To Sarah Savage Thatcher

    New York City        16 October 1788

    Dear Sally—

    How strangely unaccountable man sometimes is seems to be in his conduct, and upon what triviel circumstances his Resolutions, formed upon apparent good reasons, are departed from—A divine would call this human frailty the effect of original sin; and from it inculcate their favorite doctrine of humility and self-abasement—with a distrust of our own powers and faculties—But I look upon this power, or rather aptitude to change, and form new opinions and judgments, upon every new situation of circumstances a singular perfection—indeed, it is rather strange that our conduct is so uniform as it appears to be—And I dont know but it is an argument of little enquiry—But I will wave this speculation for the present; it may be as unentertaining to you as politics, or news—I will tell you what gave rise to it in my mind, this morning—In my last pacquet I wrote you that it was probable I should be at home, by the last of next week; and that I had it under consideration to take passage by water, as far as Providence [Rhode Island], or New-Haven [Connecticut]1—According to this plan I went, yesterday morning, with Mr. [Rufus] King and engaged a passage to the former place in a vessel that is to sail on the morrow—and had begun to put my things in order—But last evening about seven, my Doctor called upon me, according to a previous direction, and gave me an emetic—this operated in about fifteen minutes pretty severely—so that my strength was gone before eight; I laid down but continued heaving and vomiting till near ten—I then stoped puking, but felt very uncomfortable—my feelings so much resembled a state of sea-sickness, that I resolved against going to Providence by water—I got to sleep about eleven; and tho I enjoyed but a poor nights sleep I feel like a new man this morning—and still think not to venture by water—And if I should not—it is doubtfull whether I leave this City before monday after next—if I do before monday fortnight2

    All this is another argument in favour of an hypothesis, I advanced in a former Letter, that home-sickness depended very much upon ill health3

    But away with hypotheses—I want much to see my dear Sally & our little comforts, as she calls them—And tho I do not set off so soon as tomorrow it will be but a little while before I shall be with her & them—during which time I am hers most affectionately

    Post. Script. I have never wrote you a word about this City—whether it is large, or small—the Buildings good, or bad—elegant or mean—And shall now only observe that there are in this City eight houses four-story in heighth—Five in Broad-way, all adjoining—one owned by Mr. Lynch, one by a Mr. Levingston & three by Mr. Mc,Coomb4—These are allowed, by all I have heard speak of them, to exceed, in magnificence and grandeour, any pile of Buildings in North-America—They are built with Brick, and sleighted at the top These are regular four story building[s] from the surface—and one room of full heighth under ground—On their back part, fronting the North-River, they exhibit to view five Stories compleat from the surface of the Ground—By a Storie I do not include what is commonly called the Cork-loft—

    In a chamber of one of these the Congress now sets—and the other rooms are occupied by the Offices of the several public Departments—The front of these Buildings are paved out five or six yards with large square stones cut for that purpose—

    In great dock-street there is another four-story dwelling house—At the Corner of Queen-Street & King-street a sixth seventh; and in Water-Street, little east of Fly-Market, is the eighth—All of Brick and sleighted—

    In front Street are three or four wooden Stores each four Stories high—I have noticed the foregoing Buildings because dwelling houses and Stores of such heighth are not common—At present I do not recollect any dwelling houses in Boston, or the other Sea-ports in Massachusetts, more than three Stories—But I shall be more particular in my attention to these things hereafter—

    In ancient Rome there was an Edict by one of the Emperors, that no person should build his house more than seventy feet high—Allowing then ten feet to a Story, their houses must have been two stories higher than the houses I have before described in this City—

    A house seven stories high must be an enormous pile indeed! Necessity is the principal cause of more than two story-houses—Hence in the Country ’tis rare indeed to meet with a three story house—But vanity may sometimes affect, in the Country, what results from necessity in a crouded City—If the wealth and Luxury of a City may be computed by the magnificence of their dwelling houses North America is yet much behind Rome in the days of Augustus—I think it was in his reign the foregoing Edict was passed—

    In the morning I thought my Letter was too long; but what shall I say now to my post-Scriptum? This exceeds the Letter—And the subject is not interesting to a woman—If you do not care to read it, lay it up for Philips; should he live to the age of thirty or forty and happen to be in this City at that time, he may then, by comparing the contents of this tedious post-Script. with his own observation of facts, be enabled to determine the progress of wealth and Luxury of the people—

    We ought not to wish time away, but were he old enough to read this post-Script. I verily believe I should lengthen it out another sheet—but I will lay down my pen after observing—I have been to the hall and find my head much clearer, and my mind more capable of attention than before I took the emetic last evening—Adieu I am going to dinner—

    Afternoon—Half after four—

    I must either begin another Letter, or add a line, or two to the foregoing Post-Script—Tell friend Silas [Lee], who tis probable will be at Portland when you receive this Letter, that in one of my last nights naps I dreemed, and behold I was somewhere so situated that I could see and hear the Court in which was tried the action of Spring vs Myers—that he and Mr. Bradbury pleaded, each for his Client—after which the Court gave Judgment against Myers—and ruled that friend Silas’ plea was bad—I thought I could distinctly hear the arguments, and was clearly of opinion the Court was wrong in their Judgment—

    Friend Silas appeared to me to fail in his mode of arguing, by being too legally learned and technical in his Language—He did not come down to a sufficient familiarity in his diction to the easy comprehension of the Court5—farewell—

    * * *

    ALS, TFP