Letter #15 – AUGUST 25, 1863  

Here TJ is deeply philosophical and questions the value of fighting the war. This poetic letter has several timeless ruminations about family, war and life

In a more positive mood, TJ reports on the good economic conditions in his town after the Rebels have let the area.

Also he recalls with nostalgic affection his time as a boy growing up in the county of Derbyshire in central England. "Though so long a resident here I have never forgotten that I am an Englishman. A Briton by birth and education."

Reading. August 25. 1863

Dear Cousin Caleb,
I suppose you will think that I am become a garrolous old man, or I would not write william such long letters. I am not very much of a talker, But situated as I have been for the last 2 or 3 years I cannot help talking some, and thinking a great deal more. As you have lived out the allotted life of man, three score years and ten, you may feel that all things here are "passing away". That the longest life seems but short when looked back upon. Although I am near a score years younger than you are, I often ask myself what is there here worth all this deadly strife & turmoil and struggling for?

If the survivors of all these bloody battles and desolating wars could win victory and then live forever to enjoy restored peace and prosperity it would then be worth while to make all this immense stur and trouble. But the great enemy of all the living, the fell foe of infancy, of childhood, of youth, of manhood and of declining life, the last dispoiler of imortality, cannot be defeated. We are all "passing away". A few more years and this generation that you and I have belonged to for fifty years and over, with all its hopes and fears and fancied importence, will have passed away from earth for ever.

Still when I look back upon the 34 years of my life that I have lived in America I cannot help feeling a strong desire to bequeath to my children, the peace and plenty, and the prosperity, and the great boon of freedom enjoyed by their Father. But if possible far better secured to them than it now seems to have been to me.

No where in the world has any people been so blessed with peace, plenty, prosperity, the largest liberty, the greatest priviliges, the most general happiness, as have the American people of the non slave holding states durin the 34 years that I have lived among them. Work has always been well rewarded with good wages, in all the usual occupations of man in civilized life. Any industrious economical & prudent young man, working for daily wages at any trade, business or occupation & saving of his earnings, could have a good house and garden, freehold, and comfortable, elegant furniture of his own before he was 30 years old. I have 4 men working for me now who own the houses they live in and have them far better furnished than working men in England have. All the rest of my men might have been equally well off if they had been as prudent.

The invasion of Penna by the rebels stopped our rope walk about 2 weeks. But immediately they retreated we got our stock back and went to work again & have been very busy. I am paying my men 5 shillings English money a day. and making 7 1/4 days aweek. (1/4 over every day but Saturday) we have 12 men, 12 boys, a twenty horse steam engine and eight spining spindles & the laying ground

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going all the time. Our spining machinery prepares the hemp and spins 1400 lb of yarn a day, and it takes 2 men & 5 boys to tend and manage them. We make all our coils of rope 300 to 330 yards long no matter what the size, from 1 1/2 inch round up to 8 inches round. 2 men & 2 boys with the power of the engine forms and lays all the rope & winds it in coils full length coils & it is sold in full coils, except what we cut up for boat ropes. Every body is busy here, and as long as we can keep the vile rebels out of the free states we dont feel the war. All is going on first rate. I would not wish it better for trade here.

The real truth is that men are too well off. Too well paid, too well fed & too well housed & clothed & they are too restless. They dont know how to properly appreciate these great blessings nor how to be thankful to kind providence for what they enjoy. In the Collieries above here they have high times with the men. Colliers (miners) are getting over a pound a day English money and wont much more than work half time at that.

A friend of mine who has a colliery and employs over 40 miners besides labourers, told me that for the month of July last, he paid 40 of his miners over a 100 dollars apiece for their months work & none of them worked 20 days in that month. 100 dollars is about 20 guineas English.

Though so long a resident here I have never forgotten that I am an Englishman. A Briton by birth and education. The scenes of early life are yet fresh & green, & sweet as spring flowers in the freshness of early memories. I remember well the canal in which I floated my little boat. The "Cut bank" with its fringe of green grass and its clipt hedge. The "gang road" across the meadows on which I played with my little wagon, and the "Acka dock" under the Nottingham cut. The trees I used to clime, the bushes where I went "a bird nesting", and holes in the "Erewees" where I used to fish and bathe when a boy. And sally Hicktons [Hicktous?] at the old mill on the "Erewees" were I often used to go on a Sunday morning and stay with her from 9 Oclock till 12 to see her cuckoo come out at the top of the old clock and "cuckoo" the hours. And major Potters and "Parsons Pond" where I went "a slurring" in winter. And John Mason's school in the yard by the malt-house, where I got a good thrashing for being late in consequence of the aforesaid "slurring". I remember all my boyhood rambles around "Ilson" to Kirk Hallum,. West Hallum, Little Hallum. and shipley park. Cotmanay, Langley mill. and "Cossa" [Cofsa?] and short wood & "Hanny Lows at gallows Inn" and some of the many times I "tumbled inter'th [?] cut" but always managed to get out again before life was extinct, or I should not have been here now. All these are fresher in my memory now than they were 40 years ago and I am coming to see you all and all my old places one of these days, & hope to see you all well & happy. Hoping to hear from you I am yours affectionately

Thos Jackson


Reference to "William" in first para presumably relates to the previous 14 page letter that TJ had just sent to William Slater, Caleb's son.

We would like others to confirm the clearly written but confusing word in the first para "But the great enemy of all the living, the fell foe of infancy . . "

It would be interesting to know if modern rope-makers would find TJ's detailed explanations of staff levels and rates of pay of historical interest

Unfamiliar names

(page 1) The words "fell foe" is not a mistake. "Fell" is an archaic adjective meaning deadly.

(page 2) The nostalgic memories of his English home towards the end of the letter is often written in the spoken slang pronunciation of the local area. Eg "tumbled inter'th cut" is how locals would say "tumbled into the cut" . . Where "cut" is (still) the local word for a navigation canal which had been "cut" into the ground so barges could carry heavy materials to and from local factories.

"a slurrying" We think this is a reference to playing around in the mud by the edge of ponds and streams. Any other suggestions?

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