Letter From William Geddes to John Geddes, April 14, 1831

Author: William Geddes

Date: April 14, 1831

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Londonderry April 14th 1831

Dear Brother [John Geddes] I received your letter of the 31st of January on the 19th of February and the Ariel on the 9th of April Mr Parsons is still it appears unwilling to fulfill his first engagements. He ought if he has any sense of honor or honesty to blush at such conduct; it; is really scandalous for any man that pretends to either to ask to be favoured in so trifling a matter. He certainly knew when he made the bargain that he could not fulfil it or, if he can he does not want to do it In either case he deserves not to be favoured. I think you ought to compel him to pay one way or the other; for it is perfect nonsense to take a mortgage for the small sum of 100 dollars and then probably spend the half of it to recover by law – I wish to avoid the expense of going to law if I can; it is got to be as clear as any demonstration in Euclid that it is not worth while to go to law for small matters. I dont like to let the title slip out of my hands; if he will pay the sum he mentions and is satisfied with having it endorsed on the deed and let it lie in your hands untill he has paid the remainder with Interest you may agree with him as he asks; but not to throw of[f] any of the interest or principal by any means, the land is certainly worth the money and I would as soon hold it as his money and sooner if he pays but part and gives a mortgage for the rest I would too rather that you would follow my former advice, that is to let that matter slip through entirely; than go to law with the poor devil who seems not to know his own mind even for the penalty; but in this matter you may do still as you please. Do in the whole matter as you like. Father has been to see our relations in Franklin & Cumberland counties lately & found all well there that were still living & but one dead. Uncle Thomas having died of a fall he got off the thrashing floor loft sometime in the fall. Uncle Paul has Erected a new house for him and his second brood of young ones; and his son Thomas farms the place Cousin John having persuaded Robert to go too New Orleans What there doing I dont know what. Robert had started farming in partnership with Thomas but had left off sometime in August. James lives in Indiana and is getting along something better than formerly. Alexander Graydon is at his storekeeping and I think is making money: his wife was delivered lately of a daughter which is the fourth if not the fifth – two sons and two daughters he has certainly besides Robert. Robert has enjoyed good

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health all along and is a very smart boy, he has studied or rather went through what is generally taught: as far as Euclid which he commenced lately as well as his Latin grammar. There is every prospect in the world of his being a great Scholar; which he ought to be for he will never be capable of labour; owing to his slender make – he appears to me not to grow any either in height or thicknefs. I think it not right altogether to compel a child to cram his head so full of things which he can have but a faint Idea of the use or meaning of. He is able to demonstrate a thing without being able certainly to give the why or the wherefore. I feel convinced that the burdening the infant mind with so much learning hurts the Intellectual as well as physical powers; that both are brough[t] to a premature growth. Flour has been lately sold here for 5.75 and in the city at 6.50. Rye & Corn is worth here 50 cents Whiskey 29. Flour was between 6 & 7 all winter. We had a very severe winter: shortly after I wrote there fell a snow of about two feet in depth & it snowed occasionally until we had at least three feet of it on the ground and of such a dry nature that it drifted nearly all the roads shut: there never was in this part of the country so much difficulty in getting from one place to another nearly all kinds of businefs were soped [stopped] for a time. The cold was intense for two months without a days respite. Our March weather however proved more mild and the snow was entirely driven away by it without producing a flood which our weather wise people said would certainly take palce [place] and sweep our Canals to davy Jones. It passed away without much rain and slowly. There was no snow frost in the ground when the snow fell and strange as it may seem there was little or no ice on the streams thoug[h] the cold was severe. The oldest inhabitants say they have not seen such a winter these forty years. The three last weeks past have been real spring weather but at present we have blustry cold weather: the wind was very high for those three days a good many roofs of barns were thrown of[f] and a great deal of fence thrown down. I was told that there was a three story brick house blown down in Harrisburg. There is likely to take a new turn in Politicks with us which I think will undo Antimasonry. The legislature has passed an act to levy a tax of one mill on a dollar througout the Commonwealth for to pay the Interest on the Canal Loans: which are about being laid and is to be collected in October next. Which will produce such an excitement as to level all party distinction. The friends of the Canaling system have all along flattered the people into the idea there would be no necessity of taxation and consequently since the Election of Shulze it never has been made a party question with the people. You know what a buzz the million loan of Heaster’s administration made in the country: When in fact former administrations had made it absolutely necefsary. Which will be the case again Georg Wolf will be hurld from office for the sins of the Tulpehocken OH [sic]. I every once and a while tell they great Shultze men about their putting him in in [sic] opposition to canals, and then becoming the dupe of the canal party sanctioning every bill they pafsed till they have borrowed thirteen

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millions of dollars. Such as been the conduct of our patent democrats these eight years past. They have gone on borrowing and borrowing untill the present crisis when they are obliged to borrow to money to pay the Interest of former loans or resort to taxation which latter the[y] have determined on. What there succefs may be is yet to be determined. All personal property is also to be taxed at the same rate, taking in mortgages Judgements bonds notes pleasure carrigeges [carriages] & gold and silver watches that are worth twenty dollars. The Canals are all in operation that are compleated or at least the water has been let into them. There is one continued water communication from Northumberland via Middletown & the Union Canal to Philadelphia. The Juniatta canal is not yet in opperation owing to some damage it has suffered. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is doing the Baltimorians more damage than they apprehended a great part of the trade of the Susquehanna goes through it to Philadelphia. The rail road from Columbia to the city is to be put under contract this summer and the canal from Columbia to Middletown which will make the line of communication complete. There has been some flour taken from Middletown to Philadelphia for forty cents per barrel this spring. I was to see Baltimore and Washington the latter end of March. Baltimore is a triffling city in comparison with Philad. and the country from York to Baltimore and from Baltimore to Washington miserable poor. The City of Washington is small and the houses chiefly two and three stories high which is the same case with Baltimore The Capital of the United States and the Presidents house are the only things worth looking at in Washington. The Capital stands at the east end of the town and stands on an eminance. The rise in the ground from the level of the street to the first step we make to ascend the main hill is 10 feet at least if not 15 then you rise thirty steps of 6 inches each onto a level of about 100 feet in breadth when there is another flight of steps of the same number of the first onto another level of the same breadth to the foot of the building. The banks of both these levels on each side of steps are faced with sods and look beautiful. These levels or the banks that support them are semicircles. They are brought round in a circle on either side of the stairway till they strike the main bank or hill. After you are on the level you must rise thirty six steps to get into the Rotunda or on a level with floor of both houses of the legislature which is on the second story. The Building is four stories high & is 120 yards in length & about half the number in breadth the breadth I did not step. The Building is fenced in with Iron fence about 10 feet in height. After the fashion of Pails [?] the pails or bars are 1 inch square and pointed at top. I think one would have to travel a mile to go round the whole enclosure. Before the East of the building which I would call the front of it though it dont face the town is the chief part of the enclosure which is planted with a great variety of trees intersected with gravel walks straight and circular the rest of the ground amongst the trees is entirely green with grafs. The buildings facing the East is one continued straight line except in the centre where the portico is: the main buiding [building] stands back about four feet further than the wings. The Portico or porch where we enter into the rotunda is supported by three row of of [sic] pillars of the gothic order (square ones and have really a gothic appearance) eight in the first or outer row [and] 12 in the middle and 6 in the inside row on top of which are formed a compleat arch where on is laid the floor of the portico the whole of which of is of hewn stone. There is a rise of thirty six steps ontoo [sic] this floor which are supported by an arch leaning against the floor of the porch The roof of the Portico appears to be arched with hewn stone and is supported by as many round pillars standing in the same and on the the [sic] floor of the porch the height two stories of the building. The Rotunda is in the centre of the building & is circular having four doors in it. The door you enter from the East and one in front going directly out again or [hole] the town westward & the door of the Senate chamber on the right over [hole] stands Penn and two Indian cut in marble in the act of making a treaty. [hole] on the left the door of the house of representatives over which stands an Indian and a white man standing upon a slain son of the forest in mortal combat. The intermediate spaces are hung with drawings of the declaration of independence & the surrender of Cornwallis & several others. The whole fabric appears to be entirely stone floors and all The floor of the Rotunda which I think takes up the third of the whole story it stands upon is stone and is laid upon an arch supported by 48 round pillars standing in two circles the outer has thirty two standing two & two together the inner one 16 standing single. The outer part of the building is of hewn stone & is white

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As you come out of the west door you have a view of the town and river & Presidents house which stands on another rise about two miles from the Capital in this I may be mistaken but at any rate it always took me a good while to travel to it. From the Capital to the Presidents there is a very wide street leading directly from the one to the other and There is about 12 feet of pavement on either side & then there stands a row of lombardy Poplars on each side 4 feet from the curb stone & then from each of these rows of trees a middling wide road and then two other rows of trees & between the two last rows another road making four rows of trees & three roads beside the pavements. This street was not run quite paralel with the river – the Presidents house being about half a mile & the Capital three fourths from it. I hope I have not wrote anything but what you can read I did not expect that the descriptions of the capital would take up so much room or I should have said nothing about it. What hurts the pleasure of a view of the Capital is the barrennefs of the surrounding country: it is so poor that they dont think it worth fenceing. The country is ditto from baltimore to the capital a distance of 36 miles or nearly so. I did not see the President. Hugh Wilson & sisters are still single. Doctor Wilson I saw lately – he has finished his course of studies & is gone to up the Susquehanna to settle himself – he was well but looks to be forty Nothing more at present but that we are all well so Farewell.

To John Geddes William Geddes