Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 3, 1859

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 3, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 3, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Keir, Scotland, UK

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: rmg 

revision: amc 2020-12-02


Page 1

Kier, Scotland, July 3 d 1859
My dearest Frances,
My diary leaps to day over
as much of space as it does of time. Occupations
and travel have left me no leisure to write sooner.
I left Birmingham on Friday morning and
passed hurriedly through Lancaster and other
towns, discerning by the boldness of the outlines of
the scenery and the less studied and elegant
cultivation of the fields that I was entering
a mountainous country after I had passed
the line on which Liverpool and Manchester
and Staffordshire the great English manufactory
Districts stand. At three o’clock op I reached

where a short branch of the rail road
bore me through hills turning like the
to the valley of the English Lakes in Westmorland
and CumberlandWindermere

is exaggerated
into a water of ten miles in length and Ullswater
about as great. [ Grassmere ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: Grasmere
is inconsiderable in
dimensions—The English Lakes deserve the celeb-
rity and affection they receive at the hands
Page 2

of Englishmen for to say the truth the Southern
and midland portions of their Island is painfully
monotonous. But only a permuted American mind
could come here to seek either lakes or mountains.
Greenwood in Orange County, Lakes George and
the thousand islands far surpassing any thing on this
island in native richness and beauty and even
our own loved Lakes ^at home^ are infinitely more varied
and attractive, as will be seen fifty years
hence when genius shall have consecrated
them as it has done the English Lakes for
the worship of fashion. I saw the homes of
Birth: 1793-09-25 Death: 1835-05-16
, of Christopher North
Birth: 1785 Death: 1854
and of Wordsworth
in the vicinity of Lake Windermere and I reverence
it for these noble associations —but I went there
not to see ^even^ the deserted haunts of poets, much
less he to study the natural beauties of the Lakes
but for a different purpose, namely to see An
intellectual and noble woman Harriet Mar-
Birth: 1802-06-12 Death: 1876-06-27
Doffing I found her residence at Ambleside
The head of the Lake, a quaint village of black
slate stone without mortar– on a few years ago
a new hamlet, now being all the bustle and
Page 3

energetic trifling of the Catskill mountain or Lake
George or other summer resorts of the pleasure seekers
Haring secured a “bed room” (so they say here) at
the “Salutation” Inn ^and ordered dinner^ I doffed my sheeps grey
tourist garb and donning a black coat and
waistcoat, presented myself at a neat cottage
house which I reached through winding lanes bordered
by flowering shrubs and roses and which looked
over a lawn down to the upon Lake Windermere
Does Miss Martineau live here. She does, is she at
home, She is. I have called to inquire whether
she would see me—You are aware that Miss Martineau
is an invalid and obliged to deny herself to
society. Yes, and I did not expect that she would
receive me now—but I had a hope that at some
time during my stay here she might not be unable
or unwilling to see me. Please give her this letter
with my card and I will wait to know her pleasure
The letter and card were delivered—Miss Martineau
a niece
Birth: 1828 Death: 1864
appeared—“My Aunt will be delighted
to see you—and she has been looking for you—but just
now she is more than unusually unwell—Perhaps
tomorrow? said I. Oh no—an hour or two hence— say
Page 4

eight o’clock—At that hour I was there again
Miss Martineau received me in the drawing room
she was seated and excused herself on the ground
of being unable to rise—She appears florid and
really handsome—something past sixty—a benevolent
countenance with matronly ways and manner –
She applied her ear trumpet and we talked right
on an hour and a half, chiefly of course about
the great American question—Her intercourse has
been chiefly with Garrisonian
Birth: 1805-12-12 Death: 1879-05-24
Abolitionists, and she
spoke almost constantly from their stand point,
and of course she was very despondent. I gave her
my own more practical views—and spoke of course
hopefully if not confidently—She did not hesitate
to repeat a question when my answer was not directly
heard or understood. She betrayed or rather confessed
an opinion that I was a politician rather than an
abolitionist of her school—I explained to her that
there was need of organizers of the Anti slavery
mount as well as of disorganizers of the Pro slavery
forces, and that I believed even Theodore Parker


and Wendell Phillips
Birth: 1811-11-29 Death: 1884-02-02
were content that I should
act in my own way, She readily understood and
Page 5

accepted all these explanations. Then asked about
our prospects of Republican success next year adding
“I know your interest in it,” I replied that I did
not have any assurance of such an interest, as she
alluded to, nor was I so sanguine as others were
of success next year for the cause. but that I was
sure of onward progress and of ultimate triumph,
At length she said—You will not go away
tomorrow—you will come back—and I replied that probably
I could do neither—which I nonetheless deeply
regretted. She said my strength is giving out. I have
several days been much worse – and I must forego
this conversation now. You know what is the matter
of me – no – It is an enlargement of the heart, and
conversation exhausts me – It is not nerves at all –
It is an incurable disease, I only abide its ultimate
development – but I am cheerful – I should indeed
be better if I did not work – but we cant help
but work when there is so much to be done – She
took up some ornamental embroidery or needle work
that lay before her – and said I have made seventy
pounds ($350) this season by such work, for the
Abolition cause –and that will go a good way
you know in mustering papers and lectures – I bade her
Page 6

adieu at ten o’clock with sentiments of uncensored respect
and affection, and with rather serious promises to go there
At half past eight on Saturday morning, I
returned to the line of the rail road and made my
way Northbound with some delays and interruptions
to Carlisle

—A detention of two hours enabled
me to ride through the town and see the country
people there in the bustle and excitement of a
market day, I visited the Fort and the Cathe-
dral – but found nothing worthy of especial notice.
No sooner had I passed Carlisle then naked
mountains naked of timber and sometimes even of
heather, with intervening vallies in which people
were cutting out peat for fuel – surrounded me
The conversation of the people became more provincial
the men ^and women^ wore more angular countenances, and
were dressed less studiedly—barefoot children were
running about at the station, and I learned from
all their indications that I was entering
Scotland – Tall chimneys and coarse stacks of
buildings appeared frequently on either side rising also
the ruins of baronial castles. The neat and luxurious
hedges so usual in England gave place to
mighty stone walls, and the eye could
Page 7

perceive mountain slopes of ten miles in length
unobstructed by greenery or trees, sheep were seen
on the summits of the hills in infinite numbers
and every thing looked as if nature had denied
to this region just in proportion as she had blessed
the other parts of the island— While I was medita-
ting on this irregularity and the sun at nine o
clock was setting on Glasgow its departing
rays shot upward and illuminated a cloud
that hung over the city, My imagination immediately
gave that bright cloud the form of an eagle
with wings outspreaded equally indication
of protection and triumph, And so indeed it
might well be – For Glasgow had been revered
and exalted within the period of twenty six
years this had occurred since my former visit.
Then it was a place of some activity in commerce
chiefly connected with the transportation of im-
ports from Scotland and Ireland to America —It
had some manufactures but these were not
important or prominent features of this town or
Page 8

the country. Now for a direction of fifteen or twenty
miles around it, forges furnaces and other huge
structures fill up the scene not merely crowding
the vallies but climbing the hills on all sides
There seemed to be no ^green^ earth n But every where
multitudes of men and engines were tearing up
the ground to its very foundations and melting
them or dissipating them into ashes – in ten
thousand fires that climbed to the sky amid
weather of black and heavy smoke and im-
penetrable smoke which blocked the earth
below – Great Britain like our own country
had had forty years of peace – and this
development of art and industry is the use she
has made of it. She makes all America and
Asia and Africa tributary to her work shops –
and her people now prosperous contented and
happy remain at home – Well does she insist
that Germany shall not drive her into the
vortex of war that has already abandoned

and Austria. For the fires of her forges
Page 9

will go out when she shall sieze the torch
of war – Standing here as I do and looking with
American eyes on what I see, the war in Europe

seems to me less of a war between State and
nations than a civil war – for the European
states though not yet politically united like the
American states are nevertheless ^in fact^ one great common-
I tarried in Glasgow only long enough
to change from one train to another and at eleven
o clock, I arrived at the ancient town of
Stirling. I saw it before– in a state of dilapida-
tion and ruin. The twilight was sufficient
to reveal that the town had been renovated
Few new dwellings and villas extending in
all directions testified to the virtuous efficacy
of rail roads and manufactures – I could see
no castle, What had become of it, had it
fallen or been removed, and was the deep
Page 10

clay on which it had stood removed also – I crept
out of Stirling in a cab and at twelve o’ clock
arrived here at “Kier” which is the home of
William Sterling
Birth: 1818-03-08 Death: 1878-01-15
Esquire Member of Parliament
for the county of Dunblane

. A gentleman of
leisure fortune and letters, with a distinguished
taste for what is called vertu or curiosities
in art. I cannot describe the place to you
so that you can appreciate it. I was received
through a hall ornamented with things rich rare
and peculiar into a spacious looking apartment
sixty feet long ^and^ rising from for the ground sixty feet the
lower part filled with a ^not a^ elegant library
the upper with on accessible by stairs with
a galley of exquisite paintings and statuary.
This elegant apartment is built ceilings walls
and all of red cedar and the perfume of
it steals upon you continually – There is so far
as I have yet seen no lime or paper covered
wall in the house, all are of wood burnished
only, not painted. Gardens, walks, fountains,
Page 11

waterfalls, terraces, gates, statuary every thing
that the arts of landscape gardening tells us
of in books in America is seen here practically useful
and as if they all had been called into
their portions without labor and renewed
so without care – Then the prospect – the villa
is in the center of a great for
from any and on an eminence that
looks down on the valley of the River Forth
To the East it confronts Stirling Castle which
at the direction of four miles seems identified
with and a part of the ^high^ crag on which it
hangs – a bleak and weather beaten
mount of the ^obsolete^ vices and the crimes of
ages gone by. On the North the Grampian
Hills bound the prospect from the one side to the
other of the horizon – There is Ben Leeds

Ben Lomond

and beyond them are River from
Loch Lomond, and Loch Katrine on either end of the region lie the two great cities of this
wonderful people Glasgow and Edinburgh