1844: Julius Hitchcock to Nancy A. Pardee

How Julius Hitchcock might have looked

How Julius Hitchcock might have looked

The author of this letter was Julius Hitchcock (1794-1849), the son Harvey Hitchcock (1769-Abt1810?) and Nancy Mathews (1771-1852). After Harvey’s death, his widow married married Leavitt Pardee (1758-1831) in Harwinton, Connecticut. Nancy and Leavitt had a child named Nancy A. Pardee (1816-1865) who would have been Julius’ half-sister and the one to whom he addressed this letter. Julius died a bachelor in South Norwalk, Connecticut.

At the time he wrote this letter in 1844, Julius was the “Crier” for the New York Circuit Court of Judge William Kent, (later a teacher at the Harvard Law School). Written wrote this whimsical letter as if he were an unsophisticated, semi-literate Jonathan (country bumpkin) though it is certain from an examination of other existing correspondence that he was educated and held a respectful job at the Circuit Court in New York City. The last paragraph of this letter is a better representation of his writing ability.

I have found one other letter written in 1846, addressed to his mother — Mrs. Nancy Pardee, Bristol Post Office, Hartford County, Connecticut — and written one month after the United States formally declared war on Mexico.  This letter is housed at the Stanford University Libraries and is an eloquent and “strident critique” of the war fever. It reads, in part:

Portion of 1846 Letter

Portion of 1846 Letter

“…You are situated most admirably not to be disturbed by the excitement attendant on the call for volunteers for recruiting the army. Your ears are not saluted with the shrill whistle of the fife and war peals of the drum as we are every morning and marching a recruiting sergeant calling for volunteers to repair to Mexico, there to be food for powder and black vomita because it is said that the high dignity of the country has been insulted [by]…the Military despot now controlling the affairs of the anarchyal Republic of Mexico. Our valiant little army under Old Rough & Ready Zach Taylor has covered themselves with glory, i.e., if there is any glory in murdering by hundreds. But such honors can’t restore life to the poor fellows that have been made to bite the ground…I abhor the battle field and hold that some one are answerable for the murder of those men….Ben who led the delegation from NY to Baltimore and nominated Polk and Dallas and annexation…I …only wish that he…might have the opportunity to feel the Mexican bayonets just enough to let out the hypocritical blood…I had as leave look upon him with his under jaw carried away by grape shot…He can lounge upon his Sofa or Divan in the City of N.Y., enjoy an office under Polk, the perquisites amount to Twenty or Thirty Thousand per annum…and join the War cry to butcher and commit murder. O Christianity what will ye not do. Better go back to Paganism. Civilization what is it. (Honorable murder)…if these are the fruits of Civilization I must begin to doubt whether any advantage has ever been derived from the introduction of it into Pagan lands…”

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Miss Nancy A. Pardee, Terryville P. O., Care of Orren Preston, Plymouth, Connecticut

New York [City, New York]
February 17th 1844

Dear Sister,

In my last you know I told you that I should leave off before I got through so as to wind up the letters. Now I got to thinkin it over that just as likely as not that it would bother you to find out where I left off so I’m kind obliged to write this jist to let you know where the end of that are letter is. You see that down at the bottom I was about startin to New York but that ain’t the end of the letter. You jist look round on the margin where I was tellin you about old Father Miller. So you needent fret anymore about findin the end of that. Well what I told about father Miller is as true as any word in my new Spelling book. The old man sticks to it that if we don’t sleep with our feet pokin right east that we shan’t see anything till arter its all over. Now I’ll jist tell you what a fix the old man has got into about that. You see when he’d got a most every body convinced that it was best to turn round, the way they wheeled was a caution to the wheels of a locomotive for some of um said they was goin to see all & bleave all — till they come to some platy tall chops who so they wouldent turn no way they could fix it but the old feller stuck to um till they finally turned and when they come to stretch down their feet they reached clear down into Zero. You know if you have red the papers that they have had a mighty mess of it down east this winter. And I was tellin you them are tall chaps reached clean down there & a leetle further. Soon as their feet hit agin it the way they jerked their feet back made me think of a dancing jack. I mean such a paper one as you used to make go by pullin a string. Their feet wouldn’t stay east no how they could fix um. Wall they see their feet want made to be froze to death first and then burnt up & if father Miller wanted to have um stretch down their feet he must jist git the fire agoin for they’s bleave a word about it. Now you see jist how tis here. We all want to no everything and do everything and bleave everything that anybody else does so as not to get behind the age of anything. How the plagy old critter keeps up his meetins it bothers me find out. The old man to think its not rite to put coppers in the plate for it makes any ones fingers smell kind o like brimstone to handle em & he says that the copper he thinks will be all burnt up & left but the pure silver & gold. He likes to have um put silver in the plate for that reason & they can’t if he is right have it long any how. And all the silver they’ll give to him he’ll put in his fire proof pocket & keep it safe till its all over. They say the old critter is figurin out another day & its to come off the first of next April.

You no old Ant Nabby Downing alors used to fix up somethin for us on the first day of April & I shouldent wonder if Old father Miller was up to snuff to make jist such April Fools of us as Aunt Nabby used to. He’s a purty droll old feller any how. How the duce he can charm all the old maids as he does, I’m not cute yanke enough to find out. We’ve just got thro choosing our mates here for next year. You no the geese & ganders all of um take Valentine’s Day to become Two & Two — that I bleave makes one flesh. So we here follow after the geese & make a mighty fuss on the 14th of Feb. The way the boys & gals send letters to one another is a sin to woodchucks. Sick droll picters & Fantastics & a great many lines of poetry  praising up the gals so as to make um laugh enuf to shake the bustles off their baks when they think how much the boys think of um & want um to be their Valentine is enuf to make any one give up & have the nite mare. William had no less than two come in the mail & sick whining of the gal to try to be his Valentine. It almost made me cry, she loved him so. Nobody nose who sends um. Another young lady had a butiful one sent her. She opened it first thing she see in it was the Old Boy all picterd out as large as life. She said the Old feller couldn’t get her no away he could fix it. Upwards of 30,000 passed thro the post office in one day.

And now Nan I think I shall send my next to Sally or Eliza for you’ll get tired of reading all of um. I spose you think its purty drole mess of stuff & I think so to. It’s good deal like a Terrapin they say there’s all sorts of flesh in them — veal venison mutton bear tiger mouse elephant fish trout shad porpose shark eels bull frogs shiners whales jist what you like to eat. So I say about these letters help yourself to such as you like & give the rest away. The end.

If anybody should take it into their hed to rite out my biography, I warnt the letters put rite in the middle of the book. Finis.

It shows the riter to be a cute sort of a genius. I’ve tried to stop this letter twice and it keeps going on ritin & now I’ll just say I wish that I could rite it out ever since I was muleing & puking on my mothers arms up to the present time. The ups & the downs, the crosswise & strait wise, the checkered & striped of my life would dishearten any one unless the heart of a lion. Who would thot when Mother had me on the old mare carrying me to Burlington that it was the Crier of the Supreme Court of the Empire State. I’ve no idea she thought a word about it.

My life has a great many times took singular turns & I have when looking it over been surprised to see how small things turn the course of a man’s life. Yet amidst all the difficulties that I have had to encounter in my life yet I still have a heart to feel & a disposition to act when in my power so to do. I think I know & can duly appreciate my benefactors & so far as I know myself all that I desire is that I may live to minister as I have the opportunity & ability to the wants of an aged Mother & sickly sister. You & I Nan are to have only what we want to eat & drink while we tarry here. In fact, my whole life’s work has been for others & it cannot change. No one to bear our names to future generations. And all that will probably be said of us will be that such an one once lived & died. Till then, I am your friend & brother, — Julius Hitchcock

P.S. We enjoy our usual health. The weather here is like spring for the week past.

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