Oct. 7. 1860
In a life whose chief incidents do not surpass the daily achievement of wherewithal to supply the waste of tissue in the body, and the social requisitions of raiment and arrayment, there is little to interest an audience of friends, and nothing to attract the attention of the indifferent.
But the autobiography of any individual, however humble and obscure, if intelligently and conscientiously written, would possess a charm I presume, beyond the fascination of fiction and above the reach of art: and if that person should be a friend or kinsman with whose External history we were
familiar, it would possess an additional attraction in sofar as it would enable us to see the working of the springs that regulate the machine, and to compare the concrete results of the varying and inevitable circumstances that shape the destiny and build up the Edifice of Character, with what we wish or imagine they might or ought to have been. But in my Estimate, no man can afford to make an absolutely candid and total revelation of himself and his motives. We are afraid to do it. We are conscious of so many weaknesses & defects that are well enough when concealed but that would put us so entirely at the mercy of the adversaries if disclosed, that we play the hypocrite continually and assume a virtue though we have it not.
It is partially from such considerations and on the principle of resisting the beginnings, that Ever since I have thoroughly understood how rare a gift is the talent of silence in this age of mouthing gabblers and Empty loquaciousness, that I have obstinately abstained from saying what I am doing till after it is done. But an Equally moving consideration here has been the dearth of interesting incidents to narrate. We soon become so accustomed to new relations and surroundings that we forget that they can contain anything of novelty or strangeness to others.
I can hardly say whether I am really prospering here or not. Everything depends on the future. Our firm does a large amount of business both in the courts and in the way of tax paying and money
loaning and land transactions generally, though my connexion is confined exclusively to the law department. The other branches I can carry on better alone.-
I presume our legitimate business will foot up between three and four thousand dollars this year, mostly on the books, though the balances will be squared by notes which will be good if Kansas Ever recovers from its great depression. By trading round and “dickering” generally I managed to get along comfortably enough ( though it would be pleasanter to have the cash in hand). Mr Adams, the Senior partner, is a grave elderly gentlemen, of New York birth, quiet deportment, bald & long bearded, and was the first Judge of Atchison County. He is an old Kansas soldier, a man of great resolution
and immovable integrity of character: he was condemned to death by the border ruffians, and the pistol was at his head, when his wife interposed and during the interruption he was in some way hustled out of harms’ way. He lends an Eminent degree of respectability to the concern. Mr. Leland is a Southerner and a very studious learned and excellent counselor.
An infirmity of his body the cause of which I never inquired, renders him helpless without a crutch and indicates the desk as his most available position.
I assume the advocacy of cases after they are digested, and think I have the reputation of not being surpassed at least by any jury advocate in northern Kansas. My success is not so much attributable to superior personal
merit as to the want of ability among the practitioners generally, A more ignorant detestable set of addle headed numbsculls and blackguards I have seldom met.
I have concluded that the reputation of a good advocate is preferable to that of any other branch of the profession. It brings earlier success, affords a surer avenue to the higher walks of political preferment and begets more money in an hour than the counselor will obtain by weeks of dry dull unstimulating labor.
I know and am known by Every prominent man in Kansas and believe I have their undivided good will: at least I have assurances of any position I want under the prospective state administration. A central newspaper will be Established as the organ of the
party if Lincoln is Elected and the post of Editor in Chief is urged upon my acceptance: but I don’t think I shall take it: it is influential but delicate, difficult & harrassing.-
I do not regard the Governorship or a seat in Congress as beyond the range of my legitimate aspirations in the next ten years.
I allude to these matters only in compliance with the suggestions of your letter and that you may not think that my time is wasting or rusting with idle inactivity: - not from any disposition to enlarge upon my affairs or indulge in the soothing inflation of vanity. –
I do not have much to do in speculation – my means wont allow it: though I occasionally dip into some arrangement that I consider perfectly secure. The drought here, though it is depopulating
some counties and driving an immense amount of stock of all kinds from the country, offers such an opportunity of laying the foundations of a fortune in a few years, that I greatly regret my inability to avail myself of the opportunity, and by a judicious investment make such provision as will secure the future against the contingencies of age and disease. A great many of the settlers are disheartened and anxious to close out their entire property at figures that would hardly cover the price of the land warrants with which their claims were secured years ago. Of course we are not going to have a succession of such years: crops will be abundant, the state will be admitted: Rail roads will be built: and those that are faithful
to the end will reap the reward. The last two years, covering the entire term of my residence have been almost as dull as it was in New England in the fall of ’57, but I believe there is a future for Kansas that will compensate for all these misfortunes and hardships.-
My personal arrangements are very comfortable indeed. Sumner and Atchison are but three miles apart, and connected by a very pleasant road running through the bottom land that intervenes between the river and the bluff; in some places a pistol shot in width, in others a narrow neck of land with hardly verge enough for passage, and shaded with a dense forest of cottonwood oak sycamore and linn. It is a half hours ride, or a little more, and having an excellent horse, I get just about
Exercise enough, and save all the business hours of the day, besides having the advantage of business connexion in two towns. I tried rooming in an office a while during the Summer, but it was too much like the animals, and I resumed my old habits as speedily as possible. I pay three dollars and a half per week for room and board, finding my own lights, fuel and washing: paid five all last year, but had Everything found but washing, though the prices of living have rather receded since I first came. Have stable room free for my horse and buy corn at forty cents per bushel and hay at six dollars per ton, so that item of expense is not much. For the ground rent of the lot on which our
office stands in Atchison, we pay one hundred dollars per year, having a lease for a term of years: we put up the building ourselves and rent one room for enough to pay the Entire expenses and leave us the Structures clear at the expiration of the term, if they don’t rot down in the mean time, for they are the frailest Edifices that I Ever saw under roof. The character of all the buildings in these western towns is cheap shabby and rude in the extreme. The clap boards (weather boards they call them) are nailed directly upon the uprights without any casing or boarding whatever, and as the cottonwood lumber has the faculty of crawling round in the Sun, the tenements speedily become “looped and windowed” to a degree not contemplated by the architect.
The weather has recently been unaccountably delightful. A deep searching rain has been followed by several days of such warm and summery temperatures that the grass is reviving, and the later crops giving assurance of reaching maturity. A farmer told me yesterday that his field of potatoes which he would have sold a fortnight ago for what the seed cost him, will now yield him not less than one thousand bushels, which is no small profit for two weeks, especially in such hard times as these.
I am glad Frank got along so well; he has not written me particularly though I sent him two or three long letters of advice, which I intend to follow by others as fast as he will have time to read them. My Errors will not have been wholly vain, if by having experienced them, I can induce him to avoid them. With much regard to the family,
Very truly, Your son,