On March 5, 1850, he writes to a friend who had requested a loan of a few hundred dollars:—
“It truly pains me to be obliged to tell you of my inability to make you a loan, however small in amount or amply secured. In the present embarrassed state of my affairs, consequent upon these never-ending and vexatious suits, I know not how soon all my property may be taken from me. The newspapers, among their other innumerable falsehoods, circulate one in regard to my ‘enormous wealth.’ The object is obvious. It is to destroy any feeling of sympathy in the public mind from the gross robberies committed upon me. ’He is rich enough; he can afford to give something to the public from his extortionate monopoly,’ etc., etc.
“Now no man likes to proclaim his poverty, for there is a sort of satisfaction to some minds in being esteemed rich, even if they are not. The evil of this is that from a rich man more is expected in the way of pecuniary favors (and justly too), and consequently applications of all kinds are daily, I might say for the last few months almost hourly, made to me, and the fabled wealth attributed to me, or to Croesus, would not suffice to satisfy the requests made.”
And, after stating that, of the 11,607 miles of telegraph at that time in operation, only one company of 509 miles was then paying a dividend, he adds: “If this fails I have nothing. On this I solely depend, for I have now no profession, and at my age, with impaired eyesight, I cannot resume it.
“I have indeed a farm out of which a farmer might obtain his living, but to me it is a source of expense, and I have not actually, though you may think it strange, the means to make my family comfortable.”
In a letter to Mr. Kendall of January 4, 1851, he enlarges on this subject:—
“I have been taking in sail for some time past to prepare for the storm which has so long continued and still threatens destruction, but with every economy my family must suffer for the want of many comforts which the low state of my means prevents me from procuring. I contrived to get through the last month without incurring debt, but I see no prospect now of being able to do so the present month.... I wish much to know, and, indeed, it is indispensably necessary I should be informed of the precise condition of things; for, if my property is but nominal in the stocks of the companies, and is to be soon rendered valueless from the operations of pirates, I desire to know it, that I may sell my home and seek another of less pretension, one of humbler character and suited to my change of circumstances. It will, indeed, be like cutting off a right hand to leave my country home, but, if I cannot retain it without incurring debt, it must go, and before debt is incurred and not after. I have made it a rule from my childhood to live always within my means, to have no debts; for if there is a terror which would unman me more than any other in this world, it is the sight of a man to whom I owed money, however inconsiderable in amount, without my being in a condition to pay him. On this point I am nervously sensitive, to a degree which some might think ridiculous. But so it is and I cannot help it....