Thomas Beale Treasure...Some Anachronisms in the January 4, 1822 Beale Letter.
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When James B. Ward published THE BEALE PAPERS in 1885, first revealing the Beale codes to the world, he included copies of three letters dated 1822, addressed to Robert Morriss and purported to be signed by Thomas Jefferson Beale. These letters were provided in support of the story of the Beale codes and the treasure that they would reveal. It is clear that if the letters are a hoax, the codes are invalid also. The letter dated January 4, 1822, addressed to Robert Morriss and signed Thos Jeffn Beale, includes two passages of interest. The first reads as follows:

Keeping well together they followed their trail for two weeks or more, securing many, and stampeding the rest.

The second passage of interest reads as follows:

Every one was diligently at work with such tools and appliances as they had improvised, and quite a little pile had already accumulated.

Three words occur in these passages that do not appear to have been in use in 1822 -- STAMPEDING, APPLIANCES, and IMPROVISED. The English language is a growing language, and it acquires words (and new meanings for words) by several processes, including adoption and adaptation of words from foreign languages and redefining old words with new meanings. It is difficult for someone who uses the language to remember acquiring a new word, and he tends to use it as if it has always been his after he learns it.

For example, my well-worn everyday dictionary, WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, was published in 1957, just as I started college. In it, only two definitions are given for the word CONDOMINIUM. They are: 1. joint sovereignty; joint rule of a country or region by two or more states, and 2. the territory so governed. CONDO is not defined at all. Who, less than thirty years later would think of either of these meanings when asked about the meaning of CONDOMINIUM? Yet, except for some specialized technical terms, who would use a word in an everyday letter that cannot be found in an up-to-date dictionary? Dictionaries fairly accurately reflect the state of the language as of their dates of publication.

STAMPEDE does not appear in Noah Webster's first dictionary published in 1806 and entitled A COMPENDIOUS DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, nor does it appear in his second dictionary published in 1828 and entitled AN AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. The word was derived from a Mexican Spanish word "estampida" or "estampido", meaning literally "stamping" or "pounding", and hence meaning "stampede" in Mexican Spanish. When the word was first brought over into English after contact between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking cattlemen, it retained some of its Spanish pronunciation and was first used as STAMPIDO, STAMPADO, STAMPEDO, STOMPADO, etc.

I have sought out early uses of this word in several volumes, including THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, John Russell Bartlett's DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS -- A GLOSSARY OF WORDS AND PHRASES USUALLY REGARDED AS PECULIAR TO THE UNITED STATES (1860), A DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN ENGLISH ON HISTORICAL PRINCIPLES (1944), Thornton's AN AMERICAN GLOSSARY (1962), and Matthews' A DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS (1951). The earliest cited uses are in the Spanish form, with later uses in the current English form. The uses are cited below:

1826 Virginia Herald (Fredericksburg, Va.)
Instantly this prodigious multitude, and there were thousands of them, took what the Spanish call the "STOMPADO".

1828 Missouri Historical Review Vol VIII for 1914
A little before daylight the mules made an abortive attempt to raise a STAMPIDO.

1834 23rd Congress 2nd Sess H.R. Doc No. 2, p 79
A stupid sentinel last night ... alarmed the camp, and sent off in a STAMPEDO the rest of the horses.

1835 Washington Irving, Tour Prairies, XXVI, p 230
About two hours before day there was a STAMPEDO, or sudden rush of horses...

1843 Marryat, M. Violet XXIX, p 29
The animals had ESTAMPEDOED the whole distance at the utmost of their speed.

1844 Gregg, Commerce of Prairies II p 167
Their horses had taken a STAMPEDE and escaped.

1844 ibid page 169
A party of Mexicans...STAMPEDED and carried away, not only their own horses, but those of the Texans.

After this point, one may assume that the use of the word STAMPEDE in its present form was common. But in the 1822 letter the word was just tossed off as if a Virginia innkeeper would understand a word that probably had not been invented yet. APPLIANCE does not appear in Webster's 1806 dictionary. It does appear in his 1828 dictionary defined as follows:

APPLIANCE, n. The act of applying or thing applied. Obs. Shak.

Thus it appears that Webster included an obsolete word in his dictionary because it appeared in Shakespeare's writings.

The OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY gives three definitions of APPLIANCE, the first one being listed as obsolete, as follows:

1. Compliance, willing service; subservience.

1601 Shaks, All's Well II. i. 116, I come to tender it, and my APPLIANCE, With all bound humbleness

1603 Meas for M. III. i. 89, Too noble, to conserue a life In base APPLIANCES

2. The action of putting to, administering, using, putting into practice; application.

1561 T. Norton, Calvin's Inst., It remaineth that by APPLYANCE all the same (benefits) may come to us.

1608 Shaks, Per. III. ii. 86, An Egyptian, had nine hours lien dead, By good APPLIANCES was recovered.

1831 Carlyle, Sart.Res. II. iii., The human soul... could be acted on through the muscular integument by the APPLIANCE of birchrods. (remaining citations for 1851 and 1868 omitted here)

3. A thing applied as means to an end; apparatus.

1597 Shaks, 2 Hen IV. III. i. 20., With all APPLIANCES and meanes to boot.

1613 --- Hen VIII, I. i. 124., Aske God for Temp'rance; that's the APPLIANCE only which your disease requires.

1861 Stanley, East Ch. ii. Introd. 60., All the APPLIANCES of antiquarian and artistic knowledge.

1876 Fawcett, Pol. Econ. II. viii, 231., To avail themselves of improved mechanical APPLIANCES.

Only the third definition of the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY applies to the word in the sense used in the Beale letter, and it is seen that, after Shakespeare last used the word in 1613, the compilers found no further use of the word in that sense until 1861.

In A STANDARD DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, Vol I (1893), the first definition given is the modern one, as follows:

1. Anything through or by which something is effected or accomplished, or which appertains or is essential to the conduct, course or operation of a particular thing; an instrumental means, aid apparatus, or device; as, the appliances of a trade; medical appliances; the appliances of warfare.

This dictionary also includes a quotation from Fitzedward Hall's MODERN ENGLISH, chapter 8, page 307 (l873), as follows:

APPLIANCE, a word which our grandfathers would have regarded as very quaint, certainly owes its reappearance to the increased study, during later years, of old English literature. Few of the archaisms which have recently been endowed with new life are more felicitous.

Thus, the word APPLIANCE, which was "endowed with new life" about 1861, was recognized as a recently archaic word which had recently reappeared by a leading authority in 1873. Of Mr. Hall's qualifications, George H. McKnight in THE EVOLUTION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE stated "Much more trustworthy as a leader was Fitzedward Hall, whose standards of judgment are today generally accepted." It is therefore a reasonable deduction from the evidence that the word APPLIANCE was not available to a letter writer in 1822.

IMPROVISE does not appear in either the 1806 or 1828 Webster dictionary. The word is derived from the French "improviser" or the Italian "improvisare", meaning "to sing or say extempore".

The OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY cites a use in 1826 in the sense of "to compose (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment; to utter or perform extempore." This use was by Disraeli in his novel VIVIAN GREY, as follows: "He possessed also the singular faculty of being able to IMPROVISE quotations." Incidentally, Disraeli was of Italian ancestry, which may explain his apparent introduction of an Italian word into English. However, when used in the sense of "to bring about or get up on the spur of the moment; to provide for the occasion", the first cited use in this dictionary was in 1854. There were two uses cited in this category, as follows:

1854 E. Forbes, Lit. Papers viii (1855) 206, If a number of both sexes happen to assemble at the same house a dance is IMPROVISED.

1859 Dickens, Lett to Miss D., 13 June (1880) II. 95 A tent IMPROVISED this morning.

In addition, there were some early definitions of IMPROVISED which might apply, as follows:

1837 Carlyle, Fr. Rev. III. I. iv., What part might be premeditated, what was IMPROVISED and accidental man will never know.

(remaining entries for 1863, 1873, and 1876 are omitted here)

It thus appears that the use of the word IMPROVISE in any sense other than in connection with extemporaneous speech or musical performance was unknown prior to about 1854. The word may have been totally unknown in this country in 1828 when Webster published his second dictionary. It appears unlikely that it would have been in the vocabulary of a literate frontiersman in 1822.