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Title: Letter from James Johnston Pettigrew to David L. Swain, August 16, 1847: Electronic Edition.
Author: Pettigrew, James Johnston, 1828-1863
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 Brian Dietz
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 18K
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:
2005-10-19, Brian Dietz finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: Records of the Philanthropic Society (#40166), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from James Johnston Pettigrew to David L. Swain, August 16, 1847
Author: J. J. Pettigrew
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 40166 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Letter from James Johnston Pettigrew to David L. Swain , August 16, 1847
Pettigrew, James Johnston, 1828-1863

Page 1
Washington City Aug. 16th 1847

Dear Sir,

I received your letter on the 6th, and in compliance with your request visited the Capitol as soon as an opportunity occurred. No draught, such as you wished could be procured, and the only thing of the kind, was a very small and imperfect plan, of which I took a copy and herewith enclose it to you.
The Capitol, you know, is on a hill, which gradually declined towards the West. The strip marked a a a a is the pavement running around the grounds outside; b b b b is a flower and shrub bed, 20 feet wide, inside the the fence; W.W. are gravel walks,18 feet wide; W. W., M. M., are the formal-feal walks, leading from each gateway, up the first terrace, paved finely with stones, about 2 ½ feet by 1 1½, A. A. are two fountains, spouting into basis, 20 in Diam., B. B. are circles, [40] feet Diam.; having 2 feet of the outer edge planted with flowers, and a tree in the center, C.C. an lozenges, filled with flower and shrub, with a finitely trimmed box in the centre, H.H., are stars, each point 15 in length, D. is another basin, having in it a [monument] of certain naval officers. T.W.J.W. is the walk around the last trace, paved with stone, E.E. an little arbours, which served well to mind the old saying that "Fools names &c".
In the first place with regard to trees, they are of all descriptions and sizes; sycamores, elms, a seatting oak or two, and a great many firs, which are allowed to spread their branches to the ground in many instances, and in their situations are very appropriate, Of course they can bear no comparison with yours; most of them being transplanted; and when you do meet a native monarch of the forest, that has been permitted to live out his old age on the spot, where he was born, the contrast between nature and art is striking and by no means to the advantage of the latter. I suppose that one object at the Capitol, is to form a retreat from the bustle and glare of the city; therefore its trees are permitted to spread their branches very low, and give the grounds a shady

Page 2
appearance. In this respect, you have a great superiority; yours cannot be improved; but you should be very careful, lest the trampling around the roots and this exposure do not kill them Once at home, an old Patriarch gave indisputable evidence of approaching death; after every other means had failed, the earth for forty feet around was spaded up, and consequently the fibers and smaller roots, which before had been unable to penetrate the compressed soil, now shot out again; such a course would have saved several for you in the last four years.
Although it is extremely questionable whether any transplanted trees can equal those, which nature has arranged in accordance with her own inscrutable system of beauteous irregularity; yet you may improve the grove vastly by a proper attention to shrubbery: it comports well with the dignity of forest trees, being though small, a manly growth, not like flowers, which have rather too much of the woman about them. It will open an extensive field for the display of taste, far too extensive for one to discuss. Let me recommend to your notice the box-brush, a great favorite at the Capitol, and a very suitable one. A fine gravel walk, with a row on each side; or a row in front of each hall, with an opening would be pretty, do you not think so? The bed b b b b is bordered by a continuous row of little box-brushes from 3 to 5 in. in height, and being well trimmed resembles a long, green rope. The larger ones are cut into cones, hearts &c.
For my own part I do not approve of many flowers in public grounds, [though] a large open space is allotted to them here; the bed b. b. b. b. being occupied by them and bushes scaffolds are placed near them for support.
But in this department, your best plan would be to summon a meeting of the ladies on the Hill, appointing her, chairwoman, who possesses the best taste, combined with the most accurate knowledge of botany, according to Dr. Mitchell and leave the matter to them.
Decidedly one of the finest ornaments to the grounds, is the grass. In this respect, Washington seems particularly blessed, for every old field adjacent, is covered with virtue. I do not think that yours is naturally so good for yards; it has a tendency to grow tall; but with proper care, you can have such as is in Prof. Green's yard, which is all that is desirable. To accomplish this, it may be necessary to to turn up the earth and mar it good looks for awhile, but the trouble would be amply repaid. To preserve its beauty, your walks must be well defined, no driving of wagons and carriages out

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of the roads allowed; persons must be requested not to trample upon it with unnecessary violence; tear down that wood gate, back of the South Building and replace it with one that will shut by a spring; also place a stile by its side, so that students going out will be under no temptation to leave it open; enclose the campus in a similar manner at Dr. Mitchell's . Thus keep out all the larger beasts and permit only such a number of privileged college hogs (however ridiculous the idea may seem to those who are not aware of the immense quantity of peelings and rinds thrown out of the windows), as may be necessary for scavengers. Do this and your trees, shrubs, and grass will grow undisturbed.
A fountain would improve the appearance of the Campus marvelously, if it could be made.
Your principal walk might be laid with gravel, but then again, I think that you would do well to follow nature; in all the little paths. The soil contains a sufficiency of sand to keep them dry, and there is something pretty in the crooked paths; it looks natural.
The gutter on each side of the Capitol walks are about one foot wide, and made of brick, where the walk is of gravel or stone, when it is of stone, they are curved downwards and every now and then empty, through an iron grating into covered drains.
On the North side of the drawing, you will a section of the grounds, showing the grading, terraces &c. The 1st sudden rise, marked 2 steps, can hardly be called a terrace. The 1st terrace is marked 23 steps and is about 15 feet high, the sides sloped about 50° or 60° with the horizon. The 2d terrace is at the monument D., and is about 12 feet high. They are both in circles around the Capitol, and like the rest of the grounds well covered with grass. In truth a stranger might walk over the whole place and never know whether the soil was formed by the decomposition of pomition, secondary or tertiary rocks, or whether there was no soil at all, but the real "Simon pure" Hillsboro red-mud, which, while it does not lay any well-founded claim to the cognomen soil, has the art of soiling ones clothes at a tremendous rate.

Page 4
Your terraces, if similarly covered with grass, will ornament, otherwise, they will deface the buildings.
The room in which the library is placed resembles our new ones very much, being long with 6 alcoves on each side and 3 sky-lights. The former are much higher than yours and indeed the pitch of the room is much more lofty, which is a great advantage. The shelves as like yours, except that these, from the window down extend into the alcove a few inches farther for the larger books. Each side of the alcove is divided perpendicularly into two apartments, and each upper and lower apartment is furnished with two wire doors; the wires forming by their interactions, lozenges an in. in length. 4 of the shelves on the West have windows, which are provided with plain rustic blinds opening inwards. The entrance is on the East, and the portico on the West. Next to the fireplace on the South is a sofa; then the Librarian's desk, of the same length, and the writing part 4 ½ feet high; then a long chest, or sort of bureau, with a great many drawers in it, same length and 3 feet high by 4 broad; then another sofa; then 2 tables same length also. Each alcove has a stand of steps and a table much like those in the Senate chamber of our own Capitol, though not so large, and at each dividing partition is a chair, such as Mrs. Utley's1. Above the alcoves are galleries, which, leaving a space for walking around are similarly fitted up; but very plainly. It is very difficult to accommodate expensive ornaments to monied ability. Upon the whole I think that Mr. Donaldson has shown excellent taste in his plan.
I am very glad to learn that you intend visiting this city and shall be happy to see you. Although there are not many books here relating to our state, there are a great many catalogues, which may show where such books can be found. Sect. Maury says, that if you will promise not to eat any thing, he will be happy to have you at his house. Mrs. Maury is out of the city, and he has no cook so that he is not prepared to treat his visitors to sustenance.
It affords me great pleasure to learn that your numbers have increased considerably and that, the University has taken a more moral turn. One thing, I hope you will attend to. The division of the buildings has estranged the Societies very much, and has given rise to a great deal of rivalry (not emulation). If they should come to open collision, the consequences to the College would be quite injurious. When such feelings exist, the most trivial occurrence is sufficient to arouse a storm. The most worthless individual has that much influence.


1. Probably Martha Utley.