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Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH [with enclosure HIRAM POWERS to JAMES ALFRED PEARCE], dated June 17, 1858 [March 21, 1858].

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Title: Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH [with enclosure HIRAM POWERS to JAMES ALFRED PEARCE], dated June 17, 1858 [March 21, 1858].


  • Powers, Hiram, 1805-1873
  • Powers, Hiram, 1805-1873


  • Pearce, James Alfred
  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter



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Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH [with enclosure HIRAM POWERS to JAMES ALFRED PEARCE], dated June 17, 1858 [March 21, 1858]., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed January 19, 2018)

Letter from HIRAM POWERS to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH [with enclosure HIRAM POWERS to JAMES ALFRED PEARCE], dated June 17, 1858 [March 21, 1858].

Transcribed by : Ralph H. Orth

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen M Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Florence June 17th 1858

Honble George P. Marsh

My Dear Friend

I have read your very kind letter of May 20th with much pain. We all have our afflictions, but to be confined to ones bed for months with a painful malady is a trial which few can endure without great mental as well as bodily prostration -- I trust that you have now recovered, and am glad to learn that Mrs Marsh has improved so much --

You mention "multiplied cares" which are hard enough to dispose of when in health -- I am sorry my kind Friend not to have a better account of you. We are bound however, to believe that all is for the best--in the circumstances. We know not why these evils are permitted, but as we see the most exact order prevailing in all the general and grand movements of the Universe, we should not doubt that this order reaches down into the most minute particulars however confused they may seem to us. The rain seems to fall at no regular periods, and the quantity does not seem measured. Yet the aggregate is the same in every 7 or 8 years! The winds blow here and there--soft or strong--and apparently without order Nevertheless the winds bring the rain, which comes according to order of some sort, if we could comprehend it -- And so with the births of our race--to some are born Daughters--others sons, while some have no children--but the average of the sexes from year to year is the same! and so is the number -- And thus order in a general form seems to be born of chance or accident -- But as all the parts are necessary to the whole, so all these apparently-accidentals are required to compose and support the grand System of Divine Providence--and reasoning in this manner, we can well understand, that not a hair falls from our heads unknown to the laws of equalibrium, which are Divine Laws -- I have often watched the waves in a flowing stream--seeming confusion! but when studied properly, beautifully balanced -- According to the elevation of the wave so will be the trough--no more and no less--and the restless water sinks and swells in perfect obedience to the law of gravitation -- It seeks rest, and moves on to its repose in the bosom of the ocean -- So we--if obedient to Divine Laws, shall move on--today up tomorrow down--so must it be, while there is life and motion -- Still water is dead and pestilential -- We should never attempt to stop--for this is impossible Though we may not act we must think, for the mind like a stream must go on -- All our best activities, therefore are required to direct its course -- And there is no better time for this than when the bodily propensities have been weakened or calmed by disease -- The mind is then comparitively freed from the fetters of passion -- It sits not proudly, but meekly upon its throne, and if ever disposed to be just and charitable to the neighbour--it is so then. Then it is kind, forgiving and liberal--and many who -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- have never been pious before, became so now -- They receive the good seed--and happy are they if the soil is strong and deep, or if disease and physical prostration has destroyed the weeds and tares, and withered the brambles -- Otherwise--with returning health these spring up, and having older roots soon choke every good resolve!

On the day I recd your letter I called on the Brownings and told them what you wished -- They seemed much gratified--spoke of you both very kindly, and Mrs B. expressed a strong desire for the letter Mrs Marsh has promised -- Said they should leave for France in about 10 days, did not know precisely where they should locate themselves in France for the summer, but if Mrs Marsh would direct her letter to Care of "Abramo Philipson--Banker--Florence--he would know where to forward it, as he is their Banker, and necessarily will soon know of their whereabouts --

Mrs Browning is a great Invalid. She suffers from some pulmonary complaint, and I fear will fall, sooner or later a victim to it -- They go to the sea side for her health -- She is an earnest seeker for the truth, and I can well understand, that amid all the disputations of Sectarians, is puzzled in the wilderness. She wants to believe and does believe in generals, but she wants more -- The various Theologinos cannot supply this want, and from them she appears to have turned her eyes to the "Spiritualists" I have had several conversations with her upon this subject, ardent, earnest and quick She soon fathoms all I can--or would say, and is not satisfied for I can tell her but little, and that little has always been with reserve--and yet I have seen a good deal of the "Spiritual manifestations" quite enough to convince me of the fact. But I needed no evidence of it, for setting aside rational convictions I was myself about 18 or 19 years ago the beholder of a spiritual visitation--of a form and nature never to be forgotten -- Your good wife will be curious to know what it was. I can hardly expect you to believe that, I was fully awake, or that what I shall now state, was really a fact --

My wife had retired to bed and was asleep, by the side of our little Daughter, then a year or more old -- I had been reading or writing, I do not now remember which, and went to bed--by her side--when I extinguished the light, which I had placed on a chair by the bed side--there still appeared to be light in the room, and thinking that the lamp was not out, I looked to be sure about it. It was out, and I resumed my position, but now the light had increased, and I thought that perhaps I had set fire to the bed cloths, and I looked attentively all around, but perceived no fire, or other cause for the light, which only appeared as I lay upon my back -- I was about to look again or get up if necessary, when the light took a condensed form just over my head--appeared to flutter for a moment, and then there stood in the midst two figures, male and female very beautiful, clothed in bright reddish garments -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- The female had her arm over the shoulders of the other and both were looking down upon our infant Daughter with a calm and loving expression -- This lasted long enough for me to consider it, and say to myself, "my wish is now gratified and I have occular demonstration of the existence of spirits and angels"--when all vanished in a moment -- I was perfectly calm throughout, and after it was over, I felt of my pulse, to be assured that no extraordinary physical change had happened -- Its beat was perfectly regular -- I had not been in the least drowsy, nor did I feel so now, the whole thing had passed within a few minutes as I knew by the time of night -- I thought of the matter for a few minutes and determined to awake my wife and tell her of it -- She cried bitterly, and carressed our child, saying--something is going to happen to you--but I had no such presentiment, and felt sure that it had been a good and not an evil omen--and thus far it has so turned out, for that child is now a young woman and a good Daughter -- I never experienced any thing of the kind before nor since but when Hume was here we had about a dozen sittings with him in our own little parlour -- What passed would occupy too much space to tell, but there was enough to satisfy me of the fact of spiritual manifestations--if I had wanted such proofs -- I will mention only one, 7 of us were seated at the table, and I watched all hands, 14 on the table--a 15th hand arose--near the table--from under it--out of the reach of Mr Humes feet--took a Ladys fan--fanned her--reached over the table and fanned severally--all of us with great vigour -- During all this Mr Hume sat perfectly still with both his hands on the table -- He brought no visible machinery into the room--came alone--and took none with him out of it. The question is whose was the 15th hand? -- I saw the fingers--the motion of the wrist, and all was as natural as life--I am something of a mechanic, and have had some experience in deceptive contrivances. This you know, and will perhaps--therefore grant, that my word in this case should have some weight --

I have been led to this subject by your wife's proposal to write to Mrs Browning. I know what would interest her more than any other general subject your wife could touch upon, and if she could throw any light upon this--send her the latest news of it pro or con--it would gratify her much -- Mr B. sets his face against spiritualism in a very decided manner, and I am told says, that he would not believe if he saw -- He wants to know--what is the use of it, amp;c. -- But the first consideration is--the fact. Is it a fact? -- I do not doubt it, and as for the use, that is another affair, there are many very pernicious things permitted, there are tares among the wheat--and, that much of what is called spiritualism is very -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- mischievous I have no doubt -- That there is much trickery too, I believe--we detected Hume in some tricks, and had it not been for--manifestations--far beyond human strength or means of any merely natural sort, I should have attributed all to trickery -- But I must leave room for another subject --

What you say about the wooden statue to adorn the dome of the Capitol of Vermont reminds me of a letter I received years ago from a Cincinnati Editor It cost me about a dollar's postage -- He wanted a figure done for a monument to a beloved child, said he could get it done at home in wood, warranted to last 60 years for 40 dollars, but prefered stone, did not care about marble--Common stone would do, and how much would it cost? -- But the State House figure goes beyond that -- The progress of art in our native state seems in the wrong direction --

You are loth to believe that Capt Meigs is hostile, while I am quite sure of it, but am willing to think that he has been operated upon--and doubt not that he has been prejudiced by interested people, who did what they could to shove me out -- I have the best of Authority for this belief -- Rogers I hear, now says that what he has engaged to do his bronze doors for "may pay for macheroni," but that will be all. This looks like asking for further appropriations -- They would not employ me because I am too dear, but in the end will probably pay as much -- Crawford and Rogers brought the price of sculptures down to the lowest European level, and Rogers ought now to be made to stand by it. The game was in their own hands, & the responsibility should be theirs. Crawford got men to model for him. If I would do that I could make money at Government prices, according to Capt Meigs price current of Art--but enough of this -- No Government agent will assume the responsibility of giving me more, and there is an end of it -- Judge McLean wrote me that he had had several conversations with the President and Chairman of the Comtte on the Library (Mr Pierce) about the appropriation, they both seemed well disposed -- The former would do what the latter might recommend, and the latter would like to hear from me on the subject -- Accordingly I wrote to him--a copy of the letter will be enclosed--but have received no reply -- I saw in a newspaper, that the Comttee on the Library were going to order two statues for the $25,000, one of Marion and the other of Genl Starke, but had not yet fully arranged about it. Mr Everett says, too, that some progress has been made in my business with the Govt. I understand that part of a letter of mine on the subject will appear in the June number of the Atlantic Magazine. This letter goes over the ground pretty thoroughly--and has been read by many influential persons in Washington --

I think of going to England soon, to look after one of my patents which has already been sent there. It will be a short visit. Our Eldest son has gone home and out to Kansas, where I think your son would do well. I should like to have them together -- Cousin John P. Richardson is there, and my wifes Brother in Law is Mayor of Leavenworth -- All the family join in kindest remembrances.

Yours sincerely

H. Powers -- -------------------------------- Page --------------------------------


Honble Mr Pierce --

Chairman of the Comittee on the Library of Congress --


A letter lately received from my friend Honble Judge Mc:Lean, encourages me to write to you in regard to the appropriation in 1855 of $25000 by Congress "for some work of Art executed or to be executed by me) and suitable for the adornment of the Capitol" --

He says he has had conversations with the President and yourself, and from their tenor he inferred, that you would permit me to write to you upon the subject --

Judge Mc.Lean thinks that a group of figures would be more acceptable than a single colossal Statue, and he advises me to propose a group, but before considering the matter, it would be well to know the nature of the subject to be chosen; whether Historical, poetical or allegorical, also how many figures would be required and how large--in bronze or marble --

An intimation of your wishes in these respects, might save considerable time and labour in the wrong direction --

I suppose it is not unknown to you, that in the hope of encouragement from the government, and a place for my work somewhere in or near the Capitol, I, some years ago, designed and modelled a statue, to which I gave the name of our Country --

This figure was intended to illustrate the Genius and beauty of our Republic --

It has several times, without any solicitation of mine--been proposed for the consideration of -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- Congress, and I have always supposed it was the work alluded to in the law of Congress, by the words "Some work of Art executed" --

President Pierce admitted, that by the law he would be justified in receiving this Statue, and he finally promised to do so, and pay the appropriation, if I would make it collossal; a promise which Mr Everett accepted in my behalf, but nothing was done --

I might say something of priority of Claim, while alluding to the fact, that long since Congress seems to have given me an order for a national figure, another Allegory of our Country, of a military Character, has been commissioned by the Executive; I might mention also, that my conception of the Genius of our Republic is not Military but peaceful--indeed I might give some views upon this subject, but am aware of the value of your time, and that I ought not unnecessarily to trespass upon it --

If with many of my friends--I erred in supposing that by so liberal an appropriation, Congress intended a mark of recognition for a humble pioneer of American Art, and the eldest, I believe, of native Sculptors, my vanity has been rebuked by the Executive, and I am humbled. I now stand before you, kind Sir, with no complaint, but willing to earn the Appropriation, as I earn the means of subsistence from private commissions -- But I cannot do more than that, nor shall I stand upon the subject to be chosen, I yield all this to those who have controul of these matters--reserving only the election of whether I can conform to their wishes --

With many thanks for the kindness of your remarks to Judge Mc:Lean, and sincere re- -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- gard, I am most respectfully your obbedient servant --

H. Powers -- Florence -- March 21st 1858 --

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