks to Sue Davis, William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their ongoing research collaboration.]  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Edward William Johnston, "Liberty and Literature," January 14, 1854

[Edward William Johnston (unsigned), “LIBERTY & LITERATURE,” New Orleans Daily Crescent, January 14, 1854, page 2, column 1. This is my rough transcription. Added paragraph breaks added for easier reading.]

Were an oyster, sunk deep in oozy water and mud and fastened to some rotten piece of timber by the thick shell which defends him from all access to external information, suddenly to set up for a speculative philosopher, he would make just such a hand of it as do the one-ideaed people who now abound upon all the shores of the intellect, the civilized deep over, and in this country, particularly, form great oyster-beds of shell-fish opinion.

He that adapts a system for his thought has to shut himself in a shell and live without his senses, lest these should bring him in something against the watery one-idea in which he lives. Not to be interrupted in its exclusive contemplation, he walls himself about with it, and as its more solid components harden and thicken about him, he lies and fattens upon the more thin and fluid, until lo! some political fishmonger comes, with along pair of tongs, tears him away from his beloved bottom, cracks, with oyster-knife, this crustacean defences, and swallows him down, with many another, easy victims of party voracity and just fit to be its nourishment.

So much for these political or social or even religious monomaniacs, as a class – people who will clap everything upon the Procrustean bed of their system: who see, hear, feel, smell, taste, think, know, fancy, only by it, and will believe nothing else: who, turning democrats, will have it that every body and every thing shall be radical and revolutionary; or taking to monarchy, want every kind to be a despot; or being Protestant or being Catholic, wish to break down all law, in order that they may be able to destroy their opponents; or, being State Rights men, are eager to pull down the Union; or, finally, being fond of Liberty, not only want to obtain for men that blessing at the sacrifice of every other, but are really so obfuscated by their one idea that they can and will have nothing else: to them, that which agrees with their kink, is; and all that will not, is not: there is nothing but their kink: no gospel, no government, no law, no literature.

So much for these worthies as a class. As an individual example of them, there can be nothing more speaking than the following ravings of that king of kinks, Horace Greeley, about the sable literature of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The literature of Liberty is one with wings. No Pegasus is it which flounders in the world without flipping a wing; but a volant thing, self-sustained and motived[.] We are particularly reminded of this fact by the success which has attended the dissemination of Mrs. Stowe’s work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We learn from the publishers, Messrs. Jewett & Co., of Boston, that they have presented and sold three hundred thousand copies of that work. Three hundred thousand books! Think of it! Books which lie on tables, which are put on shelves, which do not die with the day they are read; contain these Sermons of Liberty – sermons worked into the portraitures  of persons, places and thrilling events, and all that is most attractive to the great army of thirsters after knowledge, and above all to the young. Three hundred thousand books represent some two million of readers sooner or later, and these two million converse with, affect, influence, win over others the views they may have adopted from such reading.

“The literature of liberty,” quoth Greeley, “hath wings.” No doubt: it is quite flighty enough to have them.

“It is no Pegasus,” adds Horace. Decidedly not: ‘tis a donkey.

“It does not flounder,” continues he. Yet ‘tis as flat as ever was flounder.

“It is a voilant thing.” So is every black beetle that bobs against the wall.

“It is self-sustained and motived,” avers the classical herbivorist. So is a soap-bubble.

But he was “particularly reminded” of liberty’s literature. Ah, Greely, ‘twas but a small effort of memory for you to remember all the literature you ever knew.

“Three hundred thousand books.” Well, why not? ‘Twas written for fools, and ought to have plenty of readers.

“Books which lie on table.” What a marvelous literature, that can like on a table!

But that’s not all: it “can be put on the shelf.” Yes, and there is will soon be laid.

Mighty muncher of vegetables! Go to grass, with thy ebony litter of literature, thou modern Nebuchadnezzar!

[New Orleans Daily Crescent. ([New Orleans, La.]), 14 Jan. 1854. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. Link here.]

[Edward William Johnston (1799-1867).
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896).
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (1851-1852).
Horace Greeley (1811-1872), who helped form the Republican Party and was a vegetarian (hence the food quips). Editor of the New-York Daily Tribune.]

[Many thanks to Sue Davis, William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their ongoing research collaboration.]