Letter from Pete Whetstone [1]

Devil's Fork of Little Red, October 4,1841.

My dear Mr. Editor,— Since I last writ you, we have had an awful fuss on these diggings. That ar second veto set us all a snorting. [2] One kick in the stomach is as much as a common man can stand, and when it comes twice in so short a time, human nater will show itself. The whigs here stuffed a jacket and breeches with straw, and fixed a hat on it, which they called Tyler. They then raised a pole, and hung it up and set fire to it. As the blaze begun to raise up, I spied veto in two places, over the spots where they say the President's conscience lies, and the next moment, Bill Spencer, Dan Looney, and Jim Cole cracked their rifles, and I guess they made a smash of them papers. There was a mortal big crowd present, and all seemed to enjoy the thing. The chaps on the Devil's Fork can't stand shin-plasters [3] any longer. Why, it is gitting so that it is no use to sell truck,a cow and calf wont bring as much silver as would pay for a man's dinner in a big city. Squire Aken is awful wrathy ; he says his next neighbor in Illinois was Judge Upshire, who used to live right smack in the fish-bone country ; and he knowed all about them Virginia transendenters and abstractioners, and he says they are like his bull horse, great at the off-wheel, but mighty unsartain in the lead. Why he says two of them like to have fout once about the difference 'twixt sheep-meat and mutton. But I shant trouble you any more with polyticks, only to say John Tyler had better not put his foot on the Devil's Fork.

Well, there has been hot times on the Mississippi. They jist tied fellows head and heels and threw them in the river. This was cutting the thing too fat,law is law,and the man that won't stand the law, aint much in a bear-fight.

I forgot to tell you that night they burnt the veto, there was a pedlar camped jist across the creek. He got there late, and before he stripped his horse, arter he unhitched him, he spied the light, and the straw man a blazing. He thought it was a sure enough man, and the way he hitched up and made tracks was awful. His old horse got the better of him, and tin cups, nutmegs, and clocks flew the right way. His outfit was knocked into a crackling, and such a report as he spread about the country was a sin to Moses. He got up as high as 20 men that he had seen hung up.

Well, there is a mortal mast. Bears will be fat, and Jim, Dan, and Bill have a crack team of dogs. They expect lots of fun.

Tehr is a great quarter race to be run before long over the Yellville paths. Both sides spunky and sure. I aint time to write more.

Ever yours,

Pete Whetstone


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 11.36 (6 Nov. 1841): 426.

Joe Essid, UR English Department, prepared this transcript.

[1] Humorist Charles F.M. Nolan wrote under this pseudonym; in all he published 45 such letters in Porter's Spirit (Cohen and Dillingham 117).

[2] On September 9, 1841 President John Tyler vetoed a Fiscal Corportation Bill, further increasing the displeasure of Whig voters who had elected him and the late president William H. Harrison a year earlier (Monroe 106).

[3] Slang for bank notes issued by state banks.

Works Cited:

Cohen, Hennig and William B. Dillingham, eds. Humor of the Old Southwest. 3rd ed. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1994.

Monroe, Dan. The Republican Vision of John Tyler. College Station: Texas A&M P, 2003.

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