This week in history: April 11-April 17

What do you do with the niece who is quick­ly becom­ing the black sheep of your fam­i­ly??  That’s the ques­tion Hugh Camp­bell asks his broth­er Robert 168 years ago this week!  Hugh writes Robert from Philadel­phia about their niece Bessie Camp­bell.  Bessie is the daugh­ter of Hugh and Robert’s broth­er Andrew; Andrew sent her to Amer­i­ca to “be edu­cat­ed”, or find an Amer­i­can hus­band.  But Bessie turned out to be such a hell-rais­er that Hugh and Mary decid­ed they could­n’t take her any­more.  On April 14, 1842, Hugh is obvi­ous­ly at the end of his rope with Bessie, because he writes “while there is noth­ing too much in her nat­ur­al dis­po­si­tion, to admit of peace or hap­pi­ness in my dwelling.  It can­not remain so.  She must go — where I have not deter­mined, but she and I must part.”  Hugh says he does­n’t want to send her to St. Louis,  because he would­n’t send Vir­ginia a com­pan­ion that did­n’t suit Mary, aka he would­n’t inflict Bessie on his worst ene­my, much less Robert and Vir­ginia.  He also says that Andrew does­n’t want her sent back to Ire­land.  Read all about the Camp­bell trou­ble-mak­er, Bessie, in this fas­ci­nat­ing letter!

Philadel­phia April 14th 1842
Dear Robert
This morn­ing I received and opened the enclosed let­ter addressed to you by Ann.  It is writ­ten in her usu­al pleas­ing style and con­tains noth­ing that requires com­ment.  She is a good sis­ter — a sis­ter that both of us should be proud of.

There is anoth­er sub­ject, to which I wish to ask not only your close atten­tion but your delib­er­ate advice and opin­ion.  Bessie is a source of great unhap­pi­ness to me because in the first place her con­duct in the fam­i­ly reminds me strong­ly of that of our sis­ter Margery and in the sec­ond, because dis­cord has arisen in my lit­tle fam­i­ly cir­cle, in con­se­quence of her tat­tling.  It is use­less to give you details.  Enough for both you and me to know that while there is noth­ing too much in her nat­ur­al dis­po­si­tion, to admit of peace or hap­pi­ness in my dwelling.  It can­not remain so.  She must go — where I have not deter­mined, but she and I must part.

Andrew’s let­ter beg­ging me not to send her home has pre­vent­ed me from arrang­ing the mat­ter long ago.  My only inten­tion was to afford her a good edu­ca­tion with the view of send­ing him back to dis­sem­i­nate it, amongst her sis­ters.  This I told her father and moth­er before they sent her and have reit­er­at­ed the same in every let­ter since her arrival.  [End of pg. 1]

[Pg. 2] What course am I now to pur­sue?  Andrew says that send­ing her home will be inju­ri­ous to her stand.  I can­not afford the expense of going there in these times — but if you think it right and if I should have to live on bread and water I will pay my last dol­lar to send her with the first safe company.

In a mat­ter of this kind, I can­not ask you to take charge of her, nor to give a com­pan­ion to Vir­ginia who is not suit­ed to Mary.  All I want is to know what you con­sid­er the best course in my present unfor­tu­nate dilem­ma.  I can­not express the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion felt at this moment — the deep and painful source of regret and dis­ap­point­ment.  Her edu­ca­tion and sup­port for the last six years has cost me over $10,000.  This would not be worth a thought and could be more than repaid by grat­i­tude, truth, ami­ca­bil­i­ty or in fact any thing to cause me to feel pride in her con­duct or attach­ment to her char­ac­ter.  I am only sor­ry that the expen­di­ture was made on her, instead of her fathers fam­i­ly — all of whom it would have edu­cat­ed well and usefully.

I find I have giv­en you rather a long lec­ture on this unhap­py sub­ject — my heart is full of it at present and I can­not say less.  You must have been part­ly pre­pared for it from what I said when you were last in the city.  Your reply will guide me in my course of con­duct towards Bessie.  Take a day or two to think of it and then write me ful­ly in reply.  God grant I may do right n the mat­ter.  It is some­what more seri­ous (or like­ly to be) in its con­se­quences than most of the affairs I have ever been con­cerned in [End of pg. 2]

[Pg. 3] I hwrote your firm yes­ter­day and have nei­ther desire nor spir­its to talk on busi­ness at present.  In remit­tances I am sure you will have done your best.  We will try to sus­tain you.
For some dayspast I have been engaged as an apprais­er of the assets of the Girard Bk.  My col­leages (appoint­ed by the court of Com­mon Pleas) were Wm. Pat­ton Jr. and a broth­er of Judge jones.  The duty has been labo­ri­ous and unpleas­ant.  Per­haps it may add to the lessons you already have had on cor­po­ra­tion delin­quen­cies, to know the result of our labours report­ed and filed this day.

The bill dis­count­ed of four class­es amount to about $1,600,000 we val­ued at about $352,000.  The oth­er assets con­sist of stocks, loans, steam­boats, mort­gages, etc. and cost the bank per­haps near­ly $3,000,000.  We val­ued these at a lit­tle over $400,000.  The entire assets of a bank of $5,000,000 cap­i­tal are appraised by us at $756,000 while their lia­bil­i­ties (as I was informed) are near­ly $700,000 leav­ing but a small mar­gin for the stock­hold­ers of only say $56,000!!!!!!
Our val­u­ca­tions is cer­tain­ly a low one — and by ener­getic acton on the part of the assignees, in the depre­ci­at­ed state of the cir­cu­la­tion they may set­tle the mat­ter so as to divide some­thing hand­some on the stock.
My kind­est regards to Vir­ginia.  Tell her that we often talk of her and that she is kind­ly and affec­tion­ate­ly remembered.
Very tru­ly yours,
Hugh Campbell
P.S. The mail of this evening has brought a let­ter from your firm with $100 [?]____ note and $50 Bk of Metrop­o­lis.  Please say to J and A Kerr that the remain­ing $100 (being G Collins chick) is also safe to hand.  We will take up the remain­ing accep­tance tomorrow.

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis


Hugh Camp­bell -

Bessie even­tu­al­ly WOULD go back to Ire­land and be a com­pan­ion for her aunt Ann Camp­bell.  Lat­er, she mar­ried John Robin­son; the two nev­er had children.

Oth­er Bessie letters:‑5/