This letter was written by Jane Dale (Owen) Fauntleroy (1806-1861) — a native of Scotland, and one of five children of social reformer Robert Owen (1771-1858). Jane was the wife of Robert Henry Fauntleroy (1806-1849). The Fauntleroy’s were married on 23 March 1835 in New Harmony, Indiana.
“Robert Fauntleroy had a great interest in mechanics as a child, especially in the textile trades that were practiced on the family plantation near Greenville, Virginia. With the help of an estate slave, Fauntleroy modified a common loom. His fascination with mechanics contributed to his later involvement with engineering and his inventions related to the new technology of the textile industry and steam powered machinery. After the death of his mother, Fauntleroy went to live with his brother Thomas and attended a county school for about one year at Bethel Church, Virginia (Frederick County). In 1827, he came to New Harmony with his sister Emily and her husband, and first cousin, Joseph Fauntleroy. The business of Taylor, Fauntleroy Co., failed due to bad debts and the dishonest practices of the partner Taylor.
In 1835, Fauntleroy married Jane Dale Owen; Owen had expressed doubts about such a marriage because of the great differences in their backgrounds. While Jane Owen was a Scottish Presbyterian, Fauntleroy was an Episcopalian from a southern slave state. However, these differences did not prove insurmountable. Six weeks after the wedding, Fauntleroy joined the Topographical Bureau in Washington to begin a preliminary survey of Indiana for a system of internal improvements. Fauntleroy was then appointed Resident Engineer of one of these transportation projects, a line of railroad on the Jeffersonville & Crawfordsville Road; his yearly salary was $1,500.
Soon after the job ended due to lack of funding, Fauntleroy was employed to complete a survey for the Little Miami Railroad Company based in Cincinnati. At some point in the early 1840s he designed five wooden covered bridges which were built in the New Harmony area. In 1843, Fauntleroy went into the mercantile business with James Sampson. However, the business was not a success due to the large debt incurred; Fauntleroy withdrew after three years. During this period [c.1845] he surveyed a canal route from Terre Haute to Evansville.” [Source: Historic New Harmony website]
At the time this letter was written in December 1835, Jane Fauntleroy was 8 months pregnant. Their first child, Constance Owen Fauntleroy (1836-1911), was born in January 1836.
The recipient of this letter was Anna Maria Goldsmid (1805-1889), benefactor, communal worker, and translator, and was the eldest child of Isaac Lyon Goldsmid and sister of Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid.
“Privately educated, Anna was an expert linguist, studying Italian with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She also learnt French, German and Hebrew, studying the latter with Hyman Hurwitz. Her English literary tutor was Thomas Campbell. Devoted to her father, she helped him in his work, notably the establishment of University College, London and the West London Synagogue.
Born an Orthodox Jewess, she remained throughout her life very observant. However, she resented the powerlessness of women in Orthodox synagogues, and supported the West London Synagogue in the hope that it would give women a more active role in Jewish religious life. Anna Maria Goldsmid devoted much time to educational matters, in which she developed a nationally recognized expertise. She founded the Jews’ infants’ school, London (1841), and re-established the Jews’ Deaf and Dumb Home (1863). She was a patroness of University College Hospital and the Homoeopathic Hospital, both in London.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Addressed to Miss Goldsmid, Dulwich Hill House, Camberwell, London, England
December 21, 1835
My Dear Anna,
Some months since I wrote you a letter which inadvertently was almost a reply to the one I received from you so late at the latter end of August. I thought it desperately long before any English letters reached me after my marriage, but at length they came & were such a delightful budget that, happening to have fever & ague at the time, I really broke down under the excitement of reading them; obliged to go to bed for an hour or two after it & keep perfectly quiet. Then came a day or two succeeding a sober reprisal which was a second enjoyment to me & greater, just in the proportion that tranquility is preferable to turbulence.
Since my letter long ago to you, my history must have been handed down to you through my correspondence with Papa. You must have heard of Sunday sicknesses & recoveries on my part, of our visit to Cincinnati, of the birth of [brother Robert and] Mary’s baby Florence, of our return to Harmony, of my coming to this place & of my present expectations. Yes, my dear friend, I am now quite a matron; my fingers are tasked daily upon the most interesting preparations in the world & my mind agitated by the hopes & fears of a Mother expectant.
Dear Anna, you know me well enough to fancy to yourself without being told to the height & depth of those hopes & fears in my bosom. I, who have long looked upon education in general as one of the most precarious, difficult, & yet most delightful of tasks have now the prospect of commencing it from birth with a little one of my own (Oh! those emphatic words) & the precariousness, difficulty, & delight are all magnified tenfold. For the dangers, have I not to be anxious for its life & health as well as for the happy development of all its powers? For the delights, have I not the prospect or at least the chance of seeing it day by day fulfill my best expectations?
I am here a stranger in a strange land with no friend (strictly speaking) near me but my husband & yet I fear not much to encounter my perils of next month, perhaps because having never gone though the like I am not aware how great they may be. But still supposing every precaution that the place affords taken for my safety & comfort. I see hours intoxicating myself with evil anticipations. I rely for tender nursing as much as a man can give when ____ & he will give it me & for female services I shall trust mainly to the kindness of some other engineer’s wives who have, like me, followed their husbands into winter quarters & know what it is to be in my comparatively forlorn situation. This is a kind & a good world, I believe, for all the abuse that is heaped on it. Or at least until it uses me more coldly than it has hitherto done, I am determined to think well of it. Perhaps the abuse may be more worthily bestowed in the heart of London than in the backwoods of America for in your great metropolis compassion is lost in the multitude of sorrows & destitute cases. But here sorrows & necessities stand out so prominently when they do occur that the friendly soul is immediately & strangely moved to active measures for their relief & mutual assistance in a friendly way — I mean distinct from beggars charity (I have not seen a beggar these six months) — is more wanted & more given.
Although my mode of life in this wonderfully little capital — numbering scarcely more than 2000 souls — is very hard to travel to be in every respect agreeable, yet I am by no means devoid of interesting & amusing resources. The legislature of the state is in session & nearly 100 members live in this house where I have my dwelling place. Looking down our respectable table d’hôte you see many are honest & not so very few educated faces as Mrs. Trollope ¹ would lead you to believe existed among backwood dignitaries. To the prevalence of Majors, Generals, & Colonels, however — which she states as common, I can vouch in all truth for I hear nothing at table intermingled with the dinner chit chat of matters legislative & political but, “What will you be helped to General Morgan?” “I’ll thank you for the hominy (a preparation of Indian corn), Colonel Stapp.” “That cranberry tart won’t you, Dr. Mather’s head, if you please.”
General Morgan ² is one of my particular acquaintances — a tough looking old Senator who sees well to the economical use of the public houses, but yet does not break from the idea of a loan of 10 millions of dollars to carry on projected internal improvements, particularly railroads & canals within the state. Meeting at supper, we not unfrequently discuss together a dish of mush (a porridge of Indian meal & milk) & of politics. The old gentleman farmer is altogether so excellent a specimen of Republican homeliness & intelligence that I wish I could hold up to you his full length portrait, but then he would take up all my long sheet & I cannot afford that.
At the opening of the legislature, I attended the delivery of the Governor’s Message.³ Of a truth, it had far more stuff & common sense language in it than ever graced king’s speech from the throne. It touched upon the great question of internal improvements, discussed affairs of banks, universities, prisons, & everything appertaining to the public business excepting the taxes. He bespoke not a word of supplies except of the increased proportion of tax necessary if the houses voted a loan of 10 millions.†
A few evenings after the opening of the legislature, we were invited to one of the Governor’s official parties. If he & his wife had stood up in state at the end of a long suite of rooms, I should have called it a levee & you would have better understood what sort of an affair it was, but you can suppose to yourself. A tall Virginian & his wife — he thin & she pale — walking about among a crowd of 60 or 70 gentlemen & only half a dozen ladies & showing no extraordinary solicitude except to keep good rousing fires, clean hearths, & to see that the apples, cakes & wine made due perambulation. When not occupied with these domestic cares, she chatted with us of the female order or went out to nurse her baby, & the Governor talked to the engineers of railroads & to the lawyers, I suppose, of the doings of their Supreme Court which was then sitting. I ought to explain that the party was given to the lawyers and engineers & strangers in town; the legislators were invited for the next evening. The greater number of the guests were natives of the eastern part of the United States. The engineer corps were drafted from Washington City & many of them play the dandy & refined gentleman to perfection, I suppose in compassion to their western brethren whom they consider as terribly behind-hand in all the graces of mind & person & have a notion to give them a lesson gratis.
Enough of out-of-door topics. Let us go back to ourselves. And Augusta is married, has already 3 months of matrimonial experience over her head. Ask her if she does not agree with me in think ing that sincerity that is expressing immediately & fallen, but with due discretion of course, all that one feels — especially if it be of the disagreeable order, is the first of conjugal virtues. Next, the granting & using as much personal independence as is contemplated in the case of two persons living together. Third, for be___, where …[too difficult to read].
¹ Mrs. Frances Trollope (1779-1863) was an English novelist and writer who was immortalized following the publication of her first book, Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) in which she gave an unfavorable, if not exaggerated, account of American society.
² Senator Amaziah Morgan represented Rush County in the Twentieth Session of the Indiana General Assembly wich convened in Indianapolis on Monday, 7 December 1835. He was a member of the committee on “Canals and Internal Improvements.”
³ Noah Noble (1794-1844), a native of Berryville, Virginia, succeeded James B. Ray as the fifth Governor of Indiana. Noble served between December 4, 1831 and December 4, 1837. His two terms focused largely on internal improvements, culminating in the passage of the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act, which was viewed at the time as his crowning achievement. His taxing recommendations to pay for the improvements were not fully enacted, and the project ultimately led the state to negotiate a partial bankruptcy only a four years later. The debacle led to a gradual collapse of the state Whig party, which never regained control of the government and led to a period of Democrat control that lasted until the middle of the American Civil War. After his term as governor he was appointed to the Board of Internal Improvement where he unsuccessfully advocated a reorganization of the projects in an attempt to gain some benefit from them.
The governor’s message was delivered on 8 December 1835. In the address, Gov. Noble appealed to the legislature to appropriate funds for the siting and construction of a new Governor’s Mansion as the current structure, located in the middle of what is now Monument Circle, was considered wholly unsuitable. Though less than ten years old, the Governor’s Mansion was poorly constructed and offered absolutely no privacy to the Governor and his family. Consequently, it was never occupied by an Indiana Governor.
Governor Noble’s wife was Katherine Stull Van Swearingen (1801-1874). The year-old child she was nursing at the time may have been Winston Park Noble (1834-1899).
† The Twentieth Session of the Indiana General Assembly is famous for passing the “Mammoth Internal Improvements Act” in 1836. A sum of $10M was borrowed for 25 years at five percent interest to pay for eight civil construction projects in the state though no provision was made to raise taxes and revenue, at the time, was less than $100,000 per year. The state eventually defaulted on this loan, as might have been predicted. From this letter we learn that even Mrs. Fauntleroy saw the folly in the authorization to borrow funds by the legislature without addressing the need to raise taxes.