This letter was written by John W. Allen (1802-1887), a prominent politician, businessman, lawyer, and editor. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, John and Ursula (McCuroy) Allen, he graduated from Harvard in 1825 and made his way to Cleveland to study law under Judge Samuel Cowles. He joined the Cleveland Bar Association the same year. Allen’s public career began in 1828 when he petitioned Congress for aid to build a harbor in Cleveland. From 1831 until 1835, he won the annual presidential election to head the board of trustees of the village of Cleveland. He also edited the Cleveland Advertiser, the Whig Party organ in Cleveland, during 1831. Elected to the Ohio Senate in 1835, Allen served in Columbus for only a year before winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s Fifteenth district, then composed of Cuyahoga, Lorain, Portage, and Medina counties. He was re-elected in 1838. In 1841, Allen became Cleveland’s fourth mayor, serving a single one-year term. Although he began his political career in the Whig fold, cultivating a close friendship with Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, Allen switched his loyalties to the Republican Party in 1854 and remained a Republican until his death. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Allen to the federal post of postmaster of Cleveland in 1870 and reappointed him in 1874. He resigned his position in 1875.
Allen’s first wife, Anna Marie Perkins, passed away shortly after their marriage in 1828. He married Harriet C. Mather in 1830 and they had three children together, James, William, and Louisa.
Allen wrote the letter to his friend, John Clapp (1805-Aft1880), of Norwich, Chenango County, New York. John was an 1818 graduate of Hamilton College who became a lawyer and also served as the postmaster at Norwich. John married Lydia Strong in 1829 and fathered at least two children by her: Cyrus Strong Clapp (b. 1830) and Rosalinda Clapp (b. 1834).
Addressed to J. Clapp, Esq., Postmaster, Norwich, New York
March 9, 1836
Spring is opening upon us in this country & the spirit moves strongly to lead us away from the Halls of Legislation.
I have been here more than three months but, Lord willing, will be sent home within 12 days. We have agreed to adjourn on the 14th & I shall probably leave without delay for my own domicile via Wheeling & Pittsburg in order to show my wife a region of country which she has not yet seen.
I have been very busily employed during the winter, but all things considered, have passed my time very satisfactorily to myself & I hope to the benefit of my constituents to some little extent as well as to the advantage of the State at large. I have certainly acquired much useful information & have learned more of men & of things in a brief time than I should in years of peaceful life.
I have, however, no passion — thank God — for political preferment. My habits are domestic — or to some extent so — tho’ the disposition & practice of roaming from Chicago to Quebec would not be considered as conclusive evidence of it. But this is altogether a different thing from occupying a point where, like a target, one may be shot at by every man who is so inclined. I shall, if alive, spend the next winter here & that I [am] inclined to think will be the last.
Do you travel this summer? If aye, where & when? I have not determined where but I have a jaunt in view to Washington in April & May with my wife & I am anxious to travel thro’ Kentucky early in the season. Should also be glad to spend a part of the Dog-days at Mackina[w]. Whether I shall go East or not, I cannot say.
Very truly yours, &c. — J. W. Allen