Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 26, 1834

  • Posted on: 6 April 2016
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 26, 1834



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Distributor:Seward Family Papers Project

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections


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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, December 26, 1834

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: gew 

revision: ekk 2015-08-21

Page 1

Albany December 26. Well my dearest one, I am heartily happily in having once more regained my place in
our little parlor at Bements I was wearied and worn out by the continued excitement which I under-
went in New York. And above all uncomfortable because I found that I could not while there keep up
my correspondence with you. I broke away at the very first hour when I could leave the city and I
avail myself of the earliest opportunity to atone for the neglect which I know has grieved you,
you however are in part responsible for it. You exacted a great sacrifice of time when you required me
to sit for a copy of my ill omened [ physiogonoy ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: physiognomy
. But as far as my memory will suggest I will give you
a record of my doings in the city and you shall judge. I believe I told you in my letter from New York the
story of the first days adventures including the evening spent at Stone
Birth: 1805
’s. On FriThursday the morning was spent in
sitting for the two pictures, and it is morning you know in New York until 3.O.Clock. I believe I appropriated
what was left of the day to the only letter which I found it practicable to write to you. So that the is not so. Ca-
Birth: 1787-08-11 Death: 1869-06-20
and I dined with Senator Van Schaaick
Birth: 1782-09-02 Death: 1865-12-01
in Broadway; Rufus H King
Birth: 1795 Death: 1867-07-09
of this city was of the party and
my old master John Author
was to be but was detained at Court. Mrs V.S.
Birth: 1787-09-08 Death: 1861-08-20
is a daughter of John Hone
Birth: 1764-09-16 Death: 1832-04-12
Both she and her husband appear to be very unassuming and amiable
Worthy of love; deserving of affection; lovely; loveable • Pretending or showing love •
people and although they possess
immense wealth do no imagine they have any patent of nobility. They have a family of five or six
x Birth: 1825  Death:   Birth: 1822  Death: 1902  Birth: 1821  Death: 1841  Birth: 1816  Death: 1851 
who are not spoiled. In the evening I went to a party at William Kents
Birth: 1802-10-02 Death: 1861-01-04
. I found Mrs K.
Birth: 1812-05-18 Death: 1870-07-30
a pretty
and intelligent lovely woman. They have one boy
Birth: 1830-09-21 Death: 1886-11-29
who I think will not unlikely make as much of his
situation in the family as Fred
Birth: 1830-07-08 Death: 1915-04-25
does of his advantages in ours. There are three sisters of Mrs K. and their
. They are said to be amiable
Worthy of love; deserving of affection; lovely; loveable • Pretending or showing love •
and intelligent. Kent lives in Bond Street and evidently takes rank with
the haut ton. If I were to own the entire truth I should say that he has a little of affectation of the manners
and taste of good society. But on the whole as well as some pedantry. But on the whole I do not know that he has more
of either than goes conventionally to make up the “Gentleman” in any city. He is pure, delicate in taste and of high
honor and I value him highly. Having spoken unqualifiedly of Mrs K. you will naturally infer that she was so
gracious as to express an interest in yourself and the little boys and we arranged the matter that we are all
to become acquainted next August when they go to the Westward. Chancellor Kent and Mrs K. have like your-
self and my father
Birth: 1768-12-05 Death: 1849-08-24
and mother
Birth: 1769-11-27 Death: 1844-12-11
been so foolish as to believe all that their promising son said of me
in the flattering biography which he wrote and the former who is like the very Israelite without guile caressed
me with almost parental affection. Of the other persons composing the party I do not speak because you are unac-
quainted with them and I was not peculiarly interested in them. Your curiosity about the fashion of such matters will be
gratified when we meet. Several of the gentlemen at Bunkers were desirous to have a small party on Saturday
which Cary and I would join, and of course the sittings at the painters
left us no other time that day before dinner than
to invite our guests. The party were Charles King
Birth: 1789-03-16 Death: 1867-09-27
Gulian C. Verplank
Birth: 1786-08-06 Death: 1870-03-18
, Ogden Hoffman
Birth: 1793-05-03 Death: 1856-05-01
W.L. Stone
Birth: 1792-04-20 Death: 1844-08-15
, W. Kent, Patterson
Certainty: Probable
James G. King
Birth: 1791-05-08 Death: 1853-10-03
, N. Devereux
Birth: 1798-05-01 Death: 1869-01-31
, Blunt
Birth: 1799-11-24 Death: 1866-09-02
& c. We sat down at 1/2 past three - and had altogether the most spirited convivial
and intellectual meeting of the kind that I ever enjoyed. Charles King is rich in literary conversation, Kent ani-
mated, Patterson fastidious, Verplank (how strange!) in such a place, stupid, Hoffman eloquent and free, Stone
entertaining, & James G. King agreeable. Cary and I had an opportunity to vindicate
To defend; to justify; to support or maintain as true or correct, against denial, censure, or objection • To assert; to defend with success; to maintain • To defend with arms • To avenge; to punish •
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
from the accused
A man whose occupation is to lay bricks and stones • A member of the fraternity of the free masons •
slander of purgary ^depriving^ Timothy Morieve
’s corpse with ^of^ whiskers ^to make it^ to resemble Morgan
Birth: 1774 Death: 1826Certainty: Probable
a slander that had
half preserved its credit until this time among some of the guests. Kent nobly espoused Weed’s cause and
we placed him beyond the reach of attack from that source. It was half past 10 when we rose from the
table and I had yet two engagements at tea, the one for 7.O.Clock at Capt Reids
Birth: 1785-08-23 Death: 1861-01-28
, the other for 8. O.Clock at
Chancellor Kents
Birth: 1763-07-31 Death: 1847-12-12
. I took a coach and drove first to Laniers street where I found Capt Reid Mrs Reid
 Death: 1855
their family of seven children






from the Miss of 20 down to the boys of five and three, all waiting with eager
eyes to see me as if I were some strange prodigy. I made an apology which was accepted as satisfac-
tory, drank coffee and received and answered a set speech made to me by Mrs Reid with her hands
clasped in mine. The conversation was such as would not bear the test of even your prejudiced ears.
I took my leave at half past eleven and the driver pursuing my direction erroneously copied from the
Directory was unable to find Chancellor Kents house. Although I gave it up after having been driven
half over the Island and went home with a weary head at One O.Clock. On Sunday morning I had only time after a late breakfast to get to Jennings
Birth: 1793-08-23 Death: 1841-02-24
house before the hour for morning church (N.B. I visited
Jennings once every day). I went with him and his family to Church where I saw him and four others
ordained with all formality Elders of the Congregation. I could not look upon the service badly as
I though it performed without feeling and acknowledging that my brother had chosen the better part,
Jennings was unwell, having been taken sick of the Influenza the day after we arrived in town. I dined
with him, and in the afternoon went to St. Thomas Church to hear Dr Hawkes
Birth: 1798-06-10 Death: 1866-09-26
. I stood a long time
on the porch before any person known to me entered the Church. At length entered David Graham with his
intended (Miss Hyslop. They gave me a seat with them but Dr Hawkes had a substitute in the pulpit. I returned
home after church, and my room was full of company until a late hour. Dearest, you will see if
you get no
Page 2

valuable information from this journal that I had it not in my power thus far to write to you. Monday
morning was ^that of^ a new day and so far as concerned secular matters of a new week. But its story is not
unlike that of its predicessor. I postponed one sitting at the painters. My table was now covered with
cards and billets, which were to be disposed of, first an apology to Mrs Hicks
Birth: 1772 Death: 1844-09-26
declining her invitation
to tea, next to accept an invitation to dine with the young men, and decline that of the Committee
of arrangements of the New England Society, &c. I wrote a letter to Chancellor Kent telling my
adventures in search of his house on Saturday night. I went with it to leave at his office in the
event of his absence but found him at home, made the explanation, he visited upon having the
letter to show his wife
Birth: 1768-09-10 Death: 1851-06-19
and daughter
. I called on James G. King, Charles King & others, at 12 o,
clock went to the painters, and remained there until two.
Sunday morning 28th Dec. My dearest I might spend much time and occupy some
portion of this sheet in telling you how I have been prevented from finishing this letter until now, but I shall
never bring up my journal if I make any digressions. Your kindness must suppose a good and sufficient
apology and rely upon my promise for greater punctuality in future. I have yet to notice several matters
in your dearly esteemed letters, another of which and a most beautiful one it is came this morning.
But to resume my story. I had been waited upon on my arrival in New York by a committee of young
men with an invitation to a public dinner. This I of course declined but made a compromise
in which Mr Cary and I accepted an invitation to dine with about 20 young men on Monday at
the City Hotel. We came there at 6 and met a very intelligent and agreeable party of which Willie
Birth: 1786-11-11 Death: 1832-08-28
the President of the Young Men’s Convention at Syracuse> was President. The dinner was “got up”
in the best style of that celebrated establishment. After the cloth was removed Mr Hall made me
a speech and gave a toast in my honor which was drank by the company. I made a speech brief and
unstudied in return and gave for my sentiment “The Young Men of the City of New York. They have com-
mitted but one error in political action that of mistaking the justice of their cause for an indica-
tion of its sucess, their only reproach is that they could not command the sucess they so nobly
deserved.” The President toasted the 8th District, and our dear good friend Cary who had an-
ticipated (without being apprised of an intention of the Kind) that such a sentiment would be given
with the degree of trepidation and embarrassment well calculated to give effect to what he was
going to say “thanks then for the honor they did his constituents and said he would only add
that the spirit which actuated that people was a blessed spirit and he now as always regards
it as an evidence that our institutions were destined to endure. About 10 O, clock a committee
from the New England Society appeared and invited Mr Cary and myself into the saloon where the
descendants of the Pilgrims were celebrating their anniversary. We were received by the President
and took our seats upon his right. The spirit of the celebration was then at its height. I was called
upon and gave the sentiment which you have seen much garbled in the newspaper. It was
drank with evident marks of approbation, and soon afterwards a toast was announced from the
chair and drank with 3 times, 3, “W.H.S. the independent politician, who received at the late election
the largest New England vote ever given to any candidate in the State of New York.” The toast was
drank with a cordiality none the less distinguished for being called out so late in the evening. The party of course
expected a speech, and I made one but I cannot remember it now. It was in substance however that I had
no speech ready for the occasion as I never anticipated such a compliment from the sons of the Pilgrims.
It was the more gratifying to me inasmuch as the vote alluded to was given me over a son of New England
while I was not one of that honored race, and had not a drop of Yankee blood in my veins (You have you
have, “You’re an adopted Yankee” said they.) I added I had in public life given the evidence of my venera-
tion for New England Institutions and principles by acting in accordance with those principles. I would
only add that if any citizen of any other state doubted whether was inclined to listen to as aspersions upon
the character of the citizens of New England or their principles as matter in which they fell short un-
worthy of the county to which he belonged or inferior to those of his own state let him recollect who
were the schoolmasters of the American People.” This sentiment which I believe was better expressed then
than I am now able to recollect it was Kindly and flatteringly received. Cary’s toast in honor of
Maynard was drank with respect and veneration for the memory of that great patriot which was
exceedingly gratifying to us who were his associates. We now received to the party below where
I met for the first time in the city our Lt Governor (that was to be) Stilwell
Birth: 1800-06-06 Death: 1881-05-16
. The party broke up at
12, and in a sleep as sound as so much excitement was likely to introduce I forgot the engagements of
the following day. Your letter received this morning asks how Webb
Birth: 1802-02-08 Death: 1884-06-07
came to discover me as having
Page 3

taken up my residence at the Masonic Hall. I answer your question now lest I may forget it. Webb wrote
his article with the words “Mansion House (meaning Bunkers Mansion House) on Broadway. The compositor who set
it up made it read “Masonic Hall.” It was an awkward blunder. There is no hotel at the Masonic Hall,
and the other papers soon set the matter right in New York, but the blunder was one calculated to do more
mischief in the Country. What was the most ludicrous part of the matter was that it could not be cor-
rected without giving the Regency papers opportunity to laugh heartily at us.
ter Well Tuesday, it was Tuesday morning where I left off, behold me depriving the painter of one hour
which I appropriated to answering billets and returning cards. Then came the sitting and the visit
at Jennings and then it was 4 O,Clock and then we went to Webb’s to dine, and there our eyes were
dazzled by the luxurious display of furniture and the most fastidious
Disdainful; squeamish; difficult to please • Rejecting what is common or not very ncie •
taste of a large party silenced
by the elegance of the entertainment. Nothing in that way could have been done better. The dinner
at Pompeii was not more classical. From Webb we came down town and stopped into the
opera house. It was the last night The Italian Opera in New York has failed for want of pat-
tronage. The ton of the city were there to enjoy it for the last time, and we were there to see the ton.
All the seats were taken and we were left to stand in the center of the aisle until a Gentleman
spying me in the crowd sent for us and brought us into his private box. The party there were
his daughters. Of the Opera I need say nothing to you. I do not appreciate its beauties and you
know enough of it to imagine all I saw. I met there Maria Kellogg
Birth: 1811-09-06 Death: 1839-12-04
and her husband
Birth: 1804-02-06 Death: 1855-11-26
. They are
staying at the American Hotel in Broadway. I promised to call there the next day but it was
one among many promises which I was compelled to break. I had an invitation for
tuesday evening to a large party given by Mrs D.S. Jones
Birth: 1809 Death: 1872-08-09
(the daughter of DeWitt Clinton
Birth: 1769-03-02 Death: 1828-02-11
) I had
heard during my entire stay in New York great note of preparation for this party, but was de-
To terminate •
not to make myself a lion for not exhibition at such places and so I declined
the invitation. I declined a similar invitation on Monday to Mrs Hick’s in Bond Street. I have lost sight of Polidore
Birth: 1799 Death: 1872-04-23
, he was continually with me until Monday, and talked of wishing to
find a place in New York or elsewhere where he might stay until Spring. On Monday all
[hole] just as I was leaving Jennings house, I found a note he had written and placed in [hole]
[hole] . It states that he [hole] ed if I could spare him the money a new great coat, that he was
desirous to go [hole] after by a sloop to see Cornelia
Birth: 1805 Death: 1839-01-04
, that he meant to stay away from
home until Spring for the purpose of reclaiming himself from his bad habits, to accomplish
which it was necessary to get away from his old associates. Of course I furnished him
with what he asked for. This was the first time he had ever communicated with me in any
way on the subject of his habits and I had never seen him under their influence. I could not find it in my heart
to say any thing to him on the subject. He parted affectionately from me and sailed the same evening
to Bargaintown. In the midst of our dinner on Saturday night I received a letter from Dr Pitney
Birth: 1786-11-18 Death: 1853-04-20
was staying in Courtland street. He has had an operation performed the very account of which al-
most froze my blood. It was now six weeks since the operation and he was doing so well when
I left him that he hoped to leave town this present week and after staying a fortnight at his
fathers in Wendham to return home. The Oliphant where I went at Pitneys was giving himself
this because I was puffed up so much with my importance that I didn’t go to see him when
[ I ]


did not know whether he was on this or the European Continent I quieted him by calling at his
boarding house so that he could boast of the honor afterwards, such he plainly intimated
Inmost; inward • Near; close • Close in friendship or acquaintance • One to whom the thoughts of another are shared without reserve • To share together • To hint; to suggest obscurely; to give slight notice of •
the motive of his desire that I would call. Charles King had invited a supper party to
meet us on Wednesday night. James G. King had made a dinner for us the day we
dined with Van Schaaick and was making a party for us. We declined and tore ourselves
away from all the hospitalities which pressed us on every side. On Wednesday morning I took
a gig


To fish with a harpoon • Any little thing that is whirled around in play • A light carriage with one pair of wheels, drawn by one horse; a chair • A fiddle • A dart or harpoon • A ship's boat • A wanton girl •
and commencing at 11 went about the city returning calls this this occupied me until
4 O, clock and I gave up further service of the kind leaving unanswered about thirty calls.
Among the visits I made was one to William Kent’s, one to the Chancellors, one to Capt. Reid’s
to return an Album sent me by his daughter
in which I was requested to write a memorial
of our acquaintance. Among her contributors were Dan Webster
Birth: 1782-01-18 Death: 1852-10-24
Henry Clay
Birth: 1777-04-12 Death: 1852-06-29
John Marshall
Birth: 1755-09-24 Death: 1835-07-06
Dr McNeven
, Helen Wirt
& c. It was a pardonable weakness in her. I left my name
in the book, and returned it. At 5,O,clock we went on board the steamboat and arrived
about midnight at Poughkeepsie. It was so cold and tempestuous that we declined to until the .
Page 4

On Christmas morning at 6 we took the stage and travelled very comfortably although the weather was
very cold. We arrived at Greenbush about 11 O, Clock and after much ado procured porters to carry
our baggage across the river and reached Bements at midnight. That we did not feel altogether well
the next day is inferrible. I hoped to finish this letter yesterday, but indispensable employment
and the Kindness of friends who have been with us prevented my doing so. I am now so
near the close of the sheet that I feel confident it will be before your eyes on Wednesday.
I have procured two silk dresses in New York, one for one our dear sister
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
and one for yourself
I have a book for Augustus
Birth: 1826-10-01 Death: 1876-09-11
, a real banner for the little soldier Frederick. The
miniature will be a very good picture, and Cary says looks like the original. His I know
resembles him. The artist has been very faithful. We left them unfinished. They are to be
sent to us before we leave here. The portrait was unfinished. Jennings is entirely satisfied with
it. I cannot yet say when I will be able to leave Albany. I hope to be able to do so
in my next letter. Meantime I have much business if my parting arrangements here may be so called.
Probably I need not tell you that I have become more than ever attached to Uncle Cary and that we are
inseparable until the cares and concerns of our families shall divide us. Mrs. C.
Birth: 1788 Death: 1863-06-22
with her gen-
uine kindness has proposed to meet him at Auburn. They have it so arranged that on Wednesday
of week after next if there is sleighing she will be with you. Mr Cary will positively be there at that
time and I if I can. Dearest, I regret being obliged to send this letter without adding to it such
explanations as will give the assurance that the dissipation
To scatter; to disperse; to separate into parts and disappear • To expend; to squander; to scatter property in wasteful extravagance • To scatter the attention •
it records have in no sense changed
the feelings with which I wrote before going to New York. The “part” I have assumed among poli-
ticians had its inception denouement, and finale. I am acting it out I trust with moderation
and propriety. Best and only beloved! I am desirous to remove that which if it have not so bright
and striking incidents has a more even tenor and a safer conclusion. My heart is with you and beats with every impulse which you beautiful and affecting Christmas offering ought to call forth.
I will not fail to write again and better, and that right soon. Your own affectionate Henry.

[right Margin] Mrs. William H. Seward

Hand Shiftx

Frances Seward

Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
Henry Dec. 31.