1851: Jonathan Balderston to William Balderston

This letter was written by Jonathan Balderston (1823-Aft1860) to his brother William Balderston (1821-1900). They were sons of John B. Balderston (1779-1828) and Phebe Longshore (1785-1851). Also mentioned in the letter was their older sister Rachel Balderston (1807-1880), the wife of Zephaniah Force of Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Balderston tells his brother there is excitement in the streets of Philadelphia in anticipation of the visit of celebrated revolutionary Louis Kossuth of Hungary on 26 December 1851, and also of entertainers Jenny Lind and Matilda Hays. He also mentions the “Treason Trials” then underway in the city. These were cases involving the “illegal” sheltering of runaway slaves being heard in Federal Court as the government attempted to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The cases caused fever-pitched excitement among the mostly anti-slavery residents of Philadelphia.

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Addressed to William Balderston, Ocean County, New Jersey

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
December 8th 1851

Dear Brother,

I take a few minutes to address you a few lines notwithstanding some two or three of my letters remain unanswered. I left sister Rachel’s at 6 A.M. Thursday last and took the cars for the city at Yardleyville, arriving here about 10 A.M. My health is good having recovered pretty well from the effects of my delightful excursion in Buck’s County. I should think this severely cold would effectually check your out-a-door agricultural operations. There was quite a snow over part of the route that I passed coming down Thursday — particularly between Tullytown and Lacony, but not much in the City. I hope the poultry market here will improve soon and then you will come to the City and have better luck and also find time to pay me a sociable visit. By the way, the damaged condition of your pocket seemed to have been a matter of some interest to myself inasmuch as my knife seems to have shared the unfortunate [fate] of your knives and dollars.

Jenny Lind

There [is] a good deal of interest going in the City at present in the way of amusements and exciting topics, this being the proper season for the first, and Jenny Lind and Miss [Matilda Mary] Hays are to visit us soon and create a sensation of course. But the great [Louis] Kossuth will doubtless produce a degree of excitement and enthusiasm on his arrival, unusual if not unknown previously to the quiet Quaker City. Great preparations are being made for his reception which will be grand and imposing. We will have some advantage over New York by reason of the greater length of time allows us for preparations.

I do not think of anything especial to communicate and could not take since if I did for doing it. The speeches in the Treason Cases are being delivered but the Court room is so crowded that it is difficult to obtain admission thereto. Members of the Bar are always privileged to admission but at the present, the privilege is of little value.

Please write soon and believe me to be truly your affectionate brother, — Jonathan Balderston

30 December 1851 article in New York Times describing Kossuth’s reception in Philadelphia on 26 December.


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