John Woolman. (17201772). The Journal of John Woolman.
The Harvard Classics. 190914.
His first Journey, on a Religious Visit, in East JerseyThoughts on Merchandising, and Learning a TradeSecond Journey into Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North CarolinaThird Journey through part of West and East JerseyFourth Journey through New York and Long Island, to New EnglandAnd his fifth Journey to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the Lower Counties on Delaware.
MY esteemed friend Abraham Farrington being about to make a visit to Friends on the eastern side of this province, and having no companion, he proposed to me to go with him; and after a conference with some elderly Friends I agreed to go. We set out on the 5th of ninth month, 1743; had an evening meeting at a tavern in Brunswick, a town in which none of our Society dwelt; the room was full, and the people quiet. Thence to Amboy, and had an evening meeting in the court-house, to which came many people, amongst whom were several members of Assembly, they being in town on the public affairs of the province. In both these meetings my ancient companion was engaged to preach largely in the love of the gospel. Thence we went to Woodbridge, Rahway, and Plainfield, and had six or seven meetings in places where Friends meetings are not usually held, chiefly attended by Presbyterians, and my beloved companion was frequently strengthened to publish the word of life amongst them. As for me, I was often silent through the meetings, and when I spake it was with much care, that I might speak only what truth opened. My mind was often tender, and I learned some profitable lessons. We were out about two weeks.
Near this time, being on some outward business in which several families were concerned, and which was attended with difficulties, some things relating thereto not being clearly stated, nor rightly understood by all, there arose some heat in the minds of the parties, and one valuable friend got off his watch. I had a great regard for him, and felt a strong inclination, after matters were settled, to speak to him concerning his conduct in that case; but being a youth, and he far advanced in age and experience, my way appeared difficult; after some days deliberation, and inward seeking to the Lord for assistance, I was made subject, so that I expressed what lay upon me in a way which became my youth and his years; and though it was a hard task to me it was well taken, and I believe was useful to us both.
Having now been several years with my employer, and he doing less in merchandise than heretofore, I was thoughtful about some other way of business, perceiving merchandise to be attended with much cumber in the way of trading in these parts.
My mind, through the power of truth, was in a good degree weaned from the desire of outward greatness, and I was learning to be content with real conveniences, that were not costly, so that a way of life free from much entanglement appeared best for me, though the income might be small. I had several offers of business that appeared profitable, but I did not see my way clear to accept of them, believing they would be attended with more outward care and cumber than was required of me to engage in. I saw that an humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little, and that where the heart was set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving; but that commonly with an increase of wealth the desire of wealth increased. There was a care on my mind so to pass my time that nothing might hinder me from the most steady attention to the voice of the true Shepherd.
My employer, though now a retailer of goods, was by trade a tailor, and kept a servant-man at that business; and I began to think about learning the trade, expecting that if I should settle I might by this trade and a little retailing of goods get a living in a plain way, without the load of great business. I mentioned it to my employer, and we soon agreed on terms, and when I had leisure from the affairs of merchandise I worked with his man. I believed the hand of Providence pointed out this business for me, and I was taught to be content with it, though I felt at times a disposition that would have sought for something greater; but through the revelation of Jesus Christ I had seen the happiness of humility, and there was an earnest desire in me to enter deeply into it; at times this desire arose to a degree of fervent supplication, wherein my soul was so environed with heavenly light and consolation that things were made easy to me which had been otherwise.
After some time my employers wife died; she was a virtuous woman, and generally beloved of her neighbors. Soon after this he left shop-keeping, and we parted. I then wrought at my trade as a tailor; carefully attended meetings for worship and discipline; and found an enlargement of gospel love in my mind, and therein a concern to visit Friends in some of the back settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Being thoughtful about a companion, I expressed it to my beloved friend, Isaac Andrews, who told me that he had drawings to the same places, and also to go through Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina. After a considerable time, and several conferences with him, I felt easy to accompany him throughout, if way opened for it. I opened the case in our Monthly Meeting, and, Friends expressing their unity therewith, we obtained certificates to travel as companions,he from Haddonfield, and I from Burlington.
We left our province on the 12th of third month, 1746, and had several meetings in the upper part of Chester County, and near Lancaster; in some of which the love of Christ prevailed, uniting us together in his service. We then crossed the river Susquehanna, and had several meetings in a new settlement, called the Red Lands. It is the poorer sort of people that commonly begin to improve remote deserts; with a small stock they have houses to build, lands to clear and fence, corn to raise, clothes to provide, and children to educate, so that Friends who visit such may well sympathize with them in their hardships in the wilderness; and though the best entertainment that they can give may seem coarse to some who are used to cities or old settled places, it becomes the disciples of Christ to be therewith content. Our hearts were sometimes enlarged in the love of our Heavenly Father amongst these people, and the sweet influence of his Spirit supported us through some difficulties: to him be the praise.
We passed on to Manoquacy, Fairfax, Hopewell, and Shanando, and had meetings, some of which were comfortable and edifying. From Shanando, we set off in the afternoon for the settlements of Friends in Virginia; the first night we, with our guide, lodged in the woods, our horses feeding near us; but he being poorly provided with a horse, and we young, and having good horses, were free the next day to part with him. In two days after we reached our friend John Cheagles, in Virginia. We took the meetings in our way through Virginia; were in some degree baptized into a feeling sense of the conditions of the people, and our exercise in general was more painful in these old settlements than it had been amongst the back inhabitants; yet through the goodness of our Heavenly Father the well of living waters was at times opened to our encouragement, and the refreshment of the sincere-hearted. We went on to Perquimans, in North Carolina; had several large meetings, and found some openness in those parts, and a hopeful appearance amongst the young people. Afterwards we turned again to Virginia, and attended most of the meetings which we had not been at before, laboring amongst Friends in the love of Jesus Christ, as ability was given; thence went to the mountains, up James River to a new settlement, and had several meetings amongst the people, some of whom had lately joined in membership with our Society. In our journeying to and fro, we found some honest-hearted Friends, who appeared to be concerned for the cause of truth among a backsliding people.
From Virginia, we crossed over the river Potomac, at Hoes Ferry, and made a general visit to the meetings of Friends on the western shore of Maryland, and were at their Quarterly Meeting. We had some hard labor amongst them, endeavoring to discharge our duty honestly as way opened, in the love of truth. Thence, taking sundry meetings in our way, we passed towards home, which, through the favor of Divine Providence, we reached the 16th of sixth month, 1746; and I may say, that through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, which mortifies selfish desires, my companion and I travelled in harmony, and parted in the nearness of true brotherly love.
Two things were remarkable to me in this journey: first, in regard to my entertainment. When I ate, drank, and lodged free-cost with people who lived in ease on the hard labor of their slaves I felt uneasy; and as my mind was inward to the Lord, I found this uneasiness return upon me, at times, through the whole visit. Where the masters bore a good share of the burden, and lived frugally, so that their servants were well provided for, and their labor moderate, I felt more easy; but where they lived in a costly way, and laid heavy burdens on their slaves, my exercise was often great, and I frequently had conversation with them in private concerning it. Secondly, this trade of importing slaves from their native country being much encouraged amongst them, and the white people and their children so generally living without much labor, was frequently the subject of my serious thoughts. I saw in these southern provinces so many vices and corruptions, increased by this trade and this way of life, that it appeared to me as a dark gloominess hanging over the land; and though now many willingly run into it, yet in future the consequence will be grievous to posterity. I express it as it hath appeared to me, not once, nor twice, but as a matter fixed on my mind.
Soon after my return home I felt an increasing concern for Friends on our seacoast; and on the 8th of eighth month, 1746, I left home with the unity of Friends, and in company with my beloved friend and neighbor Peter Andrews, brother to my companion before mentioned, and visited them in their meetings generally about Salem, Cape May, Great and Little Egg Harbor; we had meetings also at Barnagat, Manahockin, and Mane Squan, and so to the Yearly Meeting at Shrewsbury. Through the goodness of the Lord way was opened, and the strength of Divine love was sometimes felt in our assemblies, to the comfort and help of those who were rightly concerned before him. We were out twenty-two days, and rode, by computation, three hundred and forty miles. At Shrewsbury Yearly Meeting we met with our dear friends Michael Lightfoot and Abraham Farrington, who had good service there.
Of late I found drawings in my mind to visit Friends in New England, and having an opportunity of joining in company with my beloved friend Peter Andrews, we obtained certificates from our Monthly Meeting, and set forward on the 16th of third month, 1747. We reached the Yearly Meeting at Long Island, at which were our friends, Samuel Nottingham from England, John Griffith, Jane Hoskins, and Elizabeth Hudson from Pennsylvania, and Jacob Andrews from Chesterfield, several of whom were favored in their public exercise; and, through the goodness of the Lord, we had some edifying meetings. After this my companion and I visited Friends on Long Island; and through the mercies of God we were helped in the work.
Besides going to the settled meetings of Friends, we were at a general meeting at Setawket, chiefly made up of other societies; we had also a meeting at Oyster Bay in a dwelling-house, at which were many people. At the former there was not much said by way of testimony, but it was, I believe, a good meeting; at the latter, through the springing up of living waters, it was a day to be thankfully remembered. Having visited the island, we went over to the main, taking meetings in our way, to Oblong, Nine-partners, and New Milford. In these back settlements we met with several people who, through the immediate workings of the Spirit of Christ on their minds, were drawn from the vanities of the world to an inward acquaintance with him. They were educated in the way of the Presbyterians. A considerable number of the youth, members of that society, used often to spend their time together in merriment, but some of the principal young men of the company, being visited by the powerful workings of the Spirit of Christ, and thereby led humbly to take up his cross, could no longer join in those vanities. As these stood steadfast to that inward convincement, they were made a blessing to some of their former companions; so that through the power of truth several were brought into a close exercise concerning the eternal well-being of their souls. These young people continued for a time to frequent their public worship; and, besides that, had meetings of their own, which meetings were awhile allowed by their preacher, who sometimes met with them; but in time their judgment in matters of religion disagreeing with some of the articles of the Presbyterians their meetings were disapproved by that society; and such of them as stood firm to their duty, as it was inwardly manifested, had many difficulties to go through. In a while their meetings were dropped; some of them returned to the Presbyterians, and others joined to our religious society.
I had conversation with some of the latter to my help and edification, and believe several of them are acquainted with the nature of that worship which is performed in spirit and in truth. Amos Powel, a friend from Long Island, accompanied me through Connecticut, which is chiefly inhabited by Presbyterians, who were generally civil to us. After three days riding, we came amongst Friends in the colony of Rhode Island, and visited them in and about Newport, Dartmouth, and generally in those parts; we then went to Boston, and proceeded eastward as far as Dover. Not far from thence we met our friend Thomas Gawthrop, from England, who was then on a visit to these provinces. From Newport we sailed to Nantucket; were there nearly a week; and from thence came over to Dartmouth. Having finished our visit in these parts, we crossed the Sound from New London to Long Island, and taking some meetings on the island proceeded towards home, which we reached the 13th of seventh month, 1747, having rode about fifteen hundred miles, and sailed about one hundred and fifty.
In this journey, I may say in general, we were sometimes in much weakness, and labored under discouragements, and at other times, through the renewed manifestations of Divine love, we had seasons of refreshment wherein the power of truth prevailed. We were taught by renewed experience to labor for an inward stillness; at no time to seek for words, but to live in the spirit of truth, and utter that to the people which truth opened in us. My beloved companion and I belonged both to one meeting, came forth in the ministry near the same time, and were inwardly united in the work. He was about thirteen years older than I, bore the heaviest burden, and was an instrument of the greatest use.
Finding a concern to visit Friends in the lower counties of Delaware, and on the eastern shore of Maryland, and having an opportunity to join with my well-beloved ancient friend, John Sykes, we obtained certificates, and set off the 7th of eighth month, 1748, were at the meetings of Friends in the lower counties, attended the Yearly Meeting at Little Creek, and made a visit to most of the meetings on the eastern shore, and so home by the way of Nottingham. We were abroad about six weeks, and rode, by computation, about five hundred and fifty miles.
Our exercise at times was heavy, but through the goodness of the Lord we were often refreshed, and I may say by experience he is a stronghold in the day of trouble. Though our Society in these parts appeared to me to be in a declining condition, yet I believe the Lord hath a people amongst them who labor to serve him uprightly, but they have many difficulties to encounter.