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As US Minister to the Ottoman Empire, the former US and Mexican naval commander sends a letter to his daughter, contrasting the literacy and knowledge of American women with their Turkish counterparts.

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As US Minister to the Ottoman Empire, the former US and Mexican naval commander sends a letter to his daughter, contrasting the literacy and knowledge of American women with their Turkish counterparts.
Autograph Letter signed: "David Porter", 4 pages (front and verso, integral leaf), 17½x11. San Stefano (Turkey), 1835 January 10. To "My dearly beloved Daughter", in full: "I cannot express to you how much pleasure it gives me always when I receive a letter from you and although I always intend to be punctual in answering you, have not at all times the health and the time from my other other necessary official activities to enable me to do as I might wish. I see from your letter that you are now a young lady, and I miss that you write with all the respect and consideration of one. It may be your age and [?], I can only judge of you at this distance by your mind and improvements in writing and be judged by me here in Turkey as well by the letters from you as if you stood before me. As to your appearance I can only judge of it from my recollections of what it was when I left home which my dear daughter is a long time ago, and then you were a little girl scarcely knowing how to write, making rag babies and [?]. Don't you remember when I laughed at you when you were running about from house to house selling tickets at a fin a ticket as earnestly as if you were going to make all our fortunes by them. I see by your letters that you are not doing so now, and you think it is now more important to improve your mind than to try to make your fortune by a pin lottery. When I was a very little boy, I used to do the same thing, and found pin lotteries and play much better than I found my books and I suppose that all little boys and girls do the same now, for as far as I can remember and trace back, the amusements of boys and girls have always been the same as I suppose they are now in America. Here in Turkey the boys spin tops, play marbles, pitch pennies, run and do all that boys used to do in America. They also fly kites, shoot arrows and do many other things as we boys used to do many years ago. Little girls play with dolls, and when they get large enough try to get a little baby to carry about, as a matter to dress up. They also make baby [?] with bits of china, looking grand & ae fond of getting a great many others together, and acting what they call Harem, for the ladies of this country are not like ours. They have a part of the house to themselves, where the men do not go, and when they remain there among friends. This part of the house is called the Harem as all of the family are -when the ladies of a Turkish family are spoken of they are called collectively Harem. So the little girls too, when they play tea party are among company, they call it playing Harem. I don't mean harum scarum, as some of our young used to do for the Turks whether your or old are always sedate and dignified and the ladies are fond of remaining with their own family in the Harem, and not running about with the their faces uncovered as Americans are told to do, for I suppose they have not much changed since I left America. Here the ladies are all covered up except their eyes, and you cannot tell by looking at them whether they are old or young, for they think it very immoral to uncover the face, but any young ladies whom I meet at home, did not care how much of this they showed. And our ladies have this advantage over those of Turkey. They are generally well educated and have this much learned to obtain by reading and instruction general knowledge of things and countries and people. But the Turkish ladies only learn to read a few passages of the Koran, which is their Bible, and few from this country know how to write. They know no country but Turkey, they do not know even the name of ours, and their chief delight instead of improving their minds so that they may shine is simply to dress themselves up in fine clothes, and load themselves with diamonds so that they may shine among their friends, in the Harem, as ignorant as themselves. The ladies in Turkey do as the little girls do with us. They play Harem, but don't do as ours learned to do, play harum scarum. They cannot do as you and I are doing now, with one another all the way over the sea of Marmora, across the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. They don't know the distance or the names of the seas which our letters have do go over. Some of them know may have heard of the Yena Duma, the 'New World' but they do not know when it was discovered, who it was discovered by, or where it is. They do not know whether it is on the same planet with Turkey, or forms a planet by itself, like the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Etc. But there is not a little girl in America but what knows better. They can tell the names of the different seas and oceans, and where they are to be found on the globe. The History of America, its situation, and distance from Turkey. Many of them can tell the history of the different nations, their manners and customs, the geography of the different countries, and without going out of the house can describe better sometimes than those who have traveled over them, and this they can do by books and knowing how to read. How much pleasure then an American lady can enjoy more than a Turkish whose knowledge is confined to the Harem and whose pleasure consists in dress, the loss of which makes them miserable, but when a lady has received instruction she has a consolation which no misfortune [?] her clothes may be destroyed and all her diamonds stolen, but remains by her as long as she lives and can never be taken from her. In the uncultured state of the minds of Turkish ladies besides missing letters, with very little instruction [?] mention of them. I send you a scrap which I have just now cut out and which no doubt will amuse you. It is the fable of the Pebble and the Acorrn. The pebble is the Turkish lady and the American the acorn. Give my love to your mama, grand mama and aunt and your little brothers and sisters. And all my friends and remember me to them when opportunity presents. [Signature] I have promised to write to Hamilton, but I cannot get through more than one letter at a time. Tomorrow or next day will be his turn, when Bud can write me a letter his turn will come next - and as soon as I learn your little sister can read I shall write to her." During the War of 1812, David Porter (1780-1843, born in Boston, Massachusetts) commanded the Essex, which became the first U.S. naval vessel in the Pacific. Commodore Porter was Commander in Chief of the West Indian squadron, charged with suppressing piracy (1823-1825). He was court-martialed and suspended from duty for retaliatory action against Spanish authorities in Puerto Rico (1825-1826). He served as Commander in Chief of the Mexican Navy from 1826 to 1829. Porter served as US Consul General in Algiers (1830-1831), Chargé d'Affaires to the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey), 1831-1839 and US Minister to Turkey, 1839-1843, dying in Istanbul. (San Stefano, from which he sent this letter, is a seaside resort - today a suburb - near Istanbul.) Porter had ten children, including David Dixon Porter and, by adoption David Farragut. Both these sons became admirals - and US naval heroes - during the Civil War. This touching letter shows David Porter taking equal pride in his daughters, and in celebrating the literacy and educational attainments of American women. Porter's signature on this personal letter does not much resemble the ornate signature, with flourishes, which he used to signed official documents and financial papers, but the context leaves no doubt that this letter is in Porter's hand. Two horizontal folds. ½x¼-inch hole at lower half of pages 1 and 2. 1x½-inch hole at lower half of pages 3 and 4 (not affecting signature). Lightly toned. Lightly worn. Slightly creased. Otherwise, fine condition.

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