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[Benjamin] F[ranklin] Butler to Harriet Allen, 6 May 1818

My Dearest Harriet, 

It is now sometime after ten, for I have been at the Forum all the evening, but I can not retire without thanking you with the greatest sincerity for your dear letter of yesterday, which was received about Sundown. It inspired the most pleasing & at the same time a sort of melancholy sentiment. To reflect that I was to discontinue a correspondence which has so long afforded me the most exquisite & at the same time the most innocent delight, which has cheered me in so many hours of absence & labor, which has kept alive the purest & most worthy of my earthly sentiments and preserved it uncorrupted & unhurt, was certainly a thought of rather a sombre hue. But on the other hand, when I consider, that this pleasure so long enjoyed & so justly valued is to be merged & swallowed up in one & a far superior kind, that I am soon to receive the most perfect reward for all my fidelity & attention, that the greatest of all earthly blessings, the object of my most ardent wishes, my own dear Harriet, is soon to be conferred upon me, this feeling of regret is lost in that tumult of expectation and felicity which which now animate my bosom. Oh that I might remember with the gratitude it deserves this great & inestimable blessing. To do so shall be the labor of my life and I hope for success. I am glad that you have not altered our arrangements. I shall, as you observe, if life is spared, be with you on Saturday & I shall take special care to be there in good time at the Boat. Whether Mrs. Van B. will go or not is yet undetermined. She has not finished "cleaning house" & she wont go till that work is performed. I have very little expectation of her going. But I have no time now for writing. May you ever enjoy the blessing of Providence in this life & the love of our Heavenly father in both that & the one which is to be hereafter. Dearest H. your own F.

Thursday morng. Dearest H. This is a cold cloudy morning, though with the exception of yesterday by far the most pleasant we have had for a long time. I hope it finds you in the enjoyment of health and every needed blessing. You ask whether I have forgotten the Ring. I have not, but have procured a very plain gold one which I believe & expect will suit precisely. I will bring it down on Saturday. I have also get you a <comb>, but not a very handsome one. I believe I have no other present to make to you but one, & that I think it probable you will esteem very highly, though in truth it is hardly worth accepting, my hand. Such as it is however it will be given with the greatest joy & happiness. I expect Olcott will be down with me. Norton will wait till Monday  as his business is very pressing. 

This is the last letter I shall write to you in the capacity of a suitor. My next, whenever it may be written, will address you by the dearest of all earthly titles. In closing this correspondence how ought I to thank you for your unmerited affections which gave it birth & continued it to the present period. How much of pleasure have both of us derived from it! How much of anxiety & doubt, how much of jealous apprehension & melancholy fear has been kept off by its influence & were I again to be separated I should know how to avoid those gloomy hours which for the first year occupied my absence, the experience of the two last has taught me. I sometimes think that those lovers who are never parted are deprived of ^one of^ the greatest pleasures of courtship. Certainly dear H. if our lives should be spared for fifteen or twenty years it will then afford us the greatest interest to look over these monuments of our youthful constancy and unless we had <illegible> written them we should have been without any proofs of or mementos of our so early love. Your letters to Miss <illegible> to be sure, would have marked its rise & a portion of its progress, but the full history would have been lost and forgotten. Not that I mean that the recollection of our long & constant attachment can ever be obliterated from the memories of either, but the little incidents which finish the picture would hardly have escaped oblivion were it not for the letters we have written. 

The next letter I write you will be in the character of a Husband, a name which to me, is a greater object of ambition than any other which the world can offer with the assumption of this name how interesting & important will ^be^ the duties it <illegible> imposes. To cherish and love you, to be kind & affectionate, virtuous & faithful, to sweeten every hour of life by the politeness of the heart, to provide for your comfort, to soothe you in affliction whether of the mind or of the person, to soften the rugged pathway of life & ^to^ render <it> not only pleasant for the time, but to aid in making it the road of grace & duty, which shall issue in the enjoyments of the redeemed, these are some of the duties which will claim my regard. To fulfill them all without omission or neglect is not to be expected. Man is far from perfection and I am no exception to the general character of his race. The peculiar passions by which I may sometimes for a moment be led astray, the thousand little circumstances which so often occur to ruffle the temper & rob us of our reason, the difficulties of life which I can not hope entirely to escape, the frivolity of youth & the <foolishness> of age, all these may sometimes produce on my part a course of conduct which ^may^ give rise to much of repentance & regret. So far however as the most sincere and unqualified affection can go towards avoiding all these sources of misery, I may hope to be freed from them. So far as the most ardent wishes for your present & eternal welfare can enable ^me^ to aid in promoting both, you may rely on that result. In times past I would have added, so far as the sternest integrity & the most warmest admiration of virtuous conduct can go towards fulfilling your expectation of my duties, so far you ^may^ safely confide in me. But later discoveries of the deceitfulness & corruption of the natural heart have convinced me that <you> ought ^not^ to <illegible> build on the virtue or purity of mind. Instead <take> of this presumptuous confidence in self, I will refer you to a safer & more durable foundation, to the restraining, preserving & benevolent grace of our God which alone can preserve me from rendering you miserable & one ^which^ I would rely with the greatest confidence & the war^m^est hopes. As long as they are placed on this buttress they can not be deserved. Let us then dear H trust alone to him who alone can make us blessings to each other & who is abundantly able to do so. 

I am really unwilling to give up a pleasure which for nearly two years has afforded me so much gratification & delight. Tis like parting with an old & valued friend, and excites emotions of a painful kind, but it is exchanged for happiness of a higher kind. With the warmest gratitude & the most unalterable love I bid to Harriet Allen an affectionate farewell, and while <illegible> her friends are blessed by her existence, I hope she may never have reason to regret that she resolved to change her name for that of her faithful & constant 


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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)