Letter to Nathaniel Barney (1847)

Surviving letters from Lucretia Mott in the 1840s and 1850s to Nathaniel Barney (1792-1869), a Nantucket oil and candle manufacturer, illustrate criticisms that the two shared toward their fellow Quakers' conservatism.  Six of these letters will appear in the forthcoming Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott.  William Barney of Boca Grande, Florida, had kindly provided us with a copy of another letter Mott sent to his great-grandfather.  Since we cannot include it in the Selected Letters, we post it here for readers to see how Mott handled the differences with her fellow Hicksites.  Mott felt free to disgorge her frustrations with Friends' apathy on current social issues to her sympathetic cousin, Nathaniel Barney.  In this letter of June 7, 1847, Mott recollects a confrontation with one of her strongest critics from the New York Hicksite Meeting, minister George F. White (1789-1847).

[letter - page one]

Philada. 6 mo. 7th. 1847
My Dear Nathaniel

Thy very acceptable letter with its accompaniments--J. Mott's to thee, and thine to Sarah Hunt, ought to have been gratefully acknowledged, weeks ago.  The latter after being read by G. & C. Truman & ourselves, was sealed & forwarded, saying nothing of the privilege we had enjoyed.  I saw Sarah afterward, at our Yearly Mg. and asked her if she had received it.  She simply answered, "yes," but said no more.  We were glad that thou wrote to her so plainly.  There is reason to fear, that she will go "clean over" to the enemy.  She gave her voice decidedly against J. Jackson's book--Peace and War, when our Yearly Mgs. Com. on Libraries had the question before us of the acceptance of 100 copies for circulation thro’ our Yearly Mg. and on the Slavery subject she is exceedingly conservative, not giving her countenance to any measure, until quite sure that “Friends are prepared for it.”  We could not agree in said Com. either to accept or return J. Jackson's gift. He yielded to the great opposition to it, so far as to suggest to the Com. the propriety of returng. it; but we could not unite with that any more nearly:-- So the book was left in our box, for individuals of the Com. to dispose of it as they might think best, & havg. several orders for it, it was quickly circulated.  The Yearly Mg. dissolved the Com.--so there will be no other bone of contention in that line.

The subject of Slavery agitated both the Men's & Women's Mgs.-- After the men, by a large majority had agreed to appoint a com. to report next year, the nomination being deferred till the next morng., as it was late; then by some out-door managet., a reconsideration was proposed, & with John Comly's aid the seale was turned and nothing done.  In the Wom. Mg. a Com. was appointed, before they heard of the manoevoring among the men--but the materials of wh. it was composed, will render it powerless for good.  I do not at all wonder, that John Mott should have little hope of any revival in the Society in its present form.  What an abomination--the proceeding in Indiana, against such men as Morris Place, Israel French, and some whom we could name--Fredk. Hooker & wife &.c &.c!  All from the intolerance of a few ruling Spirits.  When G. Hatten was this way, last winter, he recommended, in private the disownment of the Abolitionists, as the only hope of harmony in the Society.  His companion Joseph Plummer preached against unsound ministry & good works, endeavorg. to shew that the latter would draw from the "first love."  They had little influence here however.  George was sick, & obliged to return home, without attending any Mgs. in this City. Rachel Hicks was at our Yearly, as is her wont, with her body-guard, Amos & Caroline Willets.  She early, in the Select Mg. let us know, that fair as our answers appeared, she heard the "bleatg. of the sheep & the lowing of the oxen", and addressed the suffering seed.  During the Yearly Mg., her influence was against every reformatory movement & frequent intimations that Abolitionists & others were "working in their own will,” &.c at last prayed at some length, informg. her "Holy Father", invoking Him by that epithet 17 times that there were those, who claimed Reason to be sufficient to do his work--& that the roaring Lion, & the fawning Bear

[letter - page two]

& the hissing serpent, were entering our Sacred enclosure--& committing sad ravages.  After all this I thot. it right to give a word of cheer to those who were engaged like their blessed Exemplar, in giving sight to the Blind in the various works of reform--what tho', as in his case, the Scribe & Pharisee might say, "we know that God spake by Moses, but as for this fellow, we know not whence he is"-- What tho' we might be preached at & prayed at, we must not give back on these accounts; but enduring hardness as good soldiers, we must go forth "conquering & to conquer."  It gave great offense to that party.  Sarah Underwood told me she regretted that I had so lost my influence that day.  In reply, I equally regretted that she had given hers to the opposition.  Altho' evidence was given in both Meetings, that liberal principles were spreading among the Young--yet as a Society with its ruling spirits--virtually its Pope & its Inquisition, no advance has been or is likely soon to be made.  Long years reflection and observation have convinced & confirmed me in the opinion, that our Select body, as also the Heirarchy or Eceliastical establishments, & privileged orders in all sects, are the main obstacles to progress--and until the true Freedom of Christ--the equality of the Brethren is better understood, we shall do little by organizing & re-organizing.  So believing I visited 'our Brethren' & spoke against Select Mgs. & in favor of Women's Rights, but producing no other effect on the Powers that be than increased opposition.  In N.Y. Select Mg. I repeated the heresy, & was denounced by G. F. White.  Nothg. daunted I bearded that Lion-- After Mg. Amos Willets told me many were dissatisfied--I answered, that ‘it wd. not surprise me if all were.’  He retorted, "the fire brand which thee failed to kindle in Philada. Y. M. thee has brot. here, & it wd. have been better for you to have stayed at home."  I laid my hand on his arm, saying, "Amos, how little thou understands me"!  His br. Saml. the next day ^aftern^ waited on J & self to the door of Hester St. Mg.  I told of Amos--adding that I knew him so much more, as a Merchant, than as an Elder, that it was difficult to view him in the latter character.  Saml. was loth to believe, that it could be just so.  We only attended one sitting on 2nd-day morng. & then hastened on to Boston where far more congenial spirits awaited us.

We hoped to see thee and Eliza there.  Had we decided to go in time to write, we should have done so, soliciting the pleasure of such a meeting.  Our Anna M. Hopper was with us, and it did not suit her to be long from home, so that we could not make up for our disappointt., by going to see you & our other dear friends on the Island.  I was the more reconciled to this, from a hope indulged of visiting you sometime this summer, with my sisters &.c-- We must wait first to receive a visit from our English friends Wm. Boultbee & daughr. from Birmingham--on their way to Canada to reside with their children.  They wrote us that they should leave England the 1st of this month, but did not say whether in a sailing Packet or a Steamer.

The visit to Boston was full of pleasurable incident.  M. W. Chapman welcomed us to her hospitality-- There was Elisa Lee Follen--that personification of Loveliness--Edmund Quincy & others frequent visitors--then we were bidden here & there among

[letter - page three]

the gifted & the good-- Samuel Philbrick took us out to his Princely Seat, and gave us a drive around the beautiful adornings of Boston Environs-- Wm. L. Garrison accompd. us to monumental Mount Auburn--where we rambled around the graves of the Sainted, and talked of things appertaining to this life.  On our way, called on Jas. & Maria Lowell--heard the natural lament of the Mother for her sweet first-born--were glad to perceive an anticipation of that loss being in some measure supplied.  Called also a few minutes at E. Follen's neat cottage.  Then our visit to our Lynn friends & to Nahant--that beautiful beach & that rocky shore--also to Tudor's garden & Moll Pitcher's hill, & Jesse Hutchinsons new cottage--each & all afforded great pleasure especially to Anna to whom all was news.  The Convention was exceedingly interesting to those who could gather near enough the platform to hear the Speakers-- & we, being strangers, were treated with double honor in that respect.  But the benefit of the Mgs. was greatly lessened by the difficulty of hearing--owing to the partition separatg. the Hall from the stairs being removed & all the galleries taken away to make room for the Chinese Museum.--  The voice reverberated so that few of the Speakers could be heard well.  The subjects are reported--good feeling marked all the discussions.  It was the 1st. N. E. Convention that we had attended & we were abundantly satisfied.  Then to crown all, Theodore Parker invited some 30 or 40 Reformers of various classes to meet at his house at 3 o clock to pass the aftern. & evening to discuss the objects of Reform & the measures best adapted to promote these objects.  That is not just as he stated the proposed subjects of conversation.  The gathering there was worthy of N England--of Massachusetts[.]  Wm. L. G. & his 5 or 6 Boston coadjutors, Ralph W. Emerson & some few other Transcendentalists, W. H. Channing--J. [L?]. Russell of Hingham--C. Stetson & 5 or 6 more ultra Unitarians, Chapin the Magnus Apollo of the Universalists, Elizur Wright--the seceding Orthodox Divine, Chs. Hovey the active Merchant reportg. himself. ‘a man of the world,’ a new convert to AntiSlavery, J. Truman Clarke with a pious yearning for the church, Chs. Sumner with his capacious brain--E. L. Follen & M. W. Chapman too quiet by half--yes, by whole!  The conversation was carried on with the utmost order--one speakg at a time-- I have not room, even if I had the ability to tell you of the interestg. remarks of the several speakers.  We must leave the attempt till we meet-- At about 7 o'clock we were invited down to the basement front, where was a table abundantly supplied with tea & coffee, sandwiches & cakes, & soda biscuit--no chairs, the 3 elder women occupying the sofa--all were waited upon with the greatest ease--when returning to the large drawing room, without foldg. doors--conversatn. was resumed, & 10 o clock came

[letter - page four]

or ever we were aware.  It was proposed to continue Meetgs. of that kind--all appeared pleased--but no future time was fixed upon.  These Reform Meetings seem to be the best substitute for the dry formal Sectarian gatherings--which the ‘signs of the times’ indicate are drawing to an end.  We have had some most interestg. free meetings of this kind at Phoenixville, Chester Co. & Norristown--Montgomery--called by Elijah Pennypacker & a few like himself--Jas. & self riding 20 miles & more on 1st. day morng. for the privilege of attendg. them several hundred being present-- At Lynn also Jas. M. Buffum has bot. a large Hall seated it--erected a low platform--as a stand--not for seat elevation--and for these 6 weeks past they have held most satisfactory Mgs.  No Abby Fulsom to disturb them--no Orthodox imposition--no weary formality!  We attended there on 1st. day Morng. about 500 prest. A Christian Minister read part of a chapter in the New Testament-- W. W. Brown--a cold. man followed, in a short but sensible discourse--then your servant had "free course"-- Why cannot you adopt this plan, to meet the wants of some who are asking, "who shall shew us any good?"-- Such Reform Mgs. might answer all that John Mott is divining and be free from superstitions wh. wd. cling to any particular sect attempting to re-organize.  In our Society I have little hope, that the persecuted & the dissatisfied comg. together for a new order of things, could at all agree, as to how much of the old Discipline should be retained.  Some would wish to preserve their claim to the name of Quaker or Friend by as little alteration as possible, while others would never again commit the suicidal policy, of office-making--creed-signing--(as by agreeing to certain clauses in our Book of Dis. relative to the Scriptures & Divinity of Christ) by the right numbers--excommunicatg. plan &c. &c.-- John Mott himself would be shocked with some of our radicalism.  But let's have done with our Boston trip.  In the aftern. of 1st. day we rode into Boston & attended a large Mg. at the Melodeon, Theodore Parker having previously offered the use of it & given notice of my acceptance of it-- That Mg. ended pretty well, considering-- We returned immediately to Lynn & in the eveg. had a crowded house at the Unitarian--very satisfactory-- We regretted much that Fredk. Douglass was too poorly to be seen  We reached home on 3rd. day followg.--found our house all cleaned in our absence, & ready for our reception.  Our E. M. Davis & family have since shut up theirs & gone to New York for the summer--takg. board near Flushg. in compy. with Robt. & Hannah Wharton Haydock, &c.-- Our Martha has gone with them for a visit of a few weeks.  Our other childn., except Edwd. H. & Anna, have taken board near this City.  We feel quite deserted--both as to Church & Family!

All the information in thy last of John Mott & Michigan Friends was new, and acceptable to us, as well as to G. Truman--& Cathe.  We have often wondered what John & G. M. Cooper, & others thereaway would think of doing for the rescue of the disheartened & persecuted.  Tell them to hold Reform Meetings.  I recd. a letter from our aunt L. P. M.

[letter - page five]

not long since, which contains all that we have heard from P. Cadwalader in a long time.  I will enclose it as an answer to thy inquiries concerning her--and other remarks of our Aunt, you may like to read.  She is now in her 72nd. year.  We hear that she has left Cincinnatti and is traveling hitherward--Stopping in Center Co. to visit Wm. Underwood.  I will also send a copy of John Jackson's letter to our Committee for your perusal,--to be returned at some future time.--

Thou asks after Joseph A. Dugdale-- He was about as usual when we last heard, which was not very lately.  He had a severe attack of fever last Fall.  The subject which mainly induced me to take the pen at this time I have left till now. Our dear George Truman has at length obtained a minute from the Monthly & Quarterly Mgs. after a years delay, ‘to pay a religious visit to some parts of New England and to parts of the British Provinces’  This was granted last 4th. & 5th. mos.  He is preparing to leave home the latter part of this month, if a suitable companion should offer.  None has yet come forward.  Cathe. is not willing that he should go alone, subject as he is to colds & sometimes more acute disease.  He remembered years ago a word from thee, signifying a willingness to bear him company in such a journey; and he authorized me, if I saw thee in Boston, to 'sound thee,' or 'feel around,' and report to him what probability there might be for a companion so every-way desirable.  Thou wast not there.  Returning, I promised to write, but many cares have prevented my doing so before this which is now the 10th. of the Mo.  Yesterday, Cathe. told me, that from a hint received from Susan M. Dorsey, she was led to think that her husband William Dorsey was going to offer himself.  He would be very suitable.  Wm. Sharpless, also a member of our Mg. (tho’ rather conservative) we heard had been thinking of it.  Still, I feel best satisfied to name the Subject to thee, and should like an answer, at thy earliest convenience-- If either of the above named should go, and not be able to remain as long as George expects to be absent, canst thou hold out any encouragement, as to supplying a void for a while?  I merely ask, not as urging it, for I know not how thy physical man could bear such

[letter - page six]

a tax on its energies.  But a letter of sympathy would be encouraging--and if there would be an opening for George's Gospel mission on Nantucket, now that you have cut loose from ‘the fold,’ & have no house at your command, it might be as a word of cheer to him.  The wherewithal for the journey will be furnished here.  Many of George's old friends have deserted him-- His business has fallen off, and he has at times felt much discouraged.  His family however are not much expense to him,--his daughters are earning their support in a school--and for the large amount of company they had at Yearly-Mg. time, his friends were thoughtful of him.  Thou mentions, in the confidence which marks thy correspondence with us, & which we highly value, that thou & thy partner have been blessed as regards business-success, and asks in return, or expresses the hope, that it had been so with us.

It is an unspeakable satisfaction to be able to answer, that ourselves & our children all, may be regarded as prospering.--not as some men count riches, but so far above want as to feel no anxiety at the present, on that account.  E. M. Davis after 18 months withdrawal from business, is again engaged, more largely than ever, having a house in New York as well as in this City.  I sometimes tremble for him, lest by some unexpected turn, in his fortune, he may have to regret that he was not satisfied with a moderate competency-- He is "generous as the day" with his means—publishg. tracts, giving 50s & 100s to the Anti-Slavery--Anti-Sabbath--Anti Cap. Pun.--Anti-War causes--and reserving a good deal for social enjoyments and innocent dissipating.  The case of Isaac Brown--wh. as prepared by Chs. Gibbons--the Lawyer,--he had printed & gratuitously circulated here by thousands, I send you a specimen of--also his Sabbath tracts, wh. indeed I think I did send-- C. C. Burleigh has had the latter printed in better style for Sale.  He wrote that at Edwd.s suggestion.  Poor Chs. has been quite sick with chills & fever-- Cyrus B. has been a very good agent in this field-- We hope to keep him hereaway-- We also want to send for W. W. Brown for a few weeks stay after our Annual Mg., wh. he wishes to attend. wh. Wm. L. G. expects also to attend, on his way to Ohio-- If we should go to Nt. this summer, will you come back with us & attend that Mg. 4th. of 8th Mo.?  We shall have a nice gathering here, & should greatly enjoy your company.

[letter - page seven]

Nathaniel kindly invites us to visit you at Strawberry time.  And right well should we like to do so but our English visitors must decide for us.  If they should arrive the last of this Mo. & stay 10 days or 2 weeks with us, we should then have 2 weeks before the August Meeting.  We must be at home at that time.  Should our frds. make a longer stay--say to attend this said Meeting, as they will be urged to do, why then our visit must be postponed till the 2nd week in the 8th month-- I have to correspond with my sister Martha too, so as to fix a time that will suit her--and after all we might be obliged to give it up for this year--.  If our aunt L. P. M. should come, we should have to dispose of her some how, I would not let her prevent the pleasure we anticipate.

We had a little of Thomas A. Greene's company in N.York pleasantly so to us-- I had not as much opporty. as I wished to ask after you all & to learn what were your conclusions as regards attachg. yourselves to the New York Bigots.  He seems inclined to retain his right of membership among them--not from any sympathy with their evil-doings, but as a hold on the Society at large, wh. he is not prepared to relinquish-- This I inferred from what I gathered from him, in a walk together from the Prisoner's Home, where I almost frightened myself with my radical talk to those present--2 rooms full-- We were sorry we had not asked Thos. to meet us at Josiah Macy's the next day, where we dined-- Joseph Post & coz. Henry Mott called there to see us, but we had little oppy. to converse together.  It was the first time we had met since the sore bereavet. in the death of dear Phebe P. Willis--and Joseph as well as myself, mourned her as a present loss--unfitting us for talk on other subjects.  Very precious was she to me!  I will enclose also a sweet letter I had from her daught. Cathe. this Spring--written with pencil on embossed paper, on accot. of her eyes.  Our Martha went over it with a pen, before my old eyes could decipher it.  I send it that you may see her remarks of the intolerance toward Marlboro’ Friends.  What a Spirit their opposers are in toward them!

[letter - page eight]

Jacob L. Mott is in the gall of bitterness, and you hear of his opposing Nicholas Hallock's proposition to print & circulate the Ohio address after much unity had been expressed, because of the source whence the proposition came?-- -- And did you hear that Rachel Hicks moved & carried that a Com. be appointed to take from the Epistles, the exceptionable parts before they were printed & sent down?  I wish the Qy. & Mo. Mgs would send them back as spurious-- Do you think me in a bad spirit?  I am not,  any more than Jesus was when he said, "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets"--&.c-- The house of such must be left unto them desolate!

Why was Ferrisburg [N.Y.] Qy. Mg. laid down?  Was it at their own request?  We have heard no particulars--not having seen any man, who attended that Mg., & the Women are nothing in a Mg. capacity.  The voice of 3 sanctioned what men had done, & the clerk made a minute accordingly[.]  Rachel Evans was there & reports it the most dead uninterestg. Mg. she ever sat in--business done by very few Speakers.  She went [o]ut to Marlboro—‘the infected district,’ after the Mg. & had a very satisfactory visit among those infidels--& endorses their Christianity without reserve-- Now if I write any more you will not read it-- So with love unbounded to all our friends--Elizh. Macy in particular

yours for free speech--L. Mott


ALS William Barney
 Env: “Nathaniel Barney, Nantucket, Mass.”
 prompt delivery by cousin Edward G.

Back to Mott Home Page