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Title: Letter from Samuel R. Blake to Thomas Blake, September 23, 1831: Electronic Edition.
Author: Blake, Samuel Richardson
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann and Ann Marie Speno
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
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
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:
2005-03-15, Sarah Ficke 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: University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers, 1802-1976 (#3129), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Samuel R. Blake to Thomas Blake, September 23, 1831
Author: Samuel R. Blake
Description: 2 pages, 2 page images
Note: Call number 3129 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Education/UNC Student Life
Reading and Writing/Composition
Examples of Student Writing/Letters
Social and Moral Issues/Slavery
Travel and Entertainment/Sports
Personal Relationships/With Family Members
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 5 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Transcript of the personal correspondence. Originals are in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
DocSouth staff created a 600 dpi uncompressed TIFF file for each image. The TIFF images were then saved as JPEG images at 100 dpi for web access.
Page images can be viewed and compared in parallel with the text.
Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
Letters, words and passages marked as deleted or added in originals have been encoded accordingly.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as ".
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as '.
All em dashes are encoded as —.
Indentation in lines has not been preserved.

For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Blake advises his brother to improve his writing. He is studying diligently and was elected to the rank of first lieutenant in the new volunteer militia students have formed.
Letter from Samuel R. Blake to Thomas Blake, September 23, 18311
Blake, Samuel Richardson

Page 1
Chapel Hill Septr 23rd 1831

My Dear Thomas

I have read with indescribable satisfaction the several supplements received from you, often have they checked the sigh of despondency (as it was wont to escape my dejected bosom,) and expelled exhilerated my spirits to an estatic summit. Yet Tom [in] the midst of the enjoyment I could but notice your graphic and orthographic deficiencies,2 They are not by any means the farthest from perfection of all those which have come under my observation, but still there is room for improvement. And Rest assured that to write handsomely and correctly will be in some measure a great surety in after life, with a little care you have it in your power to acquire both. Endowed by omnipotence with understanding, Blest with opportunities3 sufficient, your numerous friends are stretching [out their] arms to assist you, and though they have not themselves made great progress in the paths of science and fame, yet their every exertion is used to get you on the grou[n]d they occupy, and then give you a shove and send you, Jehu like,4 on that road whose end is perfection, Run Tom, scale the mount and seize the crown,—The anxiety which I feel in your welfare has caused me to write thus plain to you, When I see you in an error, concience would forbids me pass[ing] it [in] silence, when I behold a want of counsel, affection breaks the bands of restraint and bursts forth in that a pure and fraternal strain, Cold indeed would be the heart of that brother which acts otherwise, refuses advice but colder still the heart that disdains and contemns the advice—brotherly given, Remember this Tom, and peruse these broken yet fervent sentences with the same spirit in which they were written.

Page 2
It is but at intervals that I can write, for I have not absolutely one half hour in the day, except as pass to meals, The hour for recreation from eleven to twelve. This I employ in study and leave it for others to be hooping in the bandy field, and growling at the battery,5 I never have studied half as hard in my life, and this I do from a feeling sense of the oblagations, which I am under to myself, beloved parents, and country, Yes Tom these are the objects which impel me to my present course, many sleepless hours have I spent in these delightful college walls, nor have they been spent only at my solitary desk wile pouring over the laborious studies for the morrow, but even after the glimmering rays of the candle had ceased to dazzle my drooping eyes, the clock tolling the midnight hour, would find Somnus fast bound by the chain of reflection, Should I proove unworthy of the priviledg[e] allotted me! Should my mind be so completely curtained with dark[ness] and fettered to inconsistency, as to act so base a part! He[ave]n forbid! If my opportunities continue, nothing but a want of health shall cause me to quit this sacred temple of— Minerva (alias this university) nor shall my exertions be remitted, until like Hercules, I shall have gained a glorious victory over the monsters, or through some unhappy wound they shall have expelled me from the battle field,—My Dear Tom my ideas here grow more copious, I fear I shall weary your patience, The more I write the longer I wish to continue it, I am glad the insurrection is quelled,6 we have formed a volunteer company here,7 and have in our possession 65 muskets sent us by the G[oveno]ur , I with four others, was appointed by the students to draw up a constitution, and have been elected first Lieutenant, I must now close my letter, I should not have had time to write this, but our tutor snapped this evening,8 some say he had forgotten to jump out of his tub of water untill the bell had rang & thus I obtained an hour this evening, the 1st time (that is the position in which he studies) I want to say much but no time. Give my love love to all the boys & all my friends, and write me again in 2 weeks, if you don't I shall think hard of you. Excuse the mistakes & errors of your feeble

but affectionate Bro

Sam. R Blake


1. University of North Carolina Miscellaneous Personal Papers, 1802-1976, SHC. The letter takes up the first leaf of a folio measuring 7 1/2 by 12 1/4 inches; a second letter dated September 24, 1831, and beginning "My Dear Father & Mother" is written on the second leaf. The letter is addressed "Master Thomas I. Blake/To the care of E. Blake Esqr/Merchant/ Fayetteville/NoCa ." A circular stamped postmark appears in the upper left corner. "CHAPLHIL NC" appears inside the circumference of the circle; "SEPT 25," in the center. A second hand has written the amount of postage, "12 1/2" cents, in the upper right corner. In the lower left corner, Blake has written "Mail } SR Blake }."

2. Blake wrote the first i of the word on top of a second f.

3. Blake wrote ies on top of y.

4. Jehu : a ninth-century BCE army commander of Israel ordered to destroy the house of Ahab (II Kings 9-10). Proverbially, he is remembered as a fast, furious driver.

5. Bandy, called "hockey" in England and "shinty" in Scotland, is a form of field hockey played with a leather-covered ball and sticks shaped like golf clubs. Two sets of players, each of whom have their own base, attempt to drive the ball to the other side's base. Students also are holding military drills, as Blake's letter subsequently makes clear, in response to the Nat Turner Rebellion of August 1831.

6. Blake refers to the "Southampton Insurrection," also known as the Nat Turner Rebellion, which began on August 21, 1831, in Southampton County, VA. Nat Turner (1800–31), a deeply religious slave and preacher, led a band of approximately sixty followers against his white owners and their neighbors, killing fifty-five whites. Though the revolt was soon crushed—thirteen slaves and three free blacks were hanged immediately—Turner escaped to the woods and was not captured until six weeks later, when he too was hanged.
The uprising led to stricter laws governing slaves and ended support for the abolition movement in the South. In Blake's September 24, 1831, letter to his parents, he also mentions the rebellion: "From what I can understand the insurrection has subsided, permit me therefore to congratulate you for the success you have met with in shewing your valour, without exercising any force. The excitement here, as was all over the state, was great, but perfect tranquility and security is now secured."

7. The Nat Turner Rebellion terrified many whites in the South, who feared other slaves might rise up against their owners and murder them. Though histories of the University do not mention the militia in which Samuel Blake held the rank of first lieutenant, Charles Edward Morris writes that "On September 17, 1831, Joseph Caldwell, president of the University of North Carolina, reacted to rumors of an alarming attitude among blacks in the area and requested arms for the university from Governor Stokes . Sixty-five students, with the blessings of the university's faculty, had formed a volunteer company for the protection of the university and the town" (50).

8. A "snap" was an excused absence from class granted to students by a faculty member. When students "snapped" or "cut" class on their own, the absence was not excused.