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Smithfield Preston Foundation

Papers, 1784-1881, n.d., Ms1997-002

March 10, 1822 -- letter from Francis Preston in Abington to James McDowell

Abingdon Mar 10, 1822

My Dear Sir

I left home the 20th of Dec. and did not get into my own house untill the day before yesterday--isn't this monstrous! But I was detained 10 days at Smithfield in consequence of a severe indisposition under which my mother labored, indeed from the first four or five days. I had very little expectation she ever would rise from her bed, however a change took place by a mere free expectoration which ---- her cough much and she began to strengthen so as to be able to set up occasionally a few minutes at a time, and evidently acquired strength before I left her, since which I have heard she had recovered so as to walk about in her room. My son Wm on his way from Stanton says she had so recovered as to leave little doubt of her overcoming this attack. On my way home I found my family at the Salt works where we remained 8 or 10 days all in good health but really I almost seem to be a Stranger at home. On my arrival your letters of the 5th of Nov. and the 10th of Feby were delivered to me which will apologize to you for the not answering them sooner.

The first part of your first letter related to my ---- with Dunn, for your attention to which I very much thank you, and believe from your Statement of the contents of the depositions that my case is a safe one and I may securely go to trial. If I had a commission I would however send it on to have Genl Breckenridges depo taken as william tells me he now recollects almost all the material circumstances attending the case, but this I would send to my agents at Louisville ----, Wittelsy, & Crane.

In relation to old Reynolds, I cannot but think it a good case, Mr. Wichliffe to the contrary ---- standing, it is a matter of delicacy with him to say any thing of the testimony of Blackburn a brother Lawyer, under this impression I have written to my agent Crane a smart yankee Lawyer who has no motions of that sort to attend to the suit he having written to me that he observed the pendency of the suit on the Dockett, had read the pers + thought there was no doubt of my dissolving the Bill of injunction if any ownership was proved to be exercised by Reynolds after the day fixed on for the first payment, which I imagine can be clearly proved by McDowell at the Mouth of Kentucky, and perhaps by Mr. Castleman, for I recollect that Mr. Castleman informed me that Reynolds had procured a more distant day than the one fixedon payment, so that I have no doubt in the ---- there was an exercise of ownership indeed. I think I remember that McDowell wrote to me to that effect, which letter I enclosed to M. Wichliffe to refresh McDowells recollection.

May I ask the favour of you to see that letter as also Casltemans which I also enclased, and see whether my recollection bears me out on this point if so I must get you take McDowells testimony which I would be glad you would attend to yourself. He is a smart intelligent man and will ---- clearly and distinctly. Perhaps it would be proper to reexamine Mr. Castleman on this point. I feel now anxious to succeed in this affair as well as from some pride of opinion as from interest, for I wish to make the old man pay something beyond the Land, I presume too the rents were rec'd by him or are lest for he rented the place and ferries after he purchased. Pray give what attention you can to this business and I will pay your fees for not withstanding your hate of the Law or rather the profession. I suppose you are now a Lawyer that you may get clear of family -ulminations on that subject. You know I never -ulminated much upon the subject but I thot a good deal about it and am sure it is a right convenient thing as it brings a sort of a support to the most indifferent and is a monstrous aid to raising Corn and hogs, for it does not infrequently happen whilst the Blacksmith is craving for the plough share that a poor client steps in and offers a fee. I have had some little expence on this subject and have found its convenience in this respect, and its eminent importance toward political promotion for with talents below mediocrity I have no right to complain of my political career, which I attribute to that profession and integrity, and I assure you they are congrous. Tho' in this profession you will frequently see virtue and view in its brightest and most deformed aspects which to an ingenious mind is a beacon for his safe direction, but to a vicous one a ---- for his destruction. You have arrived to that period of life which with much virtuous and usefull acquirements will save you from all deteriorations that the profession is some what back to. I think therefore you ought not to hesitate, and when you decide, I pronounce that in ---- and perseeverance will make you what you wish to be, regard difficulties only as excitements for greater exertions, and the more eminent your competitors the more honorable your success. Your have many examples of this within your own knowledge, Wichliffe and Allen Taylor are strong instances. Willliam has obtained his license a few days since, but has not yet come out, and really I was astonished and hurt in a conversation with himthe other day to observe some degree of fear and desponding least he might not succeed, but I know it was pride and assured him it was so, for if he can not make a H Clay or a Watkins Lugh he can fill some other grade in the profession that I am sure will be both honorable and profitable, and so can you, and if the anxious and extraordinary expectations offend parents and warm friends cannot be fullfilled, you can do your duty and the best can do no better.. So go on and may heaven ---- your attempts.

From the 15th day of Nov. to the 12 day of February I spent in Richmond on that unfortunate business of my brothers which has painfully engaged me almost exclusively for two years. On the first day of Feby my Bill passed the Senate and perhaps there never was a severer law ever passed by a deliberate body and under worse feelings than it did in the lower house, whenever the subject was brought up it produced the most unaccountable ---- against the innocent unfortunate securities, so much so that at one time I believe a considerable portion of the house would have confiscated their property in ---- may indeed. I believe they would have passed a law of attainder for their securing the Commonwealth against its delinquent officer for it is a fact that one Member said let the execution go against their property and let the Commonwealths agent purchase it and sell it out again on a speculation. This savage proposition to be sure was made by ---- Bolling of Indian dissent and therefore some apology for the Genl Assembly of my native state and I assure the Esprit de Cire ( I don’t know how to spell French) that I ---- in here to fere is much lessened by this affair before the Legislature is pretty much like other Legislatures actuated by interest and popularity. It was however a very ignorant assembly more so than has ever known to be concerned, I mean the lower house. The Bill however passed with all its deformities, without exempting us either from part of the principal are interest of the judgement altho nothing upon earth was clearer than we ought not to have been bound for a years interest amounting to between $5 & 6000, as the Commonwealth had ---- the the sale of Genl Prestons property whereby the interest occurred as I proved that if the injunctions had not been granted the amount of the judgement would have been in the Treasury, but instead of remilling it for the book of one two and three years credit they required a release of all errors at Law and in equity as also for all interest. An Evidence of their conviction of the justice of the demand, and a strong one too of Soveriegn tyranny against which individual right, have no earthly chance. Besides this they have enacted that the Treasurer for the time being with the advice of the Executive may issue the execution at any time the exigencies of the state may require, and as all events for the whole if the first installment or any future one is not paid. This is the Law for the relief of innocent securities, and which we were obliged to accept or permit the execution to go against our persons or property ----. After the Law passed I had much difficulty with the ---- Genl to get the ---- disolved but after eight days of flattery and solicetation got it done by consent, so that now the trustees are at Liberty to go on with the sales of my Brothers property, and means were taking before I left richmond for the sale of that property in the East side of the Blue Ridge and particularity the Settle Creek Estate and the ---- there on which was con cluded to be sold for cash as it was sought after with a good deal of ---- and would in all probably bring upwards of $30000. The place itself it was supposed would command that sum, this therefore was the property from which we could expect to make our foirst payment to the Commonwealth and thereby prevent the execution from going for the whole. This arrangement I feared would preclude the idea of our becoming the purchasers, but I wrote to your father on the subject from Richmond. I have just recd an answer, and find by a comprison of our means we cannot accomplish this desirable oject I was therefore sorry I had written to you on the subject least it might have proved a considerable disappointment, but I sincerely hope it will have had no deterious effect upon any actual arrangements altho' it may have had some effect in suspending some of your ----. I find too on my returning home that the selling of Settle immidiately was important as the horse shoe is not likely to command near as much as was calculated when with ---- that mow incumbers it. The ---- will not give I fancy more than $10000 beyond the ----, we must therefore hunt our other purchasers or sacrifice it, and if we do it may turn out that the Securities will suffer, at present we do not contemplate such an event believing my Brothers property will ---- us unless a most unexampled sacrifice shall take place which we hope will not be the case if we can conveniently pay the first installment which falls due on the 1st Feby next of about $24 or 25,000, and if any deficiency should occur it will principally face on myself, which I fear I shall ---- prepared to meet as our tenant ---- is very ---- in paying his rents indeed the sales of ---- are so limited and dull it is not much in his power to meet his engagements.

I have some fears I shall have to visit your state this spring as my business there particularly at Louisville seems to require my attention, and really I view this ---- seperation from my house with some degree of ---- as I have been so much from home, but the idea of seeing my children ---- there feelings much, however I understand you have some notion of visiting virginia sometime this year, if so I would be glad to know when, for altho I want to see you very much I hope you will be detained until after the May Federal Court, as I calculate on your paying respects to Mr. Reynolds.

As Mr. Preston is writing to Susan and ---- I ---- about ---- affairs, only my most sincere save to you all both great and small who occupy a full portion of my warmest affections.

Your affectionate father
Francis Preston

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Last Modified on: Thursday, 29-Oct-2009 09:29:07 EDT