Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to CHARLES ELIOT NORTON, dated July 2, 1866.

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Publication InformationFlorence July 2 1866

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My dear Sir

I have to thank you for your kind letter of June 3, as well as for another received some months since and which I fear I have left unanswered. In reply to your inquiries about our health, I am happy to say that I am well in all respects except a little lameness from rheumatism which I have vainly attempted to cure by the vapor-baths of the grotto of Monsumano near this city. I do not mind the annoyance of rheumatism except as it disables m[e] for mountaineering, which is much the greatest pleasure I have left; but the reluctance of the government to allow me to leave my post, even for a month's recreation in the Italian Alps, is so strong, that I would probably feel obliged to renounce this enjoyment, if I were even as good a climber as Tyndall. Mrs Marsh had a winter of much suffering, but has been somewhat relieved by hot baths. I applied for leave of absence for a sufficient time to enable her to consult an eminent physician at Paris. This was

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granted, indeed, but in terms almost amounting to a refusal, and we shall not avail ourselves of the permission unless her symptoms become again more threatening.

I see with much satisfaction that the Senate and House have agreed upon a plan of reconstruction which I hope the administration and the States may accept. I should have preferred a plan, which provided expressly for reorganisation of the state governments by conventions elected by the people & which should recognise the principle of an educational test applicable ultimately both to negroes and to whites; but this scheme, if adopted, will work great good, if not all the good we have a right to ask. I am particularly pleased with the section which excludes prominent rebels from official preferment. Political ambition having been with most of them the temptation to their crime, they are most justly punished by being deprived of the prize they hoped as a reward for treason.

I am extremely obliged for the kindness

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and partiality which leads some of my friends to think me a fit person to succeed Mr Foote. But in the first place, Mr Edmunds, now occupying that position, is the husband of my only niece, and is a personal friend to whom I am under great obligations. I could not by any means be a candidate against him. There is a better reason still. He is now in the prime of life, a lawyer of the very first rank, thoroughly sound politically, and of a great deal of parliamentary talent. He will make a far more useful senator than I, and besides, a post in the senate would deprive me of all opportunity of turning to account any qualifications I may possess for other things. I much prefer remaining where I am--a point however, of which I have no assurance--and I am convinced I can work more and longer in this climate than in our own. The time of labor for a man of sixty five must be short anywhere, but I think I should probably abridge even that by a residence at Washington.

The account you give of your conversation with a prominent statesman is most interesting, but does not surprise me, though certainly it would be

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unexpected to many of his old political associates. I find his views not in the least irreconcilable with the judgment I had long since formed of his tendencies.

I am engaged on an article for the N. A. R. in which I shall notice the Carte d'Arborea. These are a collection of professedly medieval writings brought [...] one by one by an exmonk in Sardinia & sold to the Univ. of Cagliari. This gentleman does not say how he came by them and the question is whether he forged them or only stole them. I am rather inclined to acquit him of theft, but if guilty, would pardon him in consideration of the value of the papers, if genuine, which I much doubt. You will find them in the library of the University at Cambridge --

I am sorry to hear that Mr Ticknor is poorly & I hope he will soon recover his wonted strength.

What is Lowell's "Commemoration Ode"? I have not seen it. I find it almost impossible to get anything but newspapers from the U.S. & am much in the dark as to our literature

Mrs Marsh joins me in kindest regards to your mother & sisters, as well as to Mrs Norton & yourself

Yours very trulyG P MarshC. E. Norton esq

References in this letter:

In his letter of June 3, 1866, Norton describes his conversation with William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State 1861-69. Seward made a plea for the states rights against the power of Congress. Congress had no right to refuse the admission of the members of Congress elected in the Southern States. The South at this point was being more loyal to the Constitution than the North. Seward considered Southern black to be a inferior race and the laws of economics would determine the relationship between whites and blacks. Congress had nothing to do with it.

The grotto of Monsummano, thirty miles northwest of Florence, was filled with hot vapors considered helpful for rheumatism and gout.

John Tyndall (1829-1893) was a British physicist who at one time made a study of glaciers in Switzerland.

Dr. J Marion Sims, a gynecologist practicing in Paris, had operated on Caroline Crane Marsh for a noncancerous tumor of the womb in 1865.

Solomon Foot served as one of Vermont's two U.S. Senators from 1863 until his death on March 28, 1866.

George F. Edmunds was appointed U.S. Senator to replace the deceased Solomon Foot on April 5, 1866. He won a full term the following fall and served in the Senate until 1891.

In his letter of June 3, 1866, Norton describes his conversation with William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State 1861-69.

George Ticknor (1791-1871), historian and scholar, published his biography of William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859), author of History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru, in 1864.

James Russell Lowell's tribute to the graduates of Harvard killed in the Civil War bears the title "Ode Recited at the Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865."