1861 - Anti-secessionist screed sent from San Francisco by a colporteur, John “Johnnie” Ware, enclosed in its original rare ‘internal’ Pony Express envelope
San Francisco: June 12, 1861. Envelope or Cover. California politics had long been dominated by pro-slavery Democrats until the presidential campaign of 1860 when their party split into two factions, one led by Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas and the other by Vice-President John C. Breckinridge. This schism allowed the state’s Republicans to eke out a plurality win for Abraham Lincoln who captured California’s four electoral college vote despite winning only 32% of its popular vote. Although Democrats had controlled Southern California and Tulare County, and were a significant force in San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Monterey, and San Francisco counties, after the South Carolina militia bombarded Fort Sumter in April of 1861, California’s Republicans and pro-Union Democrats began to form an alliance against the secessionists. In late May following a duel between state assemblymen in which Charles W. Piercy was killed by secessionist Daniel Showalter, Unionist tempers ran hot, and Southern sympathizers, to include the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles, a pro-Confederate militia group, began to leave the state.
It was in this environment that John “Johnnie” Ware, who is identified in some San Francisco City Directories as a porter (i.e., coleporter/colporteur or a traveling salesman of religious books, pamphlets, and subscriptions), wrote to the Reverend Thomas B. Fox, the editor of the Christian Examiner, a Boston-published national Unitarian newspaper, in June of 1861. “Johnnie” Ware may well have been a relative of the famous Unitarian minister and mentor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ware, Jr., who had previously served as the editor of the Christian Examiner
In his letter, Johnnie Ware presses Fox for his payment due, noting “Julia says ‘ask for what commission be relayed to allow me for the list of subscribers. I don’t want any pious books for commission.’” Considering the letter cost him two dollars to send by Pony Express, Ware must have anxiously been anticipating his remuneration. In the letter, Ware also humorously, but vehemently, declares his pro-Union stance and relates how the political climate in California had shifted.
"My Dear Fox, How are you? & What are you? Major, Col., Sergeant, Ensign, Chaplain, Commissary, or what? Perhaps Secessionist, as you always take philosophical views of things. . .. I am not so sure that . . . the secessionist cause is . . . the one to sympathize with. We don’t want the South after we have licked ‘em. I am a post mortem dicessionist. Kill the rattlesnake. Keep his musical bones as a trophy, then throw him over the wall. It does one’s soul good . . . to see the Southerners transepted [i.e. crucified] in this section where they have bullied over [us] so long with dirk and bludgeon. The State has been moved so many degrees North morally, of late, that it’s cold weather all the time. . .. I am still busy speaking in the State on The War, and Washington, & Webster, & Lexington & on the Fourth I am to speak at a tremendous gathering in Sacramento. On Every Hand, I get complimented & thanked for important service in knitting the Union Sentiment & pushing back the early Southern insolence. It would do you good to see how I am loved by our Brigand-brethern. . ..”Ware’s letter is datelined “San Francisco, June 12, 1861,” and its cover is annotated “Pony Express.” Interestingly, it was franked with only one dull red, Type II 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #26) that was canceled by a New York City postmark dated July 1. That is because, this envelope had been enclosed within another while it traveled eastward via the Pony Express. Since Pony Express mail departed San Francisco only on Wednesdays or Saturdays, Ware’s letter must have been dispatched on June 12th, June 15th, or possibly June 19th for it to have reached New York by July 1st. Regardless of mailing date, it would have left San Francisco via steamship bound for Sacramento. There, it was placed on a train to Folsom for further transport by a Pony Express rider. Upon arrival in New York, the ‘interior’ envelope was removed from its exterior cover, postmarked, and sent on to Boston. . Very good. Item #009846
(For more information, see “The Civil War in California” at the California Department of Parks and Recreation website, “Ware, Henry” in “U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995” at the ancestry.com website, the Biographical dictionary of America online, and The Pony Express: a Postal History by Frajola, Kramer, and Walske.) A similar ‘interior’ Pony Express cover War to Fox sold for $13,500 at Seigel Auction #1217 (March 3-5, 2020) as Lot 628.