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Writing only months after the fall of the Confederacy, the former Alabama governor signed this handwritten letter to a business agent, discussing arrangements for his family, fighting to retain ownership of his land, and trying to resume his cotton business with "free labor" (his quotation marks). Consoling the recipient, he concludes, "we must all bear up for our families".
Autograph Letter signed: "R Chapman", 4 pages, 5¼x8¼ (integral leaf). Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1865 September 4. To "Dear Cabaniss", in full: "Yesterday I received yours of 20th instant. I send by Mr. Good and hasten to say some of what you tell me about [?] I shall not want but expect to send my children to a boarding school somewhere and have my wife either board out or live on a plantation, so make no contract for any place until you hear from us. We may all go together or I may go alone soon, leaving my family here for the present. The best thing we can do is to go to Mrs. Stanton's [?] place and try to make a cotton crop next year with 'free labor', as I shall hear soon whether is not the case. Justin Redpath left here a few days ago by which I wrote you. John [?] has charge of my Morgan Cotton that I thought Fields had sold last fall at 22 cts. in gold, but Jno. says the buyer flew from the contract so I let Jno take it. Please tell Jno. and [?] too if you can to take good care of all the cotton stored in the places. [?] must take them to his own house as fast as he goes. Without watching, everything we own will be stolen. If I can get the loan I want to plant a larger crop of cotton than most years. The account you give of the Bank was a severe blow to me. Why don't they arrange to buy in the [?]. It sells so much faster with the [?] in hand. Not a dollar exists that had not been sold. The Mobile Bank can [?[ and why not the H. Bank? I agree it is best to let well enough alone at least for the present. You say that Jo. B. had received a letter from me but don't say that has much to the point as I suggested him to do. Judge [?] who was burned in effigy for his hostility to the south was elected to the with [?] to the convention. So it goes. Albert [?] is in town from Atlanta. He called on us but I was not at home so all my searching and inquiring to find him has been without success. He told my children that a school was on the way. [?] is sick so she did not see Mr. [?]. I send this by a boy going to Florence to Dick Watkins care so I hope you will get it soon. How can some claim that my place was abandoned land when they forced me away from it? The man [?] you say wants to have my land has not been [?]. He changes his proposal every [?]. I hope he will not put himself to the bother of coming. The idea of offering after that 1st year 15 per cent of the profits, which is to say what the profits may be is rather assuming. Many R. R. charters provide that all beyond a certain per cent profit shall go to the state but I [illegible phrase] of a dollar today is that easy. Rather than leave it in any such times I shall sell at govt. prices a [?] an acre. But my plan is to have it laid out in small lots for [?] of cash and sell after I get my product. You say I ought to have gone to Washington. In past this I would have done, but could not get a dollar to travel on. My petition was sent in and I wrote to Bradley but haven't heard of [the result]. We hear a report here that the Gov. has [?] all action since forwarded on petition from this state. This they say is the consequence of a discovery of some failed banks at Montgomery. I don't believe the story, however. It is probably put out to persuade people to sell cotton. My family expects [illegible phrase] at day or two from complaining at least. We hear nothing of Judith or Dr. Reade since you wrote. I am sorry to hear of your troubles and sympathize with you. I have myself more than you know of and can tell of this soon but we must all bear up for our families so we should look to better times. Concluding, your friend etc." Reuben Chapman (1799-1882), an Alabama lawyer, owned a cotton plantation in the state's "Black Belt." He served as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives (1835-1849) and as Governor (1847-1849). Becoming governor in the wake of the failure of the state-chartered Bank of Alabama, he struggled with some success to restore fiscal solvency, but his deep suspicion of banks in general limited his ability to propose reforms. Chapman was a zealous supporter of slavery, who even argued for admission of California to the Union as a slave state. He had second thoughts in 1860, however, and sought unsuccessfully to prevent the northern and southern wings of the Democratic Party from nominating rival candidates. He was a Presidential Elector for Jefferson Davis in 1862, however. Chapman suffered greatly during the Civil War, losing a son in battle, having his plantation burned, and being briefly imprisoned. He had regained prosperity before his death, however, successfully growing cotton despite his aversion to "free labor" as expressed in this letter. Horizontal and vertical fold creases with wear holes at center intersections and intermittently along horizontal creases. Moisture smudges at upper section of page 1. Creased at corners. Otherwise, fine condition.

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Born: July 15, 1799 in Bowling Green, Caroline County, Virginia
Died: May 16, 1882 in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama

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