Jacob Bigelow (William Penn) to William Still, November 10, 1855

    Source citation
    William Still, The Underground Rail Road (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872), 180-181.
    Author (from)
    Bigelow, Jacob (William Penn)
    Date Certainty
    Zak Rosenberg
    Transcription date

    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    WASHINGTON, D. C., November 10th, 1855.

    DEAR SIR:-Doctor T. presented my card last night about half past eight which I instantly recognized. I, however, soon became suspicious, and afterwards confounded, to find the doctor using your name and the well known names of Mr. McK. and Mr. W. and yet, neither he nor I, could conjecture the object of his visit.

    The doctor is agreeable and sensible, and doubtless a true-hearted man. He seemed to see the whole matter as I did, and was embarrassed. He had nothing to propose, no information to give of the "P. Boy," or of any substitute, and seemed to want no particular information from me concerning my anxieties and perils, though I stated them to him, but found him as powerless as myself to give me relief. I had an agreeable interview with the doctor till after ten, when he left, intending to take the cars at six, as I suppose he did do, this morning.

    This morning after eight, I got your letter of the 9th, but it gives me but little enlightenment or satisfaction. You simply say that the doctor is a true man, which I cannot doubt, that you thought it best we should have an interview, and that you supposed I would meet the expenses. You informed me also that the "P. Boy" left for Richmond, on Friday, the 2d, to be gone the length of time named in your last, I must infer that to be ten days though in your last you assured me that the "P. Boy" would certainly start for this place (not Richmond) in two or three days, though the difficulty about freight might cause delay, and the whole enterprise might not be accomplished under ten days, &c., &c. That time having elapsed and I having agreed to an extra fifty dollars to ensure promptness. I have scarcely left my office since, except for my hasty meals, awaiting his arrival. You now inform me he has gone to Richmond, to be gone ten days, which will expire tomorrow, but you do not say he will return here or to Phila., or where, at the expiration of that time, and Dr. T. could tell me nothing whatever about him. Had he been able to tell me that this best plan, which I have so long rested upon, would fail, or was abandoned, I could then understand it, but he says no such thing, and you say, as you have twice before said, "ten days more."

    Now, my dear sir, after this recapitulation, can you not see that I have reason for great embarrassment? I have given assurances, both here and in New York, founded on your assurances to me, and caused my friends in the latter place great anxiety, so much that I have had no way to explain my own letters but by sending your last two to Mr. Tappan.

    I cannot doubt, I do not, but that you wish to help me, and the cause too, for which both of us have made many and large sacrifices with no hope of reward in this world. If in this case I have been very urgent since September Dr. T. can give you some of my reasons, they have not been selfish.

    The whole matter is in a nutshell. Can I, in your opinion, depend on the "P. Boy," and when?

    If he promises to come here next trip, will he come, or go to Richmond? This I think is the best way. Can I depend on it?

    Dr. T. promised to write me some explanation and give some advice, and at first I thought to await his letter, but on second thought concluded to tell you how I feel, as I have done.

    Will you answer my questions with some explicitness, and without delay? I forgot to inquire of Dr. T. who is the head of your Vigilance Committee, whom I may address concerning other and further operations? Yours very truly, WM. PENN.

    P. S. I ought to say, that I have no doubt but there were good reasons for the P. Boy's going to Richmond instead of W.; but what can they be?

    How to Cite This Page: "Jacob Bigelow (William Penn) to William Still, November 10, 1855," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/866.