Valley Personal Papers

Return to Browse | Return to Search

Bibliographic Information | Modern-Spelling Version

Augusta County: Oscar J. C. Stuart to Alexander H. H. Stuart, August 8, 1859

Oscar Stuart's letter to Alexander Stuart conveys very poetic sentiment regarding the death of Alexander's son and the nature of human suffering. He also asks Alexander to relate what he knows about Oscar's two grandfathers on the Stuart side, so that he may confirm the family's stories about their exploits in the Revolutionary War. Oscar Stuart then writes at length about "sectionalism" in Virginia and the poor state of national politics in general.

Hon Alex. H. H. Stuart, Staunton, Va

August 8th 1859

Holmesville Mi

Dear Sir

I have just rec'd your favor of the 29th [unclear: ultimo], with a copy of the will of Armistead Blackwell, deceased enclosed therein. If there was a cordial of consolation in human sympathy, and a balm of healing in language, for bereavement like yours, I would offer you such heart felt condolence for the loss you sustained in the death of your son. As one taught to feel a lively sympathy in the woes of others, by many realizations of them himself. But alas I know from sad experience in the loss of many of those who were nearest and dearest to me, that, "Nature has her habitudes, and they will have their way." The spring may again return "the green boughs wave triumphant on the hills, the "voice of the turtle be heard in the land" but no earthly sun can revive the withered hopes of the afflicted breast. The Creator, the common Father of all, with whom "are the issues of life, and death, who slayeth and maketh alive, who giveth, and taketh away, who tempereth the wind to the Shorn lamb" can alone heal the wound he inflicts. I have learned from a continuous repetition of heart rending bereavements in which the great depths of thoughts, and feeling were broken up, and my mind staggered not only under anguish, but a chaos of emotions, to Stand

[page 2]
as the apostles did, in the contemplation of the Secret Counsels of God solemnized in mute awe and silently and reverently adore him who loves our children and friends, better both in wisdom, and intensity, than we are capable of doing and who whether his Providence is manifested in the Prolongation of their lives, or their Sudden death, arrange their destiny more wisely, than our wishes could for them, if we had the power to render our wishes efficacious.

"Tis but a part we see not the whole." Life is an alternation of sunshine and clouds. I was born under the latter and my life, has been [unclear: checquered] by such a rapid succession of vicissitudes that I have formed a friendly intimacy with gloom, and think there is as much sublimity, as solemnity in the darkness of every diversity of fortune. The mind, in a manner bringeth "light out of darkness." Darkness gives it occasion for the exercise of its powers, and saves it often from the torpor of inaction. It must make for itself the true sunshine of intelligence, virtue, that of the Soul, and a continuously sustained energy that of fortune.

As I know but little of my fathers family, I would be greatly obliged to you if you would furnish me with a genealogy of it, so far as you know, lineal and collateral. This I want especially for the satisfaction of my children. I know

[page 3]
traditionally. that both of my Grandfathers, were Officers belonging to the Virginia Continental troops in the revolutionary war, and that my Grandfather John Stockton, raised, perhaps, the first Company of volunteers, that was raised in the then colony for the war, in the County of Pittsylvania, then a part of [unclear: Muhlenbuerg] and heard that both of them made great sacrifices, not only of the 7 years of their time, but of their property, in their efforts to sustain the Article, of the Continental paper. But of this I have never had the means of obtaining any information, more authentic than the oft repeated narratives, which I heard in childhood from the lips of my Grandmother Stockton, and my mother. Can you furnish me with any memorial of the facts in regard to either of them. I have thought, that perhaps the files in regard to the Officers, and soldiers, of the army, at Richmond so far as they showed any thing upon the subjects might furnish something, in corroboration of the tradition. I also learned that my Grandfather Stuart was taken prisoner at the battle of Guildford, which was fought about 60 miles from the place on which I was born in Pittsylvania. My grandfather Stockton was also attached to Greene's division, he then belonged to the Commissary department, and was at home at the time of the battle, as I suppose for the purpose of Obtaining supplies for the Army. It being his custom to exhaust everything that could be

[page 4]
supplied from his own plantation of which he owned I think three at the time, on Sandy and Turkey [unclear: Cook], before he would take any thing from his neighbors, and force the Continental paper, then greatly depreciated, upon them.

Such private memorials of a mans ancestors, although ridiculed by the masses of mankind, who have nothing of the kind, and cannot appreciate their value, I think are of more worth in their influence upon his posterity than the record of those brilliant deeds performed amidst battle, and carnage, thunder and smoke, which emblazen the page of history. Deeds of brilliant daring address themselves most to senses, passions, and vanity of mankind, and those who acheive them are in the fact of their performances, as well as in the elements of their being, mere vulgar heroes. But those quite plain, every day achievements in point of simplicity in which a man acts against the instincts of his Selfishness, sacraficing his present and future worldly interest, not from a love of approbation, but a love of principle, while they strike, not the senses of the masses, and would be but poor materials, for the historian or biographer, who would make his book sell, are like the "genuine diamond which shows best when plainly set" and furnish an unalloyed incentive, to virtue, they constitute the true beacon lights that guide the mind and affections to the acquisition of true heroism and nobility of nature. For "the secret thoughts, the private acts of men, if noble, are far the noblest of their lives."

The old line whigs of your State, made such a noble rally at the late election, considering the long disorganisation of the party, that I am in hopes that they will try it again. Our old mother has been playing the profligate in polliticks ever since, she cast her vote for Genl Jackson for President, and now that the baleful lights of a Bogus Democracy, and black republicanism, are glaring in triumph every where else, she could make some amends for having rendered the path of vice attractive by her example, if she should rear up on high the light of old whig principles of the National Intelligences, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Stamp, in their Conservative and Union features. So far the dominant party in your State, have justified the remark of Mr Jefferson in reference to the intelligence of the masses, when he spoke of her, as the "Barbary of the United States -- While the Country is more in debted to the Statesmen of Virginia and Massachusetts for correct ideas of government, than those of any other two States, I think that the Statesmen of those two States, have transfused through the mind of the body pollitic, more abominable "isms" than those of all the other States combined. In fact except to the Agrarianism of N. York, it is hard to name a radicalism which is subversive of social order, and destructive of the true tendencies

[page 6]
and proportions of the frame work of our government, which has not germinated in Virginia or Massachusetts. Mr Jefferson is quoted and has been, from my boyhood on both sides of nearly every question, and as is apparent from his published writings with equal authority. Ignorance and vice, has become as posative elements in political contest, as intelligence and virtue, and I am inclined to believe embraces the largest number of voters in its classification. At any rate the theory of our government, which presupposes the majority to be intelligent and virtuous, if it has not already, become unsuited to the Status of the majority, is rapidly becoming so. All of the hopes of my early life, in reference to the perpetuity of our political institutions, vanished when Polk beat Mr Clay for the Presidency. Except the Oasis, of Mr Fillmore's administration things, have since progressed from bad to worse. Very inferior men fill the highest posts in every department of the Federal government, and in that of most of the States. The badge of office is no longer the insignia of honor, but of Servility, and degredation of character in most instances Truly. "The old Knights have gone to their [illeg.], and the battle is left to be fought out by the Squires" and truly it is a [unclear: lacquey] fight, as exemplified by the bitterness, of intrinsic bitterness, with which it is waged. The leaders in

[page 7]
the sectional contests, now being waged, in the primordial elements of their being, and organic combination thereof are near about identically the same. If Messrs. Seward, Hayle, Geddings & Company resided in the South, they would be such fire eaters as Toombs, Stephens, and Jones of Georgia, Rhett of S. Carolina, and the late Genl Quitman of this State; and were the Southern Fire Eaters, I have named, transplanted into the free states, they would soon rival the [unclear: Buchers], Sewards, and the whole Company of "Freedom Shriekers" in their denunciations of slavery, and assaults upon the Union. Both sides assail the Union, and though they do so upon different pretexts, yet the difference arises from their locality, not from a different moral nature. One set is cut off of the Northern, and the other off of the Southern end of the cloth, yet the chain, and filling is the same.

In this repudiating State every Conservative influence is in a hopeless minority. The only consolation left to the advocates of truth and right is the reflection that "When iniquity cometh in like a flood, and overflows, the Lord will raise up a Standard for the people" I have ceased to take an active part in polliticks, since the defeat of Mr Clay in 1844, save in the contest upon the adjustment bills in 1852.

Yours Very Truly

Oscar J C Stuart

If the files or records at Richmond [illeg.] any [illeg.] upon information of that fate I will send you the money to procure whatever copies I may want.
Stuart Hon Alex. H H Stuart
Staunton Va

Return to Full Valley Archive