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I sent you a packet by N. Hazard, and from that time to this I have not had the most distant prospect of conveying a letter to you. However, I have written a number of scrawls, the substance of which you shall now have.
The times with me are pretty much as usual; not so full of action as I could wish; and I find this propensity to action is very apt to lead me into scrapes. T. B. has been here since I wrote you last; he came very unexpectedly. You will conclude we had some confab about Miss -----. We had but little private chat, and the whole of that little was about her. He would now and then insinuate slyly what a clever circumstance it would be to have such a wife, with her fortune.
T. BURR, by his kindness to me, has certainly laid me under obligations, which it would be the height of ingratitude in me ever to forget; but I cannot conceive it my duty to be in the least influenced by these in the present case. Were I to conform to his inclination, it could give him pleasure or pain only as the consequence was good or bad to me. The sequel might be such as would inevitably cause him the most bitter anguish; and, in all probability, would be such if I should consult his fancy instead of my judgment. And who can be a judge of these consequences but myself? But even supposing things could be so situated that, by gratifying him, I should certainly be the means of his enjoying some permanent satisfaction, and should subject myself to a bare probability of misery as permanent, would it not stagger the most generous soul to think of sacrificing a whole life's comfort to the caprice of a friend? But this is a case that can never happen, unless that friend has some mean and selfish motive, such as I know T. Burr has not. I can never believe that too great deference to the judgment of another, in these matters, can arise from any greatness of soul. It appears to me the genuine offspring of meanness. I suppose you are impatient for my reply to these importunities. I found my tongue and fancy too cramped to say much. However, I rallied my thoughts and set forth, as well as I was able, the inconveniences and uncertainty attending such an affair. I am determined to be very blunt the next time the matter is urged.
I have now and then an affair of petty gallantry, which might entertain you if you were acquainted with the different characters I have to deal with; but, without that, they would be very insipid.
I have lately engaged in a correspondence of a peculiar nature. I write once, and sometimes twice a week, to a lady who knows not that she ever received a line from me. The letters, on both sides, are mostly sentimental. Those of the lady are doubtless written with more sincerity, and less reserve, than if she knew I had any concern with them. Mr. ----- received a letter from Miss -----. He is very little versed in letter-writing, and engaged, or rather permitted, me to answer it, not thinking thereby to embark in a regular correspondence, but supposing the matter would thus end. I have had many scruples of conscience about this affair, though I really entered into it not with any sinister view, but purely to oblige----. I should be glad to know your opinion of it. You will readily observe the advantage I have over -----. He is of an unsuspicious make, and this gives me an opportunity (if I had any inclination) to insert things which might draw from her secrets she would choose I should be ignorant of. But I would suffer crucifixion rather than be guilty of such an unparalleled meanness. On the contrary, I have carefully avoided saying any thing which might have the least tendency to make her write what she would be unwilling I should see.
- Aaron Burr
- Project Gutenberg's Memoirs of Aaron Burr, Volume 1., by Matthew L. Davis, 1836