This letter was written by Dr. Jabez Dow (1776-1839), the son of Nathan Dow, of Kensington, New Hampshire. “He was educated under Rev. Mr. Shaw, of Kensington; entered Dr. Jacob Kittredge’s office in Dover, as a medical student in 1793; began the practice of medicine in Kensington in 1796; married Hannah Waite, of Maiden, Mass.; and moved to Dover in May, 1802, where he practiced until his death in 1839. He was one of the founders of the Strafford District Medical Society in 1808; became a Fellow of the N. H. Medical Society in 1816; and was the best known surgeon in Dover and surrounding towns for more than thirty years. He lived on Silver street, in a house kept as a tavern by Thomas Footman prior to 1800, and in which Henry Dow, his son, now lives.”
Dr. Dow wrote the letter to his son, Charles G. Dow, who appears to have eventually entered into business with his brother. In 1837, Charles Dow wrote to his father back home in New Hampshire, not long after joining his brother John in Augusta, Georgia, to work in a local store. He wrote the following impressions of the South and of slavery from the perspective of a recent arrival unaccustomed to the peculiar institution:
When I arrived at Augusta I was very agreeably disappointed – It looks more like a northern city than any other place I have seen & being mostly northern people does not seem as though I was so far from home. The scenes are most of them however rather new –particularly to see the slaves about so many & when one comes to buy anything as soon as he enters the store he takes off his hat & “Master, have you got anything of this kind or that” always remembering to put on the title of master even to a little boy. They have a remarkable faculty of carrying things on their head which is the way they carry everything — placing it on fairly they will walk along through the street without putting their hands to touch it. Abolitionists may say what they may about slavery since I have been here I should judge the slaves were as well off as the mass of white people & even a great deal better for they have nothing to worry them & their being kept at work keeps them out of vice. They look as healthy & happy as any other people. While you, I suppose, are enjoying the pleasure of good sleighing & of course with it very cold weather, we are enjoying the delightful weather of your Mays — store door open & both windows & even now am rather warm. I should think it must be unsupportably warm in the middle of summer if it increases so much here as it does in NE from the present months, however there are sand hills about 2 miles from the city where people go to sleep in the summer. The principle article of trade here besides stores of dry & West India goods is in cotton, some of which is exported & some sent to the northern cities. I have not yet seen any of it growing & I believe it is not now the season for it exactly.
Last evening John, a friend of his, & myself called on some native Southern ladies where John is pretty intimate who very cordially received us & treated us with all the politeness imaginable. I at first was rather put to my trumps for I found them very different from what I anticipated & not being much of a “ladies man” myself you may naturally suppose I might have been rather at a loss how to gibe so as to cut a decent figure. Instead of the haughtiness by which some of our northerners treat a fellow, they were all “hale fellow well met” & had that cordiality & frankness about everything which I like to see… “
Dr. Dow had another son named Samuel Waite Dow (1802-1837).
In this letter, Dr. Dow advises his son to educate himself on American history in order that he might prepare himself to become a better citizen. In particular, the expedition of American colonial forces to Cape Breton Island and the Capture of the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1845 during King George’s War, as told to him by participants when he was a young man, is passed on to his son.
Addressed to Charles G. Dow, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Dover [New Hampshire]
November 1, 1834
Yours dated 11 October came to hand in due time. It seems you have changed your situation but on what terms you now progress, you have not told a single particular as to wages or anything else. You seem to have gladly quit the shoemaker’s. On this subject, you have previously known my opinion — merely as to boarding with them, but as to their Universalism & want of morals, you have many years observed that Universalism & rigid morality rarely go together. It is probably much the best step to remove from the constant company of unprincipled men. You now say you are boarding with N1. Now whether this is a single person of that rank or a house of the same rank without No., or a miserable boarding house with that No. annexed to it, you have told us not. We are glad that John has obtained so good a place but you tell us nothing of his labors, wages & other prospects. We have received a long letter from him since yours & he has left us much in the same situation. He tells of his difficulties in getting his good situation. The Yankee address he made use of to procure it rather better, I apprehend, than a journey to Boston. Hosea Sawyer brought his letter.
John Currier has returned from New York since saw them all & says John has got an excellent place. When you write again, you are desired to be more full & explicit in your details, by taking more time, hoping that at all times you will pay strict attention to your business in all its proper bearings.
Now I wish to call your attention to another subject as I think it of much importance to a person of your age & situation. You must recollect that you have had an opportunity for a good school education & a good chance at Academic Education, well adapted to the course of life you have chosen. But I intend a portion of my rearms to interfere with your business, but as decent knowledge of what has been & now is going on in the world. Here you will readily see that I refer to a competent knowledge of History. You should be well acquainted with the History of the State in which you were born — of the State in which you live, of the American Revolution & of the United States. You are to have ample leisure hours to accomplish it, altho’ the American Revolution consisted of moderate exploits compared with those of France which followed, & a further inquiry into the subject will learn you that from the settlement of this country to the present period — especially after our Revolution — every Christian country has been improved except that of the poor Poles.
You will readily perceive that our Republic is greatly divided & seems to tremble over circumstances apparently arising out of our elections, brought about by want of knowledge in some want of principles in others, & infatuation highly excited concerning a battle at New Orleans in a great many which has alarmed the patriotism of the country, which want only such liberty as the revolution brought about & no other, & a strict adherence to the Constitution without which our Republic cannot long continue. Next you will see that inasmuch as only a few years will give you the full right of becoming an elector, should you live & nothing extraordinary happen, therefore it urges you to qualify yourself as well as you can to sustain your own rights & the Liberties of your country. Now I believe there is no course better to pursue than to enquire into the causes which brought about the American Revolution & those which sustained it, examine & understand the necessities of a Constitution of the United States & make yourself acquainted with the best efforts upon the people of this country by reading the consequent history of the Administration of Government for more than 30 years. All these will contribute to your own satisfaction, place you in a better standing in Society, & make you a more useful citizen.
Until past the middle of the 18th Century, the Canada’s [Upper & Lower Canada] belonged to the French Nation, & the Government of the Canada’s has been exceedingly troublesome by exciting the Indians to frequent incursions & the commission of violent depredations in the New England as well as several other English colonies, which greatly annoyed them for a long period. At length, William Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, from some facts & circumstances he collected from some released prisoners, he proposed to Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, to join the military forces of the two Provinces & go & take the city of Louisbourg on the Island of Cape Breton (Bretoon) belong to the French. This was to be executed by the men & means of the two Provinces without the knowledge or aid of England & was undoubtedly intended as a highly loyal act to increase the power of England, & ingratiate themselves further in the favor of the Government of the mother country. In the year 1745, they united their power & sailed to the distant place & soon took it &c. & came home with exalted feelings on the occasion. But when the whole story became known to the English Government, they received it with great coolness & told the Americans never to undertake such an assumption of power again. Still, after awhile, they paid the Americans their bills fully. I have been acquainted with some of the officers — one, Samuel Langdon, D.D., afterwards President of Harvard College awhile & then minister of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Also others, & also a considerable number of soldiers — all in my early life. They all had the best of feelings when the affair of Louisburg was touched. To the success of this undertaking, although not thought of by the Americans, may be traced, I believe, the first steps towards independence.
Read a few pages in the History of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, & the Annals of Portsmouth, N. H. & you will have a very good account of this enterprise. If this letter makes an impression favorable to your views of things. [text obliterated] while & read it occasionally. It will help tutor the mind & a portion of it would be equally advantageous to John if he would properly notice it. But you must write it to him for I cannot. And after you have considered it all over well, write me carefully your reflections concerning it.
From imperfect eyesight for 2 or 3 days & a very mean pen, which I could not repair, this letter is very ordinarily executed.
Your affectionate father, — Jabez Dow