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Title: Letter from William Sidney Mullins to P. Henry Winston, September 23, 1840: Electronic Edition.
Author: Mullins, William Sidney, 1824-1878
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Bari Helms
Text encoded by Sarah Ficke
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 19K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2005
© 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:
2005-08-02, Sarah Ficke finished TEI/XML encoding.
Source(s):
Title of collection: Battle Family Papers (#3223-a), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from William Sidney Mullins to P. Henry Winston, September 23, 1840
Author: William Sidney Mullins
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 3223-a (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Letter from William Sidney Mullins to P. Henry Winston, September 23, 1840
Mullins, William Sidney, 1824-1878



Page 1
University of No. Ca. Sept. 23, 1840

Dear Pat

In commencing to write to you I feel like the Irishman who put to sea in his canoe without chart or compass, and when asked where he was going and how he would steer, replied "God knows for by Jasus, I don't" If I had time I could write to you a letter at least as long as a President's Message and even then it would only be a preface, but I have it not and it is useless to bewail the want of it. The Fresh-Treat deserves a passing notice but I must leave that to "the coming Christmas time" when we shall meet and in personal conversation recount the striking incidents of our respective courses. Besides you can have a full and accurate account by consulting James McNeill, with whose farther attendance on College duties, their Honours, the Faculty have been graciously pleased to dispense, in consideration of his preferring a friendly game of "High, Low, Jack" on Sunday night to hearing the word of God expound[ed] with sundry other exercises too numerous to mention. The fact is, College is in a state of open Rebellion at this moment and the Faculty know it. To enable you to understand the present state of affairs I will give you a brief sketch of College History for this Session. The discipline in the University has been for some time very slack and the lenient system of government has been fully tested. The result has been precisely that which everyone of common sense foretold. All strictness of morality has vanished, while at the same time College is much more moral. This may seem a paradox but it is literally true. In small things, such as talking in recitation, drinking occasionally, and playing cards once and a while, we are more open but careless for detection. But in all that relates to riot, habitual intoxication, and gambling we are completely reformed. The Faculty however were not satisfied and on the first day of the Session announced that the cords of discipline were to be tightened. We took fire at this and determined to loosen them and played a high trump in the commencement of the game. This was the Ugly Club of which you may have heard. It occurred on the first Saturday night of the Session and when the Faculty attempted to suppress it, they were pelted with rocks and compelled to retire, whereupon Prof. Mitchell procured a sword cane and sallied forth but was again driven back. They came very near sending off ten men about that but were afraid. They now returned our lead and this was a new law of Internal Police. This made matters worse and it was soon evident that there was to be an insurrection in College. Gov. Swain was continually making

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boasts of what he would do and sure enough, he was telling the truth. His promised restrictions were attempted. The Soph Class rebelled against a law and two were sent off. The whole class signed a paper and sent it in to the Faculty stating that they intended to pursue the same course. This was done at two oclock. The Faculty replied that they would all be dismissed if the paper was not withdrawn by four oclock. That time came and they were summoned before the Faculty and asked their intention. They undauntedly persevered: threats, persuasions, and prayers were all resorted to, and were all vain. They then extended the time to seven oclock and told the class positively if the notice was not withdrawn by that time, they would immediately be dismissed. At that time the same scene was acted but they were positive and the Faculty again backed out. But the Governor read a paper stating if they had not submitted by Twelve oclock next day, they would be no longer members of the Institution. At that time the class and the Faculty assembled. They were asked their determination and they replied that they could not recede. Whereupon the Faculty made the demanded amendment and thus were conquered by the students. This of course created an intense excitement and during these two days none studied any. It was rumoured that the same law was to be extended to our class and a paper was drawn up and signed (or promised to be) by 34 out of thirty eight stating that we would not submit to the law and therefore demanded an "Honourable Dismission." The Faculty heard of it and declined extending the Law to our class. But they were not yet taught by experience and were even still more determined than before to make experiments in government. They continually practiced those petty tyrannies, which instructors always may exercise and which never fail to exasperate the student to the highest degree. As a requital for these the Fresh Treat was wrought on but we now seem to have gone too far with it. The Executive Committee have taken the affair into their hands and a public summons to all the Trustees of the University has been issued. They assemble on Friday and much anxiety is felt by some with regard to their deliberations. They threaten to send off Forty and if this is the case, you will see me next Monday morning enter your store-door, grinning as usual, and hear me, after a few jokes, propose a Debating Frolic in commemoration of my safe deliverance from thralldom to the unprincipled scoundrels who preside over the destinies of this venerable institution. (long sentence, eh [unrecovered]ing?).
But adieu to this stuff and let me now come to some more interesting subject. You told me in you letter that you had argued the Question, "Is a child possessed of Soul before it is born." Returning from the Post-Office the morning I received your letter, I read that passage to the friend who accompanied me. We forthwith fell into an argument, he in the Neg. and I in the Aff. and we argued it a week. I have read more articles in the Encyclopedia about Begetting, Conception, and Bringing forth, than I ever would have thought myself able to wade through. The result is however that I am confirmed in my position. Pray what side did you take on the subject. I am the busiest man you have ever seen. You know the course affairs took in our Fayetteville Society, we had parties and rivalries, et cetera. The same thing is being enacted in College and all my actions are regulated by Party Spirit. So far I am successful and if the Executive Committee mind their business

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I shall trust to Fortune for the future. God! Winston, you should be here. It is the finest field to study Human Nature that I have ever witnessed. Every shade of character is exhibited and in noticing differences and examining the force of different motives on different men I am deeply absorbed. I often enough laugh at the interest which a fellow student supposes I am taking in his plans, when it is all a bait to lure him to my own trap. Such is the whole drama of life with this difference, that there, the plot embraces more incidents. I know not why it is, but though I am pursueing this course willingly, I often regret it. A cloud of gloom often comes over the high-strained gaiety of my spirits and I sicken at the contemplation of the scenes around me.
"This world is all a fluting show
"For Man's Illusion given"
is a remark which I often make, when I have obtained a victory for which I have during weeks made every exertion. Happiness, nor aught that approximates in nature to that coveted boon, hath ever visited our earth, and the most that we can do is to protract that fatal hour when apathy succedes to excitement and calm misery to buoyant hope. Byron in that immortal legacy, which he bequeathed to the world in the publication of Childe Harold, has sung
"Tis an old Lesson: Time approves it true
And those who know it best, deplore it most
When all is won [that all desire] to woo
The paltry prize [is hardly worth] the cost
Youth wasted, minds degraded, honour lost"
and the stern accents of Historic Truth confirm the Lesson. Yes! All that we admire, all for which we strive with a fury of passion worthy of embodied madness, and with an energy of purpose characteristic of Go[unrecovered] is worthless, — valueless — contemptible. But with this firmly impressed on my mind, I could not if I would, and would not if I could, separate myself from the foolish ties with which I am enclosed. In the hour of strife, when the keen excitement of intellectual contests spurs me, I discard Philosophy and join in the swelling combat with all the ardour of Enthusiasm. And there it is that I am happy. In the very moment when I am in a minority and yet feel an intense desire to gain the contested point, I find my supreme pleasure. And when the excitement cools off, when success has left me nothing to wish, then the Demon of Misery enters my soul and until I am again borne away by the return of the tide, anguish unmitigated is my state. In fact, I cannot live except in a high state of Excitement. I have it now. Rivalries have me absorbed in their potent sphere and every hour produces an event, the subject of necessary cautious reflection. Thus much on this subject. I shall never renew it. I do not like the query you propose. I take the same side with yourself. How do you like this one. "Should Patriotism be considered superior to obedience to Parents." I will take the Affirmative.
Let me give you a piece of Advice. Just as soon as you get this letter go to Hale's Bookstore and buy "Stanley. A Novel by a man of the world. It is the next greatest book to Helvetius that I have ever read. If you do not buy it, get it for your Library. It is a splendid thing. Read it at all events. There is more knowledge treasured up in it than

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in any work of its size I have ever yet seen. Give my respects to Crow and Banks and tell the latter that if I am not home on Monday, I intend to write him a large manuscript "volume," containing much valuable matter with a vast heap of perfect nonsense. Don't show this to any earthly soul except them two. For God's sake be particular about it. Give my respects to Dr. King, James and Chas. Baker, Walker Pearce and Lisse Smith and yourself receive the assurances of esteem from your youthful and silly but sincere friend,