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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

To John Taylor, To Eschew Politics and Speed the Plough

By Daniel Webster (1782–1852)

[From The Private Correspondence of Daniel Webster. Edited by Fletcher Webster. 1856.]

JOHN TAYLOR,—Go ahead. The heart of the winter is broken, and before the 1st day of April all your land may be ploughed. Buy the oxen of Captain Marston, if you think the price fair. Pay for the hay. I send you a check for one hundred and sixty dollars, for these two objects. Put the great oxen in a condition to be turned out to be fattened. You have a good horse team, and I think, in addition to this, four oxen and a pair of four-year-old steers will do your work. If you think so, then dispose of the Stevens oxen, or unyoke them and send them to the pasture, for beef. I know not when I shall see you, but I hope before planting. If you need anything, such as guano, for instance, write to Joseph Breck, Esq., Boston, and he will send it to you. Whatever ground you sow or plant, see that it is in good condition. We want no pennyroyal crops.
  • “A little farm well tilled,”
  • is to a farmer the next best thing to
  • “A little wife well willed.”
  • Cultivate your garden. Be sure to produce sufficient quantities of useful vegetables. A man may half support his family from a good garden. Take care to keep my mother’s garden in the best order, even if it cost you the wages of a man to take care of it. I have sent you many garden seeds. Distribute them among your neighbors; send them to the stores in the village, that everybody may have a part of them without cost.

    I am glad that you have chosen Mr. Pike representative. He is a true man; but there are in New Hampshire many persons, who call themselves Whigs, who are no Whigs at all, and no better than disunionists. Any man, who hesitates in granting and securing to every part of the country, its just and constitutional rights, is an enemy to the whole country. John Taylor! if one of your boys should say that he honors his father and mother, and loves his brothers and sisters, but still insists that one of them shall be driven out of the family, what can you say of him but this, that there is no real family love in him? You and I are farmers, we never talk politics; our talk is of oxen; but remember this; that any man who attempts to excite one part of this country against another, is just as wicked as he would be who should attempt to get up a quarrel between John Taylor and his neighbor old Mr. John Sanborn, or his other neighbor Captain Burleigh. There are some animals that live best in the fire; and there are some men, who delight in heat, smoke, combustion, and even general conflagration. They do not follow the things which make for peace. They enjoy only controversy, contention, and strife. Have no communion with such persons, either as neighbors or politicians. You have no more right to say that slavery ought not to exist in Virginia, than a Virginian has to say, that slavery ought to exist in New Hampshire. This is a question left to every State, to decide for itself, and if we mean to keep the States together, we must leave to every State this power of deciding for itself.

    I think I never wrote you a word before upon politics. I shall not do it again. I only say love your country, and your whole country, and when men attempt to persuade you to get into a quarrel with the laws of other States, tell them, “that you mean to mind your own business,” and advise them to mind theirs.

    John Taylor! you are a free man; you possess good principles, you have a large family to rear and provide for by your labor. Be thankful to the government, which does not oppress you, which does not bear you down by excessive taxation; but which holds out to you and to yours the hope of all the blessings which liberty, industry, and security may give.

    John Taylor! thank God, morning and evening, that you were born in such a country. John Taylor! never write me another word upon politics.

    Give my kindest remembrance to your wife and children; and when you look from your eastern windows upon the graves of my family, remember that he, who is the author of this letter, must soon follow them to another world.

    WASHINGTON, 17 March, 1852.