David Ross Locke
David Ross Locke (also known by his pseudonym Petroleum V. Nasby) (September 20, 1833 – February 15, 1888) was an American journalist and early political commentator during and after the American Civil War.
Locke was born in Vestal, Broome County, New York, the son of Nathaniel Reed Locke and Hester Locke. He was apprenticed at age 12 to the newspaper, the Democrat in Cortland County, New York. Following a seven-year apprenticeship, he tramped around until his next protracted stay, with the Pittsburgh Chronicle. Around 1855, Locke started, with others, the Plymouth, Ohio Herald. On March 20, 1856, he became the editor of the Bucyrus Journal. Locke was in Bucyrus when the Civil War broke out. During the war, he edited, and wrote for, the Toledo, Ohio newspaper the Toledo Blade, which he later purchased in 1867. Locke died on February 15, 1888, in Toledo.
Locke's most famous works, the "Nasby Letters", were written in the character of, and over the signature of "Rev. Petroleum V(esuvius) Nasby", a Copperhead and Democrat. They have been described as "the Civil War written in sulphuric acid".
Locke's fictional alter ego, Nasby, loudly championed the cause of the Confederate States of America from Secession onward, but did little to actively help it. After being conscripted into the Union Army he deserted to the Confederates, joining the fictional "Pelican Brigade". However, he found life in the Confederate Army "tite nippin" and soon deserted again. By the end of the Civil War he was back in civilian life.
The Nasby Letters, although written in the semi-literate spelling used by other humorists of the time, were a sophisticated work of ironic fiction. They were consciously intended to rally support for the Union cause; "Nasby" himself was portrayed as a thoroughly detestable character — a supreme opportunist, bigoted, work-shy, often half-drunk, and willing to say or do anything to get a Postmaster's job. (Locke's own father had served as Postmaster of Virgil, New York.) At the time the Letters were written, postmaster positions were political plums, offering a guaranteed federal salary for little or no real work. Until the glorious day when he received a "Post Orfis" from Andrew Johnson, Nasby worked, when he worked, most frequently as a preacher. His favorite biblical texts, unsurprisingly, were the ones that were used by Southern ministers to "prove" that slavery was ordained by the Bible.
After the Civil War, Nasby went on to comment on Reconstruction. He settled in several different places, most notably "Confedrit X Roads, wich [sic] is in the Stait of Kentucky", a fictional town full of idle, whiskey-loving, scrounging ex-Confederates, and a few hard-working, decent folk, who by an amazing coincidence were all strong Republicans. He traveled frequently, sometimes not entirely voluntarily (Nasby's habit of borrowing money he never repaid, and running up tabs at the local saloon often made him unpopular) and continued to comment on the issues of the day.
Locke discontinued the Nasby Letters a few years before his death, since the times had changed and Nasby was no longer topical. While the semi-literate spelling in which they are written has often discouraged modern readers, it can also be seen as a point of characterizing "Nasby".
Several collections of the Letters came out in book form, some illustrated by Thomas Nast, who was a friend and political ally of Locke.
Works by Locke
- The Nasby papers: letters and sermons containing the views on the topics of the day of Petroleum V. Nasby (1864)
- Divers views, opinions, and prophecies of yoors trooly Petroleum V. Nasby (1865)
- Swingin' Round the Cirkle (1866)
- Swingin' Round the Cirkle, or Andy's trip to the West, together with a life of its hero (1866)
- Ekkoes from Kentucky (1867)
- The impendin crisis uv the Dimocracy, bein a breef and concise statement uv the past experience, present condishun and fucher hopes uv the Dimokratic party; incloodin the most prominent reesons why evry Dimokrat who loves his party shood vote for Seemore and Blare, and agin Grant and Colfax (1868)
- The struggles (social, financial and political) of Petroleum V. Nasby ... embracing his trials and troubles, ups and downs, rejoicings and wailings, likewise his views of men and things; together with the lectures "Cussed be Canaan," "The struggles of a conservative with the woman question," and "In search of a man of sin" (1872)
- The Moral History of America’s Life-Struggle (1874), illustrated by Thomas Nast.
- Eastern fruit on western dishes; The morals of Abou Ben Adhem (1875)
- Inflation at the cross roads being a history of the rise and fall of the Onlimited Trust and Confidence Company of Confedrit X roads, in a series of five letters (1875)
- A Paper City (1878)
- The Democratic John Bunyan being eleven dreams (1880)
- Hannah Jane(1881), a sentimental poem
- Nasby in exile: or, six months of travel in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, with many things not of travel (1882)
- The demagogue, a political novel (1890)
- The Nasby letters. Being the original Nasby letters (1893)
- Petroleum V. Nasby on silver. (1896)
- Civil War Letters of Petroleum V. Nasby, compiled with an introduction by Harvey S. Ford (1962)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Locke, David Ross (1833–88)". New International Encyclopedia 12 (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. p. 376.
- Harrison, Jerry (2000). The Next Book of the Lockes. Heritage Books. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7884-1457-2.
- Harrison, Jerry (2000). The Next Book of the Lockes. Heritage Books. pp. 92–3. ISBN 978-0-7884-1457-2.
- Tucker, Spencer C. (2013). American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. ABC-CLIO. p. 1149. ISBN 978-1-85109-682-4.
- Harrison, John M. (1969). The Man who Made Nasby. University of North Carolina Press. p. 85.
- McClure, Alexander K. (1901). "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories. Henry Neil. p. 198.
- Works by David Ross Locke at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about David Ross Locke at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Petroleum V. Nasby at Internet Archive