Letter From William Geddes to John Geddes, May 15, 1834

Author: William Geddes

Date: May 15, 1834

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Campbellstown May 15,th 1834

Dear Brother [John Geddes]

I received yours of the 24th April on the 8th inst. and conclude from the postage of it 18 ••• cents instead of 25 that you must have got a new Postmaster at Ypsilanti who has made this mistake in my favor. I hope he may be an honorable man. I may be in error but I firmly believe that some of your letters were opened somewhere they were not at any time in as good order as those I received from Ann’arbor. I have not indeed wrote to Uncle James since my return for I have not untill lately any good news to send him he knew my situation the difficulties that I had to contend with and the little prospect that there was of getting through them judging by the past. I have made two succefsful moves onward but am again stop’td short by the time the law allows for an appeal to the Supreme Court which is One Whole Year they may put off appealing to the last day of the year and then appeal which will be a loss of one and then by other means delay a trial for two or three more; and from all appearances they are determined to do so for as yet there is no appeal nor will they settle – the reason why is they have all received more than was coming to them since there has been so much loss by the blunders of the Courts except Samuel whose Jewish soul is so much vexed by those losses that he will not either. He is a true Shylock and has become very unpopular by his niggardliness. Every time we meet he harangues me on these heavy losses and negligence of the administrators he will scarcely allow me time to say a word and for the future I shall not humor him so much as to listen to him but bid him act and not blether and do his worst. The last time he bothered me I asked him if his Guardian Philip Wolfersberger Sen was not convicted of forgery by altering the amount of a Bond he had against his own son Peter – was I asked him a man who was villian enough to attempt to cheat his own offspring a safe depository of the money of an orphan stranger. – to this he only said “the man had got old.[”] If father had collected that money and paid it into such hands would there not have been just cause of complaint if it had been lost which was a likely event. It would not have been me that would have appeared in Court to defend such conduct but I would have paid the amount of the loss if his heirs would have left me and if not resigned my post as executor and paid my share of such loss. The trouble he had in getting what Philip did receive is

in his eyes no argument in fathers favor for withholding the remainder which amounts at present to about 2100 dollars nor is the heavy charge he made for its safe Keeping: which Adam Haak says was $1600 this I think is above the mark but it may not be for Sam lived with him you know, some time. I say I did not write to Uncle because I had no good news to send him and bad are an increasing of Evil by making more feel them; but I sent him a newspaper containing an account of the business done on our Canals which he perhaps did not receive and as he is going to visit you shortly it will not be necessary for some time to come. I believe that you never received any particular account from me of the business done on our Canals last year I will now then give you an account of the Union Canal which is the only one of any real benefit to our section of country. – the account of the Pennsylvania I have lost.

[This portion of the page divided from text beginning on following page.]

The whole amount of tonnage which passed the Union Canal from 1st Nov. 1832

to the 1st Nov. 1833, was 85876 Tons 6 Cwt 2 qrs [quarters]

Tons cwt Q [?]

Flour 70595 barrels (weighing) 6723 5 3

Wheat and Rye 324260 bushels 8106 10

Whiskey 12408 barrels 1551 2

Iron, bar, pig and castings 7295 2

Iron ore 2306 10

Coal bituminous & anthracite 5488 3

Lumber 14677 750 feet 14677 15 2

Shingles 599 1000 2995 16” 1

Staves 188 8 3

Gypsum 12558 13

Fish 14370 barrels 1916 5

Salt 124200 bushels 3104 19 1

Merchandise 9154 7 1

Sundries consisting of Corn flax seed

Tobacco hemp clover seed lard butter

limestone, marble brick leather pork &c &c 9809 8 3

85876 6 2

Amount received in Cash for tolls $103462.45

[This portion of page one of this letter is on the left of what I have copied on my page 4.]

The traders on the canal charged in former

years 50 cents pr. barrel for carrying to market

flour from here but this year they carry it for

forty and I make no doubt when the canals

through to Pittsburg are once in full operation

which the[y] have only commenced to be

this spring: that flour will be carried for thirty

cents if not lefs which will be a clear profit

to our farmers of seventy cents on each barrel

for it was never taken for less than $1. By

wagons. I am told they carry Merchandise

from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in twelve

days for as low as $1.25 pr. Cwt. Our

Canals were open early in March and

produce has been brought from and

merchandise forwarded to Ohio and

other western states before the New

York Canal could be opened The railway

from Philadelphia to Columbia where

it joins the Canal will be shortly finished

When it will take 2 if not 3 days less to

go to Pittsburg. Landed property has been

rising though slowly yet steadily since

our former hard times and I feel confident will still continue to rise till our public improvements shall have done for this country what the[y] shall ever do. Jackson’s day is done he will not much longer have the power to do harm for I feel confident there will be not only our own state but in allmost all others a general sweep of the present men in power – with us there are none to defend his conduct respecting the bank even Sawyer and Jack now condemn him – in fact there never was a more unprincipled attack made upon any institution in this country as this upon the bank.

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If her conduct had not been such as it ought she could not have stood the storm against a man whose popularity at the close of the last session of Congress was unbounded: backed by the

prejudice which a great many have against foreigners especially foreign Capitalists which Jackson endeavoured to array in every shape and form against her: which was the meanest but the most powerful weapon he wielded against her and yet she has stood it all and will finally triumph over all her enemies yes she will she will [sic] the american people are not yet so blinded by prejudice and party spirit as to be thus duped. Mankind grow wiser by experience it is said but it must be their own not that of their forefathers it is in vain that the generation before us show the scar that is left upon the body politic and tell of the pain and distress the wound occasioned by a former trial to do without such an institution, but we must answer them that they did not manage as we will we understand business better such is the language of Jackson. But I disblieve the old saying: man is too vain and heady to profit by experience but attempts to do to day what he failed to do yesterday and rushes headlong repeating what experience might have taught him to be beyond his powers, in defiance of past and present pain. I have been always a strong friend of the bank and no sooner had Jackson clearly declared himself against her than I forsook him and have been ever since showing the absolute necessity of such an institution and the benefit she has been to this country. I have went so far as to contend that it was owing to her that we have been able to pay the immense debt of the nation without feeling it; without draining all the specie out of our country nay has even made us prosper beyond example in the history of nations under such adverse circumstances. Banking institutions as well as all other corporate bodies are the necessary consequence of our republican institutions. The division of property equally amongst children leaves none of them rich though their fathers were so which is much in favor of the preservation of liberty because it every generation equalizes almost the whole population and prevents many from becoming too rich & consequently there are few that are able [of] themselves to carry on great undertakings but it is necessary to carry on [any] such that there is a joint stock or fund raised by as many persons as [is] necessary to raise a fund sufficient & this is and was the cause of the numberless creation of banks and corporations in this free country and it will ever remain so. I understand since the pressure on the money market commenced they rich have been taking 2 per cent per month or 24 per cent per annum in Philadelphia that is as a match for Mr Botsford at taking the advantage of the necessities of ones neighbours – does he call himself a Christian if he does he must labour under some delusion; must hold some one wrong tenet – why do you not preach the true Doctrine to him to let a sheep

have his hide and be satisfied with the wool. That is a new way of comforting the distressed; that is like calling to see a friend on a sick bed and finding him in a bad state to knock him on the head and dispatch him at once. Does not such unfeeling exactions off the necessitous, prove the utility of such a bank and the absolute necessity of it to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor or men in middling circumstances: Does it want another argument to show what moneyed men would do if there was no check on them. There is and will ever be rich and poor in all communities and if the rich lenders cannot be prevented they will at all times exact so much as to leave the poor borrowers but a bare living and thereby keep them always poor while they will be increasing in wealth beyond measure. Principally the business men or trading part of our country are borrowers men of talent and enterprise but not of Capital and they deal entirely with the banks who dare not take more than 6 pr. cent which ennables them to make a good profit and become tolerably independent when a majority of them quit business and others of the same stamp take their places. If we had no Banks there would be but a third of the dealers that there is and they would have matters so much in their own hands that they would give and take what they please: The rich would increase in riches & the poor in poverty and there would be and there would be no chance of a man rising in the world were his capacity for business never so great. Banks are very unpopular things and that principally owing to the ingratitude of mankind who generally no sooner than they are obliged to a man or Bank hide their faces from them at least if they do not become their open enemy (ies). Its said their profits are too great but it is necessary the[y] should be tolerably so in order to ennable them to risk their money in the hands of new beginners who are qualified but want the means to start in business and who have nothing but their good name to give for security. Banks trust such 1000 dollars where individuals trust one. If the doctrine will prevail that it is as fair and honorable to make as much on your money as you could on a horse or a Cow or in other words to take the advantage of the need of your neighbour at every oppertunity then must the borrowers throughout the whole nation stand by each other and by the free lending [torn] hearts of the land such as Wm Biddle and establish a bank with Capital sufficient to enable it to have branches enough in all

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the states to loan out money at 5 or 6 per cent which would effectually knock down all your 20 per cent men all your Cow and Horse dealers in money. Money is property as well well as a Horse or a Cow and it appears [some words erased] reasonable that we should have a just right to make as much of it as we can [word erased] and sell it for as much as it will bring as we do with other kinds of property. Such is the language of those that hold this doctrine and they will dare you to show reason to the contrary. I will here risk a few arguments against the above doctrine though I have considered but little upon it; it always having been considered by me too damnable a doctrine to be worthy of consideration, by any feeling heart. Money is property but the representative of property and not so itself but by certain circumstances it has become more valuable than what it represents or rather powerful like Jackson who is at present more so than his constituents the whole people of these United States he can like money act instantaneously and consquently do at any time and in what manner what he pleases, whereas property must have a buyer and seller be bought and sold and that by fixed rules and restrictions which takes time and the people of these states cannot act for a certain time which gives money and present action an undue influence over the persons and fortunes of all men and makes men who are so circumstanced rich or powerful instantly at the expense of the rest of the community: and to prevent this all wise lawgivers have by positive laws attempted to restrain the grievous exactions of the one and the abuse of a trust of the other. It is asked what right legislators have to regulate the price of money and not other kinds of property; The reason is clear to me that Custom has and does suffeciently regulate the prices of other kinds: and Custom is Law. Suppose for example a man was to give 4 times the customary prices of Cows or Horses or and [any] kind of property would not that person be considered out of his head and his property taken out of his hands and why not rest the illgotten Gold from the other – the one through insanity which is no crime robs himself but the other without even the plea of necessity with an unclouded brain (most men think) robs his brother in distress which in the list of crimes is rank next in place to murder. It is then not true that money is the only kind of property the price of which is regulated by law the only difference is that the one is governed by Custom or common law and the other by the positive enactments of legislators which is called the Statute Law. In england I believe all kinds of produce have fixed prices at the least there is I am told some kind of a law to that effect. It is the ease with which money can be used to injure others and the difficulty that has been

found to prevent the holders of it from so useing it that has caused lawmakers to be so particular in regard to it. The post in which there is the most danger must be the best manned. In all bargains which are just both parties ought/will to be equally benefitted, then because it is only in times of deep distress that such high rates of interest are given it is selfevident that there can be no mutual benefits in such contracts: but the reverse. I believe I now can fill the remainder of this sheet with other matter of more interest to than reasoning or attempting to on a selfevident thing. In order to ennable you to calculate the real benefit of the Union Canal to us I will give a full account of the reductions on other things than wheat flour. Plaster is now brought to Campbellstown ready ground for ten dollars per ton which cost heretofore $15 and salt is also for $2.50 pr. Bll. instead of $3.50 as formerly. The price of Corn with us varies from 40 to 50 seldom below the one or above the other whereas it used to vary from 25 to 50. and Rye likewise at present Corn is .45 and Rye .50 and 17 higher at Philadelphia. Clover Seed $3.00 & $3.50 at Philadelphia in Potatoes there is no alteration they are worth now .30 cents. Flaxseed has raised owing to cheap transportation .50 it is these several years $1.50 pr. bu. the Oil is .80 p. Gal. We pay $8.25 cents state tax yearly for the payment of the interest on Canal loans but this has no right to be charged to the Union Canal for that cost us nothing the state having only given $50000 towards its construction. The only benefit the expending by the state 25 millions of Dollars on the Canals and railways to us will be the Canal and railway from Middletown to Philadelphia which course our produce will shortly take. If the whole profit to the people of the Canals were to be paid in to the state treasury it would very soon discharge the debt and still there is great complaints about this trifling state tax. This morning was a frosty morning and it is pretty cold as it has been since this month came in We have had frost the half of the mornings of this month with small snow showers the most of the fruit is destroyed and we have no pasture hardly yet the grass and Grain is very far back our winter was warm but our spring is very very cold and I have to sit in a cold room to write which obliges me to quit occasionally I am freezing now but will finish this for tomorrows mail. Grain looks middling ours is good except the lower part of the Meadow which was too wet when it was sowed. We had but 419 bushels of wheat off 40 acres and 236 of rye off 12 and ours were among the best in this country oats 513. Corn 20 loads.

[Page 4]

I intend to visit Samuel Carper in Bedford County next week and will take Newville Fannettsburg and some other Places in Cumberland Franklin & Bedford counties in my way and in my next I will give you an account of my journey I thought it would be too long to put off this. Brother James is talking of traveling to Ohio and thinks he will start next week perhaps he might call to see you but he has not said that he will nor do I think it for I think he will too soon tire. Thomas has left Alexander a few days ago and talks of going to Philadelphia for a place. Agrippa is with his mother who has need of at least one man person about her to keep Isabel McClure in order. Bell is as usual and is rather inclined to wander about the fields and sometimes goes away. If I thought you could manage Agrippa I would give him some money and send him out to you to learn saw-milling for I cannot persuade him to learn a trade with a stranger here but I am afraid you could not he is rather more passionate than yourself and is rather sullen than talkative. I could work with him and keep him to his place but I fear you could not but if you will risk him I can easily persuade him to go. The old woman ought to send Isabel away for the boy ought not to lose his time on her account. They are all indifferent scholars and not fit for business that requires much head work but James and Agrippa are willing workers Thomas is rather inclined to be gentleman. James Wilson lives in Harrisburg and shaves Bonds etc. lives idle The Doctor I have not heard from lately. Hugh Wilson married one of Sam Rutherfords daughters in March last. John Wolfersberger our speculator has got the 99 plagues of an empty purse on him and is partly out his head and talks of selling all and take the world easy. Times are tough and money very scarce but I do not feel them I have all our Wheat Corn and Oats on hand yet and about 120 bushels of rye but will sell soon Flour is $5.25 & 5.37 ••• Oats .25 Corn is in demand and 45 is offered willingly and I believe 50 will be given shortly when I will sell. I made 12 ••• cents per bushel last year by keeping our Wheat and will make a little more this It was sold in March at 85 & 90 cents. I board with John M. Harman in Campbellstown and pay 5 dollars Cash per month he keep a store on his own hand where Schwar lived: and Grog Shop. I live idle but walk about a good deal for my health. Yours Farewell

I have wrote two or three articles of agreement and Clerk’d three vendues is all I have done since the first of January 1834

I had closed this and opened it again.

To John Geddes William Geddes