This letter was written by 67 year-old Luther Pratt (1776-1847) of Jersey City, New Jersey. He was the son of Peter Pratt (1745-1832) and Phebe Wright (17xx-1836) of Oswego, New York. Luther published the first newspaper every established in Troy, New York. He was also affiliated with The Independent Republican from 1813-1816, and The American Masonic Register, and Ladies and Gentleman’s Magazine. He was also the author of numerous school books and other literary works. He became the editor of the Evening Sentinel (Jersey City) when it began but gave it up due to infirmities of age.
Luther wrote the letter to Avery Skinner (1796-1876), the son of Timothy and Ruth (Warner) Skinner. Skinner married Elizabeth Lanthrop Huntington (1802-1833) in 1822. In 1823, the Skinners moved to Union Square (now called Maple View) in the town of Mexico where he built an inn and from 1826 to 1837 served as the Treasurer of Oswego County, New York. From 1828 to 1839, he was an associate judge of the Oswego County Court. He was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1832 and 1833, and served as the Postmaster of Union Square from 1833 until his death. Avery also served as a member of the New York State Senate from 1838 to 1841.
Addressed to Hon. Avery Skinner, Post Master, Union Square, Oswego County, New York
Jersey City [New Jersey]
December 18, 1843
My Dear Friend,
What has become of your “Education Society?” I have heard nothing of it for a number of years. Has it become dormant? If so, let me beg you in the name of the love you have for your country and the general philanthropy which I have reason to think reigns in your breast, to resuscitate it as soon as you can, and take measures to have such societies formed in every school district and use your endeavors to spread the knowledge in various parts of our widely extended country as the most sure means of preserving and perpetrating that independence which was purchased at so high a price, and our free institutions that have been since established.
I need not attempt, sir, to point out to you the advantages and high importance of education, and the dissemination of knowledge not only in a political view, but in religion, and in all stations of life; for you know the whole; but I fear there is a want of due consideration on the part of many who have it in their power to promote a course which is dear to the heart of every true philanthropist and which due consideration will induce every person of sensibility to pursue with avidity and with delight.
I must confess, sir, that when I read, and hear of the ignorance that prevails in many parts of our country, I tremble for the consequences, and wish I could do something towards remedying the evil; but alas! my infirmities are such that I can do little or nothing. Yet I console myself in some degree that there are others who can and will, if they can be brought to serious consideration. Notwithstanding, ignorance prevails in the Western States more than in the others. There are thousands in the State of New York, New Jersey, and several of the older states who have received no education at all. Yes, even in those states there are some who cannot tell the difference between an absolute monarchy and a pure democracy. Yet these men have the right to suffrage, shout for liberty, and rush to the polls “as a horse rusheth to battle,” voting as they are as their owner by their master; or are deceived by the first designing demagogue they meet; or by some of his creatures.
I have been aroused to this important subject, and to serious reflection, by hearing a discourse yesterday from a very intelligent gentleman who had travelled through most of the states and been an eye witness of the situation of affairs, and I can assure you, sir, that some of his statements were extremely startling and sufficient to call into action every person of consideration who can contribute a mite towards alleviating the general distress. In considering what I could do myself, it occurred to my mind that I could yet make a few pencil marks and that I could do no better, at present, than to write to my friend Skinner on the subject, feeling confident that he would not consider me altogether impertinent. I am ignorant enough myself but I think I have a desire to make others better than I am.
You will duly consider this subject, sir, and I am free to say that Judge Freeman will be a co-worker with you and many others of a like character whose names I have not now room to mention. The press, too, will be a great auxiliary, and I feel sure you can enlist every editor in so righteous a cause.
Very respectfully, your friend, — Luther Pratt