American Presidents

John Tyler

John Tyler

In the following letter, John Tyler writes to his thirteen-year-old daughter, Mary Tyler, regarding Washington, DC.

Washington, Dec. 26, 1827.

My Dear Mary

You desire me to give you an account of the capitol. This I must post-pone until I see you. The building is now nearly finished, and is very splendid. It is so large that I have nearly lost myself in it two or three times.
Your letter of last week reached me too late in the week to enable me to reply to it earlier than this. I need not say to you that it afforded me pleasure. You should write to me frequently-every week would not, in fact, be too often, since it would tend to improve your hand and style. A young lady should take particular pains to write well and neatly, since a female cannot be excused for slovenliness in any respect. You should never feel cramped in writing. Write as you would converse, and give your mind free play. Be not afraid to reflect, and write down your reflections as they occur. If you have no neighborhood incidents to relate, give an account of your studies, and dwell on the prominent occurrences of history, expressing your own notions of the characters and actions which figure in history. Thus shall I be enabled to judge of your progress, and bear witness to the expansion of your mind. The history of Greece is the book you should now read; and when you open it, do so with the resolution to understand it.

You desire me to give you an account of the capitol. This I must post-pone until I see you. The building is now nearly finished, and is very splendid. It is so large that I have nearly lost myself in it two or three times. What principally attracts attention is the large central dome, which is about two hundred feet in circumference, and is ornamented with works of the brush and chisel. Over each door is seen some emblematical representation of incidents connected with our early history. One of them exhibits Captain Smith with his head on a rock; Powhatan with a club over him, and Pocahontas interposing to save his life. This, I think, is the best. In another William Penn is exhibited with three Indians, who have made the treaty ceding to him Pennsylvania. The others I do not now recollect. There are four paintings by Trumbull, a book explanatory of which I will bring on with me when I come.

Why did not some of you write to me by the last mail? Are you all so much taken up with your Christmas frolics as to have forgotten me? This I cannot believe, and yet I do think that your mother might have stolen one hour to devote to me. I do not suffer anything to prevent my writing every week. Tell her that I have attempted in every way to account for her neglect. Company would not prevent we from writing to her. She may have gone to Mrs. Savage's wedding, and yet how easy was it for her to have written, and sent the letter to Frazier's. However, if Providence permits, I shall be at borne on Sunday week, and will then listen to her excuse. I wish to leave this so as to reach Richmond on Saturday evening, and to take the steamboat on Sunday morning. Tell the overseer to send a canoes or boat around to River-Edge on Sunday by the time that the boat reaches there (Sunday the 6th January). I went yesterday (Xmas day) to the Catholic church, where they performed high-mass. The preacher said that Christmas took its name from Christ and mass, and hence inferred that mass should always be observed on that day. The ceremonies were very long, but I could not understand them--their prayers are sung out in Latin. The.sermon was a good one. On the same day I dined with Mr. Cary Selden, brother of Jas. Selden's. Several gentlemen were there, and after dinner Miss . . . . and her brother danced a waltz, --a dance which you have never seen, and which I do not desire to see you dance. It is rather vulgar, I think.

Tell your mother that I returned Mr. Randolph's visit, and was received in a style somewhat stately, but entirely respectful; since when I have received another card from him. He conversed in a low whisper, and said that he labored under pulmonary consumption. All here is quiet, and we are getting on smoothly.

I shall not write again until I reach home, unless something occurs to postpone my trip, but shall expect to receive letters by the next mail.

With my love to all, I am, dear daughter,

Your affectionate father,

John Tyler

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

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