In the autumn of 1871 Morse returned with his family to New York, and it is recorded that, with an apparent premonition that he should never see his beloved Locust Grove again, he ordered the carriage to stop as he drove out of the gate, and, standing up, looked long and lovingly at the familiar scene before telling the coachman to drive on. And as he passed the rural cemetery on the way to the station he exclaimed: “Beautiful! beautiful! but I shall not lie there. I have prepared a place elsewhere.”
Not long after his return to the city death once more laid its heavy hand upon him in the loss of his sole surviving brother, Sidney. While this was a crushing blow, for these two brothers had been peculiarly attached to each other, he bore it with Christian resignation, confident that the separation would be for a short time only—“We must soon follow, I also am over eighty years, and am waiting till my change comes.”
But his mind was active to the very end, and he never ceased to do all in his power for the welfare of mankind. One of the last letters written by him on a subject of public importance was sent on December 4, 1871, to Cyrus Field, who was then attending an important telegraphic convention in Rome:—
“Excuse my delay in writing you. The excitement occasioned by the visit of the Grand Duke Alexis has but just ceased, and I have been wholly engrossed by the various duties connected with his presence. I have wished for a few calm moments to put on paper some thoughts respecting the doings of the great Telegraphic Convention to which you are a delegate.
“The Telegraph has now assumed such a marvellous position in human affairs throughout the world, its influences are so great and important in all the varied concerns of nations, that its efficient protection from injury has become a necessity. It is a powerful advocate for universal peace. Not that of itself it can command a ‘Peace, be still!’ to the angry waves of human passions, but that, by its rapid interchange of thought and opinion, it gives the opportunity of explanations to acts and to laws which, in their ordinary wording, often create doubt and suspicion. Were there no means of quick explanation it is readily seen that doubt and suspicion, working on the susceptibilities of the public mind, would engender misconception, hatred and strife. How important then that, in the intercourse of nations, there should be the ready means at hand for prompt correction and explanation.
“Could there not be passed in the great International Convention some resolution to the effect that, in whatever condition, whether of Peace or War between the nations, the Telegraph should be deemed a sacred thing, to be by common consent effectually protected both on the land and beneath the waters?
“In the interest of human happiness, of that ‘Peace on Earth’ which, in announcing the advent of the Saviour, the angels proclaimed with ’good will to men,’ I hope that the convention will not adjourn without adopting a resolution asking of the nations their united, effective protection to this great agent of civilization.”