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Catalog Number 2015.02.0054
Object Name Letter
Date 1819
Title 1819 July 1 Margaretta Brown to Orlando Brown
Scope & Content Letter from Margaretta Brown (Frankfort, KY) to her son Orlando Brown (Princeton, NJ). Margaretta's letter to son Orlando describes a noteworthy event at Liberty Hall: breakfasting with U.S. President Monroe and War of 1812 heroes Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor. Her account of the visit overflows with pride and patriotism. Monroe was in Frankfort as part of his national tour around the country. Both Jackson and Taylor later became presidents.


Frankfort Ky July 1 1819

My dear Orlando,

Whenever I intend to write a letter, I generally exe-cute that intention immediately; for that "Thief of Time', Procrastination steals as many of our best thoughts, as he does of our minutes; and leaves us to every little leisure to perform those duties, to which we should devote our undivided attention. In the present instance, however, I have departed from my usual practice, for I have been intending to acknowledge the receipt of your last letter for several days, but various causes have prevented me from taking up my pen until this moment. The chief cause, (and that which involved many of a minor cost) was the expected, and actual arrival of the President - You will wonder what effect this event could produce upon one of my retired and domestic habits; but I beg you to consider that restlessness is as catching as yawning and when we see all around us in the fidgets, we cannot sit still ourselves. However the President has arrived- and departed - He was received with due public honors (or the papers will inform you, yesterday morning he breakfasted with us, in company with Genl. Jackson; and that Hero(whose cool, determined and successful courage, has never been rivalled in ancient or modern times,) who so bravely defended Fort Harrison, Major Z. Taylor. They spent last evening at Mrs. Bibbs, breakfast this morning at the Governor's (whose elegant Lady is unfortunately absent!!!) And are now on their way to Col. Richard M. Johnson's, where they dine today - Your Father and Uncle accompany them - Your Father presided at-the-public dinner, and has been much distinguished by the President - Genl. Adair dined with the President, in company with Genl. Jackson as conjectures are formed rendering their feelings towards each other. Dr. Bibb, George Adams, Harry Thornton-Hickman and some equally great men, were warmly opposed to showing any marks of respect to the President, and left so no one witnessed to defeat every measure which was taken for that purpose - But when they found the public voice decidedly against them their firmness forsook them, and they joined in very testimonies of respects, which they had vilified as antirepublican and anticonsitutional. Some fears were entertained that Genl. Jackson would be personally insulted but nothing of the kind occurred - indeed his signal services to his Nation, ought to obliterate every sentiment of local jealousy - for if he has not done the Kentuckians justice-he has, procured them (as a part of the American Republic) incalculable advantages.

I was most pleased with the extracts which you sent me from your "composition book" for though I discovered some faults, they were all those which originate in an exuberance of fancy, which a few years and a little practice will correct. It is almost impossible to supply intellectual deficiencies; but any excess may be early pruned. I shall only at present criticize one expression "delight to dwell with rapture" is almost tautology-either "delight" or "rapture" would have been sufficient. Do not neglect to send me further "extracts" they will always interest me, for though I am attached to poetry, yet I am alive to the beauties of prose- Cultivate them, then assiduously; and since nature has enabled you to express your thought fluently in prose, do not endeavor to "hitch them into rhyme."

You say "that I prefer scholarship to general literature, you will apply yourself more assiduously than you have hitherto done to acquisition of the former" - In your present circumstance my dear Orlando, I do wish you to excel in scholarship; yet the great leisure which you enjoy must leave you many hours to devote to general literature- But do not sacrifice your Collegiate duties- I am well aware of the fascinations of the Belles lettres department; but I consider "scholarship" as the only sure foundation for literary excellence-Let the foundation then, be solid, and you may make the superstructure as elegant as lofty or as fanciful as you please. Let your imagination at present be reined in by sober facts- these (to change the figure) will be good ballast, and contribute to the safety of your literary back; by enabling it to repel the deadly shafts of criticism, and to arrive in safety in the haven of legitimate fame- Without this ballast you will be the sport of every idle gale- of every smatterer in literature; and will lose that confidence in yourself, which is necessary to success in every department of life-

I saw Mrs. Thomas this morning-she is well and Louisa with her grandmother. Elizabeth and John are recovering from the whooping cough- John presented himself very boldly to the President and Genl Jackson; and they have both promised him a commission-You cannot think what importance he assumes upon the occasion? Joe has been taken from Stivers, who did not use him well, and is now living with Mrs. Hughes for his victuals and clothes; if she will but make him a good house servant I shall be satisfied- Great fears are entertained by Mr. Smith's friends, that no subscription will be raised for him this year, on account of the "hard times" yet money is forthcoming, when any interesting occasion presents itself- My dear Orlando; when you become independent of your fellow creatures always recollect your dependence upon God; and acknowledge that dependence by directing a portion of your substance to him, from "whom cometh every good and perfect gift."- How small a portion do we render back to him who "gives us all things richly to enjoy!"

Yours in affection
M. Brown

[Address Block, with postmark July 3, Frankfort]

Mr. Orlando Brown 25
Princeton College
New Jersey
People Margaretta Mason Brown
Orlando Brown
James Monroe
Andrew Jackson
Zachary Taylor
Search Terms Presidents