Manners & the 19th Century

More on reading War of 1812 documents – even (especially?) in writing, these gentlemen had very nice manners.  But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t cut to the bone with a few well-chosen remarks.  Consider this July 14, 1812 letter from Secretary of War William Eustis to Lt. Governor John Cotton Smith (CT):

The absence of his Excellency Governor Griswold, “on account of ill health” is seriously to be regreted [sic], particularly at this important crisis, when his prompt assurances of obeying the requisition of the President, to call into the service of the United States such detachments of militia as might be required … are interupted [sic] and suspended by your honor.

(Connecticut Archives, War of 1812 Vol. 1, Item 93).

See what he did there?

The gentlemen from Connecticut did.  Governor Griswold himself managed to pen a response on August 13 (his illness killed him before very much longer), taking time near the beginning to remark:

The unusual, and exceptionable terms also in which your letter is expressed, have not escaped notice.  But a regard to the propriety of my own conduct, will not allow me, to descend to any comments upon its particular expressions, but leave me to perform my duty to the General Government, by giving the explanation, which appears proper.

(Connecticut Archives, War of 1812 Vol. 1, Item 102).

See what he did there?

You really had to pay attention, in those days, to know when you were being severely criticized.

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