1838: J. A. Grace to Augustine Heard

Cruelty to Blacks by Whites in Cuba

This letter was written by J. A. Grace (1789-Bef1860), a native of England, who lived in Havana, Cuba – where he wrote this letter in 1838 – but emigrated to the United States in 1843. His family, all born in Cuba, consisting of wife, M. Clementine Grace (b. 1810), and daughters, Mary (b. 1828), Clementine (b. 1834), Teresa (b. 1836), Margaret (b. 1838), Rose (b. 1840), and an 18 year-old black servant named Julian Jones, came from Cuba to the Port of Philadelphia aboard the Brig Elizabeth in June 1843. Grace may have wanted to remove his family from Cuba in 1843 due to the Black revolts and mass executions that was then occurring in Cuba.

In 1850, Grace and his family lived in Baltimore’s 12th Ward. They were still living there in 1860, though J. A. Grace appears to have died.

This letter was addressed to Augustine Heard (1785-1868). He was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1785 to Sarah Staniford and John Heard. At the age of 18 he sailed to India as a supercargo and began a successful career as a merchant sailing from Ipswich to South America, Europe, India, and England. In 1830, Heard sailed to Canton, China and entered into the trading firm of Russell & Company at the age of 45. By 1838 he began his own China trading firm with his friend Joseph Coolidge under the name Augustine Heard & Company. After establishing the company as one of the largest in China, Heard returned to Ipswich and invested with his brother and brother-in-law in the Ipswich Manufacturing Company. He died in 1868.

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Addressed to A. Heard, Esq., Care of Messrs. Baring Brothers & Co., London

Havana [Cuba]
13 December 1838

Dear Heard,

By the enclosed you will perceive that I indulge myself with a sort of pen & ink confab. with you from time to time; giving you just what happens to be uppermost – seasoned however with very good advice for which, at any rate, you ought to be thankful. [ink blotch] persons who receive advice without asking for it. If a mariner strikes his ship upon a sunken rock, he is at least able to point out the danger to others who may be steering that way, tho’ his own vessel may be lost in attaining his knowledge of it. However, I am not going to give you any more advice for the present, so don’t be alarmed. If this letter finds its way to your hands, I should like you to read it when you are quite at leisure, enjoying your elbow chair & in a mood to be pleased with trifles – for I have nothing better to offer.

The Battle of Veracruz, or the Battle of San Juan de Ulua, was a naval attack of the Pastry War in which French naval forces captured the citadel of San Juan de Ulúa and then occupied the city of Veracruz. Mexican forces were heavily outnumbered and retreated. It occurred from 27 November 1838 to 5 December 1838 and was the only major engagement of the war, after which, a peace treaty was signed, ending hostilities between France and Mexico.

Were I to tell you of the capture of Vera Cruz by the French — which was great news here yesterday — before this reaches you, it may be no news at all.

If you have as much rain in England as we have had here for these last two months, I fear you will be forming a bad opinion of the climate. We had no rain at the usual season – a terribly hot & fry summer, & now we are deluged with rain where it is not wanted. Are the crops in England generally short as reported? Or, as I suspect, is there a common average crop of grain? It is difficult to collect from the contradictory statements of the papers any thing like the truth. I have great faith in Bell’s weekly messenger in such matters: I am sorry to hear, however, that breadstuffs are high everywhere in Europe & even in America.

There is a rumor of war between England & Russia. I shan’t be sorry to see my country stopping the monstrous encroachments of that unwieldy power & checking the insolence of that government which has been gross of late years: but I should be sorry to see a state of general warfare in Europe. Then & perhaps all this may be only newspaper chat: but I confess to you that I dislike the Russian government and its grasping ambition; its secret & bitter hatred of England has been long undoubted in my poor opinion. Had it not been for the curse of radicalism in E. [ink blotch], it would have received a lesson long ago. I hope John Bull will not leave them a single sail in the Black Sea. I think such a war would be popular in England, & tumble to the ground the present paltry minister of the Whig – radicals – the devil go with them!!

The only unpleasant thing between your country & mine that I can see for the present, is the long & vexed question of the N. Eastern boundary; I suppose the value of the land in dispute, as mere land, is of small importance on either side and is only of consequence in a geographical point of view. If, however, the parallel line is to be run from a point which would throw the outlet of the St. Lawrence within the U.S. Territory (as I understand is claimed by some authorities) you may rely upon it that no English minister will dare to acceed to such a thing, notwithstanding the vagrancy – if I may so call it – of the original treat in 1783. The probability is that neither party at that time had any very correct geographical, or rather topographical knowledge of the highlands so much talked of, but were mutually satisfied with a report that such highlands did exist, somewhere thereabouts. But as one party did not mean to claim, nor the other to concede any of the _____ures of the St. Lawrence, it would be an injustice now in either party to wish to take advantage of their former mutual ignorance & mutual neglect: I say neglect, for it is pretty clear that no actual surveys were made at the time of the treaty. In private transactions, to take such advantage, tho’ the law might bear it out, would be considered by honest men as unfair & grasping; and I don’t see why nations should not be fair & honorable towards each other as well as private persons. I have myself no knowledge of the geography of that country not do I know what would be the extent of country between the two suppositions lines. I merely speak as to what appears to me to be the general & equitable state of the question; and I imagine no settlement can be made without some material conception on each side.

If in England or on your return home you should meet with a good modern map of the disputed territory, I should very much like to have one. I have read a great many documents (on both sides) respecting it, but for want of a map, have never been able to obtain more than a vague & indistinct knowledge of it. You will be tired of all this I fear, & perhaps think it if little consequence as I know many do: — but I think every thing of consequence which is likely to disturb the harmony between England & the United States.

I will spare you any further infliction for the present tho’ I have other matters I should like to write you about; especially relating to the Southern States of America, the West Indies, & the question of slavery, made so much of by the canting Saints, would be philanthropists (at the cost of others), and the precious radicals of my unhappy country.

I am, yours ever, — J. A. Grace

In the Times of 9 October last, there is an article headed “Slave Trade” from the Portugese: I wish you would take the trouble to read it.


The Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the American Revolutionary War but did not clearly determine the boundary between British North America (Canada) and the United States. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts thereafter began issuing land grants in its District of Maine, including the areas that the UK still claimed.

During the War of 1812, the British occupied most of eastern Maine, including Washington County, Hancock County, and parts of Penobscot County, Maine, for eight months, intending to permanently annex the region into Canada. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war in 1814 and reestablished the boundary line of Treaty of Paris (1783), but left the border ambiguities intact. The parties sent a collaborative survey team to locate and mark the source of the St. Croix River, the principal geographical feature identified in the earlier treaty. The eastern boundary of the United States ran north to the highland, where it met the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia. A monument was put on the site where the waters passed through the Chiputicook Lakes.

When Maine broke away from Massachusetts in 1820 as a separate state, the status and location of the border emerged as a chief concern to the new state government. Massachusetts also retained an interest in the matter, as it retained half of public lands in Maine, including a large part of the disputed territory, as its property.

As late as September 1825, Maine and Massachusetts Land Agents issued deeds, sold timber permits, took censuses, and recorded births, deaths, and marriages in the contested area of the Saint John River valley and its tributaries. Massachusetts Land Agent George Coffin recorded in his journal during one such journey during autumn 1825, returning from the Upper Saint John and Madawaska area to Fredericton, New Brunswick, that a thunderstorm had ignited a forest fire. This Miramichi Fire destroyed thousands of acres of prime New Brunswick timber, killed hundreds of settlers, left thousands more homeless, and destroyed several thriving communities. The journal entries of the newly appointed Governor of New Brunswick record the destruction and comments that survival of New Brunswick depended on the vast forests to the west in the area disputed with the United States.

The Aroostook War (sometimes called the Pork and Beans War) was an undeclared nonviolent confrontation in 1838/1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between British North America (Canada) and Maine. The compromise resolution won a mutually accepted border between the state of Maine and the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. High tensions and heated rhetoric in Maine and New Brunswick led both sides to raise troops, arm them, and march them to the disputed border. President Martin Van Buren sent Brigadier General Winfield Scott to work out a compromise. The compromise created a neutral area, and the excitement faded away as the diplomats took over.

The Aroostook War involved no actual confrontation between military forces, and negotiations between diplomats from the UK and United States Secretary of State Daniel Webster quickly settled the dispute. Secretary of State Webster secretly funded a propaganda campaign that convinced leaders in Maine of the wisdom of compromise. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 established final boundary between the countries, giving most of the disputed area to Maine and a militarily vital connection between Canadian provinces to the UK. Though there was no conflict between military forces, occasionally civilian lumberjacks became violent if they spotted people on the wrong side of the border. Source: Wikipedia.

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