The Dangerous Ground of Male Friendship

Elihu H. Smith to Mason Cogswell, Saturday Nov 9, 1792

My dear Mason,

In recollecting the transactions of yesterday, it is not without a great deal of uneasiness that I reflect how much pain an inadvertent speech of mine may have occasioned you. It is true when I look back & see how intimately it was connected with the whole of the rest of my conduct, when I consider how affectionately & how intimately we are united, & call to mind the visible gaiety & intemperate vivacity of my conversation, I can hardly doubt but that you regard it, as it really was, mere inadvertency. - But true friendship is extremely, is exquisitely, delicate; & the tenderness of its sensibility is obvious to the touch & impression of the slightest appearances of intentional injury. The knowledge of the truth is what induces me to write to you at this time. For, believe me, I would not, for any consideration, trespass on the tender love, of firm & unsuspecting friendship. If my conduct has given you any disturbance, as I fear it has, let it not much distress you. Recollect a letter which I wrote to you in the infancy of our affection, contemplate the uniformity of my attachment, & know that I can never willfully violate either my principles or my affection. Let nothing which has passed be treasured up against me. I know that your heart is too generous to let it be so. Measure not my love by the actions which sometimes flow from the inconsiderate state of mind which has been torn with many afflictions, & distracted with many sufferings, & which readily yield itself to be the sport of giddy, unreflecting, & inconstant emotions; but look at the whole of my conduct - recollect what evidence of affection I have shown - contemplate with the forbearance, candor & indulgence of a friend - & pardon the weaknesses of your brother - I would not for the universe, that a momentary suspicion of the sincerity of my attachment to you, would rest upon your mind. I would for more than millions of worlds hurt your heart, of whose goodness & affection for me, I can have no doubt. In fine be not distressed & let not your delicacy take any alarm, if I make you my most entire acknowledgement on the subject in question. But perhaps you have not felt hurt - as I suspect - I know that you not have been offended. At any rate if your love to me continues of the same - if you either have not been afflicted at my speech or having been afflicted, are satisfied of my penitence, & of its unintentionality - let what has passed make no visible alteration in your conduct toward me - distress neither yourself nor me by any after recollection of it & let this letter - like the subject on which it is employed be known only to be forgotten & destroyed.

I am, my dear Mason, your more than ever affectional friend, E.H. Smith


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