Ohio History Journal

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Pre-Civil War Sentiment

Pre-Civil War Sentiment

from Belmont County:

Correspondence of

Hugh Anderson


edited by John Kent Folmar





Historians search continuously for primary documents which may expand

the portrait of the past. A basic source of this quest is contemporary letters,

particularly if they are written by literate observers during a time of local

or national stress. The Hugh Anderson letters are of this noteworthy


Born in Ireland in 1782, Anderson immigrated to the United States in

1809. He became a citizen, was married, lived in Philadelphia for twenty-five

years, and was successfully engaged as a copper engraver. A large portion

of the plates of the American edition of the Edinburgh Encyclopedia were

engraved by him as well as many historical and Ohio county maps. In 1834

Anderson moved across the mountains to St. Clairsville, Belmont County,

Ohio, where he became "distinguished for minding his own business--

punctuality--and patient investigation." In addition to his engraving work,

he participated in local Democratic party politics, cultural affairs, and was

still active in his seventies when he wrote the following letters.2 Since the

depression in 1858 was adversely affecting Anderson's business, his grandson

James M. Williams, who had recently moved to Augusta, Georgia, urged

the old man to join him--such was his enthusiasm for his new life in the

South. The correspondence between Anderson and young Williams did

not end until the secession crisis in January 1861.

It is apparent from this small collection that Anderson was well read

and very interested in the world around him. In these letters he relayed

the usual local and personal information, but his social and political com-

ments are of much greater value. He consistently admired the "Southern

way of life" and the institutions of the South. In a paternalistic manner,

reminiscent of John C. Calhoun, Anderson observed that the industrial

North had created a laboring class permanently and harshly bound to the

economic system. He insisted that slavery in the South was not only es-