Letter from William Henry Seward to Samuel Sweezey Seward, May 15, 1842

  • Posted on: 9 March 2016
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Samuel Sweezey Seward, May 15, 1842



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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 William Henry Seward to Samuel Sweezey Seward, May 15, 1842

action: sent

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


receiver: Samuel Seward
Birth: 1768-12-05  Death: 1849-08-24

location: Unknown

transcription: nds 

revision: ekk 2016-02-09

Page 1

Sunday night May 15th 1842.
My dear Father
I have engrossed
To make thick • To make larger; to increase in bulk • To take the whole • To purchase with a view to sell again • To copy in a large hand; to write a fair, correct copy • To take or assume in undue quantities or degrees •
a will for you conforming in all respects to
your instructions and in the best manner according to my knowledge and
ability. It is your absolute right to dispense of your large estate the
fruits of a life of industry and frugality according to your own pleasure.
In this matter at least as in most others I can believe that your views
are sounder and wiser than my own, and it is an ungracious and
unkind thing to intrude advice suggestions or wishes on such an occa-
sion. I have therefore desisted and refrained from making any suggestions
of opinion concerning the will and its various provisions.
Nevertheless I am one of three brothers and of five of your child-
x Birth: 1808-08-26  Death: 1888-12-07  Birth: 1805  Death: 1839-01-04  Birth: 1799  Death: 1872-04-23  Birth: 1793-08-23  Death: 1841-02-24 
two of whom are no more. Being consulted alone and those survi-
ving brothers and the children of my deceased brother and sister not being
consulted it seems my duty arising out of such relations and circum-
stances to speak respectfully to you such opinions and feelings concern-
ing so much of the proposed distribution of your property as affects the
other parties in the family not consulted. I do this solely with a view
to show you my sentiments, and in no way to embarass you since I
shall not hold any communication on the subject with other persons
nor shall I hesitate to acquiesce cheerfully and completely in
your disposition of the subject.
But the devises to my dear mother
Birth: 1769-11-27 Death: 1844-12-11
do you
great honor and are exceedingly gratifying to me. Secondly all the
special legacies to relations and friends are very gratifying to me, and
especially that one most honerable to yourself in which you provide
Page 2

for that faithful creature Julia Ann Van Brunt
Birth: 1811-08-26 Death: 1847-07-24
If I felt at liberty to suggest anything on the subject for your con-
sideration it would be whether you would not be pleased to increase what
you propose to give to the sons
x Birth: 1828-10-07  Death: 1897-07-24  Birth: 1827-02-07  Death: 1827  Birth: 1820-05-18  Death: 1889-05-08 
of my brother Jennings. How much it would not
be becoming in me to propose, but I dein to say that so far as my own
interest and that of my children are concerned I would be happy and grati-
fied if the children of my dearly beloved and affectionate brother were
placed upon a footing equal to those of your sons now living – so in re-
gard to my sisters children
x Birth: 1834-07-25  Death: 1922-02-28  Birth: 1832-02-20  Death: 1876-01-14  Birth: 1829-12-04  Death: 1867-10-25 
. I am gratified with what you propose for
Caroline – and I should cheerfully agree to an equal provision for the
two boys her brothers. This is I know a subject on which it is not cepleasant
for any of us to speak or hear. And lest you may think I am moved by
some too much kindness to Dr Canfield
Birth: 1798-11-26 Death: 1865-01-05
I dein to say that you chold him
in hardly less esteem and respect than I do. Indeed I have recently
[ bee ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: been
obliged to rebuke him in a signal manner for what seemed to me
a cold and unworthy forgetfullness of what was due to the memory
of my sister and to my affection for her. But his children are the children
of my sister who fondly loved us him and whom I can never forget – and it
would be most gratifying to me if you thought it wise and proper to let
me take charge of the persons and of the education of the boys on some
such terms as you have provide in relation to Caroline.
In regard to the distribution of the estate so far as my two surviving
brothers and myself are concerned, they are both kind confiding and
good men. I should not only prefer that the advantages you propose in
my behalf should be ommitted but I would beg leave to ask that you would
reconsider your views on that subject, and see whether more than a compensation for my
future services is not given, allow me such a compensation and equalize the division with this exception
I am oppressed with painful doubts concerning your proposition
Page 3

to establish a Seminary. I appreciate and honor the motive and I
speak under a liability to be pressed by motives of personal interest.
Perfect your plan as much as we may there is nevertheless a great
hazard of a failure of the scheme because very many perhaps most
of such plans do fail. My death or removal from personal care
of the trust would probably throw the whole into the hands of care-
less or sordid individuals, and strangers to you and to me, and
your family, perhaps ignorant conceited or bigoted men would com-
bat your most munificent endorsement into means of self engagement.
From time immemorial the Clergy have furnished such individuals to
live in idleness upon the munifice of patrons of religion and learning.
I do not say that such an institution as you propose if successful
would not be very beneficial, but you will remember that in this county
education is now made so cheap by Government patronage that less is
required of individuals. I should grieve for your familys sake to see
so munificent benefaction improvidently used by those into whose hand
sooner or later it must fall. LThink of the Girard College, Hamilton
College the Hartwick Seminary, founded thirty or forty years ago with
munificence something like yours, but now an inferior school. With all
deference and respect I would submit that an endowment of a Profes-
sorship of law in Union College, or of Agriculture in that or some
such institution, at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars, the professorship
to be in your name would in all probability be more useful to
mankind and draw more lasting honor upon your name than
can be reckoned upon with reasonable confidence from the more
rich and liberal provision you propose to make. You would in such
a case have a certain basis to build upon and the firm ground already
Page 4

gained by the institution would secure your bequest against failure that is
incident to every new experiement – so that or any greater sum given to that
now successful and distinguished University for enduring scholarship
would be more certainly productive of the great benefits you have in
view and connect your name for all time to come with an insti-
tution probably too firmly established to fail. My own name and
services could of course be connected with such an endowment in
any manner that your parental partiality towards me might require.
These observations are submitted with the frankness which so
solemn an occasion demands. If any one of them seems worthy of addi-
tion I will cheerfully conform what has been done, to the sugges-
ion thus adopted. If your judgment still prefers your original plan
the papers are ready and can be completed and I shall always
zealously and faithfully maintain and endeavor to carry out the
disposition you shall have adopted. This is probably the last time
I may be permitted by our Heavenly Father to advise with you con-
cerning the welfare and happiness of those who are near and dear
to you. Believe me then sincere and single of purpose and motive in
this communication and invoke the protection and support of our Heavenly
parent to sustain and guide me in the mighty trust you are confi-
ding to me and give me your blessing as I pray God to sustain and
cheer you in the great crisis which happens to you but a few short
years before it must happen to all of us whose welfare now so deeply
engages your parental solicitude.