William Cumming letter to Thomas Aspinwall

William Cumming letter to Thomas Aspinwall

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Cumming, William Clay, 1788-1863
Title: William Cumming letter to Thomas Aspinwall
Dates: 1819 April 3
Quantity: 0.03 Linear feet (1 folder; housed with minor collections MS 1545 to MS 1550)
Coll. Number: ms1546(m)

Biographical/Historical Note

The town of Cumming (incorporated 1834) is named in honor of Col. William Cumming, distinguished Georgia, born July 27, 1788, son of Thomas Cumming and Ann Clay, daughter of Joseph Clay, of Savannah. William Cumming graduated from the College of New Jersey at Princeton and studied law at Gould's Law School, Litchfield, Connecticut. The War of 1812 brought him military prominence. Captain of the Augusta Independent Blues in 1812, he was commissioned Major, U.S.A., in 1813, and appointed Adjutant General of the Northern Army the following year with the rank of Colonel. In 1815, however, he resigned from the Army and the Board of War, on which he served. Although in 1818 he was appointed Quartermaster General of the Army by President Monroe and, in 1847, Major General by President Polk, he declined both appointments and spent the remainder of his life in Augusta, where he died February 18, 1863. GeorgiaInfo - William Cumming State Historical Marker http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gahistmarkers/cumminghistmarker.htm (Retrieved March 31, 2009)

Thomas Aspinwall was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, May 23, 1786. He was the third son of Dr. William Aspinwall and Susanna Gardner. The former was a prominent physician who became especially noted for his successful use of innoculation against small pox. The latter's father was Isaac Gardner, who was killed in the battle of Lexington in 1775. Aspinwall received his early education at a local school; he later attended the Leicester Academy from which he was graduated at the age of fifteen. He entered Harvard College the same year (1801), graduating with honors in 1804. On completion of his formal education, Aspinwall entered the law office of William Sullivan, and subsequently became a partner. He later opened his own firm and continued in practice until the outbreak of the War of 1812, at which time he gave up his profession and tendered his services to the government. During the War of 1812, Aspinwall was immediately appointed (March 12, 1812) as a major in the Ninth Regiment of U.S. Infantry due to his previous experience as adjutant of the Independent Cadets. On March 12, 1813, he served as lieutenant colonel in the Fifteenth Infantry, and was transferred back to the Ninth Infantry on September 29, the same year. He was brevetted lieutenant-colonel and afterward made colonel for distinguished service during the repulse of the British attack on Sackett's Harbor in May 1813. Throughout the campaign he was frequently in command of the brigade to which his regiment was attached. On September 17, 1814, in the memorable sortie from Fort Erie led by Brigadier General Jacob Brown, Colonel Aspinwall was severely wounded and consequently lost an arm. He received an honorable discharge on June 15, 1815. At the end of the war, Aspinwall was offered the position of inspector general; however, he preferred to return to civil service, and in May 1815, the position being vacant, he was appointed consul to London by President James Madison. He held this office until his removal by President Franklin Pierce in 1953. So keenly did this affect him, that Aspinwall incorporated the circumstance in his will. His tenure as consul was longer than that of any other consul except that of James Maury, U.S. consul to Liverpool, who was appointed by George Washington (c.1789) and removed by Andrew Jackson forty years later. Three years before his death, Colonel Aspinwall suffered a severe attack of paralysis from which he never recovered. He died in Boston, August 11, 1876, at the age of ninety-one. He was buried in the Walnut Hill Cemetery in his native town of Brookline. Georgetown University - Thomas Aspinwall Papers http://library.georgetown.edu/dept/speccoll/cl127.htm (Retrieved March 31, 2009)

Henry Cumming, a lifelong resident of Augusta, was actively involved in the legal, social, and economic affairs of that city during the antebellum period. He is perhaps best known for conceiving of, and promoting, the construction of the Augusta Canal, which became a reality in 1846. Henry Harford Cumming was born in 1799 to Ann Clay and Thomas Cumming. His was a prominent and accomplished Georgia family. His father, Thomas, served as Augusta's first mayor after the city's incorporation in 1798. Henry was the grandson of Joseph Clay of Savannah, a member of the Continental Congress and a former deputy paymaster general for the Continental Army during the American Revolution (1775-83). Additionally Cumming's brother, Alfred, served as mayor of Augusta and as the first non-Mormon governor of the Utah Territory. Another brother, William, was offered the position of quartermaster general of the U.S. Army twice, in 1818 and 1847, and gained national notoriety when he fought two politically motivated duels with George McDuffie in 1822. Henry Cumming himself was appointed by John Forsyth, the U.S. minister to Spain, as an attache� for the American legation to that country, although he never took up the post. He married Julia Bryan of Hancock County. Cumming envisioned the canal as a solution to the economic downturn of the 1840s, which affected Augusta and the South. Located at the headwaters of the Savannah River, Augusta had been for years an important commercial and market center for the rich cotton lands surrounding the city. The collapse of cotton prices with the depression of 1837 left Augusta in precarious economic shape. Cumming believed that the power provided by a canal would enable Augusta to develop a manufacturing base and diversify the city's economy. It would also enable the city to compete with northern industry. Augusta would become, in his view, the "Lowell of the South," a reference to the noted Massachusetts industrial center. Although interested in Augusta's commercial condition, and engaged in a number of business pursuits, Cumming was by profession an attorney. He began practicing law in 1822 in partnership with George W. Crawford, a future governor of Georgia and secretary of war under U.S. president Zachary Taylor. Cumming's civil activities, of which the canal was the most notable, were propelled by a strong sense of civic duty. His ability to persuade others rested, in part, on his considerable standing in the community. As an old Whig, Cumming did not favor Georgia's immediate secession upon U.S. president Abraham Lincoln's election. He did support the Confederacy once Georgia left the Union, yet, at the end of the war, Cumming recognized that sectional divisions had to be healed. Accordingly he assisted in writing public resolutions that offered loyalty to the new government, expressed dismay at Lincoln's assassination, and thanked occupying troops for maintaining good relations with Augustans. He died in 1866. New Georgia Encyclopedia - Henry Cumming (1799-1866) http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge (Retrieved March 31, 2009)

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of a letter written by William Cumming, a soldier in the war of 1812 and trained as a lawyer, to his war comrade Thomas Aspinwall, U.S. Consul at London, 3 April 1819. Basically a letter of introduction for his brother Henry Cumming, he discusses Aspinwall's appointment as U.S. Consul.

Index Terms

Aspinwall, Thomas, 1786-1876 -- Correspondence
Consuls--United States--Correspondence.
Cumming, Henry H., (Henry Harford), 1799-1866
Cumming, William Clay, 1788-1863 -- Correspondence
United States--Officials and employees--Selection and appointment.

General Notes

Related collections held by Georgetown University Special Collections: Thomas Aspinwall Papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

William Cumming letter to Thomas Aspinwall. MS 1546. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

11Letter, 1819 April 3