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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Old Governor’s Sorrow

By William Stephens (1671–1753)

[A Letter to his Son in England. Written from Savannah, Ga., Sept. 20, 1740.]

DEAR SON: I received yours of the 25th of April, intimating that the mournful event was come to pass, which a former letter bade me expect, of the final separation of your mother from us all; which has made such an impression, as words cannot utter, on the weakness of a man already pressed down with sorrow, troubles, and the infirmities of age. Endeavoring to recollect what little faculty of reason I had left, during that pungent grief which oppresses my heart, I remembered it was my duty to lay my hand upon my mouth; and without repining to improve the short time I have left, that I may make sure of entering that place of rest, where I may find her a saint; though from me so many years by the divine permission, for my chastisement and better instruction. To what end is grief? Or what does lamentation avail? Nevertheless ’tis a debt which nature demands, and tears are now the only token of that affection which all the crosses in life could never extinguish.

When I return my thoughts towards her offspring, there also sorrow overwhelms me; many of them toiling in an unkind world, and hardly attaining to a sufficient competency of living with comfort; and here you, to whom I am writing, stand first in my thoughts, who have partaken in a large measure of the bitter draught, whereof the dregs, I fear, yet remain to my share.

More and more anxious do I grow to learn how it fares with all that are left of my family; who now, I fear, are become dispersed, without any certain place of resort, where to meet sometimes, and take council together how best to withstand all adversities. Pray let me have the relief my heart stands in need of, in this particular more especially.

Before I shut up, as I am left here for a short while, who (from a miserable inability to do any good among you) scarce deserve the name of a father; fain would I offer somewhat of advice, by what means your future attainment to the most perfect happiness in this life, is to be sought; and, most undoubtedly, nothing can so well conduce to it, as unity among yourselves, and keeping alive that sincere affection one towards another, which I ever thought (and it has been one of the most comfortable thoughts in my life) was subsisting in the heart of each of you. ’Tis this divine remedy that will cure all the anguish which arises from the bitter crosses in this life; sticking together in all conflicts of adversity, when a threefold cord is not easily broken; lovingly assisting, but not depending upon, one another; and what can hurt you? Others may attain to grandeur and a richer state of life: but what harm does that do you? You’ll surely find peace of mind here, and happiness, beyond the power of devils to take from you, hereafter.

Tell them all that their poor, aged father entreats them, by the tender mercies of Christ, to embrace this his most ardent advice, the last of the sort I may ever give; and recommending you all to the protection of the good God, who is the Fountain of Love, I remain,

Your very affectionate father,