RCC Honors History Project

R. B. HAYES – CINCINNATI, January 22, 1855.

Posted by dnsom on November 29, 2008

                              CINCINNATI, January 22, 1855.

  DEAR GUY:--I received your New Year's greeting this eve-

ning, and reply to it at once in order to show you that

"auld lang syne" is not all forgotten.

  It is the coldest day of the year. The freezing northwest wind

is sweeping through the street. Here I sit in my cozy little

parlor, my wife Lucy sewing almost within kissing distance, my

table covered with law papers. Overhead I can hear the two

grandmothers--Grandmothers Hayes and Webb--talking and

answering "the boy" (as if there was no other boy!) while he

seems to be hammering the floor with a mallet--it may be the

heel of one of my boots. With these favorable surroundings, I

ought [to] and would indite a long loving epistle to my old

chum, if it were not that I am in the midst of the most hurrying

days of this most litigating year.

  A few weeks ago I succeeded in finally getting an acquittal

of my first life case, which has been a pet case so long and to

which I owe so much; and now, added to the usual labors of the

office, I am preparing for the final argument before the Supreme

Court at Columbus of my other pet case, also a case of life. I

have argued it already three times in various courts, and am to

see that my last effort is not worse than the other three.  The

hardest task a man can have, having done his best then, [is] to

try to do better in the same case--the zest of novelty gone, and

conscious that the part of your audience you are most desirous

to convince were unconvinced by your former argument. These

are a lawyer's feelings. I never expect to take such an interest

in another cause. The chances are greatly against success, and

the task is to argue so well that no one will attribute failure to

the weakness of the lawyer. In the midst of this preparation, I

am now writing to you. Day after tomorrow is the contest.


             INCREASING PROSPERITY, 1855-1858          477

  With this case ends everything like anxious ambition. Many

cases, very many, will doubtless come to my hands about which

I shall feel solicitude that will make me wakeful when I should

be sleeping. But two things are now ascertained and I rest upon

them. One is, that I have neither health nor capacity to be a

first-rate figure in my profession; the other, that I appear to

have enough of both to acquire a reasonable success--enough

for happiness. With this I am content. I can and do admit

genius and talent; but the feeling is unmixed, wholly, with envy.

There you have a string of personalisms that shames your last

out of sight. Nevertheless, I do not deem it out of place in a

letter to you.

  And here I had to stop to join Lucy in humming through a

verse of "Old Folks at Home." You have missed a letter, per-

haps two, of mine, the first to Delaware, the other directed I

don't remember where. We got Birchie's V, and after a long

searching, thought a ring, "From Guy M. Bryan to Birchie 1854,"

would be preserved longer than anything else. "My fault" that

you did not see my wife? No, no. She couldn't travel and you

had no time to go down to Ross County where she was staying.

  Two things in your letter I must talk over with you. You did

not find the cordiality in some quarters which you expected. I

do not understand you to mean that you were disappointed in me

or mine. I should regret it deeply, most deeply if you were, and

should say to you without qualification that if such were the

case it certainly was owing to some accidental but unlucky mis-

chance which placed the person or yourself for the moment in

a false position: for I know there is no real want of cordiality

towards you with any one of them. Fanny talks of you often

and loves you like a brother. Uncle speaks of you in connection

with the other purest most unselfish friend he ever had--Jesse

Stem, you remember him. And my other kindred feel towards

you as of yore acording to their measure of feeling, constitutional

and habitual. For myself I need not speak, as that remark I am,

sure did not mean me; but the other that I must speak of did.

"I advised you to purchase a seat in the United States Senate."

  Excuse me, Guy, but I laughed when I read that sentence. If

the thing were serious it would not be funny. I have not the re-


motest recollection what you allude to. That I was in a craze of

boyish follies when we went to Gambier, I know very well; that I

said a great many things that meant nothing or worse, I have no

doubt; but that I ever meant to say what you put in my mouth

is certainly a mistake. Tell me in you next, are you in earnest

in saying I so advised you? I have sometimes thought that your

strong keen sense of duty and justice sometimes led you to

commit errors--errors of nobleness it is true--but which it

were prudent to avoid. And this may have led me to stronger

language and illustrations to induce you to favor my views than

ought in reason to have been used. A case in point: Uncle and

I discussed it with a friend of yours in Texas,--Austin, your

brother, I think. As a juror you refused to find a verdict against

a slave, although in our opinion he ought to have been convicted,

chiefly because you thought a white man would not have been

convicted on the same evidence, and you wished to mete out the

same justice to a slave as to a freeman. Now, here the feeling

was noble; but practically carried out, you were in error; and

the error caused your friends some trouble. Now, what I said

that was in earnest was meant to hit at this quality in you; and

whatever was in fun or mere talk for talk's sake, I shall not

allow you to lay up against your best friend. Guy, you must get

married. This being a bachelor exaggerates all the peculiarities

of a man's character; even beauties are in danger of becoming


  I would be pleased to see you in the United States Senate.

I do not care to have you in the House. It is doubtless more

creditable at the South, your best men being politicians, but with

us Lew Campbell is a favorable specimen, and that is enough.

As to railroads, only one in a hundred supports itself; they are

great civilizers, develop a country, etc., etc., but should not be

built if the building is to load your citizens or State with a debt.

  Everybody North thinks your Governor Pease has done a very

sensible thing in not taking "moonshine stocks" as security that

a "moonshine railroad company" would perform their contract.

But I must stop.

                       Sincerely as ever,

                                                R. B. HAYES.

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