Skip to main content
View PDF

[Benjamin] Franklin [Butler] to Harriet Allen, 5 May 1818

My own dear Harriet, 

I thank you a thousand times for your letter of Saturday, one glance at the beginning of which on Sunday <nearly> removed all my apprehensions on your account for it conveyed the delightful assurance that your health was regained & the cause of your affliction entirely removed. How grateful ought <we> feel for this kindness of our God in restoring you so soon. Not a hair of our heads falls to the ground without his special providence & direction, much more then are our lives & our persons in his hand. On Sunday I enjoyed in the latter part of the day much joy & happiness of mind, upon that I had done for a long time before. How useful in its effects is the ordinance of the Lord. "He knows what treacherous hearts we have, Apt to forget his lovely face, &And to refresh our minds he gave, This kind memorial of his grace." To me it seemed to impart new life & animation, new love to the Redeemer, new feelings on the subjects of duty and devotion. I had become cold & indifferent (and so I am still) my thoughts were entirely engrossed by the world and wandering from God continually but since Sunday I have felt a little more delight in the performance of duties which before had become irksome if not tedious, and I think the season has been of blessed use to my spiritual life. But oh how far am I from my first love. How cold are my affections when compared with the merits of their object or the blessing he has bestowed on me. I could not but think dear H. ^în reading your two last^ that you was running a great hasard in exchanging the kind & unwearied attention of natural tenderness for the affection & support of your F. What if you should be sick & in pain can you with certainty look forward to his sympathy & assistance? Do you now feel as if you could rely on it? It is something of a risk to venture to commit your earthly comforts your peace of mind & your happiness to the care of one who altho well know in every other capacity is yet untried as a husband. He has been a kind lover I believe but many a one has found that an attentive lover can not always make a tender husband. But I'll not discourage nor alarm you, for I believe Dear H. that your Franklin never will forget that he has taken you from the bosom of a family whose unceasing care you always enjoyed when in sickness or in health, & that it will become him to make the exchange a safe one to you. And if I know my own heart I believe that the lover's fondness will only be converted into the most sober & most <illegible> durable affection of married life. The Steam Boats very impudent, & have taken it upon themselves to alter their Days of starting & it so happens that no alteration takes place on Monday next. They run on Monday Wednesday Friday & Saturday down. So there will be no boat for us on Tuesday. I have resolved to go to New York <certainly> and my mind will not be changed. Now dear I have no great objection to remaining at Hudson until Wednesday, and unless you desire it I would rather our arrangements should remain unaltered. Let me tomorrow by the Boat what you think of it. Olcott & <Norton> are ^as^ full of our wedding as we are that is they are talking as much about it & making very great preparations. They both want to know whether the day <illegible> will attend on account of the alteration of the Boats. We shall be obliged if we are married on Monday to see more company than we expected but it will be only one day. On Wednesday we can be relieved from that perplexity. About my coming down I am really unable to say. I have a great many things to attend to first. I will be very industrious I assure you & get along as fast as possible. But I doubt whether you can expect me until Saturday. Mrs. Van Buren has not yet made up her mind whether to go down or not. If she goes she can't go sooner than Saturday, and it will take her till that time to conclude. She alters her mind about twenty times a day but by the time I am ready I hope she will be able to know what she intends to do. Have you given Mr & Mrs. Abm Van Buren an invitation? If you have not you ought to immediately. Dear H. the hour which is to unite us for life is near at hand. Without the blessing of God we shall find the marriage state to which we no look forward with so much pleasure & expectation, but a state of trial and unhappiness. Of ourselves we can not secure our comfort. If we rely only on each other we shall fail of happiness. Whatever novelists may say there can be no true happiness even in married life where the parties are united in heart as well as hand, unless the smiles of God are upon them. We can not from our own resources draw up a draught of real or substantial bliss. The cup may be gilded & the taste may be gratified & pleased, but still there are dregs at the bottom. The dregs of Earth & sin. Man is not the creator of himself, nor of the universe which surrounds him, neither can he make this life over which he has no controul, a state of perfect enjoyment. God only can make it tolerable, for he alone can change the rebellious hardened heart, he alone can bruise the serpents head, he alone can subdue the power of sin, he can alone make us heirs of the grace of life, he can alone support us in the hour of trial and of death, he alone can bestow on us the blessings of his kingdom. Let us then look to him for a blessing. Let us not make any calculation from our own resources, but rather let us ^go^ to him for every good & perfect gift which we hope to obtain. Particularly at this time ought we to supplicate ^to^ his favour, for it is a time of great interest to both of us. As you observed in one of your last, our Redeemer once honored a marriage with his presence. Let us pray to him to bless us with the light of his countenance and to enable us to look to him with the eye of faith & by the sight which that can bestow to see him who though invisible to mortal eye is yet ever near to his faithful followers. You will have to pay the postage of this letter for it will be too late for the mail. What remarkably unpleasant weather we have. Did you ever know any weather of this kind continue so long. If it should be like this next week we shall be deprived of much of the pleasure we anticipate. But the Lord reigns & rules & if we are not willing to leave the disposition of the seasons in his hands, we are but little advanced in the life of faith. Sometimes I feel discontented, but a moments reflection generally removes it. We have no right, nor in truth, no reason to complain. Dear H. for your sake I wish my letter was three times as long & as interesting as it is, but I know that with all its poverty, you will receive it with pleasure for it comes 

from the heart of your own

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)