Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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them in the face, ready to fall upon them and their fam-
ilies; but they are unmoved. Such indifference is not
contentment, but criminal inattention to duty. "A pru-
dent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the
simple pass on, and are punished."

Now, contentment is the happy medium between the
extremes of restless discontent and criminal indifference.
It brings rest, quietude of mind, not from ignorance of
our real condition, nor from heedlessness, but from a con-
sciousness of having done our duty, and a willingness to
trust Providence for the result, and make the best we can
of our actual circumstances, whatever they may be. If
the means of bettering our condition be within our reach,
we should avail ourselves of them ; but if not, why should
we afflict ourselves by fruitless regrets? "What can not
be cured must be endured." And why not bear it with a
"meek and quiet spirit?"

One very common source of discontent is an unreason-
able anxiety for worldly gain. Each one, according to his
avocation, prospects, and supposed ability for the acquisi-
tion of wealth, luxury, and fame, fixes his standard, and
pursues his object with avidity. But unforeseen diffi-
culties arise, many of his calculations fail, defeat succeeds
defeat, till at length his fortitude forsakes him, and, stung
with disappointment, he sinks down into the sullen gloom
of despondency, dissatisfied with the world, with himself,


and with every thing around him. Others, who are suc-
cessful in gaining the first point aimed at, beholding other
and higher objects ahead, become more anxious to secure
them, than they were to reach the first, vainly supposing
the more they acquire of wealth, honor, and influence,
the more happiness will ensue. But in the end they learn
that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the
things which he possesseth." On the contrary, the more
wealth the more care, the more honor the more trouble,
and the more influence the greater the responsibility and

Most of our discontent, growing out of either penury
or affluence, might be avoided, by adopting the prayer of
Agur: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me
with food convenient for me." The contented man, so
far as property is concerned, is he who is neither pressed
with want, nor burdened with the care of a superabund-
ance, but knows, from experience, that "godliness with
contentment, [or the true religion, with a competency,] is
great gain." He reasons thus: "For we brought nothing
into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment, let us be therewith

Another excellent means of promoting contentment is
comparing our own circumstances with those of other
people, and also with what ours might be. If our health
be poor, it might be worse. Our private and domestic
trouble might be vastly increased. If we know little,
there are others who know less. If our privileges be few,
there are some people who have fewer. If we enjoy but
few luxuries, there are multitudes wholly destitute of
them. If we have but little of earthly store, there are
many who have less, and some who have nothing, but are
homeless, houseless, and friendless. Even our blessed
Savior exclaimed, " The foxes have holes, and the birds


of the air have nests ; but the Son of man hath not where
to lay his head."

" But, lo ! a place lie hath prepared

For me, whom watchful angels keep;
Yea, he himself becomes my guard;

lie smooths my bed, arid gives me sleep."

So far, then, from having any just cause of complaint,
we have much cause of gratitude. Our comforts are far
greater than we deserve. How reasonable and how ap-
propriate is the admonition, "Let your conversation be
without covetousness ; and be content with such things as
ye have ;" or satisfied with the lot which Providence as-
signs you.

But perfect contentment can be secured and maintained
only by that grace which reconciles us to the will of God
in all things. Under its influence, Paul declared, "I have
learned, in whatsoeA'er state I am, therewith to be con-
tent." Happy are all they who attain to such knowledge.
They have nothing to wish for and nothing to deprecate,
only in accordance with the will of their heavenly Father.
Relieved from all painful anxiety, in patience they possess
their souls, and "rejoice evermore." With them it is an
easy and pleasant task to live right and feel contented;
and to them the words of the apostle are not grievous :
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through
Christ Jesus."

I have been carefully observing the mode of living
among the people of the western states for a period of


forty years. Great changes have appeared during that
time. Of the fifty-seven years of my life, thirty-six have
been spent in the employment of an itinerant preacher,
affording me the best practical means of information.
Moreover, I am the son of a western pioneer, who was in
the celebrated battle at Point Pleasant in 1774, and sub-
sequently identified with the Indian wars, till Wayne's
treaty of 1795. Of course it is matter of much interest
with me to note the changes in the society of the far-
famed west; and it may be of some little interest to the
reader to see some of those changes briefly pointed out.
1 shall limit myself chiefly to a few items pertaining to
the style of living, which may serve to remind us that,
while the real wants of man are comparatively few and
simple, the imaginary ones scarcely have any bounds. I
shall, however, not take into the account the wealthy aris-
tocrat, with his costly mansion, Turkey carpets, silver
plate, and thousand dollar carriage ; nor the extremely
poor man, who lives in a wretched hovel, on a floor of
earth, and sleeps on his bundle of straw. They are both
exceptions to the general rule. My few observations shall
have reference to the great mass of western population.

What is now considered an ordinary outfit for house-
keeping? A domicile with parlors, hall, chambers, sitting-
room, dining-room, kitchen, and cellar. To furnish these
apartments, there must be Scotch or Brussels carpets,
hearth-rugs, brass-mounted andirons, window-blinds, or-
namented or cushioned chairs, rocking-chairs, sofas, side-
boards, bureaus, wardrobes, cloak-racks, wash-stands, ele-
gant bedsteads, with testers or canopies, dressed with
curtains and valance, dressing-tables and mirrors, break-
fast-tables and dinner-tables, with their tea sets and dinner
sets of China and Britannia, and silver spoons, beside
cooking stoves, etc. Now, this may answer for a com-
mencement, as far as it goes ; but who would ever think


of keeping house without a center-table, richly covered,
on which to lay the nice little volumes done up in gilt and
morocco? which, however, being intended as mere orna-
ments, are fortunately seldom or never read. Or who
could endure to see a parlor so naked, and out of all fash-
ion, as not to have some mantle ornaments, such as arti-
ficial flowers, with glass covers, or some specimens of
conchology and geological formations? Beside, the walls
must not only be papered, but beautified with portraits,
landscapes, etc. These commonplace notions amount to
quite a clever sum, though they are as few and economical
as western people of this day, who make any pretension
to being stylish, can well get along with. Indeed, they
form only a part of the numerous and indispensable fix-
tures of modern housekeeping. Again : to procure the
viands, such as are in keeping with this array of furniture,
and maintain a force requisite to serve up and hand them
round, and keep all the affairs of the household in order,
will cost another round sum — to say nothing of parties
and extras.

With this modern style I shall take the liberty of briefly
contrasting the early style of living in the western coun-
try. When a young married couple commenced house-
keeping, forty years ago, a very small outfit sufficed, not
only to render them comfortable, but to place them on an
equality with their friends and neighbors. They needed
a log-cabin, covered with clapboards, and floored with
wooden slabs, in western parlance called puncheons, and
the openings between the logs closed with billets of wood
and crammed with mortar, to keep all warm and dry — all
which a man could erect himself, without any mechanical
training, with one day's assistance from his neighbors to
raise the logs. Usually, one room answered for parlor,
sitting-room, dining-room, kitchen, and dormitory, while
the potato hole under the puncheons, formed, of course,


by excavating the earth for mortar, was a good substitute
for a cellar. As to furniture, they needed a stationary
corner cupboard, formed of upright and transverse pieces
of boards, arranged so as to contain upper, lower, and
middle shelf, to hold the table-ware and eatables. In
order to comfort and convenience, it was requisite, also,
to have the following articles : one poplar slab table, two
poplar or oak rail bedsteads, supplied with suitable bed-
ding, and covered with cross-barred counterpanes of home-
made, one of which was for the accommodation of visit-
ors ; six split-bottomed chairs, one long bench, and a few
three-legged stools were amply sufficient for themselves
and friends; a half a dozen pewter plates, as many knives
and forks, tin cups, and pewter spoons for ordinary use, and
the same number of delf plates, cups, and saucers for spe-
cial occasions ; also, one dish, large enough to hold a piece
of pork, bear meat, or venison, with the turnips, hominy,
or stewed pumpkin. All this table-ware was kept in the
corner cupboard, and so adjusted as to show off to the best
advantage, and indicated that the family were well fixed
for comfortable living. When the weather was too cold
to leave the door or the window open, sufficient light to
answer the purpose came down the broad chimney, and
saved the expense of glass lights; and as for andirons,
two large stones served as a good substitute. The whole
being kept clean and sweet, presented an air of comfort
to the contented and happy inmates. It is true the cook-
ing was usually done in presence of the family, but was
soon dispatched, when the Dutch oven and skillet were
nicely cleaned and stowed under the cupboard, and the
long-handled frying-pan hung upon a nail or peg on one
side of the door, while the water pail was situated on the
other, and the neat water gourd hanging by it. For man-
tle ornaments they had the tin grater, used in grating off
the new corn for mush before it was hard enough to


grind, and the corn-splitter, being a piece of deer's hom,
very useful in parting large ears of Indian corn for the
cattle. The parlor walls were sufficiently beautified by
the surplus garments and Sunday clothes hung all round
on wooden pins, the sure tokens of industry and prosperity.
In regard to property, if a man owned an ax, wedge,
hoe, plow, and a pony to pull it, and a bit of ground
to cultivate, or a few mechanics' tools, he asked no more ;
and if his wife had a spinning-wheel, a pair of cards, a
loom, and plenty of the raw material of flax, cotton, and
wool, she was content. In those days keeping her own
house was a small part of a woman's work — it was only
needful recreation from her steady employment; for she
carded, spun, colored, wove, cut and made clothes for all
the family. Ladies of the first respectability then vied in
honorable competition, to manufacture the finest and most
tasty dresses for themselves, and the most handsome suits
for their husbands, sons, and brothers, in which they all
appeared abroad with more exquisite pleasure than people
now do in imported satin and broadcloth, and with far
more credit to themselves and honor to their country.
For coloring materials they used the bark of walnut, hick-
ory, maple, and sycamore trees, together with copperas,
indigo, sumach, paint-stone, etc. ; and in carding for a
fancy suit of mixed, they worked in scraps of colored
flannel and silk to variegate the texture. Those were the
days of pure republicanism, true patriotism, and real inde-
pendence. All the money a man needed was enough to
pay his tax and buy his salt and iron. When he needed
marketing, he gathered fruit from his orchard, vegetables
from his garden, and took a pig from the pen, or a lamb
from the fold ; or if he had neither, he took his gun and
brought in wild meat from the woods. He raised his own
breadstuff, and ground it on the hand-mill, or pounded it
in a mortar with a sweep and pestle, and relished it the

K S B A V S . 91

better for his toil in preparing it. Coffee was not then
used, except as a luxury on particular occasions, by a few
of the wealthy. Milk was considered far preferable. For
tea they had sage, spicewood, mountain birch, and sassa-
fras, which they regarded then, and which I still regard
as altogether preferable to black tea, young hyson, or im-
perial, both for health and the pleasure of taste. Supplies
of saccharine were easily obtained from the sugar-tree or
bee-gum, and those who had neither, gathered wild honey
from the bee tree. When medicine was needed, they
obtained it from their gardens, fields, or forests; but they
had little use for it. Children were not then annoyed
with shoes and boots, or hats and bonnets — they went
barefooted and bareheaded. It was no uncommon thing
to see small boys trapping for birds or hunting rabbits in
the snow without shoes or hats, and small girls playing
about the yard in the same condition — all the very pic-
tures of health. Reared under that system, young men
were able to endure the toils of a frontier life, or brave the
perils of a hard campaign in the service of their country.
Young ladies needed no paint, the rosy cheek being sup-
plied by the flush of perfect health. In those days I
never heard of dyspepsy, bronchitis, or any of the fash-
ionable diseases of this generation. Doctors were then
scarce among us, and had but little to do. If a man
was afflicted with pain or catarrh, and felt chilly, he drank
herb tea, wrapped himself in a blanket, and slept with his
feet before the fire. If he was sick, he abstained from
food. If he had a slight fever, he drank tea of snakeroot,
mountain ditney, or other sudorifics, till he started the
perspiration. Or if he had a severe attack of settled
fever, after exhausting his simple remedies, he laid him-
self in a cool place, drank abundance of cold water, his
wife or sister fanned him with the wing or tail of a turkey,
and he committed himself to the keeping of a kind Provi-


dence, without being- plied with blisters or dosed •with
poison. Calomel, the Samson of fashionable remedies,
was scarcely known here in those days, and people usually
retained their teeth and jaw-bones unimpaired, even to old
age, or while they lived.

Many people, such as would be thought Solomons of
this day, assume that their fathers and mothers were de-
plorably ignorant, but without any sufficient proof or sat-
isfactory reason. People possessed at least as much com-
mon sense forty years ago as their posterity do at present.
If they had fewer opportunities for improvement, they
made better use of them ; if fewer books, they were better
ones, or better read ; so that, while our fathers and moth-
ers knew less of newspapers, novels, and annuals, they
understood more of the Bible, useful history, and practical
life. One fact is palpable, and should not be overlooked
nor forgotten ; that is, the present generation, with all its
rage for education and improvement, can not show any
more eloquent preachers, learned jurists, able statesmen,
or successful generals, than those which lived in the days
of our fathers. What improvement there is in morals, if
any, is attributable to the Gospel. That the "age of im-
provement" has produced vast changes in the manners
and usages of society, is admitted; but whether for the
better or worse, is another question, and one which would
admit of much argument on both sides. While the mod-
ern style of living affords more luxury and elegance than
the former style, it is attended with more expense and
trouble, and exerts a more corrupting influence on soci-
ety — leads to more idleness, vanity, crime, and wretched-
ness. The pleasure of social intercourse is, I believe, not
increased, but diminished. One example on this item
must suffice. Call on a friend at her own house, and she
is locked up. You must first apply at the pull of the door-
bell, or the knocker ; then wait a long time for the servant ;

E 8 8 A Y 8 . 1)3

and if not repulsed at once by the fashionable cant, " Too
much engaged," or the fashionable falsehood, "Not at
home," you must next send your name and request for
an interview ; and after waiting from a quarter to half
hour longer, you may obtain an audience at last, though
dearly bought with loss of time and sacrifice of feeling.
Whereas, under the usage of former days, so soon as you
knocked on the door, you heard the familiar response,
" Come in;" then, by pulling the string which hung out-
side, you raised the wooden latch, stepped into the family
circle, met with a welcome reception, received a hearty
shake of the warm hand of friendship, and, being seated,
felt perfectly at home as long as you chose to remain.
Such were the days of simple-hearted, honest friendship,
when social life was unembarrassed by the affected and
heartless etiquette of modern times.


The west is my native land. I love her for the vast-
ness of her territory, her long rivers, capacious lakes, and
extensive prairies. I love her for her lofty elevations and
fertile valleys, her enterprising population and valuable
productions. I love her for her cities and wastes, her
schools and churches, her great men and great women,
her hopeful youth and numerous children. That section
of the United States is attracting the attention of all the
civilized world, especially of the more enterprising por-
tions. She exhibits much to interest the eye and stir the
deep feelings of the heart. Among her native inhabitants
is one of the most interesting characters of the nineteenth
century — I mean the Child of the West, born in the
Queen City, January, 1841. She is well grown for ono


of her age, but betrays nothing gawkish in her appear-
ance, or confused in her manner. Her physical develop-
ment and mental improvement are in advance of her
years. She never engages in childish gambols like her
neighbors' children, and has no relish for gewgaws, but
dresses with neatness and good taste, changing her vesture
as circumstances require, but not blindly following in the
train of fashion. The ground of her vestal robe is a
snow white, variegated with a small, dark figure, and
trimmed with the most delicate hues of pink and straw.
Her head-dress, curiously wrought, is grave, but beau-
tiful, and varies to suit the season ; now figured over with
landscapes of cottages and herds, flowers and evergreens,
and then ornamented with cascades and mountain scenery,
and again with some monument of moral sublimity. Her
form is a perfect model of symmetry, and her personal
beauty at once striking and attractive. Her prudent de-
meanor and amiable disposition indicate maturity of all
the moral virtues. She never betrays any ill temper or
envious feeling, never participates in any exciting or angry
dispute respecting political or ecclesiastical affairs, but is
always frank to express her own well-formed opinion on
every subject properly pertaining to her sex, age, and
relation in life. Her mental capacity is confessedly of
high order; and, though yet a mere child, she is a ripe
scholar. In all the substantial branches of education, she
is above criticism. No mistake in orthography, syntax,
or even punctuation, can be detected in her ordinary com-
positions. Her memory is richly stored from the best
ancient and modern authors, and her fancy highly embel-
lished with brilliant poetry. Her summaries of history
and biography have been eagerly read by thousands of
the literati. Her mind is thoroughly instructed in the
natural and moral sciences, and her reasoning faculty well
developed by exercise in logical investigation. As to her


belles-lettres accomplishments, they are unsurpassed by
any of her age in the United States. She is a most agree-
able companion in social life, and a general favorite among
all the better classes of society having any acquaintance
with her, especially such as have the advantage of a polite
Christian education. Her friends are numerous and rap-
idly increasing. She has already very many admirers
anxiously seeking her society in person or by correspond-
ence. The choicest trait in her character is her piety.
Though not a bigot, she is orthodox and firm in her relig-
ious principles, and lays all her brilliant attainments and
commanding capabilities at the foot of the cross of Christ,
thus teaching the fallen race of man "the path of life"
by the force of example. I write the more confidently of
this remarkable child, having known her from infancy.
Indeed, her parents consulted me respecting her name
and early education, being myself a personal friend of all
her principal teachers. The name first suggested for her
was, " Ladies' Monitor," but she was finally christened
" Ladies' Repository." Child of the West, " many daugh-
ters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all !"


This is a very common term, but one that appears to
be not generally well understood. The learned say, it
comes from a word which, in its primitive signification,
means heat; but when used figuratively, and applied to
the mind, it means earnestness excited by ardent desire.
Religious zeal is fervent love ; in the absence of love there
is no zeal, though there may be much religious frenzy.
The zeal recommended in the Gospel does not depend on
a man's ability, but on his earnest desire to do all he can


for Christ. Nor on the strength of his voice, but the
strength of his attachment and the whole amount of his
exertion, on every score, according to his ability. " It is
good to be zealously affected always in a good thing;"
but we should take heed lest our zeal be "not according
to knowledge." Some men would pass for zealous
patriots, because they clamor for liberty and for the
country, while they are slaves to their own passions, and
violate the laws of their country by a daily course of
licentiousness and profanity. In like manner, some men
would impose themselves on community as zealous Chris-
tians, because they make a loud profession, and aim to be
distinguished on all popular occasions, while their hearts
are full of envy and bitterness. These only deceive them-
selves, by striving to deceive others.

There are some common rules for estimating true zeal,
that are plausible and pass currently, whicl 7 , nevertheless,
are fallacious: such as those quick and strong feelings
of the heart that are natural to some people, independent
of any religious influence, or a bold, hurried, and boister-
ous method of speaking for or against any measure under
consideration. We are far from supposing that true zeal
can not, or does not often belong to such as possess these
native properties ; but we do suppose that the zeal of such
is often overrated, while that of other persons possessing
different peculiarities, is underrated by superficial observ-
ers. One preacher studies closely, prays much in secret,
fasts often, visits the sick faithfully, watches over his
charge diligently, preaches frequently, and, in a word,
devotes his whole time, strength, and talents to the service
of his Lord and Master, whom he loves supremely, and
yet, with some people, he has no zeal; because he either
has not strength, or does not think it advisable, when in
the pulpit, to use intemperate exertions by screaming like
the world was on fire, and as if he was sure he would

ES S A T 8. 97

never need any health, or strength to preach or pray at
another time. Another preacher studies but little, prays
less, lounges about, laughs and talks with the people
about every trifle, and spends but little of his time and
influence in promoting the cause of Christ, and yet he is

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 7 of 30)