EZRA STILES, the friend of Jefferson and Franklin, was one of the literary men of the Revolutionary period, who, debarred by the duties of his position from any active participation in the tumult, distress, and victory of those days, sat at his desk and jotted down, in forty volumes of manuscripts, his reflections on men and events, his economies and harmless vanities, his religious doubts and fears.
I remember the awe with which, in my childhood, two large green wooden chests were invested, lest the pious written exhortations contained therein should take bodily shape and frighten us into eternal silence, overcome by a sense of our hereditary and present guilt. Once there came a stern old Calvinist, who talked of sin and waylaid a timid child in a corner of the parlor where she had taken refuge. He extended his long, bony arms as prohibition against her escape, and, in sepulchral tones, exclaimed, " Thoughtless child, do you love God?” “Oh, the chest! the chest!” she screamed, and rushed past him up to the attic, and there paused, half expecting to see the lid of the coffer open, and the manuscripts, arrayed in flesh, come forth for the Judgment Day.
Years afterward Yale College became the depositary of thousands of those portentous closely inscribed pages. It already held President Stiles’s Literary Diary, a curious, valuable medley of notes on incidents that occurred within his lifetime, written in a crabbed hand which American annalists still gladly decipher. The Diary, however, does not give such a picture of the daily thought of the man as can be obtained from the more personal papers which were retained in another ancestral chest. These show a life of minute literary activity ; a man of strength and versatility, candid and independent in action and thought, condescending in manner, ludicrously punctilious in details ; a patriot in sentiment, a fond father and husband, and a just, liberal, and reverent teacher.
His father, Isaac Stiles, born in Hartford in 1697, is frankly described by his son as having had “ a piercing black Eye, which at Times he filled with Flame and Vengeance. On occasion none could be more cheerful and merry in company, but when alone with his Family he was gloomy and perpetually repining. He read much, but digested almost nothing, and his Ideas, rich and valuable, were classed in no order, owing to his volatility of Genius. His preaching varied, though none could give a more animated description of Heaven and Hell.”
In 1740 Mr. Whitefield “ opened the Deluge of New Lightism on the churches.” Isaac was an Old Light, and a violent opposer of the new doctrine, yet some twenty persons in his own parish were caught in the new heresy. “In the summer of 1741,” writes Ezra, “ the New Lighters visited my Father incessantly, and he conversed with them from Breakfast till 12 o’clock at night; that is, when one company was gone away, another came. Sometimes he reasoned with them coolly, but generally with heated zeal, for he was not calculated to convince Gainsayers with Gentleness. For four or five years he preached boldly against the Whitefieldian Excesses and the madness of Exhorters and Separate meetings, and though intemperately warm and zealous, yet he herein signally served the Camp of Christ.” As these troubles closed, there came the days of Arminian difficulties. Isaac and his son Ezra freely read what were called the Arminian books, and, “ in a general way, were much pleased with them,” though Ezra was confident, from his intimate personal acquaintance with the leaders, that “ many of them believed in the Universal Depravity of Human Nature.” Even then ministers apparently held to the wisdom of the non-utterance of all they thought. Isaac was called an Arminian, though, says his son, “ he lived and died a firm believer even beyond what most of the Orthodox pretend to. The change of his Reputation was really due to the Hocus pocus of political New Lightism. The depreciation of paper money and Scantiness of Salary was truly the Source of the only difference of any consequence between my Father and his people during his whole ministry.”
Ezra’s mother was Ruth Wyllys, of Hartford, who was not lacking in those social graces and that noble bearing for which her ancestors and descendants even to the present generation are noted. In a vellum-covered book belonging to his grandfather, which contains Isaac’s and Ezra’s quaint estimates of theirfamily relations, the latter describes his mother as ingenious to a great degree in Needlework and several other things of a meehanik Nature, in painting and cutting Flowers and Escutcheons on Paper. She had an insinuating social and affable Turn to make herself agreeable to rich and poor, and was exeraplarily religious, sincere, devout, and pious.”
The boy who thus writes of his mother from hearsay, for she died at his birth, was prepared to enter college at twelve, but, on account of his age, waited till he was fourteen. He graduated with honor, and delivered the “cliosophic ” oration, a collegiate term for the Address on Arts and Sciences. He became a tutor at Yale ; and, in connection with some of his friends, and with the aid of an apparatus sent by Dr. Franklin, he performed some of the first electrical experiments ever made in New England. He long wavered between the bar and the pulpit, in his choice of a profession. Religions doubts assailed him, and though “ early prepossessed against diaries as hypocritical,” it is from his Birthday Reflections that we gather much knowledge of his state of mind.
At the age of forty he thus reviews his life: " From the time I was seven years old I have generally maintained daily secret prayer to the Most High God, A. M., P. M., besides ejaculatory intervening addresses. The burden of my prayers has consisted of Adoration of his glorious Majesty. If predestined to misery, that misery would be less the less I sinned ; so I vigorously resolved to refrain from sin, if not to obtain heaven, at least to mitigate the torments of damnation. I have earnestly sought to obtain a clear belief of the Being and Attributes of God. A slight conversation with a young gentleman caused me to doubt whether the whole of the Scriptures were not a delusion, nor could I unbosom myself to any for relief. I had begun to preach 1749, and, my doubts increasing till 52, I determined to lay aside preaching, and actually adopted the study of the law, and took the atty’s oath in 53. At the same Time I most assiduously applied myself to the study of the Evidences of Revelation till I became satisfied that the Scriptures were genuine. In 52 I sustained a vigourous application to take Episcopal orders, with views held up to me of one day becoming a bishop myself, but I knew Diocesan Episcopacy was not instituted by Christ and his disciples. I journeyed to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia to see different churches, and at last became happily established in the Religion in which I propose, by the Grace of God, to live and die. During the Rise, Height, and Decline of my Scepticism I was so highly delighted with Pope’s Essay on Man that I got the first Epistle and large parts of the other Epistles by heart, and repeated portions of it frequently by myself in my chamber, and when I walked and rode abroad. I read and admired Cicero’s works, Young’s Night Thoughts, which I read through twice, Shaftesbury’s Characteristics, Butler’s Analogy, Bolingbroke, Hume, Newton, &c.” His skepticism was manly and intelligent, and closely resembled the honest hesitation of many in our own day, who are not perplexed by the doctrines of the damned, but by far greater and more sweeping doubts.
In 1775 he was ordained a minister at Newport, his father Isaac preaching the sermon, with something of David’s joyful emotion at the coronation of his son Solomon. He speaks of him as “ the Person whose solemn separation to the service of the Sanctuary is now before us ;” bids him “ hold Bigotry in abhorrence and behave respectfully toward the several Denominations of professing Christians who don’t happen to view things in just the same Light that we do, for Bigotry is the Poison and Bane of social Virtue.” He tells the church to be friendly to his son, “ for the Work, take it in all the Compass, more than any other Kind of Labor tends to exhaust the radical Moisture, waste and drink up the animal Spirits, dry the Bones, Consume the Flesh and Body, break the vital Cord, and deprive Men of the Residue of their Years. Properly support him, for Ministers cannot live upon the air nor command that Stones be made Bread for the Work.”
Ezra Stiles married Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel John Hubbard, who made it her life-work to relieve her husband of domestic care. Mr. Stiles, in return, dutifully informed his father-in-law of all the various births and sicknesses in the family ; but what modern wife would allow her husband to write thus to an aged parent: —
NEWPORT, May 31, 1773.
HONOURED SIR, — This acknowledges your kind Letter to my Wife. It was very agreeable to find under the Decay of Nature such a specimen of the Continuance and Strength of your Mental Powers, and that you enjoy the Comforts of Religion amidst your Infirmities of the Outward Tabernacle. We all unite in our Duty to you and to Mother.
Yr dutiful son, EZRA STILES.
He closes another letter with the words, “ Melancholy news from Boston, some of the fruits of Military government. A general civil war will take place in the colonies before two generations are passed.”
When his wife died, he wrote of her that “ she was an Honour to her Sex, and it will he an honour to posterity to have descended from a Woman of such Merit and Excellence.”
His “Way of Life” at Newport was very orderly. The day began and closed with family and secret prayers and Bible reading in Greek or Hebrew. Then he walked abroad and visited his flock before and after dinner, and in the intervals studied and wrote innumerable Latin letters and diaries. Nothing more plainly shows his valuation of a godly life than his words in a letter to a friend on receiving the degree of D. D. from the University at Edinburgh : “ What is the honor of being registered in those archives to that of having our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life ? ”
When forty-two years old he reflects : “ I have made little progress in the divine life, though I have endeavored daily to surrender myself up to God, but an annihilation of myself and entire submission to the infinitely holy will of God is not [yet] thoroughly effected. The most of last winter I spent in compiling the Ecclesiastical History of New England and English America. The Summer and Fall have been perhaps too much consumed in making observations upon the Transits of Venus and Mercury and the Comet and numerous mathematical calculations upon them. God has mercifully spared to me my wife. May she be long continued a Blessing to me and my Family. I have all along continued to read a chapter in course in the Hebrew Bible. For my amusement I have translated into English from the original Arabic. I have altered my sentiments as to the Time when to begin the 2300 Evenings and Mornings and the 1290 Days in Daniel.”
“ Ælat 45. My whole life is filled up with the experience of the Divine Care and Beneficence. My children were taken with the Measles and carried happily through them. In August it pleased God to send the small-pox into town, but it has pleased Him to preserve me and my family hitherto.”
Bitter days of heresy and revolution came to .trouble him, and the record runs:—
“ Ætat 46. A Year of singular Trials. Last spring I became acquainted with a Rabbi and gained much Knowledge. I wrote him several letters in Hebrew, one of 22 pages on the Divinity of the Messiah. Being absent on a journey, a London silk weaver preached in my pulpit to great amazing acceptance. On my return I found his character doubtful. and greatly discountenanced him. He holds universal salvation ; as a faithful Shepherd I have opposed him openly. I expected to have disgusted most of my families, but perhaps a dozen are irreconcilably offended. I had thought when I entered the Ministry that a Minister with prudence and condescension could secure the affections of his people, but I am convinced that God has holy Ends in view in letting loose the Adversary. I cannot recollect any material imprudence in my own conduct; nor was it charged upon me. It is a dark day with me. I commit myself and my flock to God, and desire to walk humbly, yet testify the truth undauntedly.”
The next year he writes, “The State of my Flock is more composed and comfortable, though it has not quite recovered from the shock it received. My son Ezra is now 15¾. I have initiated him into some acquaintance with the Oriental languages. He has translated 100 psalms in the Hebrew psalter and learned some Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. By reading myself the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan and in the Syriac N. T. and in the Zohar I have gained great Lights in Divinity.”
When the evacuation of Newport took place he stayed in town, and with his “orphan family spent a dreary Winter amidst Poverty and Distress.” Finding the Parliament resolved to prosecute the war, he removed to Digliton in March. From that place he went to Portsmouth as minister, and there in 1777 received his call to the presidency of Yale College. He replied that a general free acquiescence with other openings of Providence would have great weight in determining his acceptance. He employed every precaution to find out what the public and Providence thought ; he asked counsel of the ministers of his association, of judicious and Christian friends, and of God, — feeling for his own part that as he had “ a whole eternity in which to rest, why should he not now gird up his loins and assume the laborious office ? ” He spent days in fasting and prayer, but finally he writes, “ I am convinced that another door of usefulness has been opened to me. Providence has so ordered things that I scarcely have an option as to secular Motives.” He goes to New Haven, believing that his “ election is agreeable to the Ministry, the General Assembly, the State, and to God, and deeply impressed with the responsibility of taking charge of a college which was primarily designed as a school of the prophets to train up pastors for the churches ; ” for as he had become “ less a Newtonian and more a Christian,” preaching was to him a serious duty. As a pastor he had “ always disliked public censures, and thought most matters could be settled in a private way without hazarding brotherly love.”
His Reflections tell us that such was the liberality of his Portsmouth congregation that they more than paid all his debts ; and he adds, I was enabled to relieve the uneasiness of my conscience by the Liberation and Manumission of my Negro Servant. Like Onesimus, by the grace of God I had made him a Christian. He was the best of Servants. It was only my conviction of the Injustice and Barbarity of the African Slave trade in which I had imported him from Guinea, in 1757, in exchange for a hogshead of whiskey, that determined my conduct.” In spite of the negro’s liberation, he followed Mr. Stiles of his own choice, and died in the service of the family.
At Yale, President Stiles was received with “ Demonstrations of Honour and Affection.” His first official act on arriving, June 20th, was the offering of evening prayers in the chapel, when the students were ordered to submit to him. On the following Saturday he began an exposition of the Savoy Confession of Faith, which practice he maintained till his death. On July 8th he was formally inducted into office, amid many Latin orations and addresses. The Savoy Confession never prevented him from employing scientific rather than religious knowledge as a quietus to fear; for if a thunderstorm arose during class recitations, it gave opportunity for an explanation of the theory of electricity. The famous Dark Day he viewed as a phenomenon, “ accounting for it by the laws of nature without having recourse to anything miraculous or ominous, and improving the occasion as a Christian by leading the thoughts of others up to the Author of Nature.” His natural love for science had been increased by his intercourse with the French officers at Newport, who had also developed his inclination for good dinners.
His life at Yale was crowded with work. Besides filling the office of president, he occupied the chairs of divinity, ecclesiastical history, philosophy, and astronomy. Twice a week he had a class in extemporaneous and forensic disputation, gave three theological discourses on Saturdays, and taught the Seniors metaphysics, ethics, history, and civil policy. He would never receive a direct or indirect gift from the students, and if gratuities were sent by the parents he credited them with it in the quarter’s bills. He helped the poor collegians, — always giving away a tenth of his income, — visited them when sick, and was particularly successful in bringing together different temperaments. One year some thirty or forty scholars, living in town, held morning and afternoon prayers by themselves, which the president often encouraged by his presence. The college church grew in membership, and when eighteen members of other classes joined the Seniors as professing Christians there was holy joy over the wonderful work of grace.
At the age of fifty-seven he learnt French, because it might be of value to him in connection with Yale ; and for family reasons he began the culture of the silkworm. Mindful of heavenly affairs also, when he wrote to Dr. Franklin for his portrait for the university he requested him “ to state his opinion concerning Jesus of Nazareth.”
Let his Birthday Reflections again tell his own story : —
“ Ætat 51. God was pleased to carry me and all my family successfully through inoculation for the small-pox ; a mercy which will ever demand a grateful remembrance and indelible gratitude.”
His fifty-third birthday fell on Sunday. He says, “ It being Lord’s Day, and the service of the college chapel devolving upon me, I have no leisure for the reflections proper at this time. The college has been studious, orderly, and also religious. In the important and momentous conflict for public Liberty, our Bow has abode in strength the year past, by the strength of the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob. . . .
“ 1781. We had a public and splendid Commencement in September, altho’ with fear and trembling, as the English had lately burned New London and threatened ns ; there hath been no public Commencement since 74. We have had no tumults in the college. I take great pains to look carefully into the interior state of the college and to converse with the students, seorsum (apart), both scientifically and religiously. I am principally concerned lest I should instil some errors into the numerous youth, for we have 224 undergraduates.
“ Ætat 57. I have been very happy in college affairs, and the University has been nearly in as good an Estate as to Literature, Religion, Peace, and good Order as could be reasonably expected.
“ Ætat 58. My moral state much as for several years past, great mixtures of sin and imperfection with some enjoyment of God. I have been very happy in college affairs. My whole life is such an incessant labour that I have scarcely time to be religious. I hope I have not disobliged an extensive and numerous acquaintance.”
His self-restraint in speaking of his own griefs and joys is noticeable : his eldest son dies, and he feels a “ most pungent and tender distress in this event.” Kezia dies, and he says, “ I was renewedly called to mourning. Old Age is now come upon me. I enter on my 60th year.”
When sixty-three he married his daughter Polly to the Rev. Abie! Holmes, and “parted with them both for the distant and dangerous climate of Georgia.” This son-in-law, the father of Dr. O. W. Holmes, wrote a dignified biography of Dr. Stiles, and appended to it a full account of the origin and growth of Yale.
The last birthday words are of the beloved college, concerning which only once had Dr. Stiles been obliged to record that he had had “ any severity of discipline to administer which gave him sensible distress.”
“ Ætat 64. God has enabled me to purchase a house to leave to a bereaved Family when God shall take me to Himself. All my children about me at my Table in Health. The General Assembly added Lieutenant Governor and six Senior Assistants to the Corporation of Yale College, with a donation of about $30,000, appropriating £2500 for building a new college, the rest to lie for funds for Instructors. This will make my Presidency less burdensome and more comfortable. I have had 15 years of great Difficulty and weighty cares.”
He worked for five more years, and then, after an illness of a few days and “ a passing dread of appearing before Infinite Purity,” he bade good-by to his friends, and sent the college his prayers for its happiness and success under a better president than he believed himself to have been.
President Stiles’s last years had been as busy as his earlier ones. He had assisted in forming an antislaveiy society, and with fourteen others had signed its constitution, and he had published his history of the Three Judges of Charles I., who had fled to America. He was always indignant that the Episcopal minister annually preached in commemoration of the martyrdom of Charles I. “ If observed at all,” he said, “ it ought to be celebrated as an anniversary thanksgiving that one nation on earth had so much fortitude and public justice as to make a royal tyrant bow to the sovereignty of the people.” He wrote most stately letters of inquiry to Sir William Jones about the Jewish colony at Cochin China, and a letter of seventy pages quarto to the Asiatic Society at Calcutta ; hoping thereby “ to recover the original principles of first - derived knowledge.” The chronology of the Pentateuch, information about the ten tribes, whom he believed still existed, and the discovery of the original Hebrew copy of the Bible were subjects of constant anxiety to him. Though naturally delicate in health, he indulged in “antelucane studies,” and, with paper and pencil always in his pocket, noted down points of observation aud knowledge.
His industry was truly amazing. His Literary Diary of conversation or reading comprises fifteen quarto volumes, each volume consisting of over three hundred pages. When Franklin gave him Fahrenheit’s thermometer, he made observations with it from 1763 till within two days of his death, which are contained in six quarto volumes. At forty years of age he began to learn Hebrew and Syriac, and in one year translated the Psalms, Genesis, and Exodus, read considerable Arabic, and dipped into the Persic, Coptic, and other Oriental languages. He was eager to obtain a map of the Russian empire, published at St. Petersburg, showing the junction of the two continents, — a wonderful fact to him, if true. He wrote a Latin letter to the Jesuit college in Mexico and to the Greek bishop in Syria, asking about the Samaritan Pentateuch. These inquiries in no way affected his zeal as a Congregationalist (the title of Disseuter he refused, for he was “ under no obligation to return to the mother English church, though in South Britain he would have gloried in the name ”) ; nor did they lessen his foresight, as when, after the capture of Montreal, he wrote, “ It is probable that in time there will be formed a Provincial Confederacy and a Common Council standing on free provincial suffrage, and this may in time terminate in an imperial diet, when the imperial dominion will subsist as it ought in Election.”Under all his sturdiness shines his liberality. “ Thanks to God,” he says, “ in every denomination in the church universal I can read of particular persons and churches and some clusters of churches eminent for piety as well as soundness in the faith. With all these my soul unites and harmonizes.”
Combined with all these great qualities of mind there was a curious vanity, which showed itself in the minute directions that he gave for his portrait. He is represented in a teaching attitude, one hand on his breast, the other holding a Bible. Behind him are conspicuous certain learned books; around him are various emblems, among others that of the intellectual world. In a central glory are the letters JHVH, surrounded with three white spots, also representing worlds. The three ascending hair lines refer to the Trinity. The motto is, All Happy in God ; “ for as there are only two worlds known to have revolted, they count as infinitesimal compared with other dominions.” Such emblems, he judged, would serve as descriptive of his mind, even if the portrait did not correspond with his face.
Most quaintly does this vanity appear in his Family Constitutions. Years after he abandons them, and writes on the last sheet, “ All this is vanity ; I intend to destroy most of these papers when I have reviewed them. All I would for my posterity of a secular nature is that they keep a Family Register of Births, Marriages, and Deaths for an example of the Diffusion of Blood and Growth of the Family. To all whom I recommend the Christian religion according to the Congregational Way. Aug. 29, 1772. Ezra Stiles.”
Yet so fully, at one time, did he believe in his plan that he made a feoffment of about forty acres to his “ sou Ezra and his heirs for the fulfillment of this purpose.” He wished " to unite and cement his offspring by transfusing to distant generations certain common and influential principles, that it may increase in number and grow up to distinguished private, social, and public virtue.” The income of the estate left for this purpose is to be devoted to the purchase of family medals with appropriate devices ; also to the maintenance of family records and to the benefit of the poor of the family, and of those who have read the Bible or made scientific discoveries. During his wife’s lifetime, she is to be president; after that, the eldest male or female. At the regular meetings every four years, the Family shall walk to church on Sunday in procession. All those connected by marriage shall vote at these times, except those born of Indians or negroes, who may not even be enrolled, though illegitimate white children shall rank as voters. In a special book is to be entered “ a true but short record of any singularly wicked conduct of the offspring, such as murder, treason, theft, ill-treatment of wives. Swearers are to be entered as such.” Every one on marrying shall be furnished with a copy of all these ancestral institutions. Dates shall be registered as “ in such a year J. C. or Familia Condita, or in such a year of 1, 2, &c. Stylesiun Olympiad.”
He desires it to be a custom among the family, that a member on marrying should plant half an acre of black mulberry-trees for each child as it is born. He thus continues : “ If any Issue should be brought up in Politeness it may not be beneath them to retire into the Country and have a genteel and comfortable subsistence with but little labor, for one man can tend worms eno’ in 6 weeks to gain £200, Avoid riches. In general I would recommend for the family Farming and the Employments of the rural Life. Delight not to reside in populous towns and debauched cities, where there is danger of degenerating, or at least of the Diminution of the Increase of Species. Let all the Family be well taught in reading English and in the necessary rudiments of arithmetic — and perhaps a little mathematics, eno’ to know the contents of Land and keep domestic accounts ; but always be Friends and Encouragers of the Sciences and the College. As a Family, avoid politics. Never solicit lucrative offices at the price of embroiling the family. Let landed estate be sufficient for Subsistence and depend not on offices for a living; then if called to office unsolicited, Providence bids you act.
“ Seek very little acquaintance ; there are but few of mankind worth being acquainted with. One of the greatest Inconveniences accompanying public acts of Beneficence is being too much known.
“ Let the Family marry young, both for securing their chastity and accelerating Increase. Never adopt the polite principle of tarrying till you can maintain a Family in Splendor, but foresee that you can live by your Occupation, then marry. And in marriage consult the Emendation of the Species. Choose more than ⅔ of the Marriages out of the Family, and choose of a large, healthy, and robust Breed both for Husbands and Wives. Avoid Families noted for their love of Drink. ... If I should have ten children, ½ of them should marry and become parents, and at a medium each of the Family, who should have children, should bring up 5 at a medium for marriage and maturity, and as the sexes are nearly equal, there would be by the 10th generation 18,000,000 souls; and as New England will never exceed 20,000,000 of people my descendants will be connected by blood with almost all N. E. Ultimately when J. C. descends from heaven, I hope he will find the Family prepared for some distinguished Notice and Felicity, from himself, Jesus, if they have been a Means of preparing others for his grand appearance.”
All this planning, which it must be remembered he later condemned, seems hardly compatible with his sturdy maintenance of Congregationalism. As he was its eager champion he consequently had his enemies, and mentions the frustration of their malicious designs as an illustration of a kindly interposing Providence. “ My sermon on the Christian Union disobliged them by showing their numbers in N. E. a trifle compared with the Dissenters, and they ascribed to me all the violence committed here Aug., 1765, in which I had not the least part, and sent to London an accusation and capital charge against me; but a merciful God by the repeal of the Stamp Act brought about the deliverance of me and my country.” The sermon referred to is one of an hundred and twenty-eight pages, forty of which, fortunately for his hearers, were not delivered in preaching.
Turning from this earnest defense of Congregationalism, we see another curious side of the president’s character in his bold play with logic. He seems to have amused himself with formulating propositions “ which ought never to be made by Man, although provable by Reasoning to strict demonstration.” Some of them are as follows : —
“God is the intentional efficient Author of Sin.
“ Sin is Good. Vice is Virtue. Moral Evil is a Holy Good.
“ It is the duty of the Damned to rejoice in their own Damnation.
“It is of the Essence of Holiness and true Submission to God to be willing to be damned.
“ Regeneration may as well be effected when you are asleep as awake.
“ Self, the highest Principle proved by Christian Rule, do to others as ye would have them do to you.
“Positions now given up, 1741 : —
“ The Bible to an unconverted Man is no better than an old Almanack.
“ The Generality of the Ministers in N. E. unconverted.”
Quite as amusing and instructive as these records are the items of daily expenditure. These were kept in uncovered paper books, three inches wide by five long, and run somewhat as follows : “ To Lemons, charity, 9 gold buttons, my leather breeches ; To keeping Cousin Peggy one week, Shaving, Postage of letters, 1 Gal. Wine; Hhd. rum for Guinea (in exchange for slave) ; To ticket in Phil. Lottery, 3d class 2170. Sold ½ above ticket, 1½ lb. figs, Pair of furred Pumps, Scarf, Gloves, Ring. 1759, Nov. 4. Bought for Father Negro Boy Slave, Prince, aged 14 or 15, price 90 dollars, paid.” Among other items is the “ wedding fee from Mr. Holmes, £8.” Presents from the ladies include “ 1 quire paper, Lambskin Jacket, 3 bottles Mathcglin, 4 Bands,” etc.
One memorandum book is devoted to receipts of salary, which was paid in installments from fifteen to twenty times a year, the rate of exchange being constantly redetermined. President Stiles states that in “ 1759 Old Tenor was £ sterling as 24 to 1. £6 Old Tenor was equal to $1.00 in specie.” Another little book has all the baby weights, measures, and growths:.
The almanacs contain on blank leaves curious data. One of the earliest is, “ Went to sec the Stocking Frame Knitting. The Newport Congregation at their meeting to-day voted me £12 for Sabbath preaching and £30 for Horse Hire and Journey.”
Again, “June 13, 1744. About 8 o’clock in the morning, the same day King George’s Proclamation of War against France was proclaimed in New Haven, Ruth Stiles was born in the Afternoon.” This little girl, who inherited all her father’s piety, was the mother of Rev. Ezra Stiles Gannett. Through her it almost seems as if the grandfather’s favorite texts had been transmitted to the grandson. In 1787 President Stiles preached the ordination sermon for Rev. Henry Channing at New London, and in 1824 Dr. Gannett was ordained as colleague to Dr. William Ellery Channing, nephew of Henry Channing.
In 1754 President Stiles wrote in his almanac, “ Went to Boston and was waked with the melodious Ring of Bells in Dr. Cutler’s, alias North, alias Christ Church. Went to Cambridge to Commencement. S. Quincy Sal. Orator. M. Saltonstall Val. Orator. Took Degree A. M. Dined with Mr. Prof. Winthrop. The next day Dined (with) at Dr. Wigglesworth’s. Waited on President, returned thanks for degree. In Eve. waited on Mrs. Edwards in Boston and heard her play on Spinnet. Borrowed 2 dollars.”
Again, “Counted and find 44 Bottles Claret and 77 Bottles Cyder in cellar. We have drank 5½ doz. Cyder in two months.
“Inoculation in April, 1761. Dr. Adam Thompson of Maryland published in Gazette himself as Author of New Inoculation. Dec. 1769, a physician at Williamsburg thinks himself the author, as do many others. I, Ezra Stiles, think Dr. Muirson the first, and before 1750.
“ 1761, August. The Comedians opened a Playhouse in Newport and acted for the first Time.
“ 1762, Jan. 27. Two Whales came into Narragansett Bay within the Dumplin’s.
“ 1762, Feb. There are now 4 Prisoners for Capital crime, in Newport Gaol. Sherman for Burglary. 2 Indians for Murder, and the Negro the same.
“ July 5. Begun to make cocoons. By 20th all the cocoons took down and had wound 5 Run Silk.
“Aug. 23, 1769. Sally had 103 fits last 24 hours. Infamous Governor Bernard embarked Aug. 1 and sailed for London. Vale.”
On another page is given the total of the sermons preached by himself from the year 1756 to 1774 as 1157; the text was often in Greek or Hebrew characters. Those were the days of long prayers. In this connection he cites the example of Dr. Cheever, of Chelsea, but whether as warning or encouragement is doubtful: “ When Mr. Cheever was very aged, above 80, he was wont to forget himself, especially in family prayers, continuing in it for hours. Once he began family prayer at 10 o’clock at night, and continued praying and standing till day next morning, a long winter’s night; his wife was obliged to force him to desist and sit down.”
The almanac for 1769 gives the time of the arrival of the various posts, as, “ The Post from the Southward, which comes along the sea coast, arrives on Sat. Eve. The bag is closed at the post office on Monday at one o’clock forenoon : the post puts up at Mr. Sylvester’s at the sign of the Black and White Horse. Between Boston and Salem a chaise passes and repasses 3 times a week, and puts up at Mrs. Bean’s, King St.”
In March of that year “ occurred the first Moravian Wedding in Newport and New England.”
Under date of February 22, 1770, he says, “ Young Snider, aetat 11, in Boston murdered by Eben Richardson, an informer in the Custom House.
“ Feb. 26. Buried from Liberty Tree, preceded by 500 Boys followed by about 2000 persons of all Ranks.
“ The first Martyr of American Liberty.”
Again, “Jan. 15, 1770. Brethren and sisters of the Church met at my house for religious Exercise.
“Jan. 20. We have seven cords Wood.
“1771, Feb. Negro meeting at my house. Catechised 20 Boys, 30 Girls.
“June Gen. Assembly granted a charter to my church. Religious meeting of married people of my congregation at Judge Pitman’s.”
With this last entry the old chest ceases to bear witness to his actions. Almanacs, Expense Books, Birthday Reflections, Propositions, Family Constitutions,— through them all runs the undercurrent of his life, the glory of God ; a glory to be heightened by each new scientific discovery, by each fresh bibliographical item, or by sad or joyful family events. Jehovah, Congregationalism, the College, were his triad of interests. To them he gave the service of his years, helped by his broad and fearless mind to use profitably every department of knowledge, his sense of humor enlivening his studies and duties, perhaps even his morbid self-consciousness. His personal manuscripts present a picture, almost home-like in its details, of the punctilious, scholarly, upright life of a New England divine, and help us to realize how important a part thought and pedagogy played in those days which we are accustomed to regard as filled chiefly with patriotic virtues.
Kate Gannett Wells.