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What do you do with the niece who is quickly becoming the black sheep of your family??  That’s the question Hugh Campbell asks his brother Robert 168 years ago this week!  Hugh writes Robert from Philadelphia about their niece Bessie Campbell.  Bessie is the daughter of Hugh and Robert’s brother Andrew; Andrew sent her to America to “be educated”, or find an American husband.  But Bessie turned out to be such a hell-raiser that Hugh and Mary decided they couldn’t take her anymore.  On April 14, 1842, Hugh is obviously at the end of his rope with Bessie, because he writes “while there is nothing too much in her natural disposition, to admit of peace or happiness in my dwelling.  It cannot remain so.  She must go – where I have not determined, but she and I must part.”  Hugh says he doesn’t want to send her to St. Louis,  because he wouldn’t send Virginia a companion that didn’t suit Mary, aka he wouldn’t inflict Bessie on his worst enemy, much less Robert and Virginia.  He also says that Andrew doesn’t want her sent back to Ireland.  Read all about the Campbell trouble-maker, Bessie, in this fascinating letter!

Philadelphia April 14th 1842
Dear Robert
This morning I received and opened the enclosed letter addressed to you by Ann.  It is written in her usual pleasing style and contains nothing that requires comment.  She is a good sister – a sister that both of us should be proud of.

There is another subject, to which I wish to ask not only your close attention but your deliberate advice and opinion.  Bessie is a source of great unhappiness to me because in the first place her conduct in the family reminds me strongly of that of our sister Margery and in the second, because discord has arisen in my little family circle, in consequence of her tattling.  It is useless to give you details.  Enough for both you and me to know that while there is nothing too much in her natural disposition, to admit of peace or happiness in my dwelling.  It cannot remain so.  She must go – where I have not determined, but she and I must part.

Andrew’s letter begging me not to send her home has prevented me from arranging the matter long ago.  My only intention was to afford her a good education with the view of sending him back to disseminate it, amongst her sisters.  This I told her father and mother before they sent her and have reiterated the same in every letter since her arrival.  [End of pg. 1]

[Pg. 2] What course am I now to pursue?  Andrew says that sending her home will be injurious to her stand.  I cannot afford the expense of going there in these times – but if you think it right and if I should have to live on bread and water I will pay my last dollar to send her with the first safe company.

In a matter of this kind, I cannot ask you to take charge of her, nor to give a companion to Virginia who is not suited to Mary.  All I want is to know what you consider the best course in my present unfortunate dilemma.  I cannot express the mortification felt at this moment – the deep and painful source of regret and disappointment.  Her education and support for the last six years has cost me over $10,000.  This would not be worth a thought and could be more than repaid by gratitude, truth, amicability or in fact any thing to cause me to feel pride in her conduct or attachment to her character.  I am only sorry that the expenditure was made on her, instead of her fathers family – all of whom it would have educated well and usefully.

I find I have given you rather a long lecture on this unhappy subject – my heart is full of it at present and I cannot say less.  You must have been partly prepared for it from what I said when you were last in the city.  Your reply will guide me in my course of conduct towards Bessie.  Take a day or two to think of it and then write me fully in reply.  God grant I may do right n the matter.  It is somewhat more serious (or likely to be) in its consequences than most of the affairs I have ever been concerned in [End of pg. 2]

[Pg. 3] I hwrote your firm yesterday and have neither desire nor spirits to talk on business at present.  In remittances I am sure you will have done your best.  We will try to sustain you.
For some dayspast I have been engaged as an appraiser of the assets of the Girard Bk.  My colleages (appointed by the court of Common Pleas) were Wm. Patton Jr. and a brother of Judge jones.  The duty has been laborious and unpleasant.  Perhaps it may add to the lessons you already have had on corporation delinquencies, to know the result of our labours reported and filed this day.

The bill discounted of four classes amount to about $1,600,000 we valued at about $352,000.  The other assets consist of stocks, loans, steamboats, mortgages, etc. and cost the bank perhaps nearly $3,000,000.  We valued these at a little over $400,000.  The entire assets of a bank of $5,000,000 capital are appraised by us at $756,000 while their liabilities (as I was informed) are nearly $700,000 leaving but a small margin for the stockholders of only say $56,000!!!!!!
Our valucations is certainly a low one – and by energetic acton on the part of the assignees, in the depreciated state of the circulation they may settle the matter so as to divide something handsome on the stock.
My kindest regards to Virginia.  Tell her that we often talk of her and that she is kindly and affectionately remembered.
Very truly yours,
Hugh Campbell
P.S. The mail of this evening has brought a letter from your firm with $100 [?]____ note and $50 Bk of Metropolis.  Please say to J and A Kerr that the remaining $100 (being G Collins chick) is also safe to hand.  We will take up the remaining acceptance tomorrow.

Mr. Robert Campbell
Saint Louis


Hugh Campbell –

Bessie eventually WOULD go back to Ireland and be a companion for her aunt Ann Campbell.  Later, she married John Robinson; the two never had children.

Other Bessie letters:




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