1829: Joseph Jenkins, Jr. to George Richards Lewis

This letter was written by Joseph Jenkins, Jr. (1808-1843), son of Colonel Joseph Jenkins who was the Grand Master of the Free Masons in Boston. He graduated from Yale in 1828 and studied law with Samuel Hubbard. He was admitted to the New Haven bar in March 1831 and then opened a law office in Boston and married Mary Parker Willis in August 1831. Mary was the daughter of Deacon Nathaniel and Hannah (Parker) Willis, and the sister of poet and muse, Nathaniel P. Willis (Yale 1827). He spent his entire life in Boston with the exception of a few months in New Orleans. He died in Boston in 1843 at the age of 36.

Jenkins wrote the letter to his friend, George Richards Lewis (1809-1853), son of James and Harriet Lewis of New London, Connecticut. George was an 1829 graduate of Yale. He spent his entire life in New London occupied with agriculture and manufactures. Several years were spent in foreign travel. In 1848, he was selected as a director of the New London, Willimantic, and Springfield Railroad Company. He married Mary H. Chew but died in 1853 at the age of 45.

Much of the letter pertains to the shipping of an early-day cutting machine for agricultural products purchased by George Lewis.

1829 Letter

1829 Letter

Addressed to Mr. George R. Lewis, New London, CT.

Boston [Massachusetts]
November 3d 1829

My dear George,

You would have received an answer to your very acceptable letter long before this if I had not wished to discharge both of my duties at once — the dulce et utile — which being interpreted means that I should give an account of the business entrusted to me by you before writing on any subject of a less important nature. And so proceed. I am now & have been waiting this fortnight for the “mangel wurzel” machine to be under weigh. I went immediately to the warehouse & according to your directions purchased a cutting machine apparently well made, in good order &c. & stipulated with the man to send it to New London by the first packet, which may be in a week, but from bad weather or some other cause it had not left last week. The affair cut the root in pieces from one to two inches square. It was the only one on hand — of that size & worth; there were some cheaper but which you would not want, of course. He said that he would send you directions for using the machine by the same conveyance. It may have arrived at New London by this time. At any rate, I shall call again before putting this in office & see what the state of the case is. So much for the utile.

In answer to your question why I have not written you according to promise, I must give you the old excuse — “busy, busy.” Law must be attended to though I would have cut that willingly for the sake of talking with you a few moments, but soon after my return, some other unavoidable duties put themselves in my way. Father is out of town & consequently I am obliged in some measure to supply his place. Go to market — take up notes — & what other little affairs “all in the family.” And now & then Samuel [Hubbard] takes into his head that I can copy a small document of sheets not far from a dozen & that occupies all the morning. The afternoon is of no use to me. I can do nothing after dinner and evenings are such dissipated times — people will invite some folks to their tea fights & you know there is no getting off. But my dear, you are altogether mistaken if you suppose my visit to New London was the cause of silence. On the contrary, that was the very thing I wished to remember & for which to return you my sincere thanks. For it was a pleasant one — in spite of my dumps — & one I should like to repeat. When shall I forget the Black fish (my arm aches at the thought) & Mrs. Day’s unique chowder! Not to mention the “South Side.” — That stirrup cup ¹ — If I had not run all the way to the Boat the next morning, my appearance would not have been the most regular. The exercise saved me.

Joseph Story

Joseph Story

When shall I see you here? The winter will be a gay one — parties are abundant — the theatre is good — & a welcome, if that is of any consequence, will be most cordially given you. Be particular to come when I am at home as I am desirous of discharging some of my many obligations.

Miss Parker, perhaps you know, is married. Two or three of your classmates are attending [Judge Joseph] Story’s Law School ² which is said to be excellent. Why don’t you cut Mangel Wurtzel for a while & attend his lectures. You would understand managing “real property” much better.

Make my respects to all my friends, not forgetting Ma’am Day. Remember me to Mack & tell him to keep you steady.

Yours truly, J. J. Jr.

P. S. The Cutting Machine has been shipped but the vessel — on account of bad weather — has not sailed.

¹ A stirrup cup is a “parting cup” given to guests, especially when they are leaving and have their feet in the stirrups.[1] It is also the traditional drink (usually port or sherry) served at the meet, prior to a traditional foxhunt. The term can describe the cup that such a drink is served in. [Source: Wikipedia]

² Joseph Story (1779-1845) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845. He is most remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee and The Amistad, and especially for his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. Dominating the field in the 19th century, this work is a cornerstone of early American jurisprudence. It is the first comprehensive treatise on the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and remains a critical source of historical information about the forming of the American republic and the early struggles to define its law. In 1829 he moved from Salem to Cambridge and became the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University, meeting with remarkable success as a teacher and winning the affection of his students, who had the benefit of learning from a sitting Supreme Court justice.

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