1836: Rev. Lawson C. Carter to Timothy Jarvis Carter

“Major Jack” Downing — a fictional character created to poke fun at Andrew Jackson and other partisan politicians in the 1830s

This letter was written by Lawson C. Carter (1793-1868) to his brother, Timothy Jarvis Carter (1800-1838). They were the sons of Dr. Timothy Carter (1768-1845) and Frances Freeland (1771-1814) of Maine. Lawson Carter was married to Mary Ann Steenbeck Gale (1806-1878) in Trinity Church in NYC on 23 October 1832. His brother Timothy was married in 1828 to Arabella Rawson (b. 1807).

Timothy studied law in Northampton, Massachusetts, and was admitted to the bar in 1826, whereupon he commenced practice in Rumford, Maine. He moved to Paris, Maine in 1827 and continued the practice of law. He was appointed secretary of the Maine State Senate in 1833, and was a county attorney 1833-1837. He was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-fifth Congress and served from September 4, 1837 until his death in Washington, D.C. on March 14, 1838.

Lawson attended Dartmouth College, graduating there is 1816. He was ordered a Deacon in 1821, and an Episcopal Priest in 1822 by Bishop Hobart. After ministering on Ogdensburg, New York and later in Westchester County, he gave up the ministry for a time on account of failing health. Subsequently he lived in New York City where he found alternative employment as a merchant until returning to the ministry in Cleveland, Ohio in 1850, taking the rectorship of Grace Church from 1852 to 1860.

In the letter, Lawson shares his opinion that there would be a successful settlement between the United States and France over spoliation claims that dated back to the Napoleonic Wars. Indeed, with Britain’s assistance in mediation, a settlement was achieved in the Spring of 1836. Clearly the American populace favored no war with France and Lawson humorously states that the “Old Hero” (Jackson) will have to gird his sword and fight alone. Lawson also mentions “Major Jack” — a fictional character created by Maine author and humorist, Seth Smith, who lampooned the chicanery of partisan politics in the early 1830s.

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Addressed to Timothy Jarvis Carter, Esq., Paris, Maine

My dear Brother,

I shall again help load the mail box with this sheet of paper. I am in hopes of seeing you soon and I write at this time in order to hasten you along as fast as possible, and to say to you if you will make a visit instant. And after looking over, and talking and weighing matters, you should come to the conclusion not to join with me, I would pay your expenses here and back. I have an offer which I should be likely to close with if I knew, or even thought that we should not agree. If you should come here, and we could get along agreeably together, I should rather do so, than any other way. Although the offer is made to me by a business man to put into the concern $30,000 and divide equally, he being an active partner. This nor any other proposition, however, will be taken into consideration until I know what the result of your decision is.

I have taken a store for three years next door to the one we are now in, in Vine Street. We are to pay Eighteen hundred dollars per year. we can occupy the whole or a part just as we please. Can let the lower floor & cellar for twelve hundred and then have as good a store as we have now. But I purpose to occupy the whole. I want some one to talk with about such, and other things. Two heads are better than one if one is a _____head. We shall, as you see, have no French War unless the Old Hero girds on his sword and fights alone. And I don’t think he could see much glorification in that unless he could get somebody to rub his spicks up better than even Major Jack did. But enough.

Rev. Lawson Carter’s Gravemarker

I wrote you about your making a draft on us and sending the money. Can you do any such thing? If you can, it will help us. If you cannot, will you accept a draft for 90 days or four months from us for which we can get the money. And then in case you was here or could not pay the draft, make arrangement with the cashier then to draw on us for the amount when it came due. We have a good deal to pay this and next month. And all navigation being closed, we cannot get our stuff to market so as to be in time to meet these payments. We’ll be short, as the saying is — what say you?

The North & East Rivers were yesterday frozen over. The tide has taken the ice off this morning so that the ferry boats are able to cross — that is all. As cold as ever I saw it in Maine. We are all well. Love to all. Do write on receipt of this.

Your brother, L. C. Carter


“The mean temperature in February 1836 at New York City (Governors Island) was 21.5 degrees which is still the 2nd coldest February in New York City after 1934 (19.9 degrees).”  Source: The Pennsylvania Weather Book by Ben Gelber

Major Jack Downing (right) cheers on Andrew Jackson as he vetoes the National Bank Charters.


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