Skip to main content
View PDF

[Benjamin] Franklin [Butler] to Harriet Allen, 28 November 1817

My dear Harriet 

Tomorrow I start for NewYork, and shall be favored with a glance at the spot which holds you. I have concluded since yesterday morning that it would be best & safest to go down to NewYork and complete the business to be done there in person, which is nothing more than to see Col. Burr & confer with him on the subject of a very important controversy in which I am about commencing the proceedings. He is one of the Counsel in the cause & has all the documents in his possession. As soon as I can see him & get the papers & his advice & instructions I shall be ready to return. I calculate to leave NewYork on Tuesday with the Steam boat, and to reach Albany on the next day. I shall not be able to stop at Hudson. I hope my dear Harriet will forgive me for breaking my promise. I did believe when I parted from you that if I went down to NewYork I should be permitted to make a short stop at Hudson, but I now find it extremely important for me to be at home every moment of my time. We finished to day the proceedings for this week in our famous Hart cause, in which I have been engaged since Tuesday almost every moment of my time. On Tuesday next we again commence, and my presence here can hardly be dispensed with consistent either with the wishes or the interest of our clients. I know dear that the disappointment will be great for I feel that it will be a severe task on me to pass twice in sight of the place which contains all the dearest object of my affections, & yet be compelled to leave it far behind me. I shall undoubtedly see you during the holidays, and in the winter as often as circumstances will permit. And when Spring with ^its^ genial warmth has renewed local natures "pairing season," we too, by the permission of our Heavenly father will unite our hands & fortunes at the altar of Hymen. Think a little of the pleasures that are past "sweet & mournful to the soul," dwell considerably on the comforts of the present moment & let your bosom swell with the gratitude they deserve, and then if you still find an "aching void" which can neither be filled by the present nor the past, let Hope point you to the pleasures which she promises to bestow. Thus you may be enabled to pass away the hours without the endurance of pain even if deprived of the enjoyment of happiness. And who can be assured of more. This world was not meant for such a state, and every days experience proves it it but too well. Strange then that men should not look beyond it, that they should forget thou brighter world on high, and in the vain pursuit of happiness on earth, neglect the only chance of securing it above. May we be enabled to place our affections on things above, to look towards the Hills whence cometh our hope & forgetting the things that are behind, to press forward to the mark of the prize of ^the^ high calling in Christ Jesus the Lord. So "shall our walk be close with God" while he permits us to remain on his footstool, the prisoners of hope, and so where he takes us hence shall he grant us an abundant entrance into his everlasting kingdom. May this salvation be portion of those we love & of ourselves through the grace & the sufferings of Christ. Your own Franklin

Saturday morng. Steam Boat. I have just learned from Mr. Norman with very great pleasure that your brother would come on board at Hudson on his way to the South. I was calculating last night whether I should be able to find him at NewYork, supposing from your last letter that he had gone down on Thursday, and in the end concluded that he would make no stay at all, but would push on for Philadelphia. I had however resolved to put up at the city Hotel where he normally stays in the hope of finding him if he was yet in town. I now promise myself much pleasure in meeting him, on board and in staying with him at N. Y. as long as he shall remain. The circumstances of our conversion at one & the same time to which you refer, is truly a most wonderful display of the power & the grace of God. And the song of praise to him who "hath redeemed us & washed us in his own blood" & who will hereafter raise us to the full enjoyment of himself above if we continue steadfast in the faith, should be always on our lips and should ever flow warmly from the heart. You ask me whether I feel the coldness that you describe, and whether the want of my conformity to our blessed pattron and Redeemer excites those doubts & fears which at times agitate & afflict your bosom. And can I say otherwise than yes? Can I say that I am able to see my failures in duty, any continued relapses into sin & to feel my attachment to the world overpowering & almost swallowing up my gratitude & love to the author of my being the protector of my life & saviour of my soul, to know the depravity of my heart & the corruption, the entire corruption, of my nature, and yet be free from doubts & apprehensions as to the sincerity of my conversion and the truth & reality of my adoption? Oh no. If I could say so in the face of all these things how great would be my self deception, nay, how deplorable my hardihood. This distrust as to our acceptance with God and the renewal of our hearts is common to every believer. And so it must be. The more we increase in grace and knowledge, the more we shall become acquainted with the fallen nature of man & the sins we contain within us. These things must always create a great deal of self abhorrence & of distrust as to the renewal of our hearts. We see so many abominations within & about us that we sometimes are ready to believe that we must be the children of the devil or we would not abound in so many of his works. Perhaps the hopes & confidence of the believer are never so strong as in the hour of death. God then gives him strength equal to the day. Then he manifests himself frequently to those who in life were mourning disconsolate in Zion. Encourage the reflections you mention, they tend to keep us humble. That humility is a most difficult grace. I am entirely deficient in it. The circumstances in which I am every day placed, the importance of several great causes in which I have become an active & a pretty prominent assistant, all tend to puff me up with vanity & ambition & of course with sin. Pray that I may be kept from pride that I may be humbled to the dust which is my proper place. I am very much interested in what you say of Lydia. I have just written a short note to her which after you have read, & you think proper you may hand to her or keep it yourself just as you circumstances shall dictate. What a blessed display of divine grace would it be if she should be brought to see & taste that the Lord is gracious. May he grant that this may be her portion for the Redeemers sake? Mr. Olcott & Mr. Hoyt go down to Hudson this afternoon in a carriage by land. I envy Mr. O. the happiness of clasping his beloved to his bosom. If I could stop at Hudson you would have all the foreign lovers, towit, Platt & your humble servant. Mr. Hoyt I presume will call on you. If he does I have no doubt you will treat him with politeness. He is a great admirer of yours as you probably know, & has behaved admirably since his restoration. He returns to Albany on Sunday. 

I will send you a long letter on shore when I come up ^on Wednesday^ and if the weather is fine, & you will come down to the hill I will stand at the bow (the fore part) of the boat, in my blue surtout, & as the boat passes will go to the Stern. In this way we may continue to catch a glimpse of each other, and I shall also expect you to send me a letter on board by Robert. Dear H. I am now and always your affectionate and faithful

Franklin

Images for this document are currently unavailable.
Source: N New York State Library
Collection: Benjamin Franklin Butler Papers (N)
Series: Series 3 (17 February 1815-2 December 1821)