Letter from Orson Hyde, 17 July 1841

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LETTER FROM .
Ratisbon, on the . July 17, 1841.
Dear Bro. Joseph, and all whom it may concern.
With pleasure I take my pen to write to you at this time, hoping this communication may find you as it leaves me, in good health and enjoying a comfortable measure of the Holy Spirit.
On the 20th of June last, I left for . in Holland, after writing a lengthy epistle to you, and also the copy of a letter addressed to the Rev. Doct. , President Rabbi of the Hebrews in , which I hope you have recieved ere this. The work of the Lord was steadily advancing in under the efficient and zealous labours of our worthy brother, .
The fine Steamer, Battavier, brought me safely over the billows of a tremendous rough sea in about 30 hours. Never did I suffer more from sea-sickness than during this short voyage; but it was soon over and we landed safely in . I took my lodgings at the London Hotel at two florins per diem, about three shillings and five pence sterling, or seventy five cents. Here I called on the Hebrew Rabbi, and proposed certain questions to him; but as he did not understand a word of English, it was hard for me to enter into particulars with him. I asked him, however, whether he expected his Mesiah to come directly from Heaven, or whether he expected him to be born of a woman on earth. He replied, that he expected him to be born of a woman, of the seed and lineage of David. At what period do you look for this event? Ans. “We have been looking a long time, and are now living in constant expectation of his coming.” Do you believe in the restitution of your nation to the land of your fathers, called the land of promise: “We hope it will be so,” was the reply. He then added, “We believe that many Jews will return to and rebuild the city—rear a Temple to the name of the Most High, and restore our ancient worship.” “ shall be the capital of our nation—the centre of our union, and the Standard and Ensign of our national existence. But we do not believe that all the Jews will go there, for the place is not large enough to contain them. They are now gathering there,” [p. 570] continued he, “almost continually.” I told him that I had written an address to the Hebrews, and was about procuring its publication in his own language; (dutch) and when completed, I would leave him a copy. He thanked me for this token of respect, and I bade him adieu. I soon obtained the publication of five hundred copies of the address, and left one at the house of the Rabbi—he being absent from home, I did not see him.
After remaining here about one week, I took the coach for , distance 7 hours, or about 30 English miles. is a fine town of about 80 thousand inhabitants. The cleanliness of its streets, the antique order of its architecture, the extreme height of its buildings, the numerous shade trees with which it is beautified, and the great number of canals through almost every part of the town filled with ships of various sizes from different parts of the world; all these, with many other things not mentioned contributed to give this place a peculiararity resembled no where else in the course of my travels, except in . Most of the business men here speak a little English—some speak it very well. In ascending the waters of the Rhine from the sea to , the numerous Wind-mills which I beheld in constant operation, led me to think, almost, that all Europe came here for their grinding. But I ascertained that they were grinding for distilleries, where the floods of gin are made, which, not only. deluge our beloved country with fatal consequences, but many others. Gin is one of the principal articles of exportation from this . In going to , I passed through a very beautiful town called “,” the residence of the King of Holland. I saw his palace which was guarded by soldiers, both horse and foot. For grandeur it bore but a faint resemblance to Buckingham Palace in : But the beautiful parks and picturesque scenery in and about , I have never seen equaled in any country. I remained in only one night, and a part of two days—I called on the President Rabbi here, but he was gone from home. I left at his house a large number of the addresses for himself and his peolpe, and took coach for on the Rhine. Took boat the same evening for Mazenty. Travelling by coach and steam is rather cheaper in this country than in the . We were three days in going up the Rhine to Mazenty. Holland and the lower part of Prus[s]ia are very low flat countries. The French and German language are spoken all along the Rhine; but little or no English. The Rhine is about like the Ohio for size, near its mouth where it empties into the . Its waters resemble the waters, dark and muddy. The scenery and landscapes along this river have been endowed with art and nature’s choicest gifts. I have been made acquainted with Europe, in , by books, to a certain extent; yet now my eyes behold!! It is impossible for a written description of a stranger’s beauty, to leave the same impression upon the mind, as is made by an ocular view of the lovely object. This is the difference between reading of and seeing the countries of Europe.
From Mazenty I came to Frankfort on the Main, by railroad—distance 7 hours. From Frankfort, I came to this place—distance about 30 hours, where Napoleon gained a celebrated victory over the Prusians and Austrians. The very ground on which I now write this letter, was covered by about 60 thousand slain in that battle. It is called the battle of Ackynaeal.
It was my intention to have gone directly down the to Constantinople; but having neglected to get my passport vezayed by the Austrian Embassador at Frankfort, I had to forward it to the Austrain Embassador at Munich and procure his permission, signature, and seal, before I could enter the Austrian dominions. This detained me five days, during which time I conceived the idea of sitting down and learning the German language scientifically. I became acquainted with a lady here who speaks French and German to admiration, and she was very anxious to speak the English—she proposed giving me instruction in the German if I would instruct her in English. I accepted her proposal. I have been engaged eight days in this task. I have read one book through and part of another, and translated and written con[s]iderable. I can speak and write the German considerable already, and the lady tells me that I make astonishing progress. From the past experience, I know that the keen edge of any work translated by a stranger in whose heart the spir [p. 571]it of the matter does not dwell, is lost—the life and animation thereof, die away into a cold monotony, and it becomes almost entirely another thing. This step is according to the best light I can get, and hope and trust that it is according to the mind of the Lord. The people will hardly believe but that I have spoken German before; but I tell them, neicht, not. The German is spoken in Prussia, , and in all the States of —the south of Russia, and in fine more or less all over Europe. It appears to me, therefore, that some person of some little experience ought to know this language so as to translate himself without being dependant on strangers. If I am wrong in my movement, pray that the spirit of the Lord may direct me aright. If I am right, pray that Heaven may speedily give me this language. It is very sickly in Constantinople, Syria and Alexandria, at present; I would rather, therefore, wait until cool weather before I go there. I might have written most of this letter in German; but as you would more readily understand it in English, I have written it in English.
With pleasure I leave the historical part of my letter, to touch a softer note, and give vent to the feelings of my heart.
I hope and trust that the cause which you so fearlessly advocate, is rolling forth in , with that firm and steady motion which characterizes the work of Jehovah. The enemies which we are forced to encounter are numerous, strong, shrewd and cunning. Their leader transfuses into them his own spirit, and brings them into close alliance with the numerous hosts of precious immortals who have been earlier taken captives by the haughty Tyrant, and sacrificed upon the altar of iniquity, transgression and sin. May it please our Father in Heaven to throw around thee his protecting arms,—to place beneath thee Almighty strength, ever buoy thy head above the raging waves of tribulation through which the chart of destiny has evidently marked thy course. Happy in the enjoyment of the distinguished consideration with which Heaven’s favor, alone, has endowed me. of bearing, with you, some humble part in laying the foundation of the glorious kingdom of Mesiah which is destined, in its onward course, to break in pieces and destroy all others and stand forever.
The friendship and good-will which are breathed towards me through all your letters, are received as the legacy which noble minds and generous hearts are ever anxious to bequeath. They soften the hard and rugged path in which Heaven has directed my course. They are buoyancy in depression,—joy in sorrow; and when the dark clouds of desponding hope are gathering thick around the mental horizon, like a kind angel from the fountain of mercy, they dispel the gloom, dry the tear of sorrow, and pour humanitie’s healing balm into my grieved and sorrowful heart. Be assured, therefore, Bro. Joseph, that effusions from the altar of a greatful heart are smoking to Heaven, daily, in thy behalf; and not only in thine, but in behalf of all Zion’s suffering sons and daughters whose generous magnanimity will ever environ and adorn the brow of the object of their compassion. Tho’ now far separated from you; and also from her who, with me, has suffered the chilling blasts of adversity, yet hope lingers in this bosom, brightened almost into certainty by the implicit confidence reposed in the virtue of that call which was borne on the gentle breeze of the spirit of God through the dark shades of midnight gloom, ’till it found a mansion in my anxious and enquiring heart, that my feet shall once more press the American soil; and under the shade of her streaming banner, embrace again the friends I love.
I never knew that I was, in reality, an American, until I walked out one fine morning in along the wharf, where many ships lay in the waters of the Rhine: Suddenly my eye caught a broad pendant floating in a gentle breeze over the stern of a fine ship at half-mizzen-mast; and when I saw the wide-spread Eagle perched on her banner, with the stripes and stars under which our fathers were led on to conquest and victory, my heart leaped into my mouth, a flood of tears burst from my eyes, and before reflection could mature a sentence, my mouth, involuntarily, gave birth to these words, “I am an American!
To see the flag of one’s country in a strange land, and floating upon strange waters, produces feelings which none can know except those who experience them. I can now say that I am an American. While at home, the warmth and fire of the American spirit lay in silent [p. 572] slumber in my bosom; but the winds of foreign climes have fanned it into a flame.
I have seen some of the finest specimens of painting and sculpture of both ancient and modern times. The vast variety of curiosities, also, from every country on the Globe, together with every novelty that genius could invent or imagination conceive which I have been compelled to witness in the course of my travels, would be too heavy a tax upon my time to describe, and upon your patience to read. I have witnessed the wealth and splendor of many of the towns of Europe,—have gazed with admiration upon her widely extended plains—her lofty mountains—her mouldering castles,—and her extensive vineyards: For at this season, nature is clad in her bridal robes, and smiles under the benign jurisprudence of her Author.
I have, also, listened to the blandishments, gazed upon the pride and fashion of a world grown old in luxury and refinement, viewed the pageantry of Kings, Queens, lords and nobles; and am now where military honor, and princely dignity, must bow at the shrine of clerical superiority. In fine, my mind has become cloyed with novelty, pomp and show; and turns with disgust from the glare of fashion to commune with itself in retired meditation.
Were it consistent with the will of Deity, and consonant with the convictions of my own bosom; most gladly would I retreat from the oppressing heat of public life, and seek repose in the cool and refreshing shades of domestic endearments, and bask in the affections of my own little family circle. But the will of God be done! Can the Mesiah’s kingdom but be advanced through my toil, privation, and excessive labours; and at last sanctify my work through the effusion of my own blood! I yield, O Lord! I yield to thy righteous mandate! Imploring help from thee in the hour of trial, and strength in the day of weakness to faithfully endure until my immortal spirit shall be driven from its earthly mansion to find a refuge in the bosom of its God.
If the friends in shall be edefied in reading this letter from , I hope they will remember one thing; and that is this; that he hopes he has a and two children living there; but the distance is so great between him and them, that his arm is not long enough to administer to their wants. I have said enough. Lord, bless my and children, and the hand that ministers good to them in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Adieu for the present.
Good rest on all the saints, throughout the world,
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