William B. Rogers to Henry D. Rogers, February 8, 1858
February 8, 1858

In this letter to his brother, William B. Rogers condemns Kansas's pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, the "weakness" of President James Buchanan, and the "madness of the Southern fire-eaters."

To H.D.R.

February 8, 1858

Some days ago I heard from Prof. Cooke an amusing account of the troubles in Albany, which have resulted in Gould’s being compelled, much against his will, to leave Cambridge and take charge of the Observatory in Person..

        You know Peters was in charge as assistant, and was a great favorite with the Albany Trustees, who without consulting Bache appointed him to have the charge. This brought on a sharp controversy in which B’s best skill in wire-pulling was almost foiled. But Peters resigned and Bache has ordered Gould to take charge the salary being paid out of the Coast Survey.


        Of the doings of the Societies, I have the usual dull report to make. The Nat. History is better attended than formerly, and we have a good deal of discussion on small matters But no important papers have been presented. The Academy holds most of its meetings, club-fashion at private houses, and is scarcely more productive in science than the last year.

        The Thursday Club prospers in its way better than either of the societies.

        The Lecompton Constitution, the work of a faction organized by Missouri votes, has been actually commended to Congress by Buchanan in a message full of sophistry and disingenuous statements, will probably carry a majority of the Senate. A motion is today to be considered at the lower house for referring it to a special committee with instructions to inquire into the facts, and we are expecting to hear of scenes of stormy debate and violent personalities. There can, however, be no question that Kansas will come in when admitted as a free State, however the weakness of the President and the madness of the Southern fire-eaters may delay the result. I see with sorrow and indignation that Senator Mason contemplates some general provision for bringing new States into the Union by pairs, so as to maintain the present balance between slave and free States!! But this cannot be done.

        Your friend, old Mr. Quincy, attained his 86th birthday last Friday. Next month he will put to press his elaborate life of John Quincy Adams. He made kind inquiries about you. Last night I met at the Survey Mr. Benson now of Sheffield, who spoke of you and kind friends the Chambers.

        I have lately heard from Robert who is very busy with some mechanical contrivances and an improved form of galvanic battery. He was well. Ritchie has made an admirable inductive appliance for Prof. Forbes which he tested some evenings since. It will be sent by express to Edinburgh by Wednesday’s steamer and I shall use the first opportunity of writing to Forbes.

        I have lately been repeating Tyndal and Schaff, Scotch experiments on sonorous flames, and have succeeded in obtaining the musical sound with a common circular wicked lamp with ether, alcohol and even common mixed burning fluid.



William Barton Rogers Papers, Department of Distinctive Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology