AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841--JUNIOR YEAR
GAMBIER, October 11, 1840.
DEAR MOTHER: -- Here I am once more at my four years'
home and enjoying my full share of content and happiness.
Upon the whole, I am glad that I came back with the intention of
remaining through the winter. Though our teachers are not as
yet at their posts, I am so situated that I think, so far as depends
upon my own exertions, I shall gain much by remaining. At
present we recite to the Bishop and shall continue to do so till
the President arrives. As a teacher I like him very much. I
am very much pleased with my room and roommate (Solus);
the situation is high, dry, and healthy. I have risen (prepare for
a thunderstroke!) at the first bell. I have never before felt like
applying myself to my studies with such hearty good-will as at
the present session.
Give my respects to Fanny, Jun., and please tell Fanny, Sen.,
to train up Fanny, Jun., in the way she should go, and when
she is old (following in the footsteps of her illustrious mother),
away she will go. Give my respects to the household, especially
Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
P.S.--I wish you would Wednesday morning buy and box
up some sweet potatoes and send them by the stage of that day.
Direct on the outside to me, Gambier, Ohio. I want them for
two reasons; first, I like the potatoes; next, I want an excuse
to go to town [Mount Vernon] Wednesday.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
February 10, 1841.--I shall try and write from memory a
history of my doings for the last two years, and not be so neg-
lectful for the future. [This he failed to do.]
46 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
First, I will give a short sketch of the persons who have been
my classmates and my opinion of their character and ability.
Lorin Andrews.--Left the class in 1840, (Ashland, Ohio.)
I was introduced to him the first day of my arrival at college.
My roommate who introduced me to him said he was a smart
fellow, a pretty good fellow about most things; rather too desirous
of popularity; would "suck in," as he expressed it. Mr. Andrews
is a young man of good natural ability, is very industrious at
whatever he undertakes. In fine, does everything with his whole
soul. Through freshman year he was invariably at the head of
the class in all the studies. In the winter term of sophomore
year he became interested in the establishment of a magazine,
called the Collegian; he spent his whole time in attempting to
carry this scheme into operation. He was indefatigable in his
exertions. There was a large faction opposed to the measure,
but with the assistance of A. B. Buttles he finally forced the
measure through the "Old Philo" [Philomathesian Society].
But it failed before it got in operation, and Andrews left college
soon after. He was a warm supporter of General Harrison's;
went to the birthday convention at Columbus on the 22nd of
February, 1840, and came back a warm politician; spent last
summer "stumping it." In my opinion, he is a talented, ener-
getic, honorable young man, and if he will let politics alone, will
make a good lawyer.
E. T. Austin, Texas.--Left the class in 1839. A Yankee by
birth, a Texan by adoption. In appearance he was pale, thin,
tall, and slim; he had no particular traits of character worthy
of mention, would do well to trap bullfrogs; commonly known
by the name of "Bones."--N.C., nuff ced.
George Burnside, Gambier, Ohio.--A large, red-faced genius,
great at using figures of speech; is trying to make an orator;
has a good disposition. I should call him a sort of a cleverish
Gilbert Mortier de la Fayette Burnsides.--"What's in a
name?" A little . . .; great at drawing pictures on the
blackboard. Q. S., quite sufficient. Left the class in 1839.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 47
Milton Boyd, Hillsboro, Ohio.--A large, full-grown man, say
twenty-three years old; a fine fellow; succeeds well among the
ladies; by no means smart.
Guy M. Bryan, Texas.--Fully retrieves the character of
Texas. He is a Missourian by birth. He is a real gentleman,
holds his honor dear, respects the wishes and feelings of others,
is a warm and constant friend. Has good talents, though not a
good scholar. He will, I trust, figure largely in Texan history;
he is a true patriot. [This prediction came true. Bryan and
Hayes were lifelong intimate friends.]
Douglas Case, Columbus, Ohio.--A good young man as ever
lived; never did but one bad deed, and that was to leave our
class; but that was unavoidable.
Leander Comstock, Worthington, Ohio.--Has a good disposi-
tion, tolerable talents, and great industry; will, I hope, make a
Ezra Cridland, Philadelphia.--Could drink liquor and roll
into prayers; left in 1839.
E. B. Goodrich, Sandusky City, Ohio.--Unworthy to be men-
tioned as one of the class. Left in 1839.
S. Harrison, Mississippi.--A good-looking fellow--very fond
of sprees. Left in 1839.
John Harris, Canton, Ohio.--A good fellow as far as I know
him. Left in 1838.
R. B. Hayes, Columbus, Ohio.--The owner of this book; re-
markable for self-esteem.
W. R. Harelett, Zanesville, Ohio.--A good mathematician,
but poor at all else. Left in 1840.
E. C. Hodgkin, Detroit, Michigan.--A devoted Christian; a
tolerable smart fellow. An Abolitionist, but an honest one. Left
John Hickman, Paris, Kentucky.--John stutters. Ha! ha!
ha! Left in 1839.
E. T. Kellogg, Cleveland, Ohio.--A good fellow, but has too
little control over himself. He left in 1841--dismissed.
48 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
O. A. Kinsolving, Charlottesville, Virginia.--First-rate. Will
A. B. Lamb, Delaware, Ohio.--My former roommate--a
fine fellow but lacks decision of character. Will graduate.
H. Lee, Coshocton, Ohio.--A good-natured Christian--not
smart. Left in 1839.
P. Lyon, Virginia.--The wildest little red-head that ever
moved. Left in 1839.
G. W. Mason, Steubenville, Ohio.--A great inventive genius
and mathematician. Good at heart--bad temper and quibbles.
Miller Moody, Mt. Vernon, Ohio.--Smart but wild. Dis-
[Character sketches were never completed.]
GAMBIER, FEBRUARY 10, 1841.
DEAR MOTHER:--Do not be frightened that I should so soon
write again; nothing serious has happened, only I have turned
over a new leaf about writing letters. In one of our rhetoric
lessons the other day, there was a remark which struck me very
forcibly. The substance of it was "that nothing but exercise
could make a good epistolary writer"; and as I know of no one
upon whom I can more properly inflict a few letters than my
mother, I hope you will brace yourself to the task of reading a
series of letters from my honorable self, and if you should ever
grow weary or faint beneath the affliction, just recollect the old
proverb that "no evil is so great that a cheerful heart cannot
As this is the first letter of the first series I am in some doubt
how to commence it. Shall I commence in the sky and come
down to particulars? Or shall I commence with myself and the
college-bell? By the way, just thank your fortune that you was
never placed under the brazen tyranny of a college-bell. Some-
where in the New Testament it says "there is a time for all
things." Now, the bell aforesaid acts upon the principle that
there is no time to eat, sleep, or be merry, but only a time for
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 49
reciting, or, when it is in a peculiarly agreeable mood, it some-
times grants us a little time to study, but those moods are like
"angels' visits, etc." Where was I when I went off on this tan-
gent? No difference, though, where I was.
Sometimes I used to conceal from you my troubles and vexa-
tions, but those times are gone, and to be confidential--I am
almost out of ink and I shall have to walk full two hundred
yards to get some more; besides the weather is very cold. You
know how I hate long walks in a cold day--especially towards
church. But, as you know, I am a good deal of a philosopher,
and I'm determined not to let either the bell or the want of ink
destroy my peace. "What can't be cured must be endured," as
Shakespeare says, and as I almost said. I presume by this time
you have discovered that I have a great talent of writing "multum
For fear you have not yet heard the news, I will here remark
that our President has--not arrived. But five short weeks are
left till this session closes. It has passed over very quick, and as I
have to prepare a something between now and then, the remainder
of it will pass equally fast. The thought occasionally comes
into my head, what shall I do after leaving college? Now, I
would not have you think that it troubles me, for I have no fears
that I shall starve as long as I have "teeth and toe-nails." If
I could have a good farm I would love to be a farmer, but if
not I shall spend all the money I can lay fingers on to get a good
and complete education, and when I am entirely run out I will
practice law in some little dirty hole out West. I hope you will
say nothing of all this to the rest of the family for although they
may be deeply interested in my affairs, yet there is no mother
I have just received Fan's letter. I am glad to hear you have
got good help, especially as you have so much company. I wish
I was at home. I enjoy such times very much. You must
manage to get Hat a husband in Columbus; it would not do for
such old friends as her and Fan to live apart. Tell F. I will
answer her letter very soon. She forgot to mention anything of
Bob and though she expatiated largely on the babe she forgot to
50 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
mention her weight. Now, such negligence as this in two such
important particulars is not to be tolerated in this enlightened age.
I have a touch of my old complaint--sore throat. Perhaps
William can give me some advice on the subject. I would be
tempted to steam it if I thought it would do any good, for this
being half-sick I do not like.
As to my private affairs, I am just middling. My "ordinary
expenses," as Mr. Benton would say, will not be so great as I had
expected by some considerable, but my "extraordinary expenses"
will be greater. I believe I told you that our class are a-going to
appear in a uniform suit in the Spring. Now, the suit will be
a very cheap one in comparison to what is usual, but still a com-
plete dress from stock to boots cannot be procured for nothing.
I do not know how much it will cost. I will write again soon
and tell you. I received the lamp-wicks. They were of right
kind. Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
GAMBIER, February 25, 1841.
TO WHOM--This letter should be directed is a question of
some interest to me as the answer will be, I hope, of much real
value, but of no importance to you. There is an advantage in
not directing to anyone in particular arising from various
weighty causes, among which the most prominent are: Friend
Trowbridge just came in and desired me to assist him in writing
a comedy of which the foundation is to be an amusing incident
which occurred in this neighborhood last evening. One of the
belles of this place, Miss Lane, engaged a short time ago to marry
a young tailor as soon as the balmy breezes began to blow in
April. By the way, I should have described the charms of in-
tellect and person which Miss L. possesses: She is tall and
slender, about the height of a liberty pole and the thickness of a
ramrod. Her golden locks in truth hang down her cheeks like sea-
weed round a clam; but if her form is lofty, majestic, and com-
manding, and her hair rich with the tallow of many a candle,
her features are emphatically "noice" and inspire ideas of solemn
sublimity. Her skin is a beautiful dark yellow, and in addition
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 51
to all these charms, she has long sharp teeth of which she is,
I think, quite vain for she is always showing them, so that they
are sunburnt to about the color of her hair; lanthorn jaws, and
broad flabby ears,--
"A combination and a form, indeed
Where all the gods did seem to set their seal,
To give assurance of a 'belle.'"
But besides her personal accomplishments, she was so graceful
in her movements, and so tasty in her dress, that it is by no
means strange that she should have many admirers. When she
came into church she waved her head to and fro till every ribbon
rattled in the whirlwind she created. At her entrance her beaux
would stretch and twist their necks within an ace of dislocation,
and even the students manifested their pleasure by sundry winks
and grins. Wherever she moved she was "the observed of all
observers." But, to the happy man whom she blessed with her
favors: He is a little fat, duck-legged "knight of the goose,"
bearing as much semblance to that beautiful bird as any other
work of nature or art that I know of.
Well, this "lofty Ben Lomond and little Ben Docky" were to
be joined in the holy bonds of wedlock sometime in the ensuing
spring. But lo and behold, last night a stalwart farmer from
down creek came to her father's to be married to her according
to promise. Here was a pretty fix! Her parents knew of the
last engagement; after the "evening was far spent," her father
concluded to inform "little Ben Docky" of the cause of their
sorrows. When he heard the news, it seemed as though his heart-
strings were broken. He sat him down and wept bitterly, after
which he revived and determined to go and see what could be
done on this trying occasion. When Miss L. saw him, she felt
like a lofty pine riven with a flash of lightning; in other words,
"0, what a fall was there, my countrymen,
0, what a noble mind was here o'erthrown!"
When she recovered from her swoon, it was agreed that the
two beaux should stand out in the middle of the floor and she
52 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
was then to choose between them. What a scene for a painter
her old father and mother, some ten or a dozen tall boys and
girls, the two candidates for the prize! The character was, how-
ever, Miss L. There she stood like a weeping-willow, now in-
clined this way, now that. All was still.
"'Twas now the [very] witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world."
Finally with a heaving bosom and a long-drawn sigh, she
chose the little tailor. But here a new difficulty arose; the farmer
had the license! The tailor was not long in obtaining one. But
while he was gone, his rival declared he was willing to lose the
wife but not the seventy-five cents he paid for the license, and
he would not consent to the wedding without whipping her enough
to pay for that. At last the affair was consummated and the
tailor and his Dulcinea are man and wife. Thus endeth the
On the evening of the 22d we illuminated the college with the
materials we had collected for the arrival of President Douglass.*
It was a splendid affair.
I like the Dutchman's gems if not his clothes.
Another thing I would like to know, sis, would it be conven-
ient to have one of my friends visit at your house a portion of
vacation? If so, speak, "if not, forever after hold thy peace!"
Our exhibition goes off Tuesday evening, three weeks from
last evening--at the close of the session.
I should be glad to receive from headquarters the sum of nine
hundred and ninety-nine dollars, but do not dare to ask for more
than thirty-five dollars.
I am as ever,
R. B. HAYES.
P.S.--The friend of whom I spoke is either Bryan or Trow-
bridge, probably the latter.--R. B. H.
*David Bates Douglass, the first independent President of Kenyon.
Before his time the Bishop of Ohio had been ex officio President.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 53
P.P.S.--Give my love to baby, Dolly, and Hatty. "The last
shall be first and the first last."
MR. AND MRS. WHOM.
MR. AND MRS. WM. A. PLATT.
GAMBIER, June, 1841.
DEAR MOTHER:--I should have written to you long since had
it not been that I expected you to come over here previous to
returning home from Delaware. Mr. and Mrs. Pettibone were
here last week, from [whom] I first learned that you had re-
turned to Columbus. You must be sure to come here sometime
during this session. There never has been a time when I could
receive so much pleasure from the visits of any of my friends
as at present. The accommodations here are by no means good
unless Mr. Blake invites strangers to the Hall; but there is no
prospect of their being better while I remain. I presume there
is no need of my urging you to come as you would probably
come without, if you had a good opportunity.
About college, matters go on in about the same old course.
The President has introduced a few novel plans and undertaken
some reforms. He has succeeded but indifferently in either.
He doubtless means very well in all he attempts, but from an
authoritative manner acquired in the army, he is becoming some-
what unpopular among the students. Three foolish freshmen
got into a little trouble with him. One was dismissed, and the
other two left in disgust, expressing a profound contempt for
the President, faculty, and all concerned. Their departure caused
no very great sensation among their fellows; the sun has con-
tinued to give his light (besides a little heat, for variety's sake),
and I have observed no deviation from the established laws of
Four new plans have been introduced which are of some im-
portance. Medals are to be given to the best scholars in each
class on application being made at the end of the college course.
>From present appearances, I think no one in my class will apply.
Comstock, of Worthington, would be most likely to obtain one.
He [the President] has also ordained that all students shall be
matriculated--a heathenish rite imported from England; very
54 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
proper in large institutions, but its main object here appears to
be the raising a fund to pay for the medals I just spoke of.
A new rule has been established that each student shall choose
from among the faculty some one who is to be his adviser and
friend in all matters in which assistance is desired and is to be
the medium of communication between the student and faculty.
This I like very much. My patron is a tutor in the Grammar
School who has graduated since I came here. Upon the whole,
the President governs very well for those who intend to take
every opportunity to evade the laws. But he is rather hard on
those who are disposed to conduct themselves properly.
It is a mistake that Hedges, of Tiffin, was dismissed from
Cambridge. He could not enter because he had no certificate
to show that he left here in good standing. He came here a
few days ago and was readmitted into the institution. I hope
he will not be so rash in future.
Bryan was perfectly delighted with his visit to you. He said
he had not felt so much at home since he left Texas as he did
the short time he staid with you. He was very much pleased
with Uncle and in fact all concerned.
Sore eyes are prevalent nowadays. Three seniors are pre-
vented from pursuing their studies, among whom is my old
friend Trowbridge. It is rather troublesome for them as they
all have orations to prepare previous to Commencement. Love
to Sophy and all the rest.
Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
[The Diary which now begins was continued, although with
frequent intermissions of greater or less duration, from this
time to the end of Hayes's life.]
Kenyon College, June II, 1841.--In commencing this diary
I have several objects in view, among the principal of which are
improvement in composition and amusement. From having al-
ways neglected composition, and from the trouble which the
mere mechanical execution of a piece of writing occasions me,
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 55
I find great difficulty in putting my thoughts upon paper in a
clear and satisfactory manner. Even when I sit down to write
a letter the ideas which I had previously collected suddenly
vanish, leaving me to twirl my pen and thump my head in a vain
attempt to recover them. In writing and conversing, I am often
much vexed at the awkward expressions I am compelled to use
for want of words with which to clothe my ideas. This, too, is
one of my greatest difficulties in extempore speaking. I have,
I think, several of the qualities requisite to become a ready
speaker, but for want of fluency, I never succeed in my extem-
pore efforts as I would wish.
By keeping a diary in which to record my thoughts, desires,
and resolves, I expect to promote stability of character. This
is a quality of [in] which I am by no means willing to acknowl-
edge myself deficient; but if I commit to writing all of my re-
solves, I shall be more careful not to make them hastily, and
when they are made I shall be more anxious to keep them. In
addition to these positive benefits, I hope to derive amusement in
after days from the perusal of my youthful anticipations, broken
resolves, and strange desires.
I shall not yet determine how much or how often I will write
lest the next page will contain the confession of a broken vow.
June 17.--How true is the old proverb that "delay is the thief
of time." Almost a week has passed since I commenced this
diary and the first page still remains to be written. Neither
want of time nor inclination has occasioned this neglect, but
simply the habit of putting off till tomorrow what should be done
today. I have, it is true, had nothing of importance to relate,
but if I make it a rule not to write till something of moment
occurs, I fear my diary would end where it commenced.
I will devote the remainder of this page to mentioning some
of the traits of character for which the hero of these etchings
is most particularly remarkable. He has, in the first place, a
very good opinion of himself, which can by no means be con-
sidered a failing, for if a man does not esteem himself, he
would certainly be very silly to expect the esteem of others.
And although he is also well convinced of the importance of self-
56 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
esteem, there is, perhaps, no one more anxious to conceal it than
he is. Again, there is no one who more heartily detests open
flattery than he does, and yet, strange to say, it sometimes sounds
very pleasant to his ears; it puts him in such good humor with
himself, and of course, with all about him, that he seems like
quite another being while under its agreeable influence. He is
so inconsistent as to wish to conceal this feature of his character,
too, though he declares most positively that all men can be flat-
tered, the only difference being that some are more accessible to
its approaches than others. At first sight, or I should rather say
thought, it seems surprising that he should wish to conceal what
he considers no disgrace, but it is only one of the thousand
errings of poor human nature. He has his share also of that
"great Caucasus," ambition, and as he loves to excel, it cannot
be denied that he loves to have it known. It is no part of his
creed that deception may be practiced to give others a high
opinion of his attainments, for common sense teaches him that
an undeserved reputation is of more injury than benefit.
I spoke above of his self-esteem. Now, I do not mean that he
entertains an exalted opinion of his talents or acquirements, but
merely that he thinks himself possessed of a good share of
common sense, by which is meant a sound practical judgment of
what is correct in the common affairs of life. He often betrays
this peculiar kind of self-esteem by reflections like the follow-
ing: "If I only had C's talents, what a figure I would make in
the world." The reason of his entertaining so favorable an
opinion of his common sense is that his family and relatives
are somewhat remarkable for the possession of it, and he thinks
it runs in the blood. Moreover, he has often been told (good
authority) that he has a family share of this good quality. Here
I am compelled, very reluctantly, to leave this interesting and
improving subject to attend to my recitations. It shall be re-
sumed, however, the first opportunity.
June 19.--There is perhaps no feature of character of more
importance in life than decision. Without it a human being,
with powers at best but feeble, and surrounded by numerous
things tending to perplex, to divert, or to oppress their opera-
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 57
tions, is indeed [a] pitiable atom, the sport of diverse and casual
impulses. It is a question then of no little moment to every
one whether he has a character such that when his decision is
formed and purpose fixed, that he may feel an entire assurance
that something will be done. This question is much more easily
asked than answered. I have been for a long time convinced
of the necessity of obeying the injunction, "Know thyself." But
after studying my own disposition with a good degree of dili-
gence, I am satisfied that the motives and desires which rule
in my breast are, indeed, "past all finding out." There have
been times when I exercised considerable firmness and decision,
apparently without exertion. At other times, after making the
best of resolutions, I find the strenuous will to carry them into
effect almost entirely wanting. Considering my age and cir-
cumstances, I do not think myself more deficient in this quality
than other persons; but, be this as it may, I am determined from
henceforth to use what means I have to acquire a character
distinguished for energy, firmness, and perseverance.
As I am now in the humor of writing, I will put down a few
of my present hopes and designs for the sake of keeping them
safe. I do not intend to leave here until about a year after I
graduate, when I expect to commence the study of law. Be-
fore then I wish to become a master of logic and rhetoric and to
obtain a good knowledge of history. To accomplish these ob-
jects I am willing to study hard, in which case I believe I can
make, at least, a tolerable debater. It is another intention of
mine, that after I have commenced in life, whatever may be my
ability or station, to preserve a reputation for honesty and benev-
olence; and if ever I am a public man I will never do anything
inconsistent with the character of a true friend and good citizen.
To become such a man I shall necessarily have to live in accord-
ance with the precepts of the Bible, which I firmly believe,
although I have never made them strictly the "rule of my con-
duct."--Thus ends this long dry chapter on self.
Kenyon College, June 21.--The mail of today brings me sad
news from home. My sister has lost her first and only child,
58 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
a charming little girl almost eight months old. "Nature and
fortune joined to make her beautiful."
"She might of nature's gifts with lilies boast
And with the half-blown rose."
My sister's letter betrays all those feelings of mingled love and
sorrow which so well become a mother. She takes a melancholy
pleasure in recounting the numberless charms of her darling
little Sophia. She has now learned by her own experience the
dread reality that "death is indeed a terrible thing." Alas,
"She must never, never
Behold her pretty Sarah more,
Till she meets her in the court of Heaven."
Great as my sorrow is, I almost forget it when I think of the
anguish of the fond and doting parents. If ever child was
idolized by father and mother, it was the one just lost. In one
short day she passed from time [to] eternity. In the morning
she was taken from her pillow full of mirth and glee, her sweet
smiles diffusing joy around her, and before the setting of the
sun she was gone, gone forever!
So little does Fanny realize the absence of the loved one, that
in her letter she says, "Soon she would have learned to stretch
out her little arms to you as she does to her father." She can-
not speak of her as passed. What would the bereaved mother
give to know that word need not be changed! Though I know
she has bid a long farewell to the "child of her soul," she still
has firmness to say, "Time will heal the wound." I sincerely
hope it will.
How similar my feelings now are to those I had when John
Wasson died more than two years ago. The shock was equally
sudden, equally unexpected. But the words of grief are few.
June 25.--I have not taken up my pen this evening because
I have something to write, but only because I feel like doing
nothing else. The Society kept me up so late last night, that
I have been too sleepy to do anything today. It's lucky I thought
of this for it has furnished me with a good subject to write
about: The performances in the Philomathesian Society.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 59
The first which I shall notice is a composition which was read
by a very sleek-faced, well-disposed sophomore whose chief mis-
fortune is that he imagines himself a favorite of the "Sacred
Nine." Dame Nature having gifted Mr. Lewis with considerable
more vanity than common sense, he was easily persuaded by a
waggish lecturer on phrenology that he had a head very similar
in some respects to Lord Byron's. From this resemblance in
craniums, he at once conceived the idea that he must be a poetic
genius. Nor is there anything singular in this fancy of his,
for he had probably heard that every one had a genius for some-
thing, and knowing that he had a genius for nothing else, he
very logically deduced the conclusion that he was a "born poet."
Never was a silly moonstruck lover more mistaken. His verses
have neither wit, sense, nor rhyme. As for metre, it is a "trifle"
which he utterly abhors; his intellect is not to be measured by the
square and compass. When severely criticized on this point,
he talks very learnedly of dactyls, spondees, hexameters, tri-
meter and dimeter verse; but it requires a great stretch of the
imagination to perceive anything in his "lines" worthy [even of]
the appellation "doggerel." The composition in question was a
poetical effusion on the decline of the Indian race, a topic so
novel that it was fully equal to the gentleman's mind and poetry.
Before he had half finished his pathetic farewell, I involuntarily
exclaimed, "Lo the poor Indian!" and when he reached the
last feeling stanzas,
"Ah! poor Indian, to you
I bid a long and last adieu,"
my eyes unconsciously suffused with tears, and no longer able
to restrain the powerful emotions that swelled my bosom, I burst
into a--horse-laugh. Seriously, however, if Mr. Lewis would
stick to sober prose and abandon "lines with ragged ends," he
might make a tolerable writer. But, "Poesy thou wast undone
and from thy native country driven."
"How hard it is to hide the sparks of genius."
*The ascription of this line to Shakespeare is, of course, made in pure
60 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
June 29--Since writing the above description of Mr. Lewis'
poetical effusions, I have been somewhat fearful that I violated
sundry good resolutions, which I once made concerning the gov-
ernment of my tongue. I make it a rule never to seek an op-
portunity to speak ill of any individual, and if it is my duty to
blame, to do it in as mild terms as the subject admits of. I did
not make this determination because I thought I was disposed
to question the motives of others, or to censure without suffi-
cient reason; but lest by frequently indulging in remarks more
severe than the occasion warrants, I may contract a habit of
slandering my acquaintances which will grow stronger [and]
stronger till the odious practice becomes a confirmed habit which
cannot be shaken off. I saw a remark of Bacon on this subject
which struck me as well worthy of remembrance. "There is,"
said he, "with the young and old a prevalent habit of talking of
persons rather than things. This is seldom innocent and often
pregnant with many evils. Such conversation insensibly slides
into detraction, and by dwelling on offenses we expose our own
souls to contagion, and are betrayed into feelings of pride, envy,
jealousy; and even when we speak in terms of commendation we
are sure to come in with a but at the last, and drive a nail in
our neighbor's reputation." My own experience furnishes me
with abundant proofs of the truth of this sentiment; but by
regarding my resolution with care I hope to deserve a name far
better than the slanderer's.
Another of the good resolutions referred to is, that while in
the Society, I will do nothing calculated to produce disorder, or
anything likely to have an evil tendency. My love of fun is so
great, and my perception of the ludicrous so quick, that I laugh at
everything witty, and say all I can to add to the general mirth.
Now, this [is] agreeable enough at times, but the tendency to
carry it to extremes is so great that I shall stop it entirely in
future, if I can.
My last resolution is to act from no motives which I should
be ashamed to avow.--There goes the bell.
Kenyon College, July 3, 1841.--The academical duties of the
institution were suspended today for the purpose of celebrating
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 61
the sixty-fifth anniversary of our national independence. There
being no celebration at college, many of the students went to
Mount Vernon to witness a military display. I remained here and
did nothing more patriotic than to split a log with a charge of
powder, and raise a streamer on the East Wing with a Har-
rison handkerchief at my window. In the forenoon I gathered
mulberries in company with Jimmy Smith, of Dayton, and in
the afternoon we ate them in Bryan's room assisted by Case and
Dewalt. This way of spending the glorious Fourth does not
make a very good appearance on paper, but I presume we de-
rived as much pleasure and profit from our little picnic as thou-
sands of others did from celebrations which cost them far more
time, trouble, and expense.
How wonderfully has the prediction of John Adams been
verified, that the action of the Continental Congress, July 4,
1776, has made this a "great and good day." Slight, indeed,
were their hopes that the recurrence of this day would be hailed
with mingled feelings of pride and joy and gratitude by so many
millions of fellow-beings. With what truth was it foretold that
the Fourth of July would be celebrated with illuminations, bon-
fires, and roaring of cannon. From my window (No. 17 E. W.
[East Wing]) I can see the boys at Milnor Hall, by the light of
their bonfire, throwing fireballs. I can even hear their glad
hurrahs as they skip and dance around the blaze in perfect
ecstasy. What delight I have taken in such scenes; but these
no longer afford enjoyment. Yet I do not know but I am as
happy as ever. This calls to mind the various ways in which
I have spent this day.
Last Fourth, 1840, we had a celebration here. Milton Elliot
delivered the oration and the Declaration of Independence was
read by A. B. Buttles. I displayed my zeal by acting as pay-
master-general, raising flags, and cutting poles. Many of my
friends spent the day at Harrison conventions in the neighboring
towns. I was sorry I did not attend one of them as the political
fever was raging to a remarkable degree.
[In] 1839, we had a glorious celebration here. The oration
of Mr. Lightner's was very good and the dinner most excellent.
62 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
After dinner, some speeches were made at the chapel, in which
some things were said which created a difficulty between a noble
warm-hearted Kentuckian and the orator of the day. The
sectional feeling which then existed was at once aroused. The
members of the rival societies each espoused the cause of their
own member and a serious disturbance appeared unavoidable.
After much useless disputing, Mr. Andrews, of my class, and
Mr. Elliot proposed that we should take a short march to the
tune of Yankee Doodle. This was immediately agreed to and
the spirit-stirring notes of this favorite air recalled at once to
the minds of the combatants the fact that we were all Americans,
so that the dispute was amicably settled and we marched to college
better friends than ever. I trust all other sectional divisions and
disputes may always be as fortunately ended as this.
July 6.--The last time I wrote in my diary I was telling the
ways in which I spent some of the Fourths in former years.
In 1838 I was at the school of Mr. Webb in Middletown,
Connecticut. On the Fourth of July there was a union celebra-
tion over in the college grounds, but in company with most of my
school-fellows I passed the day firing a little two-pounder, swim-
ming, and eating. My companions were H. C. Chauncey, Wm. G.
Lane, and E. B. Colt, of Paterson, New Jersey. We made a
great noise and, of course, were in fine spirits.
[In] 1837 I was in Delaware, [Ohio]. After some consulta-
tion with J. Turney and M. D. Covell, we thought best to employ
ourselves in diminishing the number of the fowl of the air and
[the] beasts of the field which have multiplied so amazingly since
old Noah's time. After making the necessary arrangements,
such as filling our pockets with biscuits, butter, salt, and pepper,
we sallied forth with one shotgun and a lead cannon to spread
terror and dismay among the natives of the forest. We first
bent our steps towards the Olentangy, where after wandering
about in mud and mire for a couple of hours without encoun-
tering anything more formidable than an occasional bullfrog,
we sat ourselves down upon a huge brown log to consult upon
our future course. We debated for some time without approach-
ing any conclusion, when a new character appeared on the stage
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 63
who at once decided our counsels. This was no less a personage
than one Bob White, whose shrill calls from the other side of
the river at once induced us to roll up our pants and wade over
to cultivate more closely his acquaintance. Arrived safely on the
opposite shore, we despatched Covell with the old fusee to put a
stop to the clamor of the innocent quail. After waiting several
minutes we were surprised that Covell did not shoot, and our
astonishment was no way diminished at hearing Bob White ring-
ing away at pretty regular intervals. Turney and myself soon
began to make various amusing conjectures as to where Covell
could have betaken himself. After waiting a few minutes longer
in breathless suspense, our minds were filled with fearful fore-
bodings as to his life. We looked at one another in silence,
but the workings of our countenances betrayed the terror of our
breasts more vividly than words could tell.
We simultaneously started for the point where Covell had
disappeared in the thicket. Carefully putting aside the bushes,
we advanced with extreme caution towards the place where our
old friend the quail was exercising his lungs with undiminished
vigor. When we had approached very close to the spot whence
the sound proceeded, we stopped and stooping low peered
anxiously around among the bushes. At last my eyes met the
form of my lost friend kneeling as if in prayer. Good Heavens!
my worst fears were realized. He had been bitten by a rattlesnake
concealed in the underbrush, and was now with his last breath
offering up a prayer for his final safety! My head spun round
with giddiness; a mist clouded my sight; I reeled and would
have swooned. But at this instant I heard Covell, in tones more
of vexation than entreaty, exclaim: "I wish the man that made
this lock had it down his throat." I revived as if from the in-
fluence of some potent spell. I spoke in accents which betrayed
the trepidation I had felt: "Why, Covell what are you about?" "I
snapped at this quail till I got tired and then used a box of
matches up trying to touch off this rotten powder, and now if Mr.
Quail don't get off that log 'quicker than Hell can scorch a
feather,' I'll knock his brains out with the ramrod." He sprang
forward, the quail flew, and I roared with laughter. We hunted
no more that day, but ate up our biscuits and went home content.
64 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
July 11.--July 4, 1836, I was at Norwalk Seminary, which
was then under the direction of Mr. Chaplin, a Methodist clergy-
man, formerly a lawyer of some note in Champaign County. He
spent the early part of his life in every kind of licentiousness, but
finally becoming religious, he commenced preaching and is now a
man of much usefulness and exemplary piety. I fired cannon
through the day and ate figs, raisins, and sugarplums between
times. My companions were Picket, Webb, and Lewis Mc-
Ardle. Upon the whole we had a jolly time of it.
July 4, 1835, I was in Delaware, but who were my com-
panions or what I did has long since slipped my memory. I
presume, however, I burned powder, ate candy, and followed
the trainers [militiamen], as that was usually the order of exer-
cise for such occasions.
July 12.--Independence Day, 1834, I was visiting Uncle
Austin in company with my mother and sister, at Fayetteville,
Vermont. About I o'clock P. M., as Charles Birchard and my-
self were intently engaged firing a small cannon, news came that
an old man across the square had cut his throat. We hastened
over there as fast as our legs could carry us, and sure enough
there lay a poor miserable wretch with his throat sawed from
ear to ear, and a bloody chopping knife still quivering in his old
fingers. A physician who lived near by examined his wound and
said he could not live more than half an hour. Some of the
bystanders then lifted him into a shady place and laid him on the
green grass to bleed away his life. While he was heaving and
groaning most piteously, I could not but think of the horrors of
war. My dreams had often been of military fame, of the
laurels which adorn the victor's brow, the pride, pomp, and cir-
cumstance of glorious war; but the sight of this dying man
affected me so much that I thought I should never again desire
to witness the glories of a battlefield, if its terrors were such as
this. The moment he was out of my sight, these feelings van-
ished like a dream and I laughed at my former emotions.
The remembrance of national jubilees previous to 1834 has
ceased to remind. These occasions then seemed great indeed;
they are gone, gone forever.
"A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour."
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1840-1841 65
The first oration I ever heard was delivered by Ralph Hills,
M.D., in the Presbyterian church at Delaware, one Fourth, but
what year it was, what I thought of it, who can tell? Why, not
July 29.--More than two weeks have slipped by since I last
opened my diary. Since then I have been examined in most
of my studies for the past session. My success was very good
in all of them. I was best satisfied with my examination in
logic and rhetoric. Those studies I have taken much interest
in. I shall review them at my leisure, and hope in time to be-
come a perfect master of logic.
How strangely swift the time does fly. Only think, in one
little week I shall be a senior; a year, and then a graduate. But
who can tell what changes a year may bring? Short as the
three years since I entered college now seem, they have wrought
great changes in my views of things and, perhaps, greater still
in my anticipations and designs. I have always been ambitious,
dreaming of future glory, of performing some virtuous or pa-
triotic action, but it has been all dreams, and no reality. From
my earliest recollection, I have thought I had great power in me;
yet at the same time I was fully satisfied of my present insig-
nificance and mental weakness. I have imagined that at some
future time I could do considerable; but the more I learn, the
more I feel my littleness.
Well, I must stop these outpourings of youthful folly and
proceed to other matters. I have just taken a roommate, J.
A. Little. He enters the freshman class as I enter the senior.
He is very industrious, has a fine disposition and tolerable
abilities. I only hope his talents are equal to his temper. I
shall do all I can to help him on the way to distinction. I an-
ticipate great pleasure and some profit from the society of my
Kenyon College, August 1, 1841.--A few weeks since two of
my friends, Bryan and Kinsolving, proposed to me a project
they had been thinking of concerning the foundation of a club, to
be composed of a few select friends, whose main object should
be to promote "firm and enduring friendship among its members."
66 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
I expressed some doubt as to the probability of its success, fearing
that it would sink as soon as we left college. I however promised
to aid them heart and hand, believing it would be a source of
much pleasure to us even if its existence should cease when we
left. The scheme was then proposed to several others, all of
whom were strongly in favor of it. Accordingly a meeting was
held in my room to consider the matter, at which were present
Bryan, Kinsolving, Lang, Comstock, Dewalt, Boyd, Case, Trow-
bridge, and myself, and we were the founders of the Phi Zeta
Club. We held several meetings, adopted Philia Zoe (Friend-
ship for Life) for our motto, procured canes for badges, and
made several regulations which we thought necessary to secure
the prosperity and permanency of the club.
Last evening we chose Milton Elliot a member, although he
leaves the institution next week. He possessed so large a share of
the "milk of human kindness," we could not bear to have him
leave without joining our fraternity. He was much gratified
with the partiality we exhibited toward him and made us a
very feeling little speech, promising faithfully to perform his duty
as an absent member, which is to write to the club once each
session. Our first literary performances were read last evening,
consisting of three essays and a farewell address from the presi-
dent. They were all good. Mr. Kinsolving's farewell, in par-
ticular, would have been highly creditable to any writer. After
the meeting adjourned we retired to partake of a feast, not quite
so intellectual, but nevertheless quite good, furnished by friend
Bryan. When the supper was honorably discharged or rather
despatched, we returned to Kinsolving's room to chat a little and
then retired to rest after one of the pleasantest evenings I ever
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