[1788 Autograph Letter Signed by Thomas Lowndes, Law Student and later South Carolina Congressman, discussing, in part, the Recently Ratified United States Constitution.]
Lengthy letter from Charleston, South Carolina law student Thomas Lowndes (1766–1843) discussing, in part, the U.S. Constitution—ratified by the states just 18 days earlier, the establishment of a federal court in Charleston, and the removal of South Carolina’s capital to Columbia. Lowndes, who would be admitted to the bar the following year, would later become a planter, lawyer and Federalist politician. He was the son of Rawlins Lowndes (1721–1800) who served as South Carolina’s governor during the American Revolution.
In this letter to fellow Federalist, lawyer and later Congressman from South Carolina and U.S. Senator from Maryland, Robert Goodloe Harper (1765–1825), Thomas Lowndes reports that he is “tyed by the Leg[islature] in Charleston” and describes mixed and even variable reactions to the new U.S. Constitution:
There is no news in the Political line; the New constitution has been the only subject upon the Political Carpet for a longtime, or at least it has absorbed every other; whether it will prove a happy one, ought now (since its adoption) to be left by every one to the determination of time; there have lately come out, some very vile written Publications on both sides, both of which have had their Votaries; so that in some instances sides have been changed, and those that were inimical to its adoption, been made Prosylites, and rejoice that the issue of the convention was contrary to their wishes; while others who were favourably inclined, have become averse, and now think we were to precipitate; so that from the diversity of sentiment, and the fluctuation of Opinion, the most Eligible side must be neutrality and as I said before a submission to the determination of time. (pp[8–9])
Discussing the courts and “the removal of the seat of government,” Lowndes writes:
The Courts are crowded with Business, and I think will continue so, and I have no doubt you will be able with perseverance and practice, in time to Establish yourself into gental [gentle] practice. I do not agree with you that the removal of the seat of government will materially affect the Courts here, for the Superior Courts will be held in Columbia, the humbler titled County Court in Charleston must for a series of time be of most…possessed of most Business, and composed of Men of more Experience, and should one of the Federal Courts br Established here, which opinion and I think probability supposes will be, it will amply compensate any disadvantages, that might arise from the Secession of the Superior Courts; and the Lawyers from Charleston will I think for some time to come possess the Practice of the Courts of Columbia. (pp[2–3])
He concludes the letter with his thoughts on South Carolina’s process of deciding to ratify the United States Constitution, which ratification had occurred less than two months earlier on May 23, 1788. Lowndes’ father was vehemently opposed to its ratification, even going as far as to dramatically declare that wished his epitaph to be “Here lies the man that opposed the Constitution, because it was ruinous to the liberty of America” (ANB)
It should be note, the majority of this letter is Lowndes writing of his observations of women, .e.g:
I am very happy to be informed that you intend being down in the Winter. ...I am very sanguine you will have no desire to return again to Cambridge not withstanding the Enchantresses and refining blossoms which you say inhabit that part of the Country. I have seen the Ladies you have mentioned in Town and think there are some here who have charms equally fascinating and may efface the impressions they have made. (p)
You ask who besides myself will be glad of your return? I answer all those who have the same regard for you. Whether your charming cousin will or not you have prohibited me from answering in the affirmative…so I will leave you to satisfy your self upon your own Query with this general information that the family…remains in status quo, without any alterations either in situation, amicableness or manners, except with some allowance for improv[ment] in the younger sisters, and I think some change in your lovely relation but you shall have a sketch of them all: Betsy retains all her simplicity and Innocence and has lost none of her Beauty…she is not calculated to conceal anything within her own breast, but may too easily be betrayed thro’ the openness of her Temper into any discovery. ... Polly is the same as you left her. report says she has had a sweet heart, a parishioner of yours…she is chearful and Gay, very conversable, and I think would make any man…truly happy. Next in Rotation comes Martha, she preserves all her beauty and sweetness; she was I believe you will allow always upon the reserve, but of late she has grown more so, it is but very seldom that I am lucky enough to find her in a chearful humour, but too frequently her countenance is tinged with a monastic seriousness. I dont know what cause to ascribe this to; it is not I believe a redundancy of Religion, because I think she makes a better choice of her Books than to know more of that Doctrine than is useful and I never heard of her being crossed in love which is the most effectual and rational way of accounting for Female reservedness. ... but the chief reason that strikes my mind in accounting for it is a fondness that she has contracted and which I believe grows upon her for Books over which I am inclined to think she pours out her fair Eyes and which can set a languor which must necessarily succeed too much application or too great an exertion either of Body or Mind. I wish she would read less and speak more… (pp[3–6])
Sally & Nancy must not be omitted from the Catalogue; and first of S. she is generally thought to be the handsomest of the Family, taller than Martha, and has a good personality, in intellectual respects not inferior to any of her sisters; not somuch reserve as M. nor so diffuse in conversation as P. she forms in the point of sociability and conversation a Medium between those of her two Sisters. I will not risque an attempt of her description, but leave you to conceive what she is, from this short portraiture, that she is a very fine, charming young Lady. — Nancy will complete the Group; she is like Miss S. Drayton beginning to be a Woman; she is handsomer than when you left us, and has improved very much lately, instead of the silent inanimate Girl you left her, she is now all fire and vivacity. (p[6–7])
A lengthy letter with interesting content of both the inner and outer worlds of this educated and observant Southern gentleman.
Description: [1788 Autograph Letter Signed by Thomas Lowndes, Law Student and later South Carolina Congressman, discussing, in part, the Recently Ratified United States Constitution.]
Charleston [South Carolina, July 9, 1788. pp. 4tos.: two bifoliums and a single leaf. Minor losses at some folds; first bifolium with expert tissue mends at folds (treatment report included); very good.