Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, December 19, 1827

  • Posted on: 13 December 2017
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Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, December 19, 1827



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from James Berdan to William Henry Seward, December 19, 1827

action: sent

sender: James Berdan
Birth: 1805-07-04  Death: 1884-08-24

location: New York, NY

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: jjh 

revision: jjh 2017-12-04

Page 1

New York December 19th 1827.
Dear Seward,
I have just been informed of the contents of your
letter to your brother
Birth: 1793-08-23 Death: 1841-02-24
of 3 Dec. (which he recd this morning) – I hardly
know how to clear myself from the imputations of unthankfulness and
neglect which seem to attach to me, and was not the necessity so strong
as to make it a duty upon me to do it, I should shrink from the attempt –
It is your right to demand it from me, and I know too well how to
appreciate the strength and force of your attachment to my lamented
Birth: 1803 Death: 1827-07-20
, and the interest you have so perseveringly evinced for in his
memory, to treat your claims as less than sacred – But how shall
I begin? – let me give you an account of the influences, which have
affected me throughout – the listlessness and lethargy which have sat
like an incubus upon my spirits and my energies, – and the nervous-
ness which has repressed my worthiest resolutions – I shall then throw
myself upon your charity, and indulge the hope that although I have
delayed the performance of my duty to a period which I am candidly
ashamed to acknowledge, and yielded to such feelings with a weakness
which is hardly worth your sympathy, that you will still find a
reason, if not an excuse, for my conduct – How mortifying to be
obliged to assume an attitude so humble, on an occasion like this!
and to be in doubt as to the consideration to which your case is
entitled! – I believe I saw you long enough when I was in Albany
to offer you my excuses for having delayed to answer your first letter –
The short stay which I made, and the nature of your business there, preven-
ted my seeing you much, or conversing with you as fully as I wished –
I would have embraced with eagerness every opportunity of cultivating the
acquaintance of one, whom I had already learnt to admire – I had been
depressed to a degree which made me miserable indeed, and that trip to
Albany was the first thing that roused me from the stupid lethargy into which
I had declined; – it restored me, while I was absent, to a degree of excitement
and cheerfulness, which was comparative happiness to my mind, – and when
I saw you, my heart leaped with pleasure – Our conversation however,
was not what I had hoped and wished it should be – I must be candid with
you, and tell you that I half cursed the your nomination, because it required
your attention! You will understand the state of feeling to which I had been
reduced, when I tell you that I was mortified to be obliged to say to you that
I would give you the particulars of my beloved brother's decease in a letter when
Page 2

I returned home – when I returned to Rockwell's
, I sat down in the bar-room, and
brooded over the conversation ^ between ^ us in a mood that magnified this circumstance
to a degree which made ^me^ feel melancholy and unhappy – ^I thought it strange you had not asked me then for these particulars^ the conclusion constantly
stared me in the face, that you were unsatisfied with my apologies, and were
still offended by the neglect with which I had treated your former letter, and of course
considered me as not entitled to the place in your bosom to which I had aspired – I
have since thought this inference unreasonable and false – but such were my feelings,
and such the suspiciousness to which I was reduced, that I believed it then, and even
shed tears as I thought upon it – You had engaged to write to me about the monument,
and I had promised to write also to you – I eagerly seized upon this, and at once
resolved when I wrote, to unbosom myself to you, and expose all my feelings in
order to excuse myself for the past, and to communicate my uneasiness – and I also
resolved to watch the tenor of your letter, and derive my hope from it –
You see how selfish I had been made, and what consequence I attached to trifles –
The fact was, I had been unnerv'd & unshaken by my brother's fate – from a state
of high hopes, and proud anticipations, I had been cruelly & suddenly bowed to the
dust, by the intelligence – but enough of my own griefs – When I returned to
New York, I immediately commenced a letter to you – but I found the task a hard
one, and postponed it for a day or two, until I should hear from Ogden
Birth: 1797 Death: 1881
– then
came your letter about the monument – I was grateful to you for the object it
regarded, and delighted with the manner in which your sympathy was conveyed.
I attended to it with your brother at the earliest day we could, and he for-
warded the plans as soon as we received them – Only, A few days since, I
received letters from Ogden in London written in answer to my own entreaties
for the particulars of my brother's last residence in London, and of his embar-
kation for America – I am now engaged in making extracts from this letter
(of 7 sheets,) for you – and I am in daily expectations of another which he
promised to dispatch by the next packet enclosing the letters which David
wrote to him from on board – In a few days, you shall receive these copies
containing all the particulars I have —
Will you now suffer me to leave
this disagreeable subject, so painful to me, and so linked with gloomy as-
sociatons? – to talk less of myself, and more of the interesting subject to which
your letter refers – Except a brother
of years too few to know anything of
the ills of life, I have only a Sister
 Death: 1832-10-05
here who can mingle her tears with
mine over the memory of a brother – She read your letter, and the tribute of
gratitude she paid to you, came from a full heart – She requested me to thank
you in her name for the generosity and goodness of your design – For myself
I felt poorer than ever, from the moment you mentioned the subject to me
at Albany – I felt that it was enough for you and for the society to which
you belong, to propose the measure – and wished that I myself were rich e-
nough to reward them for it – In my own behalf, that blasting poverty which
has ever been about me, prevents me from contributing, as I would to the
last farthing to such a sacred, and to us so dear a purpose – My profession
has thus far neither given me nor promised me a dollar – and the resources
to which I am permitted to look, are scanty indeed – so that I am obliged
Page 3

to be almost an inactive spectator, and forego the enjoyment of a pleasure the
[ m ]


ost delightful – this is brought upon me still more forcibly, because I am now
unable to pay a note for £40. which David left in London, and which my Uncle

is too straitened, to pay at this time – I will join with Barker
Birth: 1804 Death: 1866-09-04
in doing all I can,
and I doubt not of the success of the Subscription – S I shall never cease to be
grateful to the Adelphic Society from which the resolution emanated, and as
soon as I may be enabled I will reward them for it, by an equal addition to
their library —
All the monuments in the plans your brother forwarded
are, I believe, ready made – The inscription, you had better furnish to the
builder soon after the matter is concluded – I will see your brother again
tonight, and take care that the subscription is forwarded early –
James Marshall
Birth: 1802-10-21 Death: 1880-02-11
(Attorney at Law) lives at Winchester V a
Elijah Crosby
Birth: 1798 Death: 1867-05-28
, (Dr. of physic.) at Kenansville, Duplin County,
No Carolina – of WmR. Rose's
Birth: 1794-07-31 Death: 1847-08-20
residence I am ignorant – David had ceased
corresponding with him for about 3 years – I will inquire of Barker where
he may be found – His other correspondents were, as far as I know them,
(besides his brothers,) WmH. Ogden London / & Walter Verplanck
Birth: 1786-08-06 Death: 1870-03-18
who is in
FranceChad F. Johnson
(just sailed for Havre) – the two Barkers

, your brother
& yourself –
Dear Seward,
My heart feels more easy now that
I [hole] over the mountains, which lay in my way – and I will go on
my extracts from Ogden's letters &c. tomorrow, and finish them as speed[ ily as ]



I can – when I have concluded it, I will give the packet together with
your letters &c. to your brother to be forwarded – Be assured, that there
is nothing in my disposition or my inclination, to delay – and that I
will ever regard your requests, as sacred – The compilation of letters
has not yet been commenced by Irving
Birth: 1802-04-03 Death: 1876-02-25
& myself – as we are waiting for
the letters which Ogden has, as well as for yours – There is a difficulty
that meets us in the outset, if we proceed then without them – he wrote
to all of his correspondents from Seville & other places by the same
vessels – and the narrations must of course be distributed through several
letters, and cannot be complete without all are included – We had
expected to begin the work before this, but we are unable – I am
anxious to finish it this winter, and I doubt not that it can be done, as
your brother promises to divide the labour with us—
I will enclose in this, a lock of hair which I know you will
value, as a relic of him you lament – You knew his virtues, and have
known and answered, the warmth of his feelings – and like me, you will
Page 4

cherish everything that is connected with his memory, and feel a pleasure [ in ]



the associations which that memory produces – Yours truly James Berdan
P.S. I have just seen I. O. Barker – he has got $53. on the Subscription List, and thinks he
can obtain in all 100 or thereabouts – He intends writing by this mail to a classmate at Newburgh
He wishes you to write to Rose, who he says is practicing physic at Geneva – at the same
place, is another classmate
, whose name Barker does not remember, but who is doubtless
known to Rose – he is a lawyer – Is not Webster
 Death: 1828
at Albany, a member of that class?
Barker is active in this matter, and is urging it with much zeal – he will write you
in a day or two – In haste J.B.
William H. Seward Esq.
Attorney at Law,
Auburn – N.Y.


Type: postmark

DEC 20

[right Margin]
Hand Shiftx

William Seward

Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
James Berdan
20 Dec. 1827