"MY DEAR UNCLE": a LETTER from NEW YORK, 1789
edited by W.D. PATTON.
The text reproduced here is taken from a copy of a
letter which was written to the Rev. Dr. William
Campbell, Presbyterian minister of Armagh, by his
nephew Carlile [Carlisle?] Pollock in New York.
Campbell (1727-1805) was a well-known and scholarly
minister of the Synod of Ulster of New Light
persuasion who had ministered in Armagh since his
settlement there in 1764 (1). He served as Moderator
of the Synod from 1773 to 1774, and represented the
Synod in various dealings with the government. He
was born in Newry and married his cousin Jane Carlile,
[Carlisle?] also from Newry, in November 1758.
Her sister Elizabeth married John Pollock of
Drumcashalone (or Ashgrove), Newry. The Campbells
had eleven children, seven sons and four daughters:
Carlile [Carlisle?], George and Hugh emigrated to America and
settled in New York; their sister Mary, married Isaac
Corry, M.P. for Newry (2). The letter indicates that
Campbell's son Robert, who was then 16 years of age,
had emigrated earlier in the year to learn the
Pollock family business in New York and to settle
there. He died at New York on 16 June 1791 (3).
Newyork, 23rd June, 1789
My dear Uncle,
I received your kind and affectionate letter of 16th
of April by Robert, who is now writing to you. The
idea of distance from home will I hope be lessened
by his being domesticated with friends, who will
endeavour to make his time both pleasing & useful.
I have the most perfect reliance on the goodness
of his dispositions, and the fairness of his mind
for the stock he comes from, cannot produce bad
fruit. My Aunts affectionate and anxious temper,
which I well know, may be at rest, respecting
Robert's well being. Were she an eye witness of
our family situation and habits of living she
cou'd not wish him to be better situated, & as
to the business which he has to learn with us, he
will find it a system of fair trade, on a footing
of the most suitable exactness and regularity.
It will be George's peculiar province to train him
in the family Counting house, and in him, he will
have a Master capable of making him a competent
Merchant, and whose heart is recitude itself. Mrs
Pollock too will consider him as a Brother and
I trust his own conduct will ensure him a
continuance of the esteem of us all.
Robert appeared to feel himself at home from
the day he came among us. He likes his situation,
and is pleased with the Country. He does not
appear to have any longing after home, which I
recollect the force of at his age, & I hope
this is in a great measure owing to his considering
himself still in his own family.
I am highly gratified with the Tracts you sent
me, which I have not however had time to read thro'
having only just got into the examination of the
Bis. Stock's defence & apology (4). I shall oblige
several of my friends here with a perusal of them.
I do not, on mature consideration, regret your
having declined adventuring to this Country.
If you were 20 years younger, and placed here, I am
confident you would make a congregation and Society
for yourself but you cou'd never form yourself to
what they are. I will venture to say, you yourself
wou'd not be a Presbyterian in this Country,
such as they are here. I have attended their Church,
but I have discontinued my attendance there, because
they preach what I do not understand. They are of
the Methodist class, and endeavour to bewilder the
mind instead of enlightening it. If you consider
the mass of people that compose a congregation in
America, you will find that few of them are capable
of distinguishing religion from ranting and
declamation. I have myself heard a Mr Clark who
left the neighbourhood of Monaghan 20 years ago
preach in the oldest Presbyterian Church here,
and liken God to a mouse in the wall, (speaking
in the most vulgar Scottish accent) for he cou'd
see you, but you cou'd not see him. He told
us also that all our thoughts ran upon getting
children, and what were they when we had them ?
A mere mass of corruption !- He also said there
was a man at our elbows, and he was a greater Man
than the Emperor of Germany, and the King of France,
(the Governor was present and every eye was ready
to give him the compliment) but he soon undeceived
us, by letting us know that this Man was the Deel.
[Devil?] This Preacher is heard, and his house is
full, and the same people, perhaps, would prefer his
preaching to yours (5).
I am not, from my own observation, of opinion
that Men act most wisely and consistently in
religious matters, when left altogether to
themselves. This country proves this to my
satisfaction. I am disgusted beyond measure
at what is called here religion, and I have fled to
the Episcopal Litany, as the least exceptional
of any public service I can find. I take as much
of it as I like, and lay the rest aside. It must
be a considerable time before the Presbyterian
Church is on a right footing here. Men, in the
gross, are not sufficiently refined by education
and opulence. You might preach to empty pews,
& a fellow who cou'd not understand even what
he preached himself wou'd be followed by crowds.
As Robert will have full opportunity to judge
for himself, we shall leave him to act in his
choice unbiased by us. We shall only take
care that his attendance shall be regular at
I shall have your Notes bound in with the
Pamphlets, and peruse both carefully. To write
on the politics of America, it wou'd be most
unquestionably necessary to have had a long
residence in this Country, which is certainly
unique. General principles may be safely applied,
but they wou'd loose much of their force, by
not knowing the American character in the original.
In Adams's defence of the Constitutions of the
American States pub. In London, you will see in the
conclusion I believe of the Preface an observation
he made to a French Gentleman in Paris who expressed
an intention of writing on American Government, and
no more just remark was ever made. The education
and habits of the Americans differ from that of all
other Men. They have from the cradle, sentiments
which the subject(s) of any Government in Europe
are either strangers to, particularly liberty,
far beyond even the idea of an English Man, is
(or ?) their Idol, but this independence contributes
not to social pleasure. They (the Mass I mean)
are far from amiable. They are selfish,
uncommunicative, and unneighbourly. A Country Man
does not know his neighbour, and affects, if you
ask him, even not to know his name. And yet far
West, their doors are open to the Traveller,
but curiosity is here to be gratified. I
lament this, for I love the Country, of all the
Earth. It is a Noble Country, and there are men
enough in it to engage your affections, whom
you can select for yourself. We have expended
fourteen thousand pounds sterlg. in building
an Edifice for the Meetings of Congress, (at the
sole expence of this State,) which forms a
principal ornament of our City. When both
Houses are accommodated with a suitable dignity,
and by this conveyance I send you the debates of
the lower House, taken in short hand by a person
who has permission to sit behind the Speaker's
Chair and I shall continue to send them as they
I intended the foregoing to have been sent by the
first opportunity after Robert's arrival, but
missed the sailing of the Vessel. I have now the
pleasure to tell you, that Robert is well,
and his conduct and attention to business,
everything that we can wish. His appetite is
good, and light cloathing [clothing?] bears him
thro' the summer as well as a native, tho' we have had
the thermometer some days at 88.
The residence of Congress and the President,
who is certainly the most generally beloved Man
of any this day on Earth, has had its effect on
our Governor and his Party. He has summoned the
Legislature, and Senators have been elected to
Congress, notwithstanding the hubbub they raised
at the meeting of which I sent you the debates.
The two Rascally States of Rhode Island and North
Carolina must in the end come in. The new
Government operates gently so far, and I believe
it is their object to make its effects almost
imperceptible (6). It is wonderful to observe
the difference between a Republic and a Monarchy.
In the one, the Governors are obliged to creep
submissively round the affections of the People.
In the other-"tel est mon plaisir" says the
Gentleman who rules the roost, and roasted ye
may be, and be damned.
When you imagine a Country nearly boundless
in extent, where government is scarcely felt, and
education pervading even the remotest parts, where
the Lands (crave ?) the settlers and not the Men
the Lands, where even in the first stage of
settlement, a log hut and a few acres of cleared
ground, surrounded by the Forest in all its natural
beauties, it is a subject for a landscape painter-
and the Owner of this Forest is more obliged to
you for settling on it, than you are for his
permission. When all this is considered, it is
folly to conjecture that such a country should
not be happy and prosperous (7). But such opinions
have been very general in Europe. There was an
opinion, in which I was with all the World
fixed, that America cou'd not become a Manufacturing
Country for a great length of time, at least until
she had a (redundant ?) population. This, however,
was merely a speculative axiom. The fact is
otherwise. She is actually at this moment a
manufacturing Country to an astonishing extent in
all the useful articles most necessary for Man,
and in many of the finer mechanic arts.
Mathematical Instrument Makers, Surgeons and Common
Cutlers, Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers, Clock
and Watch Makers, Painters Carvers &c.., follow
their trades to great advantage. And the making
of coarse linen, sheeting, broad cloths, hats,
sailcloth, also all the cotton works of Manchester
with all their machines, and all works in Iron
from an anchor to a common nail, with iron founderies
&c., &c. is carried on to an incredible extent, when
you consider it as a Country where these things were
never to happen. But the culture of Silk surprises
me more than any other, I have seen (...)testring
& other Silks for Women's wear, made in common
linen looms, for want of other, which was allowed
to be as good as any from Europe, even by Englishmen.
And sewing silk of all kinds and colors the same.
Mr. Aspinwall who has the chief merit of reviving
this Culture in the Eastern States and has with great
labor led the people into it, I intimately know.
They can raise a pound of silk and prepare it for
the loom, or sewing by the same expenditure of
labor &c., that they can a pound of common linen
yarn. And a pound of this silk is worth six dollars.
The cultivation of the Mulberry tree, he led them
into by degrees-each man planted perhaps a dozen,
and the family amused themselves with as many worms
as these would sustain. From amusement it has become
a business - whole plantations are made, million of trees
are planted, and six dollars a pound for silk, has had
more weight when once felt, than better oratory than
his would have without it. He complains that the want
of a collected body of laboring people, in one spot,
impedes the rapidity of its progress. It is at
present in the hands of farmers, who individually,
do just as they like with it. But in my opinion
there is nothing can stop the current of so
advantagious ( advantageous ?) a cultivation, and
I shou'd not be surprised to find in my day, that
its produce wou'd pay for half the imports of the
We were at considerable expence (expense ?)
last Season to improve our Works for cleaning
flaxseed, and we have the satisfaction to learn
that our Brand was liked in Ireland. This
business is generally left to Porters. We do it
ourselves. We shall keep Robert right at it
next winter. I am extremely pleased to learn you
had some intention of removing to Clonmel. I
hope my Aunt will not dislike the removal. I
am sure anything is better than Armagh and a
winter's morning on the Tullyhappies-land of
Arcadia ! (8) My love and most affectionate
wishes will ever attend to you my dear Uncle
and you my dear Aunt, and my Cousins, who are
now beyond my recollection. I beg to be kindly
remembered to Mrs. McClinchy, whom I am glad to
hear from Robert is well and happy.
Your most affectionate Friend & Nephew,
1. See my forthcoming publication "Rev Dr. William
Campbell of Armagh, Presbyterian and Patriot"
(Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland)
for further details. I am grateful to Mr.
Ramsey Greer, the Deputy Director of the Armagh
County Museum, Armagh, for permission to
reproduce this letter. Other material of
Campbell's is in the possession of the Presbyterian
Historical Society of Ireland.
2. See a family geneaology in file MS. No. A9, Armagh
County Museum, Armagh.
3. Genealogical table in William Campbell's Bible,
Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland.
4. A Vindication of the Principles and Character of
the Presbyterians of Ireland. Addressed to the
Bishop of Cloyne in Answer to his Book entitled,
The Present State of the Church of Ireland (1787)
and, An Examination of The Bishop of Cloyne's
Defence of his Principles; with Observations on
some of his Lordship's Apologists particularly
the Rev. Dr. Stock; containing an Enquiry into
the Constitution and Effects of our Ecclesiastical
Establishment; and also an Historical Review of
the Political Principles and Conduct of Prebyterians
and Episcopals in Great Britain and Ireland.
With a Defence of the Church of Scotland from
the Charge of Persecution brought by his Lordship's
5. This is very likely to be the Rev. Thomas Clark.
A licentiate of the Burgher Presbytery of Glasgow,
between 1749 and 1751, he itinerated throughout
Counties Monaghan, Tyrone, Armagh and Down to
advance the Seceding cause. He was ordained
to the pastoral charge of Ballybay in 1751.
He was the leader of the Cahans exodus, in which
300 Presbyterians left for America in 1764.
He died in 1792, minister of a congregation at
Long Kane, Abbeville, South Carolina, but had
been for some years previous to settling there
a minister in New York. Reid says he was a devout
evangelical; that he "expressed himself in broad
Scotch" and "used very homely language in his
sermons" and, referring to one of his tracts,
that the language was "exceedingly uncouth, and
it supplies abundant proof that its author was
sadly deficient in literary polish." However
Reid warmed to his evangelical heart, as Pollock
evidently did not! J.S. Reid, History of the
Presbyterian Church in Ireland, ed. W.D. Killen
(Belfast 1867) vol 3, pp. 310-317. See also,
J.M. Patten and A. Graham, The Somonauk Book
(Chicago, 1928) and J.A. McIvor, Extracts from
a Ballbay Scrapbook (Ballybay, 1975).
6. By the Treaty of Paris of 1783 the American
War of Independence had wrested control of the
continent from the British colonial power.
The Americans were conscious of a sense of
nationhood and hopeful for the future despite
the many obstacles that stood in their way.
The government and Congress were at this stage
weak bodies, many of the states still jealous
of their own powers and resistant to giving
them up completely to a central power. This
is reflected in the comment about his own state
and on Rhode Island and North Carolina, the
last of the thirteen states to come into the
union. George Washington was revered as the
man who had won the War with Britain. See
Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History of the United
States of America (Penguin, 1990).
7. The populated area of the Americas had until this
time clustered around the eastern seaboard. Now
the trail west beckoned to explore and settle the
vast tracts of land beyond the Appalachian Mountains.
Opportunities abounded as did also the difficulties.
8. Campbell moved to Clonmel (old) congregation in
November 1789, near to his old friends and sponsors
the Bagwell family.