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sketch of a man writing a diary
Hillbillies in the White House

The diary of James Black

1 January 1838 For a week past we had fine dry clear weather.Mrs Black in delicate health and looks ill. Sold EC Bryson and Co $1,000 worth of spirits. They say they are shipping 160 bales cotton to me, and intend doing a considerable business. I have an order today from Bryson and Millar of Glasgow for 50 bales. Taking everything into view the year opens well.

15 January Bryson and Millar's order executed, 57 bales per the ship "Lord Glenelg"; "Harriet Scott" sailed on the 13th; was attached on the bar by the Marshall, in consequence of [Trassman's?] disputed bale of cotton."The Josephine" is just arrived from Belfast; no letters for me, the last dates were 2nd November via New York.

29 January Yesterday was communion at the 2nd Presbyterian Church. I walked there with Margaret and then went to hear Mr. Gregory and Mr. Frisk, the Universalists, whose doctrine is very consolatory as they discard everlasting punishment, but believe all men will be punished in proportion to their crimes.

30 January This day remarkably fine. Dined with Jas.Lawton in his new house in Bachelor style in company with Messrs Lawton, senr. and two servants, and J Battersby. Spent a very pleasant day.In business matters with me it has been rather dull, being new in the cotton selling way more than the buying.

2 February Attended the funeral of two of Wm. Boyd's children, a third and only one died a few days ago, all of scarlatina. He is now childless; the ways of providence are past our finding out; we therefore should be thankful and adore his goodness, as all his ways are for good to them that are properly exercised thereby. I am daily settling some matters, and anxiously trying to have all complete before May.

7 February Went with Mrs Carberry, Mrs McKinzie and Margaret to see the biggest steam vessel "Neptune", Capt Ponnyoir. She is in the New York trade and seems very substantial and handsomely finished and furnished. We went afterwards to see Osiola's picture at Bakers. Saw Miss Ellen Tree also, and a very large living rattlesnake, 12 years old.

10 February Very heavy rain for two days and a smart frost last night. J Carberry has complained much of pain in his eyes for some time past, and gave up the writing part of his business three months ago, although I believe the greater part is imagination and a wish to get into some other business on his own account. And imagining he could do so without means or friends to assist him he has this day thrown up his employment, resolutely and contrary to the wish of all parties and has left his family quite destitute.

14 February Wednesday. Bleak, cold and damp, it has rained then froze alternately for eight days past. I went last night to the Medical hall to hear Dr. Irving deliver a lecture on gambling and was much pleased by his elegant manner and powerful delineation of the vice and its dreadful consequences.

16 February J. Carberry finds it more difficult to get into business than he anticipated and seems now inclined to take any fair situation which offfers. One at Bennett's Messrs, was filled up the day before he applied. An outdoor clerk is wanted at the P & Mechanics Bank, which he applied for to one of the directors who told him it was likely he would succeed.

He therefore takes it for granted that he will, without further providing although he must find security for $15,000 and when I told him that was the case and that he should first try to obtain it, he got into a violent passion, said I always thwarted him in his wishes, wished he never had seen me and the farther we were separated the better, and wished he had never come to this country!

Well Sir, I replied, no person invited you. He then got into a furious passion bounced round the table with a shoe in his hand, cocked it to my nose and swore he would knock my brains out if I would interfere with any part of his business. Fortunately I kept cool and told him he must be crazy and that I conceived a tight waistcoat would be necessary.

19 February Monday. Very fine dry weather and the Races going on briskly, a great many strangers in town. Went to the Battery this evening to see a patent rifle fired eight time from one charge; it is certainly an ingenious article. The barrel pulls off and the charge is put into eight chambers in the breech which moves round by every cocking and brings the charge opposite the barrel; the whole eight can be fired off in five seconds.

22 February Thursday. Being Washington's birthday, I went to hear Bishop England deliver an oration on the occasion at St. Finbar's before a large assemblage. Business very dull and cotton falling, 8 to 11 cents are the extremes; freight to Liverpool 7/8 [ 7 shillings 8 pence?], very few ships in port.

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Your comments

1 Aidan O'Hara from Dublin - 30 October 2003
"What a pleasure it has been to read James Black's diary. This is a quality service on the part of BBC NI, and I just wonder who puts this history section together. Might it be someone from the Ulster American Folk Park, perhaps? Anyway, it's such a joy to peruse, and I am looking forward to the next instalment of the diary. "

"Incidentally, I have been in the rather elegant Hibernian Society building (built c. 1840)in Charleston S.C. where Mr Black was a member. I was shown around the premises by a friend, Prof Arthur Mitchell of the Univ of SC, who wrote the history of the Society which was founded 1799, as far as I can recall from what he told me. I have a photo somewhere of the building, and it looks impressive - the building, I mean. I was there in 2001 researching my next book which is on the subject of the Irish in the era of the American Civil War."

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