As these letters go, this one is rather thoughtful and philosophical. We find John Eleazar Fairbanks (1793-1860) in a reflective mood as he recounts his journey through Holland and contemplates his imminent departure for home after a long business trip abroad. He writes, “Such, unhappily, is the fallibility of man, that civilized society has never yet made him in practice what we ought to expect him to be”, which I find to be a delightful dollop of world-weary wisdom. It gives me great pleasure to read his words and discover what a kind, generous, and loving person my 4x great-grandfather seems to have been.
Mrs. John Fairbanks
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Born of Cap’n Smith
Thank heaven my dearest Nancy I have at length accomplished all the objects which brought me to this country and tomorrow I once more turn my face towards home. I have just taken my place in Coach to Bristol and thence go to Falmouth where I join the Halifax Packet and again embark on the tempestuous ocean where I hope the almighty may still continue to protect me as he has hitherto done. I think I have great reason to be grateful that I have escaped thus far so well though all the perils and dangers of traveling. You may believe me when I say how happy I feel at the thoughts of once more meeting you and my dear children. The desire of doing so will make me very impatient should our voyage be protracted beyond the usual 30 or 35 days. Your late affectionate letters I have read over and over again. I need not say how grateful I am for them. You have most religiously performed your promise to me when I left you as reflects writing. If it were possible for me to love you more, I should do so for this. I am much interested in your account of our little ___ with their pens in their hands writing to papa to come home. Tell them he is coming and will bring them some pretty books and will not leave them again –
My last letter to you was from London. I sent it by way of the St. John’s MB and hope it may have reached you as this arrives. I have written so much lately that I forgot what I said in that, but I suppose I gave you some account of the countries I visited. My stay was limited to fewer days at each place than was necefsary even to obtain the commercial information I was seeking. However, I obtained some, which I think will be useful hereafter. I found the people very civil and attentive wherever I went. I was obliged to speak French, which I found I have too much neglected, and was sorry for, as I was introduced to many interesting and well-informed men and women. I first went to Hilvoetsberg, then to Rotterdam, The Hague, Hailaam, Amsterdam, Leyden, and back to Rotterdam. Then to Antwerp, Michlin, Bufsols, Waterloo, then Burges and Ostend. In my route the finest collections of pictures in the world were through open to me, the most magnificent buildings, even the palaces and private apartments of their royal family was thrown open. I had an opportunity of seeing many very interesting objects. The trip on the whole was pleasant, but given missing home and I envy not others all the enjoyment of ___ the Dutch. I found a different people from what I expected. They
have made great improvement in the arts and sciences and surprising advances in the different manufactures. Their houses and furniture are magnificent and their towns excefsively clean and neat. The canals which run through their streets lined with nobel trees which offer a delightful shade in summer, give to their cities an appearance totally different from anything of the kind in England. But I must defer a further account of my visit till we meet. I came over to London from Ostend in a steam boat. We had a heavy gale of wind all the way which kept us 28 hours on the passage instead of 15 which is normal. I remained a week in London after my return and then came here by boat in 28 hours. I had a pleasant ride, but was a little engaged, as at home, nursing young children – a widow lady in great distress was a fellow pafsenger. She had just returned from India where she had lost her husband. Brother and sister the poor creature was very sick and you may suppose very much fatigued with the care of the children. On her arrival she went immediately to Ireland where her friends are. I saw Edwin Collins in the same boat and requested him to take care of them which I am sure he would do. It is difficult to conceive how much wretchedness and misery the world contains. I have in the
course of my visit been a witness to some heart-rending scenes. They are calculated, my dear, to make us more properly estimate the blessings we are pofsefsed of. No country pofsefses a greater accumulation of all the advantages of civilization than this. Freedom and education are universally diffused, but perhaps in no country do you see so great a number of the wretched victims of crime and misfortune laboring under all the accumulated ills of poverty and want. Such, unhappily, is the fallibility of man that civilized society has never yet made him in practice what we ought to expect him to be if we only look to the advantages of improvement and cultivation in theory. Since I have returned here I have been much at Faircloughs and my esteem for them both I afsure you increases the more I become acquainted with them. She is indeed a charming woman. She wishes much to become acquainted with you. It would afford me much pleasure could I accomplish it by bringing you together. I am sure you would find her quite to your mind, they live very retired. F. was much from home as I am. She only sees him at meal times and is of course much alone as the distance of the Docks is considerable. Their child is in the country. I fear it is not a very promising one but hope it may improve.
The time the packet should leave Falmouth is about the 11th Sept. but they are very irregular in sailing. I hope I may not be detained there long. I am told it is a wretched place to stop at. Mathew Almon and his wife are to be fellow pafsengers and I have just heard that Robin has returned to London. He may take it unto his head to accompany us but I for one can well spare him. I am obliged to have all my luggage here to go in the Pandora. Edwin Collins and fear I shall have to ___ at Falmouth. Let me now beg of you dear Nancy not to look for the Packet before the 20th October. By making up your mind to this you may save yourself some uneasinefs. We generally look out too soon for our friends on board ships and anxiety prevents us making sufficient allowances for headwinds, detention, etc. With best love to all friends, and once more commending you and my children to the protection of the Almighty. I set out for home. Yours ever, J.E. Fairbanks