Skip to main content
View PDF

B[enjamin] Franklin Butler to Harriet Allen, 11 December 1817

My dearest Harriet, 

Two of your letters are now unanswered. The last was received this morning on my return from <Troy> where I passed the night. The Circuit Court for that County commenced its Session on Tuesday, and as it is a well known consequence of every lawyers duty to be called away ^frequently^ from home, I was obliged to go there to dispose of some little business. Tuesday, I returned after dinner & yesterday went back again, expecting to return in the evening, but it was so late before my causes was tried that I was compelled to remain. I ought to have written you a very long letter, for that would have been the pleasantest method I could have devised of spending the evening, but Mr. Cantine & myself were invited to take tea at the Mayors (Col. Pawling's) and I had been so often at Troy without calling on the old gentleman that I concluded to go. It was after ten before we left his hospitable mansion. You are fond of plants and perhaps are something of a botanist, I wish you could have a view of Mrs. Pawling's greenhouse. It is small but neat & interesting. She has oranges, lemons & various other kinds of tropical fruits handing on the boughs, and a very great variety of plants flowers & <vials>. She showed me ten or twelve different kinds of Geranium. Best to leave Mrs. P. & her green room & return to the matter in hand. I am sorry that you thought it necessary again to assure me again of your continued & undiminished confidence in the strength & sincerity of my attachment. Your letter did not even surprise me. I knew full well that love & jealousy are intimately related, twin sisters at least. And therefore I could not be astonished at your feeling some little suspicion, especially when I remembered how faithfully I had promised to visit you. Let us both try to confide in each other, and since we have received so many proofs of mutual attachment let us not indulge a suspicion dishonorable to either, unless compelled to do so by evidence which neither partiality nor love can deny or explain. I had no idea that the presents could be any way acceptable except as coming from me that circumstance I knew would give them value in your eyes, and I am now very glad (I began my paper wrong I perceive) that I purchased them since you are so much pleased with them. Believe it dear the present which you propose making in return, is in truth the "richest one" you can bestow, and though I was perfectly disinterested in procuring the little tokens of ^my^ regard for you and did not expect to be paid for them, yet since you are willing to pay so liberally I frankly inform you that I accept the heart which you offer me & will take the kiss the first time we meet as an earnest of the delivery of the other and more valuable article. I am glad that you have read the life of John Newton. Don't you remember that I told you in one of my last letters of my reading his letters & being very much delighted with them & advising you to procure them? His life I read a great many years ago when quite a boy, yet even then I thought it interesting & wonderful. His writings are [ve]ry voluminous & I suspect are among the very best for a practical christian. He became eminently useful to the church & did at an advanced age full of years & full of immortal honors. His love to his wife was remarkable for its purity ardor & continued duration. For many years after y her death, he regularly celebrated that distressing event by a tribute of roses to her memory. Some of our best hymns are written by him. I should have been delighted to have communed with you on Sunday. I am glad to hear that you were blessed with so happy a season. Mr. Stantons sermon from the subject it contained must have been excellent. The Chapter you mention to me I have read oftener than any one in the Bible except it may be the 57 Psalm. I have always admired it as containing by far the most explicit prophecy of our Saviour than any other in the Book, and as giving in connection as the few last verses of the preceding chapter the most concise, faithful & touching history of the suffering, agony & death of our Redeemer. What an interesting ^prospect^ <illegible>  does Hudson now present to the friends of Religion. Since may last nearly forty precious & immortal souls have been brought out of darkness into Gods marvellous light & redeemed from the bondage & captivity of Satan. How wonderful & how gracious. Truly the Lord has magnified his great & glorious name in the conversion of sinners & the Salvation of immortal souls. To his name then be the praise. You was scolding about the looks of your letter the other day. What aught I then to say of mine. The truth is that ^this^ is Friday morning as you may have suspected before though I believe I have neglected to mention it. Last evening I was obliged to <consult> ^counsel^ with Mr. Van Buren about our Hart cause and it was nearly eleven before we got through, I had no time therefore for finishing my letter <illegible>, & this morning I have scrawled a few lines, thinking that I would get my letter into the River mail which goes at 8 o.Clock. But the clock has this moment struck, and I must bid you an affectionate good bye

B. F. Butler

Friday evening, I open my letter myself, to explain the reasons of me not going down to day. I supposed that the River mail closed at 8 in the morning and that it would reach Hudson in the afternoon, and when I was prevented yesterday from writing I thought it would make no difference at all, whether I sent by the regular mail which arrives at Hudson in the forenoon or the River mail as you would be out at Mr. Maceys. But this morning after running in great haste to the P. O. I found that I was mistaken about the River mail and could not get my letter in. The P. M. told me however that there would be a mail down tomorrow, which closes this evening at 8. I shall therefore send this in that way & hope that it may arrive at Hudson as early as you do. This new arrangement of the mails will permit us to write exactly as we used to by the Steam boats, that is on Wednesdays & Saturdays. You may therefore expect letters hereafter on those days. They are most convenient to you & I suspect they will suit you better than any other, for it's not as long from Wednesday to Saturday as it is from Monday to Friday. Let me hear from you as often as possible, and in the mean time believe me very sincerely your own


A witch is one who enchants, an Enchantress The two words are synonymous. Now Johnson says an Enchantress is "A woman whose beauty or excellencies give irresistible influence." Whether Burchard intended to pay you so high a compliment as this definition would contain or not I am unable to say. But for myself I can truly say that I think you an Enchantress according to the definition of Johnson. 

[In hand of Harriet Allen]

Received this letter from my dear Franklin the 13th of Decr 1817. The day before his birth day. My dear dear Franklin I want very much to see you I hope soon to have that pleasure. 

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)