Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 25 March 1869
Date: March 25, 1869
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 136-139. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.00453
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert
March 25th 1869
We have just had a letter from Mother telling us abt George's troubles in getting money for the house and how you stepped in and helped him out.1 I am mighty glad that you was able to do it for I feared that George might have the blues and Mother get downhearted
Mat and I and the cubs have had a high old time for the last week or two. I wrote you when we left the hotel to go to a sort of hotel where they sent meals to the room "Hotel Garni"2 they called it we lived quite comfortably for awhile but it got rather dirty—and Mat concluded that she would leave—so she got a place in a boarding house in Pine street—I had'nt been there more than an hour before I saw we were awfully taken in—and told Mat to give the week's notice that we agreed to give before leaving—our week was up last Tuesday so we told the woman to give us our bill she wanted pay for a month first then concluded she would take two weeks and last got down to within abt $6 of right—but even this Mat would'nt consent to pay—so we had some high old talk and concluded to leave the shantie at once This was abt 8oclk on Monday evening—we moved next door and have (seemingly) a very excellent place—Yankee people, and clean—we are looking for a house and hope to find one to suit us soon
Matters are going abt as usual with me—Lately I have been taken up in time a good deal by the attacks of a lot of Dutch Enginers3 here who have assailed our works—say they are failing &c particularly in regard to the foundations of the settling Res and by the way there is a report published by the Light House Board called "Memoirs on Foundations in Compressible Soils by Rich. Delafild"4 that would be of great use to me in this connection Can you get O'Conner5 to send me a couple of copies (one for Davis)6 I enclose a letter7 to him to ask him to send them to me with any other reports that he may have—out here these reports, particularly those made by U.S. Engineers are just of the greatest use and I do wish Walt when you ever have an opportunity to send or get any of such things you would do so. Send two when you can as Davis is as anxious to collect them as I am They are really of a great deal more worth to us than the expensive publications, for they tell of what has really been done and how it was done Dont fail Walt to give this note to O'Conner and if he can get him to send 'em
Mattie is about the same To-day has been a miserable day for her and she is not as well as usual on account of it. The children are first rate with the exception of a little cold. they go to school and are learning quite well not very fast but steadily
We hav'nt commenced active work yet on our works—but I hope to be able to in a few weeks—we shall be pretty busy this summer—twill mostly be out-door work tho and not so tasking as last seasons work. I wish you might get an opportunity to come out and see us and see what we have done and are doing, cant you?
How do you get along under the new administration8 Will you remain fixed in your old place as usual I suppose there is to be or has been considerable change as to employers. I hope that you will be able to hold on to the bit you have 'till better comes I suppose Gra[n]t has found out before this that the country dont astonish worth a cuss and that he had better settle down and be like other Presidents.9
I often wonder how you are getting along and think I will write you oftener, but to tell the truth something is coming up all the time that keeps me busy—I was nearly a whole week in writing a report10 to the City Council in answer to a Resolution passed at the instance of them same d—md Dutch engineers—but I think I gave them a full 20" gun—anyway I hav'nt heard from them since—still I dont know where they will come at me next
When have you heard from Han—sometimes Mother speaks of having heard from Heyde—but she hardly ever says anything abt Hannah—I wish she was happier in her situation in life—tis a shame that her whole life should be made miserable by that puppy
Cant you come [on] that Pacific R. R. excursion dodge,11 and get out here to see us—try if you have a chance
Walt, dont fail to look around for any report by U.S. Engineers on works and if you can get them send them on—I get great aid from them—Love to all friends and as ever affectionately yours
1. In exchange for a mortgage, Jeff was paying George $3,000 in installments of $200 per month. George needed $600 immediately, however, to pay for a last coat of plaster on his own new house. Jeff's letter is the only evidence that Walt Whitman sent the money George required. See Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961-77), 2:79 n. 11, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, March 15, 1869 (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
3. Probably Jeff's derogatory name for the journalists who claimed that the works were being constructed on unstable soil and would soon collapse (Proceedings of the City Council, March 16, 1869, pp. 373-75). Jeff may also be including the state committee which investigated the works on March 20 and noted several deficiencies in construction, including walls with cracks that had been plastered over (Missouri Republican, March 21, 1869). [back]
4. Rich'd. Delafield, comp., The Light-House Board, Memoir on Foundations in Compressible Soils, with Experimental Tests of Pile-Driving and Formula for Resistance Deduced Therefrom (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1868). This thirty-seven page pamphlet surveys the difficulties engineers encountered in building foundations on wet, sandy soils. It recommends that wooden piles be driven as deep as fifty feet before any foundation is begun, an expensive practice not followed at Bissell's Point works. [back]
8. Walt Whitman's relationship with the new attorney general, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, remains somewhat mysterious. On April 7 Walt Whitman wrote Abby Price that Mr. Hoar "treats me very kindly." But earlier, on February 17, his mother had asked: "walt what is it you alluded to that was disagreeable in the office" (Trent). According to John Burroughs the poet had been subjected to "dastardly official insolence" from a person equal in rank to Harlan. See Correspondence, II, 80, n. 12. [back]
9. Jeff's meaning here is difficult to ascertain, but he is probably concerned with Grant's Indian policy. In his inaugural address on March 4, 1869, Grant called for the "civilization and ultimate citizenship" of the "original occupants of this land," thereby implying that Indians had a proprietary claim on the land and rejecting the widely held notion that Indians were savages incapable of civilization. Given Jeff's racial attitudes in general, it is possible that he felt Grant's policies were misguided. [back]
10. In response to the allegations printed in the local press, the city council on March 12 requested the Board of Water Commissioners to determine whether the waterworks were defective. Jeff was asked to report, and on March 15, 1869, he sent a firm reply that concluded, "there is not good ground for any statement or rumor that the foundations of any of the work...at Bissell's Point...in any way endanger the stabiliity or permanency of the structures" (Proceedings of the City Council, March 16, 1869, p. 375). [back]