1852: Joseph Nagle to John Laidley

How Joseph Nagle might have looked in 1851

How Joseph Nagle might have looked in 1851

I believe this letter was written by the same Joseph Nagle (1790-Aft1850) who is enumerated in the 1850 Census at Ridley, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He was married to Hannah (1792-Aft1850) and had two children — Benjamin and Francis — still residing in his home. He was a farmer by occupation. No other reference could be found concerning him and his family.

Nagle wrote the letter to John Laidley (17xx-1863) who came to Guyandotte, Cabell County, Virginia, after serving in the War of 1812 and engaged in the practice of law. He became prosecuting attorney of the county and filled this office until the time of his death in 1S63. Laidley was married to Mary Scales Hite.

In 1837, Marshall Academy, predecessor of Marshall University, was formed. One of the Academy’s founders, local lawyer John Laidley, recommended that the school be named in honor of his friend, John Marshall, the late Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall Academy was a “subscription school” serving the wealthier families in the Cabell County vicinity. It was incorporated in 1838 by the Virginia State Legislature. In 1867, the new state of West Virginia created the State Normal School of Marshall College to train teachers. Marshall College continued to increased in size and, in 1961, achieved the status of University.

The letter contains an interesting prophesy of the prospect for a world war with religious overtones suggesting some sort of Armageddon based on the biblical writings of David. Nagle states that he had previously predicted that event to occur in 1860 (eerily close to the American Civil War) though he concedes the international events he has recently observed may hasten that event and necessitate their spiritual readiness.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to John Laidley, Esq., Guyandotte, Cabell County, Virginia

[Darby] Delaware County [Pennsylvania]
January 23, 1852

John Laidley, Esq.
Dear Sir,

On Saturday last your favor dated Jany 2st came to hand enclosing $30.00 being the proceeds of filly sold by Mr. Johnson. In that you mention having written to me on the 27 of November enclosing $120.00 and have received no answer. I have received the letter & that also & have answered it & have no doubt but the answer had come to hand before this. The letter of the 27 ov November laid in the Post Office some time before I received it. This will explain all.

I learn by the newspaper that our worthy friend Geo. W. Summers ¹ was not the successful candidate for Governor. I deeply regret the disappointment as I have no doubt but his influence would have materially aided the advance of public improvement in our country.

You may have seen by the papers the sensation produced on the mind of our great men by the eloquence of [Louis] Kossuth, the [freedom fighter] of Hungary. ² No doubt he is one of the greatest men of the present age and the doctrines advanced by him will have an effect on the politics of our Nation to the closing up of the twentieth century. His address at the Banquet at Washington on the 7th instant is one of the finest things of the kind I have ever seen. Mr. Hulsman, the Austrian Ambassador, has written a note to the President complaining that Mr. Webster was at that Banquet & of the sentiments he advanced on that occasion and rumors are heard of a strong probability that said ambassador will be furnished with his passports. There is no doubt in my mind but Europe will soon be involved in a general war and a strong probability that America will be forced to participate in it. Should things turn out as present appearances indicate, England will be attacked by Austria, Russia, Prussia & the Germanic confederacy & she appears to have no friend — no allies on the continent. Lord Palmerston has offended all & turned out office. Should the condition of England be desperate, will the United States let her be conquered? I think not.

There is little doubt in my mind but this approaching war will be to a very great extent a Religious war or constitutional rights against absolute power and if so, this country must feel its effects very powerfully — indifferent as we may feel, Nevertheless, there is no doubt but the Church of Rome is using strong efforts to gain an ascendancy in our government. An attempt was made at our last elections to elect Judge Campbell, a catholic on that principle.

There is little doubt but the time is rapidly approaching when many prophesies are to be fulfilled & God is rousing the nations to accomplish His purpose.

Probably this country is to be the theatre of the perfection of the human species. All the dogmas and doctrines of Religion & politics will be acted out to their full extent and when passed through the crucible of intellectual laboratory, what is best suited for God’s Glory and man’s benefit will be understood.

Rome in the days of her glory had the deities of all the idolatrous nations of the Earth collected in one great building — the Pantheon — where every individual of any nation might retire & find his national idol and this very act had a tendency to exhibit the inconsistency & folly. At this time there is as much necessity as then to exhibit the folly of man. If so, there must be a struggle. Are we prepared for it? God who has been our guide so far will not leave us in the time of trial. I had no expectation of living to see these things. My calculation was by Daniel’s prophesy they wold commence about 1860, but present appearances would indicate their near approach. Come when they may, let you & I be ready and hand at our post.

See what a long letter I have written. I must apologize. I am confined to the house. The weather is very cold. The thermometer 3 degree below zero & my back is bad & to indulge in a communication to my old friend is a great gratification to me but encroaching too much on your time.

Provisions are high. Beef $7 to $8.00 per hundred. Pork $6 to 7. Wheat has advanced [and] is now worth 95 cts., potatoes 90 cts to $1.00, corn 65 cts., butter 20 to 37 cts., eggs 50 to 62½ cts per dozen. Good turkeys $1 to $2.00. I have been building a house & am now hawling lime to manure my land. I pay 13 cts. per bushel and haul it 10 miles, spread 40 or 50 bushel to the acre. If I had my old four pole farm, it would be worth $50,000.00 but I must be content. Providence has blessed me so far & what should I ask more. I must close. We are tolerably well but have had severe solids.

Remember me to your family & Mr. Johnson’s family & all whom you may think me worthy of being enquired after.

With the greatest respect, I remain yours — Joseph Nagle.


¹ George William Summers (1804-1868) was the unsuccessful Whig candidate for Governor of Virginia in 1851.

² President Fillmore entertained Louis Kossuth at the White House on December 5 and January 7 1852. The US Congress organized a banquet for Kossuth on January 7, 1852, which was supported by all political parties.


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