Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, March 25, 1833

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Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, March 25, 1833



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Institution:University of Rochester

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Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, March 25, 1833

action: sent

sender: Alvah Worden
Birth: 1797-03-06  Death: 1856-02-16

location: Auburn, NY

receiver: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Albany, NY

transcription: ekk 

revision: crb 2016-03-17

Page 1

March 25, 1833
Hon W H Seward Sir, I feel that were I to consult the whatever of sanity I possess I should
not reply to your letter to a self confident and opiniated man all thoughts and all opin-
ions that do not jump in unison with his own appear but the aberations of Mind and
the Errors of judgment, yet from you I am not surprised to hear your charge of lunacy
for it is not novel nor is it the first time you have uttered it, nor have I now for the first time to suf-
fer under the unjust and ungenerous imputation
To charge; to attribute; to ascribe • To charge to one as the author or originator of; generally in a bad sense • To set to the account of another as the ground of judicial procedure • To take account of; to reckon •
either in my own feelings or in the effect
which this deliberate opinion of yours openly expressed has produced towards me, yet I may
be allowed not only to flatter myself that the period will arrive when not only yourself but
all to whom you may have intimated
Inmost; inward • Near; close • Close in friendship or acquaintance • One to whom the thoughts of another are shared without reserve • To share together • To hint; to suggest obscurely; to give slight notice of •
this belief will be convinced of its injustice and inappli-
cability to myself. I think it is not Egotism in me to say that you have had some good
proofs in your person and in your own fortunes that my head was not altogether unsound
nor my heart unfaithful, yet I will know that the opinion unjust and miserably
ridiculous as it is has been the one to which you have resorted on many occasions
for a justification for many things which your better judgment and good sense have
condemned and I know also that it is an opinion you have cherished with much
tenacity. and which has on more occasions than one you have sought to impart
to others – alike with this poor and wretched subterfuge is your charge of caprice
how much do you belie your understanding when you make this charge, and how richly does
it merit – the most unmeasured and bitter scorn at my hands. I can only say my whole
life gives the most unqualified lie to this insinuation and changing and childishly
capricious as I know you to be I yet will do you the justice to say that you know yourself
how unfounded it is ^is this charge^ . I will give you no opportunity to call me vindictive by calling ^bringing^ to
your mind by way of retort such Evidences of capriciousness on your part as might in
the bitterness of reproof and in the face of truth and justice be retorted, your own reflection
and I may add your own Conscience would if you should for a moment suffer them
to do their ^proper^ offices be your own accusers and mark my vindication
To defend; to justify; to support or maintain as true or correct, against denial, censure, or objection • To assert; to defend with success; to maintain • To defend with arms • To avenge; to punish •
– I certainly could find
food for meriment in this charge, and laugh at the rebuke coming from a man who had
from his youth fren even to this day been the child of caprice, and even so far its victims as
to forbid him doing the honors of his own house to his wifes invited guests without referring
to other Evidences which might be applied with truth & force. I believe you will do me
the justice to say what I feel should be my mede. that situated as I have been borne down and op-
pressed by circumstances over which I had no control, suffering under the weight of force of those
circumstances, cruel unjust as they have been thus I have not swerved from a high and
honorable purpose which I have followed with something of patience. And as I flatter my-
self with something of success that purpose I humbly conceive has not been the result of
^dictated by^
caprice nor has it ^its results^ been altogether controlled by accident. you say you have ^that^ "to all and
each member of that family with which we are united you have endeavored to per-
Page 2

suade them to forget the recklessness of passion with which I have assailed them"– perhaps
this is so. but allow me to ask if ever you have endeavored to convince one or all of that fam-
ily. that if ever I have assailed them with reckless passion that that passion was somewhat ex-
cused by a feeling of the most galling & unprovoked wrong. that however strong & bitter those
ebulitions of passion might be they originated in the ^from^ unprovoked and unwarranted
and unjustifiable insult and injury– have you ever told that family or one portion of
that family that they were the aggressors that every high and noble feeling of the human
heart utterly condemned the wrong they had heaped upon me? did you ever tell that fam-
ily that every ^just^ feeling of human nature, every proper regard to the laws of justice of god
& duty ^also^ utterly condemned them in their gross wanton & cruel oppression of me, &
did you ever tell that family that I had borne those wrongs with something of high
& proud though Enduring meekness. and that it was not in human nature always
patiently to suffer– did you ever tell them that their own wrong had fixed a sense of galling
cruel injustice near my heart which must ever rankle there untill the Cause
was removed? Answer the question to your own Conscience and to your God. to me I do not
require you to answer. I had throught I had comported myself to that family with something
of high and enduring patience. I had thought that to you a member of that family reaping
the benefit in your own person of its injustice to me, I had been guided by a high sense of
chivalrous & scrupulous honor and if at times the "demon star" has been in the ascen-
dant, if all these wrongs and insult and injuries have come like evil spirits, to swerve
me from my purpose I had stood fast in the integrity of my ^that^ purpose. If I had when
the proof of that purpose could only be tested been to you all that is zealous bold and
Hot or burning; causing a sensation of burning • Having the appearance or quality of fire; fierce • Warm; much engaged; passionate •
friend Could be I might stand somewhat Excused Even had I listened to the
voice of the tempter. although I utterly deny I have ever yielded to his seductions ––
I challenge you to the proof of a single instance where friendship even a friendship
founded in the highest sense of personal obligation could have done more for you, Come
with more efficient and uncalculating Zeal to your aid than I have done whenever
I could possible do you a service – It would be useless to deny to you that I have not enter-
tained suspicions, ^and a belief^ that in justice, and in honor I might have pursued a different course
and those suspicions have been not alone harbored in my own breast. high minded men
have shared them with me, and they have now a firm abiding place in the bosoms of many
honorable men. I have not been without inducements to pursue a course which would
be justifiable were those suspicions well founded or grounded Even on fair and plausible
You say it has always been left to me to determine the nature and
extent of the intercourse and friendship which should subsist between us. you
surely forget yourself and as your memory in this particular is as I fear defec-
tive suffer me to bring to your recollective one or two instances which I am
Page 3

To influence by argument, advice, or intreaty • To convince by arguments, or reasons offered •
will convince you I was right in considering as intended by yourself as fixing
that standard. I will go farther back that the two or three years when my caprice
first gave you cause of pain. I will refer you to an occurrence which took place a few
days after our marriage. I felt an interest and a desire to call about me on that
occasion such friends & gentlemen as felt disposed to show by their disposition to main-
tain gentlemanly and social intercourse with me and my family
x Birth: 1826  Death: 1909-08-24  Birth: 1803-11-01  Death: 1875-10-03 
that I was not
to be stricken off the list of honorable society for the very marked and important
step I had taken and I feel proud to say that even then I had the most gratify-
ing assurance that with all honorable and high minded men I was not marked
for proscription nor was I to look upon myself as an Exile from society – And where
was you? were you among them to add your Countenance, to give your gratulations,
you were not although you were besought by the tears of those you who you say
"you love not to ^see^ weep"... I will tell you where you were, you came to my back
door and in dispite of "tears" you forced those away who would have staid and
gladly added a sisters countenance and sympathy and gratulation where a brothers
were wanting. here was a standard that I should have assumed as the test by which
my friendship and intercourse was to be regulated. It was an unerring one, and the
convictions of years tell me I then erred in looking upon it any other light. during the
Winter of 1832 I am persuaded
To influence by argument, advice, or intreaty • To convince by arguments, or reasons offered •
no evidence of Caprice Could have offended you
I had hoped that the most fastidious
To be cast down; to be depressed or dejected in spirits • To lose all courage, spirit, or resolution •
scrupulousness could not have taken cause of
offence. I had lent my best efforts to the cause of your party. I had done something
as I flatter Myself to promote its interest. what Evidences did you give me after your re-
turn of Even the common civilities which grow out of party associations – you never
Came to my office during the summer, you never ast advised or communicated with me
in relation to our party affairs, except it was on some occasion when you were forced to do so
and it was enough to drive you into any act of consumate political madness to know I
had assumed any ground ^opinion^ so your opinions ^might^ differed with mine, in this I had an evidence
how far you desired political association with me ^or how profitable to either that association could be^
when I spoke ^of^ your "imperiousness" as
the besetting sin which was to destroy you I meant your political prospects and I certainly
did not mean you to understand and that I either had or should assume to myself any
control over your destiny. I am not so vain as to suppose I have any such power and
although my letter of which you complain contains no such assumption. yet as you
have burnt the epistle
A writing directed or sent, communicating intellegence to a distant person; a letter •
it would now be useless to disclaim. I feel I am spinning out
this letter uselessly and wasting words to & paper to no purpose. I can look back
through the eventful years I have known you and cannot reproach myself for
anything that I have done or said to you. I can look forward to those years to come &
feel that I shall do no act of which you can in Justice complain. Towards you
and the family with whom we are both connected I feel I have not in any instance
Page 4

been unmindful of all the obligations imposed on me, that I have suffered much
from that family wrongfully ^and much of that wrong through your agency^ I shall always feel, And that I have borne all its
cruel and aggravated wrongs with something of forbearance I shall always assert
I feel I should not have written this, I did not owe it to Myself to do
so, and that it will be looked upon by you in Any other light than that in which you
have always regarded my known wishes and opinions I cannot for a moment
believe that I bear to you no animosities. my last letter was more in sorrow than
in Anger and was neither vindictive or rash, and was not prompted by Vindictive
feelings that you are obstinate selfish and possessed of An or more than ordinate
self love. I know and feel that you would make all and every thing subservient
to your ambitious feelings and views is a truth I fear others have discovered beside
Myself, that the consequences of all these may not be pain & mortification to you
no one desires more heartily than ^I do^ Myself yet I know that no living man would
be less likely than yourself to own that any other ti such as I have stated are your
besetting weaknesses. You do not mean to understand me when I
say you have come into my domestic circle and undertaken to exercise an influence
which every just feeling of honor should prevent. perhaps you might understand
me were I to say that hereafter you must attempt no influence which feelings of
honor should prevent – here I feel disposed to leave this subject well knowing I am
understood, and if I am not, well knowing there is but one other way to make
Myself intelligible. Upon this subject I cannot condescend to speak yet coolly deliberately
and upon mature reflection I make the charge and it does appear to me that you little know
yourself and have less opinion of my understanding than I supposed you had when you
deny the charge and attempt to impose upon ^me^ what I know to be empty & hollow hearted
profusions of attachment for any portion of that family poor & miserable & Contemptible
hyprocricy. have you not seen a portion of that family driven from the paternal roof
have you not seen all the consequences of a bitter unrelenting & cruel persecution (a persecution
and bitterness which I honor more than hollow hearted professions because it is open
in generous ^undisguised^ and even manly) falling upon that family in its Every situation & relation
of life. and have you done one thing to correct the Error in which that persecution has
arisen, have you not with a cold calculating selfishness availed yourself of all the
advantages that Error has brought to you. and without a sense of honor or justice
coolly and deliberately invested yourself with another birthright and not
in return hasten the “Way of Pottage” as long as efforts on your part could be of avail
you attempted to prevent between my family and such portions of "that family" open &
friendly intercourse. you even exerted your own authority to that purpose and upon other
members of that family you attempted an influence to prevent them visiting my house. and
I have it from the best and most unquestioned authority that instead of attempting to
Page 5

To influence by argument, advice, or intreaty • To convince by arguments, or reasons offered •
Judge Miller
Birth: 1772-04-11 Death: 1851-11-13
that he was laboring under a most unjustifiable delusion
towards me, you have endeavored to feed & strengthen that delusion. Situated as you were
you might have done something to undeceive this man in a point where deception was
so fatal to his good name – his comfort and peace, here & hereafter – The judge has done
me the Justice to say that I never gave him overt Cause to offence, he will do me the
justice always to say that all my intercourse with him has been respectful & unoffending
and I sincerely believe in his own mind he has no present feelings of animosity towards
me or any portion of my family
x Birth: 1826  Death: 1909-08-24  Birth: 1803-11-01  Death: 1875-10-03 
. I do not burn your letters but return them to you
Convinced that you will by a review of them feel convinced that they are in truth
but the attempts to impose upon a man who could only be imposed upon were
he insane, or rather that you may look upon them as they justly are, the climax
of a long course of selfish injustice Ending in insult. I feel that our intercourse
is interrupted and I feel that it is forever. I feel that the gulph between us is still
impassible and that I cannot ever again place myself in a situation where I
shall be subject to all the painful and mortifying circumstances which has arisen
from a sincere desire on my part to Cultivate all the friendly and honorable feelings
which I feel might have subsisted between us as brothers and as men. I stand ac-
quitted in my Conscience and before Heaven as I hope I have looked upon the
Matter with my best Judgment, and been governed by the calmest & coolest exer-
cise of my reason I could command and although I foresee the consequences
yet it is not the first time I have disregarded consequences when feeling that I
was acting from a sense of duty to Myself. I feel assured that you will assume the
attitude of the injured man and in the plenitude of your self confidence & self
love arrogate to yourself that high sense of personal infalibility which often leads
you to trample on the feelings of others and yet as if by "right divine" justify the act
You thank god that you have patience to suffer endure reproach & suspicion
and to this temper you ascribe doubtless the power which you have had over your un-
derstanding to obliterate the wrongs I have committed to you. I confess the ingenuous-
ness of your recrimination. yet I feel that you would grope long in the pit of obliv-
ion before you could find those wrongs which you assert that you have so carefully
consigned to its bosom.
I well know that I am under some pecuniary
Relating to money • Consisting of money •
obligations to you
which I hope honorably to discharge. it is a source of great pain to me that they ex-
ist yet I know not that they are to be a sufficient offset to reason for my submit-
ting to insult and injury and abuse. I confess I did not take them into the account
and I am under an obligation to you that you have brought them to my mind
My best endeavors shall be directed towards the cancelling them and I hope I may
be able so to do!
Page 6

In conclusion I feel have again to say I request have not acted according to
the dictates of My best feeling in words and best judgment in writing this letter yet I
request you will not burn it but rather when you make your grievances known
which you have received at my hands. Show this epistle as the sum total of them all, and
if cause a reason should be asked why I have written it say it is because a man
in ^more^ credulous than wise had disregarded the evidence of his own senses and hoped
to find in you those high & sensitive and ^&^ honorable feelings which would have been to
him, a source of great joy. Say that although he had seen you endeavour to prevent all
open & friendly intercourse between his family once such portions of that family with
which he was connected as long as those effects might be pursued with hope of suc-
cess. although he had come when you had fostered the most injurious of feelings
towards me ^him^ in the breasts of those where these feelings ought not to dwell, although you
had turned those feelings to your own account, although you had with a more
of selfishness than a spoilt child demanded that I ^he^ should sacrifice my ^his^ own judgment
and reason to the ^your^ caprice and sacrifice ^give up^ every feeling of expectency & propriety to
your own self willed & selfish obstinacy – yet after all this and after disregarding
all these things that man had concluded himself without prejudice without
harboring a feeling of injustice or seeking or deserving retaliation. you had
^for some purpose at once assumed a new and undiscovered love & attachment for a portion of his family^
so far descended as to lost sight of or been ignorant of what honor and justice
required at your hands as to enter his domestic circle, make arrangements
for journeys, and visits with his family, ^without his knowledge and in oposition to his known sense of propriety &^ finally jeopardised ^bringing^ their lives ^into jeopardy^ and after
all this with the impudence of the very devil declared that you were ^had always been^ guided by
a sincere desire to add to its ^the^ comfort and happiness of that family. I confess that ^ to such this will show the reason
which will be acknowledged as a good one and more than a justifiable one - but by you it will
not be so considered^

but you cannot feel but for yourself, and I feel degraded in my own estimation
that I have condescended thus far to explain You will
to my letter and you are at liberty to do with as it ^this letter as^ you please. whether I shall
be content to rest with a bare expression of my sense of your dishonorable conduct to
me will some what ^altogether^ depend upon yourself
and am
Your at least
A Worden
Did I not believe every word of this letter to be true & every conclusion
of my own mind in relation to the matters it contains correct I would sooner have cut
off my right hand than have written it
Page 7

Hon. Wm H. Seward
of the Senate


Type: postmark

Hand Shiftx

William Seward

Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
Alvah Worden
23d March 1833