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Lot #8023
Franklin Pierce

Long and intimate letter by the 26-year-old Pierce: "The high-blown hopes of one party gave place to the sober certainty of defeat, while the other is left to rejoice in the cheering prospect of triumphant success"

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Long and intimate letter by the 26-year-old Pierce: "The high-blown hopes of one party gave place to the sober certainty of defeat, while the other is left to rejoice in the cheering prospect of triumphant success"

Very early ALS, three pages on two adjoining sheets, 8 x 9.75, November 18, 1831. Letter to his cousin Catharine Kendall in Amherst, New Hampshire. In part: "Friendship keeps loose accounts, and there appears to be no reason why I may not indulge my inclination just now, by throwing off a surplus letter. This is a most splendid evening (that's news) and I have just returned from a long & very pleasant walk (that too is interesting). I always like to be out on such a night for surely t'is, if ever—'When the rising moon begins to climb / Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there; / When the stars twinkle thro' the loops of time, / And the low night—brute waves along the air.'

That the thoughts release themselves from the sordid pursuits and petty schemes of the day and embrace whatever is noble and generous. We then, if ever, call up the objects, which engaged our minds and the trifling amusements, which gladdened our hearts, in our early, our most innocent & best days. We recollect, with a vividness, that comes across the mind at no other time, the qualities, which have endeared to us, the few, whom we have ever met & could truly call friends. In this to be sure there is a tinge of melancholly, but there is a full portion of pleasure, which takes away everything, that is unpleasant. For tho’ we feel, that in the absence of such persons, there is a void, which we may never expect to be filled in this world—we have still the pleasing reflection, that wherever we may be whether wafted on by prosperous gales or fated to encounter the rude surges of adverse fortune—that few will be the same to us; we shall not be forgotten—but you are tired of these commonplace sentiments, common indeed, common to all at this time of life, which has very aptly been compared to Spring, for we surely have neither the flowers of Summer or the fruits of Autumn.

I hope & so far as my own experience goes, believe, it is the least happy portion of human existence. In earlier days, if our happiness is not of the highest cast, our evils are few. In after years, we shall probably be less subject to the attacks of the malignant Devil—Ennui—new & more intimate connexions. A sense that the well being of others is closely linked with our own, must inevitably lead with more pleasure to constant vigorous exertions, than when the only object in view is self-aggrandisement. Perhaps you will be disposed to doubt the correctness of this doctrine—but you need not fear any unfavourable influence it may have upon me, for I am determined to make the best of the present—and leave the rest to ‘Time! the corrector where our judgments err, / The test of truth, worth,—sole philosopher.’

On my return from Boston, I found mother quite ill, she is still feeble, but much better. Your other friends are in usual health and await your arrival with a good deal of expectation. Harriet is with us & says we must make Weare in our way when we visit the Capitol, but I have given her no encouragement. You know we intend to cut as great a flourish as possible and I am really afraid, that our appearance would strike the Quakers dumb with astonishment, so that there would be no moving of the spirit for the next six months.

I have been much amused since I saw you, in observing the progressive changes in public feeling. At first the bustle of active, ardent exertion, was succeeded by the dreadful calm of anxious suspense, then the high-blown hopes of one party gave place to the sober certainty of defeat, while the other is left to rejoice in the cheering prospect of triumphant success. That the next administration and its supporters may manifest a spirit very different from that, which has been exhibited by the present, is ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished for.’ I believe, that the degree of illiberality & proscription, which has characterised the ‘powers that be’ or the most remarkable, that has ever disgraced a party. The next we trust will not ‘forget to remember,’ that others may differ from them in matters of opinion, without being either fools or rascals. I hope my joy is not that of a partisan, but while, I really regret the disappointment of a few, I should be glad to see it fall with all its weight upon many. We have nothing new here except a Meeting House, which was dedicated the Thursday after I came home, in all the ‘pomp & pride of circumstance.’ We now have the orthodox preaching brought, as it were, to our very doors. Heavens: What a blessing! What have you interesting, always some local news. Why not impart it? Remember me to your Father Mother & Sisters—& present my suitables to my friends (if any)." Addressed on the reverse in Pierce's hand. In very good to fine condition, with a couple of short fold splits, and light toning to the integral address leaf.

Written just five days before Pierce’s 27th birthday, this remarkable letter offers an intimate window into the thoughts and feelings of the future president. At this time, he was active in New Hampshire’s hyper-partisan local politics, and carving out a name for himself as a young leader of the state’s Democratic Party. Following some emotive prose and a quote from Byron, Pierce delves into the state of the nation’s politics as the letter comes to a close. A wonderful, lengthy handwritten letter filled with thought-provoking content.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Letter Collection
  • Dates: #553 - Ended June 28, 2018

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