Family letter; town getting ready for war
May 10, 1861
William Blair was 75 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Andrew Blair, was 71 when it was received.
William Blair died 4 months, 19 days after writing this.
It was written 158 years, 10 months, 20 days ago.
It was a Friday.
May 10, 1861
My Dear Brother,
Yours of April 26th has been received. Many thanks for the labor and trouble you have taken on my account; which, in view of your suffering and consequent weakness, was unexpected. I was sorry to hear that your pain has not abated, as there was reason to hope that you would rally after the severe suffering of the few days before I left Carlisle. I yet to see you about, if not very soon, yet after the settled weather in the early summer has commenced. As you have doubtless heard of the safe arrival at home of Henry and Eliza, there is little to say on that subject. The day of their arrival was so wet, stormy, and uncomfortable that I did not see them, but I went over on Saturday evening. Henry was none the worse of the damp ride of Carlisle and I found him cheerful and comfortable. Though he looked feeble and exhausted, yet his appearance in my view, than I had reason to expect. Since, he has improved much, eats very heartily, and sleeps well; has been in town several times, and has attended to his customary business. He looks forward to having his business in his own hands with some solicitudes but with full hope of ultimate success, should life be spared, with a reasonable degree of health. The others of the family has excellent health. Andrew is attentive to not only in the family but in the neighborhood. How they were in the influx of company, is more than I can say, but it had to be borne, and none of them seem to be the worse of it. Since my arrival here, there has been much distress in Mrs. Bailey’s family. Wm. Robert was taken away rather unexpectedly to them, though when I first saw him he appeared to me to be rapidly approaching his end. He had been at work on Saturday, rested quietly the next day, and without much complaining, and on Monday appeared the same. On Tuesday, after early in the morning, he was for the most part unconscious, and died early in the afternoon, without much apparent suffering. Of course his family deeply mourn his loss, but seems to be wonderfully supported under their affliction. Though the aged Mother is confined to her room, after two and a half years, yet she is more free from pain than she was a year ago, and can walk across her room several times in the course of the day, without the assistance of either Ellen or the staff.
She is much troubled about the unnatural state of affairs of the country. The city continues in an excited state. I think I never saw the streets so full as they have been throughout this week. Though many are daily departing, yet the influx of others keep pace with those going out. With the exception of occasional outbreaks, there is much of good order; but the immense crowds of young volunteers, who cannot at once be mustered into service, has a very demoralizing tendency, which will not soon be eradicated, or I am much mistaken. The enthusiasm is immense, seems to be on the increase, and secession forced to be quiet, though without doubt the rebels have spies and many warm friends amongst the community. Business seems to be at a stand, failures numerous, and those owning real estate almost without income, as tenants generally either cannot or will not pay their rents.
In reply to the latter and most important part of your letter my dear brother; I have to say that it has grieved me deeply, more particularly that it was unexpected. If your love and friendship for me I have not doubted, nor will I doubt after what you have said. We all have our faults and unfortunately cannot see ourselves as other see us; still; I cannot think that I have been in some things misrepresented. That I may have been short, at times, may be so, old people are frequently so; but then the provocation to those fretful and other marks of faultfinding are usually kept out of sight, leaving the burden on entirely on the one intended to be implicated. As to remarks at the table, concerning the food set before me, I unhesitatingly pronounce the report concerning them untrue. During the past winter a word at the table has seldom been spoken by me and I have no recollection of speaking concerning the victuals or cooking to others, except when asked a direct question, and then the answer, so far as my recollection serves me, was not in disparagement. As to my having said on some occasions that I considered myself merely as a boarder, I freely acknowledge the charge, and as freely and truthfully say that I regret it; and have to say in my excuse that the words were never uttered voluntarily but were dragged out of me by previous observations, whether ill natured or otherwise it is not for me to say. You took me freely, and as I believe willingly, into your home, and I trust there is an abiding feeling of gratitude within me ever to remember it with thanks. In that home, I expected to end my days. And you knew not, no one knows the desolation of feeling it would cause me to be deprived of a home beneath your roof. My present intention, as you have not expressly forbidden me to return to Carlisle in two or three weeks from this time and to occupy the room I have so long occupied, with a seat at your table. I will endeavor so to regulate my conduct that you yourself would not find fault, though others might as I feel there is a prejudice existing against me; why I am unable to comprehend where at any time may be exerted to my injury with yourself and others. Should I be compelled to change my abodes I will endeavor with much sorrow and regret, to provide another, but cannot prevail on myself to do so until there is an absolute necessity for it. I now take my leave of this ungrateful and annoying subject, I hope for ever.
What I have written without the slightest intention of giving any offense, has been done in truthfulness and in sorrow and with a kindly feeling towards you and yours. I find that I have to few friends to be able to lose any of them. I have become too aged and feeble to making Philadelphia my permanent place of residence. There is too much noise and bustle, and too much excitement, to suit one who has been living in the quiet and retirement of the country for the past four and twenty years and besides, I like to be in Carlisle and amongst my kin. A word as to my means, to which you have attended. I have along thought them ample for my decent support, without my being a burden to any one, and I think as yet, as my remaining days must be few according to the usual course of nature. But I must confess that those means, looking to the present embarrassments of our land, are rather precarious just now and maybe more so before long. Who knows? I was not well for some weeks before I left home, nor can I say I have improved much since, being feeble, dull, and depressed, though hot really sick. The weather has been anything but fine and we have now a cold rain, so that I can’t take my usual jaunt to West Philadelphia. I saw Henry at home last evening, and think him evidently improving. With kind feeling and best wishes for all and sundry, I will stop this long letter.
Mr. Andrew Blair