1843: Emmor Elton to Levis James

How Emmor might have looked

How Emmor Elton might have looked

This letter was written by Emmor Elton (1791-1860), the son of Joseph Elton (1765-1831) and Rosanna Hoffman (1767-1821). Emmor married Esther Fahnestock (1810-1866) in October 1847.

Elton wrote this letter while serving in his second year of his term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Democrat from Chester County. In 1850, Elton was enumerated as a farmer in Middletown, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

The letter is addressed to Levis James of West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He appears in the 1830 and 1840 U.S. Census records in that location and appears to have been a school chum of Elton’s.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Levis James, West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]
January 10th 1843

My dear old friend,

I am now sitting in my little chamber in a private boarding house in this place, & this suits my bachelor habits much better than the throng of the hotel where I boarded last year. It is 9 o’clock at night & it just occurred to me that you might relish — what, a song? no, a sermon? no, but just a kind momento from an old friend. So I concluded to defer going to bed (to which I inclined being weary) for half an hour, & pen you a line, tho’ I have nothing of importance to to impart.

Sixty-seven of the members are new & I miss in consequence many of the former members with whom I had found attachments. The present house is not so able as the last. I think none of the new members are above mediocrity and none of them supply the places of T[haddeus] Stevens, [William A.] Crabb of Philadelphia, [William] Bonsall & [Adam] Ebaugh & [Isaac] Lightner. We have had a busy time electing the different officers who are exceedingly importunate, but are now through with all except the printers of the bills & journals. So we are now beginning to settle down to work.

Today a Resolution came up to recommend to Congress to remit the fine imposed by Judge [Dominick A.] Hall on Gen. [Andrew] Jackson in the last war. E. Joy Morris of Philadelphia spoke long and eloquently (as he always does) in opposition, and your old debating school crony replied to him & received several compliments on the effort, tho’ it was very inferior every way to Morrises. We had, however, a strong vote — over 70 — so that several Whigs voted with us. You must not infer from the foregoing that I am going to be a frequent debater. My rule is never to speak except imperative duty or strong feeling prompts, & that seldom occurs. I have got a seat between two whom I regard as the most honest & fearless men in the house — [William] Karns of Alleghaney & [Jefferson K.] Heckman of Northampton. The latter, who is a man of talent, changed his seat & took one along side of me, which is a compliment I acknowledge I am proud of. There is much talk of retrenchment & reform tho’ I fear the members have it more on their tongues than in their hearts.

I must now write a little for the dear Dr. Go to Philadelphia, buy a new suit from top to toe, throw aside that queer colored coat, them monstrous clumsy looking boots, that foxy hat, & when clad as a professional gentleman ought to be, make one more effort, & if you fail, why then quit. But if you meet encouragement, don’t do as heretofore, but persevere, & then [paper torn] … “bairns bairns kindly cuddle your auld grey hairs.” ¹ But my dear friend, I must draw to a close in doing which I feel my attachment to you & it reminds me of this beautiful lines of the poet:

The heart’s affection — secret thing
Tis lik the cleft rocks ceaseless spring
That free & independent blows
Of summer in rains or winter snows

Give my best to your kind old mother & all inquiring friends & regard me as ever yours, sincerely & truly, — E. Elton

¹ A line from Robert Burn’s poem, “Second Epistle to Davie.”


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