Rives Family Papers,
Special Collections Department, University of Virginia
Castle Hill, March 29
You ask me, my dearest child, in your letter of today if I am going to wear black, and request a speedy answer so as to regulate your own course. I shall not put it on. I believe my friends know that I have a particular dislike to it, and I have been so circumstanced that it has never offended any body to know that I have not in any case complied with the custom except when my husband lost his father. If I were in a city where it might be thought a want of respect for the family, I should subdue any repugnance--but being in so secluded a situation, it does not occur to any one to criticise. It is true that dear Isabella seemed nearer to me than many other nearer connections, but as I did not wear mourning for Mrs. Pollard, Mrs. Landon Rives and others, it will not be expected; at least I hope so, for my course is determined. For cities one is obliged to sacrifice to public opinion--In the country we are more at liberty. I believe constant black, especially in summer has the great disadvantage of being unhealthy, and so far is it from being convenient or cheap, handsome mourning is the most inconvenient and expensive dress that can be worn.--I may have a superstition about it, but at my age, where I am called on to assume it I never expect to wear any thing else--and so I endeavor to defer the evil day.--
I have given you a long answer to a short question my darling, but I thought it best to enter into an explanation of my ideas on the subject.
I was just sending off a letter to you yesterday when the one before the last came. I am happy to say that the winter seems gone at last, and the green lawn and little birds once more bring back thoughts of spring. We shall be delighted to welcome you with Ella when she comes home; which I suppose will be before very long now.
Poor old Abe is in a tight place--it will be impossible for him to please either his friends or foes. His foreign appointments however are some of them very good. Papa approves highly of the selection of Mr. Adams and Mr. Dayton. Amelia knows Mr. Dayton's daughter, says she is a lovely girl, and will do honor to the corps diplomatique, perhaps Mrs. L. told the cook to "fix a nice dinner", and he mistook fix for mix, fix is a famous western western word. Only see how careful I am not "to speak evil of dignities"!
So far, I don't see that any body is hurt, and really if people would go to work and mind their business, it would be difficult notwithstanding all the hammering and tinkering of the politicians for them to ruin the country, which they seem bent upon. As to the slave question, I feel thankful we have taken our necks partially out of the noose. The secessionists say, if we do not immediately go off with the south, the planters will make a stampede and carry off their nigs with them. The Unionists say if we do secede, the nigs will all run away--so it seems they are to go either way. I "rather" think Virginia will be apt to stand still, being somewhat conservative, rather lazy, and more disposed to keep old fashions than set up new ones. Unless something new turns up I don't see much excuse for further fuss at present.
We saw the neighbors at church today--they made very kind enquiries after you & our other dear children. Has Amelia sent you Harry's photograph? It is very (illegible)--
With best love from Papa and me-- your ever devoted Mama, (initials)
Excuse a scratch. I have rather a large finger, and it will be bundled up.--I am charmed to hear that our dear Benjamin's title to the authorship of the great bridge has been recognized at last.