Lydia Maria Francis Child.

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In August '42, he visited his native place, after an absence of twenty
years. He and his wife were accompanied from Philadelphia by his son
Edward and his daughter Sarah H. Palmer. Of course, the haunts of his
boyhood had undergone many changes. Panther's Bridge had disappeared,
and Rabbit Swamp and Turkey Causeway no longer looked like the same
places. He visited his father's house, then occupied by strangers, and
found the ruins of his great-grandfather's dwelling. Down by the
pleasant old creek, shaded with large walnut trees and cedars, stood the
tombs of many of his relatives; and at Woodbury were the graves of his
father and mother, and the parents of his wife. Every spot had something
interesting to say of the past. His eyes brightened, and his tongue
became voluble with a thousand memories. Had I been present to listen to
him then, I should doubtless have been enabled to add considerably to my
stock of early anecdotes. He seemed to have brought away from this visit
a peculiarly vivid recollection of "poor crazy Joe Gibson." This
demented being was sometimes easily controlled, and willing to be
useful; at other times, he was perfectly furious and ungovernable. Few
people knew how to manage him; but Isaac's parents acquired great
influence over him by their uniform system of forbearance and
tenderness; their own good sense and benevolence having suggested the
ideas which regulate the treatment of insanity at the present period.
The day spent in Woodbury and its vicinity was a bright spot in Friend
Hopper's life, to which he always reverted with a kind of saddened
pleasure. The heat of the season had been tempered by floating clouds,
and when they returned to Philadelphia, there was a faint rainbow in the
east. He looked lovingly upon it, and said, "These clouds seem to have
followed us all day, on purpose to make everything more pleasant."

In the course of the same month he accepted an invitation to attend the
Anti-Slavery Convention at Norristown, Pennsylvania. His appearance
there was quite an event. Many friends of the cause, who were strangers
to him, were curious to obtain a sight of him, and to hear him address
the meeting. Charles C. Burleigh, in an eloquent letter to the
Convention, says: "I am glad to hear that Isaac T. Hopper is to be
present. That tried old veteran, with his eye undimmed, his natural
strength unabated, his resolute look, and calm determined manner, before
which the blustering kidnapper, and the self-important oppressor have so
often quailed! With the scars of a hundred battles, and the wreaths of
an hundred victories in this glorious warfare. With his example of half
a century's active service in this holy cause, and his still faithful
adherence to it, through evil as well as good report, and in the face of
opposition as bitter as sectarian bigotry can stir up. Persecution
cannot bow the head, which seventy winters could not blanch, nor the
terrors of excommunication chill the heart, in which age could not
freeze the kindly flow of warm philanthropy."

I think it was not long after this excursion that his sister Sarah came
from Maryland to visit him. She was a pleasant, sensible matron, much
respected by all who knew her. I noted down at the time several
anecdotes of childhood and youth, which bubbled up in the course of
conversations between her and her brother. In her character the
hereditary trait of benevolence was manifested in a form somewhat
different from his. She had no children of her own, but she brought up,
on her husband's farm, nineteen poor boys and girls, and gave most of
them a trade. Nearly all of them turned out well.

In the winters of 1842 and '43, Friend Hopper complied with urgent
invitations to visit the Anti-Slavery Fair, in Boston; and seldom has a
warmer welcome been given to any man. As soon as he appeared in Amory
Hall, he was always surrounded by a circle of lively girls attracted by
his frank manners, his thousand little pleasantries, and his keen
enjoyment of young society. A friend of mine used to say that when she
saw them clustering round him, in furs and feathered bonnets, listening
to his words so attentively, she often thought it would make as fine a
picture as William Penn explaining his treaty to the Indians.

Ellis Gray Loring in a letter to me, says: "We greatly enjoyed Friend
Hopper's visit. You cannot conceive how everybody was delighted with
him; particularly all our gay young set; James Russell Lowell, William
W. Story, and the like. The old gentleman seemed very happy; receiving
from all hands evidence of the true respect in which he is held." Mrs.
Loring, writing to his son John, says: "We have had a most delightful
visit from your father. Our respect, wonder, and love for him increased
daily. I am sure he must have received some pleasure, he bestowed so
much. We feel his friendship to be a great acquisition."

Samuel J. May wrote to me: "I cannot tell you how much I was charmed by
my interview with Friend Hopper. To me, it was worth more than all the
Fair beside. Give my most affectionate respects to him. He very kindly
invited me to make his house my home when I next come to New-York; and I
am impatient for the time to arrive, that I may accept his invitation."

Edmund Quincy, writing to Friend Hopper's daughter, Mrs. Gibbons, says:
"You cannot think how glad we were to see the dear old man. He spent a
night with me, to my great contentment, and that of my wife; and to the
no small edification of our little boy, to whom breeches and buckles
were a great curiosity. My Irish gardener looked at them with reverence;
having probably seen nothing so aristocratic, since he left the old
country. I love those relics of past time. The Quakers were not so much
out, when they censured their members for turning _sans culottes_. Think
of Isaac T. Hopper in a pair of pantaloons strapped under his feet!
There is heresy in the very idea. But, costume apart, we were as glad to
see Father Hopper, as if he had been our real father in the flesh. I
hope he had a right good time. If he had not, I am sure it was not for
want of being made much of. I trust his visits to Boston will grow into
one of our domestic institutions."

In the old gentleman's account of his visit to the Fair, he says: "I was
struck with the extreme propriety with which everything was conducted,
and with the universal harmony and good-will that prevailed among the
numerous friends of the cause, who had collected from all parts of the
old Commonwealth, on this interesting occasion. Many of the most
distinguished citizens were purchasers, and appeared highly gratified,
though not connected with the anti-slavery cause. Lord Morpeth, late
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, attended frequently, made some presents to
the Fair, and purchased several articles. I would call him by his
Christian name, if I knew it; for it is plain enough that he was not
baptized, 'Lord'. His manners were extremely friendly and agreeable, and
he expressed himself highly pleased with the exhibition. I had an
interesting conversation with him on the subject of slavery;
particularly in relation to the Amistad captives, and the case of the

"I had an opportunity to make a valuable addition to my collection of
the works of ancient Friends. On the book-table, I found that rare old
volume, 'The Way Cast Up,' written by George Keith, while in unity with
the Society. I took it home with me to my chamber; and as I glanced over
it, my mind was moved to a painful retrospect of the Society of Friends
in its original state, when its members were at liberty to follow the
light, as manifested to them in the silence and secrecy of their own
souls. I seemed to see them entering places appointed for worship by
various professors, and there testifying against idolatry, superstition,
and a mercenary priesthood. I saw them entering the courts, calling upon
judges and lawyers to do justice. I saw them receive contumely and
abuse, as a reward for these acts of dedication. My imagination
followed them to loathsome dungeons, where many of them died a lingering
death. I saw the blood trickling from the lacerated backs of innocent
men and women. I saw William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyer,
and William Leddra, pass through the streets of Boston, pinioned, and
with halters about their necks, on the way to execution; yet rejoicing
that they were found worthy to suffer, even unto death, for their
fidelity to Christ; sustained through those last bitter moments by an
approving conscience and the favor of God.

"I now see the inhabitants of that same city surpassed by none on the
globe, for liberality, candor, and benevolence. I see them taking the
lead of very many of the descendants of the martyrs referred to, in many
things, and at an immeasurable distance. I compared the state of the
Society of Friends in the olden time with what it now is. In some
sections of the country, they, in their turn, have become persecutors.
Not with dungeons, halter, and fire; for those modes of punishment have
gone by; but by ejecting their members from religious fellowship, and
defaming their characters for doing that which they conscientiously
believe is required at their hands; casting out their names as
evil-doers for honestly endeavoring to support one of the most dignified
testimonies ever given to the Society of Friends to hold up before a
sinful world. These reflections pained me deeply; for all the
convictions of my soul, and all my early religious recollections, bind
me fast to the principles of Friends; and I cannot but mourn to see how
the world has shorn them of their strength. I spent nearly a sleepless
night, and was baptized with my tears."

"In the morning, my mind was in some degree reassured with the hope that
there are yet left, throughout the land, 'seven thousand in Israel, all
the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which has not
kissed him;' and that among these shall yet 'arise judges, as at the
first, and counsellors, and lawgivers, as in the beginning.' My soul
longeth for the coming of that day, more than for the increase of corn,
and wine, and oil."

In the Spring of 1843, Friend Hopper visited Rhode Island, and Bucks
County, in Pennsylvania, to address the people in behalf of the
enslaved. He was accompanied by Lucinda Wilmarth, a very intelligent and
kind-hearted young person, who sometimes spoke on the same subject.
After she returned to her home in Massachusetts, she wrote as follows,
to the venerable companion of her mission; "Dear Father Hopper, I see by
the papers that Samuel Johnson has gone home. I well remember our call
upon him, on the second Sunday morning of our sojourn in that land of
roses. I also remember his radiant and peaceful countenance, which told
of a life well spent, and of calm and hopeful anticipations of the
future. I love to dwell upon my visit to Pennsylvania. I never saw
happier or more lovely homes. Never visited dwellings where those little
household divinities, goodness, order, and cheerfulness, held more
universal sway. I was enabled to view men and things from an entirely
new point of view. I had previously seen nothing of Quakerism, except in
a narrow orthodox form, with which I had no sympathy. I was much pleased
with the apparent freedom and philanthropy of the Friends I met there. I
know not whether it was their peculiar _ism_, that made them so
comparatively free and liberal. Perhaps I unconsciously assigned to
their Quakerism what merely belonged to their manhood. But the fact is,
they came nearer to realizing the ideal of Quakerism, associated in my
mind with Fox and Penn, than any people I have ever seen.

"I stopped at Providence on my way home. As soon as I entered Isaac
Hale's door, little Alice began to skip with joy, as she did that day
when we returned so unexpectedly to dine; but the next moment, she
looked down the stair-case, and exclaimed in a most anxious tone, 'Why
_did'nt_ Grandfather Hopper come? What _did_ you come alone for? What
_shall_ I do?' On my arrival home, the first noisy greetings of my
little brothers and sisters had scarcely subsided, before they began to
inquire, 'Why did'nt your _other_ father come, too?' They complained
that you had not written a single 'Tale of Oppression' for the Standard
since you were here. But a week after, my little sister came running
with an open newspaper in her hand, exclaiming, 'Father Hopper has made
another story!' She has named her doll for your little grand-daughter,
Lucy Gibbons, because you used to talk about her; and every day she
reads the book you gave her."

Friend Hopper found great satisfaction in the perusal of the above
letter, not only on account of his great regard for the writer, but
because many of the Friends in Bucks County were the delight of his
heart. He was always telling me that if I wanted to see the best farms,
the best Quakers, and the most comfortable homes in the world, I must go
to Bucks County. In his descriptions, it was a blooming land of peace
and plenty, approaching as near to an earthly paradise, as could be
reasonably expected.

At the commencement of 1845, the American Anti-Slavery Society made some
changes in their office at New-York, by which the duties of editor and
treasurer, were performed by the same person; consequently Friend
Hopper's services were no longer needed. When he retired from the office
he had held during four years, the Society unanimously voted him thanks
for the fidelity with which he had discharged the duties entrusted to

At that time, several intelligent and benevolent gentlemen in the city
of New-York were much interested in the condition of criminals
discharged from prisons, without money, without friends, and with a
character so blasted, that it was exceedingly difficult to procure
employment. However sincerely desirous such persons might be to lead a
better life, it seemed almost impossible for them to carry their good
resolutions into practice. The inconsiderate harshness of society forced
them back into dishonest courses, even when it was contrary to their own
inclinations. That this was a fruitful source of crime, and consequently
a great increase of expense to the state, no one could doubt who
candidly examined the subject. To meet the wants of this class of
sufferers, it was proposed to form a Prison Association, whose business
it should be to inquire into individual cases, and extend such sympathy
and assistance as circumstances required. This subject had occupied
Friend Hopper's mind almost as early as the wrongs of the slave. He
attended the meetings, and felt a lively interest in the discussions, in
which he often took part. The editor of the New-York Evening Mirror,
alluding to one of these occasions, says: "When Mr. Hopper rose to offer
some remarks, we thought the burst of applause which greeted the quaint
old man, (in the very costume of Franklin) was a spontaneous homage to
goodness; and we thanked God and took courage for poor human nature."

His well-known benevolence, his peculiar tact in managing wayward
characters, his undoubted integrity, and his long experience in such
matters, naturally suggested the idea that he was more suitable than any
other person to be Agent of the Association. It was a situation
extremely well-adapted to his character, and if his limited
circumstances would have permitted, he would have been right glad to
have discharged its duties gratuitously. He named three hundred dollars
a year, as sufficient addition to his income, and the duties were
performed with as much diligence and zeal, as if the recompence had been
thousands. Although he was then seventy-four years old, his hand-writing
was firm and even, and very legible. He kept a Diary of every day's
transactions, and a Register of all the discharged convicts who applied
for assistance; with a monthly record of such information as could be
obtained of their character and condition, from time to time. The neat
and accurate manner in which these books were kept was really surprising
in so old a man. The amount of walking he did, to attend to the business
of the Association, was likewise remarkable. Not one in ten thousand,
who had lived so many years, could have endured so much fatigue.

In his labors in behalf of this class of unfortunate people he was
essentially aided by Abby H. Gibbons, who resided nearer to him than his
other daughters, and who had the same affectionate zeal to sustain him,
that she had manifested by secretly slipping a portion of her earnings
into his pocket, in the days of her girlhood. She was as vigilant and
active in behalf of the women discharged from prison, as her father was
in behalf of the men. Through the exertions of herself and other
benevolent women, an asylum for these poor outcasts, called THE HOME,
was established and sustained. Friend Hopper took a deep interest in
that institution, and frequently went there on Sunday evening, with his
wife and daughters, to talk with the inmates in a manner most likely to
soothe and encourage them. They were accustomed to call him "Father
Hopper," and always came to him for advice when they were in trouble.

When the Prison Association petitioned to be incorporated, it
encountered a great deal of opposition, on the ground that it would be
likely to interfere with the authority of the State over prisons. During
two winters, Friend Hopper went to Albany frequently to sustain the
measure. He commanded respect and attention, by the good sense of his
remarks, his dignified manner, and readiness of utterance. The
Legislature were more inclined to have confidence in him, because he was
known to be a benevolent, conscientious Quaker, entirely unconnected
with party politics. In fact, the measure was carried mainly by the
exertion of his personal influence. He sustained the petition of the
Association in a speech before the Legislature, which excited much
attention, and made a deep impression on those who heard it. Judge
Edmonds, who was one of the speakers on the same occasion, often alluded
to it as a remarkable address. He said, "It elicited more applause, and
did more to carry the end in view, than anything that was said by more
practised public speakers. His eloquence was simple and direct, but most
effective. If he was humorous, his audience were full of laughter; if
solemn, a deathlike stillness reigned; if pathetic, tears flowed all
around him. He seemed unconscious of his power in this respect, but I
have heard him many times before large assemblies at our Anniversaries,
and in the chapel of the State Prison, and I have been struck, over and
over again, with the remarkable sway he had over the minds of those whom
he addressed."

The business of the Association made it necessary for Friend Hopper to
visit that city many times afterward. He came to be so well known there,
and was held in such high respect, that whenever he made his appearance
in the halls of legislation, the Speaker sent a messenger to invite him
to take a seat near his own.

He often applied to the Governor to exert his pardoning power, where he
thought there were mitigating circumstances attending the commission of
a crime; or where the mind and health of a prisoner seemed breaking
down; or where a long course of good conduct seemed deserving of reward.
When Governor Young had become sufficiently acquainted with him to form
a just estimate of his character, he said to him, "Friend Hopper, I will
pardon any convict, whom you say you conscientiously believe I ought to
pardon. If I err at all, I prefer that it should be on the side of
mercy. But so many cases press upon my attention, and it is so difficult
to examine them all thoroughly, that it is a great relief to find a man
in whose judgment and integrity I have such perfect confidence, as I
have in yours." On the occasion of one of these applications for mercy,
the following quaint correspondence passed between him and the Governor:

"Esteemed Friend,

"John Young:

"You mayst think this mode of address rather too familiar; but as it
is the spontaneous effusion of my heart, and entirely congenial
with my feelings, I hope thou wilt hold me excused. Permit me to
embrace this opportunity to congratulate thee upon thy accession
to the office of Chief Magistrate of the State. I have confidence
its duties will be faithfully performed. I rejoice that thou hast
had independence enough to restore to liberty, and to their
families, those infatuated men called Anti-Renters. Some, who live
under the old dispensation, that demanded 'an eye for an eye, and a
tooth for a tooth,' will doubtless censure this act of justice and
mercy. But another class will be glad; those who have embraced the
Christian faith, and live under the benign influence of its spirit,
which enjoins forgiveness of injuries. The approbation of such,
accompanied with an approving conscience, will, I trust, more than
counterbalance any censure that may arise on the occasion.

"The object I particularly have in view in addressing thee now, is,
to call thy attention to the case of Allen Lee, who was sentenced
to twelve years' imprisonment for horse-stealing, in Westchester
County. He has served for eleven years and two months of that time.
It is his first offence, and he has conducted well during his
confinement. His health is much impaired, and he has several times
had a slight haemorrhage of the lungs. Allen's father was a regular
teamster in the army during all the revolutionary war. Though poor,
he has always sustained a fair reputation. He is now ninety years
old, and he is extremely anxious to behold the face of his son.
Permit me, most respectfully, but earnestly, to ask thy early
attention to this case. The old man is confined to his bed, and so
low, that he cannot continue many weeks. Unless Allen is very soon
released, there is no probability that he will ever see him. I have
no self-interested motives in this matter, but am influenced solely
by considerations of humanity. With sincere desires for thy health
and happiness, I am very respectfully thy friend,


Governor Young promptly replied as follows.

"My worthy friend, Isaac T. Hopper,

"I have often thought of thee since we last met. I have received
thy letter; and because thou hast written to me, and because I know
that what thou writest is always truth, and that the old man,
before he lays him down to die, may behold the face of his son, I
will restore Allen to his kindred. When thou comest to Albany, I
pray thee to come and see me. Very respectfully thy friend, JOHN

The monitor within frequently impelled Friend Hopper to address the
assembled convicts at Sing Sing, on Sunday. The officers of the
establishment were very willing to open the way for him; for according
to the testimony of Mr. Harman Eldridge, the warden, "With all his
kindness, and the encouragement he was always ready to give, he was
guarded and cautious in the extreme, that nothing should be said to
conflict with the discipline of the prison." His exhortations rendered
the prisoners more docile, and stimulated them to exertion by keeping
hope alive in their hearts. On such occasions, I have been told that a
large portion of his unhappy audience were frequently moved to tears;
and the warmth of their grateful feelings was often manifested by
eagerly pressing forward to shake hands with him, whenever they received
permission to do so. The friendly counsel he gave on such occasions
sometimes produced a permanent effect on their characters. In a letter
to his daughter Susan, he says: "One of these poor fellows attacked the
life of the keeper, and I soon after had a private interview with him.
He received what I said kindly, but declared that he could not govern
his temper. He said he had no ill-will toward the keeper; that what he
did was done in a gust of passion, and he could not help it. I tried to
convince him that he had power to control his temper, if he would only
exercise it. A year and a half afterward, on First Day, after meeting,
he asked permission to speak to me. He then told me he was convinced
that what I had said to him was true; for he had not given way to anger
since I talked to him on the subject. He showed me many certificates
from the keepers, all testifying to his good conduct. I hardly ever saw
a man more changed than he is."

I often heard my good old friend describe these scenes in the Prison
Chapel, with much emotion. He used to say, the feeling of confidence and

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Online LibraryLydia Maria Francis ChildIsaac T. Hopper → online text (page 23 of 28)