The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and His Family and Connections.

Written by Himself.

Commenced April 23rd, 1845.

Part 9 - 1799 - 1801

1799--In the Spring of this year, Mr. Mahan having procured a large school in the town of Danville he proposed to myself and Mr. Lapsley to go with him and act as ushers in his school each of us one half the day and he would board us and give us all the instruction he could without any other charge this we gladly agreed to, Previous to going to Danville I went to Lexington to see Mr. Breckenridge who lived on North Elkhorn eight miles beyond the town This was the 8th of April 1799 to ask his advice what I was to do, He told me that he was involved in business so much that if he was divided in to four parts each would have full employment. After asking my age, and the extent of my Education he advised me to choose a Guardian near home and continue at school until I completed my Education and he would by that time see what he could do for me--I returned home and in the next month (May 22nd) I went to Danville and took up my Lodging with Mr. Mahan who lived in a large frame house South of the old Public Square & myself and Mr. Lapsley clubbed it, he furnishing the bed & Bedstead and I finding the quilts, Blanketts sheets & pillows to go on it, Mr. John Simpson also came on to school, being furnished a bed by Mr. Mahan, but in a short time a sister of Mrs. Mahan came to stay a few weeks with her, and Mr. Simpson had to take blanketts & sleep on the floor in our room, This was rather a hard Berth for a six feet seven Inch frame, of course Miss Venable got many a good Blessing, I name this to show the difficulties with which young men in the West had then to encounter to get an Education, Mr. Mahan had a number of Boarders Mrs. Mahan was not able to attend to her domestic concerns and of course our fare was rough enough so that the boarders diminished greatly in a few months, In truth we never tasted any coffee until 6th of October which was such a novelty that I noted it in my Journal which I had kept for some time--during the summer Mr. Mahan removed to a new house on the same street at the corner of the next cross street west, and had a school room separate from his house on the opposite side of the street & myself and Mr. Lapsley had a room in the schoolhouse--during this summer I completed Moral & Natural Philosophy Rhetoric & composition also reviewed my Latin Euclids Elements & Geography &c, Thus filling up every moment I had to spare, after hearing the Lessons of the scholars one half the day, we had a large school of forty or fifty scholars male & female At this school I had an opportunity of giving instruction to several boys (altho only fifteen years of age) who afterwards made some figure in public life viz John Green, James G. Birney (1) & Thos. B. Reed, the first of whom was for several years a member of the Kentucky Legislature and a Circuit Judge, The latter a Senator in Congress from the State of Mississippi & Mr. Birney who is the most celebrated Leader of the abolitionists, all these were boys of fine Talents, but like others each had their peculiar Foibles which I had reason to feel often in future life. The Parents of these young men were all rich & of course felt their superiority, I was driven by my peculiar situation to assume the Station of a poor usher, hence It was many years Before they could forget that a Young Pedagogue could possibly have any pretentions to any distinction in Society (as of course I must have been very poor or I would never have taught school) such is the false estimate put upon others by the sons of the wealthy, who look at outward appearances only, as in my dress I was plain and simple endeavoring to live within my means, which was at that time restricted enough, altho I was really worth more than either of them in landed property, which was unproductive on account of the causes before stated. These feelings rendered my situation unpleasant while I lived in the town of Danville. It did not however change my course or my fixed purpose to complete my Education. These opinions and feelings did not change until many years after I had entered public, being looked upon by the Wealthy citizens of that place as a poor Plebian, who had no right to look beyond my humble appearances, This treatment has had its influence on my future life and at once confirmed in consulting and relying upon the great body of the people whose prosperity and happiness is the main object of Government--I anxiously looked forward to our October vacation as a release from all my troubles and I doubled my assiduity,--My friend & Preceptor Mr. Mahan still continued to drink secretly every morning filling his Tea Pot with Whiskey from a closet adjoining our room, he also continued to Preach at N. Providence every two weeks & occasionally I would accompany him & instead of calling upon one of his Elders to get his dinner, we generally stopt at the house of an old Revolutionary soldier by the name of Matthew Cummins, who live about a mile S. E. of the church (where Peter R. Dunn Esqr now lives) who generally gave us a good dinner and my Preceptor, plenty to drink For my I drank none with them several times he was in a condition not to be seen, when he was sure to try to disperse Groups of Negroes who were assembled for amusement near the road to Danville on Sunday evenings, he would also attempt the same after his return, sometimes whipping some of them & In this getting into trouble with his neighbors On the 11th day of October we had an exhibition & public speaking in the old Presbyterian church (a Frame house) in which the convention sat who made the first constitution of Kentucky in 1791--The scholars acquitted themselves well and I obtained some credit for the speech I made, and for my appearance in the character of a Ghost in one of the acts of Hamlet--

On the next day the 12th I returned home having completed my collegiate course with the fixed determination to read law, from which I had never wavered except for about a half an hour. Previous to my leaving Danville Dock Ephraim McDowell became pleased with me, and offered to take me into his shop & board me free from any charge if I would study medicine he then had an Extensive Practice & the offer was so tempting in my situation that for a short time one evening I seriously weighed all my prospects both pro & con, but soon came to the conclusion that, the law was my destiny, I had no feeling in favor of the Practice of Physic, scenes of distress, misery & death, at once settled the question--I immediately wrote to Mr. Breckenridge apprising him of my determination, who answered me that I should have the use of his books and all the Instruction he could give me without charge if I could get Boarding in his neighborhood--I accepted his offer without hesitation but had to continue at my Brothers until I could provide clothing for my Journey, my Brothers wife made all she could, and I was fixed up with the best I had which was generally homemade, The winter was not very cold but warm and open.

1800--On the 31st January I left home in company with my cousin Joseph McCoun who went with me to bring back my horse, we arrived at Mr. Breckenridges after dark & was kindly received & next morning placed Blackstone in my hands and Vertots history of the Roman Republic & we went to Major Robert Russell (afterwards Genl Russell) who lived on the East side of North Elkhorn about two miles South of Mr. Breckenridges, There was a Barbacue in the vicinity & great excitement against the Alien & Sedition law I accompanied Majr Russell & mixed with the people, when the toasts were drank an old gentleman who had moved from Pennsylvania by the name of Thos Stephenson who had suffered during the whiskey insurrection attempted to give a toast reflecting on Genl Washington, the news of whose death had only reached the country a few days before, but it was promptly suppressed, altho every man on the ground was a Jeffersonian Republican--

Wednesday, Jany 23d, I commenced reading law and my cousin McCoun left me Maj Russell having a large distillery on his Spring branch, I determined that I would never drink any more whiskey or intoxicating liquors, not because I felt too fond of it or ever apprehended any danger of getting drunk, but merely to avoid temptation or being pressed to drink in public company. Thus I firmly established a Temperance Society of my own before I was Sixteen years of age, The Major always took his dram in the morning and gave one to his negroes and when company come the bottle was always set out with the sugar bowl such was the fashion of the day every where, although Major Russell never drank to excess, he was a sober study man and a member of the Methodist Church with whom my brother had engaged my boarding at sixty dollars a year --

I now felt myself permanently Settled for at least two years, the family were friendly & I was soon at home and entirely happy, Mrs. Russell was well Educated and a considerable Poet, and her Brother David Allen arriving not long after to read law also, she often challenged us to make Poetry with her, This was a new field to exercise my genius in, and I often drew upon my Brains for words to Rhyme with, I could first only produce a verse or two, but persevering I began to think that I would become a considerable Poet, and produced several pieces which I afterwards published with some applause altho my name was not disclosed, I occasionally made poetry for several years but happening to read one day the life of Doctor Franklin I gave up poetry for composition in prose--

Mr. Breckenridge had at this time some eight or ten students under him and among them Christopher Tompkins (afterwards Judge Tompkins of Barren County) who had lived in his office several years and occupied the place I had expected previous to my Fathers death, his son Jos Cabell Breckenridge about my own age, a Mr. Marshall from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a fine looking man but extremely diffident, Mr. Fowler from Pennsylvania, Mr. William Stephenson, David Allen from Virginia, and myself, to whom was afterwards added John Bower of Tennessee a nephew of Major Russells, and about the same number were reading law with the Honl James Brown in Lexington among whom was Rb. M. Johnson & William T. Barry & several others not now recollected. Mr. H. Clay had been in Lexington several years before and was considered a young man of great promise altho his practice was limited for two or three years. Majr. Robt S. Russell had the previous year erected a Saw mill on his land about one mile below the mill of an old gentleman by the name of Hamilton on North Elkhorn, which threw the back water on Hamiltons mill which greatly injured them in times of High Water, for which he brought suit against Majr. Russell who felt a deep interest in sustaining his Saw mill as he was building and stood in need of Lumber The suit of course made a great deal of noise, I also felt some interest in the matter as in my leisure hours, I was enabled to catch a great many fish with a hook and line as well as with my hand as they collected in shoals in the eddies near the wheel Mr. Russell employed Mr. H. Clay Esqr and Mr. Hamilton Mr. James Hughes Then a Lawyer of some eminence--The suit came on and numerous witnesses were summoned I was present at the Trial & Mr. Clay made one of his best speeches and the Jury found for the Defendant, This event at once established Mr. Clays practice and in a little time he was at the head of the Bar and was employed on one side of almost every suit in the Fayette courts--

The students under Mr. Breckenridge were required to attend every other Saturday at his office for examination, and we established a debating Society the other two Saturdays in each month and soon after Mr. Breckenridge established a moot court on the days of our examination so that our whole time was fully employed, and we were assiduously devoted to our studies and great emulation existed. The year 1800, was a time of great Political excitement, The Public meetings called by Col. Nicholas and Breckenridge at Lexington in 1798-9 which were followed by others all over the state had Blown Kentucky into a Flame, but all on one side as at that time not a half dozen Federalists dared to avow their opinions, so that John Adams had scarcely a friend left in Kentucky, and few were more noisy than Mr. Clay against him, & Alien & Sedition Law, as well as his midnight Judges who were foolish enough to appear on the Bench of the Federal court at Frankfort with their Judicial gowns & cocked hats on, in imitation of the British Judges, which was evidence of a settled determination to enforce all their high handed Federal measures through the Judiciary, It was truly a fearful time; then called the reign of Terror, Mr. Jefferson had taken high ground against all these measures, Col. Nicholas who was his great Political Leader in Kentucky had died the year before after he had held his great meetings & left the impress of his Principles on the public mind, was now succeeded by Mr. Breckenridge, who as the Bosom Friend of Mr. Jefferson, was the acknowledged Leader of the Democratic Republicans in Kentucky, and he did not fail to make deep impression on the minds of his students, and from him I acknowledg that I formed my Political opinion, as all the questions of that eventful Period were discussed in our Society and moot court--

We were required also to write a composition on each examination or moot court day--I was required to write one on "the right of Instruction" I Knew Mr. Breckenridges opinion, and concluded to write one against the Right in order to hear what he would say (I had got the idea from Moris Geography which altho correct as a Geographer, yet ought never to be used as a school Book as all his opinions are Monarchal) when I produced my composition Mr. Breckenridge read it over and corrected the grammatical errors as well as some of the language, without Saying a word, he then looked at me with a Serious countenance, and observed, (I shall never forget the look he gave me) are these your real sentiments sir? I answered that I could not say they were He then remarked that my arguments were founded in error & anti Republican, he then went into an examination of the Theory of our Government, as based upon the sovereignty of the people, and the obligations of a Representative to speak the sentiments of his constituents on all questions of policy, and was in truth the servant & not the Master of his constituents, and that any other Theory was destructive of the Fundamental principles of American Freedom,--I then thanked him for his lecture & told him that I had written my piece for the Sole purpose of hearing his opinion, he smiled and observed that he hoped I would ever maintain some Republican principles--

I have this composition among my papers to this day, and I have often read it over, and altho based on erroneous premises it contains about the best argument I have ever heard on this subject, The error consists in taking it for granted that the people are not qualified for self Government & of course ought never to exercise their Sovereign power to instruct or correct their public servants--This presumption at once destroys all the principles of the Revolution, Mr. Breckenridge so understood it, and such is my own opinion--

I had applied myself so close to my studies that I felt its effects on my health as well as a dull pain in my left Breast, my mind was kept on full streach I concluded to take more time for exercise, Mr. Allin & myself had written rules for our studies, and I also drew up rules for my future life--which I will give in their proper place,--

In September 1800 I rode over to my Brothers for some papers connected with our land suit for Mr. Breckenridge got the papers & returned after remaining one day, I was unwell and in a fair way of becoming dispectic as I could scarcely eat any thing I however did not permit myself to neglect my reading, I had my regular hours for reading, music &c I had attended to Music having attended a Singing School when I lived in Lexington in 1797, kept by a Mr. Chain, also attended two quarters in 1798 kept by Mr. Joshua L. Wilson, as a means of aiding his education an din 1799 To a Mr. Ewing while I lived in Danville which had given me a taste for vocal music, which I indulged in every evening from sunset until dark--I was unwell for several weeks, my stomach was finally restored by eating some common wild grapes and abstinence--

On the 4th of October My Grandfather James McCoun departed this life in teh 83d year of his age. To his grandchildren of my Father's family he gave nothing except fifty pounds in a bond he held on my father, which was paid by myself and younger Brother, he gave the greater part of his landed Estate to his Grandson James McCoun of Lexington and some other of his grandchildren & my uncle John the greater part of his Black Servants--and not one of his descendants own a foot of his land, Sic Transit gloria mundi. I never regretted that we had been passed over, I have not doubt the old gentleman was governed by the purest motives in the circumstances which surrounded him so utterly impossible is it to forsee coming events--an overruling Providence directs our destinies. My Father and Family connections explored the Wilderness of Kentucky and risked their lives for many years to procure land for themselves & their children all had growing familys and their highest hopes and exertions were to see them all settled round them in peace & happiness--vain hope! some lost their lives, many of their descendants lived but a few years, and thus disappointment fell upon many of them so that at this day the second generation of many of the original Settlers on Salt River are exiles in Indiana, Illinois & missouri, while strangers are in possession of that inheritance for which their fathers toiled & suffered--


I will now take some notice of my religious opinions, My Grandfathers & Mothers as well as my own Father and Mother as I have already stated were Scotch Presbyterians of the Seceder denomination, and for a time acknowledged the Genl. Assembly when formed in 1789, But when the division took place in 1791, or 2 under Mr. Adam Rankin on the question of using Watts version of Psalms & Hymns, instead of the old Scotch version (of Rouse) my Father and mother united with the Revd Mr. Rankin branch of the church, which pretty equally divided N. Providence, altho my father seldom if ever communed, as Mr. Rankin generally spent an hour in what was called guarding or fencing the communion Table. My feelings were of course with Mr. Rankin and while I lived in Lexington I always attended his church, My Good Mother had taken great pains to give me religious instruction & to leave me the catechism of the church, and also always when I retired to bed, to commit myself to the hands of my Creator, and when I rose to repeat the Lord's prayer, which I generally done, yet my heart was not touched after the death of my Parents I felt my desolate condition and the need of committing myself into the hands of a kind Providence, I recollect being one day in my fathers house after all of us had been removed away, It was solitary and alone and in passing I had taken refuge from a heavy Thunder storm & rain, while standing in the door watching the dark rolling clouds, the flashes of Lightning and the loud lumbering Thunder, that my lonely and desolate situation, seemed to impress upon my heart with Peculiar force, I looked back into house and rooms which were dark and solitary, the contrast between this and the happy days when all my sisters father & mother were together was too great to contemplate without emotion, I also Thought of our unfortunate Landsuit & what I would do, in case my home, the place of my nativity, was to be taken from me! It was to heavy a load for my heart to bear and I burst into Tears and for the first time in my life I put up a prayer which came from my heart, I prayed for divine Protection, and wisdom to direct my ways, and that I might live to return again to my house in peace and safety, and then committed myself to the Mercy of a Mercyful Savior This Prayer my dear children was answered, I have often looked to it as the turning point of my early days, It matters not what unbelievers in Divine Providence may think I have given the True state of things at the time & altho I wandered far out of the way in Trying to disbelieve in the doctrine of the Special influence of Providence, yet all things worked around to prove to my mind, that almighty God directs our ways--

While I lived in Lexington, and in some instances violated the Sabbath day in company with other bad boys yet my age saved me from all other heinous vices, yet I began to think that there were as good people in other denominations as my own people, Mr. Ayers was a Baptist and was among the best of Men & having an opportunity of hearing Baptist ministers often preach & also heard them in Private conversation, I began to conclude that they were as near right as any others, in short I became strongly prejudiced in favor of their views--When I returned to Mercer county again & went to school to the Revd. Mr. Mahan on Salt River I was in a great measure brought back to my Presbyterianism and when I went to Read Law with Mr. Breckenridge Maj (or rather Genl Russell as he was soon after I went to live with him promoted) being a zealous Methodist, and his home being a preaching point for the Circuit Riders, I had an opportunity to frequently hear them, and among the rest the Revd Mr. Burke (who was a long time Postmaster of Cincinnati under Genl Jackson) he was considered their ablest Preacher & had a voice like Thunder, and during the Summer of 1800 an Extensive Revival of Religion commenced at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County among the Presbyterians & at Bryants Station among the Baptists and in many places all over Kentucky among the Methodists who were Just beginning to spread in Kentucky I also had the Arminian Magazine to read which together with frequent discussions with Genl Russell and the Circuit Riders I became greatly attached to the Methodists, and fully believed they were right in doctrine, my objections were alone to their church organization.

1801--During the winter of 1800-1, which was exceedingly mild, the Religious excitement increased and extended over Kentucky, The Presbyterians hand an immense meeting for a week or two commencing the first week in August, and also near Harrodsburgh at Hites Springs the excitement continued to increase and widen over the state during the year 1801 & for several years afterwards The whole attention of the people was turned to religious subject, and many excesses and extravagances were the consequence, altho thousands of true converts were made, My own mind was deeply affected with the truth of Christian religion, the necessity of obtaining it, and the importance of enjoying it in preparing for a future State, Indeed the Spirit of God seemed to strive with me, until frequently I was almost induced to yield & make a profession of Religion, I scarcely ever neglected to attend preaching on every Sabbath day, which were kept up in succession by the Presbyterians Methodists and Baptists. i was at Bryants station when the Revd. Ambrose Dudley Senr Baptized fifty three persons in one day all these things had a powerful influence on my mind, and I was constant and punctual in my Private devotions, but I was reading law, and it was firmly impressed on my mind that a peson could not be religious and a Lawyer at the same time, no Lawyer in teh State except Col. William Mcdowell had ventured to profess Religion and he was looked upon with jeers and derision, Being thus drawn of ___, I resisted all my religious feeling in Public but still adhered to my private devotions as a compromise with my conscience, not long after this Paines "Age of Reason" fell into my hands & greatly shook my faith as to the Truth of Christianity and I eventually settled down in the belief that there was not such thing as The Special Providence of God, That he made man, as well as the material universe and had enstamped upon their nature certain laws of nature he was doing his duty and would be accepted by his creator These absurd notions which were contrary to every days Experience stuck to me for many years, when events transpired under the good Providence of God to open my eyes as to his dealings with his creatures in this world which I will notice in its proper place.

The Christmas Holidays I spent with my friends in Mercer and in attending to indispensible Business, early in January 1801 I returned to Genl. Ruseels and resumed my studies, in company with Mr. D. Allen, I had nothing to trouble me and I spent this time as happily as I have ever enjoyed in a long life, many amusing anecdotes and events transpired which it would be too tedious to repeat, Genl Russell and family were kind to me and my days and nights passed smoothly along. Bu this world will change, In the month of May 1801, Genl. Russell and family went to Virginia (Shenendoah county) to visit Mr. Russell's father and my room mate Mr. Allen returned home, and I was again left alone, having agreed to remain & keep house with an old Gentleman by the name of Kincaid, Capt. William Moore who lived in sight had a large family of sons with whom I associated & spent many happy nights with them, we had an amusing scene with Mr. Kincaid one night who was in the habit of taking Ginger dram for the colic--during this summer I attended court in Lexington once a month, and was informed at the June court that my uncle Saml McAfee had died on the 7th day of June 1801. I was deeply affected by this event as he was the only uncle who had given me advice and I had calculated that he would have aided me still farther when I commenced the practice of law--Mr. Breckenridges law students still kept up their debating society and our moot court was held regularly every two weeks and I generally made speaches when ever I had a chance to the great gratification of our Tutor who at all time would give me a private lecture, The great error in my speaking was too rapid utterance without regular method, (The fault of most young men). There were several of the students who never would speak, and the result was that they were never heard of afterwards, nature had not intended them for public life, having neither energy or perseverance--I was indefatagable in my studies having taken a regular course in history on the 5th day of Sept. 1801, I finished reading the laws of Kentucky and closed my studies and returned all the Books I had to Mr. Breckenridge & was examined for the last time, and on the 9th my Brother came for me and I returned to his house in Mercer county where I remained a week Sept. 14th I returned to Lexington & applied to the county court for a certificate of my moral character which I obtained at a word, one of the Justices observing that if I was an honest young man it was a pity that I should be a Lawyer he had been a candidate for the Legislature against Lawyers, After I had obtained my Certificate I rode out to Genl Russells (who was one of the Justices) and staid all night at Capt Moores and was introduced to Humphrey Marshall for the first time. On the 16th I went to Mr. Breckenridges and spent the night with him, I consulted with him as to my getting a License to practice law, I did not tell him my age, and he did not ask me, he however advised me to continue to read, and promised to meet me in Lexington to introduce me to the district Judge on teh next Monday Sept. 21st to which time I remained in the neighborhood, on Monday not meeting with Mr. Breckenridge I got another friend to introduce me to Judge Saml Mcdowell Senr, who had been President of the First Ky. Convention in 1791, who knew my family, we returned to a room in a Tavern East of the Court & after examining me closely as to what kind of suit I would bring under a supposed case, he signed my License and gave some good advice and parted with me in the kindest manner, and I left the room with a light heart, and about a month afterwards I was again examined by the Honle Stephen Ormsby in Danville who also signed my license which I had now obtained previous to my being eighteen years of age. It was one of the Great errors of my life to press on so early into Public life before my Judgement was sufficiently matured--I felt this to be the case but the necessity of my situation being wholly dependent on my own exertions was my excuse and finally decided my course. My whole fortune was nearly at stake in a law suit, which altho twice decided in our favor was still renewed again--I was well grown of my age so that I could have passed at any time for being of full age, altho our laws had not prescribed at what age Licenses might be obtained, But in order to show The confidence Mr. Breckenridge had in me, I was immediately employed by him to bring an important land suit in our court, as was employed in several cases soon after I was sworn into our county, the first being in charge of Bastardy by an individual near Salvisa--

In November Genl Russell having returned home from Virginia, I went to the house to settle with him for my Board, and he fell in my debt thirteen dollars for which I took an order to James McCouns store which was all the means I had to get me a suit of clothes to start out in the world with, this outfit was scarcely enough yet I made it do my brother could not help me he was in debt himself for his land, and our wretched law suit swallowed up all the money we could raise from my plantation rents, which we had to take in corn, wheat & oats & Then sell again, This land my father had left to my brother on Hammond creek (300 acres) was covered with other claims and he was afraid to settle on it, and was Thus compelled to go in debt for a place to live on, and being on the whole not very energetic in the management of his affairs, I was therefore left wholly to myself, without means to get a fair start in my profession, as during the whole period I was reading law at Genl Russells, I was totally destitute of a single dollar in moeny, yet I struggled many times without clothes to go into company or mingle with society, I was in fact a perfect Her___ as far as general society was concerned, I state to encourage young men to persevere, as I scarcely can conceive a more embarrassing condition that that in which I was placed, Tis true I was interested in several large tracts of outlands, some of which were unpatented as my Brother had never looked after them, they were unimproved & could not be sold at anything like a fair value--I was also without law Books or any kind of a Library except my novels which during my absense had been pretty well distributed in loans by a young man who lived with my Brother, in this state of affairs I laid my case before my cousin James McCoun who kindly undertook to procure such books as I needed and wait with me for the money which was the first debt of any magnitude I had ever created. The books were ready on the 1st of December when I went to Lexington and had them packed home on Horseback in sacks, I kept my horses with my friend Ayers having no means to provide for them in a Tavern, when I was about to part with Mr. McCoun he handed me seven dollars in money without solicitation to help me along, never was any money more welcome and my heart has often swelled with gratitude with the rememberance of it as it was a kindness I did not expect--I now had quite a respectable law Library with some history, indeed much larger than most lawyers generally have. But this debt hung like a millstone around my neck, tis ture Mr. McCoun did not press me for it, I let him have all the money I could spare and finally paid it off in acting as his agent in surveying his land selling in small tracts which lay on Salt River, My personal services fully covered the whole debt and indeed I was thankful for the employment I now had a sufficient Library and the world before, and the next subject of inquiry was, what shall I do? There was no Lawyer then living in Harrodsburgh and there was the place I ought to have gone, But it was even then doubtful whether a professional man could live in the place, as I do not now recollect that there was even a doctor in the place and old Mr. Augustus Passmore had a Blacksmith down below Town (buth within its limits) on the Town Branch and only two stores Mr. Beriah Magoffins & Phillip Bushs on opposite sides of the public square along the north side of which some years before the public race course ran--But what was worse than all I had no money to pay my board, or even to put my horse in the Tavern when I went htere, and such was my abhorrence to running in debt that I gave up the idea of going there wich i think was another great error in my life, as I soon after felt confident that I would have done well, but I was young and had no enterprising friend to direct my course, The consequence was that soon after James Haggin & Isaac Lansdale Esqs (Lawyers) settled in Harrodsburgh and soon obtained a good practice, while I remained at my Brothers ten miles from town, in one of the most quiet neighborhoods in the county & of course could not look for much business, while I was constantly harassed with the large fee bills of our interminable land suit, I had energy & perseverence enough, but having been lost to society while attending my Studies I did not know how to direct it I concluded to read closely & qualify myself well until age gave me experience and in this situation I remained at my brothers until March 1805 when I removed to my present residence being then twenty one years of age--In the meantime I attended to what little practice I got and also attended the Franklin Circuit court where I got some business through the influence of Mr. John J. Mitchell who was then sheriff and had been my school mate while I went to school to Mr. Dunlavy in 1793. I was also taken by the hand by Col. John Allen who treated me with great kindness and invited me to his house when I attended the courts in Frankfort, It was a noble trait in Col. Allens character which lasted with me until the day of his death at the Battle of the River Raisin in January 1813.

In order to keep myself employed I made public speaches on all occasions, on such questions of public interest which frequently occurred, such as the contemplated Division of Mercer county, which was then urged and had been from the year 1799 & on also at 4th July Barbacues, my first public speech was made at William Adams Spring about a half a mile N. E. from Lucto, long before that place was thought of, I was also active in all Elections and was supposed to have considerable influence with my friends of course my interest was coveted by the candidates & in this way I soon rose into notice, I also volunteered my services in defending the unfortunate when ever I could get a chance as I believed that a young Lawyer must first prove that he can speak before he can get Business, In this way I soon obtained more business than I expected, which convinced me that if I had gone to Harrodsburgh at once I would have acquired Distinction and practice much sooner than I did, as I was ardently ambitious and determined to rise before the public as soon as I could, I had a large family connection all of whom were quiet peaceable people who did not seem to aspire to office or notice, I could not bear the idea of being cast in the background with such advantages in my favor. In 1802, we had a severely contested Election, in which the question of our county division came up, in which the lower end of Mercer united with Danville in order to get a county Below, Capt. Saml Gray was the candidate of the Lower end of the county & Col William Mcdowell, near Danville while Genl Adair and Genl Ray were the candidates for Harrodsburgh, the people of Danville disappointed the lower end and Capt Gray was defeated, I was too young to vote but was the friend of Capt Gray who had been promised the votes of Danville but did not receive many of them, This event produced a reaction below and in my own mind and the people were ever afterwards opposed to Danville and the division--

The Religious excitement still continued in Kentucky, The Revd Saml Roberttson was chosen as Pastor of N. Providence and was a warm & zealous preacher It was no unusual thing to have two or three Thousand people present at his Sacramental meetings, the people coming in Waggons & carriages & camping on the ground from twenty & thirty miles around, and altho often pressed I still declined yielding my public assent to what I believed to be my duty and began to feel myself sliding back to a careless & thoughtless condition as I still thought that Lawyers had no business with religion, and I had a great abhorrance in pretending to be what I was not, however I did not negate my private devotions' yet my proud heart would not publicly acknowledge our Saviour, This was another great sin of my life, If I had at that time become a member of the church I would have been saved from many errors But the great God knew my frailty and perhaps it was for the best--

Prayer at night

O Lord thou hast been pleased to suffer me once more to lie down in peace, be pleased to continue thy mercies to me through the dark and silent watches of this night. Bless my friends & may I forgive my enemies, Thou knowest my heart to be perverse, be pleased in mercy to forgive my sins for Christ's sake and grant me wisdom above all things to direct my ways and make me submissive to thy providential dealings with & preserve me from every evil -- June 17th, 1801.

Go to Part 10 - 1802 - 1806.

Transcriber's Notes:

1: James G. Birney and Thomas B. Reed were cousins. Birney's great-niece, Nelly Marshall, married Robert B. McAfee's great-nephew, John J. McAfee, a Union officer in the Civil War.

Updated May 19, 2000. This transcription is copyrighted by . It may be freely used for non-commercial purposes and family research, but must not be used for any other purpose without written permission from the transcriber.