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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 24 August 1848

Foreign affairs, and the developments of the Great European war, which is, in my opinion, sure to happen before three months have passed, occu[illegible] most of the public attention here. It may indeed be said that we live in exciting times. Political matters connected with our own country, involving questions as profund and far-extending as any that ever came up for settlement among us—the problem of French Republicanism,1 and its [illegible]ution or explosion—the revolt in Ireland,2 and the deep-seated wish in the American heart, for its success—besides a dozen other "movements," not forgetting the important on[illegible] in Germany and Italy—all these form indeed subjects for the most engrossing interest. Here in New York, this interest is tinged with no provincial character, but is developed with all that fiery ardor and "looseness" so characteristic of the city. Whatever a man thinks, that he says or writes—[illegible] of finding some hundreds who will agree with him.

Business is rather dull, and most of those engaged in the selling trade are temporarily out of town, enjoying what they can of "rural felicity." From the look presented by the the jobbing houses down town, however, they anticipate an immense business this fall. Most of the stores have an unusual number of clerks, and boxes [illegible]e piled up for miles along the lower part of Pearl street, and the thoroughfares which cross it. The jobbers have laid or are laying in an immense stock of goods; and the din of hammering and boxing up goes on at a great rate.

After an excessive heat, we[,] since Monday last, have been treated to a "spell" of comparatively cool weather. Folks stay out of town, though, all the same; and I am not sure but the country is more enjoyable in a sort of autumn weather, than any other.

Dysentery3 and cholera4 infantum are carrying off from twelve to twenty persons daily; most of the deaths of the former disease too are children. This is about as bad as your yellow fever,5 isn't it?

The arrival of the Crescent City yesterday brought us the latest printed dates; but since the "connection" by telegraph, we have, of course, no more anxiety to get late papers. Why don't some of you give us fuller intelligence about that "Buffalo hunt on the Rio Grande?"6 Is there really any thing in it, or is there no foundation for the tale, except mere newspaper rumor? A very general curiosity exists here to learn more about it; besides, there are ten thousand dare-devils in th[illegible] city, in want of adventure and excitement, who would like to join such an expedition.

Our reporters are quite in a state of sullenness from the absence of any interesting topic. Yesterday morning there was something of a fire in Brooklyn. By the by, I must tell you that Mrs. Behm,7 instead of being "kilt," was only partially kilt, (you recollect the case, as mentioned in one of my letters, ten days since?) and has got quite well. Both she and her husband are attending to their little grocery.

Yours,&c., MANHATTAN.


  • 1. Whitman is referring to the republican government of France that was established in 1848 and extended until 1852. In February of 1848, a period of civil unrest in Paris known as the February Revolution or the French Revolution of 1848 resulted in the abdication of King Louis-Philippe and the collapse of France's liberal constituional monarchy (the July Monarchy) that had been established under Louis Philippe in 1830. The February Revoltion also fueled a larger wave of political revolutions throughout Europe in 1848. In the aftermath of the revolution, a republican government—the French Republic—was established. [back]
  • 2. Whitman is referring to the political and cultural forces pushing for an independent Ireland in the 1840s. The Young Ireland movement was an Irish nationalist movement that supported Irish independence. The movement had its origins in the Repeal Association's campaign to dissolve the 1800 Irish Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. Young Irelanders seceded from the Repeal Association and formed the Irish Confederation, garnering a strong base in Dublin, and exerting a lasting influence on subsequent separatist endeavors. Young Irelanders attempted an unsuccessful insurrection in 1848 with the aims of Irish independence and democratic reform and as a response to British Parliament's passage of a "Crime and Outrage Bill" that enacted martial law in Ireland in an attempt to counter Irish nationalism. The Young Irelanders' rebellion in July 1848, resulted in the arrest of the movement's leaders and the collapse of the rebellion efforts. Ireland would not become self-governing until 1922. [back]
  • 3. Dysentery is an infection and inflammation of the intestines. It causes abdominal pain and severe diarrhea with blood. Dysentery can be the result of a bacterial or a parasitic infection, and it is spread as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene. [back]
  • 4. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine that is spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. [back]
  • 5. Yellow Fever is a viral disease that can be spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. In the nineteenth-century, Yellow fever epidemics occurred in the late summer months in the Southern United States, particularly under humid conditions and in densely populated cities. Yellow fever outbreaks occurred on an annual basis in New Orleans and resulted in thousands of deaths each year. [back]
  • 6. The "Buffalo Hunt" was a name given to a scheme in which men who had served in the Mexican-American War and some military officers would gather on the pretense of a hunting excursion but, through violence, would take possession of Mexican territory west of the Rio Grande. The conquered territory would be called the Republic of Sierra Madre ("Incidental Results of the Mexican-American War," Advocate of Peace 7.22–23 [October and November 1848], 282–285). [back]
  • 7. Whitman is referring to Mrs. Behm (ca. 1827?–1848) and her husband John Behm (1815–1887). According to the 1855 United States Federal Census, John was a grocer in Brooklyn, New York. [back]
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