Letter #28 – JANUARY 18, 1868  

An introspective letter first focusing on Thomas Jackson's opinions about how American people appear to have better opportunities than the British to grow old while avoiding poverty. This was sparked by a comment from a letter he recently received from his cousin Caleb Slater and leads TJ to speculate how he might have fared had he stayed in his native country that he still feels great affection for.

Then Thomas Jackson picks up again reviewing the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination and how the majority of white men in the North now wished that the blacks had not been given the vote!

He shares a personal view that voting should be restricted to intelligent and educated people and not given freely to every "tag, rag and bobtail"

Finally is nostalgic to return to his old English homeland.

Reading January 18. 1868

My Dear Cousin Caleb,

"Procrastination is the thief of time". No saying is more true than this. Here for 2- or 3 months I have been going to write you a long, long letter and inclose you some likenesses of myself & family. The pictures lay on the dressing table but I have been busy and so have put it off from time to time, still often times thinking of you, and of your family, and of my brother John and his family and of my dear native land generally. I know that you are grown old & he is grown old, and I am now grown old enough to begin to feel what old age is. I am now in my 62nd year and I know, that I should live so long, 15 years more will make me feel what the infirmities of advanced age really are.

Cousin Caleb you are about 15 or 16 years older than I am, and although you have been very sober and temperate all your life, still I see from your letters that old age is fully upon you & there is one admission in your last letter that has grieved me and caused me many meloncholy reflections, much painful thinking. You say that you are not overburdened with the riches of this world. Of course I did not expect you were. But the naming of it,somehow leads to the suspicion that the reverse may be the case. But I hope not. I hope you and your good wife have enough to make yourselves quite comfortable & that all your family are in, at last, comfortable

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circumstances. You,Cousin Caleb, have been all your life a very steady sober industrious, hard working,saving and economical man, as far as I know your sons and daughters have been reared in the same good habits that have been your rule of life from my earliest recollection of you, now full fifty years ago.

Now if such a man as you have been all your life. Must inevitably and unavoidably be poor in his old age, what hope is there for Englishmen generally? What is their in the nature of the institutions, in the laws and working of trade in the condition of the country generally, that makes poverty in old age the inevitable destiny of more than 99 out of every 100 Englishmen who live to be old in their native land? If you are poor in your old age, who else in England, starting poor in early life has been able to accumulate a competence for old age? I love my native land and have many a time defended old England when Americans and Irish demagogues have defamed her when it was dangerous to take her part. I have excused the faults of my dear old England & praised all her good qualities fearlessly whenever I thought her reputation at stake or her character needed defending. I know that there is an immense amount of capital in England. You

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have a very extensive trade with many other nations, which must be profitable for exchange is everywhere in favor of England. The blockheads and rascals who are generally at the head of our government and shape our national policy here, are so systematically outwitted & bribed by the British Statesmen that our trade with England is a constant drain upon our capital. The balance is all the time largely in your favor and against us. Many millions of our hard cash goes to England almost monthly to pay that balance. You have got all the gold from your own Australia and from our California. Half of the rail roads in America, and half of all our state and national bonds are owned in England and half of the interest we pay & half of the earnings of our railroads goes to England in hard cash. Who gets it? What class of Englishmen are benefited by it?

If the people generally do not get a fair share of it, the few fortunate ones must appropriate it to themselves & the many be little, or none the better for it. I often think of old England. I very seldom sleep more than 4 or at most 5 hours in the 24. And when I wake up at 2 or 3 oclock in the morning my first free thoughts are often on my childhoods home. The scenes of my boyish days come back fresh & florid and glowing with memories of men & friends & events and things long long passed away.

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It is then that gloomy memories will sometimes obtain the mastery in my mind and I think of the many good & true friends I have outlived and lost and the few old aquaintences worthy of affectionate esteem that are yet left to me,& I look back with sorrowful feelings upon the many hardships & trying scenes I have passed through.

And yet there comes a somewhat compensating feeling of satisfaction in the reflection that matters might have been much worse that I have been enabled to successfully fight against misfortune and recover myself repeatedly from losses that for a time seemed overwhelming. I have started off the bare ground, with nothing three times since I have been here and yet I have been able to fix my children well, and secure a comfortable competence for my old age. Every intelligent man in America knows that things often go very much wrong here, that the ignorant masses of the people are putting bad and dishonest unscrupleous men into power nearly all the time, who for reasons easily explained are constantly working against the good of the nation instead of for its benifit and safety,

and then I ask myself if I could have done better if I had staid in England and worked as hard and persevered as much as I have done here. If you, Cousin Caleb, are not well off in your old age,if I had staid at home it is quite likely that I should have been poor in my old age notwithstanding

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all I could have done to avoid such an irriparable misfortune as old age and poverty coming on me together. After a long life it is enough to be oppressed with the unhappy memories of bygone miseries, and with the rememberence of dreams that now are sad because they once were sweet. But to be oppressed with poverty also and left to the cold charity of an unfeeling world and a unheeding and heartless brotherhood of mankind is indeed a meloncholy lot. It is a fate that makes death a friend and forgetfullness for ever a favor.

And yet all over the world how many millions are there who find in the grave their only refuge from that final accumulation of misfortune and after a long and hard fought battle of life fall defeated in every hope as far as this life goes. But let us have the blessed and consoling thought that the great majority of the unfortunates go hence with bright hope, the confident assurence that they go to "another and a better world than this" " where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." Where cold and hunger cannot come and unkindness is unknown to all. Where the laws of love and the promptings of holy affection are the rules of that eternal life which belongs to a happy immortality. Perhaps it is, after all, better for us that we should suffer from loses and disappointments here, and feel the keen edge of mortality's misfortunes that we may the better know how to enjoy

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and appreciate that blessed immortality which we hope to finally obtain.

You and I, Cousin Caleb have seen our best days here. We have been fighting the battle of life a long time, you somewhat longer than me but I think mine has been the sharpest fight of the two while it has lasted. However the struggle must soon close with both of us. How very soon, or with which first, God only knows. But I should very much like to see you once again face to face and shake hands with you and reassure you how much and how often I think of you.

Sometimes the events and the experiences of certain periods of our lives work a wonderful change in our ideas of matters and things. Such has been the case here with me. What I have seen here during the last seven years has dispelled many fond delusions and blasted many bright hopes. However your constitutional monarchy, mixed government and aristocratic institutions will work out the ultimate destiny of my native land I do not pretend to foretell, but I have lost all confidence in the stability of our institutions or the wisdom of our government here. It is all the time a desperate struggle between intelligence and honest patriotism on one side,and ignorance and dishonest demagogueism on the other. The misfortune is that the

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latter are far too much in the ascendancy and stop at nothing, no matter how cruel and criminal, to gain power. Their last atrocity was the cold-blooded murder of Abm Lincoln the best, the most wise, president & honest chief magistrate this nation has had since I set foot on its soil. That dark and cruel deed was done at the instigation of the democratic party to make Andrew Johnson the chief ruler of the nation, that he (a life long proslavery democrat whom in an evel hour, the Lincoln men elected to the vice presidency for his professed loyalty to the union) might use the immense power of the presidency to restore the democratic party to power and put the distribution of all the fat offices into their hands and also all the political power of the southern states into the hands of the conquered rebel slave holders.

Such were the motives of the hardened villians that instigated the cruel murder of Abm Lincoln, and they have not hesitated at any atrocities in attempting to accomplish their objects, one of the principal of which was one of the principal of which was the practical reenslavement of 4 millions of American people for the simple and only reason that "they are guilty of a skin not colored like our own."

In attempting to carry out the infernal scheme of reenacting the enormous national villany

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of American slavery, with more develish cruelties, and worse fiendish features than it had before, the United States government, under the administeration of the infamous, murder mounted president Andrew Johnson, has encouraged the conquered rebels to commit the most cruel wrongs and barbarous outrages that ever disgraced any nation savage or civilized. And what grieves and disgusts me the most of all is that the poor man's party, the democratic party, not only excuses, but encourages and fully endorses all these foul crimes and outrages against liberty and the laws of God and man.

It is estimated by good men, well-informed of all that is going on, that in the one state of Texas twenty seven hundred of the poor blacks were murdered by their late masters within one year, and "not a single one of the daring criminals punished for his crimes. Texas is only one of the 10 rebel states. The worst one of them all to be sure. But any of the other nine are a disgrace to Christian civilization and the 19th century, and the exslave state of Kentucky, which largely aided the rebellion but did not actually secede and join the rebel confederacy, is as bad as any of them except Texas, and Andrew Johnson president of the United States by the assination of his predecessor, backed up and sustained

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by the vile democrats, is to blame, and justify to blame for all the wrong that has been done & all the crimes of the rebels since the death of Abm Lincoln. and still more terribly disheartening to me is the meloncholly fact than 7/8 of the poor hard-working white men in America belong to this same most cruel and rascally democratic party and are full of jealousy, prejudice, & hatred against the poor freedmen. Notwithstanding the well-known crimes horrors and cruelties of slavery, and the terrible and costly war it forced upon the nation in its mad attempt to overthrow free government and grasp supreme and despotic power over this vast country, 7/8 of the poor whites here are fully as proslavery as ever.

Their common remark is "Oh, dam the niggers, nobody cares for them, they ought not to be free anyhow". In the eyes of the poor white men, the great and unpardonable sin of the republican party (which contains in its ranks all the brains and respectability in America) is the abolition of slavery, and they are now swearing all manner of vengence against both houses of Congress for giving the blacks the right to vote in order to keep the rebel exslave mongers from getting into power again. Every intelligent man in America knows that the only chance of securing the colored people in their newly acquired freedom was to enfranchise

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them, to give them a vote, and political power to protect themselves, and make it a political necessity that their late masters should treat them well. No doubt it would have been better to have given them more education before enfranchising them, but that would have taken too much time & delay would have been fatal to their liberty and ensured that their re-enslavement and the continuation of all manner of wrong, outrage and oppression practiced upon them. At all events, ignorant and stupid as they say the blacks are, they know enough to vote dead against the democrats, and as long as they do that they cannot vote wrong nor do any harm. If their votes keep the democrats out & prevent them getting into power again, they will secure their own freedom, the peace of the nation and save the credit of the government. And we shall need all their help to enable the antislavery party to elect their president this fall and keep the rebels down now they are down.

Iteligence, truth, patriotism and real liberty & honesty will have a hard fight to win in this coming presidential election over ignorance, stupidity, falsehood, foul-mouthed dishonesty, crafty demagogueism, and all those bad passions of poor humanity that propped up the infernal system of human slavery so long in America & seeks to restore the curse again now if it possibly

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can. And worst of all is the cruel fact to me that nearly 9/10 of the poor hard-working white men of America & full three quarters of all the emigrants from Europe who acquire citizenship here are fooled into voting with the vile proslavery and rum guzzling party. They will do it spite of the terrible teachings of the last 7 years and all that honest good men can do or say to persuade them to vote against the rebel slave monger party. 7/8 of all the Irish here will vote with the democrats even if they were to murdera hundred Abm Lincolns and every good man elected in opposition. This is what may yet make a Tory of me. I do not believe that the simple fact of a boy living to be 21 years old should entitle him to a vote, no matter how much he may lack education, intelligence and honesty. If the franchise be such a very precious privelege, such an inestimable right, I believe a man should be required to prove himself worthy of it before he can have it and enjoy it.

I know that you have many evels and wrongs in dear old England, but in effecting your reforms, if you run into the extreme of giving every tag rag & bobtail a vote, I firmly believe it will soon prove the greatest curse that could possibly have been inflicted on your country.

Democracy came very near committing suicide here several times in the last 7 years. They are now doing their utmost to put the good men who saved them under the feet of the bad men who tried to destroy them.

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I am so thuroughly disgusted with the course of events since the end of the war here, that if the democrats and rebels win the coming presidential election, and get our national government into their hands, it will only be my family that will keep me in America. But for the parting with them I should certainly leave it, and look for a home elsewhere, with some hope of peace and quietness in my old age.

If all this villany & cruel wrong is to go on as it has been going on the last 3 years, and be made 10 times worse, as it will be if the democrats and rebels get into full power, something terrible must come to pass.

If the great rebellion and its horrible war was a judgement of God upon us for the crimes and wrongs of 200 years of human slavery, what will be God's great judgement upon us if we reestablish slavery in a worse form, in defience of devine providence, and in the teeth of the terrible teaching we have had?

I must now close this long letter with a request that you will write to me and tell me how you all are. My brother John has not written to me for over 7 years. He is an old man now. I should very much like to know how he is & where he is & if he be comfortable in his old age. None of my wifes relations ever write to me either. Whether they are all too poor to pay postage or what I cant say. But you must write to me, all the news you can.

With kindest wishes and best love to all.
I am yours affectionately
T. Jackson

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P.S. I inclose you a likeness of my youngest son Henry. He is a finestout hearty Yankee. very steady and industrious and all that. But like my oldest son Thomas, whom you saw at your house in 1856, he seems to be destined for a confirmed old Batch. Neither of them will get married. The seem to like as little incumberence as possible and are afraid of being bothered with families. I had much rather they would marry.It is far better for a young man to have a kindhearted and affectionate companion. I know that by a glad and a sad experience. Glad it was when I had a good wife and sad when I lost her. I am happy to hear that your son William is married and well fixed I have

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a letter from him which I have not yet answered. But I have sent him some newspapers. I have sent you some too, and also some to Mr. Brentnell. So when you get a paper from me you may know then that I dont forget you.

I had fully intended visiting you this summer. But really things are in such an unsettled state here that I am loath to go away and leave all I have at stake behind me. If I could go and take all that I have to depend on and all I love with me I might come. But I send you my likeness. In my every day summer dress just as I left the ropewalk. You must be satisfied with it untill you see the original


This is a letter from Thomas as an emotionally old man looking back and reflecting on his life both as it was and what it might have been like had he stayed in England. He reveals his philosophical thoughts about how death can be a blessing for some and that he personally feels he has lead a tough life, including having had to re start from almost nothing after three disasters to his business.

He retains his wish to return to England to see his old friends, but this has been an ongoing dream over many years and will, in the fullness of his time, never be achieved,

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