Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, September 26, 1859

  • Posted on: 8 December 2021
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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, September 26, 1859



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Institution:University of Rochester

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Letter from William Henry Seward to Frances Miller Seward, September 26, 1859

action: sent

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

location: Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine

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

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: cnk 

revision: jxw 2021-09-10


Page 1


Editorial Note

William Henry Seward’s series of travel letters in 1859 are organized and listed by the date of each entry.
Jerusalem September 26. 1859
My dearest Frances, On Saturday morning (24th) we had coffee and
eggs at our hotel at four o,clock, and after vigorous activity
had been exercised we were remounted for our excursion into
the Eastern part of Palestine. A cavass is an officer of the
Turkish Army armed and bearing a silver stick, assigned
by ^to^ any consul or other famed person by the Government for
his protection and to assure his safety on the highways. Behold
our military array, as we passed through the gate of Damas-
cus gate of Jerusalem at Sunrise. Two cavasses commanding
the Faithful with their asses horses and camels loaded
to turn to the right or left, or to halt until we passed
which they obeyed while they wondered who they were that were
thus honored by the Sultan
Birth: 1823-04-25 Death: 1861-06-25
, a muleteer
with his mule
loaded with the provisions for our journey, a boy
with a
donkey equally loaded and bearing one double
barrelled rifle, my courier
– my companion
myself, and thos then in rear six marines
of the United
States navy armed to be with short rounds and
revolvers. The Turkish gate open of Jerusalem opened
promptly for the procession. The Turkish guard were
already under drill on the plain, and a Bugle
blast that went forth from the very height of Mount
Sion, was responded to in a greater echo by a-
nother Turkish bugle from amid the Tombs of the ancient
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Kings of Jerusalem. Nearly four thousand years old is Jerusalem.
She has never ^has seen^ many days of triumph and of glory and
has see endured many and long seasons of humiliation
and disgrace. But none that were more cheerless than
her present degradation, seems to me, trodden to the
earth by the fine dust of the desert, while the
outside world respects only her past, and is indifferent
to her Future. We made our way around the South Eastern
corner of the city walls and then turned to the Westward
and descended the Mount Moriah by a winding Camel
road having the Mosque of Oman, the Beautiful
which stands on the site of the Ancient Temple. and
the Beautiful Gate directly at our side ^ As ^ We d Descendeding
into the valley of Jerossefet, we crossed the brook Kidron
now dry, but in winter a torrent, wefollowed its could
see before us its winding course underneath the
tombs of an hundreds of generations until it reaches the
Pool of Silvanus, now not only without Healing waters
but even ^almost^ without water at all. We rose on the Southern
side of Kedron and stood by the side upon the plain lookin
declivity looking over the wall into the garden of Gethse-
mene, with its few relics of Olive trees, which I willingly
consented to accept as witnesses of the sorrows of the Holy
, and after a pause for contemplation of the mysterious
trial I resumed my way and ascended the Mount of
Olives, until I stood in the place ^from^ where his mission
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of mercy ended he ascended into Heaven. Ben At the foot
The sides of the mountain are covered The sides of the Mount of Olives
is an easy grade and it towers so high as to overlook the Temp Mount Mariah and most of the city. Olive
trees grace the declivity and the site of the transfigura-
tion is now covered with a monastery. The
features of the country around the Holy City are bold
and distinct. I wondered as I looked down into
the vale of Gehesemene – or Jophat that I had not recogni-
sed the ^scene^ without a guide. The hill sides are
covered with tombs of every age and of every nature,
from those of closed yesterday until you get back
to the period of dusty antiquity. Indeed those
who live at Jerusalem speak as if antiquity was only
of yesterday. Centuries of history are brought into nearer
review by the habit of studying antiquities, with the
aid of tradition. I was moved from this medita-
tions of a on the perverseness of man which always
rejects instructions the most benevolent and persecutes
most bitterly those who come to avert its evils
by finding myself seeing quite that I had quite
put right of the Holy City and was spinning my
way along a rough road over which the Saviors
feet must have trodden towards Bethany the
village of Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
One hour and an half brought us to the
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to that interesting place situated on the Eastern declivity
of Mount Olivet and looking down into a dark
deep ravine. I had already seen at in the
distance the Dead Sea which was twenty seven
miles distant, now the intervening mountains
closed the prospect suddenly. Bethany is the in
ruin of Some twenty dilapidated houses are
occupied by Bedouin Arabs. Nothing of
culture or comfort was seen, only a tomb
and a burying ground around it shewed ha
every accord with the exciting habits of
society. Here the Scheik
or Chief of the
tribe of Beduins who possess the land between
Jerusalem and the Dead Sea joined us
on horseback with five of his mounted
and Armed men
= and with this force
we proceeded down one mountain, up
another, and by the most intolerable road
ever mortal traveled, all day long seeing no
fields, no houses, nor man, no trees, nothing
but barren rocks with dried tufts of grass
and shrubs, until at a depth of 2500
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feet below the level of Jerusalem, I stood on the Beach of
the Dead Sea; near to where the it receives the waters
of Jordan. On its Eastern side the mountains rise as
abruptly as on its Western shore. The Western shore was
Judea, the Eastern the land of Moab. The Western
shore the Land of Canaan, the East the land always
of their savage enemies. The sun was shining brightly
upon the wate mysterious lake, but a wholesome and
genial breeze came off from its surface, and
it looked for all the world like the Cayuga or
the Seneca Lake. But its waters were acrid and
bitter to the taste, and painful to the touch. Two
absolutely naked Arabs
were carrying skeins of the
Dead Sea water to some cabins of theirs in the
rocks; and then were the only human beings whom
I saw during the whole day from Bethany to the
Dead Sea. The sailors bathed in the Lake and
found its waters buoyant. The Land of Moab
was as desolate as the land of Judea. Its mountains
even higher. We gathered our party together after our
horses rest and rode across the dry sandy desolate
white plain two hours until we found the
in front of long rivers of trees and shrubbery refreshing
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to the sight, and heard the rushing of waters beneath
them. Following the path along this pleasant shade we
came to a place where the banks were low and
we ^all^ rushed wantonly into the River Jordan.
It was the only running stream we had seen in Judea
and it was the second place where we found water
for our animals in our whole march. I thought
it both natural and inestimable that the inhabitants
of Syria should deem their only river a sacred
one. We drank of its waters, we bathed in the
same, felt that they were not only refreshing but healing;
But the Jordan like Jerusalem is a . We
could see the valley through which it flowed
for many miles, flat internal land covered
with white sands, we could see the steep
mountains on other side for fifty miles in length
but there is not one house plantation or habitation
there. Tearing ourselves away reluctantly from
the fellowship of the River we hastened over the
sands seeing only one living being on our way
and that a wild boar ascended the mountain-
side on the West until we attained a place
at ten o,clock at night, where we found some
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half a dozen cottages with fires outside their
doors. Passing them we arrived at the banks of a spring
from which flowed a small rivulet. On the side of
this stream upon the dry sand, without the protection of
roof or tree or shrub, having dismounted our horses
we spread our blankets and laid down under
a bright starry sky to sleep in what once
was and what yet bears the name of Jericho.
Our Arab guides
^had^ determined to beg of us a sheep
as a backshish, we remitted. We ate our
simple supper, while they improvident and avaricious
, said their prayers, and then railed
at us in Arabic, because after paying them
the tribute for permission to go through their country
and the compensation for their protection and
defense while they had asked we, too would
not give them as ^a^ douceur a sheep for their
supper. At two o,clock in the morning the
sheik called us up, we mounted by s and found
our way how backward towards Jerusalem by star
light, up and down all kinds of stair cases
The Sun rose and the days heat began before we
reached the Mount of Olives. At 11 we entered Jerusalem
after a trial of twenty one hours out of 28 in the
Saddle. How weary I a novice in that kind of travel was you may conceive