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Love and Reconstruction?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's not often that you see a member of Congress referred to in an otherwise romantic (if perhaps slightly pompous?) matrimonial advertisement - or indeed, any matrimonial advertisement at all. But I aim to please, so here you are:

This should be pretty legible, but in case you can't make it out, it reads:

To the lady who wants a husband. - Having been from infancy a great admirer of the many virtues of the female sex, and being conscious of the felicity and happiness which would arise from a union with one of these peace-giving creatures, I sign myself a wife-seeker, but not a fortune-seeker, for instead of money, I desire the peace and bliss which wealth, with a wife, gives. As for land, I don't know about that until old Thad. stops speaking. Should any lady's idea of happiness correspond, address A.H. Wharncliffe, Brooklyn, Halifax County, Va.

Brilliant though I may be, I did not immediately think, "'Old Thad.'! Obviously he is referring to the famous Republican Congressmen Thaddeus Stevens who was instrumental in designing and enforcing Radical Reconstruction after the American Civil War!" But doing a Google search for "Old Thad." was far more productive than the one I did for Mrs. Candle and I am going with this one. It does make a certain amount of twisted sense in this context; A.H. Wharncliffe lived in Virginia (part of the Confederacy during the Civil War), and this ad was printed right when Radical Reconstruction began. Perhaps A.H. was a Confederate landowner whose property had been confiscated, or maybe he was hoping to get ahold of some land during the chaos - I don't know. If his landownership was at stake, it hardly seems like the right time to start courting.

Whatever was going on, I can't think why you would ever put this into an ad. I mean, if you look at Stevens' picture, he's hardly got a face that would get the ladies swooning. The tone doesn't even match the rest of the text; it starts out all romantic and stuff, and then suddenly veers into dry humor. It's almost as if the typesetter for the newspaper was a loyal Unionist and seeing that the author of this ad lived in Virginia, he threw in the last line as a prank. But this seems like a pretty lame prank.

And as an aside, he says he's not a fortune-seeker, but then claims that he wants the peace and bliss and blah, blah, blah that "wealth, with a wife, brings." Does he mean his own wealth? Or is this a very poorly stated desire that he actually does want a wealthy wife but is trying to pretend like it's just to increase their happiness - not for his own sake?

Man, this guy was weird.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Matt August 20, 2009 at 7:17 PM  

Hmmm... perhaps he's looking for a lady with compatible political commitments? I mean, instead of saying "the South Shall Rise AGAIN!" which would have been politically dangerous, maybe he was looking for someone who also thought that Thad Stevens tended to run off at the mouth.

Pam August 20, 2009 at 10:46 PM  

Maybe...somehow it seems like there must have been a better way to convey that without bringing in Stevens, you know?

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