Mother’s advice to son about students and professors teasing, bullying him


Date Written

March 11, 1851

Harriet Coit Towner was 52 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Daniel Coit Towner, was 20 when it was received.

Harriet Coit Towner died 29 years, 11 months, 5 days after writing this.
It was written 172 years, 6 months, 12 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.

Michigan City
March 11th 1851

My very dear Son,

Yours mailed 4 inst. reached me this morning and tho’ I had yesterday carried to the office a long letter to you, which I suppose went this morning, I resume my pen to write you again. I could just as well have sent the money you desire in that letter, had I known you wanted it. However, I have sent to Miller to get it ready so that it will only be one day later. Think you must have received the other $5 in a day or two after yours was mailed — at least I hope so.

True, my son, you did write me a long, good letter, for which I thank you, & in return I have sent you one as long, & more closely written, besides enclosing a half sheet to Mary of which you can reap the benefit! In fact, it seems as tho’ I did little else, but write. And most of my productions go to you & Mary. They ought to do you some good & probably will, so far as they are worth anything. It is a great privilege to be allowed, even this mode of communication, separated as we have been for years.

I am aware the weeks are passing rapidly away. Still, to look forward, it seems a long time to August. Some five months, I suppose, before I shall see my dear children face to face! Little did I think seven years ago that you would both be so far & so long from home — two, three, five years! Indeed, we shall need a long time to become thoroughly acquainted with each other. The two years that Mary spent at home, after returning from school, were precious to me. Everyday her society became more & more necessary to my happiness, & it was only because I considered it would be for her advantage, and to have her near you, that I consented to let her go. As yet, I’ve seen no cause to regret it, As much as I loved to have her with me, I could not bear to think of having her mingle much with the society of the young people in Michigan City.

When I reflect how young you left home, & that your lot has ever since, been cast among strangers, my heart is filled with wonder, love & gratitude to our covenant God, that you may have got along as well as you have, & that you have been so bountifully provided for, You say “your course this College has not been perfectly smooth; you have been misunderstood, abused, ill-treated” etc. This, I sincerely regret, & would that I could have endured all, in your stead. But most of all, do I grieve that my beloved son should so far forget the teachings of his Lord & Savior, as to return in any instance, evil for evil! “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully woe you & persecute you!” “When recoiled, recoil not again!” To follow such teachings is always safe. I wish you would tell me which of the Professors called you by that approbation epithet, “Toothen fellow” & why he did it, if it is not too much trouble. I acknowledge it makes me feel indignant, but not as much as I pity the man who would allow himself to speak thus, whether with or without cause, of any youth who was not given up to vicious habits & practices. I’m not surprised that you felt injured & demanded redress, but it strikes me that it was beneath the dignity of a Christian & a gentleman to tell a teacher, “You lie.” Could you not have expressed yourself more to your own satisfaction in some other terms?

To those young men who solicited your contribution to the “Indicator” — would it not have been more Christ-like to have complied, & by so doing, “leaped coals of fire upon their heads?” I can’t say, dear Coit, that I approve of that kind of independence which is regardless of the good or ill opinion of others. We are dependent creatures — not only dependent on God, our maker, but on each other, & it is our duty to treat all our brethren of the same great family. We should try to gain the good will of all, without however deviating from the path of right. Do as you would be done by, treat others as you would wish to be treated, is always the wisest, safest course.

A hasty impetuous spirit is ever leading its possessors into deep waters. I know from experience the misfortune of possessing a quick temper, & the difficulty of controlling & bringing it into subjection. It is the labor of a whole life — unless others have been more successful than I have.
I have always felt exceedingly anxious that you should find friends in your teachers & still hope you will overlook the past and treat them with politeness & respect. All of them.

On going into town yesterday, found that Porter had dispatched a messenger to inform me that he expects to leave for the East tomorrow morning. Instead of going directly to Boston as I had supposed, he goes first to New York. Your package he will send to you by Express, either from Troy or New York [City]. He was perfectly willing to take charge of it & I trust it will reach you safely — perhaps about as soon as this letter. I can not pay the charge as I know not what they will be & then I think you will be quite as likely to receive it without, as with. I just penciled on the inside of the envelope of my letter, at the office, that I should send by him. Guess you will be glad to get the shirts after so much delay — hope they will suit.

I have recently bought five cords of good Beech, body wood @ 1.50 per cord, & paid for it all (by borrowing the money of Aunty, till next month) & got a man sawing it. So we are provided for. I hope we shall not be ousted from our good home for a long time to come. You probably know that we have an appropriation of fifty thousand for our harbor, but if old Maj. Bowen & his white-headed boys are to manage the concern, it won’t amount to much so far as benefiting the harbor is concerned. I do wish it could be judiciously managed so that we could have a safe harbor.

C. Blair has bought the Wells’ warehouse. John Barker & [C. E.] DeWolfe occupy the Morson Warehouse & are preparing to build a bridge pier on the west side of the west pier, so as to be independent of [William] Blair. Chauncey & Lyman Blair have dissolved [their partnership] — the former is settling up his affairs. The Wells feel badly that their warehouse is sold — so they have lost their home & also — I should think the boys might stir about & redeem the dwelling if they wished to — believe they could have it for $600 or so.

Only think, yesterday I sent you a letter of six closely written pages & here I am now near the bottom of my fourth! Aunty is in town assisting some ladies in making clothes for a poor family, the husband & father of which was shot at a house of ill-fame between here & New Buffalo a few weeks since. He was a very wicked man.

She send much love & feels impatient for August to come. Think I shall not write you more than once more this month. Two such long letters in one week must suffice for a long time, don’t you think so? Fear I shall encroach too much upon your time to make you read such long letters & so frequent.
Let me know when you receive the package & money too.

Your truly affectionate mother,
H. C. Towner

P. S. Shall take this over & if Miller has the money ($5) ready, shall enclose & send by tomorrow’s mail, When you receive your package by porter, you will have Aunty’s picture & I think perhaps you better keep it till you see Mary & if she returns to the Inst, she can take it to Hetty who will take it home. Or it may be that you & Mary will return via of [?] & take it there yourselves.

Scans of Letter