Bowman, Wendell Phillips
Manuscript Diary of Wendell Phillips Bowman, of Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, while Studying Law in Philadelphia, 1869-70

12mo, 130 pp., plus 1 page of accounts, several blank leaves, pocket diary bound in original marbled paper boards, cloth spine eroded, rear board detached but present, some rubbing to boards, diarist's initials are written on printed paper label on front board. Text is written in ink throughout in a clean legible hand, several pages toned, otherwise very good.

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Manuscript diary of Wendell Phillips Bowman, a young man living in Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, just northeast of Philadelphia, while studying law in the office of George H. Earle, in Philadelphia. Our diarist does not identify himself, save for his initials W. P. B., which he has inscribed several times on the front cover. However from internal information we have discovered that the diarist is Wendell Phillips Bowman. Bowman is earnest young man of twenty-two, who travels daily from his home, in what is now northeast Philadelphia, to town where he engages in studying law, reading Blackstone, and performing various services for his teacher George H. Earle, prominent attorney of the day and an abolitionist. Bowman had previously served in the United States Army, from the age of 15 at Gettysburg, continuing service under Sheridan and subsequently on the plains until his health was ruined, whereupon he returned home and engaged in legal studies.

Bowman's diary contains a record of his daily activities, events attended, court attendance, his legal studies and attempts at improvement, struggles with his health and his own inner struggles. He writes of his efforts at "self mastery" which he also refers to as a "vile habit," parlance of the day for masturbation.

Bowman was born October 31, 1847 at Byberry, son of Henry Bowman and Grace Bartine, his father was a Quaker, staunch temperance advocate and an early abolitionist, naming his son after Wendell Phillips, the famed champion of the cause.

Wendell Phillips Bowman was educated at the Benjamin Rush school at Byberry, and at Byberry Friends' School. He lived at the family homestead "Cream Ridge" until the outbreak of the Civil War. Although too young to enlist he joined the Byberry Home Guards as drummer boy. When the Confederate forces invaded Pennsylvania he joined Company C of the 44th regiment under Capt. William Babe as a private at the age of fifteen. He saw service at Gettysburg, in the Cumberland Valley, and on the Upper Potomac. He then joined Company K of the 197th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, serving in the military division of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan. He was subsequently transferred to the West and the Mississippi River, when his term of enlistment expired he re-enlisted, but was soon overtaken by a series of complications resulting from exposure during his service. This compelled his retirement from the army, as a result of his illness he was unable to walk without crutches until 1874.

He returned home and entered into the study of the law under George H. Earle and Richard P. White of Philadelphia and was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in June, 1872. He was successful from the start and was prominent in his profession.

In 1877 at the time of the Pittsburg Riots, Bowman's military skills were requisitioned. He was chosen as an officer of the 20th Volunteer Regiment, in a little over thirty hours the regiment was recruited, organized and dispatched to Pittsburg. Transferred to Scranton to restore order there he was detailed as adjutant of the regiment. In 1878 he became Captain of the Veteran Co. H of the First Regiment of Infantry N. G. P., in 1879 major; in October 1885, Lt. Colonel; and in 1887 Colonel.

He was involved in Republican Party Politics but never ran for public office. He was married April 17, 1876 to Lizzie W. Malcolm.

Sample Quotes:

January 1, 1869 "per agreement with Mr. G. H. Earle, I went to the City on Monday 28th of Decr. to receive instruction & direction as to legal studies. Attended Twichell's trial in the afternoon of same day; ... On the 30th purchased Sharswoods Bl'stone, studied my first hour in law at the office then returned home by the 5 ‘ train."

January 4, 1869 "Proceeded to the City for the purpose of my first examination in the law as expounded by the immortal Blackstone. I passed Mr. Earle's scrutiny first, then was questioned by Mr. Hopple upon Equity & the construction of statutes. It being my first experience of course felt a little anxious but "alls well that ended well," I was commended for my preparation which encouraged me."

January 16, 1869 "Went to the city via the cars, Mr. Earle being called to attend a funeral Mr. Hopple examined me. My renewed exertion brot forth its fruits this being my best recitation, for which I received the high encomium that I had a better knowledge of the science than my examiner had when he had devoted the same length of time to the study. This was evidently sincere and not flattery."

February 21, 1869 "In the morning attended the Spiritualist Leiceum, corner of 8th & Spring Garden Sts, it was my first attendance, could but be favorably impressed with their exercises, because of their reason, utility and purpose as well as entire freedom from the slightest tinge of bigotry & superstition - Dined, spent the afternoon & "supped" with Coz's Johnson & Maggie, spent the night with Clayton Haynes & family very agreeably."

February 24, 1869 "Confined principally to the study of Blackstone, than whom no one is superior as an exponent of the noble science of the law. Father was employed during the day in assisting John Comly to dig a new entrance into his residence."

March 5, 1869 "One of the coldest nights & mornings of the present spring or past winter. - ... papers overflowing with news of the inauguration - & the loyal masses rejoicing that they are rid of the recreant & because of the prosperous & peaceful future Grant in his address promises to promote -..."

March 17, 1869 "St. Patrick's day! How many Irishmen, deluded Irishmen - are now groveling in intemperance contracted in "drowning the shamrock" in honor of the saint! That they were as unanimous in their efforts to relieve their oppressed land! ... Found my Blackstone more perplexing in the rights of things than in the rights of persons..."

April 7, 1869 "A beautiful morn, Edmund took me to Torrisdale where I took the boat for the City. The birds cheerful notes combined with the bright sunshine pouring down upon the verdant & tender grass presented a desireable & pleasant contrast to the clouds of filthy dust that pervaded the atmosphere & streets of the city, was examined by my preceptor."

April 8, 1869 "Twichell robbed the gallows of its victim by committing suicide, Prussic acid doing the work poor wretch! He died with the blood of his fellow mortal upon his soul... Eaton was busy meeting his fate like a hardened man, protesting his innocence."

April 26, 1869 "A delightful spring day; the air bracing & pleasant in the country, but warm & oppressive in the city which combined with the clouds of impure dust rolling to and fro made it filthy & disgusting in the extreme... The "Odd Fellows" sweltered in the dust & heat. In viewing them I could but note that most of them all 9/10 were composed of men from the different mechanical & industrial persuits. That organization created for charitable & benevolent purposes which can not perform its working in the broad light of day does not in my estimation deserve either the encomiums or sanction of an enlightened and Christian people. It was their semi-centennial anniversary."

May 31, 1869 "... Never felt the heat more oppressive went to the Register of wills office for the first time. In the evening attended the lecture of the renowned Miss Dickinson whose ideas did not wholly coincide with my own. The subject was woman suffrage. Am willing for it if will benefit them."

June 6, 1869 "... carefully perused Hon. C. Sumner's speech upon the Johnson & Claridon Treaty. Was impressed with its vast comprehension & ability. It caused the British lion to roar as of old, but right is right & Sumner will prevail..."

September 3, 1869 "Remained home as usual to pursue diligently my Blackstone - but instead have been dwelling in the valley of humiliation - have passed through a mental revolution & abolished a vile habit, in short - have achieved a victory over myself..."

September 22, 1869 "Again to the city where I devoted the day largely to criminal court practice endeavoring to save from the stern hand of the law a man who committed a petty act while under the influence of liquor It seemed hard for him to be punished for the act though drunkenness is no excuse."

September 23, 1869 "Again to the City: devoted the day to study practice, court practice, weather threatening & ominous. The honored philanthropist Peabody came to Torrisdale in the Boat with us. ... My poor man in the Dock did not get his liberty."

October 3, 1869 "... suffered with a distressing headache the result of a violation of God's law in connection with my own being."

October 13, 1869 "Repared to the city where I found the Copperhead element very quiet and respectable in consequence of their defeat. How different if they had succeeded! Republican principal will live by their merits. Election very quiet..."

November 19, 1869 "Very cold brother John took me to Torrisdale to the boat, repared to the city feeling very tho'tful & solemn not merely on account of the lecture but because of other influences which I will not record in writing. Finished my lecture at Aunt Kitties, the peroration took dinner with them. Went to Bev. By the cars; delivered my first lecture to a large audience & for the night was the guest of Mr. Scattergood's. Lecture was appreciated I believe."

November 30, 1869 "Remained home & worked hard at Blackstone, determined to succeed & accomplish his abstruse though delightful theories. Dilligence & application alone will enable me to do this & if I do not exercise these principles myself alone is to blame they are within my reach..."

December 1, 1869 "Repared to the city, day delightful - warm & Spring like. Devoted the day to study court attendance & other activities calculated to advance me. Called upon coz. Comly. Studied until time to leave for the Academy where I heard Charles Sumner on the question of "caste" a treat of rare character to hear him define his eloquent sentences devoid of prejudice."

December 4, 1869 "After a refreshing sleep arose went to the office - drew my first affidavit, went to the Moyamensing prison for the first time there took the statement of a poor unfortunate whom my preceptor defends. Such a place! As the grating door swung open upon its hinges the stench rushed from the sell nearly stifling me ..."

December 23, 1869 "Father took me to the boat, proceeded to the city where I attended to study &c called upon coz. Comly's at their school. The day bright & glorious - ... and the sight seers & Christmas purchasers apparently enjoyed it the principles streets being crowded with humanity. Took tea at Crown St. attended the exercises of the graduating class of colored youth school with coz. Comly's."

January 1, 1870 "Repared to the City where I devoted the day to the acquisition of knowledge exercise & business. In passing over some of our streets I was forcibly struck with the system of excess & debauchery that generally prevails on such holly days. In the midst of all I fairly resolved to combat it & endeavour myself to achieve a victory..."

January 3, 1870 "Took an active part in all the debates under the auspices of the Byberry Philosophical Society with but two exceptions. Debated unpopular questions but by continuing them over always won. Debated the question of Capital Punishment by challenge in Germantown & carried the palm for its Abolition. I spoke for a debating club as an alternate & for my services was made an honorary member. Delivered a lecture under the auspices of the Byberry Phil. Society in consideration of which & other services was made an honorary member of the same society ... The subject was the "Lights & Shadows of Law & Lawyers" Spoke at Hulmeville to a large audience on Temperance receiving a collection of less than $ 2.00 for my services being the first money I ever received for public speaking. If my ability is to be judged by the amount given my case is hopeless as an orator for the present at least. But reformers we must remember are not compensated in dollars & cents immediately. The glorious improvement & elevation of mankind are their rewards. And that my effort upon this occasion was worth more & more encouraging to me than the paltry pennies given me is found in the fact that after the meeting all the principle temperance workers & orators complimented & requested me to immediately canvass their circuit & particularly to combat with the evils in the strongholds of Bucks County..."

"On Friday morning April [no date given, 1870] started for New York City for the purpose of attending the disbandment of the old Anti-Slavery Society & the celebration of the ratification of the 15th Amendment. ... Upon reaching the great Gotham - our point of landing being a particularly noisy one ...were startled with the great uproar & tumult and the rushing pushing & boisterous mass of humanity. Amidst the earnest & not overly chaste & refined solicitations of the hackmen for dog & self to ride I espied a poor forlorn looking colored boy in a half nude condition eating the most costly kind of candy whom I asked to lead my dog. The boy looked up in my face inquiringly, much as to say, "do you think me a black dunce enough to lead a dog for nothing in this promising age of the 15th Amendment & citizenship?" Seeing what was needed to command his services I immediately made plain my previous intention by asserting "I will pay you for it." Upon this it would have done the heart of the most indifferent good to have seen the eager manner in which he espoused my cause taking the rope of the dog urging him onward... I compensated the colored youth & he went upon his way rejoicing ... I proceeded to the City Hall & the new Court House the latter one of the most expensive & gigantic buildings I ever saw. Passed in it found the Supreme Court in session was taken in by a member of the Bar behind the Bar & listened for some time to an argument of a commercial case by one of New York's shining commercial lawyers ... I passed to the Brown court where McFarland was receiving his trial. Could get a glimpse inside only... In evening attended enthusiastic celebration meeting at Cooper Institute by the blacks a meeting ever to be remembered! Staid at Hygiene Institute during night next day attended at Apollo Hall the commemorative meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society of America & listened to some of the business meeting which resulted in its disbandment a fact which will form a page of history. Attended the social reunion in the evening hearing the addresses by the honored workers of the glorious cause. Remained at the International Hotel rest of night, following morning the 10th went to Brooklyn - attended Beechers Church ..."

Young, John Russell, Jenkins, Howard Malcolm and Seilhamer, George O., Memorial History of the City of Philadelphia..., New York: 1898, vol. 2, pp., 422-425