Letter from William Henry Seward to Janet Watson Seward, September 16, 1870

  • Posted on: 8 May 2018
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Janet Watson Seward, September 16, 1870



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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 Janet Watson Seward, September 16, 1870

action: sent

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

location: China

receiver: Janet Seward
Birth: 1839-11-18  Death: 1913-11-09

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: sts 

revision: tap 2018-03-30

Page 1


Editorial Note

This letter was written by Olive Risley Seward for William H. Seward.
Pacific Ocean,
Lat. 36" 20
Long. 180"
Steamship "China."
Friday. Sept. 16. 1870.
My dear daughter Janet,
Our captain
us that before reaching Yokohama
we shall meet a homeward bound
steamer, and be able to exchange
mails, but to secure this privelige
we must have our letters prepared sea–
sonably, as the "wise virgins" had
their lamps "trimmed and burning",
because no one on board this steamer
can know the hour when that same
return steamer "cometh".
I chose to write now, just at the
Page 2

hour and even the minute when
our Western voyage has brought
us to the ^neutral^ one hundred and
eightieth degree of longitude
neutral because it is neither West
longitude nor East longitude,
longitude West being reckoned
from Greenwich to this same one
hundred and eightieth degree,
and longitude East being reck-
oned from Greenwich to the same
meridian line.
My watch which has not
been disturbed since I left Auburn
now tells me that it is eight o' clock
at night at Greenwich. The ships
time which has been adjusted
every day of the voyage, so as
to keep time with the Sun, tells
me that it is eight o clock in the
morning here. Both of these
time pieces agree however in
Page 3

this, that it is the fifteenth
day of the month of September. Never-
theless you will observe that I have
affixed the date of Friday the six-
teenth, to this letter. The reason
is that having arrived at the one
hundred and eightieth degree,
we have practically lost twelve
hours. Assuming that the ship
is to go around the world in the
same direction, we shall of
course lose another twelve hours
before we reach Greenwich. These
two losses of twelve hours, are one
day, commerce and navigation
have agreed therefore, to strike out
twenty four hours at the one hundred
and eightieth parallel, and so
have nothing to strike out at
Greenwich or elsewhere on the voyage
I hope I have made this clear;
if I have not it will be a pleasing
problem for you to study out on
Page 4

the great globe in the dining
Half way around the globe from
London is of course half way
around the globe from Auburn
less thirty eight mileshundred miles
the distance between Auburn and
London – practically we are half
way across the Pacific Ocean.
We have been out sixteen days,
we expect to reach Yokohama on
the twenty fifth. Our voyage thus
far has been free from peril
and even from apprehension
of danger. We average two hundred
miles a day. The Captain and
, and even the servants

and crew
are kind and courteous.
The fifty or sixty cabin passengers

leave us every enjoyment which
this spacious and well appointed
ship can well afford –
Page 5

There are four hundred Chinese
in the steerage, returning
home, and they are cleanly, well behaved
and orderly. Some of the passengers
are very interesting and intelligent
men, and all are amiable. Our
own proper party is just what was
agreed upon at Auburn. Myself
and Olive Risley
Birth: 1844-07-15 Death: 1908-11-27
, with her sister
Birth: 1850-03-05 Death: 1925-07-27
, constitute one section, this section
in the mutual aid and affection
which its members yield each other
realizes just what we promised our-
selves or hoped for when it was organized
Governor Randall
Birth: 1819-10-31 Death: 1872-07-26
and Mrs. Randall
Birth: 1845-10-02 Death: 1918-10-06
are as genial as they are accom-
plished – they are a second section.
George Frederick Seward
Birth: 1840-11-08 Death: 1910-11-28
is here
the same as you saw him at Auburn, his
Birth: 1850-06-06 Death: 1934-06-15
a woman in rare talent, accomplishment,
and grace. They are the third section.
Your first question I know will be
about our health and I shall
Page 6

answer it candidly. I do not find
that my arms and hands can be made
to do any thing here which they refused
to do at Auburn, but I do find that the
little they did at Auburn is done
with more ease and comfort, or rather
with less effort than at Auburn. Besides
I have learned to accommodate myself
better than at Auburn to the privations
which the infirmity has brought. The
general tone of my health is de-
cidedly improved. I have no day during
my last residence in Auburn, enjoyed
so much vigor or put forth so much
strength as I do daily here. Olive Risley
has shown somewhat the effects of her
recent illness, but just now begins
to feel the good effects of the voyage.
Hattie is perfectly well. No one of us
has been a sufferer by sea sickness
Our voyage has been without event
or incident, on this the broadest of all
the oceans. We have spoken but one
vessel ship. We have seen one other port just
at the horizons edge. We have seen
Page 7

two schools of porpoises, a turtle, a
few flying fish, but no whales or sea
serpents. The temperature generally
is pleasant, from seventy to seventy
six degrees – We have had occasional
showers, but no inclement rain – It is
our present purpose to stop ten days
in Japan, and to proceed from thence
to Shanghai and Peking, but I shall
defer the visit to Peking to a later period
if I find the political atmosphere of
China , seriously disturbed by the
late reclaimations which have followed
the late massacre of French Catholics
at Tien Jin. I shall write to some
of my children
x Birth: 1839-06-18  Death: 1920-04-29  Birth: 1830-07-08  Death: 1915-04-25  Birth: 1826-10-01  Death: 1876-09-11 
in any case. Mean
time they need not be told that my
love is always with them all. My
best love to my dear sister
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
Hand Shiftx

William Seward

Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
William H Seward.
Birth: 1844-07-15 Death: 1908-11-27
To Mrs. Janet W. Seward
Auburn. N.Y.