Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 29, 1859

  • Posted on: 7 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 29, 1859



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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, July 29, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Paris, France

receiver: Frances Seward
Birth: 1805-09-24  Death: 1865-06-21

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: tml 

revision: vxa 2021-03-13

Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward's series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Paris Friday morning July 29.
I spent the morning yesterday (It is morning always until
dinner) in monumental studies. How artistic the French
Government is in all things. It banishes the grief of from the
natural heart excited by the loss of 50.000 peasanty
drawn by conscription in Italy by a grand metropolitan
celebration of Victory over the Austrians and a conquest
of a province renounced in the very moment of acquisition.
I went to see the place of the ^Revolutionary^ Guillotine yesterday
and to imagine where fell the head of Madam Roland
Birth: 1754-03-17 Death: 1793-11-08

and the Girondists without number - I found the ^sad^ spot, it
is embellished with monuments. Cleopatras needle
is there lifts its beautiful form there and the painful
memories of Revolutionary fury are extinguished under
the sweet name of the Place de la Concorde -
I went to Notre Dame - Its portal is a noble
specimen of medieval architecture. It preserves
in stone the medie ecclesiastical way the curious
idea of the Church six hundred years ago in regard
to the future world - There on the arched gateway
is the Son of God sitting in judgement, the resurrection
of the just and the unjust together, the Angels
looking on - the disposition of the good and with the
ascent under the guidance of angels from the bad
who are conducted out of the Divine presence by
Page 2

grotesque devils
of our own nursery
legends - And yet the
marker that tell this conceit
so puerile and so irreverent is
exquisitely chiseled. One proof
among a thousand that in society Art develops
before Reason matures or Truth becomes Known -
Notre Dame is metropolitan and one might think that the
Vicar of Bray pr was a study derived from its history. Its
A Cardinals Archbishops and other Prelates go directly to heaven
under the guidance of good angels and watch ministering saints
if you may judge from their tombs. The Church is tolerant to all
Rulers and preserves their costly presents. Each great political
event which is celebrated with a mass brings rich robes
as a present to the Church. Here is the costly gift of this kind of the
Emperor Napoleon I
Birth: 1769-08-15 Death: 1821-05-05
, and it includes also his coronation robes mace and
cushion. There is a similar one on the coronation of Maria Louise
Birth: 1791-12-12 Death: 1847-12-17
- and
another on the baptism of the King of Rome
Birth: 1811-03-20 Death: 1832-07-22
- In due historical sequence
come the gifts of Louis 18th
Birth: 1755-11-17 Death: 1824-09-16
, Charles 10


, & the pious Adelaide
Birth: 1753-03-13 Death: 1821-06-23

wife of Louis Philippe
Birth: 1747-04-13 Death: 1793-11-06
- and this in its turn gives place to the
precious treasures acquired by celebrating the marriage and
coronation of the Empress Eugenie
and the baptism of her
the heir apparent to the restored empire.
From Notre Dame it is only a step to
the Hotel de Ville. When I saw it so long ago
it was a history in stone of the ^legitimate^ monarchy
from the time of Francis the First


its final fearful overthrow
in the Revolution of 1793.
But this new
Birth: 1808-04-20 Death: 1873-01-09

Page 3

has changed all that. The walls still celebrate
the piety of the extinction of Heresy by the Revocation
of the Edict of Nantes and Henry IV ^in bronze on horseback^ is still allowed
to grace the portal with a But all revolutionary
memories and illustrations have given place to Napoleon-
ic forms figures and inscriptions - You only learn
by refering to history that here in this hall sat
the provisional republican consuls of 17930 & 1830
& 1848 - That here from this window La Fayette
Birth: 1757-09-06 Death: 1834-05-20

presented Louis 16th
Birth: 1754-08-23 Death: 1793-01-21
to the People after he
had accepted the constitution who pledged
here their loyalty only a few months before
they cut off his head and that of his Queen


the Court on which that People there stood, that
here in the same place the same noble Patriot pre-
sented to the People and they accepted another
Constitutional King in the person of Louis Philippe
to be afterwards driven from by them from his throne
and country without being allowed to establish his
dynasty - and here in this Hall stood Robes-
Birth: 1758-05-06 Death: 1794-07-28
when brought before his own revolutionary tribunal
and finding all hope of rescue fail he attempted
unsuccessfully to kill himself with a pistol
It was ^when stretched^ on a table standing here at four o,clock
Page 4

in the morning
that he tried when
choking with his own
blood flowing from the pistol
wound in his cheek, he tried to
wipe it away with his handkerchief; the
gexultant guard
who had been in charge
waiting for the execution on the morrow said to him
"Drink it, It is Blood - you like it" Here
Birth: 1746-04-01 Death: 1794-07-29
threw Hanriot
Birth: 1759-12-03 Death: 1794-07-28
, Robespierre from the
wall of the Hotel down upon the pointed iron wrought
fence saying Go - you are unworthy of the guillotine - But
who remembers all these things. The Court of the Hotel is now
visited as the finest ball room in the world and the Place
de Greve and its lanthern memorable as the scene of the
Reign of Terror now wears the name of Victoria
Birth: 1819-05-24 Death: 1901-01-22
on them when that good motherly Queen became a guest
in the Town Hall of Paris.
It has puzzled me much to know how it is that
Napoleon 3d makes alterations at his own pleasure in the
streets edifices parks and places of Paris. The whole
secret was learned when I found that he himself appoints
and removes at pleasure the entire Common Council -
From the scenery of the Hotel de
Ville I returned home stopping at the
Louvre, where I spent
an hour deeply in-
terested in my
Page 5

some noble
some royal and
some divine personages
of times far more ancient
than any I had ever known -
In short I held converse with Rameses
1st 2d & 3d - With His gendarmes - with the
prisoners whom they were conducting in their trains,
I found that they affected pineapples and oranges,
that they had a great admiration for bulls, and that
the horn of that animal was an ornament as highly esteemed by
them as the Ostrich feather is by some modern rivals. I learned to see
that there was sense and even poetry in the Jewish expression I will
exalt my horn before the Lord - I saw Kings of Nineveh and Babylon
riding in thrones placed on wheels, and so found that there was sublimity
in the expression that the Chariot Wheels of the God of the Jews were
of fire - I looked into the faces of the Gods and Goddesses
which had terrified millions of millions, unterrified and indeed
hardly able to hold my own face in seriousness before objects so
grotesque puerile and ridiculous - I looked into sarcopha-
guses and tombs ^in^ which Kings had reposed for centuries
and until their proud forms had become
dust and powder blown away by
the winds when the ponderous
lids were removed - I would
have studied the characters
which told their
history, but I
had no Key
Page 6

I dined with Mr Banuelos and Mrs
. She is sister of Madam Sartiges
Birth: 1827-03-11 Death: 1915-04-04
He was Secretary of Legation from Spain to
the United States, now he has a special
mission here - After dinner we drove to
the Bois de Boulogne - there to a concert
in the open air in the Champs d'Elysee
and then at midnight to sleep - and so
ends the second of a day full of interesting
to me tedious I fear in the to you. But
I must not omit to set down that I did find
on a corner of a house fronting the Place de
Greve an inscription once obliterated but which
has again come out into the sunlight com-
memorative of the Revolution in the words
once so portentous but now obsolete elocution
"Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite"
Page 7

Paris Friday night July 29. The
I am not sure of the control of my own time tomorrow
and therefore I close my letter now.
I do not know whether I have said that the Secretary
of State
Birth: 1810-05-04 Death: 1868-09-27
had invited Mr Mason
Birth: 1799-04-18 Death: 1859-10-03
to present me to him
to day. It was his day for giving audience to the
ambassadors of foreign powers. I attended our Minister
We were shown into a palatial residence - and into
a fine Hall - Embellished with pictures and statuary
peculiar to the empire. Over the mantle was a
very large picture commemorating the Treaty of Paris (which
closed the late Russian war - I recognized at once the
British Minister Lord Clarendon
Birth: 1800-01-12 Death: 1870-06-27
- The most important
figure however was that of the French Secretary of State
The Count de Walewsky
Birth: 1810-05-04 Death: 1868-09-27
, in whose house I was. I saw
instantly that it was the likeness of the first Napoleon
softened and made agreeable - When I asked who that
was I was surprised by the answer that it was the
Count Walewski. I remarked the strong resemblance to
the Napoleon head. The answer was that Walewski
was the son of a Polish lady


with no acknowledged
father, and that he was usually acknowledged to be a
natural son of Napoleon the First. Lectures which I have
read, written by Hortense
Birth: 1783-04-10 Death: 1837-10-05
and her mother Josephine
Birth: 1763-06-23 Death: 1814-05-29
had con-
firmed the story that Napoleon the 3d was not a son of
Louis Bonaparte
Birth: 1778-09-02 Death: 1846-07-25
, but the son of some stranger - I was now
to fear further that another son of Hortense never acknowle[ dged ]


Reason: hole

Page 8

by Louis
Bonaparte is the
Count de Mornay
Birth: 1803 Death: 1878

who exactly resembles
the 3d Napoleon is the President
of the Legislative Consul of the
present empire - What circumstances are there
in the murals of Europe!
The Count Walewski was a very intelligent
and engaging man - He conversed freely and I learned
that the present dynasty here has no especial respect for
England - It feels strong - I was introduced to Lord Cowley
Birth: 1804 Death: 1884-07-15

and all the foreign ministers - and found the state of Europe
was the subject of much anxiety - Lord Cowley told me that
his sister Lady Bulwer
Birth: 1817 Death: 1878
was desirous to change the Turkish embassy
for a return to the United States - Altho what Count Walewski
was pleased to say to me I wait until next week to to learn
something more of the Emperor -
Both Mr Sumner
Birth: 1811-01-06 Death: 1874-03-11
and Mrs Thayer
and repudiate the story that is circulating th about them. They
have never met, never corresponded, or communicated with each
other since a period before her marriage. She complains of
the rudeness of the scandal - He disclaims it but loves to
dwell upon it.