Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 25, 1859

  • Posted on: 7 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 25, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 25, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Paris, France

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: tml 

revision: vxa 2021-03-05

Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward's series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Paris Monday July 25th.
I dined yesterday with the Grinnells
x Birth: 1842  Death: 1887-05-14  Birth: 1838-03-16  Death: 1915-02-16  Birth: 1839-08-09  Death: 1921-05-11  Birth: 1803-11-21  Death: 1872-02-23  Birth: 1803-03-03  Death: 1877-11-24 
who are living
very pleasantly here in their own hired house. Our
time was pleasantly passed in exchange of my American
information for what he had acquired in European
travel. It being Sunday my protestant habits forbade
my searching for curios or looking at amusing
sights. A walk through the Elysium fields exposed
to me nevertheless many of the strange devices of the
ministers ^of pleasure^ in this great Court of Vanity Fair the
Goddess of Vanity. Besides theatres of every kind
by day and by night, in doors and out,
concerts by day and by night in
Halls and under the shade trees
There were circular processions
of ^persons^ swinging in baskets
and circular
Page 2

Children mounted on hobby horses, two hobby
horses a-breast, persons spring a dozen
tops at once on the pavement, and a
duet of fiddles, one played by the performer
with his hand and the other played
by athe hand of an automaton fiddler
which was moved through his its toe
by the foot of the human player. Paris
is a scene of petty commerce. Its trade
seems to be altogether frivolous. My
But it confesses nevertheless its respect
for trade and magnifies it by exhibiting
allegorically the towns of Boulogne Brest
Havre Shartres Marselles & - The walk
brought us to the Arc de Triomphe - or arc
d'etoile, which is in a sense an entrance
to the City. It is a magnificent structure
24 feet wide or thick and 100 feet high
embellished with colossal figures and
Page 3

inscriptions celebrating the martial achievements
of the French People.
This morning I breakfasted with
an American party at the Hotel du Louvre
the home at which our countrymen most
do congregate - My sight seeing was
circumscribed. I saw first the Chapel
of the tomb of Napoleon
Birth: 1769-08-15 Death: 1821-05-05
in the Hotel
des Invalides. No description of the
splendor of this place could bring it
before you, nor indeed is it necessary
The grave of Napoleon. The ashes of
Napoleon, History banishes art from your
sight while you look upon that the urn
that holds them in its trust. I looked
upon it with interest indeed, but shall
I confess it. without rev I looked without
reverence, without affection without awe and
even without compassion. There was a sad
a painful discordance between the green
Page 4

laurel wreathes and the large roll of
fbattle fields, and the sword and plume
which garnish the tomb and the religious
emblems which properly adorn the
Chapel Temple which encloses it. Every
day I live, I grow more intolerant of
military despots. There are three systems
upon which men are governed. one of
force acting by terror, one of imagination
fraud acting by appeal to the imagination
or to the passions, the third, by reason
addressing the understandings and concerns
of men - Our own system I need not
say is the latter. BAnd it is in part the
system of England. But as the whole
people of that realm are not sufficiently
enlightened to break such ^sustain^ a government
on so simple a principle, the British man-
tain a throne and an aristocracy which
pa ages ago won the affections of the
people and still retain them. The French
Page 5

nation as a mass are ^not^ trained to the
exercise of reason either in religion or in
politics. Therefore every attempt to maintain
permanently a republic fails, or government of
resting on public intelligence fails. Terror
is too costly and too dangerous, and
therefore the Despot, adopts the system
of appeal to the imagination and passions
of the people. It erects monuments and
fountains and theatres and arches
and opens gardens and palaces of
pleasure on all sides. or It boasts of
victories and displays trophies, on all
sides. Each of its ^ever^ changing dynasties
seeks to impress its own character on
the monuments of the day and even changes
old ones for that purpose. In the When I
was here twenty five years ago the
symbols of legitimacy were ^newly^ displaced - The
first Revolution inscribed on its edicts
and on the public monuments, Liberty and
Page 6

Equality. The Empire erased them all.
The Revolution of 1830 restored in part. Its motto
every where seen was "Liberty and Public Order"
The empire restored ^has^ suppressed all them and
instead of expressing homage for either liberty
or ^for^ order, it has substituted monuments of the
heroism and valor of the French Nation. and
nothing else. I did not enter the Hall
of the Legislature. The name in England and in
America suggests the idea of the controlling
will of the People. Here the Corps Legislatif
is only apractically a constituted body ^organized^ to
express in due form and with official solem-
nity the will of the Emperor
Birth: 1808-04-20 Death: 1873-01-09
I am surrounded by evidences that
the present emperor has been successful
in satisfying the people of France. and even
its intelligent classes. But to me this content-
ment seems as unsatis unreasonable as it
is unworthy. What is it but confiding the
whole future of a nation as well its present
Page 7

to the caprices or at least to the fortune of a
man without security from him or from fate.
Suppose Napoleon 3d to die tonight. What must happen
but a revolution? It is of incident to every dic-
tatorship that it be followed by violent reaction
toward the system which the Dictatorship displa-
ced - so So it was with the administration of
Cesar, so with Cromwell
Birth: 1599-04-25 Death: 1658-09-03
, so with
the first Napoleon.
Even the present system is only a stage
of what yet seems an endless revolution.
The first Napoleon arrested and subdued
the Republic. His fall brought back the
despotic system of the Bourbons. That was intolerable
because and so a reaction began. The Bonapartists
favored it. Louis Phillippe
Birth: 1773-10-06 Death: 1850-08-26
the representative of
the popular cause restored the statue of Napoleon
on the Place Vendome. finished the Arc de
triomphe, brought Napoleons ashes to France
The Bonapartist movement has now culminated
or is culminating under Napoleon 3d. Who
can doubt, that on the occurrence of any great
Page 8

disaster to the system or even to the man
who represents it, the return of either the Republic
ofor of the "Legitimate" despotism must occur.
Which will it be? Probably the former
because it is of the two that one which is
most in harmony with the spirit of the
age. But will that system even then stand?
No. for Knowledge is most unequally dissem[ in ]


Reason: hole
ated in France. Only a Minority of the
people are educated for self government, the
rest are children, and new speculators
will profit by ^practice on^ their simplicity as the
present chief of the state does. Only time
can prepare a people for self government but
it will do its work surely though slow.
I have not told you of the Church of
the Madeleine which I visited to day.
But any guide book, or letter writer will
do that.