This letter was written by John Turner (1772-1857) of the firm Lang & Turner, editors of the New York Gazette and General Advertiser. We learn from his obituary that he was apprenticed with Samuel Landon during the days of the American Revolution. From 1795-1798, he was one of the editors of the The Philadelphia Minerva — a small literary journal published in Philadelphia. Subsequent to that, he became the joint owner of the Gazette with Mr. Lang and continued in that establishment until 1831 or 1832 when he retired from the business. He died of old age in 1857 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Turner wrote the letter to his 23 year-old son, John Turner, Jr. (1806-1833), who was aboard the ship Harriet sailing in the southern hemisphere. The purpose for his voyage isn’t clear. It appears he was a “passenger” rather than a member of the crew. He may have been a correspondent for his father’s paper; maybe he was taking a voyage to a southern climate for his health; or perhaps he was simply taking advantage of an opportunity to see some the world his father wrote about in the New York Gazette. In any event, he died in 1833.
There are several notices in the newspapers concerning John Turner and his son in the footnotes below.
Addressed to Mr. John Turner, Jr., passenger on board ship Harriet, Glover, of New York
at Valparaiso, Lima, or a port in the Pacific
New York [City, New York]
November 17, 1829
It being a rainy day, I have set down this evening to drop you a few lines. I am now sitting in the kitchen of No. 161 William Street, and have at my elbow your mother, sister Mary, and Mary and Lavinia Jun___ who have become inmates of the family. We did not forget to talk of you on the recurrence of your birthday on the 29th ult. and to wish you health and happiness.
I suppose by this time you have become quite a Spaniard, having visited so many places and no doubt had frequent intercourse with the inhabitants of that extensive region. By the last advices from the Pacific, it appears that [Simon] Bolivar has been successful against the Peruvians and was at Gray agent, in which place you must have seen him. I am not so much an admirer of his character as I used to be, deeming his conduct rather tyrannical. I am surprised that you have not lately written to us. It will always give me pleasure to hear from you.
We have advices from London today to the 16th October. The Russians have concluded (on the 14th September) a treaty with the Turks. [See: Treaty of Adrianople] The terms are very hard on the latter. The Turks agree to pay about 15 millions of dollars for the expenses of the war; to conform to the Treaty of Akerman; and other important exceptions. The Russians to keep possession of several important places till the money is paid; to allow the trade of all nations who are on friendly terms with the Turks, in the Black Sea, the Dardanelles, and the Straits from Constantinople to the Black Sea. This letter will be favorable to our commerce. Thus, you see the power of the Grand Seynior is humbled.
If you do not like to remain in the Harriet, and your ______ there should not be as pleasant as you can wish, you can return by any other vessel. My agreement with Mr. Whiting, you know, was for one year certain, and I am not responsible to pay any money for any time that you are not on board his ship. Business is extremely dull in this city. Since March last, I have suffered considerably with chronic rheumatism, but am now better.
Since you left here, General [Andrew] Jackson has been made President. You have perhaps seen his inaugural address. His speech at the opening of the session of Congress in December is looked for with some anxiety as it will unfold the measures he means to pursue during his administration. He has already committed some faults in his appointments, which are injudicious, but he has been completely hunted down by office seekers and would be friends. The General is no statesman, but I hope he is honest.
We have had many and frequent fires in this city which has a good deal cooled the courage of the firemen. I hope your penchant for that amusement will not revive on your return.
I mentioned in my former letters the death of John Johnston. Your mother and myself went on to Philadelphia and was there at the time. Mrs. Dodge, Mr. D. & family are well — as also your mother and the family at No. 161 — and Charles and his family — who all desire to be remembered to you.
Your affectionate father, — John Turner
In the 22 July 1830 issue of the New York Morning Herald, we learn that:
Our friends of the Gazette, John Turner, Esq., and John Turner, Jun., embarked yesterday in the British bark Diana, for Antwerp. we wish them a safe voyage and happy return. To Captain Sugden we also tender our respects, and hope that when he again visits New York, his courtesy will be less exclusive than on a former occasion.
In the 24 July 1830 issue of the Baltimore Patriot:
The New York Commercial Advertiser says: “Mr. John Turner, one of the veterans of the editorial fraternity in this city, who has been for many years one of the proprietors of the [New York] Gazette, sails for Europe this day, to recruit his health. We hope that his wishes may be realized, and that his voyage may be a pleasant one.”
In the 23 December 1833 issue of the Commercial Advertiser:
On Monday morning, after a lingering illness, John Turner, Jun., aged 27 years. His friends and those of his father’s family, and also of his brothers, Charles and William Turner, are invited to attend his funeral tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon at half past 3 o’clock, from the residence of his father, No. 84 Chrystie, near Grand Street.
In the 12 May 1857 issue of the Plain Dealer:
New York, May 12. John Turner, formerly publisher of the New York Gazette, also died yesterday, aged 85.