Lydia Maria Francis Child.

Isaac T. Hopper online

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quarrels among his apprentices. He knew, moreover, that a battle between
him and Samson would be very unequal; so he restrained his indignation
as well as he could. But one day, when the big bully knocked him down,
without the slightest provocation, he exclaimed, in great wrath, "If you
ever do that again, I'll kill you. Mind what I say. I tell you I'll kill
you."

Samson snapped his fingers and laughed, and the next day he knocked him
down again. Isaac armed himself with a heavy window-bar, and when the
apprentices were summoned to breakfast, he laid wait behind a door, and
levelled a blow at the tyrant, as he passed through. He fell, without
uttering a single cry. When the family sat down to breakfast, Mr. Tatem
said, "Where is Samson?"

His nephew coolly replied, "I've killed him."

"Killed him!" exclaimed the uncle. "What do you mean?"

"I told him I would kill him if he ever knocked me down again," rejoined
Isaac; "and I _have_ killed him."

They rushed out in the utmost consternation, and found the young man
entirely senseless. A physician was summoned, and for some time they
feared he was really dead. The means employed to restore him were at
last successful; but it was long before he recovered from the effects of
the blow. When Isaac saw him so pale and helpless, a terrible remorse
filled his soul. He shuddered to think how nearly he had committed
murder, in one rash moment of unbridled rage. This awful incident made
such a solemn and deep impression on him, that from that time he began
to make strong and earnest efforts to control the natural impetuosity of
his temper; and he finally attained to a remarkable degree of
self-control. Weary hours of debility brought wiser thoughts to Samson
also; and when he recovered his strength, he never again misused it by
abusing his companions.

In those days, Isaac did not profess to be a Quaker. He used the
customary language of the world, and liked to display his
well-proportioned figure in neat and fashionable clothing. The young
women of his acquaintance, it is said, looked upon him with rather
favorable eyes; but his thoughts never wandered from Sarah Tatum for a
single day. Once, when he had a new suit of clothes, and stylish boots,
the tops turned down with red, a young man of his acquaintance invited
him to go home with him on Saturday evening and spend Sunday. He
accepted the invitation, and set out well pleased with the expedition.
The young man had a sister, who took it into her head that the visit was
intended as an especial compliment to herself. The brother was called
out somewhere in the neighborhood, and as soon as she found herself
alone with their guest, she began to specify, in rather significant
terms, what she should require of a man who wished to marry her. - Her
remarks made Isaac rather fidgetty; but he replied, in general terms,
that he thought her ideas on the subject were very correct. "I suppose
you think my father will give me considerable money," said she; "but
that is a mistake. Whoever takes me must take me for myself alone."

The young man tried to stammer out that he did not come on any such
errand; but his wits were bewildered by this unexpected siege, and he
could not frame a suitable reply. She mistook his confusion for the
natural timidity of love, and went on to express the high opinion she
entertained of him. Isaac looked wistfully at the door, in hopes her
brother would come to his rescue. But no relief came from that quarter,
and fearing he should find himself engaged to be married without his own
consent, he caught up his hat and rushed out. It was raining fast, but
he splashed through mud and water, without stopping to choose his steps.
Crossing the yard in this desperate haste, he encountered the brother,
who called out, "Where are you going?"

"I'm going home," he replied.

"Going home!" exclaimed his astonished friend, "Why it is raining hard;
and you came to stay all night. What does possess you, Isaac? Come back!
Come back, I say!"

"I won't come back!" shouted Isaac, from the distance. "I'm going home."
And home he went. - His new clothes were well spattered, and his red-top
boots loaded with mud; but though he prided himself on keeping his
apparel in neat condition, he thought he had got off cheaply on this
occasion.

Soon after he went to reside in Philadelphia, a sea captain by the name
of Cox came to his uncle's on a visit. As the captain was one day
passing through Norris Alley, he met a young colored man, named Joe,
whose master he had known in Bermuda. He at once accused him of being a
runaway slave, and ordered him to go to the house with him. Joe called
him his old friend, and seemed much pleased at the meeting. He said he
had been sent from Bermuda to New-York in a vessel, which he named; he
had obtained permission to go a few miles into the country, to see his
sister, and while he was gone, the vessel unfortunately sailed; he
called upon the consignee and asked what he had better do under the
circumstances, and he told him that his captain had left directions for
him to go to Philadelphia and take passage home by the first vessel.
Captain Cox was entirely satisfied with this account. He said there was
a vessel then in port, which would sail for Bermuda in a few days, and
told Joe he had better go and stay with him at Mr. Tatem's house, while
he made inquiries about it.

When Isaac entered the kitchen that evening, he found Joe sitting there,
in a very disconsolate attitude; and watching him closely he observed
tears now and then trickling down his dark cheeks. He thought of poor
old Mingo, whose pitiful story had so much interested him in boyhood,
and caused him to form a resolution to be the friend of Africans. - The
more he pondered on the subject, the more he doubted whether Joe was so
much pleased to meet his "old friend," as he had pretended to be. He
took him aside and said, "Tell me truly how the case stands with you. I
will be your friend; and come what will, you may feel certain that I
will never betray you." Joe gave him an earnest look of distress and
scrutiny, which his young benefactor never forgot. Again he assured him,
most solemnly, that he might trust him. Then Joe ventured to acknowledge
that he was a fugitive slave, and had great dread of being returned into
bondage. He said his master let him out to work on board a ship going to
New-York. He had a great desire for freedom, and when the vessel arrived
at its destined port, he made his escape, and travelled to Philadelphia,
in hopes of finding some one willing to protect him. Unluckily, the very
day he entered the City of Brotherly Love he met his old acquaintance
Captain Cox; and on the spur of the moment he had invented the best
story he could.

Isaac was then a mere lad, and he had been in Philadelphia too short a
time to form many acquaintances; but he imagined what his own feelings
would be if he were in poor Joe's situation, and he determined to
contrive some way or other to assist him. He consulted with a prudent
and benevolent neighbor, who told him that a Quaker by the name of John
Stapler, in Buck's County, was a good friend to colored people, and the
fugitive had better be sent to him. Accordingly, a letter was written to
Friend Stapler, and given to Joe, with instructions how to proceed.
Meanwhile, Captain Cox brought tidings that he had secured a passage to
Bermuda. Joe thanked him, and went on board the vessel, as he was
ordered. But a day or two after, he obtained permission to go to Mr.
Tatem's house to procure some clothes he had left there. It was nearly
sunset when he left the ship and started on the route, which Isaac had
very distinctly explained to him. When the sun disappeared, the bright
moon came forth. - By her friendly light, he travelled on with a hopeful
heart until the dawn of day, when he arrived at Friend Stapler's house
and delivered the letter. He was received with great kindness, and a
situation was procured for him in the neighborhood, where he spent the
remainder of his life comfortably, with "none to molest or make him
afraid."

This was the first opportunity Isaac had of carrying into effect his
early resolution to befriend the oppressed Africans.

While the experiences of life were thus deepening and strengthening his
character, the fair child, Sarah Tatum, was emerging into womanhood. She
was a great belle in her neighborhood, admired by the young men for her
comely person, and by the old for her good sense and discreet manners.
He had many competitors for her favor. Once, when he went to invite her
to ride to Quarterly Meeting, he found three Quaker beaux already there,
with horses and sleighs for the same purpose. But though some of her
admirers abounded in worldly goods, her mind never swerved from the love
of her childhood. The bright affectionate school-boy, who delighted to
sit with her under the shady trees, and twist her shining curls over his
fingers, retained his hold upon her heart as long as its pulses
throbbed.

Her father at first felt some uneasiness, lest his daughter should marry
out of the Society of Friends. But Isaac had been for some time
seriously impressed with the principles they professed, and when he
assured the good old gentleman that he would never take Sarah out of the
Society, of which she was born a member, he was perfectly satisfied to
receive him as a son-in-law.

At that period, there were several remarkable individuals among Quaker
preachers in that part of the country, and their meetings were unusually
lively and spirit-stirring. One of them, named Nicholas Waln, was
educated in the Society of Friends, but in early life seems to have
cared little about their principles. He was then an ambitious,
money-loving man, remarkably successful in worldly affairs. But the
principles inculcated in childhood probably remained latent within him;
for when he was rapidly acquiring wealth and distinction by the practice
of law, he suddenly relinquished it, from conscientious motives. This
change of feeling is said to have been owing to the following incident.
He had charge of an important case, where a large amount of property was
at stake. In the progress of the cause, he became more and more aware
that right was not on the side of his client; but to desert him in the
midst was incompatible with his ideas of honor as a lawyer. This
produced a conflict within him, which he could not immediately settle to
his own satisfaction. A friend, who met him after the case was decided,
inquired what was the result. He replied, "I did the best I could for my
client. I have gained the cause for him, and have thereby defrauded an
honest man of his just dues." He seemed sad and thoughtful, and would
never after plead a cause at the bar. He dismissed his students, and
returned to his clients all the money he had received for unfinished
cases. For some time afterward, he appeared to take no interest in
anything but his own religious state of feeling. He eventually became a
preacher, very popular among Friends, and much admired by others. - His
sermons were usually short, and very impressive. A contemporary thus
describes the effect of his preaching: "The whole assembly seemed to be
baptized together, and so covered with solemnity, that when the meeting
broke up, no one wished to enter into conversation with another." He was
particularly zealous against a paid ministry, and not unfrequently
quoted the text, "Put me in the priest's office, I pray thee, that I may
eat a piece of bread." One of his most memorable discourses began with
these words: "The lawyers, the priests, and the doctors, these are the
deceivers of men." He was so highly esteemed, that when he entered the
court-house, as he occasionally did, to aid the poor or the oppressed in
some way, it was not uncommon for judges and lawyers to rise
spontaneously in token of respect. - Isaac had great veneration for his
character, and was much edified by his ministry.

Mary Ridgeway, a small, plain, uneducated woman, was likewise remarkably
persuasive and penetrating in her style of preaching, which appeared to
Isaac like pure inspiration. Her exhortations took deep hold of his
youthful feelings, and strongly influenced him to a religious life.

But more powerful than all other agencies was the preaching of William
Savery. He was a tanner by trade; remarked by all who knew him as a man
who "walked humbly with his God." One night, a quantity of hides were
stolen from his tannery, and he had reason to believe that the thief was
a quarrelsome, drunken neighbor, whom I will call John Smith. The next
week, the following advertisement appeared in the County newspaper:
"Whoever stole a lot of hides on the fifth of the present month, is
hereby informed that the owner has a sincere wish to be his friend. If
poverty tempted him to this false step, the owner will keep the whole
transaction secret, and will gladly put him in the way of obtaining
money by means more likely to bring him peace of mind." This singular
advertisement attracted considerable attention; but the culprit alone
knew whence the benevolent offer came. When he read it, his heart melted
within him, and he was filled with contrition for what he had done. A
few nights afterward, as the tanner's family were about retiring to
rest, they heard a timid knock, and when the door was opened, there
stood John Smith with a load of hides on his shoulder. Without looking
up, he said, "I have brought these back, Mr. Savery. Where shall I put
them?" "Wait till I can light a lantern, and I will go to the barn with
thee," he replied. - "Then perhaps thou wilt come in and tell me how this
happened. We will see what can be done for thee." As soon as they were
gone out, his wife prepared some hot coffee, and placed pies and meat on
the table. When they returned from the barn, she said "Neighbor Smith,
I thought some hot supper would be good for thee." He turned his back
toward her and did not speak. After leaning against the fire-place in
silence for a moment, he said, in a choked voice, "It is the first time
I ever stole anything, and I have felt very bad about it. I don't know
how it is. I am sure I didn't think once that I should ever come to be
what I am. But I took to drinking, and then to quarrelling. Since I
began to go down hill, everybody gives me a kick. You are the first man
who has ever offered me a helping hand. My wife is sickly, and my
children are starving. You have sent them many a meal, God bless you!
and yet I stole the hides from you, meaning to sell them the first
chance I could get. But I tell you the truth when I say it is the first
time I was ever a thief."

"Let it be the last, my friend," replied William Savery. "The secret
shall remain between ourselves. Thou art still young, and it is in thy
power to make up for lost time. Promise me that thou wilt not drink any
intoxicating liquor for a year, and I will employ thee to-morrow at good
wages. Perhaps we may find some employment for thy family also. The
little boy can at least pick up stones. - But eat a bit now, and drink
some hot coffee. Perhaps it will keep thee from craving anything
stronger to-night. Doubtless, thou wilt find it hard to abstain at
first; but keep up a brave heart, for the sake of thy wife and children,
and it will soon become easy. When thou hast need of coffee, tell Mary,
and she will always give it to thee."

The poor fellow tried to eat and drink, but the food seemed to choke
him. After an ineffectual effort to compose his excited feelings, he
bowed his head on the table, and wept like a child. After a while, he
ate and drank with good appetite; and his host parted with him for the
night with this kindly exhortation; "Try to do well, John; and thou wilt
always find a friend in me."

He entered into his employ the next day, and remained with him many
years, a sober, honest, and faithful man. The secret of the theft was
kept between them; but after John's death, William Savery sometimes told
the story, to prove that evil might be overcome with good.

This practical preacher of righteousness was likewise a great preacher
orally; if greatness is to be measured by the effect produced on the
souls of others. Through his ministry, the celebrated Mrs. Fry was first
excited to a lively interest in religion. When he visited England in
1798, she was Elizabeth Gurney, a lively girl of eighteen, rather fond
of dress and company. Her sister, alluding to the first sermon they
heard from William Savery, writes thus: "His voice and manner were
arresting, and we all liked the sound. Elizabeth became a good deal
agitated, and I saw her begin to weep. The next morning, when she took
breakfast with him at her uncle's, he preached to her after breakfast,
and prophesied of the high and important calling she would be led into."
Elizabeth herself made the following record of it in her journal; "In
hearing William Savery preach, he seemed to me to overflow with true
religion; to be humble, and yet a man of great abilities. Having been
gay and disbelieving, only a few years ago, makes him better acquainted
with the heart of one in the same condition. We had much serious
conversation. What he said, and what I felt was like a refreshing shower
falling upon earth that had been dried up for ages."

This good and gifted man often preached in Philadelphia; not only at
stated seasons, on the first and fifth day of the week, but at evening
meetings also, where the Spirit is said to have descended upon him and
his hearers in such copious measure that they were reminded of the
gathering of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Isaac was at an
impressible age, and on those occasions his thirsty soul drank eagerly
from the fountain of living water. He never forgot those refreshing
meetings. To the end of his days, whenever anything reminded him of
William Savery, he would utter a warm eulogium on his deep
spirituality, his tender benevolence, his cheerful, genial temper, and
the simple dignity of his deportment.

Isaac was about twenty-two years old, when he was received as a member
of the Society of Friends. It was probably the pleasantest period of his
existence. Love and religion, the two deepest and brightest experiences
of human life, met together, and flowed into his earnest soul in one
full stream. He felt perfectly satisfied that he had found the one true
religion. The plain mode of worship suited the simplicity of his
character, while the principles inculcated were peculiarly well
calculated to curb the violence of his temper, and to place his strong
will under the restraint of conscience. Duties toward God and his fellow
men stood forth plainly revealed to him in the light that shone so
clearly in his awakened soul. Late in life, he often used to refer to
this early religious experience as a sweet season of peace and joy. He
said it seemed as if the very air were fragrant, and the sunlight more
glorious than it had ever been before. The plain Quaker meeting-house in
the quiet fields of Woodbury was to him indeed a house of prayer, though
its silent worship was often undisturbed by a single uttered word.
Blended with those spiritual experiences was the fair vision of his
beloved Sarah, who always attended meeting, serene in her maiden beauty.
The joy of renovated friendship also awaited him there, in that quaint
old gathering place of simple worshippers. When he parted from his dear
cousin, Joseph Whitall, they were both young men of good moral
characters, but not seriously thoughtful concerning religion. Years
elapsed, and each knew not whither the other was travelling in spiritual
experiences. But one day, when Isaac went to meeting as usual, and was
tying his horse in the shed, a young man in the plain costume of the
Friends came to tie his horse also. A glance showed that it was Joseph
Whitall, the companion of his boyhood and youth. For an instant, they
stood surprised and silent, looking at each other's dress; for until
then neither of them was aware that the other had become a Quaker. Tears
started to their eyes, and they embraced each other. They had long and
precious interviews afterward, in which they talked over the
circumstances that had inclined them to reflect on serious subjects, and
the reasons which induced them to consider the Society of Friends as the
best existing representative of Christianity.

The gravity of their characters at this period, may be inferred from the
following letter, written in 1794:

"Dear Isaac, -

"While I sat in retirement this evening, thou wert brought fresh
into my remembrance, with a warm desire for thy welfare and
preservation. Wherefore, be encouraged to press forward and
persevere in the high and holy way wherein thou hast measurably,
through mercy, begun to tread. From our childhood I have had an
affectionate regard for thee, which hath been abundantly increased;
and, in the covenant of life I have felt thee near. May we, my
beloved friend, now in the spring time of life, in the morning of
our days, with full purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord. May we
seek Him for our portion and our inheritance; that He may be
pleased, in his wonderful loving kindness, to be our counsellor and
director; that, in times of trouble and commotion, we may have a
safe hiding-place, an unfailing refuge. I often feel the want of a
greater dependance, a more steadfast leaning, upon that Divine Arm
of power, which ever hath been, and still is, the true support of
the righteous. Yet, I am sometimes favored to hope that in the
Lord's time an advancement will be known, and a more full
establishment in the most holy faith. 'For then shall we know, if
we follow on to know the Lord, that His going forth is prepared as
the morning, and He will come unto us as the rain, as the latter
and the former rain upon the earth.' May we, from time to time, be
favored to feel his animating presence, to comfort and strengthen
our enfeebled minds, that so we may patiently abide in our
allotments, and look forward with a cheering hope, that, whatever
trials and besetments may await us, they may tend to our further
refinement, and more close union in the heavenly covenant. And when
the end comes, may we be found among those who through many
tribulations have washed their garments white in the blood of the
Lamb, and be found worthy to stand with him upon Mount Zion.

"So wisheth and prayeth thy affectionate friend,

"JOSEPH WHITALL."

The letters which passed between him and his betrothed partake of the
same sedate character; but through the unimpassioned Quaker style gleams
the steady warmth of sincere affection. There is something pleasant in
the simplicity with which he usually closed his epistles to her: "I am,
dear Sally, thy real friend, Isaac."

They were married on the eighteenth of the Ninth Month, [September,]
1795; he being nearly twenty-four years of age, and she about three
years younger. The worldly comforts which a kind Providence bestowed on
Isaac and his bride, were freely imparted to others. The resolution
formed after listening to the history of old Mingo's wrongs was pretty
severely tested by a residence in Philadelphia. There were numerous
kidnappers prowling about the city, and many outrages were committed,
which would not have been tolerated for a moment toward any but a
despised race. Pennsylvania being on the frontier of the slave states,
runaways were often passing through; and the laws on that subject were
little understood, and less attended to. If a colored man was arrested
as a fugitive slave, and discharged for want of proof, the magistrate
received no fee; but if he was adjudged a slave, and surrendered to his
claimant, the magistrate received from five to twenty dollars for his
trouble; of course, there was a natural tendency to make the most of
evidence in favor of slavery.

Under these circumstances, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society was
frequently called upon to protect the rights of colored people. Isaac T.
Hopper became an active and leading member of this association. He was
likewise one of the overseers of a school for colored children,
established by Anthony Benezet; and it was his constant practice, for
several years, to teach two or three nights every week, in a school for
colored adults, established by a society of young men. In process of
time, he became known to everybody in Philadelphia as the friend and
legal adviser of colored people upon all emergencies. The shrewdness,
courage, and zeal, with which he fulfilled this mission will be seen in



Online LibraryLydia Maria Francis ChildIsaac T. Hopper → online text (page 3 of 28)