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Manuscript Sampler

Transcript of letter, dated January 23, 1853, from Jane Pierce, wife of U.S. President Franklin Pierce, to her dead son Benny. Benny was killed in a train accident only days before his father's inauguration as president. From the New Hampshire Historical Society's collection of Franklin Pierce papers, accession number: 1929-001.

My precious child - I must write to you, altho' you are never to see it or know it - How I long to see you and say something to you as if you were as you always have been (until these last three dreadful weeks) near me. Oh! How precious do those days now seem, my darling boy - and how I should have praised [sic] the days passed with you had I suspected they might be so short - Dear, dear child - I cannot bear to think of that agonizing [sic] time, when I had just seen you all alive to what was passing around and near me, but not near enough - oh had you but been within reach of your dear father - in a moment changed my dear boy bright form into a lifeless one insensible to your parents' agony - But you spirit yourself, my dear one - was not your redeeming savior ready to receive you? Your sweet little brother? Your dear Uncle Lawrence? - but you are beyond my knowledge at once - Ah, I trust in joy, but I would fain have kept you here - I know not how to go on without you - you were my comfort dear - far more than you thought. I was thinking how pleasantly we should go on together when we found ourselves at home again - and I would do everything to make you love me and have confidence in me and bring you along gently and sweetly - Oh! You were indeed "a part of mine and of your father's heart". When I have told you dear boy how much you depended on me, and felt that you could not do without me - I did not say too how much I depended on you and oh! My precious boy how gladly would I recall all that was unreasonable - or hasty - or mistaken in my conduct toward you. I see surely and I did frequently see afterward that I had wronged you - and would have gladly acknowledged it only that I feared it might weaken your confidence in me and perhaps on that account not be as well for you - and now I am at home again dear boy. Oh what anguish was mine on returning without you, and feeling that it must still be so, while I live - to see your little bed that you loved so much - and which I look at many times in the day, and at night feel as if I must see it shape [?] out again and the clothes turned down for you - and unconsciously look in the morning for it and you - and listen for your bright cheerful voice your blithe "good morrow" - and oh! to look around and see your books and everything so connected with you - your dear self - and now on this Sabbath which you loved so much as you said often how I have marked for you each hour with its wonted occupation - and oh to think of you kneeling by me at our evening prayer tonight, dear child - has not the Savior made you His as we so often asked. But now I must kneel alone and beg for strength and support under this crushing sorrow, that the blessed Savior would comfort the heart of your pain stricken Mother - and help me better to bear the burden of your loss which has brought desolation such as I have never (with all my former griefs) known.

Dear precious boy! I have passed through the bitter time of leaving our home, and without my child, my own dear Benny. How did I think of you - dear - in every moment - of all your little parting notes and the many good-byes - and again the ride in those rail cars agonizing to my soul - we went in to the same little saloon as when we went down to Andover the last time - we three then, now only two - but we seemed to see you as when there before - and now we are in Boston, still without ,you, but I fancying what I should do and what I should say to you - continually, and now we must "journey on e'en when grief is sorest" with the whole head sick and the whole heart faint. I will "look to Jesus" (how often I have directed you to him my precious one) and sought his blessing for you and myself - but my son, my dear son, how much I feel my own faults in regard to you - I know that I did not take the right way and should have dealt with you very gently often when I judged hastily and spoke harshly. I can see that I was "unreasonable" and sometimes almost wonder that you loved me at all. God help me now to correct in bitterness my errors when oh! It is too late for you to have the sweet benefit of it - and now this Sabbath evening you will come in fancy before me and I sit close by you, with your hand in mine perhaps, or you will lean against me on the sofa, or as sometimes you did on Sunday evening sit on my lap a little while and we talk together and say hymns and then play and then by and by you go to bed first putting your arms around me and laying your dear head on my shoulder and then you get in your bed and we have our Sabbath night kiss - but to think I can never have another - Oh Benny, I have not valued such a sweet blessing as I ought.

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New Hampshire Historical Society - Founded 1823