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[Benjamin] F[ranklin Butler] to Harriet Allen, 17 October 1817

My Dearest

I find it inconvenient to leave Albany tomorrow and shall therefore be deprived of the pleasure of seeing you as we had expected. I hope you will bear this disappointment for such I presume it will be, with your accustomed patience. A variety of concerns induced me to put off the visit until Monday. Besides, Mr. Van Buren is yet extremely ill, and I begin to think it doubtful whether he goes to N. York at all. By Monday I shall be able to calculate with certainty as to that fact. If he should be so ill as to give up the idea of attending the term, I should advise you to defer your visit to Mrs. Van Buren until some other time. She says that she wishes you to come whether Mr. V. B goes to New York or not, but I presume you would rather be at home than in a sick family. The visit under such circumstances would be far from pleasant. From necessity you will be obliged to spend the greatest portion of your time with Mrs. V. B. & if she has a sick husband to take care of & she will be unable to make her house as agreeable as it would otherwise be. But all this we can determine on Monday. I intended to have visit Mrs. Gibson to night, and had made arrangements for going there, but Mr. V. B. having taken an emetic & wishing me to stay with him I was obliged to give up the intention. She yet continues with us, a living witness of the grace of her Redeemer & a signal proof of the power of his Religion.

For one or two years her life has been despaired of and her friends have thought that each day would terminate her sufferings, but she has already outlived illegible ^many^ of her acquaintances & may yet survive the most hardy of us all. How little can we calculate on the duration of life. It has been said that nothing was certain but death, & it is true that nothing is more sure, oh that we might so live as to be always prepared for its approach. One my uncles, (the one living at the Landing) has been sick for four or five weeks. There is little hope of his recovery or rather none at all. I wish very much to see him. If I had gone down tomorrow I think it more than probably that I should have staid at home till Monday to have had an opportunity of seeing him. I pray that he may be prepared for the issue, that he may be drawn to God "while yet the lamp holds out to burn." What an awful interest do we take in the salvation of our friends when believe them  on the verge of eternity. When we feel its importance for we know that "as the tree falls so it must lie." That in the grave whither we are hastening there is neither knowledge nor devise. God of his mercy grant my dear uncle may be enabled to think of these things & while life lasts may keep & find the only name and the only redemption whereby he can be saved. And may he give us the teachings of his Holy Spirit that as we draw nearer illegible to the Sepulchre we may have our hearts more & more conformed to his will, and less riveted to the vain pursuits a fleeting world. I will try to add a few hasty lines in the morning until which time I bid you adieu.

Saturday. I have no time to say any thing more than that I must have my letter as it was. Don't scold at me for being so brief. 

Your own 


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Source: N New York State Library
Collection: Benjamin Franklin Butler Papers (N)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)