Petroleum V. Nasby Communes with Spirits

David Ross Locke, The Struggles (Social, Financial and Political) of Petroleum V. Nasby (Boston: I. N. Richardson and Company, 1872), pp. 101-103.

The character of Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby was Locke’s satirical portrayal of a Southern-leaning “Copperhead” and sympathizer with slaveholders.  Insofar as such Northern sympathizers had a leader, he was Ohio Democratic Congressman Clement Larid Vallandigham.  Locke’s cutting depiction of the stupidity and mendacity of Copperheads was especially pleasing to Abraham Lincoln and other Northern Unionists and Abolitionists.


(Lait St. Vallandigum), December the 19th, 1863.

     I HEV bin for many years disposed to bleeve in speritooalism.  Ther is suthin pleasant in the idee uv bein in communicashen with them ez hev gone before, as it may be reznably supozed that frum their stan-pint they kin see things in a more clearer lite than we who is encumbered with clay.  Akordingly, I invited a distingisht mejum to visit my flock.  . . . A circle wuz formed, and I wuz requestid to call for the sperit uv sum wun.  Havin a few Abolishnists present, whom I wisht to enliten on politikle topics, I called for Thomas Jefferson.

    “Thomas,” sez I, “ wuz yoo the father uv Dimokriasy?”  (I use my own language, ez them old fellers wuz not alluz elegant.)

    “I WUZ.”

    “Thomas, are the party now barin the name yoor child?”

    “Not any.  It’s a mizable bastard, born uv John C. Calhoon, and that old hag, State-Rites, and a low-lived whelp it is.  My heirs is them ez supports the guverment I helpt to make.”

    “But, Thomas, wood yoo hev us support a Abolishn war for the purpus uv freein niggers?”

    The spirit rapt out with awful distinknis:

    “We hold these trooths to be self-evident, that all men is creatid ekal, and endoud with certing inalianable rites, among wich is life, liberty—”

    At this pint I stopt the mejum.  I knew the sperit wuz not Thomas Jefferson, but a imposter, hevin heerd a Abolishin preecher use the same language at a 4th uv July celebrashen.  I then called Androo Jaxon, who respondid.

    “Androo,” sez I, “woodent yoo like to be back on earth, jist now?”

    “Yoo kin bet I wood,” retortid he.  “I’d like to hev bin President in the place uv that old, white-livered, black-cockade Fedralist, Bookannon.  Wat a hangin ther wood hev bin!  Ther wood hev bin vacancies in Congris, and jest ez many funerals ez ther wuz vacancies.  As for South Carliny—”

    The communicashen ceased, and I heerd a sound like the grittin uv teeth.  It resoomed:

    “I’d string up Vallandigum, and Fernandywood, and Sammedary, et settry.  It wood be a bad old joke on them indivijuels ef I hed control of the habis corpus; I’d—”

    I refoozed to hear further.  This sperit wuz, also, ondoubtedly a imposter.  I called for Benton, who merely sed that Missoury wuz comin to her senses in gittin rid uv slavery; and for Duglis, who remarkt that he cood say uv the temple uv Dimokrasy ez the Savior sed of the temple, “My house is cald a house of prayr, but ye hev made it a den of theeves;” both of whom wuz onquestionably imposters.  Another sperit (probably of a deceest Ablishnist) sed that Benedict Arnold and Judis Iscariot hadent bin on speekin terms for sum time, Iscariot hevin called Arnold a copperhead.  Arnold sed he’d never stand that.

    Duglis cum back, and sed he had jest wun word to say.  “The Dimekratik party wuz wunst grate but it had got into bad hands, and gone crazy as a drunken bed-bug.  It needed new managers—men uv suffishent sense and honesty to run the party on old principles.  In the old hands, it wuz a patriotic party—a party that wuz alluz for the country.  It whaled the British in 1812, and afterwards nockt the hind sites off uv the old Fedral party for opposin it.  It smasht Mexico, and afterwards smasht the Whig party for not helpin.  Now, for the Dimokrasy to oppose a war agin rebels who not only commenst it, but hed actooally bustid the party itself, is loonacy unekaled in the history uv the world.  Squelch them tuppenny pollytishns who hev thieved the mantels wunst worn by Jaxon and Benton (they look in em jest about as well as a orgin grinder’s monky wood in a soljer’s overcoat, and fill em jest as much), get on to a war platform, and—”

    I didn’t care about persooin my investigashens enny further, pertikelerly ez the Abolishnists wuz all a snickrin.  It’s my privit opinion that ther’s nothin reliable about it.  Hed the sperits bin reely them uv Jefferson, Jaxon, and sich, they woodent hev talkt so much undilootid niggerism.  However, it did me very well.  The mejum took up a colleckshun uv six dollars, wich, by a singler coincidence, was the eggsact amount I hed intendid to charge him for the use uv my church.  He grumbled, but finally sheld out.  I am now warin a new pare uv pants.

Paster uv sed Church, in charge.

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