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B[enjamin] F[ranklin] Butler to Harriet Allen, 18 November 1817

Dearest Harriet, 

This is an evening of leisure & I will devote a good share of it to you. First however let me thank you for your two letters the last of which I received to day. They were doubly interesting, because they were the first or our new series, I am sorry dear H that you wrote me the last one for it must have been painful & inconvenient. I charge you not to undertake it again until your thumb is entirely well which I most sincerely hope may shortly be the case. Till the misfortune is removed you ought not & must not write me. What a dear girl you were to write to your Franklin so soon, and that too before you had received a line from him. I had no great expectation of finding a letter at the P.O. on Tuesday evening, yet I resolved to go down there about 10. How ample was I rewarded for my walk. Then you wonder whether your Franklin will ever study divinity, and if he does & becomes a preacher, whether you will like him as well as Mr. Stanton? Upon the first point you might reasonably indulge a doubt as it is assuredly uncertain, but I wonder how you could possibly make a question of the second. For you know & I know, that though I should study till I was grey & preach till my lungs were exhausted, that I could never hope to attain the excellence of Stanton, and therefore if your good sense & good taste continued you would always prefer his preaching. "But that's neither here nor there," for the present, the other question is the first & must first be decided. I have no sort of expectation of leaving my profession for three years at least to come. I do not indeed suppose that I shall always continue in its labours, but at present I do not feel myself called upon to leave them. The circumstances which I mentioned to you & a variety of other considerations have completely put to rest all the uneasiness & indecision which the entreaties & the advice of my young friends had excited. On my return I talked with my mother about it & the advice led me to remain where I am for the present. And so I shall. Not for the purpose of amassing the wealth nor gaining the applause of this "evil generation" but with the hope that I may by an honest industry be enabled to support myself & my Harriet & provide for whatever duties I may be called to, better than my breaking off suddenly from my present occupation & launching anew into the ocean of uncertainty. I was some what amused by your story of Mr. <illegible>, but very much disgusted with his ignorance. I should have supposed that any person of common sense would have known from the turn of the expressions that the passage was scriptural. But let him go. I hope for the sake of Miss W. that she may have sense enough to discard him. I had heard of the death of Genl. Haight before you wrote to me. Poor man he was so insensible during his sickness that no one could converse with him on the subject of eternity. Oh how dangerous it is to put off preparation till the hour of its necessity. There are very few who do not intend some day or other to make their peace with God. But the deceitfulness of sin & the hardness of our own hearts prevent us from perceiving that now is the accepted time & the day of salvation. We put off the word from day to day unmindful of the rapid approach of death & forgetful of the wiles of the destroyer. He, the arch deceiver, well pleased with our delays, encourages & deludes us, until at length death comes suddenly & unnoticed & bears us to the tomb. Have no doubt that your church was elegantly decorated. Miss Edmonds tells me that it was. By this time you have heard the sermon of Dr. Griffen which though by no means adapted to the day, is yet so good a one that I presume you will be pleased with the whole, or at least parts of it. I presume he will preach the same one at Hudson which he gave us here. It is the most learned & laborious collection of facts historical, geographical, & critical that I ever knew comprised in a sermon, & the latter part of it is eloquent & impressive. I wonder at Mr. S. for not giving you a discourse. Mr. Chester to day delivered the best sermon by far I ever heard from him, well arranged as to manner & well written & appropriate as to subject matter. From from that fustian into which he so often degenerates & abounding in good sense & practical instruction. I was much pleased I assure you. I was invited to dine with Mr. Delavan (Mr. Nortons partner) where I met <Norton> Olcott & <6> 7 or 8 others. We had an excellent thanksgiving dinner & spent a pleasant hour with our friends. I wish that I was with you this evening for I think I could enjoy your company. I feel almost alone in the world when away from you. What a blank would it be without you. But I won't afflict either of us by such melancholy forebodings. Our lives as yet have been spared, God has dealt bountifully with us, & well will praise him for his goodness & trust in him forever. "Bless the Lord oh our souls & all that is within us bless his holy name, for his mercy endureth forever." May we never forget our obligations to our Heavenly father & may his care protect us for each other & for himself. I'll leave the other side for tomorrow. Good night dear H: B. F. Butler

Dear Dear H. Friday eveing. 

After having been very busily engaged throughout the day I am pleased with the chance of spending a few moments with my own dear Harriet. The relief is very great I assure you after the dulness of office labours. How much more so will it be when I can enjoy the privilege of an evenings conversation, or an evenings employment by the side of her I love in our own little mansion. You was a little mistaken in your supposition the other night. On Tuesday I did not go to the Session room, and for the best of all possible reasons because our meeting is changed to Wednesday, so that we shall have the pleasure of spending that evening in the same employment. Nor did Burchard keep me up a moment. He has not spent but one evening with me since my return & that was Wednesday when he stayed but a few minutes at the office. He has fallen half in love with you, at least you would suppose so if you heard him talk of you. But he is a little given to rhapsodies especially when he dwells upon a fine subject. I don't think I shall go to New York at all this winter fall. My only errand would be to obtain some papers & if they can be procured without my going down I shall be very glad to remain at home, having no great desire to take a trip in the Steam boat at this season of the year. I have not yet changed rooms for the weather has been uncomfortably warm. Mr. Chester I understand has gone down to Hudson to preach for you on Sunday, when we are to have your excellent Mr. Stanton. I shall be greatly delighted to hear him it is so long since I have enjoyed that pleasure. I shall be glad to see him too, for I am pretty certain that he will bring me a good long letter from a certain female correspondent belonging to your metropolis. Don't you think he will? What a mere chit chat letter this is, but I can't help it for I feel like trifling in small talk, alias fashionable conversation. Would you believe it I went down to the Post office after the Steam Boat came in thinking that there might be a letter from you. I have no right or reason to expect one, but I thought it would give me great pleasure to hear from you & who knows (thought I) but that my dear girl may written me? I was not much disappointed at the result. Mr. Van Buren goes down in the morning to Catskill. He was to have taken his two hopeful boys (the eldest) with him. if he had done it there would have been so much of a respite for the ensuing week that I should have continually wished for you. The next time we pass a fortnight under the same roof I hope it may be done in the same room without our being vexed by the surmises of the ignorant or tormented by the rudeness of a tribe of young bears. Did you ever see such a set of fellows in your life? I am sure I never did. You will not have another letter from me until next Wednesday when it will go down with the land mail. You may rely on my punctuality in the new arrangement even if my sheets contain but half a dozen lines apiece. I would not be deprived of the pleasure of writing to you any more than I could part with that of hearing from you. I am much obliged to Lydia for her forbearance & hope the next time to be able to treat her with more respect because in doing so I shall gratify myself more than I can her. 

Believe me dear H. your own affectionate 


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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)