Monday, October 20, 2008

A Letter from Peter Shaver

The following letter was written by Peter Shaver from Bremen, Kentucky on February 6, 1861. The State of Virginia (the state of his birth) had not yet joined the Confederacy and at that time it appeared it would not do so. The letter was addressed to his oldest son, Benjamin Shaver, who at that time was representing Muhlenberg County in the State Legislature at Frankfurt.

I find the people in this part of the county ... for the union but all that we can hear appears to be gloomy and doubtful. I still hope that a settlement of the difficulties will be reached. It seems to me that the Southern Aristocratic Democrats have neither reason or judgment. I cannot see what they expect to win. But when a people are doomed they are blind and will work out their own destruction. I think that when they feel the heavy taxes that will fall on them they will revolt and return to the Union.

I am proud Virginia has taken such a noble stand. (Virginia it appeared at that time was not going to join the Confederacy.) She always was brave and patriotic. She has great influence and I hope that her plan will be successful and that peace and harmony may be restored.

I am astounded that there are so many disunionists in our State. I perceive that a goodly number are in the Legislature. If the Union must be dissolved, will we not be in a worse condition than Mexico? If this Union is divided, Kentucky will go with the Southern division. Times are hard now but they are nothing whatever to what they will be if this rupture takes place.

There is no class of citizens that have contributed more to cause this distracted state than the clergy of the North. Their influence is great. They have gendered every hate, strife and bitterness in society, whereas their Master, whom they pretend to serve, taught nothing but peace and good will to all people. As a nation we have been the most happy and prosperous in the world. Perhaps we have grown too rich, too proud and corrupt and that we need some chastisement to bring us to our senses; then we will do what is right again.

Dear son, you complain of the great responsibility that rests upon you. All that I can advise you is to have confidence in your judgment and be swayed by no man's opinion without mature consideration. I hope the people of Kentucky will pause and consider what they will do before it is too late.

A reform is certainly wanting in the Federal Government, too many officers, an empty treasury and a large debt have accumulated in time of peace. I hope all the States will return to the Union, and if South Carolina will not, she will be no loss to the government. She has never done any good; a perverse member she always was.

Now all I can say, fall on what side we may, let us be loyal citizens, so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives. For myself, I have nothing to lose or gain; it is for posterity that I feel interested. My prayer is for peace and prosperity and the Union forever.

Your most affectionate father,
P. Shaver
Source: Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, Rolland F. Flory