1860 – Mary Becknell’s Letter to Her Sister

[This transcription of a letter fragment from Mary Chribbs Becknell to her sister Hannah Chribbs Evans was made in 1930 by Hannah’s granddaughter, Fannie M. Evans of Springfield, Missouri. See Papers of Mary Becknell in Typescript Collection (C995) (microfilm), Vol. 6, No. 158, The State Historical Society of Missouri. The original document can be dated to 1860 because that is the year that the Prince of Wales toured the United States, an event mentioned in the letter.]

(First of letter missing)

Where will this evil end that has been brewing for years? Yes in my opinion from the time the Collines [Colonies] first revolted from Great Briton [Britain] that government has left no means untried to bring the revolted Collines [Colonies] again under bondage not as citizens but as slaves and rebels.

If you think I am deranged take a retrospective view of the time when our father kept the Port of entry at Foarte [Fort] Massac when every boat decending [descending] the Ohio River loaded with produce was examined for arms and munitions of war to prevent their aiding and abetting Con’l A. Burr in his grand Conspiracy which was no less at that time than a division of the Union. But God watched over his chosen people and averted our ruin at that time though hundreds of good citizens were brought to poverty and disgrace by joining Burr in that expedition. Yet there was not sufficient proof against him to hang him but he lived astigmatized [stigmatized] as a traitor to his country by all good men.

I always believed that Conspiracy was instigated by emmisaries [emissaries] of Briton, to intreague with our citizens to cause the downfall of our Republic that they have watched with envy and malice our increasing glory and prosperity and have left no means untried to subjugate our Country. The War of 1812 convinced them that they could never conker [conquer] America by force of arms, not while the American people are true to themselves and their country and not all the powers of Europe combined could subdue them but when they become the instruments themselves in the hands of a powerful nation to strike at the roots of liberty and stab to the heart’s core all their free institutions. Who can stay the horrors of this desolation – the Lord Jehova alone.

For forty years I have watched not impartially what I thought the signs of this most painful and may I say most humiliating and degrading Crices [crisis] in these United States. Has the visit of Victoria’s gallant son the Prince of Wales caused them to forget that they are Free Born sons of the only Nation on Earth Independent and Free? (quoted) They themselves are each party contending for their rights. The North supposes they have the right to try through a principle of humanity to force the Southern States to abolish slavery and the South knows the North has no right whatever to meddle or interfere with her state laws.

The slaves in the South are far better cared for than the poor but Honest Free Slave in the North but this is not the vital cause of this contention amongst a Free People, no the foundation is more deep and deadly and when our Union is divided the South and the North will be a byword, they will sink never to rise from the deep gulf of infamy and shame which they are now opening wide for their Liberty, their Freedom, their wives, their children, and all that is dear and sacred to them.

I tell you it is not the slavery question it is the gold of Great Briton that has for years been sapping the foundation of this Union. What will be the consequence. France will exert every nerve by profession of Friendship to gain an influence over the South so will England act to the North. Both nations are watching every movement that is made in these United States. They have become warm friends and have for years been making most magnificent preparations for war. What is it for. As soon as the North and the South begin the most unnatural and cruel war then we will become an easy prey.

About twelve years ago there was a French Count came to our house. Mr. Becknell was out about some business and the subject of conversation as usual was the annexation of Texas to the United States. After telling all the advantages that would have accrued to Texas by a treaty with the French people of commercial intercourse he said the French people said let them extend their territory and they will become divided among themselves.

(Remainder of letter missing)