James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Jonathan Wright, Dublin



Permission to publish from the Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Dublin


University of Galway





Number of pages



Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Dublin


James Jenkinson Wright


Portfolio 35X_L37






James Jenkinson


James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Jonathan Wright, Dublin


Kerby A. Miller, Patricia Miller


James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Jonathan Wright, Dublin


Santiago de Cuba July 8th, 1842
My dear Cousin Jonathan,
I received thy very acceptable favor of May 22nd on the 2nd present and I lose no time in replying that I may thereby prove, if proof be necessary how interesting your advices are felt by me, and because I am following up the plan of forwarding my letters, by the vessels employed in the copper ore trade hence, to Swansea, so as to save postage, but which involves more time for miscarriage.
You ask me, what sort of a man is Doctor Madden? and in reply, I forward by the same conveyance that this letter goes by, under a blank cover, but enclosed with which I really intended to have placed my epistle, only that in trying how it would fold best, I got so compactly sealed that I thought it was a pity to undo it, - a pamphlet in which the American consul at Havana handles the subject for Mr. Trist is an honorable man, I believe incapable of telling a lie, a toned Virginian, formerly private secretary of General Jackson, President of the United States, who nominated him to that office, and he has been fully acquitted even by his political opponents, of the aspersions cast upon him by a malign unworthy clique, Mr. Trist has permitted his indignation to lead him into language not exactly diplomatic, it is not on that account - the less worthy of credit, - and I entirely unite with him in his opinion of Madden, than whom and his bosom friend Turnbull the late British consul at Havana latterly dismissed from office by Lord Aberdeen, no two more noxious individuals ever were resident of this Island, they have both done all they could to introduce
discord and strife into our happy and tranquil country and Turnbull has published a book full of known lies and misstatements upon us, indeed some of my friends compelled him to a palinode in print, as soon as he found himself involved in a hostile correspondence with them, and I have little doubt but what Madden will pursue a like course in order to replenish his purse, and that his work will be as little entitled to credit as that of his friend, who except as regards the statistics compiled from others, filled it with a tissue either of woeful ignorance or sheer and wilful prevarications.
The information relative to the affair which you mention in the commencement of your letter was very consolatory to me, as I sympathized truly in the matter, I observe with interest all you say of family affairs, and regret the deterioration in worldly affairs of the Knott branch, well do I remember the broad brimmed hat, and the present made by uncle to my brothers and myself of one each, on some memorable occasion, and the coaxing tone with which he asked me, when patting me like a good boy on the back. "Wont thee have thine cocked James?" I think Aunt Martha's removal to Thomas Street a prudent determination she is getting too advanced in life to reside so far away from you all God grant her a long continuance of life and health.
I have not heard a syllable from Ohio of the two sad accidents which you mention as having happened to brother Nehemiah and you have filled me with alarm and anxiety for I have had no letter from him since 31st October last past, although I have written him in reply in December, and subsequently in February, March and May, and I have since the receipt of
yours before me addressed him and father as well as brother Benjamin in order to ensure an answer from some one of them for it is harassing to the mind to remain in doubt upon such serious and grave objects.
The failure of the Boston firm of one of our special partners which does not however commit our Cuba affairs for a penny, but detains him in the States longer than he expected, and the indisposition of the wife of another in France preventing his presence here as early as required, will most probably make it too late in the season for me to leave here this winter, after the dissolution the actual firm here by limitation on the first of October next, so that it is now likely that I shall not leave this before the month of March or April 1843 and that then I shall proceed to Ohio by the way of New Orleans, and by steam boat up the River Mississippi and Ohio to Belmont, thus you will have quite sufficient time for some more communications before I start.
Your observations relative to the stem of our genealogical tree has awakened a desire on my part to endeavour to have it traced, so as to prove if it be practicable whether your assumption of our being the descendants of the Wrights of "Burton upon Swale, Yorkshire” be correct or otherwise, and I have written to my father thus
"Jonathan appears to be engaged in an endeavour to trace our family
'up to by gone times for he says to me"
- here follows verbatim all you state about it and then I proceed to observe -
"now the facts of
"the case are these John and Christopher Wright brothers were Catholics the former was an adherent of the Earl of Essex and escaped the block
"when the Earl fell, and he the said Wright was acknowledged as the
"most famous swordsman of his day, and a chief amongst what was
"called the Spanish Catholic party in England, and was shortly after
"the accession of James the first, despatched as envoy to the court of Spain
"by that party in order to solicit aid, with the view of attempting to dethrone
"James and to establish a catholic dynasty, having failed in this object
"he was the third person who joined Catesby in the gunpowder plot,
"as the only resource left to those of his religion against the unmitigated
"persecution under which they groaned, contrary to the repeated pledges
"of James before he was declared King, to the heads of that religion, and
"he was subsequently joined in the conspiracy by his brother Christopher
"and upon the discovery of the plot, both brothers retired along with
"other chiefs thereof and about eighty followers well mounted and
"armed to Holbeach house, the residence of Stephen Littleton, where believing
“themselves a match for the tumultary host of their adversaries,
"they determined to give them battle under the persuasion that a victory
"in the circumstances would add to their numbers, but unfortunately for
"them, during their preparations for battle, a spark of fire accidentally
"communicated to their store of powder, by which Catesby and some
"others of the chiefs and followers were severely injured, and the majority
“of the followers took advantage of the confusion to make their escape,
"the two Wrights remained faithful, and when the house was surrounded
“a haughty defiance was returned to the summons to surrender,
"and they both fell mortally wounded sword in hand in the courtyard together
"with Catesby and Percy, from the fire of the assailants : so that if
"Jonathan mentioning that "one sufferd" meant to convey the idea
"that either of them met their fate on the scaffold, I believe him to be
"decidedly in error, and I shall say so to him in my next, for I dislike
"that he should go astray, under the impression that he, whom he believes to
"have been our progenitor came to a like end. I feel desirous notwithstanding
"the gunpowder treason, to trace our family up to the said John Wright, because
"amongst other reasons, he was an active partisan and chief of the Spanish
"catholic party, and commissioned by them as an envoy to the Court of
"Spain circumstances favourable to me as a subject and resident of Spanish
“dominion, and as you furnished me with a genealogical tree of
" our family from my grandfather downwards, during my visit to Ohio
"in 1833 and I remember that you asked me at the same time, whether I wished
"you to ascend any higher? but I did not, as my only wish then was, to have
"before me the actual state of its existing members, but I now appeal
"to you with a different object on view, that of exploring and clearing up
"the misty past, and to try in conjunction with cousin Jonathan, if the chase
"of which he speaks of, can be filled up and made legible, for I really believe
"that he has got hold of the right link of the chain on the other side of it
“for what more likely than, that some of the family of that notable John
"under the then afflictive persecution of the catholics, generally in
"England, and naturally of his relations in particular, should have
"fled to catholic Ireland for refuge, his sons for example, and that
"they were driven to the concealment of the stock from which they sprout
"by a very rational fear of pursuit and discovery, but retaining the
"ancient family predilection for the Christian name of their unfortunate
"ancestor. Do now, call in uncle William to your aid, and give me
"all the information that you can, stating the name of your own grandfather,
“with every particular that you know about him and his
"together with all and every tradition of his ancestors, for what
"may appear the smallest atom of facts, may be the lost link of the
"dissevered chain, the mutilated or erased page of the old scroll may
"be made plain by some apparently trifling event relative to any of
"our forefathers, add also all that you know by record or tradition
"about Ballinclay and of the change of the family religion from catholicism
"to quakerism etc. etc. etc., and over and above all whatever in any way
"may have reached you as regards the immigration of the family into
" Ireland, by all which I shall truly be much interested for I feel
"great faith in Jonathan's antiquarian acumen and perseverance not
"permitting his research to be in vain, but that he will finally get at the
"thruth though it be hid in a well,"
“read all that I say to uncle William,
“I feel confident that it will stimulate his memory to call old
"stories and tradition to mind."
You will probably be surprised dear Jonathan, to find that you have struck a chord, to which my feelings vibrate so keenly, but really I have a warm desire to induce you to follow up with industry and perseverance the trail of our geneology [sic], refer to Lingard's England for in it you will find reference made to many books and documents, relative to matters in which the Wrights especially John was interested, and probably in some of them, the flight of his family may be recorded ,refer to the documents and leases relative to Ballinclay as well as those in the possession of the family as in the public archives examine relative to the admission of the first member of the family who joined the Society of the Friends, perhaps the record thereof may still exist, and may explain something of the position and the whereabouts of the individual, and give you a trace of the Parish that he belonged to, thus enabling you to refer to the records thereof for his birth or marriage and should this have been our great grandfather, his birth with names of parents would bring you within 60 or 70 years of the period of the gunpowder plot, - while engaged in the foregoing or any other researches tracing up the stream of time, I would recommend and do not think there would be any presumption or impropriety in it,
your addressing the existing heads of the family of Wrights of Burton upon Swale Yorkshire advising them of your pursuit, and soliciting from them every information possible upon all the incidents bearing upon or about the period that you have reason to suppose the emigration from England may have taken place thus endeavouring to trace downwards from the source to join the chain of evidence in working up, and I think you might state when soliciting their aid towards your exertions, that the matter was being attempted to be carried out at my request stating my position to them if they should be at all aristocratic in their notions, for example that I am a Spanish subject, without exaggeration the oldest and first Mercantile house in a city of 40,000 inhabitants, the metropolis of a province of 250,000, where I have been both United States and British Consul, enjoying the confidence of my own government, with titles within my reach should I think proper to attain them, what you may say however must be governed by your own idea of what is meet and proper. Now it is very evident that you cannot personally give yourself up to the engrossing nature of such exploring as may be necessary, and it is but just that I should pay every fraction of whatever expense may be incurred from the largest to the smallest item, and I am very willing indeed to do so, in fact I should be well satisfied to pay £100 say One hundred pounds sterling even to prove that nothing can be proved, and even £200 Stg say Two hundred pounds sterling to establish the positive identity of our family with the stem which you imagine it proceeds from, or indeed with any other, so as to clear away all doubt as to our origin, You must of course employ some person or persons to carry out your examination and inquiries, try to get for principal some one of antiquarian gusto
of a plodding persevering character and of a clear head and I doubt not that you will reach the source of the Nile, and keep from the start a regular note of all expences beginning with the postage of this letter for I have now determined to forward it by the mail steamer that is now signalled as coming into port on her way to England, but the pamphlet will be despatched as mentioned by first merchant vessel to Swansea.
I embrace your offer with thanks of sending me a copy of the crest which you obtained from the Heralds office in London, and if you could have it engraved in steel, and enclosed to me in a letter, so much the more acceptable would it be, for we have no engraver here, and I should like to have it, so as to make of it a nice natty seal, for which object it ought not be too large, for a crest seal is generally of then small size you could send it by way of Swansea, but your reply to the present had better come by mail, and as soon as you advise me therein that you will commence the geneological [sic] quest, I will transmit you a small draft on London to meet expences as they arise postage etc. etc., and you will please to say to me the number of your store in Christ Church place for it has escaped me.
All parties are tranquil in the Island and likely to remain so all the difficulties with steamers in the Havana arose from the evil disposition of Consul Turnbull, here where we are their agents every facility has always been extended towards them by our authorities.
Remember me affectionately to Aunt Martha, your father and brother and relatives & believe me
Sincerely your loving cousin
James J. Wright



List of contributors

Kerby A. Miller
Patricia Miller
Giselle Gonzalez Garcia
Margaret Brohony
Cristian Sanchez


James Jenkinson Wright
Martha Wright
Jonathan Wright


Sophie Estate, Santiago de Cuba
New York City, United States
Dublin, Ireland

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