This letter was written by Minard Sturgus (1819-1862) of Salem, Indiana. [Note: Family name sometimes spelled Sturgis] In 1838 he married Elizabeth Anderson, daughter of James Anderson and Janet Lang who arrived in Hanover, Jefferson Co, Indiana around 1810 from Greene Co., Ohio.
At the time this letter was written in January 1838, Sturgus — a September 1836 graduate of Hanover College — was residing in Greenville, Indiana. The trustees of a struggling school known as the Lawrence County Seminary were entreating him to settle in their midst and had offered to him the position of preceptor of their institution. The trustees had concluded that the school was in poor repair and they pledged to construct a newer, more commodious facility that would support two teachers and provide instruction for at least 100 scholars. A report submitted to the State of Indiana from this period made the following comments regarding Sturgus, the curriculum, and the fees of the school:
Mr. Menard Sturgis, a young gentleman of superior acquirements, amiable disposition, gentle manners, industrious habits and strict morality. These qualities render him a valuable acquisition to the seminary, as he proposes taking it permanently under his charge. The present condition of his department is prosperous and interesting in every respect, we believe meeting the entire approbation of the public. The following are the rates of tuition: Reading, writing and arithmetic, three dollars per quarter; English grammar, bookkeeping, geography, composition and declamation, three dollars and fifty cents per quarter; the classics and other higher branches, six dollars per quarter, to which is added upon each pupil the sum of twenty-five cents per quarter as a contingent fund, out of which are defrayed all expenses necessary for the comfort and convenience of the pupils and teachers connected with the seminary. The board thought it necessary to fix the rates thus high in order to secure competent teachers and guard the institution from degenerating into a mere town school, benefiting only a few individuals, instead of being, as it was intended, the resort of all who desire to procure the advantages of a liberal education.
Sturgus was not long at this Seminary, however. By 1840 he had accepted a position as Professor of Languages at Hanover College, his alma mater. He held that position until 1852, left the school for a few years, and then returned in 1858 to be the Professor Latin. He died while serving in that position in 1862.
Sturgis wrote the letter to his Hanover chum, Thomas W. Hynes (1815-1905), the son of William R. and Barbara (Chenault) Hynes of Bardstown, Kentucky. Hynes first attended Stephen Chenault’s school, at Bardstown; then for two or three years attended a Roman Catholic college, called St. Joseph’s college at the same place; then entered the Hanover College, Indiana, and lastly the Theological Seminary at Hanover. He taught mathematics six or seven years in Hanover College; then became a Presbyterian minister. At Hanover, he married (1839) his first wife, Nancy J. Dunn (1820-18xx). He married second (1860) Elizabeth Wafer (1825-1916), the daughter of James and Sarah (Elder) Wafer, in Bond County, Illinois.
Addressed to Thomas W. Hynes, Indiana Theological Seminary, South Hanover, Jefferson County, Indiana
January 6th 1838
Instead of getting away from Hanover by sundown as I expected, I did not get off from Prof. [John Hopkins] Harney’s until as late after dark that I was obliged to go out without bidding you farewell. I did it with less reluctance as I expected to go in on Sabbath, but it rained all day, & I stayed at home. The next time I get back, I hope to have a little more leisure. The two day’s rain had rendered the roads uncommonly bad, & I occupied very nearly two days in coming back — a distance of 44 miles. The waters had been very high, and several were barely fordable. For all there was to do, I might have stayed until now, but I did not know it, and was in constant anxiety lest I should be needed. I have had no word from Hanover since, but presume you had a pleasant Christmas and New Year’s Day (which is more than I had) and are now pretty much as usual. I hoped some of you would have sent me a Christmas or New year’s gift, in the shape of a letter, but if sent, none has yet arrived. Perhaps Ames has appropriated them to himself. The state of mails from the East is shamefully bad, & there is now no certainty between this & Hanover at all. I thought to have got a copy of Harney’s speech, but have not. One was sent me about four weeks ago, but I have never received it. I suppose Curry’s Poem is published by this time certainly. Please give Mr. Simpring my copies of Harney’s Speech. I hope to be up shortly & can get them.
I am anxious to hear how Dr. [John Finley] Crowe succeeded President lastly and what chance the College has if living. It will not be the first patient that has been over doctered. I got a letter from [David H.] Cummins this week. His health is better than formerly. I believe he is studying with Mr. Sneed. I presume for the last few weeks Mr. Sneed has not been very competent to give instruction to any one but Mrs. Sneed. They have a communion in his Church tomorrow — the first since the Division of the church there. Dr. Nelson is expected & Mr. Huber. I have been accidentally prevented from going down today, but shall go tomorrow (it is only 12 miles) & return in the evening. Though Cummins & I are so close, circumstances have prevented my seeing him more than once. Twice when I have been down at New Albany, he was absent. I would be very much pleased to spend a night with him once more.
The tie of classmate becomes stronger with me every day, and I doubt that it can ever lose its strength. What are the feelings of others, I know not, but I know mine & yours & some others. You & [Josiah] Crawford, [Noble] Butler, [Andrew] Fulton, [Samuel Frame] Morrow, & [David E. Y.] Rice, are all at Hanover, and when I get up again, we must try and all get together once more. That all should reassemble together can never be expected, and soon our teachers will be as scattered as ourselves. I hope to attend the Union Literary [Society] ¹ Meeting once more before all my friends shall have departed, though I hope I shall not get into as hot water as when I last visited it. The question which we then debated has becoming more & more pretentious ever since, & will soon swallow up every other one.
The Alton outrage ² has roused & will rouse many, and the late violation of the right of petition & the freedom of speech in Congress will kindle, I hope, the whole North. Every friend of free institutions — abolitionist or not — will begin to see that by permitting the destruction of the rights of others, he is preparing the way for the destruction of his own. The reason assigned for neglecting anti-slavery petitions will justify the neglect of the minority at any time, & the gag ³ of the previous question will stop other obnoxious motives as well as ours. What a farce to talk about the freedom of discussion in Congress or to call it a deliberative body, where the minority are not allowed to speak & everything is carried by the superiority of numbers. In all free countries, the opposition of the minority has been the most powerful check to the insolence & usurpation of the dominant party, & as long as it can speak loudly & freely, the reigning party will stand in awe of it, and refrain from gross abuses. The next step will be to muzzle the press (which has already been nobly begun) and then what a submissive set of slaves we will be. If the evils prevailing could not be trained so clearly to the daring element of slavery & its train of abominations admitted into a professedly republican government, the friends of liberty throughout the world might well despair at the working of our experiment. But the truth of our principles is not to be tested by the success of an attempt to make them harmonize with slavery. But, my dear friend, I did not mean to pester you with my fanaticism.
I have been strongly urged to settle here, and have been offered the charge of the Seminary which is about to be built on a larger scale. I have written to Mr. Butler to know if he will join me (for there will be from 100 to 150 pupils) and if he will, I may consent. In a pecuniary point of view, it is an excellent offer — a good $1,000 a year for each of us; bit I am not willing to sacrifice every thing to money. If Mr. Butler would come and we can get a good preacher, which a few are determined to do, it would be a tolerably pleasant residence. At present, it is not very inviting. No preaching, and with the exception of one man, no intelligent society. It is 12 miles from [New] Albany & 18 from Salem, on the Vincennes Turnpike, & the Crawfordsville & Albany Road, if a turnpike, will no doubt strike ours at this place; and in a few years I think it will improve greatly. For myself, I wished to settle in Madison & would probably yet, but my friends opposed it so strongly, I gave it up for the time. If I could, I would live where there are some people more learned & talented & better than myself. They have got a Mr. Ranson at Salem for the next year — a good man, I believe, [but] a very poor preacher. They are beginning to regret Wilson on all sides.
Has Hunter been chosen professor in the Seminary? Have you appointed anyone in Mr. [Robert H.] Bishop’s place? I hope the Seminary will not die with the College. I hope you will contrive to write shortly. Farewell. Yours truly, — Minard Sturgus, C. E.
Thomas W. Hynes, A.B.
Hanover College, Jefferson Co., Indiana
¹ The Massachusetts Historical Society has in its collection a letter written by Minard Sturgis [Sturges] on behalf of the Union Literary Society, Hanover College, to John Quincy Adams on 30 November 1835. They also have a copy of Adam’s response on the same date.
² The “Alton Outrage” was a reference to the murder on 7 November 1837 of Presbyterian minister and journalist, Elijah Parish Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois. Lovejoy was killed during the attack of a pro-slavery mob on the Lovejoy’s warehouse that housed the printing press he used to publish abolitionist materials. The event became generally known as the “Alton Outrage” following the discourse delivered in December 1837 by Rev. Leonard Worcester entitled, “A discourse on the Alton outrage, delivered at Peacham, Vermont, December 14, 1837.”
³ The “gag” by Congress mentioned in the letter is a reference to the infamous “Gag Rule” passed by Congress in 1836 to prevent the debate and discussion of the institution of slavery in the United States. Congressman John Quincy Adams attacked the Gag Rule in 1838 on the principle of free speech.