AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842--SENIOR YEAR
Columbus, August 25, 1841.--Many pleasant days have
passed, and many happy ones too, since I last wrote in
my journal--poor thing. [I] wonder that it does not feel
slighted; but it does not complain. I must, therefore, infer that
it has no feeling on the subject. Ah, it is vacation! That ac-
counts for the indifference it manifests as well as for my neglect.
The commencement exercises at Old Kenyon went off in style.
The graduating class acquitted themselves with credit. My long-
tried friend, Trowbridge, for whose success I was most anxious,
exceeded my fondest anticipations. The effect of his eloquence
on me was, indeed, surprising. I am accustomed to feel strongly
--how strongly, words cannot tell--when one of my friends is
gaining the palm of eloquence; but never before were tears
drawn so copiously from my eyes as when the closing sentence
of his oration passed his lips. I always thought him a persever-
ing, strong-minded man, but I was then satisfied that he pos-
sessed the true fire of genius. With a fair field and good health,
he can be really great. His style of speaking is Websterian--
plain, strong, and to the purpose. With the valedictorian, Mr.
Hall, I was never intimate, nor indeed very friendly. I thought
him of too cold a nature for warm friendship; but my faith in
the truth of this opinion was much shaken by his farewell to
his classmates. The style of [it] was simple as nature's self
and the thought and feeling true to life. As he spoke of the
final parting scene, his eyes filled with tears, and for the mo-
ment, I really loved him for the strong emotion he exhibited.
Columbus, August 29.--In my limited acquaintance I have
never known a person who did not think honesty praiseworthy.
The reason there are so many dishonorable men appears to be,
either that their ideas of true honesty are not sufficiently com-
prehensive, or that their minds have become warped by educa-
68 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
tion and habit. Many consider dishonesty in matters connected
with their own pursuit as highly culpable, but regard laxity of
morals in other particulars as of light importance. The mer-
chant, for instance, who would not for any consideration fail
to meet his engagements or violate his contracts, is still ready
to violate his obligations to society by his conduct as a citizen.
Again, the lawyer who is strictly honest as a professional man,
permits himself to commit the most unworthy acts as a poli-
tician. Statesmen are often found who would frown indignantly
upon the first dawning of an attempt to shake the foundations
of morality and religion, and yet will be loose in their pecuniary
affairs to an extent which honest merchants would think almost
criminal. I am aware that many would say that such cases as
the above cannot be found; that the man who is dishonest in one
thing, would, with equal temptation, be unprincipled in another.
>From this opinion I beg leave [to] dissent. Many men are
strictly honest as far as their notion of honesty extends. Had
their opinions been differently formed they might have considered
their present ideas of integrity as little worth; but now that they
have them, no change of condition can alter them. It is dis-
honest to entertain prejudices, yet man is the child of prejudice.
As to the practical question, whether honesty is always praise-
worthy, no man can for an instant doubt. To deserve the name
of a man of integrity, one must deal justly with himself as well
as [with] his neighbor and God.
Columbus, September 6, 1841.--The grogshop politicians of
this goodly city have been in constant ferment for a few weeks
past because of the veto of the Bank Bill by President Tyler.
The Van Buren men who opposed him so strenuously last fall,
now laud him to the skies for his integrity and firmness in dis-
regarding his party relations for the sake of the Constitution.
On the other hand, his former friends, the old Whigs, stigmatize
him as a traitor to his principles for disregarding the wishes of a
majority of his supporters. For myself, I do not consider the
professions of the Van Buren men sincere, nor do I think the
harsh denunciations of the Whigs as very becoming [to] the
original supporters of Harrison and Tyler. It is only by re-
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 69
maining united that they can continue to advance the great
interests of the country, and they should be careful how they
hazard all by casting loose from John Tyler for a conscientious
discharge of duty.
I was never more rejoiced than when it was ascertained that
Harrison's election was certain. I hoped we should then have a
stable currency of uniform value; but since Tyler has vetoed
one way of accomplishing this, I would not hesitate to try others.
So much for politics, in which I have ceased to take an interest.
My hopes and wishes were all realized in the election of old
General Harrison, and I am [glad] to be able to say that I am
now indifferent to such things.
October 4, 1841.--I returned to college nearly a week ago,
eager to commence my winter's work. The rooms in college are
being extensively repaired and will be eventually very much im-
proved; but the noise and dirt are at present so annoying as to
be very unfavorable to study. What I have lost in study I have
gained in amusement, so I shall not complain.
I have not yet determined what amount of studying I shall
do, but it shall be more than ever before, if my health permits.
The regular studies of this session will not occupy near all of my
time, and I shall endeavor in company with friend Lang to re-
view algebra so as to lay a solid foundation for a future course
of mathematics. Several gentlemen have assured me that they
derived the greatest benefits from the good habits acquired while
studying mathematics at college. I shall yet do what I can to
gain all the advantages of this mode of discipline. Although
I think I have a good share of mathematical talent, it has here-
tofore been shamefully neglected; but "better late than never"
is a proverb as true as it is trite.
A portion of my time shall be given to logic, a study which
I have not slighted. If I find I can keep up these branches with
tolerable ease, I shall then take up French, when I shall have
about as many irons in the fire as I can attend to.
When I commenced I intended to write a few things which
were suggested by the recurrence of my nineteenth birthday. I
am now nineteen, truly a young boy for one of my age. Almost
70 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
a man, and still I feel as boyish as I did at sixteen. In two years
the law will consider me a man. That's all the law knows about
it. I shall be a boy then, an old one though. What an ig-
noramus for a nineteen-year-old! Pshaw, if I was of the de-
sponding sort, I would give up in despair. But none of that.
High hopes and lofty aspirations yet!
Kenyon College, October 7.--I have studied nearly enough
today to satisfy me. Besides my regular studies, I have been
over, if not learned, a page of French and solved a large number
of problems in algebra. I find it is much easier to understand
their solution than I had anticipated. The whole of the first
two years of my college course, I neglected mathematics so much
that I began to think myself destitute of the particular faculties
which are essential to a mathematical mind. Under Professor
Ross, I quickly discarded this opinion. Mr. Ross, in addition to
those high mental endowments which a good teacher must have,
has also that winning, gentlemanly deportment which never fails
to make a teacher respected and beloved by his scholars. If
ever I become a mathematician, to him be the praise
Among the things which now mainly occupy my thoughts, the
situation of the two literary societies of the institution, are [is]
a source of the most care and anxiety.
October 17.--Dark and gloomy as a dismal, rainy, equinoctial
night can be, here in my old room, by a cheerful fire, I am as
happy and comfortable as a clear conscience and full stomach
can make one of us poor miserable mortals.
The best reason I can give for this self-satisfied feeling, is that
I have plenty that I can do and nothing that I am compelled to
do. Besides this, there are other matters of minor consideration
which contribute to the same result, as, for instance, the election
of Mr. Powell to the Legislature from Delaware County; and
then, too, we had an unusually good supper, which always pro-
duces exceeding good temper. Next to a good temper, give me
a good dinner. On a second reflection, I believe I prefer a good
dinner, for it is most sure to produce good temper and also a
good comfortable state of body. Now, a good supper is doubt-
less soothing to a troubled spirit; but then a good dinner is
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 71
grateful, nay rich, not to multiply expressions, it is really
"ho bone," which being interpreted means rather goodish-like.
So much for dinners and suppers. As for breakfasts, I am
generally too sleepy to appreciate their merits. Besides, I am
often vexed to think that I have left a nice soft (all but the soft)
bed to get it; so that these harrowing reflections make me to
eat my salt in grief, and drink my coffee in bitterness of spirit.
Here I will gladly leave this mournful topic for others more
Three hours each week we are required to attend to Dr.
Thrall's recitations or lectures in chemistry, and mortal long
hours they are. The little straight-visaged chemist, with yellow
skin and wrinkled cheek, pours forth such an amount of chemi-
cal lore that we stare to think that one little head can contain
all he knows. But if the matter he gives us is profound, the
manner in which he communicates it is--is--is-- Why, let
me see! It's queer, to say the least of it. His voice sounds like
the grating of a file or the breaking of glass. It is between a
grunt and a hiss. And yet, with all his infirmities, he has a good
heart. A harsh exterior with kindness within. So we go. The
handsomest man in college is the greatest dunce; the ugliest man
is a smart fellow. The doctor is a chemical compound that I am
too sleepy to analyze or describe.
October 29.--The senior class are now studying mental phil-
osophy. It is easy to understand and full of interest. The
author tells a great many entertaining and amusing little incidents
to illustrate the various positions which he takes. The recita-
tions are chiefly colloquial. The President relates numerous
anecdotes of his own experience, most of which are very good.
His fund of good stories is almost inexhaustible. Having spent
his life in the busy scenes of camp, or among the throngs of a
crowded city, his opportunity for obtaining information of all
kinds has been most excellent. And from habits of close obser-
vation, his knowledge of men and things is very extensive, and
his recollection is remarkably accurate. He frequently differs
from the author, and by means of illustrations drawn from his
own observation, he never fails to make his opinions appear at
72 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
least reasonable. The only fault that any find with the President
is that he does not always make himself understood when asking
questions; this occasioned in part by his inability to bring himself
down to a level with his pupils, and partly by the supposition
that we are more familiar with the lesson than we generally are.
I am the more satisfied with the study of the philosophy of
mind from the number of useful lessons one can draw from it
relative to his own habits of study and reflection. Many of the
subjects of which it treats are eminently practical, especially
those chapters in which the subject of habits are [is] discussed.
The mental powers are so much influenced and regulated by
habit that I am surprised to see the little importance which is
generally attached to their formation as a part of education.
General as the neglect of intellectual habits has become, the in-
difference with regard [to] the sensitive part of the mind is even
more apparent. Very few appear to know how much the affec-
tions are within their own control, and still fewer act as if they
knew they could mould them to their will, and thus be the cause
of their own happiness or misery through life.
Every one should bear in mind that when he yields to any
passion, every repetition is giving it a power which may erelong
bind with links stronger than steel and more galling than the
cruel gyves of the galley slave.
November 1, 1841.--I have been reading Beattie on "Truth"
for a few days past. It is indeed a masterly work. It contains
a clear and complete refutation of the doctrines maintained by
Hume concerning the non-existence of matter, necessity, and
free agency. It is affirmed by them [Hume] that there is no such
thing as reality in material objects; it is all ideal. This opinion
Beattie proves to be contrary to the common reason of mankind
in all ages; that though frequently maintained by sophists, yet
no man has ever acted as if he really believed it. The skeptic
is so inconsistent that he avoids a precipice with as much care
as the individual who believes it has a physical existence.
Hume asserts that our ideas are faint representations of ob-
jects, differing only in vividness; just as our ideas of the coun-
tenance of an absent friend resembles him in all but distinctness.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 73
In showing the absurdity of this notion, Beattie makes use of
some ludicrous illustrations. "If this definition be a correct one,"
says he, "then, of course, the idea of red color must be a red
idea, the idea of a roaring lion, a roaring idea, the idea of a
jackass, a long-eared, hairy idea, very stupid and fond of
In relation to fatality, he says it is contrary to our natures
to give it credence; sagacious disputants and practiced wranglers
may propose objections which are difficult to explain and answer,
but still we are unconvinced. They say that free agency is not
consistent with the foreknowledge of the Deity, that what he
foreknows will happen whether we wish or not. But the same
authority which tells us of the foreknowledge of the Divine
Mind also assures [us] of the free agency of man. There is a
deep mystery somewhere, but it is not in free will. This, every
one by his conduct admits. It must be therefore in the pre-
science of God. And because there is something in the nature
of God too deep for finite intellect to fathom, is this reason for
refusing belief to a doctrine which strictly accords with the
common sentiments of all mankind? No, NO, NO.
November 7.--I am now a member of the senior class. Only
one short year remains before the frail bark of my destiny will
be tossing on the stormy waves of an untried sea. What will
be its fate in the voyage of life depends much on the exertions
I am now making. I know I have not the natural genius to
force my way to eminence, but if I listen to the promptings of
ambition, "the magic of mind" I must have; and since I cannot
trust to inspiration, I can only acquire it by "midnight toil"
and "holy emulation."
My lofty aspirations I cannot conceal even from myself; my
bosom heaves with the thought; they are part of myself, so
wrought into my very soul that I cannot escape their power if
I would. As far back as memory can carry me, the desire of
fame was uppermost in my thoughts. But I never desired other
than honorable distinction, and before I would "be damned to
eternal fame," I would descend to my grave unknown. The
reputation which I desire is not that momentary eminence which
74 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
is gained without merit and lost without regret. Give me the
popularity which runs after, not that which is sought for. For
honest merit to succeed amid the tricks and intrigues which are
now so lamentably common, I know is difficult; but the honor
of success is increased by the obstacles which are to be sur-
mounted. Let me triumph as a man or not at all.
Defeat without disgrace can be borne, but laurels which are
not deserved sit like a crown of thorns on the head of their
possessor. It is indeed far better to deserve honors without
having them than to have them without deserving them. Ob-
scurity is an honor to the man who has failed in "the pursuit of
noble ends by noble means." He can walk proudly forth be-
fore the face of nature and be conscious that he has not dis-
graced the image of his God. Although neglected and perhaps
despised by his fellows, there is a monitor within whose approv-
ing smiles are more valuable than the plaudits of millions. The
first sits upon her seat, unalterable as the sun in its course; the
other is more fitful than a summer's breeze. If an honorable
man gains the applause of his countrymen, he is richly rewarded,
for conscious of his own merit, he feels that it is deserved, and
knows that it is substantial because deserved.
Kenyon College, November 28, 1841.--
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamed of in your philosophy."--Shakespeare.
Ever since the members of the Phi Zeta Club commenced
carrying their badges, they have been regarded with suspicion
and jealousy by those who were not its members. Some who
were remarkable for self-esteem, felt mortified at being left out
of a club which numbered among its members some of the first
scholars in the institution; others were glad of an opportunity
to vent their spleen upon those whom they felt to be above them
both in morals and intellect. Their feelings of envy and hatred
were at first smothered in their own bosoms, but the heat only
glowed with the more enduring intensity within. They brooded
over fancied insults till their judgments were so blinded by
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 75
jealousy that, "trifles light as air were confirmations strong as
proofs of Holy Writ."
Like a rolling snowball, the oftener the subject was revolved
the greater became its importance, till finally their imaginary
wrongs were too huge to be concealed. Some scheme must be de-
vised which would gratify their malice by injuring the innocent
cause of all their ill. About two weeks since we noticed an un-
usual commotion among those most conspicuous for their hatred
of us. There was a strange putting together of heads. Knowing
winks and sly glances passed back and forth. Members of the
church were observed in frequent and close communion with the
most reckless and profane; deadly enemies were often seen arm
in arm, joined "cheek by jowl" together. By signs like these and
other indications, well known to the skilful mariner, we were
warned of the approaching storm. We knew not where or how
it would strike us, but we were not dismayed. Confident in the
powers of our own good bark, we trimmed the sails, and manned
the helm with our bravest tars, and calmly awaited the tempest
which was to prove their veteran skill.
We were not long left in suspense as to the direction from
which we must look for danger. After a few fitful violent
gusts of wind which made us to clinch our teeth and tighten our
grip with earnestness, a pause ensued, ominous of nothing more
dangerous than a long drizzling rain. The firm, harsh tones of
the old salts subsided into a low chuckle, their features sternly
braced relaxed into a smile, while the young "middies" laughed
with scorn and twirled their silver-headed canes in a perfect
ecstasy of boyish glee.
This pause, this silence, this dreadful stillness, which our
enemies vainly imagine will end in our destruction, still con-
tinues. Their wonderful scheme is to be kept a profound secret
till all preparations are completed and then we are to die--die
like malefactors, without consolation, without repentance. Our
annihilation is to be sudden, terrible, and complete. No heart
will pity, no hand will aid; we shall be driven we know not
76 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
"To dwell in regions of thick-ribbed ice,
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot";
Or, even worse,
"To pass the bitter waves of Acheron
And come to fiery flood [of Phlegeton],
Where[as the] damned ghostes in torment fry,
And with sharp [shrilling] shriekes doe bootlesse cry."
For come what will, we feel the dreadful certainty that we
shall soon depart to that "bourne whence no traveller returns,"--
"A schoolboy's dream the wonder of an hour." But I must leave
this sad and mournful strain and turn to themes of cold reality.
What a world is this in which we live!
Toil and trouble."
"We know not what a day may bring forth." But, happily
for poor mortals,
"Coming events cast their shadows before."
Fate always gives to man some feeble foresight of the future;
and the miserable friends of friendship have not been left to
pine in total ignorance of what is coming. One solitary ray of
light has flitted across our minds and dispelled the gloom by
which we were surrounded. The enemies of our little band
could not keep their counsel. The secret was too great for
minds like theirs to hold. Our former friends were changed to
skulking enemies and our former enemies to fawning friends.
Hypocrites assumed a frankness which they did not feel, and
cowards a courage which they knew not of. They guarded their
secret with such studious care that we could not be ignorant
of its existence or unconscious of its presence. They betrayed
it both by word and deed; it beamed from every feature and
was whispered in every breath. It escaped by the hurried ques-
tion, the embarrassed answer, the anxious glance, and the search-
ing scrutiny. You could see it in their gait, hear it in their
stealthy tread, and know it in their devilish sneers. Their very
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 77
exertions to conceal it only published it the more. They've
"So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt."
By their "artless jealousy" they have already spilled their
secret, and when the drizzling rain begins to fall, they will spill
themselves with sore chagrin.
They have formed a club of friends composed of materials
without affinity, a heterogeneous mass bound together by no tie
but hatred of us. Enemies are joined in the closest alliance.
The timid and wavering, the passionate and morose, learned and
unlearned, Christian and infidel are all, all, mingled together with
but one feeling in common--hatred. Stranger than all this, they
intend that their association shall extend over all space and last
through all time. Oh, but what a scene we shall witness when
the links which now bind them together begin to melt with the
heat engendered by the jarring elements within!
When I had progressed thus far in my history of the opposi-
tion club, the bell for Thanksgiving sermon rang and called my
attention to other concerns. The topic is not of such a nature as
to be profitable to ponder on for any length of time; so I shall
change it for one more suitable to my taste and feelings, and
also more ennobling in its tendency on the mind.
December 3, 1841.--
"Choose your companions with most studious care,
The good or bad they have, you'll surely share,
And leave the one or other to your heir."
One of the first intimacies which I formed after entering col-
lege was with R. E. Trowbridge, of Michigan. The first time
I ever saw him was about three years ago. He was then a
prominent member of the sophomore class, possessed of good
abilities and remarkable for his open, frank demeanor. Never
shall I forget the time when first he gave me one of his cordial,
hearty greetings. At the time we were passing each other on
78 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
our way to our respective recitations. I had received so favor-
able an impression of his character from the few things I had
seen of him that I made bold to salute him: "Well, Trow, how
are you?" To which he at once replied, "Well, sonny, how are
you?" From that time till this I have really loved him like a
brother. I did not, however, become more intimate with him
than is usual between persons of the same disposition, till about
a year and [a] half after this time, when our former acquaintance
ripened into the warmest and most sincere attachment. I found
in him all those fine feelings and noble qualities by which warm
friendship is nourished. He was ardent in his desires for the
success of his friends and firm and constant in his adherence to
their true interests. His faults were few and such as time and
experience would easily remove. He was tinctured slightly with
infidelity, a thing, by the way, not unusual in persons of his
age and temperament. This skepticism, I labored with the little
ability I possessed, to eradicate from his mind, and was grati-
fied to see that it soon disappeared, rather from the dictates
of his own sound judgment than from any exertions of mine.
He was also somewhat under the influence of aristocratic senti-
ments, but these were rapidly dissipated by the experience of his
increasing years, so that by the time he graduated he possessed a
mind remarkably well balanced in all its faculties. Judging him
by the strength of his mind, his indomitable perseverance, and
well-regulated affections, I know not his equal; and if the eleva-
tion of his after years corresponds to the promise of his youth,
he will yet be a pride and ornament of his country, and one of
the brightest jewels in the coronal of his Alma Mater.
KENYON COLLEGE, December 4, 1841.
MY DEAR SISTER:--Rather wintry today, I thank you; quite
a prospect of a long spell of weather. Strong symptoms of
rain, but it may clear off cold and I have some hopes of snow.
My household duties keep me employed nowadays most of the
time. My chief attention is directed to sewing buttons on vari-
ous articles of apparel and cleaning my boots and pants. I have
become quite expert in performing such jobs. Four years of
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 79
college life improve a person wonderfully in such literary occu-
pations. When I look around among my fellow students, I see a
large number who would succeed much better as the wife of
some rich old bachelor than, in any of the manly pursuits of a
business life. They think everything that is honorable and of
"good report" is crowded into the brief period of a college life:
there is nothing classical in being practically useful to the citizens
of a small village or county. No, no; they must employ their
transcendent talents in convincing mankind that the substances
which we see and feel and taste are really existences and not
ideal images as some would have them suppose; it is by the pro-
mulgation of doctrines like these that men are to be benefited
by our collegians. Don't think I disapprove of it; for in truth
it is the best employment they could have. Why, what can be
more philanthropic, more truly benevolent, than to convince men
that there is danger of [their] being dashed in pieces if they
recklessly rush over a precipice?
Besides these metaphysical abstractionists, there are hordes of
greedy lawyers and hungry politicians yearly graduated, whose
most useful employment will be to persuade their neighbors that
the surest road to wealth is to sue every man whose dog barks
at their pigs, or that the independence of our country and the
cause of liberty throughout the world depends on the election of
a certain fence-viewer in a certain little village in a certain sov-
Perhaps you begin to think I am in no very friendly humor to-
day, but indeed you are mistaken. I am in love with the whole
world, especially that part of it contained in my stove. There is
something very agreeable in a good fire in a cold day, it is 'most
as fine as a good dinner, and then the two together! What happy
creatures we are in this land of light and liberty; how much
better off we are than the Esquimau Indians! "Lo the poor
Indian!" There is no news of local interest stirring about here,
but some of our wiseacres turn up the whites of their eyes in
devout horror to hear that John Tyler actually went into a
county where it is believed there was formerly a race-track.
What will become of this people with such a reckless character
at the head of Government? Well, I don't know, indeed. If
80 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
you are curious about the matter, ask someone else. Tell Platt
& Co., that if they have any liquor on hand to sell it as soon as
possible, for it will fall in price as soon as the Legislature meets,
for McNulty has joined the temperance society. The temper-
ance men are doing wonders here. The excitement is so great
that I dare not drink in public oftener than once a day. This you
know is a great deprivation, but then it will be so consoling to
Mother and William that I do not complain,
Your description of charity goods answers very well to charity
students; they are of no earthly use, except to tell tales. But
then it is charitable in sewing societies to send them here, as it
keeps them from injuring industrious people as all their atten-
tion is given to lazy students.
I have been reading some of the old English poets lately, such
as Chaucer and Spenser. They write in the style of the ancient
Saxons, putting half a dozen harsh-sounding consonants to every
vowel which makes a metre about as harmonious as the filing of
a saw or the squealing of a pig. Their writings are remarkable
throughout for a vein [of] strong good sense, expressed in a
true English style; none of the studied ornaments of modern
times, but nature as she is exhibited in her mountains and rivers,
not as she [is] painted in the sickly imaginings of a schoolboy's
dream. These old writers are so little read that our modern
authors consider them as common plunder, and it is from this
source that many of their finest passages are drawn. They give
to the ideas a little of their own polish and tinsel, and then pub-
lish them as some rare gems just brought from the depths of
their own cultivated intellects. If some of our finest poems
were deprived of all stolen ideas, there would be little left ex-
cept the gaudy finery with which they have tricked out the off-
spring of other brains.
I have been a good deal puzzled how to fill out this sheet,
as you doubtless have discovered. We have plenty, perhaps too
plenty, of things to employ our own, minds upon, but then it does
not sound very well when told. A good deal like Mr. Vande-
man's sermons.--they would do better if he never preached
them. All of our friends are well and doing well except poor
Kilbourne. You have, I suppose, heard of the death of his father
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 81
before this. He is still at home. When he will return I do not
Give my love to all. I should like to see Uncle very much, but
I suppose he has already left for the South.
Tell brother William that the stuff for those corns will be
furnished Christmas and all other matters attended to then.
Your affectionate brother,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. W. A. PLATT.
Kenyon College, December 10, 1841.-- My reading heretofore
has consisted chiefly of history, modern poetry, and such mis-
cellaneous writings as chanced to fall in my way. I have, it is
true, for a long time been an ardent admirer of Shakespeare
and Milton, but till within a week I never tasted the sweet
waters which are to be found in the authors of "old English
literature." I have as yet but just sipped the pure streams which
flow from this source, but a single taste makes me love them.
I first read Spenser, the father of English poetry. He has not
the studied elegance of some modern writers, but his deficiency
in polish and grace is more than compensated [for] by the rich,
vigorous flow of thought which runs through all his poems. Na-
ture is painted as she is, not always beautiful or grand, but ever
charming from variety. Spenser has faults, but they are like
spots on the sun which do not mar the beauty of his light nor
prevent the vivifying influence of his warmth. The tales of
Spenser are of that romantic and marvellous kind which is
usually found in the writings of the chivalrous ages, when the
Evil One employed magic spells to overcome the virtue of the
good, and horrid monsters to subdue the bravery of the "trow
knightes." In the "Faerie Queene," the master passions of the
human bosom are drawn with a pencil of light. The meaner
passions, envy, hatred, and jealousy, are represented as a "right
jollie teem," drawing the "Queene Darknesse" in her two-
wheeled "carr" and driven by "Satanie" sitting on the beam,
lashing them into a foam with his scourge of scorpions' tails.
Ah, that some modern genius would show the deluded victims of
82 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
passions what a driver directs their course, and what a "jollie
teem" is hurrying them to destruction! How quick they would
lock the wheel and cut the tugs to escape from the "faire crew"
which madly rushes on. They would even risk life and limb in
leaping from the "carr" of the Damned One who drives. But
no, our modern gentry are too busied culling the choice flowers
of the "old poets" to think of benefiting their race. Instead of
resorting to the same source from which they drew immortality,
these are content to deck themselves with the cast-off drapery of
Kenyon College, January 6, 1842.--I have just returned from
home where I spent the holidays frolicking with the girls and
laughing almost constantly either at my own folly or that of
others. Like most youngsters whose time has been spent at
school where we have little society of any kind, and none of the
ladies, I am quite bashful when in company, and of course very
awkward. This, instead of causing me mortification, affords me
an infinite deal of amusement. I know my deficiency and, in-
stead of lamenting over it, I make it a subject of sport both for
myself and others who observe it. In this way I avoid all of
those painful feelings which torture "the bashful man," and while
counterfeiting an indifference to the opinions of others which I
do not feel, I often find that I have overcome the embarrassment
which at first oppressed me.
But enough of this. Two weeks of pleasure will suffice for this
session, and I am determined to apply myself to my studies more
diligently than ever for the rest of the winter. Before another
year rolls round I must make great progress. Within the last
year my improvement has been rapid, yet I could have done much
more had the strenuous will not been wanting. I am satisfied
more and more by every day's experience, that if I would attain
the eminence in my profession to which I aspire, I must exert
myself with more constant zeal and hearty good will than I ever
have before. The life of a truly great lawyer must be one of
severe and intense application; he treads no "primrose path";
every step is one of toil and difficulty, it is not by sudden, vigor-
ous efforts that he is to succeed, but by patient, enduring energy,
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 83
which never hesitates, never falters, but pushes on to the last.
This is the life I have chosen. I believe it is a happy one. Now
is the time to acquire the habits which will enable me to endure
its hardships; and if I make a right use of my present opportuni-
ties, my after life will be as happy as it is laborious.
While at home, I attended the United States Circuit Court
and listened to the arguments of some of the first lawyers in the
State. They did not equal my expectations, but some were,
indeed, most excellent. Yet none were so superior as to dis-
courage one from striving to equal them. In fact, I never hear
a speaker but I am encouraged to renew my exertions. If I
listen to a poor one, I am flattered to think of the favorable
comparison which might be made between his efforts and my
own; and when I hear a good one, I always attribute his supe-
riority to his industry rather than to his natural talents.
While upon the subject of lawyers, I will copy a description
of a pettyfogger which I found in the Southern Literary Mes-
senger of January, 1837, and which would apply to several whom
I have in my "mind's eye." "This may tend to make what is
called a sharp practitioner, one who will undertake any case
however perilous, in hopes by tacking and manoeuvring and
running to windward to take advantage of his adversary,--one
of those thin, dried-up, vulture-looking attorneys whose little
eyes twinkle with the light of long kindled cunning, and who
amass wealth and bring disrepute on the law--men whose feel-
ings are divided between their pleadings and their cost books,
vibrating between their offices and the courts, erudite in special
demurrers and deeply learned in the fee-bill, or even beyond it,
but with no more correct idea of the true object and high aim
of the law, than the garbage-fed Hottentot possesses of the
perfectibility of human nature."
GAMBIER, January 10, 1842.
MY DEAR MOTHER:--I received your letter of the 6th yester-
day. I was surprised that you should so soon think of writing
to me, and before I had read the letter, I feared something serious
had happened to disturb the accustomed quiet of the family, but
84 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
I soon found that your anxiety about my health was the chief
reason of my being indebted to you for an epistle. On that sub-
ject, however, you need not be uneasy; instead of my ride in
the cold proving injurious, it has been highly beneficial in its
effect on my health, and I do not entertain the faintest shadow
of a suspicion of a doubt that if I was to return home tomorrow,
the grievous cold with which I have been so sorely afflicted would
be entirely removed by the journey. Notwithstanding I am so
well convinced of the salutary influence which a homeward
voyage would have, I shall not at present undertake it as I have
strong hopes of recovery without resorting to such a severe
remedy. My dry hacking cough has entirely left me, my lungs
act freely, and vast quantities of food are disposed of with my
usual "promptitude and dispatch," without injury to the patient,
though to the utter dismay of the physician and cook. And what
is even more flattering than all this, Dr. Case, A. B., T. D., in-
forms me professionally that I may possibly live along several
years yet, if I will only stop drinking, regulate my diet, keep
out of the cold, and entirely abstain from laughing. These are
hard, very hard conditions for one of my habits. You know the
influence of habit; it is a second nature. And how can I now
leave off eating after having been in the daily and hourly in-
dulgence of my appetite ever since I was a child? Oh Mother,
what an aching void there will be within when my jaws shall
be forever closed to the admission of sugar, sweet potatoes, and
gin! Ah! it makes me feel empty to think of it. And then to
stop laughing when the habit is so confirmed that I even laugh
in my sleep. Why, Mother, it is unpossible. But if I only had to
give up eating and laughing, I might think of it. It is drinking,
too, that must be quit, and that now, when the "Young Coffee
House" is in full operation in the same building with brother
William's shop, where I can stop and get a hot punch every time
I pass in the winter and a cool mint julep in the summer. It's
too much. As poor Tony said on a similar occasion, "Mother,
I tell you, it won't do." Do you recollect how soundly I slept in
the morning when I was at home? You didn't know it was hock,
good old hock, that made me sleep so late. Well, I didn't either
and, to stop this stuff, my cold does not trouble me near as
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 85
much as when I left home, and I intend to be careful and not in-
crease it again. I reached Berkshire about two o'clock and
found that Mr. Gregory was gone to Sunbury. I accordingly
rode Dolly over there and left her at Mr. Bennett's where Mr. G.
would get her. I was just in time for the stage: a few moments
later and I should have been left. Mr. G-'s family were all in
good health. I did not see the children as they were all at school.
Mr. Bennett has a brother very sick at his house which keeps
him quite close. The rest of his folks are well.
Never mind the shirts; you better keep them. They will be
worn out if you send them here and I can get on without them.
Besides, your keeping them may prevent a dispute about their
number. Only have them ready for me when I return again and
I will be satisfied.
Don't be afraid that I'll let any money spoil on my hands. You
know I don't believe in saving sweet things till they become sour.
Well, I act on the same principle with regard to money matters.
I take especial care not to lose anything by not spending.
Tell William, if he is in danger of losing much by the bank's
breaking, to send his bills to me and they shall not depreciate in
my hands. He may save considerable in that way. At the close
of your epistle you speak of my sending my money back. That
explains your anxiety about Illinois money. Ha! ha! ha! catch me
sending it back! If it ever comes back, as John Tyler says, "it
will be in the way of trade." If you are in earnest about my
money coming back you must expect me with it. Why, I'd as
soon think of leaving a tavern without my bitters as letting my
money go off alone in times like these.
All our affairs are moving on in the old train. John returned
the same day I did contrary to my expectation. The faculty ex-
pect from me a written excuse. I shall write one that will an-
swer my purpose, and if they do not like it, they may write one
themselves that they do like.
The girls, you say, went to the theatre one night. Don't be
alarmed. If all is true that I have heard about it, they will go
but once. You said something about Mr. Kilbourne's handker-
chief. I know nothing about it. I had Levi's; perhaps that is
the one you meant. I brought it back with me. Levi has not yet
86 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
returned. I do not know his intentions about it. All of your ac-
quaintances are about as ever.
I am enjoying no afflictions at present.
Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
P.S.--I have forgot all about Fanny and the girls. Stop. I'll
give some soap to them yet. F. is out of humor because I didn't
bid her good-bye. She needn't complain. She didn't bid me
good-bye either; so my grievance is as great as hers. Love to all.
Tell Jane to keep still. She disturbs me.
Hatty and Lizzy, I suppose, are not up yet; well don't wake
the children. R.B.H.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES,
Kenyon College, January 14, 1842.--I have neglected writing
in my journal so long for want of a subject, that I intend to
make a beginning without one. If in blundering along I come
across anything like a straggling thought, I'll branch out, or as the
President would say, "dilate upon it at some length." Well then,
to begin at the beginning, this morning while I was resting very
quietly in the arms of my old friend, Morpheus, I was suddenly
aroused from my slumbers by the shade of Lord Byron flitting
before me. He appeared violently agitated, and when my senses
were more fully awakened, I found that he was uttering in a
low, but solemn and impressive tone, bitter imprecations against
those, who with sacrilegious hands had torn the veil of oblivion
from the infirmities of perished genius, and laid bare his minutest
faults to the scorching rays of this world's calumny. My nerves
were so shocked by the phantom's fearful threats, that my blood
almost ceased to flow, my limbs lost their accustomed warmth
and a chilling faintness crept over my frame.
From this faintness I was aroused by the rough, harsh tones
of martial music. I looked hastily up and, in place of the guar-
dian of the poet's fame, stood the shades of Caesar, Cromwell, and
a bloody host of military chieftains, their garments all dripping
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 87
with gore and their brows encircled with the chaplet of military
fame. They, too, seemed anxiously to urge the folly of human
ambition, and ceased not to proclaim, in a voice husky with the
chills of the grave: "The substance of the hero's renown is but
the 'shadow of a shade.'"
Again the scene shifted, and other characters appeared and
vanished with the rapidity of magic. I finally awoke to the
reality of what was going on before me, and then discovered
that in my dream I had seen the juniors step upon the stage,
"strut and puff awhile," then disappear.
From this the current of my thoughts naturally turned on the
folly of college exhibitions. The student knows that in obedience
to the requisitions of the faculty, he must prepare an address to
deliver before a mixed audience of friends and acquaintances,
come what may. Pride and emulation prompt him to make every
exertion, that his performance may be creditable to himself and
gratifying to his friends. If he is possessed of common modesty,
he feels that he cannot write upon any subject such a speech as
will, perhaps, be expected of him. The time approaches and his
piece must be written. Inability will not be received as an ex-
cuse. The terrors of college discipline are hanging over him; and
when he finds there is no escape from the odious duty, he puz-
zles his brain with the energy of despair for thoughts which he
knows are not in it.
After many fruitless endeavors to obtain a subject, as a last
resort he betakes himself to the advice of some elder friend who
has passed the terrors of a first appearance in public. He soon
receives the necessary information, which his friend had received
in the same manner, and which has doubtless been handed down
through many generations of collegians. The youthful orator
takes his way with a light step and joyous countenance to the
nearest library. Without a moment's hesitation he seizes the first
of a long row of reviews and rapidly glances over the table of
contents, the object of his search being a good article on some
subject which will "look well on the bill." He usually finds it
without trouble. He bears off in triumph the volume containing
his future eloquence, and, after carefully concealing it, hastens
to his professor and gives him the subject he has chosen. The
88 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
professor, anxious that his oration may speak well for his instruc-
tor, applauds his selection and tells him of an article in a certain
review in which he will find some good ideas on his subject. The
scholar feigns surprise that the subject has ever been written
upon before, but thinks he will get the review referred to. He
returns to his room, adopts the train of thought furnished him
by the reviewer, and not infrequently copies the language in
which those thoughts are dressed. His oration is thus written,
subject, sentiment, and language, all either borrowed or stolen.
The composition, after having gone through the farce of correc-
tion, is committed and finally delivered under circumstances any-
thing but favorable to the display of practical good sense.
If the evil ended with the exhibition it would be comparatively
slight; but after being praised and flattered for a performance of
this kind, the student is anxious to retain the reputation he has
acquired. Thus the folly must be repeated. Idleness, as well as
inclination, prompts him to adopt this method of obtaining ideas;
for he has now learned how easy it is to write without thought
and gain applause without exertion. The habit is thus formed of
seeking assistance from the productions of others, rather than
relying [on] one's own powers. Large numbers [of] our col-
lege-bred men form their habits precisely in this way. It is not
strange that they finally fall below those whose advantages being
[were] less [and who, therefore,] were compelled to think and
act for themselves from boyhood.
The temptation to avail ourselves of these cork jackets to buoy
us up in our first attempts is, indeed, great. But if we would ac-
quire the skill and strength necessary to stem the opposing tides
of life, these artificial aids must be rejected. By their use vigor-
ous, original thinkers are never made; but this, is what every one
must be who wishes to become eminent.
[The following letter was written on the blank pages of the
program of "Exercises of the Senior Class of Kenyon College,
at Rosse Chapel, Thursday Evening, January 20, 1842." R.
Birchard Hayes was on the program for a "disputation" with
G. Morrison Bryan on the subject, "Is There a Limit to the
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 89
Progress of Society?" By the way, neither Hayes nor Bryan
long continued the affectation of parting his name in the middle.]
GAMBIER, January 24, 1842.
MY DEAR SISTER:--You see by the bill on the other side that
we have been having some speeches in Rosse Chapel--a thing,
by the way, not very unusual about these times. As for myself,
I spoke extempore, which, considering the size of the audience
and the youth of the speaker, was a pretty daring feat if not a
very successful one; but then I've a good share of impudence.
There is a report spread about here that you are in a fit of the
pouts because I did not bow and scrape to your ladyship with
sufficient grace when I was bundled up in my brindle overcoat
and "yaller gloves" on, preparatory to relieving William, who was
holding Dolly in waiting for me. Not to be misunderstood in
saying that the report is "spread about," I mean that Mother's
last epistle which contained the report is "spread about" before
me, which amounts to the same thing.
Well, now, if I did not bow very obsequiously to you when I
departed, it is a "grievous offense and grievously" hath [sic] I
suffered for it. You will not speak to me till I do bid you good-
bye. Well, now, really, are you in earnest? You will not speak
to me? What do you suppose I care? If you will write to me it's
all I expected.
I feel in good humor tonight but no more like writing than I
do like selling myself for the hind leg of a crawfish. If you
would only step up here I could talk your eyes out, but this writing
without any lines to keep the track by is like hunting codfish with
a shotgun by starlight in a mountainous country. We always
in such cases find more feathers than scales.
I'll try again to make a start. The third time is always the
charm. You have heard me speak of Arad Douglass as being a
very large man; and so he is good size; that is, about six feet
three and well proportioned; but then he is a pigmy to Ison, for
Ison is about seven and great on pork and hominy. More than
all that Ison sings well and is an Englishman, though he is not a
member of the Church; but is in the Grammar School and helps
the President set out trees. I do not mention this to prejudice
90 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
[you] against Mr. Ison for I assure you he seldom drinks. So
far from anything of this kind, he brought me a letter from Uncle
at Lower Sandusky where he spent the holidays. Uncle will be
at Columbus about the first of February and wishes to see me. I
do not know whether he intends that I shall come down there or
not. Please inquire of the authority about this. I am 'most
asleep, sleep, sleepy, sleep, sleep.
Levi Kilbourne has returned to college.
"My tale is told, my theme has died into an echo."
Your affectionate brother,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. W. A. PLATT.
Kenyon College, January 25, 1842.--My time for the last two
weeks has been mostly occupied by my preparations for an ex-
tempore discussion with friend Bryan on the question, "Is There
a Limit to the Progress of Society?"
The discussion is now off my hands. This is the first time I
ever spoke extempore before a large audience. I was a little em-
barrassed at first, but it soon wore off and I felt as much at home
before I closed as if I had been long accustomed to public speak-
ing. My success was better than I anticipated, so I was satisfied.
Bryan made a good speech, but on account of recent illness he
did not do himself justice. Neither of us felt very desirous of
doing much. To use a favorite expression of mine, borrowed
from old friend Trowbridge: "Our political salvation did not de-
pend on that performance."
In addition to history, I have read a little of Scott's poetical
writings. "The Lord of the Isles" was after my own heart. Oh,
had I such power of description as is there displayed, the char-
acters of our Revolutionary sires should be portrayed in colors
whose brightness would eclipse the sun. The names of our
heroes and sages would outlive "the Bruce" in the affections of
freemen. I do not pine for talents I can never have; but then I
cannot but think of the glorious field for the display of poetical
talents the scenes and characters of the Revolution afford. What
a country we have; what mountains, what lakes, what rivers,
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 91
what plains, what cataracts, to inspire the poet and arouse poetic
fire! What great deeds of valor and patriotism are to be de-
scribed; what men are to be painted to life! All is here but the
genius to seize the strong points in our history. And shall this
always be wanting? I hope I shall live to see some Shakespeare
arise who shall do justice to the men, the times, and the deeds of
I am too crazy with a fever to write this evening. I rave like
GAMBIER, January 31, 1842.
MY DEAR SISTER:--Your family letter and brother's canes and
medals came together by the stage yesterday. All parties were
well satisfied. I have received pay for some of the articles al-
ready and will obtain what remains due in a few days.
I have just glanced over your very pithy reply to my "concil-
iatory epistle" to see if you had said anything which needed spe-
cial notice. I found nothing to remark upon in the first few
sentences, and after hastily running over the "Goths and Van-
dals of the North" and "the more polished of the South" together
with a snatch of "study" and "intelligence," I began to fear I
should be under the necessity of looking elsewhere for ideas,
when my eyes were suddenly arrested by the thrilling words
"apples" and "mince-pies." "Oh, the exulting sense," the "pulses'
maddening play"! But words are too tame to express what then
I felt. A fly in a pot of honey, "a pig in the clover," a toad in a
gutter,-- O pshaw, out with it,--Hayes at the dinner table!
I have studied pretty well this winter. The past week I have
applied myself so close I have scarcely had time to laugh, so that
I feel in fine spirits now and, if I was only at home, what a laugh
we would have over it!
I commenced the above sentence with study and ended with a
laugh. I'll try it again. My studies at present are not very in-
teresting: Algebra, chemistry, and Paley's "Natural Theology"
all dry, and with the exception of algebra I am not anxious to
excel in them. The chief amusement I derive from them is af-
forded in the recitation room where the Major [President Doug-
lass] occasionally gives us a good anecdote of his military life.
92 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
Like most men who have spent their youth in camp, his words
and thoughts seem to flow in the channel formed by the soldier's
drill. If he wishes to illustrate some remark relative to the
goodness of the Deity, he brings a file of soldiers to his aid.
If he is speaking of the wonderful adaptations of man's faculties
to the situation in which he is placed, he at once introduces a
regiment. But if the human toe is the topic, a whole army
marching with a disciplined step is required to make the subject
clear to our dull comprehensions. The President is, however,
one of the very best men in this world. About two weeks ago
a young man from Mississippi, who came here during the holi-
days, was taken sick. The Major took him to his house and
tended on him like a father till he died day before yesterday.
Mr. Quinn was very generally liked from the little acquaintance
which the students had with him. He was preparing for the
ministry and bore his last illness with unusual calmness and
fortitude. Two brothers who came with him are left desolate,
indeed. Every attention was paid him that kindness could
suggest. The seeds of his disease, congestive fever, were
brought from the South; he seemed conscious from the first
that there was no hope for him, and as far as self was concerned,
he was not sorry that his end was near.
The President when he announced his death to the students
was affected as much is if he had lost an only son. Bishop Mc-
Ilvaine preached a most excellent funeral sermon. He, too, was
greatly affected; he came regularly twice a day to visit Mr. Quinn
and spend some time with him for a week before his death. An-
other of my friends, Jones, was taken with some slight disease.
As soon as it was known, Lieutenant Ross took him to his house
and made him as comfortable as heart could wish till he had en-
tirely recovered. It is a consolation that if one is sick he will not
suffer any more than if he was at home, and in many cases, I ven-
ture to say, not near so much.
I am in good health as usual. My friends are at present well
except Edgar Hinton who occasionally bleeds at the lungs.--
Write soon. Your affectionate brother,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. W. A. PLATT.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 93
GAMBIER, February 7, 1842.
MY DEAR SISTER:--This is the last sheet of paper in my room
or I would not send one so blotted. The Society for which
Brother William made some medals paid me for it, but ten dol-
lars of it was Illinois money and I have returned it so I am
that much minus. Please tell some of the "constituted authori-
ties" that if they wish to see me, they had better send me ten dol-
lars about the quickest. I feel a good deal "stuck up" today, for
I have got my hair cut, my peaked-toed boots blacked, and my
t'other new brindle-colored pants on. And, what is still more
surprising, I have my face washed and a clean collar on. It is a
hard matter for me to "slick up" here for everybody notices it.
It's an unusual thing for me. The bell-ringer, a first rate fellow
he is, too, says I am the only fellow in college who has dressed as
poor as him this winter. He feels grateful to me, for he says
whenever the common loafers ridicule him he could always point
to one who was worse off than him. I have worn my sorrel
overcoat every day. You know how gracefully its folds wind
about my form when I have no other coat on. My cowhide boots,
not having been greased often, gradually acquire a yellow hue
from sympathy with the coat. As for my old pants, they have
been put on such a marvellous short allowance of buttons that it
seems quite miraculous that they should be induced to stay on.
I need not go into any particulars about the total absence of shirt
buttons and whole stockings, for enough has been said to show
you that in the present condition of my wardrobe it is something
of an undertaking to put on my "tothers," and of course should
not be attempted without some powerful causes are in operation.
Well, now, there have been a few curious developments made
about these parts within the past weeks. For spreeing and other
refined amusements, a very respectable number of Kenyon's sons
have been censured or dismissed and the rest of us sorely fright-
ened. But this is only a circumstance. The seniors in the majesty
of their power unanimously resolved that they would not go to
one of the regular examinations of the college. The faculty in-
stead of dismissing every mother's son of us, as they would if
they had been men, were so astonished at our audacity that, like
Mrs. [Mr.] Bumble when Oliver [Twist] asked "for more,"
94 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
they held up their hands in utter dismay, and if it wasn't to save
appearances before the body of the students, I verily believe they
would never take them down. The examination so unceremon-
iously dispensed with was in chemistry, that lovely study. Many
of my classmates were so excited that they really supposed they
were resisting a most unwarrantable oppression. I, of course,
was in the matter up to my eyes, but I wasn't blinded. I was
laughing "under my skin" in a manner very interesting to look
upon. The whole affair reminded [me] of the old couplet:
"Hey diddle, the cat's in the fiddle,
The little dog laughed to see the sport,
And the cow jumped over the moon."
I acted the part of the little dog.
The course of it all was that the faculty challenged us to a
game of boy's play. We accepted and being the best boys have
beat them. They will try to punish us a little but it's all humbug.
We have used them up. This is the first time I was ever before
the faculty and they were a great deal more embarrassed than I
was. However, they are all fine men, but they lack the nerve and
decision to act like Dr. Sparrow.
I was up to Mr. Douglass', sitting up with the old gentleman
who is very sick, a few evenings ago. I heard there that you
have all turned animal magnetizers. Well, I was some astonished
to hear you had become temperate, but to hear of your believing
in such a humbug is quite amusing, quite, I assure you.
That's about all. Don't forget the ten dollars and if you can't
make the change exactly, don't mind if you have to send more,
I'll dispose of any amount you may desire.
MRS. W. A. PLATT. R. B. HAYES.
GAMBIER, February 27, 1842.
MY DEARLY BELOVED:--When my washerman has on his Sun-
day shirt collar and feels perfectly at ease, he is about as genteel
and well-looking as any clownish clodhopper you will find in these
parts, and his name is John Miller. This has no very great in-
fluence on the general politics of the country but when con-
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 95
sidered in connection with my bodily condition, it is an important
fact. You can form no idea of the amount of labor he saves
John and myself, especially these rainy days. Perhaps you would
give the credit to his wife, but we think he is entitled to some.
Be this as it may, we are saved the trouble of bringing water by
his bringing home our clothes so wet that we can save an abun-
dance by merely wringing them dry. Mr. Miller accounts for this
unheard of kindness by saying that "sunshine is very scarce and
his indoor accommodations very poor for drying purposes." By
this time you may be curious to know why I stated the facts
relative to Mr. M-'s personal appearance, which was entirely un-
necessary for the right understanding of our established system
of water-works. To be plain with you, I wished to exercise your
reasoning powers in drawing inferences from certain circum-
stances known to be true. Now the particular inference desired
in this case is that my washerman is not the nicest man to look
upon, when deprived of the artificial grace which a newly-washed
countenance and formidable shirt collar always give to their pos-
Whether you were enabled by your natural acuteness in logic
to deduce this conclusion from the premise or not is immaterial,
for from frequent and close observation I can assure you that
when very much embarrassed (he is a modest man) and very
dirty, he is the worst-looking mortal I ever set eyes on. Here
again you may be at a loss to know why I am anxious to impress
upon your mind a circumstance apparently so unimportant. You
must recollect I have been studying mathematics, the main object
of which is to train the mind to habits of close, vigorous thinking.
I never, therefore, state anything unnecessary, but come at once
to the subject and finish it in the fewest words possible. In my
letters you may have noticed what remarkable conciseness I have
in my style of writing. If you never have, mark the style of this
epistle. See if there is anything which I could have left out, and
I think you will be satisfied that I have not come to college for
To return from this digression to Mr. Miller. As I was saying,
he is an ugly man, especially about the mouth. But Saturday
evening when he brought in my clothes he was much less pre-
96 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
possessing than usual. He came into the room with a halting,
staggering gait, and socked my wet clothes down on a chair, and
instead of hurrying out, blundered up to me and in his embar-
rassment and hurry to get off his hat nearly gouged his eyes out
trying to catch hold of the narrow brim of his beaver and then
commenced something in this wise:
"Mr. Hayes, I was in town this afternoon," here he paused to
catch breath, "and saw John W. Miller, and he said he was at
your mother's house and would like to see you at his house--and
--and would be very glad to see you--and--hoped he said you
would be sure to come to town--and if you did, he wanted you
to be sure to come to his house."
During the delivery of this oration his complexion, naturally
very ruddy, had increased in redness with a pulse constantly ac-
celerating till when he finally stopped for want of breath, I en-
tertained serious fears lest he would burst. After a short interval
of silence which gave him no relief, he again commenced: "I
really intended to bring it up but I entirely forgot all about [it],
but I'll bring it up early Monday morning. If you should happen
to be walking tomorrow you could come to my house, but you
won't, it's too muddy."--Here having an opportunity to say a
word, I quietly asked him what he had got. "Oh yes; why, you
see Mr. J. W. Miller got a letter from your mother and gave it
to me to hand to you and I really intended, but indeed Mr. Hayes
I forgot all about [it] and I will."
"Never mind about it, Monday morning will do," said I. This
eased the poor fellow and he cleared out considerably revived,
leaving me in a fit of laughter from which I have not yet re-
covered. I shall get the letter sent by Mr. J. W. Miller in the
morning and will then try and write a little sense.
R. B. HAYES.
Monday morning, February 28.--I have just got Mother's let-
ter I am glad Uncle has arrived safe. I heard of him in Del-
aware. I shall, of course, be home to see him. My vacation com-
mences about the 18th of March. I have no time to write
more I shall be home about the 20th, no preventing Providence.
Your brother, in love and haste,
MRS. W. A. PLATT. R. B. HAYES.
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 97
[Under date of March 15, 1842, Mr. S. J. Johnson, of the
college faculty, wrote Mrs. Hayes in these words:
"It becomes my duty, at the close of the present college term,
to communicate to you the standing of your son, R. B. Hayes,
and I am happy to say that in his studies he has evinced the
possession of intellectual powers of a superior order. For
strength of mind, clearness of perception, soundness of judgment,
he is surpassed by none among us. In all his studies he has
attained the highest grade. His delinquencies are as follows:
"During the week of examination, owing to some misunder-
standing, himself together with his classmates were induced to
enter upon a course of proceedings the result of which was a
censure from the faculty and a withdrawing of the privileges
of matriculated students. With the exception of this his conduct
has been most gentlemanly and exemplary.
"In the opinion of all who know him, he bids fair to became
a bright ornament to society."]
Columbus, March 27, 1842.--Many, many weeks of labor and
rest, pleasure and pain, have passed since I last penned a line in
my book, misnamed a diary. I am now enjoying myself with
my friends at home. I shall try and atone for past neglect by in-
creased diligence while I have leisure.
The Junior Exhibition took place as usual at the close of the
last winter session. The class was a poor one but they were aided
by a representation of the literary societies of the college so that
the whole affair taken together passed off in fine style.
A year ago and I was in their stead. How the weeks and
months have flown! Soon I shall have to leave the scenes of
many a frolic and many an hour of joy, and, that too, forever.
From this fond theme how can I part ere half unladen is my
GAMBIER, April 14, 1842.
DEAR SISTER:--Two stages containing twenty-two souls left
Columbus one very rainy day in the spring of 18--bound for
Gambier, a place famous for being the seat of a literary institu-
98 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
tion, commonly known as the "Star of the West." The only per-
sons of this company who had arrived at years of discretion were
a Kentuckian taking his son to college, a tutor of the literary in-
stitution mentioned above, and a young man about twenty-five
years of age who was about to commence his education after
having lived, or rather existed somewhere (I say somewhere be-
cause I cannot conjecture where a man can be a number of years
without learning anything, either of the world or the woods),
where books and schools are unknown. The rest of the travel-
lers were children and boys between the ages of four and twenty,
all fond of fun and disposed to be merriest over the sufferings of
The hero of this romantic expedition (the twenty-five year
old) appeared as all young men do when arrayed for the first
time in a whole coat with brass buttons and swallow-tail, tipped
off with a pair of genteel cowhides and topped off with a coon-
skin, bell-crown beaver, with nap like the fleece of a merino, and
slicked off with a piece of his sister's new calico for a handker-
chief, and his mother's old apron for a neckerchief. (Speaking
of this fellow's "tipping off," what would Mother say if she knew
I had walked seven miles in the midst of the hardest shower that
ever fell with my new beaver without an unbrella!)
If the hero's appearance was prepossessing, his intellect was
commanding. Like other heroes, his courage became more con-
spicuous as the clouds became more threatening. It was ex-
hibited by sudden starts whenever the coach leaned a little to one
side and by sundry spasmodic twitches of the muscles of his face
when contemplating the dripping, gloomy aspect of things with-
out. A close observer might also have perceived signs of the
lion in his rueful visage, when the conversation turned on the
"six-mile woods," and in the sorrowful, martyr-like expression
of his features when it was quietly suggested by a youngster
about my size that we should probably have to go through them
after dark; but oh! what pitiful glances at his boots and beaver
when I added, "and take it afoot in the rain and mud." All
these symptoms satisfied me that he was a "character" and I
waited anxiously for the trials. But when at last we were obliged
to get out, he seemed resigned to his fate. He made no com-
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 99
plaint, but in a mournful tone of voice occasionally asked some
one near him if he thought it would ever stop? Neglecting in his
grief to specify the precise object to which it referred; though I
thought he was speaking of some minor pain or, perhaps, the
toothache, judging from his countenace. But something awful
was yet in store for him. While meditating on the loss of tallow,
consequent to his last tramp in the mud, he fell asleep, when a
sudden jolt of the stage shook his hat off. Hats never fall into
the stage.--His didn't! The boys all showed their sympathy by
a roar of laughter. The owner of the chapeau looked around
with the air of a condemned criminal, and suddenly grasping his
head as if determined not to lose it, learned the extent of his mis-
fortune. He asked the driver if his hat was hurt much and was
answered: "I can't find it." All hands were out looking in dou-
ble-quick time for all were anxious to share the laugh which
would follow the recovery. But no hat was to be found. One
chap suggested that it might have fallen up, as everything above
seemed to be coming down. Another ventured to hint that pos-
sibly "he didn't have any hat in the first place." The loser looked
at the last speaker with an incredulous stare, wondering that any
one should have failed to notice his bran-new hat. All conjecture
was soon hushed by the driver exclaiming, "I've found it," as he
drew something from a deep rut full of water, looking very like a
dishrag. The wheel had crushed the hat till it was indeed "with-
out form and void,"--all but the void, for it contained some
two quarts of mud and water.
Pshaw, here I am at the end of my paper. When I commenced
I intended to tell some sine-curious things of this fellow, to which
the loss of his hat was merely introductory. This happened be-
fore dark. We got to Mount Vernon about 3 o'clock [A. M.]
The kingbolt came out about one and left us in the mud. Owl
Creek was impassable. We carried twenty-two trunks over a
narrow footbridge in the darkest night. In all these events the
hero figured conspicuously.
I am here in the same old room. John is back. Studying has
I will write again and tell about county orders, Hadley's col-
lection, etc., etc. Knox County treasury is empty. I can't get the
100 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
fifty-one dollars for some weeks. Wish you would tell the
"Patres Conscripti" to send me about thirty dollars good money
to pay tuition and room rent, if they please. If they don't please
they'll hear from
R. B. HAYES.
April 15.--We have lots of new students. Hedges has joined
the Y. A. Washingtonian. I shall not, now he is safe of his own
MRS. W. A. PLATT.
GAMBIER, April 25, 1842.
MY DEAR BROTHER:--Ever since you first informed me of
the critical situation of our dear Fanny I have entertained the
most anxious fears for her safety. Yours of the 22d, which I
have just received, has not diminished them. She has such a
feeble constitution she cannot endure but little. I hope the treat-
ment she will receive . . . will be of benefit. Do let me
hear from you or Mother as often as possible, if you write but
three lines. Under the most favorable circumstances, I presume
from what you said that we shall be in suspense for a great while.
... I have no fears but she will have all done for her that
is in the power of human aid. . . .
I am in good health as usual. There is nothing of interest
here. All our friends are well. Bryan has just been in. Pre-
sents his love to all. In haste.
Your affectionate brother,
R. B. H.
W. A. PLATT.
GAMBIER, May 31, 1842.
MY DEAR BROTHER:--It is a long while since I last wrote to
you. If by writing I could repay you for your kindness in keep-
ing me informed of our dear Fanny's situation you should hear
from me very often. But indeed I can scarely find matter to fill
a single page. There is as great a void created by F---'s absence
in my thoughts as in your home. No, she is not absent from my
thoughts, but there is a feeling of emptiness which continually
reminds me that she is gone [from home]. But I speak too
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 101
much of this. You suffer enough I know already. I should not
I was in town Monday. Mr. J. W. Miller was very glad to see
me and urged me to come and make him a good visit. He appears
to be a fine man. I almost wish I had become sooner acquainted
with him; perhaps I might have had a better opinion of Mount
Vernon and its citizens. There does not appear to be much doing
there now, though as much as usual, perhaps, for the season. Out
here we are jogging on without much variety. Bryan's health is
better than common this spring; he is not troubled much about
the old story of an invasion. He thinks it was all a ruse of
Santa Anna's to get men and money in his hands to establish his
authority against the chance of a new turn in political affairs.
He has shown his sagacity, if that was the case, for his old rival,
Bustamente, is said to have beaten him for President. They will
now decide the matter by the sword in a civil war.
Only nine weeks remain till I shall leave here to return home.
How I hope that I shall find all as I left it. Fanny intended com-
ing out here Commencement. I anticipated much pleasure from
her visit. I still have hope that she may come. I am glad Mother
intends coming. She needs something to restore her spirits, if
possible, after so great anxiety. I hope your health will be pre-
served to you. I do not know what Mother would do without
your support. Do write to me as often as you can. I can make
no adequate return, but then you need but write a few words just
to let me know how all of you are. I received the cloth that you
sent. It was uninjured and such as I like very much. Mr. Had-
ley told me he had written or would write you about your note
against Siler. I sent you a paper containing his petition to be de-
clared a bankrupt. He is not worth much. The county orders
you gave me cannot be paid, I fear, till the taxes are paid in the
fall. They sell for ninety or ninety-three cents on the dollar. It
is of course much better to hold on to it.
Remember me to all.--Good night. R. B. HAYES.
Do excuse brevity. I have time and inclination but not spirits.
I try to keep melancholy thoughts out of my mind, but when
writing home I can't.--R. B. H.
W. A. PLATT.
102 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
KENYON COLLEGE, June 13, 1842.
MY DEAR MOTHER:--I was overjoyed at the favorable account
of Fanny's health contained in Brother William's letter of last
week. I have strong hopes that by this time you have had de-
cisive evidence of her improvement and good reason to believe
that she will speedily recover. It appears to me a good sign that
thus far her state has been precisely as Dr. Awl anticipated at
first. I really hope that she will be able to come with you to our
commencement. The trip would do her so much good after being
so long confined.
The session is more than half out. Commencement day is the
fifth of August. We shall have a good deal to occupy our minds
till then, although the hardest of our regular studies are now
finished. We have a great quantity of small jobs to finish which
have been accumulating ever since we entered. These are chiefly
with reference to societies, such as writing compositions and the
The weather has been so cold that there has been much more
studying done than is usual in the summer, and of course we have
had less frolicking and trouble, for these are always the result of
idleness. There have, however, been two dismissions, both of
which were richly deserved months ago. Now I am speaking of
these matters, I might as well inform you that the senior class
have all been restored to the grade which they lost by their
chemistry rebellion of last term. It was done without any solici-
tation on our part but merely from the faculty's desire to do us
justice; or that should have been their only motive, though it may
be that they were influenced some by the fact that unless they did
so, we could not graduate.
Before I leave I must dispose of a few bedclothes I have with-
out you wish me to bring them home. The sheets are good, but
as for the quilt and comfort, they are rather dusty for common
use although very fine for college.
I have bought, as the merchants say, a cheap and well-selected
assortment of summer goods, which I may have occasion to use
if I should ever go to the West Indies with Uncle, but in this
climate they will only serve as a memorial of the warmth we en-
joyed in former times. Speaking of clothes suggests the idea
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 103
of expense and that again brings to mind the chinking of specie or
rattling of bills--things which are remembered like the indistinct
visions of a dream, for I have not been charmed by the reality
of such sounds for many a day. Urbana shinplasters and Gran-
ville issues have been my only source of enjoyment in this quar-
ter. But to the hard reality: My county order may not be cashed
this summer and in the meantime I need some money. I have
already had thirty dollars sent me. During the session I shall
probably spend a hundred. This is considerable more than usual,
but then this is my last session and I have a good deal of extra
expense, diploma, commencement, etc. Now the conclusion of
the whole matter is that about now fifty dollars would be thank-
fully received. You must not think I am in any great want im-
mediately, but I had rather have it soon. Besides, the considera-
tion of this subject has enabled me to fill a respectable letter.
Give my love to all. Write often.
Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
GAMBIER, June 28, 1842.
MY DEAR MOTHER:--In the letter I wrote you a few days
since I said nothing definite about your abiding place while you
remain at Gambier. I did not mention it for the very good reason
that, for the life of me, I couldn't tell where you would find
shelter. There is no public house here and all of my old friends
were crowded and so I concluded to put my trust in Providence
and wait till you come. Today Professor Ross came up to my
room and said he had understood that some of my friends were
to be up and that he should expect them to make his house their
home while they remain on the hill. I accepted his invitation for
you and you will now have the very best place on the hill for your
stay. Mr. Ross is afraid that he shall have so many ladies to ac-
commodate that perhaps Uncle will have to sleep somewhere else,
but he will live at Mr. Ross' also. I'll take care of Uncle, how-
ever, and do it at least as well as it was done at Worthington
I hope you will get here Tuesday afternoon and stay at least
till Thursday. I shall not go home so soon as that. I wish you
104 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
could let me know when you will get to Mount Vernon. At all
events, when you get here go straight to Professor Ross' and
there you'll be at home.
Love to all.--Your son, RUD.
My Franklin money is no go.--Please bring me as much as
thirty dollars, specie-paying banks.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
GAMBIER, July 18, 1842.
MY DEAR MOTHER:--The package and money sent by you and
Brother William were duly received. I am sorry Fanny will not
be able to return to her family as soon as was anticipated; but
from the favorable account of her health given in William's last
letter, I presume there is little reason to fear that she will be
forced to remain in her present situation for many weeks.
This is probably the last letter I shall write you before the
close of the session. Our examinations will be finished Wednes-
day next, and I shall have nothing, or but little more to do be-
fore Commencement. I expect to ramble about the country to
recruit my health between now and that time. Not but I am
hearty enough now, but the late freshet has brought an abundance
of fish, game is plenty, and the weather so warm that hunting
and fishing will be my chief occupations.
I am nearly prepared for Commencement. A few hours' labor
and my studies in Kenyon College are finished. You will be here
if possible, and I wish you to write immediately and tell me what
calculations you have made, who you are coming with, at what
time, etc. I will make preparations to have you accommodated
as well as circumstances will permit. On the day of our exer-
cises I can not be with you but a few moments. I hope you will
have good company with you. On that occasion, we are often a
good deal crowded. I think you will enjoy yourself very much.
It is something quite new to you.
If you make no arrangements with those who are to be your
companions about the time you will stay and the place, I will see
Mr. J. W. Miller. He will be glad to show you every attention at
Mount Vernon and will probably come out here with you. You
had better come to Mount Vernon Monday evening, before
AT KENYON COLLEGE, 1841-1842 105
August 3. You will then have time enough to see the beauties of
this place. Or if you prefer it, stay a few days after the close
of the term. You will have no chance to see much the last day.
I prefer that you would stay a short time after Commencement
if you have any time. However, it will be a great time with me.
Anyhow, I shall not pack up till all is over and will not leave for
home till Saturday, when two or three of us intend to hire an old
apple-cart, or some other genteel conveyance, to carry ourselves
and an extra amount of lumber to Columbus.
I don't know what I have said above. I am in wretched haste,
but what I mean to say is that if you will come, you shall find a
home and the company that is with you; only, you must send me
word right off. And I would rather you would have company to
return with you, as I shall not leave for some days. If Uncle is
here you can go down with him.
Well, I haven't bettered it any, but I expect you will know that
I wish you to come and to write immediately.
Bryan's eyes are improving. He will, I hope, be ready to speak
at Commencement. He was sorry he could not have called to see
you again, but his time was all taken up during his short stay in
Columbus. He wishes to be remembered to you, etc.
Everybody is well here, I believe. We had two weddings the
other night. The "74" is torn down and the grass-plot in front
of college is being mowed by a little stumpy lazy Englishman.
No other news.
Love to all.--Your affectionate son,
R. B. HAYES.
P.S.--Bring plenty of money. Perhaps my Franklin money
will not answer all my purposes. I find it not readily taken for
debts, though current enough in trade.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
[Hayes's commonplace book contains an undated pencil copy
of a letter, evidently written to a college friend soon after his
graduation, from which the following paragraphs are extracted.]
In process of time commencement week came on, and with it
106 RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES
came parties, and at the parties we had silly ladies and weak
lemonade--admirably adapted to each other, but ill calculated
to enliven the spirits of the "codfish" of Kenyon. Besides, the
conversations were an intellectual treat. 'Twould have done your
heart good to have heard Archie Hamilton and Miss Leonard
discuss the wind and weather for one long hour at a stretch!
After that came commencement day--that great day for which
all other days were made. And it went. And that night I felt
of myself all over, and to my astonishment, I found 'twas the
same old Rud. Not a single cubit added to my stature; not a
hair's-breadth to my girth. If anything, on the contrary, I felt
more lank and gaunt than common, much as if a load were off my
I came home and tarried one week. Then I went up to Mich-
igan to see my old friend Trowbridge. I found him in the har-
vest field "earning his bread by [in] the sweat of his brow
[face]." A more hearty shake and cordial welcome I never re-
ceived. His family were of the right stamp. Old Trow was un-
changed, and in five minutes I was at home. I staid with him
four days which we spent riding, hunting, and talking over old
times. Riding and hunting were rare sport, but the old times
like old wine had so improved with age that I thought them
vastly better than they ever were before.
I am now at home, reviewing some of my college studies and
shall commence law in about three weeks. I shall also commence
German. It is like enlisting in a crusade, but I hope to be able to
read Schiller in his own tongue in two or three years and then, if
ever, I shall find my reward.
Previous Chapter ||
Table of Contents
|| Next Chapter