Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 24, 1859

  • Posted on: 16 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 24, 1859



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Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, November 24, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Antwerp, Belgium

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: msf 

revision: zz 2021-02-24


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Antwerp November 24. 1859
My dearest Frances,
Since I cannot go directly home by
sea, it is a relief to my wearisomeness to be once more
in motion in a country yet unexplored by me. I left
Paris at eight yesterday morning and making my way
Northward arrived at Brussels at five in the afternoon
a distance of two hundred and forty miles. The country
was chiefly a plain, Iand mountainous in its aspects.
I knew my approach entrance into Belgium

ancient[ l ]


Flanders, by the increased density of population, by
manufacturing establishments all around me, and by
a certain comingling of Dutch homeliness with the
French bigness in the Customs of the people around
me. Brussels is a very elegant little city, and
deserves more attention than I was able to bestow on
it. It affects Paris and is a very fair minia-
ture of it. I took a carriage at eight this morning
and went to visit Waterloo, distant twelve
miles. The road is paved throughout and has for a
large distance on the left the forest of Soissons. This
forest at the time of the great battle covered nearly
the whole country between Brussels and Waterloo.
I found a guide
, who was born near the spot, ^and^ saw
the battle, and who speaks tolerable English
Page 2

Waterloo is a village consisting of a single street
beginning about two miles North of the battle grounds
and tapering off into a hamlet called Mount St.
Jean, which borders on the field itself. The guide
says that the people in this village on the day of the
battle abandoned their dwellings and sought safety
in the forest. The dwellings were used for hospitals.
Although I have little knowledge of the art of war,
yet I nevertheless unconscious of any fatigue attended
my guide to the ^somewhat^ parallel ranges of low hills
on which the two armies were drawn up and
maneuvered within point blank cannon shot of
each other. I studied the attack and the defense
of Hougoumont

and La Haye Sainte the two principle
forts of the English, and I stood where Wellington
Birth: 1769-05-01 Death: 1852-09-14

stood while conducting managing his defense, and
where Napoleon
Birth: 1769-08-15 Death: 1821-05-05
stood when directing those fierce
and tremendous assaults. I do not know that
Birth: 1742-12-16 Death: 1819-09-12
coming up late with his Prussians might not
in any event have won a victory, but I came I
know not ^how^ wisely to the conclusion, that the advantages
of position were with Wellington, and that had it been
otherwise he might have been defeated. But what
Page 3

you will say is military strategy to you, and
you are right. So I leave it. Here said the guide
we buried seven hundred persons. Here we buried
fifteen hundred in the wood that has since been removed.
The King of Holland
Birth: 1650-11-04 Death: 1702-03-08
has raised a great memorial
200 feet high on the central spot of the Battle
field, and placed the Belgian Lion on the top of
it. I well perfectly remember that at Florida
forty four years ago when I was at school at
Florida and the boys were dismissed at 11 for
ten minutes of play, I heard then for the first of
the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo — I had been
educated to sympathize with him, I believed
him ultimately invincible — At this day I know
that he was so bold so ambitious and so
reckless that he was sure to be overthrown — I
hardly know now whether Human society has
lost or gained by his fall — Although a despot
he delighted in improvements of the material and
moral conditions of nations. But he could never
have been content. He must have always de-
manded new hecatombs of victims. It is long
very long since I forgot my puerile pity for him.
Page 4

Yet it came back upon me to day for a brief
space, when I thought of the day of his escape from
Elba, the electric restoration of his Empire and
its maintenance throughout the hundred days of his ^ re ^ orga-
nization of an army of 75,000 men and marching
to this tdis distant position to meet the triumphant
allied forces. Of the boldness of his assault, of
the accidents that entered into the fate of the
field. Of his defeat and flight, the desertion
of him by the French People, his surrender of himself
to the British Regent


. His unchivalrous repulse.
His sad voyage to St Helena, his impatient
fretting there against the bars of his prison, his
lonely death, denied all hope there that his
last wish might be gratified, that his ashes might rest
on the banks of the Seine. Let us be just after all.
Had not Bonaparte lived and reigned, legitimate
despotism had now been a thousand fold stronger.
Though not a devotee of Liberty, Liberty has had
the chief benefits of his championship.
My s I was only able to take a general
survey of Brussels. It is not unworthy of its great
history. Its citizens have with admirable taste
Page 5

raised commemorated t marked the scene of two great
events in the worlds history. The rallying of the Crusaders
and under the Belgian ^Flemish^ standard and the abd recogni-
tion of the Empire of Germany by Charles V
 Death: 1558-09-21
. The great
Hall where this last transaction so deeply affecting
took place was accidentally burned down. They
have erected upon the spot a cast iron equestrian
statue of Godfrey of Bouillon.
When I was leaving town the American minister
General Fail
Birth: 1809-07-04 Death: 1886-12-23
(of Alabama) attended me to the
train, and I half promised him I would
stop at Brussels on my return & see the old
King Leopold
Birth: 1790-12-16 Death: 1865-12-10
, the husband, as you may remember
of the lamented Princess Charlotte
Birth: 1796-01-07 Death: 1817-11-06
, of England, and
since married to a sister
Birth: 1812-04-03 Death: 1850-10-11
of Louis Philippe
Birth: 1814-10-25 Death: 1896-06-26

It was nea night when I reached this
town. I shall try to look around some for two
or three hours tomorrow before going on to the Hague.