Archive for August, 2013

On page 22 of The Chetwynd Chronicles it was noted that a brouhaha had erupted amongst the colonists over a February 4, 1886, article in the New York Herald about Granville Chetwynd-Stapylton and his practices, that they found quite offensive. Until today I could not find the article. It was worse than I ever imagined.

Apparently the Herald sent an unidentified correspondent to London to investigate Florida land companies there. Hence multiple headlines: FLORIDA FRAUDS; Investigating the Land Companies in London; YOUNG ENGLISHMEN ENTICED; Dupes Made to Pay Bonuses for Working as Farm Hands, etc. Two paragraphs into the article the onslaught begins.

“I was asked to call attention to the proceedings of a “pecksniffian” speculator named Stapleton, residing in or near Putnam county. Stapleton is the son of an English canon of unimpeachable respectability, and seems to have traded on the prestige attaching to his clerical connections. I am assured he had long been in the habit of enticing young Englishmen to Florida on the pretense of ‘teaching them farming.’ Once in his clutches, he sets them to do work as common farm hands, for which, instead of receiving wages, they have to pay a bonus of $400 or $500 per annum. Finally Stapleton unloads himself of his less desirable lots, for which he extracts his prices from these persons.”

Three days after publication Hugh S. Budd wrote to the Herald from Gardenia, Sumter county, Fla, “There is a paragraph which appears to refer to my partner, Mr. G. Chetwynd-Staplyton. . .” Budd, of course, went on to dispute the allegations as did 34 signees to their own letter to the newspaper.

After interviewing Stapylton’s agent the following month and perusing a prospectus, the Herald proclaimed,“the unvarnished truth is given.” But darn it! No apologies given for the pecksniffian barb?

Word of the day: pecksniffian, hypocritically benevolent; sanctimonious, selfish. The word derives from a Charles Dickens character, Seth Pecksniff, in his novel, Marvin Chuzzlenutt .

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