1832: Joseph Warren Mansur to William Saxton Morton

This entertaining letter was written by Joseph Warren Mansur (1809-1891), the son of Aaron and Rebecca (Warren) Mansur. He was an 1831 graduate of Harvard University and the Harvard Law School. He became a prominent Democratic politician and lived in Fitchburg many years where he served as postmaster and proprietor of a woolen mill.  He served as a state senator.

He wrote the letter to his college chum, William Saxton Morton (1809-1871). Like Mansur, William studied law and entered the practice at Amherst and later Quincy. He was a member of the Constitution Convention in 1853.

1832 Letter
1832 Letter

Addressed to Mr. William S. Morton, Milton, Massachusetts
Postmarked Lowell, Massachusetts

Lowell [Massachusetts]
January 18th 1832

Most Ancient Bill,

Get up and skake hands with us will you? How D’y do? and how d’ your folks do? Happy as clams, ha? Well faith, I’m glad of it for I’m cursedly “down to the heel” myself — nothing but splashing through the wet, slipping down into the mud, catching cold, grumbling et cetera, et cetera for a fortnight past till, faith, I’m heartily tired of it.

O for the good old days of the “Senior Year” with sofa, cigar, Jack, whiskey, Bruiser, Punchm Perk, Whist, Fresh Pond, down to Willard’s &c &c &c. However, there is no use in scolding about what can’t be helped so, so, so what are you about now-a-days? How do you get along in the Law — or rather — how do you get along out of it? which I suppose will be the easiest answered of the two questions.

I have done nothing for three weeks past except read [Thomas] Moore’s Life of Sheridan which I got heartily tired of before I come to the end of it. Had a letter from Lincoln ¹ (filius gubernatoris) a few days ago who tells me they have cooked up a kettle of fish to the tune of the small pox at Worcester and frightened all old maids — and young ones too — for ought I know within “two inches of their life’s end.” By the by, he writes that [Joseph Ricketson] Williams ² has been delivering a lecture on the Whale Fishery to the great and manifest edification of all the religious and piously disposed people that went to hear him. How a man always shews his peculiar tastes in the choice of his subjects for speculation and Williams’ sympathies are all so intimately connected with the oil cask that we cannot be surprised at his selection. He has been in it so long that ’twill be strange if he don’t make a slippery fellow one of these days.

Charley told me that he wrote you some weeks ago and wonders why you have not sent him an answer. Charley is getting along famously in the law. He has read all the novels that our circulating libraries contain and a good many more, so you see he is in a fair way to make a first rate special pleader.

Fred Holland (your quondam rival) dropped in at our office the other morning — nose as usual, and whiskers which are, I believe, rather unusual upon his phiz. I advised him to count them, or rather the hairs which compose them, every morning to see that he did not lose any. Fred is studying divinity at Andover. ³ Think of that Master Brook — what a place for a poet!!

We are getting along quite comfortably here this winter — about a dozen of us; to wit — Charley, [Massillon] Farley, “J” and a lot more, took two splendid four horse teams and conveyed about a score of womankind over to Concord week before last where we “guzzled” sundry bottles of champaign, “gobbled” sundry geese, turkeys, and ducks, danced sundry cotillions &c &c. Got home a little after two (“of a shiny night”) next morning. Paid sundry dollars for the sport and had a d___’d headache all the next day. Parties, thank God, are few and far between, but punch and cigars are plenty.

What do you think of going to Cambridge next year — that is, provided we hear nothing more of the cholera morbus, as I suppose you would rather flee to the mountains than expose your pretty persons to its “malign influence” and in truth, your precaution would be highly necessary as it is said always to begin with hard drinkers. So I advise you to put yourself upon a spare diet immediately, and henceforth, to eschew gin and tobacco.

Speculation is just starting again and we shall probably have another tremendous land fever before the spring commences. Now’s the time to make fortunes and I advise you to come here immediately. No place like Lowell for anything but good breeding and good feeding. How do you get along in shooting? and by the by, what the devil have you heard of anti-masonry? I don’t hearhear anything about it of late. Old Man Eloquent [John Quincey Adams] is here making a great swell and says he has no doubt that he is destined to immortality.

Amused myself last night by looking over some of my old themes. Can’t imagine the reason why Channing did not go to Washington this winter. They are having great times there. When do you mean to stand as a candidate for Congress?

I would write more but have got to go to see some gals so goodbye to ye. Who are you in love with at present? I have been in love with nobody but myself these three years past and (damme) if there was ever a more constant lover. Write immediately. You don’t have anything else to do, Give my respects to all your family &c &c &c.

Yours, — J. W. Mansur

¹ The son of Massachusetts Governor Levi Lincoln, Jr. was Daniel Waldo Lincoln (1813-1880) who graduated from Harvard in 1831 with Mansur.

² Joseph Ricketson Williams (1808-1861) was the son of Richard and Rebecca (Smith) Williams of New Bedford, Massachusetts — the whaling capital of the world. In 1832 when this letter was written, Williams was studying law in the office of the Hon. John Davis in Worcester.

³ Frederick West Holland graduated from Harvard College in 1831 and the Harvard Divinity School in 1834. He was ordained a Unitarian minister in 1837 at the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, New York. Holland also served pastorates in Cambridge, Neponset, and Greenfield, Massachusetts; Oswego and Rochester, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Washington, D.C. He served as secretary of the American Unitarian Association from 1847 to 1850. Holland was also the author of the children’s book Scenes in Palestine, published in 1851.



Author: Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s