1833: Samuel Purviance Walker, Jr. to Chatham Hooe Simms

Grave of Sam'l Purviance Walker, Jr.

Grave of Sam’l Purviance Walker, Jr.

This letter was written by Samuel Purviance Walker, Jr. (1815-1846), the son of Irish-born merchant, Samuel Purviance Walker (1769-1834), and Caroline Hite Lee (1794-1880) of Baltimore, Maryland, later District of Columbia. Samuel was admitted to West Point Academy in 1832 but as we learn from the letter, he resigned in February 1833 and became a midshipman in the U. S. Navy.

Walker wrote the letter to Chatham Hooe Simms (1814-1889), the son of Ignatious Robert Simms (1783-1852) and Harriet Middleton (1793-1851) of Charles County, Maryland. Chatham took up residence in Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois, where he became a merchant and later (May 1840)  married Anna Margaret Prosser.

Walker shares with Simms the speculation by Washington insiders that due to the fallout between President Andrew Jackson and his Vice President, John Calhoun, over the Nullification Crisis and the Petticoat Affair, Jackson intended to replace several cabinet members who were Calhoun supporters.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Chatham H. Simms, Diamond Grove, Morgan County, Illinois

Washington City
March 22, 1833

My good old Times,

At home in my room and alone with a bottle of fine old Madeira (which my Father has lately imported) and a fine Havana Segar whose fumes accidentally brought you to my mind, I spend a few moments still joking in dropping you a line hoping (old proverb) “they will find you in good health & spirits as I now am” and only wish for your company to take charge of an extra sear now lying on the table, and to fill up that empty glass which seems to know my own sentiments in staring empty at me in full view.

Well, my old fellow, how runs the gauntlet? How’s the times? What is going on? Are you married or single? Are you a farmer or a doctor, a layer, or a priest? A soldier or an orator, or are you “smoking” your full-blooded horse { ——- } or your genuine weed? As for me, I am now “smoking” a real Havana and thinking of you and the happy old times (I’ll enclose you some of the ashes).

I resigned at West Point last month and am now a Midshipman in the U. S. Navy — a poor business it is true which I think I shall shortly give up and come and try my fortune in your country, the far West. I no doubt could get some employment there with your recommendations and might perhaps establish myself among you for life if the prospect is fair and the field encouraging. You will oblige my dear old friend by informing me what you think of my idea and also by letting me know if I could  succeed and how everything really is. I can do anything most men can and am fit almost for any business. [I] understand the French & Spanish tolerably well & besides have a good general education. You will please answer my letter immediately as it is even now late in the spring and everyday is a waste of time.

I am really serious in what I say and shall await your answer with great impatience, and be particular about the condition of everything so I may be the better able to form my arrangements. You must not expect me to come provided with any capital, on the contrary. I wish to make my way the best manner I can and shall do everything that effort and talent can effect. My father has a large family — 12 children to support — and I do not wish to add to his expenses in being an incumbrance on him. I presume you received my other letter which I wrote you from West Point immediately on receiving yours.

The city is quite deserted now since the adjournment of Congress and but little news by this mail. I will send you The Globe and Intelligencer of this morning which perhaps may be interesting to you. Baylor, Plauche, Rogers, Robb, Mann, McLane, Hawkins, Jones, [and] Cheves of our class are now in the city and have stolen the hearts of all the girls wherever we go among the ladies there! No person like the “cadets from West Point — such good looking fellows” — perfect ladies men. By the bye, I have some news too glorious almost to be believed. Col. Thayer has resigned his station at West Point which has been accepted and he will shortly be superseded by (as it is generally supposed) by Col. Totten of the Engineers. I hope your father’s family are well as from knowing of you, I feel an interest in them all.

Edward Livingston

Edward Livingston

A new change of the Cabinet is talked of:

Mr. [Louis] McLane — Secretary of State
Mr. [Levi] Woodbury — War
Mr. [John] Forsyth — Navy
Mr. [William] Wilkins — Post Master Gen’l
Mr. [Edward] Livingston — Minister to France
Mr. [Andrew] Stevenson — Minister to England
Mr. [William T.] Barry — Minister to Colombia

Adieu. No more news. Write me immediately and don’t forget what I have mentioned. I shall be uneasy until I get an answer. I suppose you’ve seen Berry.

And smoke and smoke. Excuse this bad writing as I am writing with a steel pen.

Very sincerely, with much esteem. Your friend, — Sam’l P. Walker, Jr.


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