Document 9: Letter from William Pelham to Marianna Pelham Mott, 28 April 1854, Garrison Family Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College.
William Pelham wrote the following letter to Marianna after a visit to her in Philadelphia. There he met James and Lucretia Mott. William, a slaveholder, was pleased about how well he had been treated by the Motts despite their differences over the issue of slavery. William, formerly Surveyor General of Arkansas, was about to receive an appointment as Surveyor General of New Mexico Territory, a post he would hold until 1860.
Washington Apl 28th 1854
My much beloved Niece
I have just but a few minutes since found myself in my little room again. On my return here I was put into a larger one, where I have been until this evening, but it did not seem like home to me, and I think you will agree with me, as it seemed to have the effect to tire me, or at alevents, I did not write to you during the whole time I was there. The opposite effect is produced as soon as I am again at “home.”
I am fearful my dear Niece that if I were to make you another visit, your kindness, and the kindness of your Relatives would have the effect to weaken my opinion in regard to the abolitionists. Love and kindness from others have a powerful influence on my feelings, and I will say frankly that I have not seen any where else, such a community as the circle by which you are surrounded. They seem to possess happiness in the superlative degree. How delicately they treated me, never in a single instance mentioning the subject of slavery except when brought up by myself. I appreciate the delicacy. I formed a warm feeling of friendship for each member of your friends, whose acquaintance I made while I was there. They all seemed to be very happy, as if happy in the contemplation of their good works. I am not surprised at your father falling in love with such a community. Mr. and Mrs. Mott are remarkable individuals. Individuals whose example is worthy of imitation. I was very much pleased with them.
Thomas was exceedingly friendly kind and generous. I feel myself under obligations to him which will remain with my recollection. And you my dear Marianna are my sweet and lovely daughter, Oh! were it not for that spark of jealousy that I am not the first in your estimation among your Uncles if possible I would love you more, but let that pass.
* * *
Soon after my return the Bill creating the office of Surveyor General of New Mexico passed the Senate, and was sent to the House, where it was referred to the committee on Public Lands. I am expecting it to be reported back and when it does return, it probably will pass without debate. My friends have made a very strong demonstration in my favor. I am fully persuaded that if the Office now existed that I would be appointed without delay. And I as fully believe I will get it when it shall be filled. The entire representations from Arks.[A] & Texas with the exception of Genl Houston[B] who is absent, have urged my claim with much earnestness. The Secretary of the Interior did not in direct terms say I should have it, but his conversation when taken together was fully equal to a promise.
The salary as fixed by the Senate, is $4500. and $14000. for clerk hire, but the House will cut it down in all probability.[C] I wrote to your Uncle Atkinson[D] a letter of seven pages since I have returned, and I intend to write to your Mother soon.
I have recd. a letter from Belle,[E] which if I can put my hand on it will send it to you.
Write me soon. Give my respects to each of the Gentlemen & Ladies of your relatives with whom I became acquainted and my love to each member of your family.
Your affectionate Uncle
A. William, born in Kentucky in 1803, had moved to Arkansas by 1826, and served as Surveyor General there from 1841 to 1849. He had strong political connections in Arkansas through his wife Mary Ann Conway, sister to two Arkansas governors.
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B. General Samuel Houston led the Texas army in its rebellion against Mexico in 1834-36, later became President of the Republic of Texas and, from 1846 to 1859, served Texas as United States Senator. William Pelham became a resident of Texas in 1849, and in 1850 acquired a farm on Manchaca Springs, south of Austin.
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C. William’s initial annual salary as Surveyor General of New Mexico was set at $3,000. He held that post from 1854 until 1860.
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D. William’s brother Atkinson Pelham was by this time a doctor living in Alabama. While studying medicine in Philadelphia in the 1820s, he was a tenant in the boardinghouse run by Anna Coffin, mother of Martha Wright. It was through Atkinson that Martha had met her first husband Peter Pelham.
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E. Probably his daughter Isabella Ann Pelham, who was 19 in 1854.
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