Skip to main content
View PDF

[Benjamin] Franklin [Butler] to Harriet Allen, 5 December 1817 

Dear Harriet, 

I saw you on Wednesday very plainly on the Hill & I believe that you was equally successful. When I arose in the morning I found such an alteration in the weather that I was afraid you would be deterred from visiting the Hill, but we had no sooner arrived in fair view of that part of the town than I discovered my Dear H. on the battlements. Did you distinguish me without difficulty? There were so many around me that I was afraid you would be unable to perceive me. My eyes were fixed on you as long you remained, and when I could no longer discern the figure of my Harriet I left the deck and I commenced with eager delight the perusal of your letter. I am unable to tell you how much pleasure it afforded me. It almost made me forget to wish, that I ^might^ have been permitted to land. How infinitely do you excel us in epistolary composition! There are few men whose letters are not dull, stiff tedious prosaic, while those of almost any lady of moderate capacity & tolerable attainments are lively interesting and easy & unaffected. Why is it that you write so much better than we do? The true mystery I believe is, that you write you what you feel while we tell you what you ^we^ think. I am sorry that my failure to fulfill my promise gave you so much unhappiness. I was afraid that it would, or rather, I knew that the disappointment would be great, and I found that you would hardly think my excuse a sufficient one. I am now glad that I passed by. The weather has become so cold that the Boat has started this after noon, & the Boats will not hereafter reach this place, unless there should be a change, which considering the lateness of the season is not very probable. Mr. Halleck an acquaintance of your brother & one of Mrs. Barkers Sandy Hill directors came up with me. We had been to Sandy Hill together & of course had become considerably acquainted. He is a very fine gentlemanly young man, and we made out to ^render the^ passage agreeable. He thought it first a romantic adventure to have a young lady come on the Hill to meet me and discovered signs of attachment or intimacy from the signals that were given & the despatches that we exchanged. Just before we came in sight of you, he asked me whether I knew Lt. Allen of that place (pointing to Hudson) and on my replying in the affirmative, he said that "he was ^just^ such a fellow as one could love." I told him that he was, but that he had a sister whom it was much easier to love. Your brother called on him on his way to the South, two days before I arrived in NewYork.

Saturday evening. A gentleman came into the office last evening at about five o.Clock & staid there for some time after ten, so that I was prevented from finishing my letter. Knowing that there would be no boat this morning I was not as anxious to have my visitor depart as I otherwise should have been. I have just returned from a prayer meeting at my good friend Mr. Boardmans, where we had several persons. How I wish that you could be here to go with us. We have them every Saturday night, and they are admirably calculated to finish the concerns of the week & prepare the mind for the approaching Sabbath. I am glad to hear that you are to have such an interesting addition to your Church. May the Lord be with you and prepare you for the enjoyment of his feast of love. What wonders of redeeming love has he displayed at Hudson. For many years there was no attention to religion, the labors of the ministers of God, seemed spent in vain, the friends of Zion having their harp upon the willows "and mourned for her decline. But now the good seed which from time to time has been sown by shepherds of the flock is springing up, bringing forth fruit an hundred fold. May it continue till not a single soul shall be left untouched & unsubdued by the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. I shall think of you much tomorrow. You will partake of the feast of love, you will again handle & receive the sacred emblems of the broken body, & poured out blood of the Lord our Redeemer. May the Lord bless them to your comfort and edifiction, may he be the master of the feast and smile upon the guests with love & condescension. The first account of my uncles death I received from you. I have recd. a letter from my father in which he says that he remained senseless and lethargic for some time before his death. Oh how ought man to take warning by the numerous instances of death of this kind, in which from the commencement of the disorder until the termination of life, reason is entirely lost, and set themselves about preparation for eternity in the hours of health. As to my uncle I may not express either hopes, fears or opinions. He is in the hands of a just God, and with him there is every possible perfection. Mr. Hoyt was delighted with his visit, and fell in love with all of you. But particularly he says with you. He mentioned to me that you asked about the key of the draw. Before I went to New York, I collected all your letters to your sweetheart & locked them up in my trunk where they now are in perfect security. Since you are so fond of hearing me read Gertrude of Wyoming, the next time we meet we will endeavour to review it together. It is sometime since I have seen it, (not since I read it to you) and it is a [. . .]<illegible> of that kind which improves upon reacquaintance, and can only be sufficiently admired by those who are familiar with its beauties. I did not suppose by any means that my poor letter would convince Lydia of the need of an interest in Christ, I only thought that it might perhaps have a little influence on her mind, in case she was seriously inclined. For though all things are effected by the spirit of God, and though man can do nothing of himself, yet means are always made use of and it is our duty to apply them whenever there is a possibility of good. I hope that a work of grace may be wrought in her heart like that of Lydia of old, and that she may become an heir of the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled & that fadeth not away. The circumstance you mention respecting Mr. Abbott gives me great pleasure. I know him too well not to know that he is honest. I have too much confidence in his virtue his integrity, his good sense & discretion to believe him capable of a base act. (Do you remember how much superior he once was in principle to your own loved, erring, reclaimed & repentant Franklin?) It would give me great pleasure to see her united to Mr. A. but I hope she will not neglect for any earthly considerations her duty to her own soul & to her creator and redeemer. I shall be so much engaged tomorrow in the Sunday School that I shall not have time to add a postscript even if it was proper to write on that holy day. I must therefore leave you tonight, with my most sincere prayer that you may blessed on the morrow with communion with God, with a sense of his presence, with his richest love with his favour which is life & his loving kindness which is better than life. Remember me in your prayers and believe me dear Harriet when I again assure you that you are dearer to my heart than all else this world possesses and that I am your affectionate & faithful 


As to forgoing you, I can't do it now, for it was done before the story of your fault (if fault it may be called, springing as it did from the abundance of your attachment) was completed. I have given your compliments to Burchard who was happy to receive though he made rather a queer expression. He called you a dear little witch or some thing of that kind. I have been deliberating on the subject & I believe that Monday & Friday will do better than any other days for writing. You wont hear from me then again till Friday. Dear Harriet once more I bid you an affectionate adieu. May our father who is in Heaven keep & protect you. 

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)