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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 25 December 1848

"Let's dance and sing and have good cheer, 
  For Christmas comes but once a year!"1
Eds. Crescent:—

Thus saith the old song, and the advice is in the vein of true philosophy. Yes, philosophy—the purest kind, too, which seeks human happiness, and the beguiling pleasantly away of life's toilsome road. * * * I have often thought that the people of France are the wisest in the world; for under their coating of light-hearted fun—often levity—they hide from people's eyes, and from their own too, many things that the English, and we Americans, would sulk over half a lifetime. Cares will come: the less you make of 'em, the less they really are.

"Let's dance and sing!"

Have not the (so called) wise heads made a great blunder, then, in putting down the joke, the careless jest, the bit of practical fun, the ever-recurring laugh, as signs of idle mind? To my notion, the jolliest chap is the deepest philosopher—though he may not know it himself.

The fun that's enjoyed to-day, though, must be enjoyed within doors; for rarely have we had such a spiteful conspiracy of the elements against out-door comforts, as on this Christmas day for '48. The ground since Friday, has been covered with snow and ice. Last night it thawed, and now we have a diabolical mixture of snow, slush, and mud. Over and around all spreads the densest of fogs—more impenetrable than the style of a transcendentalist.

All the church bells rang merry peals this morning. The chimes of Trinity,2 in particular, gave out an especial ding-dong, in honor of the day. (It is somewhat singular that they don't get some fit and proper player upon those chimes. We are heartily tired of hearing nothing but an octave run up, and then run down—Sunday after Sunday.).....Of course, with such weather, the ladies can't go out; and just as of course, the streets and churches are uninviting, and the sitting rooms and parlors doubly attractive....A number of balls are forthcoming during the current week. At one of them, that of the "Northern Light Association," Martin Van Buren3 is to be present. He and "Prince John"4 are in town; ditto Wm. H. Seward.5 The latter is pushed by his friends for the U.S. Senatorship. Fillmore6 is understood to be against him. The whigs7 are quarrelling like the mischief over this and other "spoils."

The California gold excitement8 still rages, and, like most potent maladies, it has swallowed up lesser ones, such as the Cholera,9 the influenza, and so forth....A horrid murder, of which the papers will give full particulars, was committed in Walnut street, last Friday: the victims, thus far, are two Germans—the woman, Maria Kloster,10 not being dead yet.

....We have also had a little breeze, from the attempted abduction, in broad day, and in one of our most public streets, of a young man, a mulatto, who was claimed as his property, by a person named Lee.11 The latter engaged a couple of men to do the job, and promised them $200 for it. They may get the dollars—but it is quite likely they will get a short residence in the State Prison, too; as the offence of abduction is a felony here.



  • 1. These lines are attributed to the sixteenth-century English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser (c.1524–1580). They are from his instructional poem, "A Hundred Points of Good Husbandry" (1557). [back]
  • 2. Located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan, Trinity Church is a historic church in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The current church building was constructed between 1839 and 1846, and it is adjacent to the Trinity Churchyard burial ground. [back]
  • 3. A founder of the Democratic Party, Martin Van Buren (1782–1862) was the eighth president of the United States, serving from 1837 to 1841. Whig candidate William Henry Harrison defeated the incumbant Van Buren in the 1840 election to become the ninth president of the United States. Van Buren was also the Free Soil candidate for president in the 1848 election; the Whig Candidate Zachary Taylor (1784–1850) won the election and served as the twelfth president of the United States, from 1849 until his death in 1850. [back]
  • 4. John Van Buren (1810–1866) was a lawyer, politician, and advisor to his father, Martin Van Buren (1782–1862), the eighth president of the United States. [back]
  • 5. William Henry Seward (1801–1872) was the Governor of New York from 1839 to 1842, and he served as a United States Senator from New York from 1849 to 1861. He went on to serve as United States Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869 under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. [back]
  • 6. Millard Fillmore (1800–1874), a member of the Whig Party, was elected Vice President of the United States in the 1848 election. He later became the thirteenth president of the United States, serving from 1850 to 1853. [back]
  • 7. The Whigs were a political party in the antebellum United States; the Whig and the Democratic Parties were the two major political parties in the United States as part of the two-party system. The Whigs were critical of the nation's expansion into Texas and of the Mexican-American War and favored a national bank. They preferred that Congress take the lead in lawmaking and opposed strong presidential power. Their supporters were primarily professionals and social reformers; they received much less support from farmers and laborers. The Democratic Party in this period opposed a national bank, and they advocated for strong presidential power, and the interests of slave states. [back]
  • 8. In 1848, James W. Marshall was employed by John A. Sutter to build a sawmill in what is today Coloma, California. Marshall found several pieces of gold, and the news of Marshall's discovery was the beginning of the California Gold Rush (1848–1855). The Gold Rush brought hundreds of thousands of people to California in search of gold. As a result of the rapid growth, California was able to enter the Union as a free state as part of the Compromise of 1850, while Native Californians and indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by those seeking their fortunes in gold. [back]
  • 9. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine that is spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. [back]
  • 10. Maria Kloster was the only survivor of a violent attack in New York City. Kloster left her relationship with Frank Geiger and began a new one with Frederick W. Marks, moving into Marks's home and ignoring Geiger's entreaties asking her to return to him. Geiger went to Marks's house and attacked Marks and Kloster. Marks was fatally wounded, and Geiger, thinking he had killed both Marks and Kloster, also killed himself. Kloster, however, recovered from her stab wounds. For more information, see "The New York Tragedy," Boston Evening Transcript, December 27, 1848, 4. [back]
  • 11. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
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