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Title: Letter from William H. McLaurin to D. A. McLaurin, [October] 2, 1860 : Electronic Edition.
Author: McLaurin, William H.
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Amanda Page
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 20K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-05-19, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding.
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: William H. McLaurin Papers (#1596), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from William H. McLaurin to D. A. McLaurin, [October] 2, 1860
Author: McLaurin, William H.
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 1596 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Education/Goals and Purposes
Reading and Writing/Composition
Examples of Student Writing/Letters
Personal Relationships/With Family Members
Editorial practices
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Transcript of personal correspondance. Originals are in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
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For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

McLaurin explains that he feels no shame in wanting to quit college. He encourages his brother to spell coud, woud, and shoud correctly.
Letter from William H. McLaurin to D. A. McLaurin, [October] 2, 18601
McLaurin, William H.

Page 1
Chapel Hill N. C Sept 2nd 1860

Dear Bro,

Your last of the 27th 2 came to hand this morning and was read and reread, and the "remark" made by afriend pondered and reflected upon. With all honor due him, whoever he may be, I beg leave to differ with him in saying "that the very fact of a mans having the opportunity of graduating, and does not avail himself of it, will be of more injury to him in any future undertaking, than he can obliterate by four years of fruitful labor, even if he should be as good a scholboy as though he had graduated". I deny this assertion "in toto". but do not say that I will not receive any advice from or profit from by the remarks of a friend. The fact that "a man refuses to graduate" is not an injury that cannot be obliterated, but it certainly is an injury to spend time for the mere emptiness of being a graduate without any improvement, it is not only a sheer waste of time, but it is the travelling of a long—a dreary road beset with many dangers and quicksands peculiarly attractive to those the least inclined to relax their labors and listen to the syren song of a deluded fancy, which one would acquire in the course of four years of idleness subjected to but a very slight temptation, he would indulge in vices and form habits more injurious and difficult to rid one's self of, than to cleanse the Augean stables of their filth, for it not unfrequently happens that a promising youth enters college highly elated with the prospect of success—cheered on by the encouraging words of every passer by—ambitious to satisfy the sanguine expectation of his most zealous relatives and friends,—the laurel wreath impatient to press his fervid brow—and the lovely, bewitching smiles of his "dulcinia" flitting upon the clear sky of his unclouded imagination, promissing him ten

Page 2
thousand thousand kisses and giving him a few to start on—with the avowal that the rest shall be as good or better—and they not taken into the account. Yet when the race is run and the end is nearly attained, the venomed shaft is hurled—the vile old demon has outstripped the pauser reason—despondency, gloom, and disappointment now reign supreme when once all was sunshine and smiles, and to suppose that one would fall from such an eminence and fail of sucess under such encouragments,—epecially the latter—, what would be the condition of one who would serve an apprenticeship of four years for the vain title of a graduate? He certainly would trust his reputation & his fortune to the rawhide-rattle of a "sheepskin" and the reputation of an instition, which he would tends to defame, polute, and destroy by his own slothful and idle example and when the aprenticeship is served, and the late bondman steps into the new arena,—the active scenes of life—, he'll find full soon, that, insted of lolling on flowing beds of ease, the pen of the poet never recorded a more homely truth than that contained in the few words,—to wit;
"This world is all a fleeting show
To mans illusion given."3
Then it is that is that he sees the fruit of his choice and the error of his way—contrasts his condition with what he was and what he might have been, if his time had been otherwise employed—and firmly convinces himself that he could accomplish more in four weeks of moderate labor than his habits formed and "sheepskin" unworthily obtained can ever accomplish for him in any future undertaking, and if disposed to put the blame on any other than his own devoted head, will point with a scornful finger to the suggestor of the "sheepskin" and be want to consider him his fellest foe and a most consumate villain.

Page 3
These are some of the objections that might be urged. If a man is a perfect schollar he needs no diploma, but if he trust to a diploma that he can't read to wind his way for him, his crown will never be studded with pearls and gems that will eclipse the splendor of the noonday sun.
From the tenor of your letter you have certainly misunderstood what I said, or I didn't say enough to convey the idea I intended. whatever I did say I intended saying "quit for a while" at which makes the inference somewhat plainer.
It is contrary to human nature not to accept a generous and friendly offer, and I can't say that I am an exception to the general rule. 1/2 the amount is as much as I want and more than I could ask for or reasonably expect, and when I have obtained the other half by my own exertion, if insisted upon will accept the generous offer of a kind uncle, for which I am much obliged. In quitting College it is not my intention to stop entirely or assume the retrograde notion, which I agree with you that it would be out of place and absurd, but cant convince myself that you have placed your figures within bounds in saying that "by quitting College now you could not expect to occupy a position acceptable to two thirds of mankind". In your eagerness to have me continue you have been extravagant in your comparisons or have placed the "positions acceptable to mankind" in a very high scale, as I think that any man with common sense—whether I posess that quality or not—can occupy a position acceptable to 99/100 of mankind, and the other 1/100 are only those who would reject with contempt and brand with infamy the honest vocations, the latter I have no desire to imitate nor do I suppose any one would

Page 4
I was in Harnett [County, NC] promptly at the appointed time and remained there four days spending them very pleasantly. Nannie was there on a visit when I arrived. Mr Flemming will move to Arkansas this winter and is now on a visit to that country at least he was to start in about two weeks when I was down. I also had the pleasure of delivering an enveloped package from you to young cousin, and upon being allowed the priviledge of reading it was truly sorry to see that you still insist upon it that c-o-u-d, w-o-u-d, s-h-o-u-d are all the letters requisite to the good spelling of the words could, would, & should, if you will insist that it is so I insist that you appeal to an unabridged authority or any other that may be convenient, and I think that you will be thoroughly convinced of your error. In the hurry of writing any one is liable to leave out a letter or a word, but when any one leaves out a particular letter of particular words every particular time that those particular words are used and that too after that particular omission of a particular letter being particularly pointed out, particularly often, it indicates a particular peculiarity of a particular person to be particularly negligent of particular spelling, and I particularly asked your "cousin" to particularly ask you how you spelled particular words, and after this if you still insist upon having it so, I can't particularly insist upon any particularity whatever. I hope that you make no such mistakes upon your books, if you do you are certainly deficient in one of the essentials of a good book-keeper and must make particular improvements before you'll be considered an adept in the art
Father, Angus, M[o]llie & Mary are with you or will be before this and you will hear the news from them if they have any tell Mollie that I havenot heard from [unrecovered]—since he left Raleigh—where he wanted the engineer to go by Averasboro 4 as it was the shortest way to Wilmn poor fellow

Where is Hugh D. or is he still at home reading law? there are three boys here from Hinds [County, MS]. Cooper from Jackson, Roach near Crystal Springs & Thompson eight or ten miles from Raymond. he is a club-mate of Hugh and was asking me about him a few days ago. none of them know any of our relations.
respects to all

W. H. McL 5


2. Archy's letter to William survives. It is dated September 27, 1860, and advises William not to leave college for financial reasons because it would limit his options for employment. The letter also cautions William against working at a depot. Given the date of Archy's letter, William evidently misdated his letter, which probably was written on October 2, not September 2, 1860.

3. Thomas Moore, "This World Is All a Fleeting Show," Sacred Songs (1816).

4. Formerly a town on the Cape Fear River in southeast Harnett County, NC, near present-day Erwin. The town declined after the Civil War and was practically abandoned by 1888.

5. The postscript, beginning "Where is Hugh D.", appears in the upper right corner of page one and is written upside down with respect to the rest of page one.