Letter from George Washington Seward to Frances Miller Seward, June 20, 1851

  • Posted on: 18 July 2019
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Letter from George Washington Seward to Frances Miller Seward, June 20, 1851



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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 George Washington Seward to Frances Miller Seward, June 20, 1851

action: sent

sender: George Seward
Birth: 1808-08-26  Death: 1888-12-07

location: Florida, NY

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

location: Washington D.C., US

transcription: bpt 

revision: tap 2019-02-26

Page 1

Florida June 20th 1851
My Dear Sister
I have seated myself to the discharge of a
duty at once difficult and delicate, difficult for the
reason that I do not Know where or how to meet it and
delicate because I may write in terms which I Know
you will believe of unkindness and injustice of a person
whose relations to you should for bbid it but as he has
seemed at least in my view of placing you in his
stead and with the sincere motive on my part of re-
moving as far as in me lies all cause of dissention
I have come to the conclusion of writing you, this then
is my apology for any error I may in this respect commit
Friends are often estranged from each other from a
misconception of the principles and motives which ac-
tuate them and such is the inferiority of human Kind
that they become enemies from trivial causes or from a want
of respect any sympathy in their respective sentiments
and pursuits
That there should exist between my Brothers
x Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10  Birth: 1799  Death: 1872-04-23  Birth: 1793-08-23  Death: 1841-02-24 
in whom
I have reposed the confidence I have in Henry
Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
and myself
a misunderstanding I lament and whilst I am free to
acknowledge that I may be at fault I must be allo allowed
to say that it is partly his own, Contrary to what I had
good reason to expect my Father
Birth: 1768-12-05 Death: 1849-08-24
saw proper while to
Henry he gave one quarter of his estate unreservedly and
while of the remaining fifteen shares he gave to thirteen
of his heirs
x Birth: 1840-11-08  Death: 1910-11-28  Birth: 1838-04-16  Death: 1916-02-22  Birth: 1835-01-09  Death: 1926  Birth: 1833-06-08  Death: 1891-06-12  Birth: 1834-07-25  Death: 1922-02-28  Birth: 1832-02-20  Death: 1876-01-14  Birth: 1829-12-04  Death: 1867-10-25  Birth: 1845-08-22  Death: 1925-10-01  Birth: 1836-02-16  Death: 1910-02-06  Birth: 1833  Death: 1892  Birth: 1828  Death: 1905  Birth: 1828-10-07  Death: 1897-07-24  Birth: 1820-05-18  Death: 1889-05-08 
their individual share also unreservedly
Page 2

and without condition he gave to elder brother and myself
each a share at the discretion of his Executors,
Recurring to the history of this whole Transaction one
of two propositions must be true either the Executors in
obedience to the design of the Testator have not and cannot
mean to give me a share or they have created the im-
pression that they did not as a course of policy to
coerce me into their views and purposes, My mind
now reserves to evidence which would favor the affir-
mation of either of these propositions but I am con-
strained to believe that the last is the true one and
shall mainly in this letter treat of it as so,
And wherefore the ground of distinction of this bequest
If my Father believed me unworthy of a share of his
estate why did he not say it there and why was I not
led into an error and Kept in a false position and
why did he seek and command or accept my services
and care and attention to the exclusion of my own
business to his person and his affairs for two years
before his death, why did he permit me to do so even if I
were willing, why was I allowed to stand at his bedside
in his last illness I who had forfeited his confidence
when others upon whom he had much stronger claims
then he had on me and who were so much more in-
terested and whose obligations were so much deeper
sought their own,
The recollection of facts and circumstances are yet
fresh in my mind that induces and authorises me
to believe and maintain that it is not so much from
Page 3

want of confidence in my frugal habits that I am to be then
proscribed but from other causes which though they do
not appear upon the record are yet too apparent not
to be seen,
While my prospects were brightening while I was at least
apparently increasing in the confidence and regard of my
Father, while my wife
Birth: 1812-09-30 Death: 1848-10-18
and myself were devoting the most
Of our time and attention to his comfort and affairs, grati-
fied to do so and from motives of duty and interest and as
we believe with the approbation of our friends, when all
things conspired as it would seem for our prosperity and
happiness She was stricken down, for some time previous
she had viewed matters in a different light and was
becoming more and more indentified with the Sewards
Do you comprehend the extent of that loss but why
have my friends even turned this sorrow into occasion
of trial and my Father seek to fill that vacant place
by binding me hand and foot to his purposes irrespective
of my principles and rights and feelings,
But is was not from my supposed hostility to his
favorite scheme and object that my Father bases his
action but it is as I believe founded in my religious
sentiments character and position, here is the spring
of his action and with other causes yet suspends the
rod, it pains me that I should be so, that in this free
land there should be those who are willing to deny me
this most sacred of rights, a right to which the humblest
equally with the loftiest intellect is credible too, and
should be respected and conceded how often have
Page 4

I recoiled from so unwelcome a position, Is it true
then that a Seward however humble may be his a-
bilities must not hold his religious faith and sen-
timents, a faith as he believes drawn from the scrip
tures and approved by his Father at least at times
and taught him by his Mother
Birth: 1769-11-27 Death: 1844-12-11
in peace and without
the opposition of his friends and they hold over him
a rod to induce him to forsake the law of a mother
and deny his it, was it not a faith which sustained her
through long years of tribulations, "for I Know whom I
have believed and are persuaded that he is able to Keep
that which I have committed unto him against that day"
Let others take what course they may but let me
yet listen to that voice which comes up from her ashes
that voice which has often spoken its reproof and check-
ed my wayward and guilty feet, that Kind voice which
had it been more revered and respected would have been
the crowning glory of the Seward name and brought
down richer and inestimable blessings,
But it may be that I do not yield and manifest
unqualified confidence in Henry and commit all my
interest to his Keeping that I am yet held in doubt and
have I not reposed confidence and manifested interest
in him, let us recur to my course for the last two years
and see if facts and conduct will not establish beyond
doubt this assertion
A few days after my Fathers Will was made and
signed, Henrys personal and political friend Thurlow
Weed Esq
Birth: 1797-11-15 Death: 1882-11-22
in conspiracy with George M Grier
Birth: 1802-09-27 Death: 1878-12-20
called upon
Edwin P
Birth: 1799 Death: 1872-04-23
and myself the proscribed sons & brother and
stacte said he had come at Henrys request and
Page 5

and stated that such was the state of his pecu-
niary affairs that he needed the aid of friends
and that he had no where else to go but to his brothers
and asked in his behalf our note for I think $3000
it was given in good faith, with what motive it was
requested he can tell better than myself it is enough for
me that it was acceded to from honest purposes, in
confidence and from sincere desire that he might avail
himself of any advantage it might give him,
Again it may be a cause of complaint against
me that I did not hand over to Henry a statement
of my debts, and is it wrong for me to withhold that
which can be construed into an argument of unfit-
ness for business transactions, it is then an error that
I wish to hold my affairs in my own hands and that
I wish to establish my character for honest honorable
dealings, that I claim and insist on the right and a-
bility to settle my debts, this favorite object this lauda-
ble motive was a ruling principle with me and can
it be that my friends design to take it from me,
I have certainly felt grateful to Henry and under ob-
ligations for the reason that I did attribute to his
agency the fact that the bequest to the Institute was
cut down from $125,000 to $25,000 and felt that I could
and ought to do much for him if I had the ability
equal to it, Nor has the obligations of earlier years and
your own Kindness and friendship faded from my
From some circumstances and on reflection I am
Page 6

induced to suppose that it is because I did not accede
to Henrys wishes and remove to Auburn in the fall of
49 that I am yet proscribed, however this may be I
certainly felt that I possessed the right of choice in this
matter but with truth I may reply that my mind
was gradually yielding to it and had he when he
came home at the time I was there on a visit and
talked of it as a Brother instead of that of an Executor
and Guardian he might have accomplished his object
if such he had, my mind was open then to its consid-
eration, Yourself spoke of it and others mentioned it
but he did not and I had no right to Know he contem
plated it or wished it, I have ceased to regard it as
possible and almost to think of it
But I have not ceased to think of the remarks he
he made to me at that time and which have had their
influence on me since, he then touched a chord which
has not yet ceased to vibrate and your Kindness checked
any manifestations of anger or dissaf
But the remains to be told are evidence of confi-
dence which under the circumstances it was made
ought to be conclusive, I gave him on his represen
tative and under his promise that I could take it
back a Deed of Guardianship over my children
x Birth: 1844-11-20  Death: 1917-01-29  Birth: 1840-11-08  Death: 1910-11-28  Birth: 1838-04-16  Death: 1916-02-22  Birth: 1835-01-09  Death: 1926  Birth: 1833-06-08  Death: 1891-06-12 
with what motive he asked it and now hold it he
Knows but that does not destroy my motive nor
alter the moral obligations of either of us,
Again it has occurred to my mind that there may be
another cause of difference the most delicate of any
Page 7

but as I have set out to go over all possible occasions of
discord and while I am not at all clear that it is either
a duty or proper I shall do so, I am not ashamed of my
principles or motives, nor have I any thing to withhold
it is that of a second marriage, I do not admit any right
in Henry or any one else to control me give me law and
yet I have to much respect and consideration for my
friend and myself to bring a person into the family
whom they could not respect or esteem and also there
is much I feel should be considered, Let those be thankful
who are not called to experience the loss and the i the favor
continued to them/thence lead them to Kind and forbearing treat-
ment of others, No woman holds my promise nor does
any obligations any where exist, I have my principles
and I have my preferences, having said this much
I farther say that I have refrained in a very great
measure from pursuing any object of the Kind because
I Knew that my circumstances were regarded as
equivocal and because honesty and honor would have im-
pelled me to have told this whole story to any Lady
whose hand I would have sought but respect for my
friends and to save myself mortification has and will
continue to defer any step on my part nor could I con-
sent to place a woman whom I would call wife under
the power and discretionary control of Executors how-
ever high their claims
I have then endeavored to do what I commenced
I have written of what has occurred to my mind from I
have written candidly it may be that Henry and yourself
Page 8

may feel that you may have cause of complaint
I have not sought to evade it and will be grateful
for an opportunity to explain it or confess the wrong
Long since my feeling on this vexatious subject has
culminated, “Hope long deferred maketh the heart
sick” and the strongest bow may break, it has been
rather from a sense of duty than from any hope that
it may be headed that I have written or that I
shall derive any advantage from it, whatever may
be the result when I shall have placed this long
letter in the post office I can and will say “I have
done all I could,” God is my Witness and his Judge”
If I know my heart it wishes prosperity and
happiness to you and yours
Geo. W. Seward