Tuesday, April 5, 2011

World Premier! A Never-Before-Published Letter by David Crockett

EDITOR'S NOTE: James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener, authors of the IPPY Award winning book above, have kindly provided the Almanack this never-before-published letter by the real-life David Crockett. The book Crockett refers to in his letter is his autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee, released in March, 1834 by Philadelphia publishing house Carey and Hart. Mr. Crockett, as you will see, was not fond of punctuation or overly troubled by spelling.

On with the Premier . . .

“David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend,” was the first book to collect all of the Tennessee congressman’s extant correspondence, fully annotated by authors James Boylston and Allen Wiener, but since the award winning book’s 2009 publication, both authors have continued their Crockett research. They recently uncovered the complete text of an 1834 letter that was reproduced only in truncated form in “Crockett in Congress.”

The letter was sold at auction in 2010, and turned up during one of their regular sweeps through auction catalogs in search of missing Crockett documents. The complete text of the letter, with notes by Boylston and Wiener, follows:

25th March 1834

Mrsrs Cary & Hart

Gentlemen your favour was received some days ago and I have neglected answering it until the present moment    I was much grattifyed to hear that the first edition of my book was entirely sold out    I hope it will be agreeable to your expectations there has been a great many sold here   Mr. Thompson told me that it was the only book that he could sell    I have been written to by several of my friends in Tennessee that it will sell well there   I have no doubt of a great many copies selling in the Mississippi and ohio where that spechious worke first made its appearance    I wish to know if you have an agent in new orleans and in the towns on the Mississippi    there it will sell better than any other place

Will you please to answer this letter and inform me how you come on in making sale of them and also I wish you to send me ten more copies to Mr. Thompson as soon as convenient    I have promised a few as a present to some of my friends and also I wish to make a request from you that I am sorry to ask of you without we were better acquainted    that is to know whether it would be convenient for you upon any terms to let me have one hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars as I am drawn on and am compeld to make some arraingment in the early part of next week    a mans needcesaty must pleed his apology    I was beaten the election before the last and it give me a back set in money matters    An election costs a man a great deal in my country and I had strength and power to contend against    I am truly sorry to ask you for this favour but I have drawn all my salary that is due and I have understood that the united states Bank here does not discount at present and I would suffer before I would apply to their pet Banks

I remain your friend and obt. servt.

David Crockett


Addressed to Carey and Hart, publishers of Crockett’s best-selling autobiography, this letter offers more evidence of the dire financial straits in which the congressman found himself after waging a number of hard-fought and expensive political campaigns.

After offering some advice on marketing and requesting a few promotional copies of his book, Crockett is forced to ask his publishers for an advance on his future royalties as he has no ready cash and must soon repay an outstanding debt. He first explains that he has already drawn his congressional pay (a per diem of eight dollars during Crockett’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives) and that his line of credit with the Washington branch of the United States Bank is inaccessible. Crockett had previously turned to the bank for money when he was short of funds.

The letter is a fine example of how Crockett was personally affected by the financial crisis brought about by President Andrew Jackson’s war on Nicholas Biddle and the United States Bank. In an effort to destroy an institution that Jackson thought was a threat to both the nation’s security and his personal political ambitions, in 1833 the president ordered all federal funds on deposit in the United States Bank removed and placed in smaller banks of his own choosing. These recipient banks were called, pejoratively, “pet banks.”

Nicholas Biddle, the president of the United States Bank, was a force to be reckoned with in his own right. He responded to Jackson’s attack with a counter-offensive, immediately halting loans and tightening credit with the hope of creating an economic crunch that would incite the public and force Jackson to abandon his effort to crush the bank.

Ultimately, Biddle overplayed his hand, and his attempt at self-preservation caught even his supporters, Crockett among them, in the pinch.

----James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener

To read the Almanack's review of David Crockett in Congress, click HERE.

I leave this rule for others when I'm dead,
Be always sure you're right--THEN GO AHEAD! 


Deka Black said...

I believe this is a important thing to researchers,right?

Todd Mason said...

And important to a fan like Evan, too, and amusing at least to most of us who at least do a little writing for pay...Crockett was an interesting, to say the least, figure in this country's history.

Dan_Luft said...

He wrote the way I hoped he talked. Thank you for sharing this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, that's really cool. A neat little piece of history

Anonymous said...

Yes, very cool indeed.

Oscar Case said...

It is interesting to see that the problem of book marketing hasn't been overcome since then. "Needcesaty" is a fine word. I wonder if it was commonly used or Mr. Crockett's own.

Evan Lewis said...

That is a cool word, Oscar. I'd like to know that too.