Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Samuel Gridley Howe to Charles Sumner, August 20, 1850

Paris, Aug. 20, '50.

My Dear Sumner: — I am always cheered by the sight of your “hand-o'-write” and that of your last letter was more than usually welcome. Notwithstanding your sad errand you seemed to be in an elastic and healthy tone of mind, and I know too well by experience of the opposite condition what a blessing that is: may my friend never fall from the one into the other! You will be surprised at the date of this, and exclaim, “Why are you not en route for Frankfort?” I'll tell you. I had concluded or been persuaded by your letter and other considerations to go and attend the Peace Congress. I left Paris for that purpose on Friday evening last so as to be in Frankfort on the 20th, but I had hardly got an hundred miles when I began to feel the sure premonitions of an attack of cholera morbus. I remained all night in a miserable inn, hoping to be able to go on by the early train; but it was too certain that the grip of disease was upon me; I therefore turned back with all speed to get properly attended here. I was quite ill Saturday and Sunday; yesterday better but unable to travel, and to-day not fit for a fatiguing journey. I must therefore give up the Congress. All I should have done would have been to move for an adjournment en masse to the seat of war in Holstein, and discuss war between the two hostile armies. I am sick of this preaching to Israel in Israel; the Gentile ought to hear. Peace men should go to Russia, and Abolitionists to the Slave States. Besides, this calling upon France and Germany to disarm while Russia has the open blade in hand is what I cannot do. Our combativeness and destructiveness are the weapons God gives us to use as long as they are necessary, in order to keep others less advanced than we are in quiet by the only motives they will heed, selfishness and fear; you may as well appeal to conscience and benevolence in babes and idiots as in Russians and Tartars, I mean en masse. Conscience and benevolence they have, ay! and so have babes and idiots, but they are (not) yet called into life and action.

You tell me to go about sightseeing and to enjoy the rare opportunity before me. I go to see nothing — I care little for shows. I want to be back in the only place in the world which is fit for me or has charm for me; in my own office with the harness on my back. I wish you had my opportunity and I had yours. So goes the world. . . .

Kind words to Longfellow, Hillard, Felton, &c. Tell Briggs my conscience has been continually smiting me about my neglect of that Frenchman in prison. I hope he is out.

Ever, dear Sumner, most affectionately thine,
S. G. H.

SOURCE: Laura E. Richards, Editor, Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Volume 2, p. 322-3

No comments: