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Title: Letter from Exum Whitaker to William F. Lewis, April 1, 1843: Electronic Edition.
Author: Whitaker, Exum Lewis, 1823-1847
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann and Kateryna Rudnytzky
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Risa Mulligan
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 40K
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:
2005-05-05, Risa Mulligan 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: Lewis Family Papers (#427), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Exum Whitaker to William F. Lewis, April 1, 1843
Author: Exum Lewis Whitaker
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 427 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Examples of Student Writing/Letters
Education/UNC Student Associations
Education/UNC Student Life
Religion and Philosophy/Christianity and Christian Theology
Personal Relationships/With Students and Friends
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.
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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 '.
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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

Whitaker tells his uncle, a former student, that students now recite on Saturdays, which affects the schedule of duties in the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies. He also reports on mutual friends, a mesmerist's visit, and a revival of religion in Chapel Hill, NC.
Letter from Exum Whitaker to William F. Lewis , April 1, 18431
Whitaker, Exum Lewis, 1823-1847

Page 1
Chapel Hill April 1st 1843
Come now lay aside your pipe or your Blackstone 2 for a few minutes, and listen to what I have to tell you, not that I have very important news to communicate, but supposing that almost anything coming from this place especially from No. 32 S. B. [South Building] will be interesting to you. Well in the first place I am comfortably seated by a small fire, the wind is whistling without, and the fellows are passing up and down the stairs into the Halls taking out books.
I suppose you have heard that owing to a resolution of the trustees we have to recite on saturday mornings.3 I dont know but I do wrong in making such a supposition knowing that you live in a secluded corner of the world where news seldom comes; and if the name Hermit ever was applicable to you it certainly is now.
In consequence of this regulation, the two societies meet on saturday morning at nine oclock, and our society has abolished declamation from its list of duties, the debate has become languid, in a word the society has fallen considerably below its former high stand. The present Fresh class is about the "reddest" perhaps imaginable consists of little shirt tail fellows about "knee high to a grasshopper", who think they cant be men unless they curse big, play cards, indulge freely

Page 2
at the bowl, and be found frequent visitors at the "[track]"4 However there are some fine clever fellows amongst them. Jo. Nicholson has come to cllege—is a "malist" I believe you are very well acquainted with him. Notwithstanding the trustees have taken measure to put down these drinking clubs. (and it is alleged as one reason that the Die club sent tickets to some of the ladies requesting them to become members.) yet they are kept up and flourish if such things can be said to flourish, and De Witt Stone has thought proper to join P...M...N...U.. I don't think it will be able to get "Rex" or McClees .5 Dr. Mitchell has two nieces with him now Sarah & Ann Mitchell the latter came last wednesday night with Hargraves . I have not had the pleasure of seeing her yet. I am informed she is little taller than Miss Jane and not very ugly. Miss Jane has just recovered from a severe spell of the Billious pleurisy Mrs6 Mitchell has another son,7 has not recovered her health yet. Hargraves has married Miss Barbee who you know lived a few miles out in the country. Miss Julia Scott has been on the Hill a good part of the session, & Lancaster "bucked up" to her like a clever fellow, for all that report says she gave him a pretty severe kick telling him that she never did and never could love him no way he could fix it, he hangs on yet I see. Millerism, Mesmerism, and the comet are the principal topics of conversation here as I believe they are elsewhere.8 A Mesmerite9 came through the other day and performed

Page 3
some wonderful experiments on his boy Frederick, as he called him, but he would not attempt to mesmerise anyone else10 even after promising to do so. Old Mike [Elisha Mitchell] does not begin to believe in it he says it is the greatest humbug that was ever packed off on the American people. He has been very much excited on the subject of late—made several speeches to his class against it examined every work he can find on it, and he is accused of writing a piece against it which came out in the last register under the signature of "N."11 There is a revival of religion on the Hill mostly mostly amongst the villagers, young and old. Little and big seem to be very much concerned on the subject the subject of the salvation of their souls Miss Mary & Rebecca Owen have professed religion, Calvin Graves also, Jas. Downy is very much concerned on the subject & one or two more of the students Prayer meetings have been held every night for the ten or twelve days, there is scarcely any shouting amongst the folks, but considerable crying and a great deal of real earnestness.
Boyd send his respects to you, seemed to be much rejoiced that he is going to leave before commencement Jas. Scott sends his best respects & says he would be glad to receive a letter from you. Willis Sanders sends his respects, & wishes you to write to him & tell all about "his gal. Dick says if you dont answer his letter the next time he catches you he will give you nine & thirty12 he has been looking out anxiously for a letter from you all

Page 4
the session. I have not been able to sell your furniture yet, & Im afraid the "times are so hard" wont be able. Brown came up here this session and presented an account of a pair of pumps against you $2 1/2. I am inclined to believe they have been paid for, what say you. I shall expect a full sheet from you soon, give my love to grandma & aunt Emma , my respects to Mr Speight . Remember me too to uncle Exum I had like to have forgotten he had returned. how does he come on courting? Dont let every body get hold of my letter as they did Dick's , and be assured I ever remain your affe &c

E. L. W.

I hope you will cheer us with your company at commencement [William] Mullins writes13 he will be here.


1. Lewis Family Papers, SHC. The letter is addressed "Mr William F. Lewis / Tarboro'/N.C."The amount of postage, "12 1/2" cents, is written in the upper right corner. A circular stamped postmark appears in the upper left corner, but the date is too faint to make out. Below the fold forming the bottom edge of the envelope, someone has written "From/ Exum L. Whitaker / Chapel Hill/ Ap'l. 1843."

2. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England , 2 vols. (New York: W. F. Dean, 1832).

3. Though Saturday classes had been abolished in 1838, by December 1842, the trustees had once again required students to attend at least one recitation daily, including Saturdays and Sundays. In Spring 1843 students petitioned for the abolition of Saturday recitations on the grounds that the debating societies conducted their exercises in declamation and composition on Saturday mornings, debates being held on Friday evenings. The trustees authorized the faculty to grant the request (Battle 1:476-77).

4. Whitaker wrote track on top of several unrecovered characters.

5. "Rex" may be Michael Angelo King from Huntsville, AL.

6. Whitaker wrote Mrs on top of Miss.

7. Henry Eliot Mitchell, who died four months later (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 4:282).

8. The Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette , on March 21, 1843, reported on the "effects of Millerism," the belief of followers of William Miller (1782-1849), founder of a religious sect of Second Adventists, that the second coming of Christ would occur in 1843. The Register's report summarized newspaper accounts of people becoming insane, a clergyman resigning his congregation, and a man, impatient after waiting for the Second Coming, climbing a tree in a "long white ascension robe," falling, and breaking his neck (3). Between February 10 and March 31, 1843, the Register also printed at least ten articles on Mesmerism or Animal Magnetism, a system of treating diseases through hypnosis that had been developed by the German physician, Friedrich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Articles on the comet appeared in the Register on March 17, March 24, and March 28, 1843. The Register's report of March 17, 1843, describes the phenomenon as follows: "The Phenomenon is stated in the National Intelligencer not to be a Comet, but is called the Zodiacal Light, appearing in the morning before sunrise, and in the evening after twilight, and generally seen about the period of the equinoxes. But in some of the Northern papers, it is described as a comet of great brilliancy, visible, near the Eastern limb of the sun, even in the day" (3).

9. Probably a Mr. Bandel, who advertised a lecture on Mesmerism at the Raleigh City Hall on Tuesday evening, March 14, 1843, at 7:30. Admission was 50 cents; "a Lady and Gentleman, 75 cents" ( Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette , March 14, 1843, 3). The Hillsborough Recorder reported on March 30, 1843, that"Our citizens had an opportunity of witnessing some experiments in Mesmerism on Tuesday of last week, by a Mr. Bandel, who seems to have set all Raleigh on tip-toe in the investigation of this wonderful discovery"(3).

10. Whitaker wrote else on top of several unrecovered characters.

11. An article titled "Mesmerism" and authored by "N." appeared in the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette on March 31, 1843. The editor's note at the end of the article states, "The above Communication, in ridicule of Mesmerism, is from a source entitled to high respect. The author is a scientific gentleman, whose opinions on all subjects are entitled to great weight. But we cannot give up the evidence of our own senses, and must maintain that, of Mesmerism, it is emphatically true, that 'seeing is believing'" (2).

12. Thirty-nine lashes on the bare back was perhaps the most severe penalty, short of a death sentence, that could be given to a slave. Slaves could be punished in this way for lying, larceny, or murder (Lefler and Wager 99-101).

13. Whitaker wrote writes over says.