Revival of Religion - Baptism - Join the Church - Temperance Society - Cold-Water Army - Another Voyage - Rules for the Voyage - Temperance Voyage - Altar of Prayer on Shipboard - Semi-Weekly Paper at Sea - Sunday Worship - Arrival in South America - Paraiba - Bahia - Privateer - St. Catherine's.
DURING the spring of the year 1827 we were blessed with a revival of religion at Fairhaven, especially in the Christian Church. At this season my mind was more or less exercised in regard to uniting with some denomination of Christians. My companion had been a member of the Christian Church several years previous to our marriage. By attending with her, after our marriage, when I was at home, I had become acquainted somewhat with their views of the Bible. They took the Scriptures for their only rule of faith and practice, renouncing all creeds.
My parents were members of long standing in the Congregational Church, with all of their converted children thus far, and anxiously hoped that we would also unite with them. But they embraced some points in their faith which I could not understand. I will name two only: their mode of baptism, and the doctrine of the trinity. My father, who had been a deacon of long standing with them, labored to convince me that they were right in points of doctine. I informed him that my mind was troubled in relation to baptism. Said he, "I had you baptized when an infant." I answered that that might all be according to his faith; but the Bible taught that we must first believe, and then be baptized (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), but I was not capable of believing when I was an infant. Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, "If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity."
Our trial in this matter led me to make my duty a special subject of prayer, particularly in relation to baptism; after which, in opening the Bible, my eyes rested on the twenty-seventh psalm. When I had finished the last verse, I said, "Lord, I will! If I wait on thee according to thy word, I must be immersed--buried with Christ in baptism." Col. 2:12. God strengthened my heart and set me free from that moment, and my duty was perfectly clear. His promise was sweet and powerful. In a few days I was immersed and joined the Christian Church.
The same day, while we were changing our clothes, I solicited Eld. M., who baptized me, to assist me in raising a temperance society. As my mind was now free with respect to this last duty, I was forcibly impressed with the importance of uniting my energies with others, to check, if possible, the increasing ravages of intemperance. Since I had ceased to use intoxicating drinks, I was constrained to look upon it as one of the most important steps that I had ever taken. Hence, I ardently desired the same blessing for those around me. Eld. M. was the first person whom I asked to aid me in this enterprise; failing with him, I moved out alone, and presented my paper for subscribers. Eld. G., the Congregational minister, his two deacons, and a few of the principal men of the place, cheerfully and readily subscribed their names, twelve or thirteen in number, and forthwith a meeting was called, and the "Fairhaven Temperance Society" was organized.
The majority of our little number had been sea-captains, and had seen much of the debasing influence exerted by ardent spirits among its users, abroad and at home. They seemed the more ready, therefore, to give their names and influence to check this monster vice. Eld. G. exclaimed, "Why, Capt. Bates, this is just what I have been wanting to see!" The meeting was organized by choosing Capt. Stephen Merihew president, and Mr. Charles Drew secretary. Pending the discussion in adopting the constitution, it was voted that we pledge ourselves to abstain from the use of ardent spirits as a beverage. Having no precedent before us, it was voted that rum, gin, brandy, and whisky were ardent spirits. Wine, beer, and cider were so freely used as a beverage that the majority of our members were then unwilling to have them in the list. Some doubts arose with the minority whether we should be able to sustain the spirit of our constitution without abstaining from all intoxicating beverages. One of our members, who had always been noted for doing much for his visiting friends, said, "Mr. President, what shall I do when my friends come to visit me from Boston?" "Do as I do, Capt. S.," said another; "I have not offered my friends any liquor to drink in my house these ten years." "Oh, you are mistaken," said the president, "it is twenty!" This doubtless was said because the man had ceased to follow the fashion of treating his friends with liquor before others were ready to join with him.
Inquiry was then made whether there were any temperance societies then known. A statement was made that certain individuals in Boston had recently agreed together that instead of purchasing their liquor in small quantities at the stores, they would get it by the keg, and drink it in their own houses. This association was called the "Keg Society." If any temperance societies had ever been organized previous to the one at Fairhaven, we were unacquainted with the fact. A short time after our organization, one of our number was reported to have violated his pledge. This he denied. "But you were intoxicated," said we. He declared that he had not drank anything but cider, and that was allowed. (We were told that his wife said she would a great deal rather he would drink brandy, for when he got drunk on cider he was as ugly again.) During the trial of this member, he continued to declare that he had not violated the letter of the constitution. But it was evident to the society that he had violated the intent and spirit of it, which he was unwilling to admit, nor would he even promise to reform. He was therefore expelled.
The society here saw the necessity of amending the constitution by striking out the words, "ardent spirits," and inserting in their place, "all intoxicating drinks," or something else that would sustain and aid the cause. From this a reform was introduced, which finally resulted in the disuse of all intoxicating drinks, except for medicinal purposes. This reform gave us the name of "Teetotalers."
Before this, our temperance society had become exceedingly popular. Our meeting-houses in their turn were crowded with all classes to hear lectures on the subject; and converts, both male and female, by scores cheerfully pledged themselves to the temperance constitution. Many of the citizens of New Bedford who came to hear also united with us. From thence a society was organized in their town and other ones also. Arrangements were soon made, and a Bristol County Temperance Society was organized, and the Massachusetts State Temperance Society soon followed. Temperance papers, tracts, and lecturers multiplied throughout the land, and opposition began to rage like the rolling sea, causing the tide of temperance to ebb awhile. Then came the "Cold Water Army," of little children from four years and onward, commingling their simple little songs in praise of water--pure, cold water--no beverage like unmingled, cold water. Their simple, stirring appeals, especially when assembled in their society meetings, seemed to give a new impetus to the cause, and re-arouse their parents to the work of total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks. As I examined my papers the other day, I saw the book containing the names of nearly three hundred children who had belonged to our Cold Water Army at Fairhaven.
In the midst of our temperance labors, my brother F. arrived from South America in the Empress. She was soon loaded again with an assorted cargo under my command, and cleared for South America. We sailed from New Bedford on the morning of Aug. 9, 1827. I found it much more trying to part with my family and friends this time than ever before.
Our pilot now left us with a strong breeze wafting us out once more into the boisterous ocean for a long voyage. As usual, our anchors were now stowed away, and everything was secured in case we should be overtaken by a storm. As the night set in, on taking our departure from Gay Head Light, distant about fifteen miles, all hands were called aft on the quarter-deck. All but one were strangers to me, as they had come from Boston the day before. I read our names and agreement to perform this voyage, from the shipping papers, and requested their attention while I stated the rules and regulations which I wished to be observed during our voyage.
I spoke to them of the importance of cultivating kind feelings toward each other while we were alone on the ocean, during our contemplated voyage. I stated that I had frequently seen bitter feelings and continued hatred arise on shipboard by not calling the men by their proper names. Said I, "Here is the name of William Jones; now let it be remembered while we are performing this voyage that we all call his name William. Here is John Robinson; call him John. Here is James Stubbs; call him James. We shall not allow any Bills, or Jacks, or Jims, to be called here." In like manner I read all their names, with those of the first and second mates, and requested them always to address one another in a respectful manner, and to call themselves by their proper names; and if the officers addressed them otherwise, I wished it reported to me.
Another rule was, that I should allow no swearing during the voyage. Said William Dunn, "I have always had that privilege, sir." "Well," said I, "you cannot have it here," and quoted the third commandment, and was endeavoring to show how wicked it was to swear, when he said, "I can't help it, sir!" I replied, "Then I will help you to help it." He began to reason about it, and said, "When I am called up in the night to reef topsails in bad weather, and things don't go right, I swear before I think of it." Said I to him, "If you do so here, I will tell you what I will do with you; I will call you down and send you below, and let your shipmates do your duty for you." Dunn saw that such a course would disgrace him, and he said, "I will try, sir."
Another rule was, that we should allow no washing nor mending clothes on Sundays. I said to the crew, "I have a good assortment of books and papers which you may have access to every Sunday. I shall also endeavor to instruct you, that we may keep that day holy unto the Lord. You shall have every Saturday afternoon to wash and mend your clothes, both at sea and in harbor, and I shall expect you to appear every Sunday morning with clean clothes. When we arrive in port you may have the same Saturday afternoon in your turn to go on shore and see the place, and get what you wish, if you return on board at night sober; for we shall observe the Sabbath on board in port, and not grant any liberty on shore Sunday."
At this, Dunn remarked again, "That's the sailor's privilege, and I have always had the liberty of going on shore Sundays, and"--"I know that very well," said I, interrupting him, "but I cannot give you that liberty," and endeavored to show the crew how wrong it was to violate God's holy day, and how much better they would enjoy themselves in reading and improving their minds than in joining all the wickedness that sailors were in the habit of in foreign ports on that day.
"Another thing I want to tell you is, that we have no liquor, or intoxicating drinks, on board." "I am glad of that!" said John R. Perhaps this was the first voyage he had ever sailed without it. Said I, "We have one junk-bottle of brandy, and one also of gin, in the medicine chest; this I shall administer to you like the other medicine when I think you need it. This is all the liquor we have on board, and all that I intend shall be on board this vessel during our voyage; and I here strictly forbid any of you bringing anything of the kind on board when you have liberty to go on shore in foreign ports. And I would that I could persuade you never to drink it when on shore. When you are called to do duty during your watch below, we shall expect you to come up readily and cheerfully, and you shall retire again as soon as the work is performed, and also have your forenoon watch below. If you adhere to these rules, and behave yourselves like men, you shall be kindly treated, and our voyage will prove a pleasant one." I then knelt down and commended ourselves to the great God, whose tender mercies are over all the works of his hands, to protect and guide us on our way over the ocean to our destined port.
The next morning, all but the man at the helm were invited into the cabin to join with us in our morning prayer. We told them that this would be our practice morning and evening, and we should be pleased to have them all with us, that we might pray with and for them. Also, to further encourage the crew to read and inform their minds, we proposed to issue a paper twice a week, namely, Tuesday and Friday mornings, during the voyage. Before sailing, I had prepared a stock of books, with the latest newspapers, also the last volume of an interesting religious weekly paper, published in Boston, called Zion's Herald. We began our issue with the first number of the volume, requiring the return of the last number before issuing the next; this we placed under the volume, to be given out again at the end of six months.
The novel idea of a semi-weekly paper at sea interested the crew very much, and when the first number came forth again, and they began to reread the volume, I heard nothing said with regard to ever having seen it before. Their interest in the paper continued throughout the entire voyage. During their forenoon watch below, I used frequently to walk forward, unobserved, and listen to hear some one of them reading aloud from their morning paper, and their remarks thereon.
On Sundays, when the weather was suitable, we had religious worship on the quarter-deck, otherwise in the cabin, when we generally read some good, selected sermon, and from the Bible. When in port we could not have their whole attention on Sunday, as when at sea. It sometimes seemed hard for them to be deprived of the privilege of going ashore with other ship companies that were passing us for that purpose. But we enjoyed peace and quietness, while they were rioting in folly and drunkenness. After a few weeks it was truly gratifying to see them selecting their books from our little library on Sunday morning, and reading them, and also their Bibles, to inform their minds--it was so different from their former course on shipboard. They also appeared cheerful and willing to obey when called upon, and so continued. After a passage of forty-seven days, we arrived in safety at Paraiba, on the east coast of South America. From thence we continued our voyage to Bahia, or St. Salvador, where we arrived the 5th of October. Finding no sale for our cargo, we cleared for St. Catherine's. The night before our arrival at Bahia, we were fired upon and detained by a Buenos Ayres privateer. The captain pretended to believe that I was loaded with muskets and powder for his enemy, the Brazilians. After satisfying himself to the contrary, he released us.
Overhauled by a Buenos Ayres Privateer, or Pirate - Plunder - Passengers Made Prisoners - Search for Money - Crew and Passengers Released - Season of Prayer - Arrival at Rio Janeiro - Bethel Meeting - Rio Grande - Dangers of the Coast - Fresh Water - Religious Views - Letter - Vessel Lost - Sail - Arrive at St. Catherine's - Sail for New York - Singular Phenomenon.
ON arriving at St. Catherine's, we landed, sold our cargo, and loaded again with rice and farina, and sailed for Rio Janeiro. Several days after we left St. Catherine's, a strange sail was discovered at a distance on our weather-quarter, bearing toward us early in the morning. She soon began firing guns, but we paid little attention to her, and were standing on our course under a very light breeze. The Sugar Loaf and other high mountains at the entrance of the harbor of Rio Janeiro were now looming in the distance, some eighty miles ahead of us. We saw that the strange sail was gaining on us very fast, and by the aid of the spy-glass discovered that she was sweeping with long oars and firing occasionally. We hoisted the stars and stripes, and soon discovered that she was a brig with the Buenos Ayres flag at her peak. We had eight gentleman passengers on board, six of them Brazilian merchants, going to Rio Janeiro to increase their stock of goods. They were exceedingly agitated on learning that their enemy was approaching. I said to them, "If you think it best I will crowd on all sail, and if the breezes freshen up soon we can outsail them, but if not they will sweep down upon us, and in case they overtake us you will fare hard. I have no fear of them myself, while under the American flag. But if we heave to for them, they will cease their firing and treat you more kindly. I will do either of which you shall choose among yourselves." They soon decided that we might better heave to and let them come up with us. We did so, and calmly awaited the approach of the enemy.
In the course of an hour they rounded to, broadside to us, and cried out, "Brig ahoy! Halloo! Lower your boat down, sir, and come aboard here immediately!" "Yes, sir." They cried again, "Do you bear a hand about it, sir, and bring your papers with you!" "Yes, sir." I directed the second mate to take charge of the boat, to keep her from being stove while along-side the privateer. On reaching the deck I was met by two ruffianly-looking men with their brace of pistols, and the captain, standing in the cabin gangway, who said, "Why didn't you heave to, sir, when I fired at you? I have a good mind to blow your brains out here!" followed up with a volley of blasphemous imprecations. I replied, "I am in your hands, sir; you can do as you please," and then added, "I hove my vessel to as soon as I ascertained who you were;" and pointing to our flying colors, I remarked, "That is the American flag, and I hope you will respect it." Then came another volley of oaths with a threat that he would sink my vessel, and he cried out, "Go away aft, there, sir, on the quarter-deck!" Here he took my papers. When I got aft I saw that my whole crew were with me. I said, "Mr. Bowne, why did you not stay in the boat?" "Why, sir, they ordered us all on deck after you, and put in a crew of their own; yonder they go on board the Empress." The privateer master then inquired, "Captain, what's your cargo?" "Rice and farina," was the reply. "You have got ammunition for the enemy under your farina." "No, sir; I have no such thing in my cargo. You have my invoice and bills of lading." He said he knew I was aiding the Brazilians, and that he would carry me down to Montevideo as a prize. Said I, "If you do, I shall find friends there." "Why," said he, "have you ever been there?" "Yes," I replied. Said he, "I will burn your vessel up, and sink her to the bottom;" and he hailed his officer and ordered him to take off the hatchways and sound her with rods to the bottom of the hold.
Their crew now came along-side with our boat to discharge their plunder. Said I, "Captain, are you going to plunder my vessel?" "Yes," he answered, "I promised these men plunder if they would pull with the sweeps and overtake you." My remonstrating only made him curse and swear about what he would do to us. My papers and letters were then spread out on the quarter-deck. I asked him what he wanted with my private papers and letters. He answered that he wanted to find out my correspondence with his enemy, the Brazilians. Said I, "You have my wife's letters there from the United States." Said he, "You may have them, and your private property." The boat was unloading her plunder again, and I said, "Your men have just passed in my spy-glass; will you let me have it?" "No," said he, "I promised them plunder if they would overtake you, and I cannot stop them."
While examining the invoice he suddenly asked, "Where is your money?" I replied, "You have my papers with the invoice of my cargo; if you find any account of money, take it." He then ordered his officers to make thorough search for it on board. Not finding any, they told the steward they would hang him if he did not tell where the captain's money was. He declared that he had no knowledge of any. Our money was in silver coin; no one knew where it was but myself. I had stowed it away in bags where I had but little fear of pirates finding it. This captain was English, with a mixed, savage-looking crew, apparently ready for any kind of murderous work. Two or three times he had his vessel steered so near ours that I feared they would get foul of each other and be wrecked, or go down, and because I spoke by way of caution, he poured his abusive epithets on me unrestrained. After an hour or so his excitement began to subside, when he invited me to go down into the cabin with him and take a glass of grog. "Thank you, sir," said I, "I don't drink any." Well, he did, and down he went for a few moments to swallow another deadly dram.
I said to the Brazilian merchants just before he came up with us, "Say nothing to me about your money; secure it the best way you can. I shall undoubtedly be questioned about it, and if I know nothing of it I can say so." They gave their gold watches to the sailors, who kept them upon their persons out of sight. I was afterward told that they threw a quantity of their gold doubloons into the cook's "coppers," where the beef and pork were boiling in salt water for our dinner. These merchants were well stocked with summer dresses and linen, which these greedy fellows laid hold of, stripping them all off except their shirts and pantaloons.
After a while the insatiate crew that were ransacking our vessel for money, feeling the gnawings of hunger, seized upon the beef and pork that were cooking in the boilers. It seemed that a merciful Providence checked them from discovering the golden treasure at the bottom of the coppers; for if they had discovered it, they would have suspected there was more of the same in other places, and most probably some of us would have been hanged or shot before the search ended.
During this abusive detention of seven or eight hours, or from eleven in the forenoon until sundown, my boat's crew and self were crowded into a standing position away aft on the quarter-deck, with nothing to eat. Late in the afternoon the Brazilian merchants were brought on board the privateer as prisoners of war, and ordered to stand forward of the gangway on the lee-side, or, as sailors term it, "in the lee scuppers." Poor fellows, they looked most pitiful. Their prospects seemed most dark and dubious. I had heard of their saying, or talking among themselves, soon after we sailed from St. Catherine's, because of our praying with them and our sailors morning and evening, that there would be no danger, but they would have a safe passage to Rio Janeiro. Their faith was now being tested. There they stood, with their eyes fastened on the captain of the privateer and our little company.
A little before sundown the captain ordered all his men on board from the Empress. As our boat returned with them, he said to me, "You may now take your papers and boat and go on board your vessel." "Thank you, sir," I replied. "Will you let the passengers go with me?" "No!" said he, "they are my prisoners." "I know that, sir; but I shall be greatly obliged to you if you will let me have them." He said he wished me to understand that he knew his own business. I was at liberty to go on board when I pleased, but I should not have his prisoners. My men had gone into the boat and were waiting for me.
These poor fellows did not understand English, but it was clearly manifest from their agonizing, agitated looks that they knew their fate was being settled. Everything to them seemed to hang on a few moments. I appealed to his English and humane feelings respecting their treatment of prisoners not found in arms against them, and said to him, "These men have behaved like gentlemen on board of my vessel; they paid me fifty dollars each for their passage before I left St. Catherine's; they were quietly prosecuting their individual business. In point of worldly interest I shall gain nothing, as I am already paid; but I want to fulfill my engagement with them, and land them safe in Rio Janeiro. They have never injured you, and they will be in your way here. Now, captain, why will you not let me have them?" "Take them," said he in a subdued tone. "Thank you, sir, for your kindness." The way these men passed over that vessel's side into our boat, when we pointed them to her, was pretty clear proof that they understood all we had been saying concerning them. The captain then endeavored to apologize some for his unkind treatment to me. I bade him good-by, and we were once more all on board the Empress at the setting of the sun.
Here we found things in great confusion; our long boat unstowed, hatches all thrown off, leaving the cargo exposed to the first sea that should come on our decks. Passengers and crew worked diligently to put the Empress in sailing trim, and as night closed upon us we were out of reach of the privateer's guns, under a good wholesale breeze, and the passengers were congratulating each other on their safe deliverance from a cruel death. When order was restored, we assembled as usual in the cabin to thank the Lord for his daily mercies, and especially for his manifest interference in delivering us from the power of that reckless crew of pirates on the high seas. Thanks to his holy name! The sailors delivered the passengers their watches, and whatever else they had given them for safe-keeping. Their doubloons were also safe in the coppers. The enemy got none of their money; but they entered their trunks, and left them in rather a sad plight to meet their friends. The afternoon of the next day we anchored in the harbor of Rio Janeiro. When the report of the matter reached the city, the government dispatched a frigate in pursuit of the privateer, but they did not find her.
On Sunday the bethel flag was seen flying on board an English brig in the harbor. With my boat's crew, we joined them. There were not many present, and the dull, formal manner in which the meeting was managed seemed to strip it of all spiritual interest. After the meeting closed, the officers of the different ships in attendance were invited into the cabin, where a table was spread with various kinds of liquors, to which we were invited to help ourselves. I declined partaking of this part of the exercise, and returned to my vessel much disappointed at losing the blessing I had anticipated. Before leaving the harbor, however, some friends met with us on board the Empress, and we had an interesting prayer-meeting, with the blessing of Heaven.
As the custom-house authorities declined granting me liberty to sell my cargo in Rio Janeiro, we cleared and sailed again for St. Catherine's. On our arrival there, the president of the province, having just received a communication from the province of Rio Grande for two cargoes of farina for the troops in the South, granted me the first privilege, and gave me a letter to the authorities of Rio Grande. Thus prepared, we sailed again, and arrived at the bar of Rio Grande on the last day of the year 1827. Mariners approaching this coast cannot be too cautious, as the sand banks, both above and under the sea, are constantly changing their position. As we were approaching the coast at the close of the day, the water "shoaled" so fast that we anchored in the open sea, and lay there until morning, when we ascertained that we were some thirty miles from the coast. The sand banks on the shore are from five to about twenty-five feet high, and make it extremely difficult sometimes to see the light-house before being in danger of striking the sand bars. The wrecks of vessels, as they were passing through the process of being buried in the sand by the surging of the heavy surf, lying strewed along the shore a few miles from the entrance of the harbor, are sufficient evidence to the observer that it requires the best attention and skill of navigators in approaching this place, to get in without damage.
It is singular how fresh water is obtained for the shipping in the harbor. The water casks are towed to the shore, and the sailors dig little holes in the sand, about twenty or thirty feet from the ocean's edge. In about two or three minutes these holes fill up with pure, fresh water, which is easily scooped into the casks. The water thus obtained is often not more than two feet above the level of the salt sea-water. In pleasant weather, the women are frequently seen among the sand hills near the salt water, digging holes in the sand for fresh, soft water, sufficiently large to wash their fine white clothes in. When spread on the sand, with a clear sunshine, they dry them in about an hour. When dry, with one shake the sand falls from them, and their clothes are not soiled, because the sand is free from dust.
While in this port we held meetings on board our vessel every Sunday; but none of our neighbors, who were anchored near by and around us, came to unite with us, as they preferred to spend their leisure hours on shore. Their men returned in the evening, generally in a turbulent and riotous condition. Our temperance and religious principles on shipboard were new, and, of course, objectionable to all around us; but still they were constrained to admit that we enjoyed peace and quiet on board our vessel that they in general were strangers to, especially on Sunday nights. The supercargo of a Philadelphia brig, which was anchored near by us, used frequently to ridicule my religious views and swear about them in a violent manner when I happened to meet him. He took occasion to do this especially in company where we transacted our business. Sometimes he would cool down and commend me for my forbearance, and promise that he would not swear when I was present. But his promises were always soon forgotten.
When his vessel was getting under way to leave for home, I wrote him a letter, entreating him to turn from his wicked course and serve the Lord, and spoke of the consequences that might follow if he still continued in the course he was pursuing, and gave it to him to read when he had more leisure. He proceeded on his voyage, and was approaching near his destined port, when one day, while the officers and crew were down at dinner, suddenly and unexpectedly a squall struck his vessel and capsized her. The crew just escaped with their lives. They were picked up by another vessel, and the supercargo arrived in New York. He there fell in company with an old acquaintance of mine, to whom he related the circumstance of his becoming acquainted with me in Rio Grande, and referring to the religious instruction I gave him in the letter before referred to, he cursed and railed against me for being the cause of his misfortune and present suffering. This judgment, which God suffered to overtake him in such a sudden and irrevocable manner, made him feel, undoubtedly, that it was for the blasphemous course which he had pursued and was still indulging in. In seeking for some way to ease his troubled conscience and justify self, he doubtless found some relief in charging it all to me.
After some detention we sold our cargo to the government, and invested the most of our funds in dry hides, and cleared for St. Catherine's. After sailing some eight miles from our anchorage, to the light-house at the entrance of the harbor, we were compelled to anchor for the night, and wait for daylight and a fair wind to pass safely over the sand bars.
On receiving my account current from Mr. Carroll, the Brazilian merchant whom I employed to transact my foreign business, I ran it over without discovering any error. But still it seemed to me that I had received more cash in balance than was my due. But many other things then necessarily occupied my mind (as is usual on weighing anchor to proceed on a voyage), until we were obliged to anchor near the lighthouse. I then discovered that the merchant had balanced the account wrong, in my favor. This, of course, was no fault of mine; but he had paid me over my due five hundred dollars in gold doubloons. Only one way was now open for me to communicate with him, and that was by sending my boat. Our unsafe position near the sand bars and breakers seemed to demand that not only our boat, but also our crew, should be at hand, in case our anchors should fail to hold us during the night. But the money was not mine, and I felt that I should not be blessed of the Lord if I attempted to proceed on my voyage without an exertion on my part to pay it over. My vessel might never be heard from again, neither Mr. C.'s money; then, of course, the fault would be charged to me. I therefore dispatched my boat with the following letter:--
"MR. CARROLL, Dear Sir: Since I parted with you, I have been wondering how I came by so much money. Once I overhauled the accounts and concluded they were right. This evening, being more collected and free from care, and not satisfied, I have again spread them before me and made a memorandum of sales and purchases, which led me to discover the error--five hundred dollars and thirty-four cents. I have been devising the best way to get this money safe to you; as it is now late, and a prospect of a fair wind early in the morning, I have concluded to send my boat. To double the diligence of my men, I have promised them 960 'reis' each. I do not know of any other way that would be safe.
"Brig Empress, at the bar off Rio Grande, March 8, 1828."
By the blessing of God our boat returned in safety, with the thanks of the merchant, in time for us to put to sea early in the morning, with a fair wind. We were prospered with a safe voyage to St. Catherine's, where we finished our lading with hides and coffee, and cleared for New York. The Brazilian government was in such an unsettled state, owing to the war with Buenos Ayres, that their business was very much depressed.
Our passage home was pleasant and prosperous. We were cheered once more with the well-known north star as we advanced a little way north of the equator, out of the South Atlantic Ocean. After passing the north-eastern extremity of South America, as we steered away north-west, we soon came under the quickening influence of the north-east and east trade-winds, which wafted us onward toward our home and friends, sometimes at the rate of two hundred miles in twenty-four hours. Sailors reckon their days as astronomers do, from noon to noon. Every night, on the appearance of the north star, her ascension in the northern hemisphere was very perceptible, and also encouraging, proving our onward course northward.
As we were proceeding on our way toward the windward of the West India Islands, on coming on deck one morning, I observed that the sails looked red. I hailed one of our seamen, who was aloft, and told him to rub his hand on the top-gallant sail, and tell me what was there. He answered, "It is sand!" I requested him to brush off some in his hand, and come down with it. He brought down what he could shut up in his hand of fine red and gray sand. As soon as the sails became dry, by the shining of the sun, it all dropped off, and our sails were as white as they were the day before. On a thorough examination of my charts and book of directions, I ascertained that the nearest land eastward of us, from whence the wind was continually blowing, was the coast of Africa, some fifteen hundred miles distant! The Atlantic Ocean lay before and behind us. Stretching along under our lee, many hundreds of miles west of us, lay the northern coast of South America. It was therefore clear that the quantity of sand on our sails, which was held there by reason of their being quite wet, came not from the west, the north, nor the south, but from the flying clouds passing over the Desert of Sahara, where we are told by travelers that the sand has frequently been seen whirling upward in heavy columns to the clouds by whirlwinds. The same is referred to by the prophet Isaiah, chapter 22:1.
According to the rate clouds are said to fly before a strong gale, these passed over us in about forty-eight hours after leaving the coast of Africa, and sifted out their loads of sand some fifteen hundred miles across the North Atlantic Ocean, and most likely also over the northern coast of South America and into the Pacific.
Revival at Sea - Arrive in New York - Bethel Ships and Meetings - Friendless Young Men - Arrival in New Bedford - Temperance Reform - Sea-faring Life Ended.
DURING our homeward-bound passage, our crew seemed more thoughtful and attentive to the religious instructions we were endeavoring to impart to them. It was evident that the Spirit of the Lord was at work in our midst. One James S. gave good evidence of a thorough conversion to God, and was very happy during our voyage home. Religion seemed to be his whole theme. One night in his watch on deck, while relating to me his experience, he said, "Don't you remember the first night out on our voyage from home, when you had all hands called aft on the quarter-deck, and gave them rules for the voyage?" "Yes," I replied. "Well, sir, I was then at the helm, and when you finished, and knelt down on the quarter-deck and prayed with us, if at that time you had taken up a handspike and knocked me down at the helm, I should not have felt worse; for I had never seen such a thing before." Thomas B. also professed conversion at that time.
Our passage home was pleasant, with the exception of a heavy gale which troubled us some, but the good Lord delivered us from its overwhelming influence, and we soon after arrived safely in the harbor of New York City. The first news from home was that my honored father had died some six weeks before my arrival. This was a trying providence for which I was not prepared. He had lived nearly seventy-nine years, and I had always found him in his place at the head of the family after my long voyages, and it seemed to me that I had not one serious thought but that I should see him there again if I lived to return home.
While in the city I had the pleasure of attending an evening bethel prayer-meeting on board a ship lying at the wharf. I enjoyed it very much. Such meetings were then in their infancy, but since that time it is common enough to see the bethel flag on Sunday morning on board the ships for meeting, on both the east and north sides of the river, for the benefit of sailors and young men that are often wandering about the city without home or friends. Many, doubtless, have been saved from ruin by the efforts of those engaged in these benevolent institutions, while other homeless ones, who have not had such influences to restrain them, have been driven to deeds of desperation, or yielded to feelings of despair. The trying experience of my early days made me familiar with such scenes.
On one of my previous voyages, I had prevailed on a young man to accompany me to his home in Massachusetts. And while I was in the city this time, as I was passing through the park, among many others whom I saw was a young man seated in the shade, looking very melancholy, quite similar to the one just mentioned, and not far from the same place. I seated myself beside him, and asked him why he appeared so melancholy. At first he hesitated, but soon began to inform me that he was in a destitute state, having nothing to do, and nowhere to go. He said his brother had employed him in his apothecary store in the city, but he had recently failed and broken up, and left the city, and that now he was without home and friends. I asked him where his parents lived. He replied, "In Massachusetts. My father is a Congregationalist preacher, near Boston." I invited him to go on board my vessel, be one of my crew, and I would land him within sixty miles of his home. He readily accepted my offer, and on our arrival in New Bedford, Mass., his father came for him, and expressed much gratitude to me for his safe return and the privilege of again meeting with his son.
On our arrival in New York, my crew, with one exception, chose to remain on board and discharge the cargo, and not have their discharge as was customary on arriving from a foreign port. They preferred, also, to continue in their stations until we arrived in New Bedford, where the Empress was to proceed, to fit out for another voyage. After discharging our cargo, we sailed and arrived in New Bedford about the 20th of June, l828--twenty-one years from the time I sailed from thence on my first European voyage, in the capacity of cabin boy.
Some of my men inquired when I was going on another voyage, and expressed a wish to wait for me, and also their satisfaction with the last as being their best voyage. It was some satisfaction to me to know that seamen were susceptible of moral reform on the ocean (as proved in this instance) as well as on the land; and I believe that such reforms can generally be accomplished where the officers are ready and willing to enter into it. It has been argued by too many that sailors continue to addict themselves to so many bad habits that it is about useless to attempt their reform. I think it will be safe to say that the habitual use of intoxicating drink is the most debasing and formidable of all their habits. But if governments, ship-owners, and captains, had not always provided it for them on board their war and trading ships, as a beverage, tens of thousands of intelligent and most enterprising young men would have been saved, and would have been as great a blessing to their friends, their country, and the church, as farmers, doctors, lawyers, and other tradesmen and professional men have been.
Having had some knowledge of these things, I had resolved in the fear of God to attempt a reform, though temperance societies were then in their infancy, and temperance ships unknown. And when I made the announcement at the commencement of our last voyage that there was no intoxicating drink on board, only what pertained to the medicine chest, and one man shouted that he was "glad of it," this lone voice on the ocean in behalf of this work of reform from a stranger, manifesting his joy because there was no liquor on board to tempt him, was cheering to me, and a strong evidence of the power of human influence. I believe that he was also deeply affected, and I cannot now recollect that he used it in any way while under my command, nor any of the others, except Wm. Dunn, whom I had to reprove once or twice during the voyage for drinking while he was on duty on shore.
Then what had been considered so necessary an article to stimulate the sailor in the performance of his duty proved not only unnecessary, but the withholding of it was shown to be a great blessing in our case.
Some time after this voyage, I was in company with a ship-owner of New Bedford, who was personally interested in fitting out his own ships, and storing them with provisions, liquors, and all the necessaries for long voyages. We had been agitating the importance of reform in strong drink, when he observed, "I understand, Capt. Bates, that you performed your last voyage without the use of ardent spirits." "Yes, sir," I replied. Said he, "Yours is the first temperance vessel I have ever heard of."
My brother F. now took command of the Empress, and sailed again for South America, being fitted out to perform the voyage on the principles of temperance, as on her former voyage. During my last voyage I had reflected much on the enjoyments of social life with my family and friends, of which I had deprived myself for so many years; and I desired to be more exclusively engaged in bettering my condition, and those with whom I should be called to associate, on the subject of religion and moral reform.
At Home - Farming - My Promise - Seaman's Friend Society - Missions - American Tract Society - American Colonization Society - Meeting-House - Religious Revival - Tea and Coffee - Change of Residence - Progress of the Temperance Cause - Progress of the Antislavery Cause - My own Position - Mob in Boston, Mass. - Falling Stars.
CHAPTER nineteen closed with the account of my last voyage, leaving me in the enjoyment of the blessings of social life on the land, with my family and friends. My sea-faring life was now finished. I once more esteemed it a great privilege to unite with my brethren in the Christian Church. I also gladly re-engaged in the temperance reform with my former associates, who had been progressing in the work during my absence.
My father in his last will requested that I should unite with my mother in the settlement of his estate. Before the year came round, my mother was also removed by death. I now turned my attention to farming, and commmenced improving a small farm which my father had bequeathed to me. Through the aid of an agricultural weekly, called the New England Farmer, for a theory, and with some of my ready cash, I soon made some perceptible alterations on the farm, but with little or no income.
My companion had often said that she wished I had some way to sustain my family by living at home. I promised her that when I had gained a competency by following the sea, then I would relinquish the business and stay on shore. When asked what I considered a competency, I answered, "Ten thousand dollars." After tasting the sweets of the Christian's hope, I found it much easier, with all the opening prospects before me, to say where I would stop in this business, if the Lord prospered me.
I now enjoyed the privilege of reading some of the periodicals of the times, especially those on religion and morals. The sailor's wants were now beginning to be agitated through a periodical called the Sailor's Magazine. A few friends of the cause came together, and we organized the "Fairhaven Seaman's Friend Society." A little pamphlet called "The Missionary Herald," advocating the cause of foreign missions, also enlisted my feelings, and engaged my attention to some extent. My intercourse with what the "Herald" called the heathen, enabled me to see more clearly their moral and religious wants. I also became much interested in the work of the American Tract Society, which was organized in Boston, Mass., in the year 1814, and was embracing all the evangelical denominations in the United States. I read with pleasure, and helped to circulate many of their tracts on religious subjects and temperance reform; but my interest began to wane when they manifested a determination not to publish any tracts in favor of the down-trodden and oppressed slave in their own land, when they were solicited by antislavery men so to do. It became manifest that their professed unbounded benevolence embraced the whole human race, of all colors and complexions, except those who were suffering under their task-masters, and perishing for lack of religious knowledge within the sound of their voices, in their own churches, and by their firesides. Such inconsistency rests heavily on the managers of the society.
About this time I began also to read the African Repository, the organ of the "American Colonization Society," organized in the city of Washington, D. C., 1817. The character and tendency of this society was after this fully set forth by Wm. Jay, of New York, in 1835. He says, "Of the seventeen vice-presidents, only five were selected from the free States, while the twelve managers were, it is believed, without one exception, slave-holders. The first two articles of the constitution are the only ones relating to the society. They are as follows:--
"'Art. I. This society shall be called the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States.
"'Art. II. The object to which its attention is to be exclusively directed, is to promote and execute a plan for colonizing (with their consent) the free people of color residing in our country, in Africa, or such other place as Congress shall deem most expedient. And the society shall act to effect this object in co-operation with the general government, and such of the States as may adopt regulations on the subject.'"
The subject was new to me, having had but little knowledge of it while following the sea. For awhile it appeared that the movers in this work were honest in their declarations respecting the free people of color, and the abolition of slavery in the Union. But when antislavery societies began, and were being organized, from 1831 to 1834, it became evident that the members of these colonization societies were the worst enemies of the free people of color, and clearly manifest that they labored to perpetuate slavery in the slave-holding States, and manifested the most bitter opposition to antislavery men and measures.
Up to 1832, the Christian Church in Fairhaven, with which I had united, had occupied a rented hall; and they now began to feel the need of having a house of worship of their own in a more convenient place. Four of the brethren united and built one, which was called the Washington-Street Christian meeting-house. Soon after it was finished and dedicated, we commenced a series of religious meetings, in which the Lord graciously answered our prayers, and poured out his Spirit upon us, and many souls were converted. The other churches became zealously affected, and the work of God spread throughout the village. For many weeks in succession the church-bells were ringing, morning, afternoon, and evening, for preaching and social meetings. It was thought by those who spoke of it that the whole population of the unconverted were under the deep movings of God's Holy Spirit.
Our village had been blessed with several revivals before, but I was from home, except during two, the last of which I have just mentioned. The first one was in the year 1807, when the people were immersed in the love and pleasures of the world, and the pride of life. The work was wonderful to them, and altogether unexpected. Although we had a stated ministry and regular preaching, it was ascertained that there were but two family altars in the place, viz., at Mr. J.'s and at my father's. I remember that I felt deeply interested in that work, and loved to attend their prayer-meetings, and I have often thought that the Lord at that time forgave my sins, but I, like too many other youth, neglected to tell my feelings to my parents, or any one, feeling that religion was for older ones than myself; and before the revival wholly subsided, my mind was occupied in preparing for my first European voyage.
From the year 1824, when I made my covenant with God, I had lived up to the principles of total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks, but had continued the use of tea and coffee, without much conviction about their poisonous and stimulating effects, for about seven years longer. With my small stock of knowledge on the subject, I was unwilling to be fairly convicted that these stimulants had any effect on me, until on a social visit with my wife at one of our neighbor's, where tea was served us somewhat stronger than our usual habit of drinking. It had such an effect on my whole system that I could not rest nor sleep until after midnight. I then became fully satisfied (and have never seen cause to change my belief since) that it was the tea I drank which so affected me. From thence I became convicted of its intoxicating qualities, and discarded the use of it.
Soon after this, on the same principle, I discarded the use of coffee, so that now  it is about thirty years since I have allowed myself knowingly to taste of either. If the reader should ask how much I have gained in this matter, I answer that my health is better, my mind is clearer, and my conscience in this respect is void of offense. Sylvester Graham, in his "Lectures on the Science of Human Life," says: "There is no truth in science more fully ascertained than that both tea and coffee are among the most powerful poisons of the vegetable kingdom."
Tea is spoken of in the Transylvania Journal of Medicine as an anodyne, in some cases as truly so as opium. The Encyclopedia Americana says: "The effects of tea on the human system are those of a very mild narcotic, and, like those of any other narcotic, when taken in small quantities, exhilarating." Dr. Combe, in his valuable work on digestion and dietetics, observes that "when made very strong, or taken in large quantities, especially late in the evening, they [tea and coffee] not only ruin the stomach, but very seriously derange the health of the brain and nervous system."
I sold my place of residence in the year 1831, and was occupied much of the time in 1832 in locating my dwelling-house and outbuildings on my little farm, and was also associated with three of my Christian friends in building the Washington-Street meeting-house. In 1831 it was stated that three thousand temperance societies were organized in the United States, with three hundred thousand members. (See "Haskell's Chronological View of the World," p. 247.) Thus in four years--or from 1827--temperance societies had progressed from our small beginning in Fairhaven. Many ships were also adopting the temperance reform.
About the close of 1831, and commencement of 1832, antislavery societies began to be organized again in the United States, advocating immediate emancipation. As the work progressed, antislavery advocates were maltreated and mobbed in many places where they attempted to organize or hold meetings to plead for the poor, oppressed slaves in our land. Colonization societies and their advocates were foremost in this shameful work, as any one may learn by reading William Jay's "Inquiry into their Character and Tendency." All their declarations of benevolence for the free people of color, and ardent desire to benefit the poor, oppressed slaves, and finally save our country from the curse of slavery, vanished like the morning cloud and early dew when reading of their disgraceful acts of violence in the city of New York and other places, to shut out the pleadings of humanity for the down-trodden and oppressed slave. The New York Commercial Advertiser and Courier and Enquirer were then among the best friends of colonization and slaveholding.
I then began to feel the importance of taking a decided stand on the side of the oppressed. My labor in the cause of temperance had caused a pretty thorough sifting of my friends, and I felt that I had no more that I wished to part with; but duty was clear that I could not be a consistent Christian if I stood on the side of the oppressor, for God was not there. Neither could I claim his promises if I stood on neutral ground. Hence, my only alternative was to plead for the slave, and thus I decided.
In our religious meetings we talked and prayed, remembering "them that are in bonds, as bound with them." Heb. 13. Some were offended, and some feared disunion. Notwithstanding the conflicting views and feelings in our midst, there were some in the churches who held to the principles of antislavery. And as the work advanced during the years 1832 to 1835, in which there was much contention from all quarters of the Union about this matter, a call was made for a meeting, in which about forty citizens of Fairhaven came together and organized the Fairhaven Antislavery Society, auxiliary to the New England Antislavery Society. This drew down the wrath of a certain class of our neighbors, who also called opposition meetings, in which they passed resolutions denouncing us in very severe terms; not for the principles which we had adopted in our constitution did they do this, for they were not contrary to the constitution of the United States; but because we had united together to plead for the abolition of American slavery, which they declared unconstitutional and very unpopular. Threats were often made that our meetings would be broken up, etc., but fortunately we were left to go onward.
One of our members, on going to Charleston, South Carolina, was arraigned before the authorities of the city, charged with being a member of the Fairhaven Antislavery Society. To save himself from being dealt with in their way, as he afterward declared, he renounced his abolitionism. But opposition was more clearly manifest in the North, where societies were continually organizing, than in the South.
William Lloyd Garrison, editor of an antislavery paper called The Liberator, published in Boston, Mass., was heralded in many of the periodicals of that time (1835) as a most notorious abolitionist. Rewards, some as high, I think, as fifty thousand dollars, were offered for his head! The citizens of Boston, in and about Washington Street and vicinity, where the antislavery meetings were held, became most furiously excited, and assembled on a certain afternoon around the building which they learned he occupied, and pursued him to a carpenter's shop, where he had fled from them, and brought him forth to the assembled multitude in the street, and placed a rope around his neck, to put an end to his life. Some of his friends, who were watching their movements, seeing his imminent danger, rushed around him, assuming in the confusion to engage with them, by laying hold of the rope so as to keep it from tightening around his neck, while some of the mob held the other end of the rope, and all rushed furiously, with hallooing and shouting, along the street, leaving the great body of the assembled multitude of "gentlemen of property and standing," listening with breathless anxiety to learn what was being done with their victim. Meantime the mob and Mr. Garrison's friends had continued running on unrestrained, until they found themselves at the portals of Leverett-Street jail. Once there, by some measures of his friends, the jail was opened, and Mr. Garrison, to the astonishment of his wicked persecutors, was placed out of their reach; nor would the jailer bring him forth without orders from the law-abiding officers. As soon as the storm abated, Mr. G. was honorably released, and resumed his position, again pleading for the abolition of American slavery. The proslavery papers of Boston, in attempting to remove the stain and disgrace of this uncivilized work from the capital of the pilgrims, and a portion of its citizens, labored hard to prevent its being recorded as the work of a mob, and they declared that the people assembled on that occasion were "gentlemen of property and standing."
Previous to the foregoing occurrence, and while the subjects of antislavery and proslavery were agitating the Union, a wonderful phenomenon occurred in the heavens, which caused consternation and dismay among the people, namely, the stars falling from heaven! Many watchmen in the cities, and sailors in their night-watches on the ocean, together with those that were up, and their friends whom they called up to witness the exhibition of the falling stars, were now relating what they had witnessed, as were also the newspapers of the times.
I will here give a few extracts. First from the New York Journal of Commerce, November 15, 1833: Henry Dana Ward, in closing up his account of this thrilling scene (which has been so often republished), says:--
"We asked the watchman how long this had been. He said, 'About four o'clock it was the thickest.' We gazed until the rising sun put out the lesser falling stars with the lesser fixed stars, and until the morning star stood alone in the east, to introduce the bright orb of day. And here take the remark of one of my friends in mercantile life, who is as well informed in polite learning as most intelligent merchants of our city who have not made science their study. Sitting down to breakfast we spoke of the scene, and he said, 'I kept my eyes fixed on the morning star. I thought while that stood firm we were safe; but I feared every moment that it would go and all would go with it.' The reader will see that this remark proceeded from an almost irresistible impression of an intelligent eye-witness, that the firmament had given way, that the whole host of stars had broken up, yet hope clung to the morning star, which never shone more glorious."
In a subsequent statement, he adds:--
"The dawn was a full hour, that morning, earlier than usual, and the whole eastern sky was transparent like molten glass, so as I never witnessed before nor since. An open arch of brilliant light arose from the east, above which arch stood the morning star, inexpressibly glorious for its brilliance and firmness on the face of the dark, transparent, and bursting firmament."
From the Baltimore Patriot:--
"Being up this morning (November 13, 1833), I witnessed one of the most grand and alarming spectacles which ever beamed upon the eye of man. The light in my room was so great that I could see the hour of the morning by my watch which hung over my mantel, and supposing there was a fire near at hand, probably on my own premises, I sprung to the window, and behold, the stars, or some other bodies presenting a fiery appearance, were descending in torrents as rapid and as numerous as I ever saw flakes of snow or drops of rain in the midst of a storm."
From the Christian Advocate and Journal, December 13, 1833:--
"The meteoric phenomenon which occurred on the morning of the 13th of November last, was of so extraordinary and interesting a character as to be entitled to more than a passing notice. The lively and graphic descriptions which have appeared in various public journals, do not exceed the reality. No language, indeed, can come up to the splendor of that magnificent display. I hesitate not to say that no one who did not witness it can form an adequate conception of its glory. It seemed as if the whole starry heavens had congregated at one point, near the zenith, and were simultaneously shooting forth, with the velocity of lightning, to every part of the horizon; and yet they were not exhausted--thousands swiftly followed in the tracks of thousands, as if created for the occasion, and illuminated the firmament with lines of irradiating light."
The Commercial Observer, of Nov. 25, 1833, copied from the Old Countryman, reads as follows:--
"We pronounce the raining of fire which we saw on Wednesday morning last, an awful type, a sure forerunner, a merciful sign, of that great day which the inhabitants of the earth will witness when the sixth seal will be opened. The time is just at hand, described, not only in the New Testament, but in the Old. A more correct picture of a fig-tree casting its leaves (or green figs), when blown by a mighty wind, it is not possible to behold."
Extracts from the People's Magazine, Boston, Jan., 1834, on the falling stars of Nov. 13, 1833:--
"The Rockingham (Va.) Register" calls it a "rain of fire"--"thousands of stars being seen at once." Some said, "It began with a considerable noise."
The Lancaster (Pa.) Examiner says:--
"The air was filled with innumerable meteors or stars. . . . Hundreds of thousands of brilliant bodies might be seen falling at every moment, . . . . sloping their descent toward the earth, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, resembling flashes of fire."
The Salem Register speaks of their being seen "in Mocha, on the Red Sea."
The Journal of Commerce informs us that "three hundred miles this side of Liverpool, the phenomenon was as splendid as here," and that in St. Lawrence County, "there was a snow-storm during the phenomenon, in which the falling stars appeared like lightning;" . . . . that in Germantown, Pa., "they seemed like showers of great hail."
The captain of a New Bedford whale ship, one of my acquaintances, says, "While lying at anchor that night on the coast of California, in the Pacific Ocean, I saw the stars falling all around me."
Prof. Olmstead, of Yale College, says:--
"The extent of the shower of 1833 was such as to cover no inconsiderable part of the earth's surface, from the middle of the Atlantic on the east to the Pacific on the west; and from the northern coast of South America to undefined regions among the British Possessions on the north, the exhibition was visible, and everywhere presented nearly the same appearance. Those who were so fortunate as to witness the exhibition of shooting stars on the morning of Nov. 13, 1833, probably saw the greatest display of celestial fireworks that has ever been seen since the creation of the world."
Moral Reform - Culture of Silk - Proposed Manual-Labor School - Second Advent of Christ - William Miller's Theory - His Lectures in Boston - First Second-Advent Paper - Eld. D. Millard's Letter - Eld. L. D. Fleming's Letters - H. Hawley's Letter - Wm. Miller in Portland.
IN connection with these portentous signs in the heavens, moral reform was working its way like leaven throughout the United States. To all appearance, some unseen agency was assisting those who were struggling in the up-hill work of opposing the masses, while they were soliciting and enlisting the energies and sympathies of men, women, and children, to help stay the tide of intemperance and slavery, which, to all human appearance, if not stayed, would demoralize and debase us below the moral standard of all the civilized nations of the earth, before the then rising generation should pass from the stage of action.
What appeared the most inexplicable in moving forward this work, was to see ministers whose Christian characters were before unsullied in the community, pleading in favor of slavery, upholding rum-drinking and rum-selling, and keeping a large majority of their churches and congregations under their influence. Others were mute, waiting to see how their friends would decide. Some there were, however, who took a noble stand in the work of reform.
Moral-reform societies were multiplied in various places, as were also peace societies, having for their object the abolition of war. They proposed to settle all disputes or difficulties of importance, by reference to a Congress of Nations.
After finishing the buildings on my farm, before mentioned, I commenced the work of raising mulberry-trees, to obtain their foliage to feed the silk-worm, designing to enter into the culture of silk. I had erected a school-house on my place, in which I designed to have a manual-labor school for youth. I calculated to employ them a certain portion of the time to gather the mulberry foliage, and attend to the feeding of the silk-worms, and, as the work advanced, other branches of the business also, such as reeling and preparing the silk for market. By an examination of able writers on the subject, I was satisfied that silk could be produced to advantage in New England as well as in Europe. While my trees were maturing, we raised and fed the silk-worm two or three seasons on a small scale, which satisfied me that by attention and care the business could be made profitable. Many that commenced the business about the time I did, entered into the speculation and excitement about raising the Chinese multicaulis-tree for sale, which enriched some, disappointed many, and caused a failure, because silk-culture could not be made a money-making business in its infancy. I was endeavoring to raise my trees first, before entering upon the business, and had many trees which had begun to bear fruit, and my third orchard in a thriving condition, designing, if I lived, to attend to that business only.
In the fall of 1839, while engaged in my orchard, one Eld. R., an acquaintance of mine, and a preacher in the Christian connection, called upon me and inquired if I would like to go to New Bedford, about two miles distant, that evening, and hear him preach on the SECOND COMING OF CHRIST. I asked Eld. R. if he thought he could show or prove anything about the Saviour's coming. He answered that he thought he could. He stated that the North Christian meeting-house in New Bedford was offered him, in which to give a course of five lectures on that subject. I promised to go with him, but I was very much surprised to learn that any one could show anything about the time of the Saviour's second coming.
A little previous to this, while spending an evening in a social company of friends, Eld. H. stated that he had heard that there was a Mr. Miller preaching in the State of New York that the Lord Jesus Christ was coming about the year 1843. I believe this was the first time I had ever heard the subject mentioned. It appeared so impossible that I attempted to raise an objection, but was told that he brought a great deal of Scripture to prove it. But when I heard Eld. R. present the Scripture testimony on the subject in his first lecture, I was deeply interested, as was also my companion. After meeting, we rode some distance toward home, absorbed in this important subject, when I broke the silence by saying, "That is the truth!" My companion replied, "Oh, you are so sanguine always!" I argued that Eld. R. had made it very clear to my mind, but we would hear further. The meetings continued with crowded congregations and increasing interest to the close, and I felt that my mind was much enlightened on this important subject.
I now obtained Wm. Miller's book of nineteen lectures, which I read with deep interest, especially his argument on the prophetic periods of Daniel's vision, which heretofore, when I read the Bible in course, appeared to me so intricate, and led me to wonder what importance there could be attached to those days connected with his pictorial prophecy of chapters 7 and 8. But I now began to learn that those days were so many years, and those years were now to close about 1843, at which period of time, according to Mr. Miller's view of the prophecies, Christ would personally appear the second time.
With my limited views of the subject of the second advent, I saw that if Mr. Miller was correct respecting the soon-coming of the Saviour, then the most important point in his theory was to learn WHERE to commence Daniel's prophetic periods, and trace them to their termination. The first issue in pamphlet form by Mr. Miller is dated 1832. Some say his first lecture on the second coming of Christ was delivered in August, 1833. His first lectures in Boston, Mass., in the Chardon-Street and Marlborough chapels, were in the winter of 1840. This opened the way for Eld. Joshua V. Himes, of Boston, to issue, as editor, the first periodical published on the second advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, called the Signs of the Times, in Boston, Mass., March, 1840.
As Eld. J. V. Himes was as destitute of means as any other minister who at that time boldly preached and advocated the necessity of moral reform, and was expressing an anxious desire to get up a paper on the subject of the second advent, an aged sea-captain from the State of Maine, being present, handed him a silver dollar. "With this one dollar," said Eld. Himes, "we commenced to publish the Signs of the Times."
To give some idea of the effect of Mr. Miller's preaching on the second coming of Christ, in New England, I will here give some extracts from letters published in the Signs of the Times, April 15, 1840. The first is from the pen of Eld. D. Millard, Portsmouth, N. H. He writes:--
"On the 23d of January, Bro. Miller came into town and commenced a course of lectures in the chapel on the second coming of Christ. During the nine days he remained, crowds flocked to hear him. Before he concluded his lectures a large number of anxious souls came forward for prayers. Our meetings continued every day and evening for a length of time after he left. Such an intense state of feeling as now pervaded our congregation we never witnessed before in any place. Not unfrequently from sixty to eighty would come forward for prayers in the evening. Such an awful spirit of solemnity seemed to settle down on the place that hard must have been the sinner's heart that could withstand it. All was order and solemnity. Generally, as soon as souls were delivered they were ready to proclaim it, and exhort their friends in the most moving language to come to the fountain of life. Our meetings thus continued on evenings for six weeks. For weeks together the ringing of bells for daily meetings rendered our town like a continual Sabbath. Indeed, such a season of revival was never before witnessed in Portsmouth by the oldest inhabitants. It would be difficult at present to ascertain the number of conversions in town. It is variously estimated at from 500 to 700. Never, while I linger on the shores of mortality, do I expect to enjoy more of Heaven than we have in some of our late meetings, and on baptizing occasions. At the water-side thousands would gather to witness this solemn institution, and many would return from the place weeping."
Another letter is from Eld. L. D. Fleming, of Portsmouth, N. H. He says:--
"Things here are moving powerfully. Last evening about two hundred came forward for prayers, and the interest seems constantly increasing. The whole city seems to be agitated. Bro. Miller's lectures have not the least effect to affright; they are far from it. The great alarm is among those that did not come near. But those who candidly heard are far from excitement and alarm. The interest awakened by the lectures is of the most deliberate kind, and though it is the greatest revival I ever saw, yet there is the least passionate excitement. It seems to take the greatest hold on the male part of the community. What produces the effect is this: Bro. Miller simply takes the sword of the Spirit, unsheathed and naked, and lays its sharp edge on the naked heart, and it cuts, that's all. Before the edge of this mighty weapon, infidelity falls and Universalism withers."
April 6 he writes again:--
"The fire is being kindled through the whole city and all the adjacent country. A number of rumsellers have turned their shops into meeting rooms, and those places that were once devoted to intemperance and revelry are now devoted to prayer and praise. Infidels, Deists, Universalists, and the most abandoned profligates, have been converted. Prayer-meetings have been established in every part of the city by the different denominations, or by individuals, and at almost every hour. I was conducted to a room over one of the banks, where I found from thirty to forty men of different denominations engaged with one accord in prayer at eleven o'clock in the daytime! In short, it would be almost impossible to give an adequate idea of the interest now felt in this city. One of the principal booksellers informed me that he had sold more Bibles in one month, since Bro. Miller came here, than he had in any four months previous."
H. Hawley, writing from Groton, Mass., to Eld. Himes, April 10, 1840, said:--
"During an interview I had with you a few days since, you requested me to give a statement of the results, so far as I had witnessed them, of Mr. Miller's lectures in this vicinity. Before complying with your request, I beg leave to say that I am not a believer in the theory of Mr. Miller. But I am decidedly in favor of the discussion of the subject. I believe that Mr. Miller's lectures are so fraught with gospel truth that, whatever may be his error in regard to the time of our Lord's appearing, he will do great good. I rejoice that there is a subject being discussed in the community so happily adapted to wake up the public mind to the great things of religion, and to check the growing worldliness and sensuality of the present age. Mr. Miller has lectured in this and other adjoining towns with marked success, by precious revivals of religion in all of these places. I am bold to declare that I see nothing in the theory at all calculated to make men immoral; but I do believe it will have the opposite effect. Facts speak too plainly on this subject not to be credited."
The Maine Wesleyan Journal of May, 1840, says:--
"Mr. Miller has been in Portland lecturing to crowded houses in Casco-Street church on his favorite theme, the end of the world. As faithful chroniclers of passing events, it will be expected of us that we say something of the man and his peculiar views.
"Mr. Miller is about sixty years of age; a plain farmer, from Hampton, in the State of New York. He is a member of the Baptist Church in that place, from which he brings satisfactory testimonials of good standing and license to improve publicly. He has, we understand, numerous testimonials from clergymen of different denominations favorable to his general character. We should think him a man of but common-school education, evidently possessing strong powers of mind, which, for about fourteen years, have been almost exclusively bent on the investigation of Scripture prophecy. The last eight years of his life have been devoted to lecturing on this favorite subject. Mr. Miller's theory is, that in 1843 Christ will make his personal appearance on earth. In a very ingenious manner he brings all the mystic numbers in the Scripture prophecy to bear upon the important epoch of 1843. First, he makes the 2300 days (or years) of Dan. 8:14, to commence at the same time as the seventy weeks (or 490 years), which latter period terminated in the cutting off of the Messiah, A. D. 33. The former period, then, extends 1810 years longer, or till 1843, when the end will come.
"Mr. Miller is a great stickler for literal interpretation, never admitting the figurative unless absolutely required to make correct sense, or meet the event which is intended to be pointed out. He doubtless believes, most unwaveringly, all he teaches to others. His lectures are interspersed with powerful admonitions to the wicked, and he handles Universalism with gloves of steel."
First Call for a Second-Advent Conference - Convened in Boston, Mass. - Conference Address Sent Forth to the World - Diving-Bell - Clearing the Ship Channel - Wm. Miller's Lectures in Fairhaven, Mass. - Also in New Bedford - Address to Ministers - Ministers' Meeting - Antiochus Epiphanes - Thirty-two Square Rods for Every Person - Second Second-Advent Conference.
THE Signs of the Times, of Boston, Mass., Sept. 1 and 15, 1840, published a call for a General Conference on the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying:--
"The undersigned, believers in the second coming and kingdom of the Messiah at hand, cordially unite in the call for a General Conference of our brethren of the United States, and elsewhere, who are also looking for the advent near, to meet at Boston, Mass., Wednesday, October 14, 1840, at 10 o'clock, A. M., to continue two days, or as long as may then be found best. The object of the Conference will not be to form a new organization in the faith of Christ, nor to assail others of our brethren who differ with us in regard to the period and manner of the advent, but to discuss the whole subject faithfully and fairly, in the exercise of that spirit of Christ, in which it will be safe to meet him immediately at the Judgment-seat.
In accordance with the call, the General Conference convened in Chardon-Street chapel, Boston, Mass., October 14, 1840, and continued two days with increasing interest; at the close of which the communion of the Lord's supper was administered to about two hundred communicants of different denominations. Many of them were from remote distances.
From this Conference, an address of 150 pages, in pamphlet form, was circulated in the United States and foreign lands. Eld. Joshua V. Himes entered into this work apparently with all the zeal of Joshua of old, in his preaching and editorial work, in circulating all the light which could be elicited from every quarter on the subject of the second advent of the Saviour.
Previous to the Conference I had engaged myself as one of the proprietors of the New Bedford Bridge, to superintend its repairs, and at the same time keep it passable for carriages and footmen; hence there was some doubt about my getting to the meeting. At that time we were engaged with a vessel and diving-bell, in removing the stones that by some means had got into the channel of the draw-bridge, and were an obstruction to the heavy-laden ships passing through at low tides.
As some of my readers may wish to understand something respecting the operation of picking up rocks and stones from the bottom of the ocean, twenty-five or thirty feet under water, I will try to explain it.
A schooner, or two-masted vessel, is hauled up and secured by ropes close to the draw-bridge. There is a tackle between her mast-heads, the lower part of which is hooked into an iron eye-strap, which is fastened to the top of a diving-bell, standing on the schooner's deck.
The bell itself was in the form of a sugar-loaf, or cone, about nine feet high, and six feet in diameter at the bottom. It was provided with a seat inside for two persons, and when sunk to the bottom of the sea, the water would rise up about three feet in the open bottom.* The space inside, above water, contained our allowance of air. For two persons it would last about an hour and a half; then it became necessary to be hoisted up to the surface for a supply of fresh air. To communicate with our companions on deck, three telegraphic lines, or cords, were in working order, the lower ends being hitched up inside of the bell. A few small glass blocks were set into the upper part of the bell, which lighted up our apartment while under water, about equal to the light above, at sunset.
I went down with the diver a few times, for the purpose of ascertaining more correctly how the work could be accomplished. The bell was provided with guys to change its position when at the bottom, and a kind of basket to put the stones in. It was then hoisted from the deck, and we crawled underneath and up into the seats about four feet from the bottom. When the bell reached the water, by lowering the tackle, and began to shut all the air out except what was contained where we were, it produced a shuddering sensation, and a singular cracking noise in our heads, more especially in the ears, causing an involuntary working of the fingers there to let more air in, and relieve us of the painful sensation, which continued to some extent while under water.
After the bell reached the bottom, we could telegraph to be moved any way within a small circle. When the diver loaded the basket with rocks and stones, by means of his iron instruments, it was made known to those on deck by pulling one of the cords, and then it was hoisted up and emptied. By means of a rope attached to the lower end of the basket, the diver would pull it back again, and thus he might continue his risky work until admonished for life to pull the telegraphic cord, and be hoisted up for a fresh supply of God's free air.
While at the bottom of the sea, we could learn very quickly when the tide turned to flow in, or ebb out, by its motion over the shells and stones, which we could see as plainly as in a little brook of water. No matter how deep the water, its ebbing and flowing moves the whole body alike from top to bottom. Where the tide ebbs and flows, the vast bodies of river and harbor waters are in constant rushing motion, from the top to the bottom. But this is only while the change of tide is taking place. And twice every twenty-four hours a new body of rushing waters is rolled into the harbors from the mother ocean, adding fresh sources of healthy action to the fish that swim, and the stationary shell-fish, and those buried beneath the sand at low-water mark.
By persevering in our new business, in picking up rocks and stones from the bottom of the sea, the ship channel was cleared in time for me to leave with my companion, and be present at the opening of the first Second-Advent Conference in the world, much to our gratification and pleasure.
In March, 1841, Bro. Miller commenced a course of lectures in the Washington-Street meeting-house, in Fairhaven, Mass. I thought if he could be obtained to lecture on the second coming of Christ, to my friends and neighbors, I would willingly give my seat in the meeting-house to others, if the house should be crowded. I had been reading his lectures, and supposed I understood the most he would preach. But after hearing his first lecture, I felt that I could not be denied the privilege of hearing the whole course, for his preaching was deeply interesting, and very far in advance of his written lectures.
The house was crowded so that a great portion could not be seated, and yet all was quiet and still as night. It seemed as though the people were hearing for themselves. I believe they did then. Passing round among them the day after the lecture, one would hear another inquiring of his neighbor, "Were you at the meeting last night?" "Yes." "Did you ever hear such preaching before?" "No." "What do you think of his doctrine?" Many called on Bro. Miller to converse with him relative to the doctrine he taught, and seemed highly pleased with his prompt and ready quotations of Scripture in reply. Elders Himes and Cole accompanied him to Fairhaven. His week's labor with us seemed to work a very apparent change among the people.
His next course of lectures commenced the next week, in the North Christian meeting-house, in the city of New Bedford, about two miles distant. It was supposed that here he had about fifteen hundred hearers, the number that the house would accommodate at one time. A large portion of the aristocracy and ministers were in attendance. No such religious excitement for the time was ever heard of there. The interest seemed deep and wide-spread. At the close of the last meeting, Bro. Miller affectionately addressed the ministers, and exhorted them to faithfulness in their responsible work, and said, "I have been preaching to your people on the soon-coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, as I understand it from the Scriptures," and added that, if they thought he was right, it was highly important that they should teach it to their respective congregations. But if he was wrong, he much desired to be set right, and expressed a strong desire to meet with them before he left the place, and examine the subject with them. The Baptist minister proposed the vestry of his church, in William Street, at 9 o'clock next morning.
I was not a minister then, but I had a strong desire to attend this meeting, to learn how the ministers received the Second-Advent doctrine. By request, a number of lay members, with myself, were permitted to attend. When the meeting commenced in the morning, I counted twenty-two ministers present, belonging to the place and within a circle of a few miles around the city, and about forty lay members. After the meeting was organized, Bro. Miller proposed that they begin with the prophecy of Daniel, and requested the reader of the Scriptures to commence with the second chapter. Occasionally Bro. Miller would request the reader to pause, and then ask the ministers how they understood what had just been read. At first they looked upon each other in silence, seemingly unwilling to expose their ignorance in this matter, or to see who would reply. After some time, one of the learned ministers replied, "We believe it as you do, sir." "Well," said Bro. M., "if you are all agreed on this point, we will proceed." No other one replied. The reader proceeded until another question. All was silent again until the same learned minister answered, "We believe this as you do, sir." And thus they professed to believe with him to the end of the chapter. It was truly cheering to see how all these ministers of the various denominations were admitting and believing the doctrine of the second advent. They then commenced with chapter 7, and continued in harmony with Bro. M., until an objection was raised respecting the little horn of the fourth kingdom. The reader of the Scriptures, who raised the objection, said he wanted a little time for consideration here, and wished to know if the meeting could not be adjourned until the next day. A motion was made for an adjournment, and carried.
The next morning the adjourned meeting convened, when the reader of the Scriptures introduced his commentary, and attempted to prove therefrom that Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the kings who had ruled in the kingdom of Syria, was the little horn of the fourth kingdom. Bro. M.'s statement that it could not be so, but that the little horn was Rome, failed to satisfy them. Here the meeting closed without any further effort on their part. Since that time the subject of the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8, has been thoroughly criticised, and it has been settled that Rome is the power in question.
Says Eld. J. N. Andrews on this subject:--
"Out of many reasons that might be added to the above, we name but one. This power was to stand up against the Prince of princes. Dan. 8:25. The Prince of princes is Jesus Christ. Rev. 1:5; 17:14; 19:16. But Antiochus died one hundred and sixty-four years before our Lord was born. It is settled therefore that another power is the subject of this prophecy. To avoid the application of this prophecy to the Roman power, pagan and papal, the papists have shifted it from Rome to Antiochus Epiphanes, a Syrian king, who could not resist the mandates of Rome. See notes of the Douay [Romish] Bible on Dan. 7, 8, 9. This application is made by papists to save their church from any share in the fulfillment of the prophecy; and in this they have been followed by the mass of opposers to the Advent faith."
For further proof that Rome was the power, and that our Lord and Saviour was the Prince which that power stood up against, as noted in the prophecy, see Acts 3:15; 5:31; 4:26, 27.
Among the many questions with reference to the second advent of the Saviour, Bro. Miller was asked the following: "How can the whole human race stand upon the earth at one time, as mentioned in Rev. 20, at the last Judgment?"
Ans. "Allow 800,000,000 for every thirty years in six thousand years, and it will give 160,000,000,000. Allow fifty million square miles for the earth, and it would make five trillion one hundred and twenty thousand millions of square rods. This divided among 160,000,000,000 of inhabitants, would give thirty-two square rods to every individual on the globe!"
The second Second-Advent Conference was held in the city of Lowell, Mass., June 15-17, 1841. At this meeting Bro. Josiah Litch, of Boston, Mass., was present. Bro. L., in the year 1838, sent out his exposition of the ninth chapter of Revelation, predicting the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the prophetic period, "an hour and a day and a month and a year," which would expire August 11, 1840, when the sixth angel would cease to sound, and the second woe be past. Having obtained official accounts of the revolution that had then just closed in the Ottoman Empire, he came to this meeting prepared to prove the accomplishment of his calculation, to which tens of thousands with intense anxiety had been looking. The mass of evidence in the official accounts connected with the prophecy of his interesting discourse, proved that the Ottoman supremacy did cease on the 11th day of August, 1840. "And the second woe was passed, and behold, the third woe cometh quickly." This wonderfully aroused the people of God, and gave a mighty impulse to the Advent movement.
*Sink a tea-cup or bowl, bottom side up, in a pail of water, and you will have a very fair illustration of a diving-bell.