Written by Himself.
Commenced April 23rd, 1845.
During the year 1802 I was very active in stirring up the people in the lower end of the county to asser our equal right to the offices of the county, we had but two Justices of the peace from Harrodsburgh to the Franklin line at Lillard cove spring and Senators, Representatives, Judges of the Quarter Session court & Justices of the peace were all from Shawnee run or towards Danville. This inequality had been so glaring that I soon awakened up the people, and in a short time we got two more Justices of the peace and they Began to see and feel that they had equal rights with the Ballance of the county--
I now had to encounter other difficulties, I was necessarily thrown into Female company as young and inexperienced as myself, and soon involved myself in difficulties, from which it took years to extricate my self not by making use of deception, but often unintentionally exciting hopes & expectations which were never realized--after one years experiment I again debarred myself from all marked attentions, and determined never again to bestow special attentions until I was in a condition to get married, This induced me to reduce to writing my rules of life which I determined to observe the ballance of my life as follows viz
I now took an active part in organizing a debating society which we called "The Republican Society" our First meetings were in a school house--west of Salt River near Buchanan's Run in the vicinity of Capt. John H. Gibson afterwards one of Genl Jacksons Colonels in the late war at the Battle of N Orleans, (who had married a cousin of mine) who lived on Buchanans branch, I was elected Clerk of the Society and after holding two or three meetings without having a sufficient number of members to make our meetings interesting we moved it to a school house on the road to McCouns ferry about a half mile east of the present Frankfort Turnpike road, our society now Flourished greatly as we had near forty members from every part of the country round and some from Shawanoe run, of whom Majr Geo C. Thompson, our meetings were regularly kept up until 1805 and my uncle John McCoun was generally our chairman, and I was one of hte leading debaters, This Society was of Essential benefit to me as I had a chance of extending my acquaintance and making many friends which have continued ever since--
On the 25th of Sept. Mr. Joseph Bryant, the original founder of Bryants station staid all night at my Brothers from whom I obtained seom singular facts he was about 84 years of age and while Boone (who had married his daughter) was a Prisoner with the Indians he had moved back to North Carolina, and was now on his way with his family to settle in Shelby county, where he died a few years after. It was in 1778 that he returned to N Carolina, he had been with several of his family a Tory during the Revolutionary war, and he assigned as a reason why Col. Daniel Boone always escaped and was never Killed when taken by the Indians, was on account of his having a Colonels commission from Govr Dunsmore which he kept in a leather Bag round his neck and always had it ready to exhibit in emergency, and was the true Reason why he was treated so well at Detroit and ransomed from the Indians Col. Boone always acted with the Whigs, altho there was a time when Col. Calloway suspected him for an intention to surrender Boonesborough, at the famous treaty he held at that place when two Indians were permitted to take hold of one white man, This fact I obtained from a son of Col. Calloway who said that it was a subject of conversation at the time, however without impeaching the Patriotism of Col. Boone, There is an evident consistency in what old Mr. Bryant said, as he always contribed to escape from the Indians & in fact left Kentucky in 1778 himself and did not return until about 1781.
1803--On the 14th April at night my uncle George McAfee departed this life I had written his will and on the 15th of April he was buried by his request at New Providence, being the First person ever buried there, his Executor Capt Saml Gray employed me as his attorney which placed in my hands an additional collecting business for which I felt under many obligations--In the month of May I agreed with Mr. William Hunter Editor of "the Palladium, and public printer that my Brother John should live with him and learn to be a printer, and he accordingly went to Frankfort to live, Altho I was increasing my practice yet I had many troubles and difficulties, my expenses at court generally eat my fees, and I was often in great straits for money, yet I still adhered to my resolutions not to go in debt, yet I never was so happy as when I was at home reading--difficulties seemed to crowd upon my Brother, the Bond he owed for his land about £105--was assigneed to Capt Peter Casey, and he expected to be broke up and I shared in his feelings, But instead of the ruin he had apprehended, It was the most fortunate event that ever happened to him, Capt Casey was kind to him and he paid off his note with a horse, cattle &c and never felt it. My Brother now appeared to be happy and brighter days appeared in prosepct.
At my leisure hours I occasionally wrote poetry and sketches of History and also began to write a piece on the various controverted points of religion, this I regard as labor lost, except so far as I was induced to Search the Scriptures in order to sustain my Theories which were Methodistical, This work I never intended to have published, so much ot if is mere speculation--we had the Louisiana Treaty discussed in our Society, which I advocated in a lengthy speach which I wrote out at length and still have by me, I also wrote a piece in favor of Religious Toleration which shows my opinion as to this matter at that day--I never was possessed of a good voice, and in order to remedy it I pursued the plan of Demosthenes, on every pleasant day I retired to a thick Brushy ridge about a quarter of a mile East of my Brothers house, where I had a walk made about fifty yards long, and declaimed to the Trees, often filling my mouth with pebbles and in this way I improved my delivery and strengthened my lungs by exercise so that I could speak two hours with not much fatigue--
I also engaged in a Friendly correspondence with a lady somewhat advanced in years but very intelligent, being well educated, and wrote a good hand, our professed object was to improve ourselves in writing, we kept it up for nearly a year, when I concluded that there were some symptoms of danger, when our correspondence gradually declined & she moved away--
There was another severe contest this year in relation to a division of the county I happened to be in Danville when a public speaking was held on the subject & Col William Mcdowell addressed the people in favor of the Division and I made a speach against it, when the house divided I had but a small minority, but the news flew over the county and I was much applauded by the Harrodsburgh people for standing up against them in their stronghold This was not forgotten in after times--when the election came on the contest was a severe one but the members against the division succeeded.
1803. On the 15th Sept I accompanied, My cousin Geo McAfee & his sisters to Lexington & four miles N. E. on Cane Run to see him married to Miss Anne Hamilton, where we arrived a short time before night, they were married about dark by the Revd Mr. Welsh, a Presbyterian Preacher, here I saw Miss Mary Hamilton his wifes sister, and was much pleased with her, I had visited her mothers house while I was reading law with Mr. Breckenridge and knew the family as a highly respectable one of the Presbyterian denomination, there were several brothers, Robert, James & Joseph, the two latter were students in Transylvania, but my thoughts were then otherwise employed & I had made no particular impression, and only visited the house to see one of my Brother students Mr. Fowler & the young men--on the next day we returned to Mercer & I contrived to ride with Miss P. H. and was much pleased with her conversation & intelligence, and of course I was not backward to let her know it, This was my first serious attempt to get a wife, altho I was not yet twenty years of age, yet I concluded that I would have to spend some time in courtship, which would bring my land suit to a close and I could move to my farm, on which I had made up my mind to Settle for life, I met with some encouragement, and was induced to continue my attentions which were protracted under various considerations for several years, she was cautious, and disposed to consult her friends and I was not very anxious to hasten the matter until my law suit was ended and I could get possession of my farm, which I could not conveniently do until I arrived of age, It had however one good effect, It withdrew my attention from all others Which I found a very difficult matter to do As I had already excited expectations in another quarter which was the cause of such unhappiness to me as well as disappointment to the hopes of an amiable relation, which I have always viewed as the great error of my life which like Franklin I would correct if I had to pass over again this period of my life, hence I have ever since advised all young men never to excite hopes in teh breast of a female which you cannot fufill It is cruel beyond description, The female heart, when driven to despair can never again recover its original position, a kind Providence however punished me in much mercy in the end--
On Sunday the 23d day of October in this year an unpleasant occurrence took place at N. Providence church, which made a final breach between the seceders and the Genl Assembly Presbyterians on this day my old class mate Joshua L. Wilson (now the Revd Doctor Wilson of Cincinnati) having been licensed to preach, happened to attend church at that place, together the Revd Mr. Risk of that associate body, both denominations wished to hear their own preacher, and The Elders and Friends of Doctor Wilson proposed to the others that Mr. Risk should preach in the forenoon, and the Revd Mr. Wilson in the afternoon, To which proposition no direct answer was given except "we will see about it" The Revd Mr. Risk went on to preach and at the close of his sermon gave notice that the congregation might expect another discourse in about half an hour, which of course excluded Mr. Wilson, whereupon notice was given that the Revd. Mr. Wilson would preach to the people in the bottom a little east of the well in ten or fifteen minutes the consequence was that four fifths of the people repaired to the designated spot and Doctor Wilson preached to them, and Mr. Risk preached to the ballance, For my part I went with Doctor Wilson and felt much displeased with my friends on teh other side, a large portion of both sides were my family relations, This event led to the erection of another church about a mile below my Grandfathers grave yard on a lott of two acres donated by my relation James McCoun of Lexington to whom it had been willed, the house was built by the Joint labors of both churches by an amicable arrangement.
In the latter part of this month a young gentleman Henry F. Delaney a son of Mr. Joseph Delaney came to read law with me, as I had a good Library and was getting a Tolerable business, he played elegantly on the violin and was a most pleasant companion, he lived at my brothers and read with me nearly two years, he afterwards obtained license to practice law and moved to Union county & obtained an extensive practice, when he united with the Cumberland Presbyterians and became a distinguished preacher in that body, and with his aid I drew the First charter of their college at Princeton Caldwell county while I was a member of the Ky. Legislature he was a most excellent man, with Talents above mediocraty, warm hearted and sincere in every act of his life, and a friend who could be confided in--
The meeting of Congress on the 1st Monday in December produced great excitement, on account of the acquisition of Louisiana, Troops had been ordered to hold themselves in readiness to march to N Orleans, in case any opposition was made, I took an active part in this movement & held myself in readiness to go with the foremost. I wrote several pieces in favor of the acquisition of that Territory as well as made several set speaches on the subject, The whole state was alive to this matter and not a voice was raised against it in Kentucky as far as I ever heard all applauded Mr. Jeffersons foresight and it gave him such popularity in the Western country that it was irresistable--
I had now solemnly determined to press forward in my profession & never cease struggling until I had arrived at distinction and the consequence was that I began to feel the shaft of envy from sources I did not expect, yet it did not discourage me.
1804--I still remained at my Brothers during htis year, my business increased, and on account of having a land suit of my own, I was employed in most of the land suits as well as in defense of persons charged with felonies which were profitable I also began to attend to my land claims, examining the several tracts & making arrangements to finally settle myself at home, I found my land claims greatly with other claims, to which I gave my personal attention, This with my other business kept me almost daily employed, I attended our courts assiduously, and altho my fees were pretty good, yet my necessary expenses kept me always hard pressed and some times without a dollar in my pocket which compelled me to go into the country from Town every night yet I persevered and began to attract some notice, especially among the Politicians, we had this year another contest in relation to our county, a new question was started to consolidate Mercer and Lincoln, and make Danville the seat of Justice, we had some four or five candidates opposed to it and only two to elect. The Danville people had but two, Col. Wm. Mcdowell & John L. Bridges Esqr This made it necessary to select candidates out of those in favor of Harrodsburgh and I was selected as one among nine to settle the matter, we accordingly met in Harrodsburgh and selected Col. Wm Starling and Majr Geo C Thompson as our candidates, and at our July court I was invited to attend a public meeting in Danville on the 28th of that month, I attended and Col. Mcdowell & Mr. Bridges addressed the people & declared themselves in favor of a consolidation of the two counties & I made a speech against it, but when the vote was taken, I was in the minority, which I had expected as a matter of course, But my efforts were much talked of and gave me a still stronger hold on the people of Harrodsburgh as well as brought me into Genl notice which was all I expected at the time, The consequence was that I was greatly courted by the candidates--I was always open and fearless in expressing my opinions, which insured me the confidence of my friends, yet it enabled my enemies in after life to often take advantage of my candour, I was also ardent & impetuous asserting and defending my views regardless of consequences. It was the result of youth & inexperience, I thought every person I met equally candid, and of course took no pains to conceal my sentaments, I still believe I was right, yet I have often felt much annoyance and disappointment in placing confidence in the hypocritical professions of pretended friends.
I still occasionally paid attention to Miss Hamilton, and thought I had made some advances in her estimation yet I had powerful rivals to contend with, and several disagreeable events crossed my path--notwithstanding all my care, and caution, I still remained involved in my former indiscretions, through which I often thought I never could get. This often made me low spirited, and sometimes I was unsuccessful in my law cases, which to a young man of my ardent temperament, almost made me despair of final success, upon the whole this was a busy year with me, The previous year had been one of unparalelled prosperity to the farmers, in productions of all kinds which was followed by a cold and disagreeable winter with snow during the month of January 1804 followed with cold and disagreeable February and a dry summer--
The Religious excitement still continued followed with what was called the jirks (strong spasmodic excitement) dancing & falling down during sermons at N. Providence & the churches generally, This now began to excite the fears of the most intelligent preachers and the study sober portion of Society, much disputation grew out of this state of things, and eventually alid the foundation for a new Set of fanatics to build up their various sects, which it does not come within my intention to detail, my business is with myself alone and with such events as I was myself individually connected, my sole object being to leave a few Beacon lights to my descendants, by which they may avoid my errors, and at the same time see the difficulties which I have had to encounter in my Journey through life.
This year 1804 was an extremely sickly year. Geo McAffee Junr, the favorite son of my uncle James McAfee after three or four weeks of sickness departed this life on the 21st of March, he was one of natures choicest sons, and the favorite of our whole family connection, if he had lived he could have obtained almost any post he had have desired, his loss was much deplored, and all the hopes of his father seemed to have been buried with him--
I was also employed in writing Historical notes on the First Settlement of Kentucky and obtained from my uncle James McAfee an account of my ancestors and family connections which has enabled me to write these sketches. I also examined some old Forts on Salt River about four miles above Harrodsburgh on the land of my aunt Guant (then occupied by her son John) also on the land of Henry French about one mile above, there was a mound on Mr. Guants land on the west side of Salt River about ten feet high on which the timber was of the same size as in any other part of the Forest, out of which many human bones were taken and under the roots of a large Hickory tree, which had blown up, many pieces of crockery ware were found, I got one piece with the handle to it which I kept for many years, when I afterwards went to South America in 1833, I found similar crockery ware among the Indians of that country, which at least proves the same advance of the ruder arts in North America and probably by natives from teh same regions on the Eastern continents.
In October I visited my fathers old residence, and slept all night in the house which I had not done for seven year before, and made arrangements with Mr. James Cardwell (the then occupent & my future Fatherinlaw) to move to the place next spring and board with him, I agreed with him to make some changes to the home, This was the 1st day of October, and for the first time I saw my future wife not then twelve years old, I thought her a very pretty little girl, but had no farther thoughts about her as my whole prospects were in another direction. I still kept up our debating society, which was generally well attended & made considerable progress in public speaking I also wrote many fugitive pieces and my Brother being in the "Palladium" office at Frankfort, I could occasionally get my pieces published, which greatly improved my style of writing,--I also had my mind continually upon finally settling myself for life accordingly on the 25th of October again visited Miss H. intending to bring the matter to a close, but about dark a negro boy taking a candle with him to the barn to catch some chickens, for Breakfast the next morning, set the straw on fire & the whole was in a flame before we knew it and it was with several adjoining stables & stacks of grain totally consumed before we could get any help--This was a flaming damper to all my hopes, and after retiring to bed, I sincerely wished I had been a thousand miles away, as I was certainly the innocent cause of all the ruin which fell in the family I considered it a bad omen and of course could not sleep any, next morning the family received me as kindly as possible but I soon discovered that I was considered as an unfortunate visitor, I however seized the first opportunity to broach the subject of my visit, and soon discovered that my hopes were all burnt up with the Barn--we parted on friendly terms & I Started home feeling like a sailor upon the wide ocean without a chart or compass to stear I was at the end of anticipations and did not know what to do. The unlucky event soon spread and I was jeered unmercifully by my friends & my enemies rejoiced over it, I took it all patiently and in less than ten days, in company with my cousin Susan McAfee paid a visit to Mr. Abraham Irvine (who had married her sister Margaret) who lived in Washington county near where Lebanon now stands, he advised me to see Miss E. McElroy who lived near him, we went there next day and I was much pleased with her but it was not so easy as I had expected to rub Miss H. out of my heart, she had a deeper hold than I expected of course I was on a troubled ocean and felt the uncertainty of all our hopes in this world, I returned home and applied myself closely to my business as the best cure--
I visited Frankfort twice this fall in November & December to attend to my land suit & to see my brother who was sick, The Genl Assembly was in Session & I attended several days to see their proceedings. The Establishment of a Bank was much talked of, Mr. Buckner Thruston was elected to the Senate of U States on the 15th November, & at the Presidential Election for Electors a few days before, I voted For Mr. Jeffersons tickett which was the first time I exercised the Election Franchise, But at that time as I have stated before we had no division in Kentucky nearly all were democratic Republicans and the state held a high rnak in the estimation of her sister states which I hope yet to live to see her restored to--
1805--In January Miss H. came over to see her sister within a mile of my Brothers I did not call to see her for several days, but at last concluded to do so I found her as uneasy as myself, she had been influenced to expect an offer from a relation of mine whose prospects appeared better than mine and I much incensed with some of her friends, who afterwards lived to see that they had committed an egregious blunder--We however restored matters to their former state with an understanding that matters should not be pressed until we could see the times more propitious, I was young without any established character except that I was viewed as being attentive to my business, of sober and some promise as I was beginning to excite some attention, besides the uncertainty of my prospects my land suit like an incubus round my neck, if I lost it my all was gone and I would have to live upon the public breath to support me, This I candidly explained to her, and we parted once more good friends.
I now made serious preparations to move to my present residence, my native land, on the 18th of February I arrived of age, I procured a bed from my sister Forsythe, a Bookcase and bed stead from John Armstrong Esqr, and other necessaries and during the last of this month moved my Books & papers, I also sold 103 acres of land, on Hammonds creek to John Ray & T Bunton and got a good riding horse and two mares to Begin farming as I intended to cultivate it myself, and on the 2d day of March 1805 I finally moved home where I have lived to this day, I made new and solemn resolutions to pursue a correct course, and attend strictly to my business, i had a room up stairs and boarded with Mr. Jas Cardwell who was kind to me and put himself to some inconveniences to accomodate me, --My Brother Saml as guardian for my Brother John and myself now proceeded to divide the home tract of land, the house and that part of the Farm East of the west bank of Salt River fell to my part, The west side of the River to my Brother John and 78 acres in the N. E. corner of the land on the East side we completed the division and on the 8th day of March signed the agreement and executed releases on both sides, The black man Cornelius was also allotted to me, and I moved him home from Harrodsburgh and he set up a shoe makers shop in order to work at his trade.
I had now returned to the land of my Birth after being exiled for ten years and my fortunes seemed to have taken a settled course, I now had time for reflection, and to look back upon the kind dealings of Providence with me, who had conducted me through many difficulties to a place to which my heart has always been most strongly attached.
In April I was unanimously elected Capt of the company in which I resided and was commissioned soon after, which was my first election before the people, I also moved my black man & his wife from Harrodsburgh & commenced farming and worked myself in repairing my fences, I only cultivated Ten acres Mr. James Cardwell rented the Ballance of my farm, The spring was cold & wet and of course we did not succeed very well as the dry weather in June and July cut our crops very short, I had read Doctor Franklins life and had determined to follow his example in everything and keep out of debt, which was in the end a most fortunate thing for my future prospects.
Mr. Henry F. Delany soon after came to board with me and continued his studies This Circumstance with the many friends I had, as well as those who had business with me very much inconvenienced Mr. Cardwells family, and if he had not been one of the best men in this world as well as his wife he would have been tired of me, but as it was we got along extremely well--
On the 1st of June my sister Mrs. Adams called to see me, and noticed Mr. Cardwells daughter Mary (who I afterwards married) & observed to me that she was my girl & would make me a fine wife, she was then only twelve years old The remark struck me with great force at the time, which caused me to take more notice of her than I otherwise would, but I had no idea then that she was to be my wife, yet I was much pleased with her beauty, and took occasion to converse with her I was astonished at her intelligence as well as the ease with which she conversed with me, which was with as much steadiness as if she had been twenty years of age & her language seemed to be far above her age being not only correct but elegant, I soon viewed her as a being of superior order to most females I had met as she would reason & argue with me on many subjects I had supposed she had never thought of--
During this year I attended closely to my business, as well as reading with all the assiduity I could command, which soon brought me into notice I was engaged in several land suits and many criminal cases which brought me money enough to keep me easy, I still kept up my correspondence with Miss H whose friends were laboring to make another match for her--I was also involved with another young lady, whose affections had been placed on my deeply from which I could not extricate myself without wounding a heart for whom I had the highest respect, while Providence was leading me in a different way from all my calculations--I had employment for all my time in attending to my own affairs and the uncertainty which hung over my home kept me in a continual agony of mind, I attend the Franklin Circuit Court regularly where I got some business & extended my acquaintance with the world.
1806--During this year I extended my practice to Springfield Washington county where I obtained a reasonable share of practice, an amusing occurence took place during the first court I attended which I will relate, I was employed in a case between a Tailor and constable in relation to some disputed accounts and during the trial the court had great difficulty in keeping the parties silent, when the client of my opponent stepped out and soon returned with a handful of money (in silve) and laid it down on the bar before his lawyer when my client not to be out done in this way ran out & soon returned and when I rose to address the Jury he slapt down his handful of money on the bar before me, to the great amusement of the court, and Jury, but before I could lay my hands on it another gentleman of the Bar Mr. Cosby swept it off and put it in his pockett, my client looked daggers at him, and in an undertone said to him "It was not for you, and if you dont give it up I will whip you" The bystanders were convulsed with laughter & the court & Sheriff loudly commanded silence, In the meantime I went on and succeeded in the case, when the court adjourned, Mr. Cosby handed me the money, but I had some difficulty in preventing my client from making a personal attack on him--I have forgotten to say that during the winter of 1805-6 Majr Saml McCoun lived at Mr. Cardwells with me and read History and Geography, and we sat up every night until near one oclock next morning, I employed myself in reading law, and History as I was anxious to master my profession--In my Journeys to Springfield, much of my road was through the woods and on my first trip old Mr. Noah Haydon, who lived at Haydons lick S W of my house went across Chaplin with me and blazed my way with a Jack leg Pen knife our rout lay across Chaplin, about a half a mile below Brewers Mill, Then across the ridge to Trace creek and up that creek to the old Harrodsburgh road, to a Mr. Wilkinson mill below the Forks of Glenna creek, I usually staid all night at Mr. John McKittrick's, who owned part of the land upon which Macksville was afterwards built, and then crossing the Beach Fork at the mouth of Pleasant run I often rode over these Hills solitary and alone on Sunday evenings in order to be in Springfield early on Monday to court.
On the 1st of March 1806 Mr. Cardwell moved across Salt River on my Brother Johns land, leaving me alone with a small nephew of mine (Ben Nield), I had hired a black woman & a negro boy, I commenced housekeeping as a Bachelor or I might rather say "in forma pauperas" as it was in fact a poor way of living But I had determined to get a wife as soon as I could, notwithstanding I had been somewhat baffled in my prospects this far, yet I wished to be ready when ever I could find a help mate of the right kind--during this Spring in the month of April I visited Miss E. McElroy having previously seen her and being strongly solicitted to do so by my friend & relation Mr. A. Irvin and on a second visit we arranged the preliminaries rather to my surprise & next day we attended the Hardins creek (now Lebanon Presbyterian church) were the Revd Doctr Cleland then preached, I thought everything was going on smoothly, but it seems that a former suitor who had been absent for some time had on that day returned and in the evening I received a note from Miss E. M. saying that she feared we had been too precipitate and asking for further time for consideration, I was soon apprized of the real cause, my Pride was somewhat affected, but a few moments reflection reconciled me to submission as upon examining my own heart I was soon Satisfied that my affection was not as strong or as sincere as I had hoped or expected, and I returned home entirely satisfied that she was right and had acted candidly toward me, But in a few weeks her expectations were blasted as the young man was taken sick and died. The field was again open before me and I was again urged by my Friend Mr. A Irvin to return no doubt with her consent But my pride and romantic notions of love forbid my ever seriously thinking of it, and in addition to my present wife and Miss H. now began to divide my attention and I determined to take my time--
The summer of 1806 was extremely dry in the months of June and July scarcely a shower of rain until the 28th of July, which saved the corn from total destruction I had a tolerable crop which greatly discouraged me as a farmer, In June there was nearly a total Eclipse of the sun, and dust in the public road was several inches deep, the corn withered in the sun & much of the vegetation perished & many religious congregations held fast days--
This summer was famous for the excitement of Burrs supposed conspiracy to dismember the union, he had been arrested, and was to have his Trial in Frankfort, and in December I attended the courts in that place, The General court in which my land suit was then pending, Court of Appeals, The Federal court & Legislature being then in Session attracted a great crowd to Frankfort especially on account of the Trial of Col. Burr.
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Updated May 21, 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.