The Papers of Joseph Henry


13. TO HARRIET HENRY

My dearest

Your letter[1] giving me an account of the death of our dear Louisa[2] was received this afternoon on my return from the capital. Though the intelligence was not unexpected it shocked me very much and I have since been very melancholly and I may say home sick. I am deeply impressed this eveing with the uncertainty of Life and the unsubstantial nature of all earthly affairs— What a change in the course of two short months has been made in our little circle unbroken for ten years— Well all things are ordered by a Power which controlls events and over rules them for good to those who put their trust in Him. I fear you are extremely lonely and dispirited and I wish that I could transport myself in a moment to you. The Board met to day and settled the principal business of the pressent session but they meet again on saturday to finish a little business left unadjusted. The meeting has terminated[B] very harmoniously & though though the organisation is not precisely such as I could wish yet it is all I could reasonably expect form the several acts of congress which we were obliged to comply with. Baches plan of putting up the building has carried—the wings are to be erected first and the body completed in five years so that the cost of building will be drawn from the interest of the money which would otherwise have been expended immediately.
Friday[C] I shall not be able to leave Washington until the latter part of next week. The Board will adjurn on saturday and will not probably meet again until next December though according to law they are required to meet in Feby next at this time those in Washington will meet and adjurn without doing business.[3] I have been all the forenoon busily[D] engaged with a clerk in the official duties of my office—in arranging the minutes and adjusting the duties[E] business of the board. I have found the occupation plesant and by no means difficult. A little common sense will stand a man in place of much practical[F] knowledge of a merely technical kind.
I am finishing this letter at Bache's in the Office[4] he has a dinner party of his relatives of the younger kind among whom is Miss Lesley Cook from Princeton. This young lady appears to be quite as great as favourite in Washington as in Princeton.
I have felt quite depressed all day Louisa has scarcely been out of my head for a minute the weather is gloomy and were it not that [I] ↑had↓ considerably to occupy me I should have been quite home sick. It appears a very very long time since I left home and I am wondering how you will all appear when I return. I hope you have been careful of your health and now that Louisa requires no more attendance you will rest yourself—send for a sewing woman and have the cloths of the children put in order without fatigue to yourself— Take some rest after all the exertions you have made—endeavour to cultivate a cheerful state of mind—put trust in Providence—amuse yourself with books and look if possible on the bright side of the passing changing scenes of Life. I am to visit Mr Webster[5] this evening though I do not feel very much inclined to talk. I am rather inclined to think I shall be very dull and not suceed in being even a good listner which next to the character of a good speaker is highly esteemed[G] particularly by good talkers.
I spent a short time this morning in the room of the Supreme Court of the US. The Judges of this court with their Gowns are the most dignifed asembly of men to be found in our Country. They hold office for life and consequently are above the temtation of being influenced by party considerations and since they owe their office to the integrity of the Union they will always be a check on the dendancies to its dismemberment. The House yesterday spent 9 hours in attempting to settle whether yesterday was to morrow or the day before. A resolution had been proposed two days ago that a debate on a bill should be terminated "tomorrow" the resolution however was not acted upon until the day after it was proposed and the question then was whether the "tomorrow" was the day after the bill had been proposed or the day after the bill passed. The House adjourned without I believe settling the question[6]— Adieu as ever your H.
Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [1] Not found.
    [2] Louisa Alexander died on January 24, 1847. William Henry to Joseph Henry, [January 29, 1847] (dated "Friday," with a file note of "February 1847"), Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [3] The board adjourned on January 30 and reconvened on February 5, when it adjourned sine die. In keeping with a resolution adopted September 9, 1846, fixing the times of their two regular annual meetings, the regents reconvened for the first such meeting on February 17, the third Wednesday in February. The second annual meeting took place on December 8, the second Wednesday in December. Rhees, Journals, pp. 4, 31, 32, 39.
    [4] That is, the office of the Coast Survey. See Henry Papers, 6:444n.
    [5] Daniel Webster (1782–1852), orator, statesman, and Whig senator from Massachusetts. DAB.
    [6] On January 26 a resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives to terminate debate on a naval appropriations bill "at one o'clock to-morrow," but it was not approved until January 28. Debate resumed after the vote. At the appointed hour, a member asked that the debate be ended, but the chair denied the request, stating that since the resolution only took effect upon its adoption, debate could continue until the afternoon of the following day, January 29. Numerous roll-call votes ensued on motions—all defeated—to suspend the debate or to adjourn, and proceedings dragged on for hours. Near the end, representative Reuben Chapman asked the chair "whether this was to-day or to-morrow? If the House could make to-morrow part of to-day, could it not make as well to-day into to-morrow?" The session finally ended at 10:30 p.m., after the chair cast a tie-breaking vote on a motion to adjourn; the issue of what was "tomorrow" was left for another day. Congressional Globe, 29th Congress, 2d Session, 1846–1847, 16:280–283 (quotation on p. 283).
    [A] Altered from 29
    [B] Altered from terminaded
    [C] In the original, preceded by angled double lines and written at an angle to signal a break with the text above.
    [D] Altered from busille
    [E] Altered from f
    [F] Altered from pracfical
    [G] Altered from esseemed