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Title: John Mitchel, Tennessee to Miss Thomson, Dublin.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileMitchel, John/26
SenderMitchel, John
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginTennessee, USA
DestinationDublin, Ireland
RecipientMiss Thomson
Recipient Genderfemale
Relationshipfriends, relatives?
SourceT 413/1: Obtained from Mrs F. Dawson, 26 Windsor Park, Belfast.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.8809137
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by JM 21:10:1993.
Word Count2626
TranscriptTucaleechee Cove, Tenn. [Tennessee?]
Nov. 1, 1855.

Dear Miss Thomson,
The gentle reproach conveyed to me in
your letter to Jenny of Sept 7th (received only a week
ago) in form of a question whether I was so VERY much
occupied that I could not write, has goaded & stung me
into taking the decided step of being your correspondent,
this turn, instead of my wife. I need not begin to
excuse myself, which wd [would?] only make matters worse, but in
fact so long as your pleasant letters came periodically
to Jenny, without my earning them by my own exertions -
& I got the reading of them - I was willing to evade my
own share of the writing; this, you may say if you like,
was not honest. But you are not to imagine that I was
indifferent to the correspondence. You & Mr Pigot are
the only two persons in all Ireland who ever write to me
(save a very rare note from one of my sisters), and I
could by no means dispense with the letters of either.
You have already some idea of our remote & solitary
wigwam at the back of the Alleghanies, eleven hundred
miles from N. York - & in the present state of
communications, eight or ten days from that city
reckoning by the Post Office, though only five of actual
travelling - And you wonder at my having taken my family
to such a place. To SOME such place I was obliged to
bring them, or else submit to a species of life in New
York which (without some near hope of a grand success)
is to me the most wasting drudgery. It happens, indeed,
that the particular spot I have lighted upon, though
certainly one of the most beautiful, is about the most
barbarous in the United States. I never, in any part
of the world, met so ignorant people, except in Tahiti.
Their long isolation from the rest of the country for
want of railroads or any good roads, has kept them at
about the stage of "progress" in which the country parts
of the North of Ireland were forty years ago - or indeed
worse - for there are no people of education or refinement
anywhere near. And an emigrant to the new territory of
Kanzas away between the Missouri & the Rocky Mountains
would from the very first have a far better chance of
meeting men & women of some cultivation. Yet I rather
like all this. I have contracted (owing to an
exaggerative habit) a diseased & monomaniacal hatred of
"progress", & would like rather to go back & see people
going back. Besides I suppose the five years of my
exile, most of that time passed in living among remote
forests, have given me if not a taste, at least a habit,

and I feel at home in the woods. You see I do not
altogether triumph in, or so much as entirely defend,
this way of life. It is not natural - Society is
natural to us, though this sort of thing was natural to
the Cherokees. In fact those red savages, as well as
the tribe of white, or sallow, savages, who have
succeeded them, had society. Like sought & found like.
Cherokee smoked the pipe with Cherokee & Hoosier with
Hoosier enjoys life at Cornshuckings, & Swaps horses &
ideas at Camp meetings. Now I don't pretend that we
have exactly found our place - And when I resolved to
leave New York if I had possessed independent means I
should certainly have crossed the sea to la belle France,
with all my household. But what avails repining? Who
does find his place? And being here among the Hoosiers
(Tennesseans are called Hoosiers as the people of Ohio
rejoice in the title of Buckeyes, & Kentuckians I believe
are Red Horses) it remains to make the best of it. For
the family, or at least for Jenny & the little girls,
this is a dernier ressort. It is bad enough - But then
it is better than dependence - it is better than living
as you first found them. And on the whole it is necessary
to admit that it is a misfortune to a family to have its
head transported, even though it be in the most patriotic
& glorious manner, - though it makes a "sensation" & be
alleviated by plenty of honourable mention.

Reading over what I have written, I find
it looks dreary, & will give you too dismal an impression
of our lot, & of our endurance thereof. But there is
also a bright side. Imagine a most lovely valley five
miles long, varying in breadth from a quarter of a mile
to a mile & a half, lying among the parallel folds of the
great Alleghanies. Through it gushes & flashes one of the
brightest & most crystalline of rivers, a river about
thrice the size of the Bray river, whose banks are some-
times cornfields fringed with trees, sometimes shelving
beaches of sand, sometimes precipices twice the height of
St. George's Steeple, crowned & plumed with oaks & pines,
& whose waters here dash & rave over broken rocks, there
ripple gently over a pebbly bed, & there again lie in a
still black pool almost hidden from the sun by over-
arching boughs of great trees. Into or out of this valley,
you must go through a glen seven miles in length where
the river has cut its way through the Chilhowee Mountains,
travelling sometimes on one bank sometimes on the other &
fording the river five times (for bridge there is none)
And in short if you multiply & magnify the Dargle by about
six in all its proportions, you will have some faint

notion of the form of the glen. But then who is to give
you a notion of its colours? Of course all those
mountains, & all the hills round about & far & near, are
covered with unbroken forest of vast timber trees - Oak,
beech, maple, sycamore, chestnut, pine, cedar, poplar,
hickory & forty other sorts; and at this "Fall" season,
these trees robe the hills with a mantle of many colours.
You have heard of the splendour of American woods in the
Fall. Then bethink you that we are here in the most
luxuriantly timbered region of all America, & under a
Southern Sun. Golden yellow, deep orange, burning
scarlet, blood-red, Turkey-red, crimson, up to Imperial
Tyrian purple, the weft & the woof of this grand forest
mantle shews them all, & relieves them so cunningly with
dark masses of pine & green boscages of cedar & hemlock
that there is nothing glaring or dazzling. But even the
autumn foliage is eclipsed by the spring & summer flowers,
azaleas, kalmias, rhododendrons & multitudes of others
which I am not botanist enough to be able as yet to
identify or name. Now young lady, at the very head of
the above mentioned valley, up in the nook where the
river first bursts out from its mountain solitudes & its
pine-shaped ravine expands into the vale of Tuckaleechee -
up so high that my only neighbours, (going up the river)
are the bears & deer, I have pitched my tent or wigwam.
I am the highest man in the valley - so that your little
French teacher truly said I was tres ambitieux - & the
hoosiers can no more muddy the water flowing past my door
than the lamb could disturb the wolf's drinking. Here
we have 132 acres of land 80 of those acres clean & very
fertile - a log-house which I am just about to enlarge
by a good addition - & a good large barn just now full
of the fruits of the earth. Two horses, three cows &
that indispensable part of a Tennessean's stock, a
multitude of pigs. Now if we had our house once
enlarged and made comfortable - & if we could but
persuade even one family of our acquaintance to come &
settle near us, don't you think life might be endured?
Moreover this East Tennessee is in a state of
transition. Railroads are pushing into it in all
directions. The original hoosiers of these parts (as
always happens in such cases) will infallibly retire
further west, & people from the more eastern states
will press in bringing with them all the improvements &
elegancies of life, wherein you know this Yankee
nation whips the airth [Earth?]. Indeed it is an amusing
people, or as it frequently says itself "a peculiar
people". I will give you an anecdote quite
characteristic. About 16 miles from this place stands

one of the great watering-places of the South, Montvale
Springs, a vast wooden house with accommodation for
three or four hundred boarders, where many families
from Georgia Alabama, Louisiana &c. spend some time in
summer, & drink the sulphurous water. About six weeks
after I had come to Tuca, a well-dressed stranger on
horseback made his appearance. I was standing at my
own gate. He looked curiously at me, & then at the
wigwam, & said he guessed I must be the gentleman he was
in search of - thereupon he pulled out of his pocket a
packet of papers, whereby I learned that the inmates of
Montvale, Southern judges, members of the legislature &
no end of Colonels, on learning that I was near at hand
had convened a public meeting of the guests male &
female, appointed a chairman, named four Secretaries, &
having read the requisition proceeded to business. Five
Resolutions previously prepared were then moved &
seconded with appropriate speeches - to the effect that
having heard I was settled in Tennessee they welcomed
me to the South - that they sympathized with me as a
patriot & martyr, & admired me as a scholar & a
gentleman - that they warmly approved my "conservative"
principles (in the matter of slavery) - finally that
actuated by all these feelings, & having a strong desire
to see me & make my acquaintance - they thereby invited
me to go "together with my esteemed lady" and partake
of the hospitalities of Montvale Springs at such time
& so long as might suit my convenience - that is to say,
go & stop at that hotel at their expense. Then, the
chairman having been moved from the chair & thanked for
his dignified conduct, the four secretaries dispatched
the Courier to find me out at Tucaleechee. I think you
will laugh. We laughed, but not in the ambassador's
face, & I wrote a very curt answer saying I was compelled
by engagements at home to decline their more than polite
invitation - & besides that I was not a martyr but a
farmer. In fact so curious are these people - such an
appetite have they for new faces & making what they call
acquaintance with all persons whose names are familiar
to them, & hearing them talk, & testing their capacity
for public speaking - a thing for which there is a
devouring passion here, that I knew very well what they
wanted was to set me up upon a platform & by pretending
monstrous enthusiasm & sympathy & all that, to set me a
vociferating there for their amusement.

We have an excellent neighbour on one
side of us, I mean the Mountains. The principal chains
of the Alleghanies, which are here very high, rise just

behind us, & there is a tract of twenty five miles across,
all covered with mountains heavily timbered & swarming
with bears, wolves, panthers & deer. When you descend
into low country on the other side you are in North
Carolina. Some of the peaks near this are very lofty,
6000 feet high but the average height of the Alleghanies
in Tennessee is not above 4000. A pack of six wolves
was traced lately to within a hundred yards of our house,
& one night being upon the mountains pretty late James &
I within a mile & a half of our own door came upon three
well grown bear-cubs, as large as big black mastiffs.
Deer have been killed at least to the number of two
dozen within a mile of us since we came, & they very
often trot past the house or through my fields. We have
seen but one rattle-snake & killed it, but other snakes
are numerous & some venomous ones.

So much for America & Tucaleechee. Now
for Ireland. You think nationality is dead - "What
does Mr Mitchel think?" Why there is no trusting to
appearances in judging of popular feeling ESPECIALLY in
Ireland. I believe, or rather I know, that the
disaffection of the great mass of the people against
English law & governmt [government?] is just as profound & intense as
ever. The meaner & more abject is their pretence of
loyalty, or tacit allowance of that law & governmt [government?].
What is more, disaffection amongst the upper, the
landed & Protestant classes, is by no means rare, &
this will shew itself the more boldly & decidedly (so
chivalrous are the upper classes) as England's power &
prestige wane more & more. Wane they will, young lady,
& very soon. And the Revolution, which was ready &
ought to have broken out IN ENGLAND forty years ago,
but was forcibly & unnaturally stifled & smothered then,
will come. Probably this will happen to England
BEFORE there is any great sign of Irish Nationality
reviving - & then I will tell you what I think may very
possibly happen. While a sweeping Revolution rages
over England & a violent end is put to Church & Crown,
to noblesse, rent, primogenition & the funds, - then
the Aristocracy, many of them being connected already
with Ireland by property, may make their final stand
for "Law" & "Order" & Monarchy & Christianity IN IRELAND.
The Catholic Clergy are already on the side of all that -
the Aristocracy of England already hankering greatly
after the Ancient Church. And in such a case it would
be the obvious policy of that Aristocracy to become
enthusiastic Catholics, & determined Nationalists, with
Erin go bragh & first gem of the sea & all that. And

they would do it - & THUS you know the attachment of our
poor people to high descent & gentle blood & the "old
stock" - And you can fancy the zeal & unction of the
priests - then would Ireland be the VENDEE of the
British revolution, & would not be conquered so easily
as La Vendee - & so should we achieve our nationhood &
get our Parliament in College Green, THE WRONG WAY. Not
that even this form & method of re-establishing the
nation would not be a great blessing. ANY other
arrangement than that which makes Irish laws be made in
London would be a blessing. There is another programme
of Ireland's destiny which sometimes I think may be the
right one. It would suit, in case of a war happily
breaking out between England & America. But after all,
you know this is mere guessing. There will probably
be plenty of war in the world, & how that may tumble
nations against one another it would be hard to
predict - but of the main fact I am well assured -
there is as deep disaffection now in Ireland as there
was in 48 [1848?].

This letter must close some time. So
adieu - And whether we have our Parliament in College
Green or not be assured that I am & shall continue
with great regard and respect.

Your friend

John Mitchel.