Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, January 18, 1831

  • Posted on: 11 January 2016
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, January 18, 1831
x

transcriber

Transcriber:spp:keh

student editor

Transcriber:spp:sss

Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections

Date:1831-01-18

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, January 18, 1831

action: sent

sender: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Albany, NY

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: keh 

revision: ekk 2015-09-09

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Page 1

33.
Tuesday evening Jan 18th
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Editorial Note

Transcribed for WHS autobiography by AWS and edited by FWS in pencil. Original not in Seward Papers, UR.

My dear F. After writing you last night
I finished reading “the Water Witch
Author: James Fenimore Cooper Publisher: Carey & Lea Place of Publication:Philadelphia Date: 1831
”. I shall
forward it to you at the first opportunity.
It is a strange, improbably, absurd, and
unnatural story – Without the merit of
one good character but yet one of the most
bewitching books I ever read. The sea scenes
and incidents are not less beautiful than
any which are described in the Pilot
Author: James Fenimore Cooper Publisher: W. A. Townsend and Company Place of Publication:New York City Date: 1859
and
Red Rover
Author: James Fenimore Cooper Publisher: Carey, Lea & Carey Place of Publication:Philadelphia Date: 1828
. I will not again this winter be
so much interested in a novel.
This morning I wrote till nine – made a
business call upon Aaron Burr
Birth: 1756-02-06 Death: 1836-09-14
. He was at
the Merchants Exchange one of the 4th rate
houses of this city. I could not but think
as I ascended the dirty narrow staircase
to his lodgings in a two bedded room of
narrow dimensions in the fourth story of that
abode of publicans, of the contrast between his
present state and that he enjoyed when he
contended so long even handed with Jefferson
Birth: 1743-04-13 Death: 1826-07-04

Page 2

34.
for the Presidential chair, on the second
election after the retirement of Washington
Birth: 1732-02-22 Death: 1799-12-14
.
He has lost property, fame, character, & humor
if any he ever had. Once so gay, so fashion-
able in his dress so fascinating in his man-
ners so glorious in his eloquence and so
mighty in his influence how altered did
he seem, as he met me, drawing a coarse
woolen surtout over his coarser habiliments,
his cotton shirt and cravat struggling by
the prerogative of modern fashions to display
against the yet proud spirit of the wearer.
His few grey hairs first filled with powder
put on as thickly as paste wet down and
smoothed over his head - his form shrivelled
into dimensions almost of a dwarf - his
voice forgetful of his former melody while
nought remained to express the daring
spirit of his youth but his keen brilliant
dark eye. He approached me with the air
and demeanors of a gentleman of the old
school - and as I shook his shrivelled and
trembling hand I felt a thousand recol-
lections come to my mind of a most unpleasant
nature. Is this the same being who
shared for years the confidence and did
the high biddings of General Washington?
Do I recognize in this lingering relic of an
age gone by the man who was the ornament
and delight of every fashionable circle?
Page 3

35.
In this squeaking unsteady voice do I
recognize that instrument which wiled
away the hearts of men - Is this tottering
frame the same who in the proudest day
of American Statesmen & politicians command
ed at his pleasure the stormy waves of a
new and enthusiastic People. Do these very
wretched habiliments cover him who was the
second in honor and office in this nation &
whose sure ascent to the highest was prevented
only by his rash and dishonest ambition?
Is this the same fascinating being who entered
with the recklessness of a fallen angel into
the peaceful and classic abode and stole
the confidence only to ruin and destroy the
happiness of Blennerhasset
Birth: 1764-10-08 Death: 1831-02-02
. Is this the same
proud spirit which determined to rule raised
the standard of treason and attempted alone
and almost single handed the conquest of
Mexico and the establishment Do I actually
grasp the hand which directed only too
successfully the fatal ball which laid low
in the person of his competitor the glory of
his country Alexander Hamilton
Birth: 1757-01-11 Death: 1804-07-12
- Oh miserable
comment upon unchastined ambition! How bare
how sordid must be that love of life which
can make thee content unhappy man to drag
a dishonored and degraded existant among
a generation which knows thee only by the history of thy
crimes and judges thee without allowing the
merit of the extenuation of passion!