Letter from Henry Hepburn Strawbridge to George Strawbridge Ledyard, December 1860

The following letter, which comes from the historical archives at Lorenzo in Cazenovia, New York, was written in December 1860 and features a discussion of current politics, including views about the newly elected President Lincoln, the slavery issue, and the looming war, from a decidedly Southern perspective. The writer was Henry Hepburn Strawbridge, son of George Strawbridge, the judge in New Orleans who was a brother of Jane Strawbridge Ledyard. The recipient was George Strawbridge Ledyard, Jane’s son, who lived from 1825 to 1890 and was 35 when this letter was written. He was a first cousin of the writer, Henry Strawbridge, whose dates I don’t know, but I assume he was of approximately the same age as his cousin George. The letter also makes a brief reference to the apparently untimely death of the relative from whom my name may have been taken, Alexander Strawbridge. Here is the letter:

Dec. 2, 1860

Geo. S. Ledyard, Esq.
Cazenovia, N.Y.

Dear George,

When some two months ago I acknowledged to Linck [probably Lincklaen Ledyard, brother of George] his and your letters of sympathy for our loss of my poor brother, Alexander, I promised to reply to you directly. It is long since we have corresponded. Are you so wrapped up in your family happiness that it requires some calamity in ours to rouse you, good Cousin? I often wish that I were with you awhile, amid scenery [?] endeared to me by so many pleasant recollections of times to which I cannot look back without a pang. Indirectly, we have lately heard of you and yours, and of Helen’s improvement in health. I hear your sister’s — Mrs. Kent lately wrote, enclosing a letter of my father’s, written 47 years ago or more, giving an account of his capture by the British fleet, his six weeks detention, and the kindness experienced at the hands of Lord Townsend an Capt. Sockyer, who, finding him to be a gentleman, not only omitted to report him, but treated him as a guest and finally set him ashore at Charleston.

My mother’s health has suddenly and singularly improved, and she not only gets about the house, but has several times walked out. She found that drinking buttermilk in lieu of water, and using at meals a somewhat acid claret prevented the return of her malady. Both Sarah & James, however, are sickly and pining, and as the latter expresses it in his last letter, “The city is killing me by inches.” A few years more and the family will be extinct there and probably elsewhere. My own health is excellent. I have always liked the country and country life, and the people like me, recluse as are my habits. The time here is unsocial, a large part of the inhabitants being New Englanders, between whom and the Creoles exists the bars of language, religion, customs, etc., but the planters are passingly hospitable, and generally a set of plain, manly, upright gentlemen. The winter proved hitherto mild and delightful.

Politics, of course, are the all engrossing topic. It seems to be thought that Mr. Lincoln may make a very good sort of President, but that the time has come to take a firm and decided stand, and put an end at once to all agitation of the slavery question and all such clear infractions of the Constitution as “Personal Liberty Bills,” underground railways, etc., etc. — and if satisfactory guarantees to this effect cannot be attained to postpone no longer the inevitable Crisis, but secede at all hazards. All parties and classes seem agreed upon this and there is a degree of quiet determination about them that shows they are roused in earnest. In the City all my old friends and acquaintances, generally reserved and tranquil persons who keep aloof from politics, are minute men, armed and undergoing private drill. An old acquaintance, a Creole, formerly in the French Service is raising a Cavalry regiment perhaps the best officered in America. The very women would take the field, if necessary. It will be a fearful war; but one that has been gathering for thirty years. And for nine tenths of all the horror, ruin and desolation of the coming Revolution the Northern clergy are accountable, for they have preached up the crusade which the South is now arming to resist. The stuff of which State Legislatures, North & South, is composed, is ill suited for the times; and may not perceive the necessity or utility of a peaceful separation. For my part, I believe that no compromise can long postpone the Catastrophe, and that constitutions are but paper bulwarks; one as easily broken through as another. Good bye to the Union, between Abolitionism and Democracy — the first but a development of the last — it is not worth preserving.

I received from S. a Tribune with Bett’s speech, a very indifferent ad captendum thing — but wishing to be impartial, I read all arguments on all sides. Mr. Lincoln’s opinions as quoted there scarce agree with those in the enclosed clip.

Eight months ago I doubted whether to settle here, or in Mexico. Methinks the latter is likely to be the quieter land of the two.

Come however what may, dear George, I trust we shall always remain attached friends and relatives. Love to all.

Your’s affectionately

H.H. Strawbridge