1850: James Martin to Jones Perkins Veazie

How James Martin might have looked in 1850

How James Martin might have looked in 1850

This letter was written by 38 year-old James Martin, a native of Scotland who resided with his children in Bangor, Maine, in 1850. We learn from the letter that Martin’s wife is recently deceased. Two daughters — Janet and Rachel — are mentioned.

Martin wrote the letter to his employer, merchant ship owner Jones Perkins Veazie (1811-1875) of Bangor, Maine, whose family was in the lumber and shipping business. In significant detail, Martin relates to Veazie his difficulties in getting underway from Baltimore to their destination (Panama) with the Brig “Brant.” An article appearing in the 15 May 1850 issue of the Charleston Courier summarizes the difficulty as follows:

Baltimore, May 11. From Swan Point, where she has been at anchor about a month, Br. ship Brant, for Panama. The detention of this vessel was in consequence of the difficulty in retaining a crew; since she left this port several crews have been shipped and deserted her.

Martins’ letter reveals he has traveled to Baltimore with Veazie’s father, General Samuel Veazie (1787-1868), to obtain a release of the vessel “Brant” being detained by the British Consul. The Captain of the vessel — Captain Hall — was retained but a new crew was required and James Martin was requested to assume the role of Master and Commander and continue with the vessel to Panama.

A continuation of the saga involving the Brig Brant may be found in a subsequent letter from Jones to Veazie written on 15 May 1850.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Jones P. Veazie, Esq., Bangor, Maine

Baltimore [Maryland]
May 4th 1850

Mr. Jones P. Veazie
My Dear Sir,

We arrived here on Monday morning at 4 o’clock and as soon as possible commenced business. It required the whole of that day simply to find out the state of the ship’s affairs & I do assure you that whatever were our anticipations in the matter, your father has very often expressed himself in strong terms that in all his business experience that he has met with nothing so complicated and that was transaction to which he has been a party has been so grossly mismanaged as that of the ship “Brant.” I shall say little on the subject here as matters are in as f___ ___ way of settlement now, and that your father will shortly be with you and relate all particulars (if that is possible). We have been compelled to ship an entirely new crew. ___ articles are filled within ____, which we expect to ship this afternoon under the old Captain minus his wife. We also take the old trade & the _____. We have limited the Capt’s power by express conditions & restrictions in writing concurred in and approved by the British Consul so that in fact your humble servant goes out Master & Commander. Oh! what a grossly mismanaged piece of business from the beginning of the troubles I have never before witnessed & trust never shall again — and so complicated. Besides our positive difficulties, we have had those against us whose cooperation with us was absolutely necessary in order to the adjustment of matters, such as Sr. British Consul, W. S. ____ & whose minds were strongly prejudiced against the coercion proceedings of a certain party & though we can not ascertain that any other causes but _____ in the cew organized the meetings ( _____ ) we can easily see that proper mismanagement would have obviated all difficulties & the good ship “Brant” might now have been on the Equator instead of lying where she now lays some twenty miles from this place. However, we expect she will sail tomorrow and I shall not digress on the subject.

As great as the responsibility is that now rests upon the and heavy the amount involved in the ship “Brant” & Cargo and so much depending upon management hereafter, yet my dear friend, there are interests which occupies a deeper position in my heart and an enlightened selfishness compels me to say to you that in comparison to which the entire ship & her cargo — valuable as it is — is as the “small dust of the balance.” I feel confidence in myself sufficient to dispel any gloomy forebodings as to the management of business immediately under my eye, but oh! I cannot describe to you the extent of my anxiety solitude for the welfare of my dear children — especially their moral & religion culture under no other circumstances than such that wish could I have left them. I know that in you I have an excellent & true friend and that all their little wants will be abundantly supplied. Yet could I have felt when I left things as I now feel in regard to them, nothing, I think, would have induced me to undertake the fulfillment of the ship now taken. However, I have put my hand to the plough and you know it is not in my nature or disposition to look back. I trust that I shall fail not to be earnest at a throne of grace in their behalf & that he who is so kindly cared for is hitherto will hear & answer my prayers. I have made a long letter to them & Bro. William, which if you please, you may read to them. It is a very disjointed letter, but you can read it so as they can understand it & supply words when deficient for I have no time now for correction and am in a poor state for writing both in body & in mind. Our business has been of such an exciting character, however coolly we might have been disposed to meet it & withal so fatiguing which in connection with a severe cold I have caught, unhinges me considerably.

I have had a great deal of talk with your father in reference to all his business on our way here. We talked so much in the cars that I got so hoarse as scarcely to be able to speak. He evinces considerable determination to wind up his business in some way very soon. I have frequently remarked to him how thankful he ought to be that he had such excellent men about him to assist him in the business — Capt. Young, Mr. Dermett, & yourself. At no time did he take a turn on this subject — especially at the mention of your name — but his feelings choked his utterance & tears his eye & mine too. He is aware that no selfish motive prompts your suggestion to him on any matter. In speaking about he most perplexing affair (the ship business) he has frequently said, “Mr. Martin, this is the last business I shall ever entrust to my son John”  and that too most emphatically. I have told him frequently that it was evidently his best plan to allow John an anxiety for he did not seem to realize the value of property and the importance of managing with any policy & according as circumstances may require, but that everything must be down as he wills it or coercive measures immediately resorted to — he “must fight them” whatever be the issue, bad! bad! policy, and in this case will cost somewhere about $1,000. I have had to take very strong grounds against John & maintain them at the sacrifice of any good feelings that may have ever existed between us. We found that Capt. Hall had the sympathy of the British Consul & the ____ attorney & we could find nothing against the man to disqualify him from navigating the ship except simplicity. The statements as to his drinking conflicts & we have a “tip top” mate. When he understood that Capt. Hall was going in the ship, he stood out against going, but I knew from whence his prejudices arose & by d__ of persuasion, he has gone down to the ship with all the men. Shipping men are very scarce but we expect to succeed in getting them today.

Friday at 10 o’clock night. This day has been a hard one, My feet is blistered running about attempting to procure the release of some of the mutineers & force them aboard the ship. We procured the release of three & if we can not clear the vessel without them, we shall take some constables & put them on board tomorrow at 11 o’clock P.M. & proceed to sea. Seaman are very scarce. John has run about & done his best to facilitate matters today. The Capt. is on shore. The more I see of him, the more I am satisfied that he is not capable to do business nor command the ship & my whole dependence is upon the mate whom I think is a real trump, and would have rather shipped him [as] Captain if I could have done so. But by the English laws, I can discharge the Captain at a foreign port but not the mate and others.

I mentioned yesterday in my letter to the children that your father was sick. Tonight he is again almost well. We have just been a shopping & picking up my traps for the voyage & an excellent hand he is to drive a bargain. He was confined to the home yesterday & most of today nit tonight is cheerful & very talkative about his business &c., &c. Mr. [Henry] Mankin came up & saw him in his bedroom last evening and we had quite a “chit chat” — your father in bed. I think much of Mr. Mankin. During the conversation, the subject of people’s making their wills was brought up and I was glad that Mr. Mankin strongly urged the propriety of men of property making a settlement of their affairs while they were in a fit state to do so & that he had made his will & had had it past him ever since he was a young man. I thought your father was somewhat affected. I think that now is an excellent time to urge upon your father the necessity of making a will which he could easily do by the cooperation of yourself, Capt. Young, & Mr. Demett. I shall again mention the subject to him before we part should opportunity afford. Would it not be pleasant for you & father to have Capt. Young move down to Bangor?

I mentioned in the children’s letter something about your purchasing for them a second hand piano forte about this time they are frequently to be cheap at unction when in Boston or Bangor from people moving away. Could you by any means look up our & make some arrangement for Janet & Rachel taking a few lessons. It would be a source of amusement to them. They must feel my absence much having never been from amongst them before. I need not ask you to look in upon them very often. That I am sure you will do. Please to give my warm regard to Mrs. Veazie & ask her to call down now & then & encourage the children by her good counsel & countenance. She will find the temper & disposition of the girls very difficult. Janet is free & easy. Rachel reserved & proud spirited, and she possesses strong power of mind & __mony. She will solve a problem in arithmetic which would puzzle me for some time. This study is quite an amusement for her which I should like to encourage. Please to desire them to write to their grandmother & friends in England & Scotland.

I said to them that I would speak with Gen. Veazie respecting their mother’s interment. I can not do it. It is enough for me to think of her in connection with this darling objects of my affection without speaking about them. I did indulge the hope of being privileged again to look on the remains of my much loved wife while identity remained but am afraid this is denied me. Whatever arrangements you make in relation to the interment (should you do anything before my return) will be perfectly satisfactory. Remember me kindly to Mr. Demott & say that I am sorry he could not so arrange matters here so that I could return, but I trust that he will be able to get away during sometime in summer. His health absolutely requires it. Remember me to Capt. Young. Say to him that I shall endeavor to protect his interests in his good ship “Brant” and you must all work & pull together at home.

I shall of course expect letters from you at Panama and I will write you at sea and send as opportunity affords. You will excuse the length this jointed epistle.

From your ever trusty, — James Martin

P.S. I experienced such kindness from your father on the way here. He did everything that lay in his power to gratify my curiosity in passing through Boston, New York, & Philadelphia. He was in excellent spirits without a singled drop of spirits. What a blessing & comfort!! — J. M.

Your father will leave here Monday first and will arrive home probably in the end of next week. — J. M.


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