Radical Equality: 1842-1846

Letter, James A. Stetson to Dolly W. Stetson, Feb. 20, 1843

James writes to convince Dolly to join the Association, writing on the back of the Association’s constitution

  • Letter, James A. Stetson to Dolly W. Stetson, Feb. 20, 1843: Page 1

Transcript: [Feb 20, 1843] My Dear Wife You see I am again detained here another week this time to accomodate Doctor Hudson and Mr Adam to attend the convention at Manchister1 with the horse they disign for me to take which horse by the way I am told is a very Lazy one so I must drag snail like for 5 or 600 miles through snow banks and I know not what Else through the coldest state in the union O! Dear it almost friezes me to think of it, but never mind I never dreaded to do did a bad job yet but what I found it less terable in the Execution than I feared before I began and a man who has lived through the terrour of asking his wife of her parents, and a man to indorse for him at the Bank and having the pay day come around with nothing in his pocket to pay it with, can live through any thing Else under the Canopy so I hope (as I have gone through all the above Calamities and more, too,) that I shall start next Monday morning with good spiritts and relying on the protection of him who has thus far protected me reach my jurneys End in saifty and find you all well but I must here from you before I Shall return so you must write as soon as you receive this and direct to Burlington Vt. where I hope to be the latter part of next week —

You see by the first page of this sheet2 that new Laws have been enacted for the regulation of the community for the year now entered upon which I hope you will consider upon and as I am about determind to remove unless you see some great objection to our doing so to as Early in the spring as possable, but I promise you to begin with that I will not Come here unless you think Best so you must make up your mind pro. or Con. for by it I shall be guided in order that you might be better able to do so I will give you my reasons for thinking it best to come. and first for yourself I think you will find congenial spirits here with whome you will be happy and in whose projects you can hartily unite not in all perhaps but mainly and for myself if I could but see you happily situated (after the trials and crosses you have born since my reverses came upon us,) where you could injoy more rest more advantajes for mental and moral improvement which I Know you so much long for I should I shoul then be a happy man always putting the welfare of our children will always be uppermost in our minds and

I am greatly mistaken if here is not the best place for them that we can possibly expect to get, if they can but carry out the plan they propose in their different Schools I see not why our children may not be highly Educated in Body and Mind and when I say that I think these people deeply imbued with Religious principal I must say that I have my doubts wither the system they propose to persue will prove the best that might be adopted. to this our special care must turn and if we like not thair plan we need not adopt it but can pursue any other we choose.

I must further say that it requires considerable faith to believe that thair business system will sucseed, as at presant arranged I do not think it can be very proffittable but I am fully persuaded that they intend to do the best they know, and not being bound to System they are free to amend when ever they shall see the need of amendment. I wish you would ask Mr Tarbox to show you Georges3 last letter again and see if it is there stated that the Earnings of the community for the 8 months mentioned was 2900 Dollars over and above the pay of wages if it was the statement will be like the one made by the man that Saw 100 Bears and when his statement was doubted he put it at fifty and again at 25 and finally at one and when his friend said he now doubted his having seen any well said he I did see – where one Set – we either got a wrong impression or mistook or George made a mistatement I told him what [he?] wrote he said he was in a great hurry and might have wrtten a blind letter. — in the first part of the 4th provision of the printed Laws it is stated that after paying for the subsistance of members, andc– the subsistance therein mentioned is regulated by a Committee and is the Law for the presant year and provides first that all persons over the ages of 10 years shall be allowed .80 cents per week for board which in our family amounts to $166.40 – all under 10 years .40 for them $83..20 – in all for Board $249.60 all over 18 are to receive 20 Dollars from 14 to 18 = $14. from 10 to 14 = $10.00 from 6 to 10 – $8.00 under 6 $5.00 which in all makes 90 Dollars for clothing for Board and clothing $338.60 for our family if the community dont Earn Enough I cannot tell you where or who makes up the deficency if they Earn more the printed Laws show how it is to be disposed of thise are some of the facts in the case the people here seem sanguine of sucksess Mr Hayward is coming from Salem in the Spring and brings 1200 Dollars others are applying but without Capital.4

now for the other side of the picture (if I may call this imperfect scrol a picture) the First is our Beloved Mother. what is her wish concerning us? how can we act so as best to discharge our duty to her you are her only Child and her happiness must be consulted by you can you lieve her in her old age to the mercy and Care of strangers that has taken care of you in your infancy I know you Cannot, nither Can I. what is to be done then will she Come with us or shall we stay with her? you and she must answer these questions and in doing it you must yeald yours to her wishes and happiness – again will the advantages for Intelectual and Physical Education of our children and ourselves recompense for the giving up of some at least of personal freedom and the possability of wrong or rather of scarc any Religious instruction I mean in preaching unless we go into town, which will undoubtedly create unplesant feelings in the minds of some here, and (another qustion is the opposition to the Clergy well founded I am in doubt) I mean the Extrem opposition but on the other hand how lame weak deficient is the and corrupt is the influence of the Orthodox preaching in Brooklyn and Every where and among allmost all sects must our Children be cramped by it.

– Again if we have more light and think we have any influance in Extending that light ought we to come away from B.5 Extinguish that light by mingling it with the Meators that may Blaze up here for a while and then go out for Ever I am confounded myself and it will take your own Clear mind to lead me out of the Laberyanth I am almost ready to give up my manhood and say wherever you direct but keep me with you and I will submit. – – I will only add that if we come here we can have a comfortabl tenement alone or go into Community house in the factory to the last I at presant am intierly appossed – I will state one thing more they propose to take schollars from abroad at $100. per year that all under 18 are in the Educational department and receive no pay other than as above and thair Education — one thing more it snowed most all last week and is snowing niow (sunday) and has been very cold – tomorrow I hope to start Kiss Lucy for me give my love to all the Children and mother and believe me when I say that I Love you best of all yours J A. Stetson

Read this Side last Mr Theo.6 Scarboroughs6 family are well Catherine and myself had a rainy day to come here but got on well Doct Spalding is much better – all the Friends send love G. W. Benson Sais that mother partly agrees to let him have some money this spring I do not know any thing about the affair and I will only say that if she does so she must invest it in her own name you spoke to me something that Mother said about money to you I think that whatever she does this spring she had better do in her own name and some other time if she sees fit alter it as she pleases G.W.B. wants you to show Mr Tarbox the 2 last Liberators I have attended meeting this afternoon Mr H Scarborough led in reading 5th 6th and 7th chapters of Geneses. I find quite a number of Transindentalists. and they think the account of the Flood a fable (a queer set of Fellows these) Mr Boyle comes here this week to look and he may move here7 I send a paper in which you will see that the Milford Community is all changed in thair affairs Mr Price carries on business for himself and so do others.8 Inclosed is a Book mark I bought at the Insane hospital I send it to Almira. and the motto will always teach her not to dispair but if she mises once or more times of realizing all she expects in this world Try Again.

Addressed: Mrs. Dolly A. Stetson / Brooklyn / Connecticut Postmark: Northampton Ms. Feb 20

Notes

  1. William Adam (1796-1881) and Erasmus D. Hudson (1805-1880) were among the NAEI’s founders and prominent early participants; for details about them see Christopher Clark, The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995), pp. 25-29. They were attending an antislavery convention at Manchester, Conn..
  2. This letter is written on a printed copy of the NAEI’s 1843 constitution.
  3. Daniel Tarbox was a Brooklyn, Conn., abolitionist. George W. Benson (1808-1879) was one of the founders of the NAEI and probably its most influential leader during its early years. Benson had married James A. Stetson’s sister Catharine [sometimes spelled ‘Catherine’] in 1833, and the Bensons were among the Stetsons’ closest neighbors and associates in Brooklyn. Already prominent abolitionists, the family’s position in the movement was bolstered by the marriage of George’s sister Helen to William Lloyd Garrison in 1834. See Clark, The Communitarian Moment, pp. 18-20.
  4. Josiah Hayward (1801-1874), a mason by trade, and his family were members of the NAEI from March 1843 to July 1844. They had been active abolitionists in Salem, Mass., and in the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
  5. Brooklyn.
  6. Theodore Scarborough (1814-1850) and his family were Brooklyn, Conn., neighbors of the Stetsons, who had helped to found the NAEI in April 1842 and remained there until July or August 1844.
  7. Theodore Scarborough’s brother Herbert (1820- ) had participated in events such as the Chardon Street (Boston) Church, Ministry and Sabbath Convention of November 1840 that had helped define nonresistants’ and radical abolitionists’ opposition to orthodox churches and ministers. He had come to the NAEI in November 1842 and left with other members of his family in the summer of 1844. James Boyle (1803-c.1884) and Laura P. Boyle (1803-1852) were at the NAEI from June 1843 to October 1844. James Boyle had grown up in Canada and trained for the Catholic priesthood before becoming an evangelical Protestant and then a Perfectionist. He had been an active abolitionist lecturer in Ohio and New England before joining the NAEI.
  8. Stetson is referring to changes in the organization of the Hopedale Community at Milford, Mass..
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