Letter dated at Smyrna, Turkey, September 28, 1815, from David Offley, to his sister, Mrs. Mary Offley, at Philadelphia, Pa.
The writer of this letter, David Offley, (1779-1838), was born in Philadelphia; He served as 1st Lieutenant in the 10th U.S. Infantry, at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., 1798-1800; Established the first American commercial firm in Turkey, at Smyrna in 1811, and was the chief U.S. merchant in Turkey; U.S. Commercial Agent to Turkey; Negotiated the first U.S.-Turkey commercial treaty in 1830, and in 1832, was appointed by President Andrew Jackson, 1st U.S. Consul at Smyrna.
The content includes that not many ships from the U.S. have arrived at Smyrna since the Peace was declared (the treaty ending the War of 1812), and the great length of time it takes for letters from the U.S. to reach him; Writes of his business prospects, and his having established a business to ship wine, and his feeling that it is his destiny to remain in Smyrna for a long time (in fact, he stayed there until his death 23 years after this letter was written). He also writes that he is anxious for 2 of his sons, Richard & David, to come from the U.S. and join him in Turkey, and his plans to set them up in business. Of his 3rd son, Holmes, he encourages him to remain in the U.S. and pursue his intention of learning to become a farmer, but if he changes his mind and wants to be a merchant, he would be happy for him to come to Smyrna as well
“Your kind & affectionate letter of October last, came only to hand last month, and notwithstanding the frequent arrivals at almost every port in the Mediterranean, I have no letters from Philadelphia later than March. I am however, well convinced that no fault rests with my dear Sister. The last letter I wrote was by Mr. Hazard, and which I presume will not be received long before this.
I still remain in the same opinion that my destiny is to remain some years longer in this Country, for on every consideration, I know of no place where my interests would be more advanced than here. I wait most anxiously to hear from you an answer to my letters of December & January last, wherein I requested my dear sons, Richard & David, might be sent to me. Indeed, I begin almost to look for them with impatience... what a joyful moment it will be to me when they arrive. My dear Holmes, who I hope always remains in the disposition to become a farmer, I hope may be placed with our brother... If however, he changes his mind and inclines to be a merchant, I shall then send for him to be brought up in my counting house. My dear little daughter can be in no place so much to my satisfaction as where she now is. All this I have repeated in every letter I have wrote since last December, in case my letters may be lost.
We have only had one vessel to our address since the peace, but I am in hopes now that all difficulty appears removed; that our business may revive, and that when Richard shall be of an age suitable to leave here, that I may be able to furnish him a good Capital, and return home with the means of enjoying, if possible, some peace in my old days. This is my wish, but I know too well the uncertainty of this world to say this is the plan from which I shall not vary.
I have lately established in this place, a house for the commerce in wine, and which at this moment holds out most flattering prospects. I trust by next Summer I shall have some cargoes ready to ship to Philadelphia, & should they succeed according to what I call most moderate calculations, I shall not require many years to enable me to purchase the long contemplated farm in our corner, of which I yet hope to lay my bones.
Mr. Hazard, who by this time I hope you have become well acquainted, will inform you the dull life I lead in this place. My family still consists of myself, servant, & an old cat, so that when at evening I return home, it may be truly said I have retired. I promise myself great pleasure in the company of my dear boys, & do not despair of seeing them... next month. When they come, I shall add two chambers & a House Keeper to my establishment.
I have had some thought of breaking up housekeeping, and accepting an invitation I have had from a most agreeeable family to reside with them, and where my children would have the opportunity of being in the best company the place affords. But on reflection, I have thought it would better suit my temper to command my servant & old cat, than to be in any manner dependant on the will of others.
I think much of you, my dear sister, and fear my determination to remain here will not be pleasing to you, but what can I do. I am not able to retire from business in justice to my children, and as a merchant, there is no place where my prospects would be so good as here. Then, let me ask you candidly, ought I not to stay. I have a few (very few indeed) friends who I wish to see. Was it not for them, what inducement have I to live in America. Certainly the recollections which Philadelphia must always present to my mind are not of the kind to add to my tranquility or happiness.
Kiss my dear children for me, and tell them never to cease loving me. My dear darling little girl, do not let her forget me...
I have put off writing this letter until too late. They now wait for it, or I would tear it up ten thousand times, it says so little of what I think; so much is so illy expressed...”