1834: Dr. Eli S. Davis to W. Robert Leckie

John C. Calhoun

John C. Calhoun

This letter was written by Dr. Eli S. Davis (Bef1795-Aft1855) of Abbeville, South Carolina. He appears to have been somewhat of an expert on Consumption. He wrote an article for the American Farmer on “Phthisis Pulmonalis, or Consumption of the Lungs” in 1820. As a leader of the Union Party in South Carolina, Davis spoke out publicly against the Nullification proceedings of his home state. In September 1832, at a public meeting held in the Abbeville District, Davis referred to nullification as a “revolutionary remedy,” certain to lead to “the destruction of our political and civil liberty.” He advocated the re-election of President Jackson and argued in favor of a protective tariff. In 1816, Dr. Davis had the dubious honor of running against — and losing to — John C. Calhoun for Congress.

Remains of the Lockkeepers House on the Landsford Canal, built under supervision of Robert Lockie

Remains of the Lockkeepers House on the Landsford Canal; built under supervision of Robert Lockie

Davis wrote the letter to W. Robert Leckie (1775-1834) of Washington D.C. Leckie was a native of Perthshire, Scotland, who came to the United States in 1805 with his wife, Mary Ann (Taylor) Leckie, and labored as a stone mason for a number of years. Descendants claim that he helped to rebuild the U.S. Senate Chamber after it was burned by the British during the War of 1812. Through his friendship with Col. George Bomford, Chief of Ordinance, U.S. Army, he landed contracts to build U.S. Armories in Augusta, GA and Richmond, VA. Between 1820 and 1823, he was a contractor on the Landsford Canal on South Carolina — no doubt where he formed the acquaintance of Dr. Davis. In 1834, when this letter was written, and just before his death, Leckie was a masonry superintendent on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal at Georgetown.

Leckie had two daughters, Susan Helen Leckie and Mary Ann Leckie. They both eventually married wealthy plantation owners in Virginia though, in this letter, Dr. Davis states that he hoped they would marry politicians. He had Tennessee Congressmen David W. Dickinson (1808-1845) and William Claiborne Dunlap (1798-1872) in mind — both Jacksonian Democrats elected to the 23rd Congress.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Robert Leckie, Esquire, Washington D. C.

Abbeville, South Carolina
January 13, 1834

My Dear Sir,

Image 22Your letter of the 30th Ult. in which you give me a copy of James A. Black’s letter I received by yesterday’s mail. A few days after my return home, I received from Mr. Black a bundle of your papers in relation to work done at York. These papers together with those relating to [the] Landsford [Canal] were submitted by me to the Legislature in 1831 and referred to the Committee on Internal Improvements and consequently from that moment became the property of the House and could only be withdrawn at your request and by leave of the House. I am yet to learn by what authority a member can carry off the public documents and hawk them through the state. But my dear sir, this is strictly in character with the state of things here at this time.

Image 23Everything like regular government is abolished here. Instead of doing the business of the people, the Legislature during its recent session was engaged in passing laws which would have disgraced the reign of Robertspere [Robespierre], and it only remains for a Danton or a Maribeau [Mirabeau] to step forth and proclaim the principles of the French Revolution. Then an equality of rights would be sustained by the goullitine [guillotine] and the purlicus would be decorated with the heads of decapitated victims.

Image 21In the midst of this anarchy, however, I will take care of your papers. I shall see Black before long when I will enquire what they have done with the other papers. The Union Party are holding public meetings throughout the state in order to enter their solemn protest against the extraordinary proceedings of the late Legislature. We will, if possible, “expel the Goths from Rome.”

Image 25I hope you have heard from Mr. Boyce as I shall feel some anxiety till I learn that fact. Give my best respects to the girls to whom my daughter desires to be kindly presented. Tell them I had selected the Hon. Mr. [David W.] Dickinson and the Hon. Mr. Dunlap, both of Tennessee, as beau’s for them but it so happened we could not pay them a visit before I left the city. Tell Mary [that] Mr. Dickinson is a likely youth — only 25 years old altho a member of Congress and as a recommendation, I will state that his Grandfather was a Scotchman.

Adieu. — E. S. Davis

And tell Susan that Mr. Dunlap is a little older than Mr. Dickinson, no less handsome & intelligent. — E. S. D.


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