The Papers of Joseph Henry


6. TO HARRIET HENRY

My Dear H

I have just returned from dining with Mr Joseph Ingersol and as I am in duty and affection bound I commence to pay my willing nighly tribute to you. We had a most plesant little party consisting of Mr Seaton the mayor of Washington,[1] Mr Rush Mr Bache Mr Ingersol and my-self. Mr Rush is an admirable talker full of anecdotes[B] and remenisences of characters and things in England and this country. Mr Seaton has long lived in Washington and is familiar with the history of all political men in the country— The object of the party was to make me more intimately acquainted with the two gentlemen I have named and to enable Mr Ingersol to impress them with my plans or to give me an opportunity of presenting them with the scheme myself. General Cass has been elected to fill the vacancy occassioned by the death of Judge Pennybacker. I have seen him and am to meet him tomorrow moring inorder to impress him with my views of the plan of organization. Mr Rush has fully adopted my plan and will I have no doubt second all my movements. Tomorrow is the begining of the session of the smithson Board and the results of this meeting will I am sure be of great importance to the future usefulness of the Institution. I expect should my plans be carried that some attacks will be made from ↑by↓ those who wish to make a library on the one hand and by those who wish to use the money for the war on the other. I called at the Vice Presidents to go with him to the Presidents but was a little behind my appointment he had already gone[2]—the appointment was not definite and he will take me tomorrow evening on the occasion of the public Lavee.[3] The Vice President said that he though it propper that I should have a seperate and private Introduction.[C] You will see by my letter that I am full of business but you must not think that amidst all this bustle and stir I forget those who are at home. The last hours of the day are spent in spirit with you and our dear children after finishing this letter I shall go to bed and after my prayers my last thoughts will be of you— Just before I began to wite I stepped into Mr Stansburrys[4] room he I found busily engaged in making up his reports—he is a man of great talents after spending the day in the house[5] from eleven oclock until four he comes home[D] and writes out the reports for the next day's paper which occupies him frequently until one or two o'clock in the morning. I expected to receive a letter to day but have been again disappointed. It is a week to day since we parted in Phild but it appears a month and I have had but one letter[6] in that time. I suppose that you are much engaged with Louisa and the children— I am glad to learn that you have engaged the Miliner[7] or rather the [?Meuilanner] to put your person in good condition for though I love you independently of all outward adorments yet I am well pleased to see you properly dressed. I meet every day with a great number of our old graduates—they are all well pleased apparently to see me and I am much gratified with their attention. The library of congress is the place to see most of the strangers of literary taste and also the ladies of the city. It is almost constantly thronged with visitors and loungers.[8] It contains about 40 thousand vol. many of which are good works but among the number are not a few of questionable character in the novel line.
Remember me to Grandmother Uncle Stephen Louisa Will Marrie Helen Puss, Sam & all the other members of the family. I beg my dear little wife that you will be careful of your health though you give poor Louisa all the comfort you can in the way of attendance and I suppose she will want you much there do not attempt to do too much— Your sick headaches with you being obliged so frequently to take medicine alarms me when I think of it. I fear your health will give way and I have frequently accused myself of late and particularly of thinking more of my own health than of yours. Adue good night Dearest.
Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [1] William Winston Seaton, who, by virtue of his office, was a Smithsonian regent, was also a prominent newspaper publisher. Henry Papers, 6:470.
    [2] President James K. Polk and his family customarily held an informal gathering at the White House on Tuesday evenings, to which visitors were welcome to come without an invitation. Vice-President Dallas and Richard Rush were among those who attended on the nineteenth. Milo Milton Quaife, ed., The Diary of James K. Polk during His Presidency, 1845 to 1849, 4 vols. (Chicago, 1910), 2:342; Charles G. Sellers, James K. Polk: Continentalist, 1843–1846 (Princeton, 1966), p. 307.
    [3] The presidential bi-weekly Wednesday evening "levees" (public receptions) were among "the capital's principal occasions for political gossip." Polk described the reception of January 20 in his diary: “Public notice having been previously given, my drawing room was open. All the parlours were brilliantly lighted up. The Marine Band were stationed in the large Hall. About 8 O'Clock P.M. the company began to assemble. All the parlours including the East Room were filled with ladies & gentlemen. The Foreign Corps, members of the Cabinet, of the Supreme Court of the U.S., members of Congress, citizens, & strangers were present. Though the snow was falling & it was a cold night it was a numerous and brilliant assembly. The Company retired between 11 and 12 O'Clock.”Sellers, pp. 307–308 (quotation on p. 308); Quaife, 2:344.
    [4] Arthur Joseph Stansbury.
    [5] That is, the House of Representatives.
    [6] Not found.
    [7] Identified as a "Miss Skillman." See Doc. 171.
    [8] Opened in 1818, the room in the Capitol which housed the Library of Congress became a gathering place whose "books and pictures [provided] an excuse for the meeting there of persons of both sexes." Relocated to more spacious quarters in the Capitol in 1824, the library remained a popular meeting place, as Henry's remark indicates. Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan, A History of the National Capital, 2 vols. (New York, 1914–1916), 2:41–42 (quotation on p. 42). See also Henry Papers, 6:447.
    [A] From internal evidence.
    [B] Altered, possibly from aneedote
    [C] Altered from i
    [D] Altered from homes