A NARRATIVE OF THE EARLY LIFE, TRAVELS, AND GOSPEL LABORS OF JESSE KERSEY, LATE OF CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Taken from Philadelphia: T. Ellwood Chapman, 1851.
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Chapter 4: Voyage to Liverpool--Travels in England and Ireland--Return home--Reflections---Visit to Philadelphia--Reflections--Journey to the South, to visit Slaveholders--Visit to Philadelphia. (Part One)
In my voyage to England, I sailed in the ship Annowon, Captain Thomson. There were several cabin passengers beside myself: one of the men was an officer of the British government, and I found him to be a person well informed, and an agreeable companion on the voyage. We were twenty-five days in crossing the Atlantic, and the weather was favorable all the time, except about eight hours, when the wind blew strong, and I had an opportunity of witnessing its force at sea. While on the passage, I felt best satisfied to inform the captain, that I believed it would be right for me to propose having a meeting with the ship's company. He fully approved the proposal, and it was gladly embraced by all the company. It was accordingly held, and was a favored opportunity.
After landing at Liverpool, I went to the house of Isaac Hadwin. He and his wife Susanna, were both useful and valuable Friends. While here, I had the satisfaction of being called upon by a number of Friends, whose society I found very interesting. Among the number, a widow Benson and two of her daughters came, and spent part of an afternoon. She said she had another daughter who uniformly shunned the company of Friends in the ministry. I concluded there must have been a cause for this singular conduct, and I would see if I could not get to understand it.
Accordingly, the first time I went to the house, I found her in the parlor, and spoke to her in an open and sociable manner. To prevent her from making an escape, I remarked that they had a pleasant garden, and I should like to look into it, and see whether I could find any of my American acquaintance there. The younger daughters were at once ready to go with me, but Rachel seemed to lag behind. I objected to going, unless we all went. She then consented to go; and I embraced the opportunity to inform her, that I understood she had uniformly shunned the company of Friends in the ministry; and as this was a new kind of a case, I would be glad to understand the cause, if she was free to inform me: but I would not urge her to an explanation, if she was not willing.
She seemed a little embarrassed at first; but after a few minutes she concluded to inform me of her reasons. She said that from her childhood she had a fondness for dress; and although she had never been extravagant, nor more expensive than her sisters,--yet there was some gayety in her general appearance; and this circumstance was sufficient to produce remarks upon her, which she did not feel prepared to meet: and therefore, in order to escape from having her feelings hurt by such attacks upon her, she had for some time past, chosen to keep out of the way.
In my reflections upon this case, I have been instructed; being convinced
that it is necessary to be very careful how we meddle with those external
subjects. Under the influence of impressions made by the sight of the eye,
we may be induced to make remarks without any proper qualification: and thus
excite prejudices which may remain for a length of time, and only tend to
drive the young and inexperienced mind further off. So far as my experience
has gone I have found that every thing done under the direction of the Divine
guide, has a tendency to gather into a blessed unity of the one spirit, and
bond of peace. After remaining at Liverpool about two weeks, way opened in
my mind to visit the meetings of Friends at the following places, namely,
Warrington, Manchester, Stockport, Morley, Macklesfield, Leek, Mansfield,
Darby, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Ackworth, and York. At the last
mentioned place, I met with Lindley Murray, who appeared to be a man of a
large and liberal mind.
From York I returned to Liverpool; and after resting a few days, I went to Holy Head, and thence crossed the Irish sea to Dublin. Here I was kindly accommodated at the house of Jonas Stott. I attended ;the meetings in Dublin; but my mind was much closed up, and there seemed no way to obtain any relief. After attending a number of their meetings in silence, my mind was at length opened in a view of the perfection of our form of meeting in silence. I remarked that it was incapable of reform: that is, that no form of meeting together for the purpose of Divine worship could be more perfect than that of meeting in silence; and therefore it was impossible to make any improvement upon this form. Thus also, I observed it was with the profession of Friends, there could be no improvement of the principle.
In the meeting where those views were opened, I felt a calm, and a precious reward of peace. But in the afternoon, when I was present at another meeting, an elderly Friend got up and mentioned that our American Friend had stated in the morning meeting, that such was the perfection of our form of meeting in silence, that it admitted of no reform. But that he said nothing about the duty of meeting together, which he thought at the time was an omission, and it was now brought into notice for amendment. But I did not think myself bound at that time to speak to the case. When the meeting closed, I was spoken to by the elders on the subject. I told them that I never had attempted to minister in a meeting, at the direction of another; and that it would have been an error in me to have attempted it on the present occasion.
After spending about two weeks in Dublin, I proceeded towards the South of Ireland, visiting a number of small meetings, and finding very little that was encouraging. At Edenderry I met with Jane Watson who had been in America in the service of the ministry; but was at this time set aside from the station in which she had stood. From Edenderry I went on visiting the meetings as far as Cork. In most places, the society appeared to be on the decline. I then proceeded by the way of Youghal, Ross, and Roserea, to Clonmell. Here, I met with several valuable members, and Friends in this place seemed to have some weight and influence. At Clonmell I found Mary Dudley, Sarah Grubb (formerly Lynes) and her husband John Grubb, a widow Pern, and a number of others.
After spending near a week in Clonmell, and the neighborhood, I proceeded to Waterford, and went thence to Carlow. From Carlow I went to Ballitore; and found but little to encourage me, among the few Friends that met with Abraham Shackleton, who went among the dissenters.
Abraham Shackleton insisted on my going to see his family. Soon after I sat down in his house, he handed me Milton's Paradise Lost, and opened it at a picture of a serpent with an apple in its mouth, tempting a woman;--and asked me what I thought of that. I answered that I did not consider myself a judge of the picture: I could not say whether it was well executed, or not. He remarked, that was not the object he had in view by handing me the book. What did I think of a serpent's tempting a woman with an apple? I told him the idea appeared to me to be an awkward one. I did not think there was a woman in a thousand, that would feel any temptation to take an apple out of the mouth of a snake. Abraham then said, his object was to know my opinion as to the existence of an evil principle that envied the human race, and was constantly endeavoring to draw us out of the way in which we should go. To this inquiry I remarked, that I supposed he was so much of a philosopher as to admit that there was no effect without a cause, Of course, as there was evil in the world, it appeared to me not very material whether we understood whence it arose, or not;--or whether it proceeded from one or from many causes: our great business was, to get the better of it; and if we succeeded, it was all that need concern us on the subject. So he admitted the conclusion and dropped the matter.
After spending a short time at Ballitore, I returned to Dublin, and attended
the Yearly Meeting there. Soon after this I found my mind turned back again
to Liverpool. Accordingly, I parted with Friends there, and went on board
a packet for Holy Head. Our passage was a very trying one, with the wind
ahead nearly ail the way; and we were about forty-eight hours in crossing,
when in common it takes but ten or twelve.
When I arrived at Liverpool, I found new occasions of exercise. Friends had become divided into parties, and thus involved themselves in difficulties. The opportunities I had with Friends at Liverpool, went to convince me that I had been rightly directed in returning thither. But the cases I had to meet were trying; more especially as I had to act very much on my own judgment and feelings. In concluding the service there, it was cause of gratitude to part with Friends under the precious evidence of mutual love and regard.
After this, there seemed an opening to make a visit to London, that great city of pride and self-importance. I attended the Yearly Meeting of Friends held there; and it was deeply affecting to my mind, as I sat in those meetings, to observe men rising up and taking an active part in the concerns of Society, who appeared to act and speak exclusively from the mere powers of their own natural capacities. Hence, when a subject was under consideration, their method of coming to a conclusion seemed to me to be principally by argument. I inquired of the Meeting, whether, in the judgment of Friends, it was most in agreement with our religious profession, to decide upon cases that came before them, by argument,--or by simply attending to the sense of Truth in the minds of Friends, and accepting the generally prevailing sense for the conclusion. The Meeting took up the subject; and after considerable discussion came to the conclusion, that it would be better in ail cases to be guided by the general sense of the Meeting.
After attending the Yearly Meeting, my way opened to-have an appointed meeting in each of Friends' meeting houses in London; which was accordingly done, beginning at the Peel meeting, and ending at Radcliff. These opportunities were solemn and precious meetings; and at the close, I was thankful to feel my mind discharged from further service in this great City.
In my reflections while in London, I could not but believe, that if the pure principle of Divine wisdom had been followed, it would never have crowded so many human beings together, as are in that place. Those who have been brought up in the country, and are acquainted with the business of a country life, would do well seriously and deliberately to consider their motives for going into cities, before they determine to remove there.
Seeing my way open to proceed to Bristol, I went and had an interesting meeting there. After which it appeared right for me again to go to Ireland.. I accordingly went, and visited the meetings of Friends generally in the north, and thence proceeded southward to Dublin, It was sorrowful to find that Friends were few in number in that nation; and there was but a gloomy prospect in relation to the advancement of our Christian testimonies in those parts.
While I was in the north, I met with several who had been active members in the Society, that were now turned away from Friends, and were evidently dwindling into mere blanks. Of this I was fully convinced by the various visionary opinions and notions which some of them professed to entertain.
It was also affecting to meet with so many poor, distressed fellow creatures as abounded in that country. I found, when I mentioned the condition of the poor, that those who were faring sumptuously every day, could remark very coolly, that if the poor had salt and potatoes, they would do very well.
My stay in Ireland was not long. Soon after I reached Dublin, I felt at liberty to part with Friends of that country, and took my passage for Holy Head. There were about forty passenger on board, and we had an awful time in crossing the Irish channel. As we seemed likely, by contrary winds, to be driven among the rocks on the British shore, there was great alarm among the passengers: and a number of them began to make confession of their many sins. The captain, however, with much difficulty turned his vessel to sea; and, though it was very rough, yet we seemed out of danger of being thrown on the rocks. Next morning we came safe to shore.
Finding that my prospects in England were not likely to be enlarged. I believed the time for embarking for my native land was nearly arrived; and it was a great satisfaction to be permitted to look towards returning to my family.
In passing through the different towns in England, my mind was frequently brought under great discouragement, in relation to the promotion of the cause of Truth, and the advancement of our christian testimonies,--so many and various are the customs that stand in the way. I saw that there were many large manufactories which are owned by the wealthy; while the poor are altogether dependent, and are closely confined to labor, and that for a very small compensation. In common, they are paid their week's wages on seventh day evening. After getting their money, they have to go to market; and many of them are out at market until a late hour.
In the beginning of the 7th month, 1805, I took passage in the ship Hercules, Captain Bradford. We crossed the ocean in forty-two days; and our passage was attended with but few unpleasant circumstances. The captain was a practical seaman, and prudent in the command and management of all that required his attention. I found my dear wife and family all well, which, with their and my preservation, inspired me with gratitude to the author of all our sure mercies.
The circumstances of this journey were such as gave me a liberal opportunity of understanding the state of the Society of Friends in England and Ireland. It was clear to me, that Friends in both nations had lost ground in many respects. I could see that their meetings, particularly those that were held on working, or business days, were small,--more especially on the men's side of the house. This was doubtless the consequence of a worldly spirit gaining place with many of them. Among the excuses for this neglect, some of them would remark that they would love to attend their meetings, but their temporal situation was such that it required a very careful attention, in order to get along with satisfaction;--alleging that they had many expenses to support and that these must be met and rightly managed, or their condition would become uncomfortable to themselves and their families.
But the difficulty seemed to me to be more the effect of expensive habits of living, than from any other cause. Another source of weakness, and what appeared likely more and more to rob Friends of their strength, was their becoming fond of the flattery of the world. I perceived they were taking part in Bible societies, and other apparently plausible institutions that were sanctioned by the clergy in that country. Thus Friends seemed to think that by letting go some of the peculiarities of the society, they and other professions might come together more than had formerly been the case. But Friends in England appeared to forget that they had been called upon from their first rise to stand separate from all others--and one ground of this may be seen in the fact that Friends do stand alone in the acknowledgment of a Divine gift of Light and Truth, given to every man to profit withal; that is, they believe in the immediate revelation of the Divine will to man.
On the 18th of the 2d month, 1808, I left home with a prospect of having meetings in Philadelphia; my concern being chiefly to those who were not professors with us. In my ride to the city I was in some degree incommoded by the falling of abundance of rain. My mind was not much unlike the day,--attended with alternate storms and clouds. The idea of having to appoint a number of meetings in the city among people of very different descriptions, I have no doubt gave rise to this tumultuous and unpleasant state. In the evening a greater share of calmness was attained, and the sweetening spring of resignation, was like the clear sunshine of a summer evening, when the horizon is fair and serene.
19th.--With the opening, of the morning, a little spiritual light seemed to break forth, in which I saw the city and its inhabitants in districts; and the first step necessary to be taken in the concern before me. I proceeded accordingly, and called a few Friends together at the house of our valued elder, James Pemberton. To them was opened the engagement I felt, and the difficulties that appeared in my way. Like brethren, they entered into the concern, and were willing to aid in its prosecution. I proposed, that my first meeting be at Pine Street meetinghouse; and, if way should open, to renew the appointments at that house until the inhabitants at the south end of the city should all have had opportunity to be present. The prospect was united with, and provision was made to carry it into effect. We then parted, and I retired to my quarters and to my prayers, endeavoring to resign myself and the cause to my Divine Helper.
20th.--When I awoke this morning, my thoughts were turned to the days when the gospel was vocally preached by Jesus Christ to a dark and superstitious world. I opened the book and read the sacred record of his blessed doctrines;--and I said to myself, surely, with all the multitude of sentiments which have been marked upon the thousands of volumes that have been written,--a man may be wearied;--but with the superior and sacred doctrines which this volume contain, none need be weary, or fail to be edified! I was particularly interested in reading the incomparable sermon delivered upon the mountain, and most of all my attention was drawn to that part, "Consider the lilies: they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these."
My attention was next arrested by reading a passage in Buffon's Natural History. The subject was the fluidity of matter, and its change under the different degrees of heat and cold. Soon, however, my thoughts passed the boundary of natural elements, and entered into a comparison of these with spiritual realities. By heat it appears that matter is rendered fluid, and is consequently less subject to the laws of attraction. By cold, it is made dense, and brought back again to the earth. So, by the warming influence of the love of God, the soul is expanded, and drawn out of the government of earthly attraction. By the chilling influence of the world's friendship~ it is contracted and brought back to the earth.
I then went to meeting, and was engaged in speaking to a crowded assembly on the subject of our Lord's address to the Jews: "If the Truth make you free, then are ye free indeed." It was a blessed opportunity, and was attended with the love of the gospel.
22d. Now opens a new morning, and with it another day to be well or ill spent. The light upon the candlestick, and the division of light from darkness, were the subjects that drew forth my mind in a stream of gospel affection among my friends at the North meeting: and the savor of the kingdom gave boldness to approach the throne of God in prayer, that his blessing might be upon the members of his militant church, and that they might, as the candlestick, hold up the Light they had received,--maintaining, with all meekness, the testimonies which connect with the gospel.
In the afternoon. The call of Jesus Christ to Simon whose surname was Peter, and Andrew his brother, who were casting their nets into the sea,--to come and follow him,--with the assurance that he would make them fishers of men,--was the subject spoken upon, in Market Street meeting house. It was a good meeting. In the evening meeting, I was silent.
23d.--In the meeting held this evening, I was favored with doctrine to deliver to a large assembly. It was a serious time,--and many minds were tendered. Next day had a precious opportunity at the North house, in which my concern for the dear children in our Society was feelingly expressed. I was led to call the attention of these to the necessity and duty of obedience to parents, and to the importance of keeping their tender consciences clear of guilt. I referred to the bad language frequently heard along the streets of Philadelphia, and mentioned my hope that they would not fall into that evil practice.
25th.--I was drawn into a similar concern for the children, at Pine Street meeting; which was opened, and appeared to have a happy effect. In the evening, I was present at a large public meeting in the North house. It was an interesting and solemn time.
Next day I attended the middle meeting; where my mind was again engaged in the cause of universal righteousness. A part of my concern in public testimony was for the children of Friends. Great tenderness accompanied my own mind, and it spread through the assembly.
In the evening, I was again engaged with a numerous auditory at the North house. The first part of my communication was doctrinal, and consisted principally in defending the belief, that the Divine Light was universal;--and that man was left free, having full power given him to obey, or disobey;--that sin was connected with disobedience, and could not otherwise have an existence;--that righteousness proceeded from the opposite course, and could only be manifested by our obedience to the revealed will of God. Having proved the absolute correspondence of this doctrine with the Holy Scriptures, and the clear consistency of it with an enlightened understanding,--way opened to take notice of some of the evil habits too common in this city; particularly such as were the means of separating men from their families, and leaving disconsolate women to lament their own, and the unhappy condition of their children. The interesting importance of my concern had a solemnizing effect, and a precious silence covered the meeting when I took my seat.
Next day, I attend the monthly meeting of Friends at the Middle district; and the day following had another public meeting in the new meeting house on Mulberry Street. A large number came together, and it was an opportunity in which, although I had much labor, there was but little relief.
3d mo. lst.--Had a meeting in Southwark,--a precious opportunity, in which the gospel spring was opened, and many of the assembly, I believe, were glad they were there. I also attended the evening meeting in the new house, and was drawn forth in the flowings of tender concern among them. My testimony was plain, and I trust authorized by a measure of the baptizing power of Truth. A precious silence was spread over the meeting.
On the 3d, I was again at the North Meeting, which was satisfactory In the evening I had a serious opportunity with the inhabitants of Kensington. Next morning I attended Pine Street meeting, and had a meeting there in the evening. In the last, I had much labor in the gospel, and it ended comfortably; leaving a hope that the exercise would not be lost among the people.
5th.--I again attended the meeting at Friends new meeting house on Mulberry Street; where I took a review of my religious engagements in the city, and it excited gratitude to my all-sufficient Helper. As the evening meeting approached, many discouragements arose in my mind, and I was nearly landed in a state of disqualification for the occasion. Under such impressions I went; and a numerous assembly was collected in the Market Street meeting house. It was not long after I had taken my seat, before every cloud vanished, and way opened to engage their attention on the necessity of yielding obedience to the Divine Word, or Light of Christ within. It was a serious time, and ended with much satisfaction.
Next day, I had a large meeting at the new house, where the way opened to treat of the true knowledge of God. The people were very attentive, and it ended with solemnity.
I now felt at liberty to return home; and accordingly set out and arrived there the next day.
4th mo. 4th.--I spent this day in attending to the improvement of my yard and garden. While thus employed I was frequently occupied with thoughts on the importance of improving the mind; and it appeared to me that the more I am redeemed from all that pertains to the creature,--the better I shall understand the mind and will of the Creator concerning me. I was also persuaded that the soul is capable of attaining such an intimate knowledge of the Divinity, as to feel his presence and power; and in that power to withstand every appearance of evil. When such a Divine union is gained, all things stand in the Light, as in the glare of eternal day;--the past, the present, and the future, are all equal and similar. In this state, time seems scarcely to have an existence. Nor is the faculty of reason so much the source of enjoyment, as that of spiritual sensation: though even reason (or the rational faculty) is rendered more clear, because the effusion of spiritual sensation commands a silence of all the passions, and thereby furnishes to this faculty a complete equanimity. In this exalted state, no bias prevails; but true and positive evidence is comprehended, and the conclusions founded thereon cannot fail to be correct.
6th--Some attention has been paid to my books and accounts. It has served to convince me that the better plan would be to adopt the practice of settling my accounts, at least once in the year. I have observed, that in most of the disputes about property which have come within my knowledge, the accounts have been of long standing.
7th.--At our monthly meeting. In the forepart, my attention was drawn to the state of the meeting, and whilst I was musing, the fire burned. Hence arose an impression, under which I was engaged to speak; and the subjects presented with satisfactory clearness. During our attention to the business, I could not but marvel at what appeared to me to be the weakness of wise men, and the imperfections of society.
10th. mo. 4th.--I left home with a prospect of attending Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and also of paying a visit to a few towns southward of that place. Lodged the first night at Jacob Lindley's, where the time was spent with satisfaction. Next day, went on till night overtook us, and we put up at a tavern kept by a widow Smith. While here, I could not but take notice of the effect of education. The widow regretted the bad habits of their neighborhood, and remarked that all the duties of the men seemed there to be neglected; and that hence they were deprived of many of the comforts of the common in Pennsylvania. And this difference was charged upon slavery.
On the 6th arrived we in Baltimore, and put up at Eliaha Tyson's. On the 8th the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders began. In the afternoon I was present at the meeting for sufferings; and was glad to find that the attention of Friends had been drawn to the situation of their members in the western country; and that they were awakened to the difficulties and hardships of opening and settling a wilderness country.
9th.--I attended in the morning the meeting at the west end of the city. It was large, and I felt engaged to call the attention of the people to our Christian testimony against wars and fightings. At the conclusion, I was satisfied; being persuaded that the assembly were ripe to receive and to reflect upon the important subject.
The business of the Yearly Meeting was transacted in harmony and to satisfaction. Among other things the subject of the use of spirituous liquors received particular consideration.
On the 19th day of the 5th month, 1814, in conformity with a prospect which had for some time engaged my mind to pay a visit to the inhabitants of the Southern states, I this morning parted with my family.
It was more than a common trial to submit to this separation, as the weight of the engagement before me was particularly serious. In this journey I had Nathan Sharpless for a companion.
21st.--I was at the meeting of ministers and elders belonging to Warrington Quarterly Meeting. It was some consolation to me to find that I continued capable of feeling; but there was occasion to regret the defective state of the members of this meeting. On second day the 23d I attended the Quarterly Meeting, the business of which was conducted with a comfortable degree of unity. On the evening of the day, I had an interesting meeting with the black people; but it was injured by the unauthorized communication of a stranger.
The next evening I had a meeting with the people of York which was a comfortable one, and tended to increase my attachment to them, and we parted in much good will.
26th. I reached Baltimore, and attended the meeting at the east end of the city. Also had a meeting appointed for the inhabitants generally, which closed under a feeling of great solemnity.
28th.--On looking round and reflecting on my situation, I find but little relish for social conversation, and feel myself in a weak state. My faith in the all sufficiency of the Principle is not in any degree shaken; but I have less confidence in myself than ever I knew before. It seems singular that I have no dependence on my own talents. On former occasions I have had a share of assurance that I might as a man meet men in general, without being under any apprehension of weakness appearing. But the case is now changed. Infinite wisdom only comprehends the cause; but patience must have its perfect work.
29th.--This morning the meeting at the west end of Baltimore was in some degree comfortable. But much remains to be done before the Light of Truth will be preferred in all things, to the power of custom and the dominion of error.
Next day, rode to John C. Thomas's where an opportunity was had to observe the consequences of a change from holding slaves, to that of employing them as free men. By this change some attention to business by the family, was introduced; but years, no doubt, will roll away, before the habits consequent on slavery will be removed. Thence we went on to Washington.
On the 1st of the 6th month, I called on the President, and gave him some account of the prospect I had in view. He heard me attentively, and appeared to enter into the subject with some interest. He remarked that he had thought of the plan of removing the slaves to Africa as contemplated by Paul Cuffee; but many objections had occurred to him against it. He had also thought of their being colonized: but in this, difficulties also presented. In fact, difficulties would present in every plan that could be taken up. He :said the only probable method that he could see, to remedy the evil,--would be for the different States of the Union to be willing to receive them; and thus they would be spread among the industrious and practical farmers, and their habits, education and condition would be improved. I felt a satisfaction to find that the subject had engaged his attention, and parted with him in an agreeable manner.
After attending Friends' meeting at Washington, I spent some time in the company of Doctor Thornton. He took considerable interest in our views, and presented me with a pamphlet on the subject of emancipation, which I read with satisfaction, because I found that this singularly persevering man had really felt the importance of the subject.
Next day we attended meeting at Alexandria to satisfaction. The necessity of faith in the Spirit of God, was the doctrine communicated. In the evening of the day following I had a meeting with the inhabitants generally.
In relation to the object of my concern, although difficulties seem to present on all hands, yet when I consider that every good work has had a beginning, and that the blind were to be led in a way that they knew not, and in paths that they had not known,--I am led to hope that He who has all power in his hand, will provide a way, and work a deliverance for his afflicted creation, by means in his own all-powerful hands.
This evening I had some conversation with a young man who has traveled in several counties in Virginia. He stated, that so far as he could discover, there was a general preference to part with their slaves, provided it could be done to their advantage, and without too much loss on the part of those who hold them.
On first day, the 5th, I attended meetings at Alexandria, both fore and afternoon; both valuable opportunities. Next day, rode to Occoquan about fourteen miles, and put up with Nathaniel Ellicott. The weather came on wet and not fit for traveling,--a circumstance which taken in connection with the weight of impression that I felt, tended to furnish further evidence of the necessity of patience. How many are the occasion~ which present for the exercise of this virtue. But in no instance of my life, have I found it more requisite than at present.
On the 8th, I was at a meeting in the court-house at Dumfries. The assembly were remarkably silent, and attentive to the communication offered; and it was an opportunity in which I hope some profitable impressions were made. Next morning we left Dumfries and rode to Joseph Howard's, near Fredericksburg, and thence to Colonel Hugh Mercer's. After spending a little time with this man I felt most easy to inform him of my motives for traveling in Virginia. He heard me attentively, and appeared much interested. He particularly wished to know whether I had any plan in view for the general emancipation of the slaves. To this I answered,--that the subject was of great importance ;--and that I wished more fully to comprehend all the difficulties that connected with it;--and that this I saw would require time. But that I could see so far as to be satisfied it was a subject of national concern, and would need the concentrated wisdom of the intelligent, to provide a safe and proper remedy. I hoped in the course of my journey to become possessed of a part of that wisdom by mingling with those who had reflected upon the subject.
The day following, I had a meeting with the inhabitants of Fredericksburg. It was not so large as I expected, nor did I find so much openness among the people, as in some other places. After parting-with the assembly, it was some consolation to feel my mind calm and resigned. But I could not help thinking of the gloom that seemed to me to hang over this place; and which I believed was owing to the mass of iniquity among the people. Yet it is but just to say that they conducted steadily during the meeting, and I saw no external marks of disorder.
11th.--We left Fredericksburg, and rode to the neighborhood of Cedar Creek. On the way, we saw instances of black children without clothing; and passed over a country that appeared to be but thinly inhabited;--the soil poor, and the cultivation defective. The roads were much neglected, and the horses appeared much worn down. Next day, attended Cedar Creek meeting, and had a satisfactory opportunity. It was particularly so to find harmony among the members. We remained at Micajah Crew's until the 14th, when we went to Richmond, where I had an interview with George Hay. After opening my motives for wishing to see him, I discovered that he appeared under some embarrassment. But I informed him that I had no plan to propose,--that I particularly desired to learn whether, in the judgment of intelligent men of the South, the case was hopeless, and without remedy; that if I found it so, I should conclude it was vain to devote further time to the subject. He preferred that I should obtain further and more general information; and I observed to him, that my motives for-the present visit were not so much from a concern for the slaves, as for those who held them in possession; that I felt for their situation, and the draw-back from comfort, to which they must be subject in consequence of their situation. He at length admitted that the slaves were a draw-back to their happiness, and we soon closed the conversation.
After this opportunity, I went to Friends' meeting, where I was comforted by a renewal of confidence in the simplicity and perfection of gospel ministry. Its perfections were contrasted with the mere mechanical movements of those who wait not for the Spirit. The meeting was solid and satisfactory.
In the afternoon, I had an interview with John Hopkins. He came out in an open, full confession, that to his certain knowledge, slavery was known and felt as an oppressive and grievous evil,--and that it was a circumstance which every sensible man in Virginia must and did regret. But they had been landed in it by their ancestors, and what way to obtain a safe and proper remedy, was the great question. Various views were taken relative to the mode of remedy: and it was evident that the further we pursued the subject, the more this man became impressed with desire that it might be pursued. He expressed a hope that I would extend my inquiries, and volunteered his offer to introduce me to a number of his acquaintances. After he had adverted to colonizing the slaves, as one expedient, and observed upon the difficulties which he supposeed would follow an attempt of that kind,--he then stated a view that if the general government would take up the subject and provide funds to meet it, and felt the slaves be spread over the United States--that had struck him as a plan which had the fewest exceptions, and no other method of remedy had presented to him with equal clearness.
My next interview was with G. K. Taylor, who was very free and open in conversation. He gave it as his opinion that if any plan could be devised that would promise a freedom from the cumber of slavery, he had no doubt (provided the same should be safe in its operation) it would be joyfully embraced. But that the subject was viewed as being hopeless; and therefore every expedient resorted to, was merely an effort to put the evil further off. He further remarked that if the northern citizens could be induced to view the concern as a national one, it might facilitate the perfection of a well concerted plan. He could see no remedy short of the joint operation of the Union; and therefore believed that the National government would be the proper place for the subject to center. The only remedy that he could expect would prove effectual, would go to spread the black population generally over the continent.
My next conference was with a judge who called upon me. He seemed much to wish that some way might open to remedy the evil; and remarked that those who were engaged on the subject should not be too anxious, but be willing to pursue it with patience and perseverance.
18th.--Our inquiries, so far as relates to Richmond, seem now to be brought to a close. Taking the result into view, it appears that one sentiment would be entertained upon the subject, if any plan were set on foot which promised a safe release from slavery;--and it is believed that such release can only be safely obtained by a union of efforts throughout the States; and therefore that it will be necessary for the subject to obtain the interference of the general government. The objections made to a partial emancipation, are founded upon the improper conduct of those that are set free. It is stated that they associate with the slaves, and through them have an opportunity to steal the property of slave holders: and hence they become idle and vicious. These statements present some views which may throw light upon the subject, and necessarily lead to a consideration of the causes of this general depravity.
19th.--In the forenoon I was engaged among a numerous assembly of the inhabitants of Richmond, wherein it was cause of gratitude to believe that the Divine blessing was granted in solemnizing and profitably influencing the minds of many.
When I reflect upon the many discouraging thoughts that crowded upon me at the time of leaving home,--the fears that were entertained by my friends,--and the importance of the concern,--I feel an assurance that !he Shepherd of Israel has mercifully opened the way m the minds of the people, to meet my concern; and a hope is entertained that, by patient perseverance, the foundation may be laid for a blessed termination to the evils of slavery.
20th.--I parted with Thomas Maule and wife, and Proceeded on the way homeward to Micajah Crew's. It seems necessary to pursue every opening that may tend to promote the object of emancipation; confidently believing that way will be made safely to remove one of the greatest evils that ever the spirit of delusion has succeeded in imposing upon mankind.
22d.--Was present at Cedar Creek meeting. It was attended by a number who do not profess with us, and was a very interesting opportunity. Next day I attended Caroline meeting. Thence to Fredericksburg where I had an interview with Hugh Mercer. He appeared anxious to know the result of our visit to Richmond; and I could observe that it gave him satisfaction to be informed that we had been attended to with kindness, and that much interest was felt in the concern.
26th.--I attended a meeting appointed at Dumfries. It was large, and I was favored to spread before them the necessity of submission to the Divine Principle, in order to be happy. Much solemnity prevailed during the meeting, and at the conclusion there was a precious calm.
Thence we proceeded to Alexandria, where a meeting was had with the colored people; in which I was led, in much simplicity of doctrine, to address the assembly. They were very attentive, and sat in great quietude. I parted with them in much affection, and felt the same toward the citizens of Alexandria of respectable standing, who gave us their company on this interesting occasion.
The next day we went on our journey toward home, where we arrived on the 2d of the 7th month, 1814, and I found my family in a comfortable state.
After my return, I was at Westtown boarding school, Darby and Philadelphia, and attended meetings as they came in course. I also attended the funeral of Mary Bonsal. The esteem in which she was held among her friends, was very manifest by the numerous and solemn procession that was present on the occasion
7th. mo. 26th.--I was at the monthly meeting for the northern district, Philadelphia: The business of which, I thought, was conducted with more formality than was requisite. In the afternoon, I met a selected company of Friend% to whom I communicated the result of my late journey, as it related to the great subject of slavery. I did not think that they felt it in either its force or importance, so fully as will one day be necessary. Next day I spent some time with George Logan with considerable satisfaction. The subject of slavery was entered upon, and I was pleased to find that it had engaged his serious attention. He professed a willingness to aid me in any way that I thought he might be useful.
The two following days, I devoted some time to the examination of a manuscript which I had submitted to the Meeting for sufferings.
30th.--I was present with the Quarterly meeting of ministers and elders in Philadelphia. In this opportunity I felt much for the preservation of love and unity among Friends; and took notice, that in the same proportion this was maintained, they would be a blessing to each other, and brighten in the exercise of their several gifts.
Next day I was at Mulberry Street meeting, and felt some satisfaction in a silent attention to the state of my own mind,--the leadings of the principle,--and the solemnity of the meeting; but had little to communicate to the assembly.
8th. mo. 1st.--I was deeply impressed with considerations on the state of society, and the necessity there was for a more perfect separation from the love of the world.
Having remained on the farm near Downingtown about twenty years, I found it was not possible for me to make the property my own, as originally contemplated,--but that I was getting more and more in debt every year. I therefore thought it would be best to sell it while land was bringing a fair price. But on consulting my friends of the neighborhood, they were not willing I should leave the parts. I therefore omitted selling, and the price of land soon after commenced falling; so that when I was obliged to sell, I could obtain only about half the sum I had been offered for it seven years before. So great a fall in the price of property left me in debt, after parting with nearly all the substance I possessed. Had I sold the farm for the sum offered me, at the time I believed it right to sell, I should have been able to pay all my debts, and have a competency left for my support and that of my family.
From the time of my commencing in the world, there has been no object of a temporal character more desirable to me than that of having it in my power to render to every man his due. Hence I toiled with industry equal to my strength. I endeavored to avoid expenses; but when I had a family to provide for, this was impossible. Sickness subjected me to doctor's bills, and children were to be clothed, fed, and educated. After I went on the farm, my crops often failed, and I was never able to make any clear money by that business. Under these and other discouraging circumstances, my health gave way; and at length under the pressure of various kinds of trial, my constitution seemed to fail, and I was overtaken with the typhus fever. This disease appeared to prostrate my physical strength, and desolate the remaining powers of the nervous system. In order to raise me above the fever, recourse was had to powerful stimulants. Hence, when I felt the returns of weakness, stimulants were the only remedy within my reach; I could get hold of no other thing that would relieve me. The paroxysms of nervous disease that frequently occurred, would deprive me of the exercise of my rational understanding, and the remedy unavoidably taken was sometimes, by those who knew not the case, declared to be the disease. Hence, my moral character was called in question. Reports were spread abroad that 1 was become the victim of intemperance. A consequence of which was, that when I came to Philadelphia to attend the Yearly Meeting in the year 1823, a number of Friends at the close of the Meeting for sufferings on sixth day, desired me to stop with them. I did so; and they informed that reports very unfavorable to my character, were in circulation;--and therefore in their opinion I had better not attend the Yearly Meeting, but for the present return to my family.
On this afflicting occasion, the energies of my mind became prostrated, and my strength so gone from me that I returned home under deep discouragement, reflecting on my situation, and thinking I had none to look to, or to lean upon. A horror of great darkness fell upon me, and it seemed as if the lion of the forest was let loose to roar against me, and even to destroy me utterly. For a time my mind was almost distracted; and I frequently thought of putting off all dependence upon the Society of Friends, and of standing separate and alone. But when I thought of leaving the Society, this objection was always present with me: that as certainly as the children of Israel were to dwell alone, and not to mix with the surrounding nations,--so was the Society of Friends; for they were called out from among the various classes of men, and they were to stand separate, in order that the force of their example might have a proper effect upon the surrounding inhabitants. I could not therefore leave the Society; although I could feel little or no support to the mind, either inward or outward. Sometimes there Would be a short interval of light and hope, but soon I would again feel lost, and left to myself.
Thus for several years, I endured a state of much suffering and various deep trials, among which was the removal of several of my children by death. I was also under the necessity of selling the farm as before noted, and thus was turned out upon the world poor, and pennyless. But the most trying of all was, that my character among Friends had become so far blasted, that it was thought proper by some to deny me the standing of a minister in the Society. I was accordingly removed from a seat in the meeting of ministers and elders. Under those circumstances, my poor soul was so far cast down, that all prospect of recovery was frequently lost: and that which gave the greatest power and force to those feelings was a consciousness that I had not kept my place, but had frequently given way to an excessive use of stimulants, in order to conquer or soothe the horror of my situation. But among all the remedies for distress, there is none more dreadful than that of intemperance. It not only fails to relieve, but it adds an incalculable amount to the affliction. No one can conceive the horror and anguish that I felt and passed through. It was a state of suffering that baffles all description; and when once a poor creature is landed in it, every step taken on that ground is making his way out more difficult.
I cannot look back to the period when my standing was called in question, without feeling the most poignant remorse, that I should have been in any degree the cause of reproach to the ever blessed Principle of Truth, of which I have made profession. But from having been brought down by an attack of typhus fever, as before mentioned, to a very low and weak state, in which for several days I had no prospect of recovery, my physician gave me both laudanum and brandy; and recommended the frequent use of the latter in my case, as indispensable to my recovery. It was during this time of weakness, and under the pressure of my difficulties and trials, that I fell into the habit of drinking brandy, and thought my condition required it. Yet I never indulged in a course of excess, because of a disposition to rebel against my good and merciful Creator; but it was occasioned by reason of an overwhelming weight of weakness, and incapacity to stand my ground.
During this time of close trial, it was vain to look for any human aid; and what added to the mass of mournful feelings and views, was the disordered state of the Society of Friends. Many of the members with whom I had formerly associated, had in my opinion departed from the principles of Friends, and taken up a determination to rule the body of the Society in their own way--even though it should prostrate the character and standing of faithful Friends who could not unite with their measures. Consequently, as I was already proscribed, I sought for no strength or comfort among this class,--and stood for a time alone. Being thus weakened, broken down and discouraged, and no associates in the Society to mingle with, I do not marvel at (though I do not approve) of some of the weaknesses into which I unhappily fell. But, adored forever be the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls;--his arm is not shortened that it can not save, nor his ear grown heavy that it cannot hear. By the blessed interference of his adorable goodness, wisdom, and power, deliverance was miraculously furnished, and a way made for me to rise again into the glorious liberty of the ever blessed Truth. This I acknowledge with gratitude to have been nothing short of a Divine work. And having witnessed that my God is indeed a God of mercy and long-suffering kindness, I am humbly bound to speak well of his excellent name, and to magnify the arm of his power. Oh! how wonderful is his loving-kindness to the children of men! When, by his Spirit my mind is opened to take a view of his marvelous kindness, long-suffering, and forbearance with transgressing mortals,--no language is sufficient to do the great subject justice. Sometimes the query arises, How is it, that he permits transgressing mortals to go on year after year, in a state of rebellion against the clear impressions of his Spirit, and lengthens out the opportunity for such to return to him, and enjoy his favor? Thus he even extends his call to the eleventh hour of the day; evidently not willing that any should perish in their sins, but that all should return, repent, and live.
In my reflections upon some of the most trying and discouraging circumstances of my life, I have been convinced that a principal cause was occasioned by my accepting of a proposal made by a liberal and wealthy friend of Philadelphia. In the preceding part of my journal, I have adverted to my being accommodated with a farm in the neighborhood of Downingtown in the year 1797. I had reason to believe that this offer was made me from the motives of kindness and good-will. But I have since believed that it would have been better for me, if I had then declined to accept it, and informed the friend, that although I was poor in the world, yet I could not doubt that if I kept faithful to my good Guide, there would be a way made for me to get along.
I now see, that, being taken from a state of poverty and placed in a condition having the appearance of wealth, I was exposed to many expenses that seemed almost unavoidably connected with my changed situation. In endeavoring to fulfil the various duties that seemed to be required of me, much of my time was occupied. I was held under appointments of society, in some of which I might not have been placed, had Friends supposed I had no time to spare; but considering my circumstances as now being easy in the world, they were influenced thereby.
From my sad experience, I am convinced that it is often dangerous or of great disadvantage, for a man to be suddenly changed from a condition of poverty to one of wealth, or even the appearance of it. Some may think by placing a religious man who is poor, in easy circumstances, that he will have the power to be more useful, and can spend more of his time and property in religious services. But, by removing him suddenly from the station in which he has been placed by Divine Providence, he may be induced by the change of his circumstances, not so deeply to feel those baptisms necessary to give his mind a full acquaintance with himself, but in some measure secretly relying on the influence of his wealth and standing in society, the perfection of his spiritual qualifications may be much injured.
Now, although from a serious recurrence to my own experience, I have been led to make these remarks, yet I have no doubt there may be many cases wherein it would be altogether right and proper for the wealthy to help the poor. We are all but stewards of the good things of this life, and there is a faithfulness in the unrighteous mammon as well as in the true and spiritual riches. See this subject treated on in Luke 15.
In tracing over my own case, I have seriously believed that I should have escaped many a sorrowful hour, and many a mournful reflection, had I found my own way through life, and been left to struggle with the affairs of this world under the circumstances in which Providence had placed me. In the event of the loss of my apparent property, I found my standing and influence in society was greatly diminished--I was forsaken also by many who had professed to be my warm friends. But none of these things would have done me any real harm, if through all I had kept my place in the Truth.
1825, 11th. mo. 15th.--This morning it seemed to be my duty to go to Darby and attend Concord Quarterly Meeting to be held there. In great tenderness of spirit I went to the meeting.--Being sensible of the humbling presence of the Divine Being mercifully attending my poor tried mind, I implored the God of all grace to continue to be with me, so that I might never more be suffered to be left to myself; for I know that in my that is in my flesh, there dwells no good thing. Oh! the power and the glory of that heavenly stream of gospel love, that filled my heart, and engaged me in a living testimony to his goodness: and under which, many of the assembly were reached and with myself contrited before God. For the renewed visitation of Divine love, experienced in this meeting, my soul awfully and reverently bowed before the eternal Majesty, and I returned home with a thankful and devoted heart.
16th.--This morning, the consideration of attending Caln Quarterly Meeting presented to my mind with some weight. But having also some temporal engagements, I found it best to attend to them. To the truly religious mind, there is a depth of feeling and solicitude, when there are creditors who are uneasy, and wanting their money; and especially when the means of satisfying them are lacking. This has been my case, when I could see no way but to trust in the same blessed Power and Principle which has hitherto provided for me.
17th.--I attended our monthly meeting. In it there was a long communication; but under it there was little felt that had a tendency to quicken my mind, or to raise the Divine life into dominion, I began to fear that the cause might be in myself. But on a close search, I felt acquitted, and that my love to my heavenly Helper was steadfast.
After many trials and changes in my standing and situation, I endeavored to obtain a place of comfortable subsistence in West Chester. There I commenced conveyancing, and obtained the office of Postmaster. I had for my assistant my youngest son William; but he was taken away by death on the 7th. Of the 1st. month, 1829.--We had had three sons and eight daughters; our two sons, Joseph and Jesse both died in the year 1827; and after William was taken, all that remained of our children, were two daughters. Thus, it has consisted with the wisdom of Divine Providence to remove by death, nine of my children. My son William was an innocent and valuable young man, and bid fair to be a support for us to lean upon in advanced life. .But as he left the world in peace, and seemed to have nothing that could bind him to our earth, it was for me to be resigned.
Not many weeks after William's death, my dear wife and bosom companion was taken unwell. During the early part of the time she was wasting away, we were left in a state of greater trial than we had before known, being shifted about from place to place. At length we removed to our son-in-law, Ezra Cope's, where she was particularly under the care of her two daughters, Hannah and Lydia; and continued there until the day of her death, which occurred on the 9th of the 9th month, 1829.
Being thus stripped of a beloved companion, of most blessed mind and character, I have felt it right to give some testimony concerning her exemplary and devoted life. We entered into the solemn covenant of marriage on the 26th. of the 7th. month, in the year 1790, and were permitted to live together until the day of her removal by death. Having very little to begin with, our passage through the world was attended with many trials. But under all the variety of circumstances we met with, she was cheerful, and never known to murmur or complain of her situation. It was my lot frequently to leave home in the discharge of my religious duty; but I never found her to stand in my way and to conclude she could not get along without me. On the other hand, she held it to be her duty to make all the preparation for me in her power; and the sweet and tender regard which she manifested both when parting and meeting again, had a powerful support me under those trials. Even when we had number of children she appeared to possess a mind settled in a confidence that there always would be a way for her to get along When I was about to go to England and Ireland, I felt it to be a very serious trial, and that if she had said one word against my going, I should not have been able to prosecute the journey. But on this occasion I could see no difference. She had seriously weighed the concern and thought it was right for me to go, and therefore was as cheerful as on other occasions. During my absence in this journey, she became the mother of another child. This circumstance she met with fortitude and resignation; and thought she had no occasion to complain.
It was our lot to have eleven children; and for a time they appeared to be as fine and healthy children as any. But at length one of them died with the dysentery. On this occasion I had a further opportunity of witnessing her solid and passive state of mind. She did not appear to be moved from her general state of composure and quiet resignation She afterwards saw the death of eight others of her children--and in all these cases, I did not find that she ever lost her judgment, or was in any degree disqualified for paying to them the proper and necessary attention. I remarked to her, that I was thankful to see that she was so well supported amidst all those serious trials. Her reply was, that she did not consider their deaths as an accident,--but that the removal of her children was all in wisdom, and ordered by Him who did all things for the best; and that therefore it was her duty to be resigned. And this was the cause why she was prepared to part with those dear objects of affection, without a murmur.
She was one of those excellent individuals who understood well the propriety of minding her own business, and very seldom or never was found improperly meddling with the concerns of others. She was a woman who knew what it was to have the animal passions kept in great subjection to an enlightened judgment; and having placed a just estimate on the value of this world's riches, she appeared to have no anxiety about the accumulation of wealth, either for herself or her children. In conversation, she seldom made use of many words; but her mood was cheerful and her manners were innocent and engaging.
Although she might be considered a very domestic character, yet she occasionally mingled with her neighbors and friends. It was however one of her greatest earthly comforts that her principal enjoyments were in her own family; and she believed her duties in this life consisted mainly in taking the necessary care of her household affairs, and the proper education of her children. I have often admired at the uniform obedience of every one of them to all her commands and wishes. She would sometimes say, she thought the principle duties of a mother were in her own family, especially during the minority of her children, and that she believed there was a snare in going much abroad and leaving them under care of domestics.--When she heard of mothers that would leave home for days together, and had an infant and little children there left to be taken care of by others, she would say, their feelings must be very different from hers: for in her view women that had children were in duty bound to watch over and take proper care of them. She believed there was a possibility of getting into such a habit of going abroad and making social visits, that people would become uneasy if they stayed at home. Whereas, if they had a proper regard for their families and domestic duties, they would be much happier and more useful, to go less abroad.
She also had a testimony against talking about her neighbors to their disadvantage; saying she thought those who find little else to converse about, were not very safe or very profitable company. She considered the attendance of our religious meetings at home as a reasonable duty; but she said there were other duties to be performed that were more out of sight, and that the nearer she kept to what was right in the fulfilment of all her duties, the less difficulty she found in keeping the mind right when at meetings.
My trials and disappointments in my temporal concerns had been many and grievous. But although we were almost turned out upon the world empty-handed, she never murmured, nor reflected on me; but endeavored to keep me from every thing like despair. The happy state of resignation to the precious gift of :God in herself, in which she lived, gave her a firmness of mind that no adversity of circumstances could move or unsettle.
I attended upon her during her last sickness and at her death: and was furnished with evidences that did more in confirming my mind in the great doctrine of immortality and eternal life, than any other opportunity I had ever before witnessed. In her there was a uniform confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, that never forsook her. One very important trait in her character was, that she did not wish to know any thing before the right time. She remarked to me, that she believed it was possible even for very goodly kind of people, to want to know more of futurity than it was consistent with Infinite Wisdom to permit. Believing as she did in the immortality of the soul, she was confident that the condition of it in eternity would be as perfect as it was capable of being--and therefore on this subject, she knew that it would be wrong to indulge any anxiety about it. In this calm and dignified state of mind she continued, and always apparently contented. Thus she observed the gradual Wasting and decay of her bodily powers, without any apparent anxiety.
During the last two weeks of her life, it was her practice to retire to bed
about nine o'clock in the evening; and she preferred my taking care of her
through the night. She generally slept till between twelve and one o'clock.
Then waking ups she took some refreshment, and something to allay her
cough--after which she would converse pleasantly on the various occurrences
that we had known together--so interesting were her remarks and her cheerful
converse that morning would often come before I was aware. At length the
morning came when she said to me, "My dear, I have now passed through the
last night," and so it proved. In the afternoon she requested me to place
her as upright in the bed as I could. She then took a farewell look of a
friend who stood at the foot of the bed. She next turned her eyes upon her
two daughters who were at its side. After looking at them for some time,
she turned her countenance upon me and with an affection that language could
not describe, continued to view me for some time. Then, closing her eyes,
she remained perfectly still, and departed with such quietude that I could
not discern the moment of her ceasing to breath. But before she left us,
she told us her day's work was done, and that she was going in peace.
CONTINUED IN PART TWO