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This is the earliest letter that we have that was written by the future Sir Thomas JACKSON - all thanks to Christine Wright. At the time of writing, Thomas is 22 years old, and a bank clerk in Belfast. He is writing to a much loved and respected 80 year old great-aunt. Given the political discussion, it is worth revisiting letters from the husband of this aunt which throw light on the DONALDSONs political involvements with key players in the United Irish movement of the late 1700s:
1811 Letter from William DONALDSON to Oswald LAWSON

1812 Letter from William DONALDSON to Oswald LAWSON
NOTE: Given young Thomas' sympathy with the Confederate side of the American Civil War, it may be that the motto chosen for his coat of arms - Aut Mors aut Vitoria (Either death or victory) was chosen because of its earlier use on currency in the colony of Georgia. On the other hand, it may have been chosen because it was the latin translation of the motto of the Clan MacNEIL: Buaidh no bas ("Victory or death"). There are no records explaining why.
Sharon Oddie Brown. June 4, 2015
I have created a page containing photos of the various people mentioned in the letter. A copy of the carte-de-visite of Thomas Jackson’s aunt is in my personal collection.
Update: October 28, 2015. Notes added on John DICKIE.





23 Sep 63

My dear Aunt[1],


Accept my great thanks for your carte-de-visite, which arrived all safe.

I think it is a very good one, I had no idea that an amateur could take so good a one.

I have somewhat against you in this matter, on Saturday evening, I went to show your likeness to Mr. McCormick[2] when he showed me one that you sent him and it is very much better than mine. You are aware that some carte-de-visites of the same setting are better than others. You may guess he laughed at me to some purpose – His better half is on a visit with some of her friends in the country. Mr. McCormick thinks a good deal of your appearance. You must know he is a famous Phrenologist. I told you had no mean opinion of your looks even though over four score.

I apologize very fully for my neglect about the books he sent you, and I have received his forgiveness. – Both he and Mrs. McCormick[3] were very sorry about me leaving their neighborhood and indeed I was sorry myself. We had many


pleasant evenings together and on a great many of them many a topic we discussed, sacred and profane, comic, and sentimental. Your little namesake is greatly improved, her month at the [shone?] has benefited her very much.

I took my tea at Mrs. Beath’s[4] on Saturday evening last, and had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Patteson[5] they were both quite well: he was boasting of having received one of the famous likenesses. I believe they have just come from your neighborhood. Mr. P was giving us a description of his southern town which was very interesting: he intends remaining in Belfast for about a month – I showed your carte-de-visite to Mrs. Beath and her sisters they all thought it an admirable one. Miss. Robinson[6] is anxious that you may send her one. I said I was sure you want not forget her and I hope you will not forget her – I think a great deal of her so kind and gentle. I am sorry to say her neck is still sore and I am afraid it will be so for some time. I always enjoy an evening spent in her company as it is a treat to any person of literary taste.


Their school[7] still continues prosperous; their success is very gratifying and I am sure they deserve it. – I have been quite strong since some time from the country; and as appearances are I think Aunt Mary would have made a creditable job of me in the way of fattening me. I think Cavananore is the famous place for fattening both man and beast.

            I am pretty comfortable in my present abode I think I did the right thing in making the change I have made – I was considerably amused with Peggy’s[8] note. She says “Mary sends her love to Robt[9] now do you not think Aunt that she had some little idea of sending her own perhaps hers was enclosed in the other (Mary’s[10]). I am sure you have not forgotten Peggy's flirtation with Robt during his stay at Cavananore. I suppose you have heard of Robt's removal to Cavan he was only a few days in Belfast. I had a letter from him a few days ago he likes the change for so far very much. I think it was for his benefit, you can live cheaper there than here. I sent the books Aunt Mary[11] asked for you by him I trust they have arrived safely. I papered them up very securely but it might be their fate to meet bad treatment on the road – For the last week the weather

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has been very pleasant; today is a good deal calmer. I hope that the inclement weather we have had has not done much injury to the harvest – I believe Tuesday last was the evening of your meeting if it was anything like what it was here you must have had very few & I have only had the pleasure of being at two of your meetings.

            For so far there appears to be no prospect of peace in America both Federals and Confederates are still determined to fight it out the tremendous loss of life does not appear to alter their purposes, the question is getting more and more complicated every day. The South has suffered a number of reverses lately and perhaps ‘ere this has suffered another in the destruction of Charlestown the very heart of rebellion. Yet with all this the spirits of the Leaders of Political and Military are still buoyant. I think every person must admit that the North if let alone would conquer the South in fact annihilate them. But in all probability interventions will come; the governments of both England and France I am sure wish a separation of North and South. America if united would be far too formidable a power for any European nation to cope with. A very important Pamphlet has appeared in Paris written it is thought by the Emperor. The title is “France Mexico and the


Confederate States of America” the Pamphlet is very favorable to the Confederate cause. The writer urges France and Mexico to recognize the Confederates; rumor asserts confidently that the New Empire of Mexico will not only recognize the South but form an offensive and defensive alliance with them this would be virtually a recognition by France as France is the guardian of the New Empire – United States would most undoubtedly declare war against any power recognizing the South at present. If I remember right our opinions on the American question were a little different but I'm sure our Opinions on the main question the Abolition of Slavery are agreed the course events have taken lately bids fair for the accomplishing of this most desirable end; at the same time I would like to see the Confederates succeeding in obtaining their independence the break has come too wide to heal and considering the animosity that exists between them I think it was to be better for both parties to have a separation. Your friend Mr Dickie of Carrickastuck would hardly agree with me in going so far – [NOTE: I neglected to footnote Mr. Dickie when I first posted this. A John DICKIE (1816-1878) died at Carrickastuck, a townland on the southeast border of Cavananore, so did his brother Samuel DICKIE (1819-1877), as did their sister Ellen aka Eleanor DICKIE (1817-1878). Their parents were James DICKIE & Euphemia PATERSON. James was a bachelor, while Samuel married Margaret JUNOR. Since Samuel had spent 20 years in Canada prior to his death in Ireland, I suspect that John was the Mr. DICKIE in question.]

            Very great apprehensions of a European War were entertained by the statesmen of Europe


about Poland: but I am afraid very much of the Interest that the rebellion created at first has died away. Diplomatic notes are still going to and from St. Petersburg but the general impression is that the conflict will not spread out of its present bounds – Modern inventions in Gunnery etc. etc. have made war far too terrible a thing to be trifled with – the day has gone by forever when nations for the most trifling reasons or very often capricious wants declare war. The age of Chivalry has passed, and has been succeeded by an age of cold calculating matter-of-fact common sense. I still very hopeful about the Poles. I have great confidence in the present Emperor of Russia, his acts for so far have been strongly in his favor; his liberation of the Serbs against such extraordinary opposition as he met with from the Nobles will exalt his name to a very high position among the benefactors of the human race. The historian of the next generation will praise this great act when reviewing his life. Unfortunately he has been placed on a throne over a vast country a great deal of which was gotten wrongfully and held


by military power the right of nations to govern themselves is being more recognized every day and Russia is composed of so heterogeneous a collection of nations that sooner or later it will be dismembered.

            It is too much to expect the entire freedom of Poland. Russia, Austria, and Prussia having each a part of it. But if their condition be improved, if a national standing Army be given and if they are allowed to govern themselves by a constitutional government, then I think the blood which has been spilled as not flow in vain. Poor Poland gallant yet unfortunate hers has been a sad history, may we hope that an all wise providence has a happy future in store for her. Look how England suffered her history has been written in blood nothing but wars, wars, yet look at her present position first among the nations of the earth – America is now passing through the fiery ordeal. I remember having heard Dr. Morgan say that nations suffered for national sins just as individuals do for particular ones – God's dealing with the Israelites would certainly hear him out in his opinion.     Belfast was all excitement during the stay of the Channel Fleet no person


could have any idea of the appearance of the Quays and Harbour[12]. Fourteen thousand persons visited the Warrior alone in one day. I had a holiday for the occasion and spent it very pleasantly the ship I was permitted to inspect was the Warrior, and truly she is a triumph of genius everything I saw conveyed the one idea strength.

You may fancy the way Nelson would look at these vessels: in his time they merely dreamt of Iron ships one a landmark in the great field of improvements; who knows what will be next – One of my office companions got a fall that nearly cost him his life he was in a very dangerous state for more than a week is now doing very well. We were all exceedingly sorry for him as he was a great favorite. I spent a good deal of time with him since he met with the accident.

I had a letter from Willie Dickie[13] he is just settled in his new abode in Newtownlimavady and is in very good spirits –

I think this letter deserves an answer surely I have not given a penny postage stamp for nothing. With love to Aunts and sisters and any inquiring friends I remain

Your affectionate nephew

Thomas Jackson[14]



[1] This Aunt is not an aunt of Thomas Jackson, but a great-aunt: Barbara DONALDSON née BRADFORD (1783-1865). Her husband, William DONALDSON (1768-1815) was the leading United Irishman in south Armagh during the late 1700s. Lord Blayney’s troops burnt down his father’s house as a consequence of the family involvement. The politics and world view of Barbara DONALDSON clearly had a profound influence on young Thomas Jackson.

·       She was Presbyterian, and buried at Freeduff: TGF Patterson transcription: Underneath this stone lieth the remains of William Donaldson of Freeduff who departed this life on the 30th day of November 1815 aged 47 years. Also the body of Barbara his affectionate wife and faithful widow who departed March 31st 1865 aged 82 years. Them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

·        Her only daughter, Elizabeth DONALDSON (1806-1851) died unmarried in Dublin at age 45. A legacy that she left to Thomas Jackson’s mother came at a very opportune time - a year after the family cows on the farm at Urker had been seized to pay debts, and after Thomas’ father had already lost the lease to his farm at Aghavilly, Co. Leitrim. This bequest was likely the money that was used to provide for young Thomas’ education in Dublin. The wording of Eliza DONALDSON’s will shows the need she felt to protect this money: To my cousin Eliza Jackson otherwise Oliver I leave three hundred pounds for her sole use and benefit free from the power or control of her husband and to be given to her at such time and manner as her brother Thomas and her sister Mary Jane Oliver shall consider most judicious for herself and family.

·        Dr. Richard DONALDSON (1821-1876) of Sytrim performed the autopsy on Robert Lindsay Mauleverer in 1850 – the land agent who young Thomas Jackson had gone out walking with shortly before Mauleverer’s death. He was a near relation (1st cousin once removed). He was mentioned in the Dublin Evening Mail 27 May 1850. His brother Oswald DONALDSON (?-1874) was on the jury. I suspect that their mother was a Mary LAWSON. There are two key letters in the family collection from an Oswald LAWSON dated 1811 and 1812 that make interesting reading in connection with this letter because of the political sensibilities.

·        Given the discussion in this letter about the abolition of slavery, one item is of interest in Barbara DONALDSON’s will: £25 for the schools established for coloured people by the Reverend William King at the Elgin Settlement, Upper Canada. King was a distant relation, and fellow Presbyterian. Through the Elgin Association working with the Presbyterian Synod, King had already secured 9,000 acres (3642 ha) twelve miles south of Chatham near the American border as a donation from Lord Elgin (See web site of North Buxton, Ontario, Canada Museum site).  The settlement was six miles wide by three miles long (or 8 kilometers by 4 kilometers) and was situated between the Great Western Railway and Lake Erie. The land was divided into farms of 50 acres each and the settlers had ten years to make good on their purchase, a circumstance enhanced by the nearby jobs afforded by the railway to complement the earnings from the farmland. On Saturday, October 8th, 1859, KING spoke at a public meeting in Armagh to raise money for this venture (This was a year before the outbreak of the American Civil War – just to give a sense of context). The Underground Railway was funneling considerable numbers of fugitive slaves to the Elgin Settlement where they were free to settle and receive an education of such high quality that whites started to want their children to be educated there, making KING’s school one of the first integrated schools in North America. KING believed in a classical education (including both Greek and Latin) and asserted, “Blacks are intellectually capable of absorbing Classical and abstract matters”. The future Father of Confederation, George BROWN was also one of his staunch supporters. By 1857, over 200 families had gained their freedom and were settled there.

[2] Based on the fact that there is a photo of an S.E. McCORMICK in a family album that groups some of these people mentioned in this letter together, the odds are good that this is Samuel Edgar McCORMICK, of 25 Lonsdale Street. He was born at Ardkeen on14 Oct 1820. His death notice was 27 Dec 1873 SOURCE: Ros Davies.  NOTE: In 1858, SE McCormick and David Dunlop, proprietors of the Banner of Ulster, began to publish a Saturday paper under the title of the Weekly Press. - See Old Belfast Newspapers. It represented the views of Evangelical Protestant Dissenters. He leased land for the paper on Donegal Street (NOTE: close to offices where young Thomas Jackson worked at the Bank of Ireland). He married Mary HANNAY on Aug 17, 1859.

[3] If I have the right person, she is Mary HANNAY.

[4] Mrs. BEATH. I do not know who she was, but since it is not a common name, a starting point might be the will of Robert Maitland BEATH: The Will of Robert Maitland Beath late of 5 Wellington Park Belfast Consulting Engineer who died 11 January 1896 was proved at Belfast by Annie Beath of 5 Wellington Park Widow the Sole Executrix. In 1863, he is listed at 25 ½ Donegal Street & 217 York Street, both in Belfast. Also the will of his wife, Annie: Beath Annie of 5 Wellington Park Belfast widow died 2 November 1925 Probate Belfast 4 March to Robert Maitland Beath medical doctor [their son]. Effects £3304 9s. 6d. In the 1901 Census, Annie BEATH is age 57, hence born abt 1844. In 1863, a Mrs. BEATH ran a private “educational school for young ladies” at 8 Carlisle Terrace, Belfast.

[5] Matthew PATTESON. There are few possibilities, but the most likely bet is Matthew PATTESON (1810-1877) husband of Elizabeth DICKIE (1814-1898). He was the cofounder of draper business on Clanbrassil St., and retired from that in 1846. A copy of his will is at PRONI: The Will of Mathew Patteson late of 6 College Park East Belfast County Antrim Financial Secretary deceased who died 18 September 1877 at same place was proved at Belfast by the oaths of the Reverend William Patteson of Bangor Presbyterian Minister and the Reverend Robert Watts of Holywood Doctor in Divinity both in County Down the Reverend John Kinghan Presbyterian Minister and Alexander Turnbull Cashier both of Belfast the Executors. Effects under £5,000. NOTE: In the will, he took care of his wife, & then made many donations to Missions.

[6] I believe that she is Miss E. ROBINSON, possibly Euphemia ROBINSON, daughter of John ROBINSON (1798-1860) & Euphemia DICKIE (1803-1863). In 1894, a Euphemia ROBINSON lived at 15 Madrid Street, Albert Bridge Road, and was longer there at the time of the census.

[7] In the Belfast Trade directory, there is a mention of Miss E. ROBINSON who was a National School teacher on Linenhall Street, Belfast. Going from census data, she may be related to the unwed Jane ROBINSON (b 1847) who was living with the family of a cousin - William FERGUSON and was a National School teacher. A possible sister, Isabella ROBINSON, was also residing there, also never married. Or she may not be. There was a DICKIE-ROBINSON marriage in 1831 of John ROBINSON & Euphemia DICKIE. They had 3 daughters, Mary, Jane & Euphemia (b 1832) and a son, Francis ROBINSON, who had 2 daughters: Frances & Georgina.

[8] Peggie is one of Thomas Jackson’s younger sisters: Margaret JACKSON (1853-1944)

[9] This Robert may be Robert REID (1847-1881) – in this case a flirtation started by his future wife is a bit of fun. She was ten years old at the time of the letter, and wouldn’t marry until she was 22.

[10] This is probably Mary JACKSON (1844-1921) one of Thomas Jackson’s younger sisters.

[11] Mary Jane OLIVER (1821-1975), an aunt of Thomas JACKSON who lived at Cavananore with his great-aunt Barbara.

[12] There was extensive coverage of this in the local press of the day. The Belfast Morning News, Monday September 14, 1863 mentioned Lord Beresford in his capacity as a Midshipman – quite young. Decades later, Thomas Jackson hosted him in Hong Kong.

[13] William DICKIE (1839). I know nothing about him, save that he was a son of Robert DICKIE & Mary Anne WALLACE – and assuming I have the correct William DICKIE.

[14] Thomas JACKSON (1841-1915)



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