Christopher Mason Haile was a newspaper editor, journalist, humorist, and Mexican War correspondent. A native of Rhode Island, he moved to Louisiana’s Gulf Coast in the 1830s, pursuing a career in journalism. In the 1840s, Haile published a series of fictional letters under the pseudonym Pardon Jones, now considered classics in the tradition of southwestern humor. Like other writers in the genre—Thomas Bangs Thorpe, Henry Clay Lewis, and Augustus Baldwin Longstreet—Haile often featured regional types and eccentric local characters in humorous situations.
Born August 6, 1814, in Foster, Rhode Island, Haile was the son Nathan and Lydia Mason Haile. He attended the Brooklyn Academy in Connecticut and, from 1836 to 1837, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After a prolonged illness, Haile left the military and moved to the town of Plaquemine, Louisiana. Paul Octave Hebert, one of Haile’s classmates at West Point and the son of a prominent Creole family from Iberville Parish, seems to have persuaded Haile to visit Louisiana and then introduced him to his cousin, Marie Clarisse Hebert. Haile married Marie Hebert and settled into life as a small-time planter and slave owner. In 1840, he established the Planters’ Gazette, a bilingual (French and English) weekly newspaper he owned and edited for five years.
Between December 1840 and April 1848, Haile published sixty-seven letters, written under the pseudonym Pardon Jones, in the New Orleans Picayune. The likeable and laughable Pardon Jones, a character from rural Massachusetts who migrated to Louisiana, describes his adventures and misadventures in Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Mexico. Jones also addresses national issues such as tariffs, disagreements over the national bank, the annexation of Texas, boundary disputes between Canada and the United States, controversy concerning the Oregon Territory, and the war with Mexico—all from a southern viewpoint. Like other newspaper humorists of the day, Haile often uses dialect for comic effect in these letters.
In 1846, Haile was hired as a special correspondent to the Picayune and wrote reports on the Mexican War from the frontlines. Under the signature of “H,” Haile wrote more than one hundred dispatches, describing some of the key battles and the conditions of army camp life. Proving one of the most engaging reporters of the war, Haile also wrote anecdotes about Mexican culture and customs. While the war reports, many of which were republished in national newspapers, earned Haile critical acclaim, it is the humorous letters for which he is generally remembered today. He died September 10, 1849.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Piacentino, Ed. "Christopher Mason Haile." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published March 29, 2011. http://www.knowla.org/entry/520/&view=summary.
Piacentino, Ed. "Christopher Mason Haile." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 29 Mar 2011. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Piacentino, Ed. “Fetching the Old Southwest in Mexico: The Humorous Letters of C. M. Haile.” Mississippi Quarterly 59 (Winter–Spring 2005–2006): 163–176.
---. “Recovering C. M. Haile, Antebellum Southern Humorist.” Studies in American Humor 3, no. 16 (Fall 2007): 47–68.
---, ed. C. M. Haile, Antebellum Louisiana Humorist (forthcoming). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.
Reilly, Thomas W. “American Reporters and the Mexican War, 1846–1848.” PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 1975.