This letter was written by Dr. Matthew Page Waller (1823-1861), the son of Dr. Robert Page Waller (1800-1872) and Elizabeth Christian Griffin. On 24 February 1848, Matthew married Mary Waller Tazewell (1821-1886), the daughter of Governor Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774-1860) and Anne Stratton Nivison (1785-1859). Mary was his third cousin, four times removed.
Waller wrote the letter to his brother-in-law John Mosby Speed (1815-1866), the son of John H. Speed (1795-18xx) and Susan Malvina Mosby (1796-1819). John married Catharine Page Waller in 1840.
The contents of the letter centers upon the exchange of two slaves named Jerry and Bill between the two families and some discussion on their relative value.
Addressed to John M. Speed, Esqr., Lynchburg, Virginia
August 8th 1848
My dear Sir,
Yours of the 4th inst. reached me on yesterday and as I expect you to be a man of business & wish me to answer this immediately, I hasten to do so without further delay. I received your bill of sale for Jerry & my own for Bill which I will enclose to you in this letter. I have to differ from you in regard to Jerry being the most valuable of the two. I do not think so really. There can be no doubt but that Bill would bring the most by two hundred dollars were they each to be put in market, which is the true test of their value. Jerry will suit me better than Bill would have done inasmuch as I am now overstocked with house servants and have not a sufficient quantity of farm hands.
I have, I believe, two of the best dining room servants that are to be found — Andrew & Wesley — both of whom you have seen. Bill has been spoilt in a great measure by yourself, I expect, & would not take work very kindly. He would be very apt to kick in the traces and perhaps run away from me, which will not be the case, I hope, from yourself & sister Catharine as he seems to be very fond of you & he will not have as much nor as hard work to do now as he perhaps might down here. Upon the whole then, I think that it is a very fair bargain on either side, but if there is a difference, it is in your favor.
I am very happy to hear that you are better & hope you may continue to grow so in order to take your contemplated northern trip, which I know will be of much benefit to sister & yourself, and this I say professionally & without charge. I thank you very much for your kind invitation to join you & her in the trip. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to be able to do so, and I know that my wife would too if she thought we could afford it. She is so find of sister Catharine that she would be glad to be with her anywhere, but I fear that my expenses this year will not justify me in taking so much fun & in spending as a matter of course so much money as I should do were you and I to get together in New York. But I will not give you a definite answer until I go down to Norfolk (which will be on Saturday next). When last there, I left Miss Sally Tazewell in very bad health & I advised her to take the same trip you speak [of] and she almost consented. She too is so find of sister & admires her so in Norfolk that I think it very probable she might be in dread to go & if so, my wife would hardly stay behind her if I were to stay. So that I will not say that I will not go until I go to Norfolk & find out. I will write from there Monday or Tuesday next to sister Catharine.
I would like to show you my wife & for you to become acquainted with her. I think she is one of the sweetest things in the world — not very pretty, but the gentlest, nicest-looking gal in these here parts and with a disposition & feelings so far superior to my own that I very often wonder how two persons so different should ever have gotten together. Happier here we are, or rather I should have said here we were before she went to Norfolk, and you never saw two happier people in your life. We have enough to live comfortably on & none to spare, I assure [you], for this year if I make both ends come together I will be satisfied. My friends visit me often and perhaps I am as happy as I might be were I possessed of an ample fortune, but this I doubt & would prefer at least to try the experiment.
When sister Catharine & yourself come down, you must come out & stay with us & you shall be acquainted with Mary in about ten minutes. Give my very best love to sister Cate and tell her that I will write to her in a few days. I ___ her a letter & would have written her before this but for the last ten days have been very busy in getting out & delivering my wheat which I have had to superintend myself, not being able to trust my overseer presently.
My regards to Morris & love to Page & her child.
Yours truly, — M. P. Waller