To Sarah Savage Thatcher

    New York City        16 December 1787


    My dear Sally—

    Before this time I fear you begin to apprehend something is the matter that I have not wrote you since my leaving Boston—and are anxious to know the Reason—I confess my dear, it is much longer than I ever thought I should be seperated from you without writing you several Letters, in the mean time; especially as I have it in my power to send directly to you by the post, once every week—But I had rather you should even blame, and charge, me with inattention, for a short time, than have [you] know beforehand the real cause of my long silence—

    A few days before I left Biddeford I was told by a friend that it would not do for me to think of going to New-York if I had not had the Small-pox; or I must be inoculated the moment I should arrive there—this alarmed me—I was afraid to take the Small-pox; and yet had taken such steps towards going to New-York, that I could not honourably decline—This matter I endeavoured to keep from you, that you need not be in continual fear for me And I still hoped that I might reside at New-York without danger, notwithstanding the Reports—But when I got to Boston the Reports of Danger were made certain[.]1 I then had nothing to do but return home, or collect courage to take the Small-pox by inoculation—Having made preparation for the Journey and got so far on my way I finally concluded on the Latter—Accordingly on the monday after I wrote you from Boston I set off in the Stage and arrived well at New-York in the evening of the Saturday following—when I got here my first enquiry was as to the danger of my residing till Spring without taking the Small-pox—And the people all agreed in my being in iminent Danger—And that Innoculation was carried to such perfection as not to be regarded any more than the slightest cold—In fact that they never knew a person to die under the operation—This gave me Courage & the next day I sent for a Physician & took the Infection—The Symptoms I had favourably and all tell me I never was in the least danger whatever—but I broke out very full and I believe had more than two thousand pock on my body. I have been confined to my chamber more than a fortnight—Yet many tell me if I had walked out every day it would have been better for me—But I have got through it at last & am comfortable, My eyes are sore & weak2—I shall go below & dine to day—I have shifted my close [clothes] & feel myself well—Thus, my dear, you are let into the reason of my long silence; had I told you my intention before I left Biddeford or Boston I think you would have been less happy for five weeks past—

    I have heard twice from you since I have been here, once by Mr. [Rufus] King—and once by a Letter from a Mrs. Stone at York to Mrs. [Dorothy] Elsewo[rth] my Land Lady—By these accounts you & [the] little children are well—they afforded me g[reat] satisfaction; but I had rather hear from you [by] a Letter of your own—than any other way.

    By your not writing I conclude that Mr. [Silas] Lee is abroad and you have nobody to inclose your Letters—If so call on Brother [Jeremiah] Hill—I hope he visits you now & then—But my dear, write me as soone as you can & tell me every thing about our little dear family. How does Samuel P. Savage Thatcher do? is he a good boy?3 does he drive about out doors—and ride often; I would have him ride every day with Charles4 to water the Horses without fail—The little Girl [Sally] I long to take in my arms & kiss her till she cries—

    Tempy [Temperance Hedge], Ratchel5 & all I hope are well—I often think of Home & say to myself there only is true happiness—Adieu my dearest creature, for the present—for the future I shall write you often—And be assured I am your most affectionate & constant

    [P.S.] I shall write to Major Hill as soon as my eyes will let me—

    * * *

    ALS, TFP. Addressed to Biddeford; franked. An only slightly abridged copy of this letter appeared in the [Hawaii] Honolulu Advertiser, 1 April 1924, courtesy of J.A. Balch of Honolulu, “an interested spectator of the battle of the anti-vaccinationists against the policy of compulsory vaccination which has been raging in our local press recently,” who hoped it “might throw some interesting sidelights on the methods of that day” as well as “be taken as a guide to duty to country for many of our present-day politicians.”