Davis, W. H.
Autograph Letter Signed, Baltimore, November 1, 1845, to his brother, Charles W. Davis, Hagerstown, Maryland

quarto, 3 pages, plus address leaf, in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Letter between the Davis brothers about the sad financial state of their father, John Davis, once the prominent builder of the Maryland turnpike road, and a Director of the Hagerstown Bank – who had just declared bankruptcy, owing more than $ 27,000 to the Bank and other debtors. He was a small slave owner and one concern of his sons was what would happen to his slaves. Would they be sold to pay his debts? This was also undoubtedly in the mind of his slaves, because some had already run away.

W. H. Davis, the writer of this letter, was a physician, married into the wealthy Poultney family, who had a large house in Hagerstown, which he shared with many of his in-laws – so large an extended family that he needed four servants. One of these was an Irish immigrant. The others were Black, two of these, “mulatto” – but they were apparently free. All of which explains the amazing attitude of Davis, expressed in his letter, who privately approved of the escape of his father’s slaves:

“Dear Charles,

Your letter of Tuesday last was duly received, I need not say to you how much we were disappointed by your want of success with the Bank, though father had a fair right to expect such arrangement as he proposed, taking into consideration his long connections with that institution, and the great favours he has extended toward it, but under the circumstances, it was but what might have been expected. I yet hope the arrangement you have proposed may be effected – I am a good deal surprised that Mr. Yost will still interfere with your plans, can you not stop it? His foisting Merrick into the management of father’s affairs is any thing but pleasant to us all because we have not that high opinion of his moral character which we should have in a person standing that a mans consul must occupy ….

If you could take father with you to Allegany would it not be well? He would be benefited by the trip and have his mind withdrawn in a measure from his perplexities – This is a suggestion, you all in H. T. can judge better than I. I have felt the want of money, badly felt it in the course of my life, but never have believed it would afford me so much gratification and delight as its possession would now bring me – the expression of opinion will not now relieve us further than the gratification of our feelings, but industry, frugality and perseverance will as it has often heretofore accomplish much and in latter days may be our best days. I do not feel sorry for the escape of the blacks and hope they not be taken, if they go far enough North they will be safe – I do not see the difficulty about Nance, she was a gift to me, and shall assuredly have her freedom and that shortly, so also shall Bony - …”