American Presidents

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

Written after leaving office, President Franklin Pierce writes to his brother and sister regarding his tour of Europe.

Sunday Eve'g
Nov'r 6, 1858

My dear Brother & Sister,

The weather began to be very cold about 10 days ago and the surrounding hills were at once covered with snow. I do not think that I ever knew the weather in New England, to be so much like Winter in the month of October, as it was here ten days since.
You have had from Jeanie, full accounts of our jourenyings & sojournings since we left - the very attractive borders of Lake Leman where we passed the latter Summer months in a manner that will always furnish pleasant memories of quiet enjoyment. As Jane has told you in detail the incidents of the route which led us to this City of the Arts, I will only say that as usual she proved herself an excellent traveller, and seemed highly to enjoy, as I certainly did, every mile of the journey. Her ride over the Bruning on horseback, and her ascent of the Rigi in the same way. So far from being too much for her strength [it] really seemed to do her good. Having passed most of our time in Switzerland on the borders of Lake Leman and having made no excursions except to Chamonni, Combattaz and Plan des Isles, it would have been a great mistake if we had taken the Southern route to Italy as we at one time thought of doing on account of the greater facility and ease of travelling in that direction. We should have lost the glorious scenery of Western Italy and with it more enjoyment than I know how to express. In fact as I have not undertaken to travel with any settled plan, as to time or place or even to anticipate much beyond the day. I look back to the very commencement of our journey, when we left your dear home, and realize I hope with a grateful heart, that we have been led on as it were day by day, attended by auspicious circumstances, to places & surroundings peculiarly favorable for the consummation of the great object which impelled us -- the restoration of your Sister's health.

We are pleasantly situated here in pleasant apartments at the Hotel de la Ville -- our rooms being upon what is called the first floor, being not the ground floor, but the next, having a sunny aspect and looking out upon the Aino. Our nearest neighbours occupying rooms contiguous to ours, are Colo. Tho. S. Preston of S.C.. and his large family consisting of ten. The three daughters with their cousin, a daughter of my friend Gov. Manning of S.C. have been pursuing their studies two years at Dresden. They are all well informed, speak German & French, as well as English and what is better than all they are simple and unpretending as they are intelligent. They come in sometimes [for] an evening and enliven us with their bright spirits and pleasant conversation. Occasionally their Grandma, Madame Hampton, widow of Gen. Wade Hampton, comes in with them and this makes the calls the more agreeable for she is a most charming old Lady, and she converses with the fresh spirit and quick memory of youth altho' she is now 84 years old. She is truly amiable but has a good deal of emphasis of character and some times reminds us strongly of yr Grandmother. We could not have more agreeable acquaintances than Colo. P., his wife & son.

The weather began to be very cold about 10 days ago and the surrounding hills were at once covered with snow. I do not think that I ever knew the weather in New England, to be so much like Winter in the month of October, as it was here ten days since. Such weather takes us entirely by surprize. And notwithstanding our agreeable surroundings in other respects, it is not probable that we shall remain here more than two or three weeks longer. As usual I make no plans in advance, but leave our movements to be determined by circumstances when we are ready to make a change.

I incline to think that we shall go first to Naples and pass two Months there and at Capri and perhaps at Palermo before going to Rome. If this general route shall in the end commend itself to our adoption, we shall probably have as companions Mr. & Miss Vandervort; Brother & Sister, of New York. They are couzins of my friend Colo. Seymour, late Minister at St. Petersburg, pleasant people, who have been passing I the summer at Kantsonn (German springs) where they earnestly advise Jane to go next Summer.

My friends, Judge Minot and others flatter me by writing continually, that I can be so well spared from home that the period of our return is much like our current movements, in its uncertainty.

You are of course daily in our thoughts & conversation as those now most closely bound to us by ties, sympathies, and most sad but ever cherished memories. Your long, entrusting letter dearest Sister finished Oct. 18, made good having come from your hands to ours in three weeks. Prof. C's death must have been very deeply felt at Brunswick. I find it hard to realize that more than thirty years have elapsed since he was my daily instructor. I got along with him better than with most of the officers of Govt. I fear because he knew less of me or was more in-dulgent. His election as an Honorary Member of the Smithsonian Institute was due to his high rank, as a man of science, but I think my earnestness in pressing his name among others eminently distinguished, and in securing his election was pretty strongly stimulated by a few kind words addressed to me in my boyhood.

It is very gratifying to have such good accounts of all your dear children. It is especially gratifying-to know that William is satisfactorily established in business in which I feel confident that his sound principles intitle and willingness to, work will ensure a satisfactory reward. Give my very kindest regards to him when you write, and also to Charles, Hattie & Mary when you write to them respectively. I am glad that John manifests adaption for his present situation, because that will make his days pass pleasantly and usefully and also because it implies adaptation for other pursuits when he shall decide upon the of his career. Perhaps my fondness for him may have some influence upon my judgment, but besides his right instincts and fine capabilities I think he has in his organization large driving wheels that is a good deal of impelling power. Tell him he must fulfil his purpose of writing to us. And tell-dear little Jeanie (by the way not very little and will not be little at all by the time we return) that her aunt & myself will expect her page with John's.

I say nothing about paintings, sculpture &c with which this City abounds. We have enjoyed them highly but you already know as much about them as you can from descriptions.

Jane goes out daily notwithstanding the cold weather, and I do the same, meeting many pleasant friends seeing the galleries &c. Besides I have a French instructor who comes three times a week so that my time is-all occupied. There are several Theatres here and one opera which is said to be attractive, but we have attended no place of public amusement.

More I am sure wd. be an infliction unless it was better, especially as I see Jeanie filling up her long journal. Will you give my love to dear Aunt Lawrence and other family friends in and around Boston as you have opportunity. Especially remember Madame Kent.

Yr. respect[ful] Brother

Franklin Pierce

[The above letter is reproduced exactly as written and was obtained through the archives at the Library of Congress]

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