Jane Briggs Smith to Friend Fuller Fisk, June 10, 1867



Sumner, S. C.
June 10, 1867

Dear Fuller:

It is cold and I am sleepy, but as I am forced to keep awake without any fire till Louisa gets breakfast, I will wile away a little time in beginning your letter. Mr. Whittemore has been spending his Sunday with us, and is going to form a Union League among our people today. Do you know what that is? I am sure I don't only that no women are to have anything to do with it, and that I have been engaged for the last week incessantly in getting it up. The people who are to join are rather stuck up to find that after all is done I am not to be its president or even a member. They think there must be something wrong somewhere, and are almost ready to back out. Mr. Whittenmore laughingly threatens all manner of diabolical punishments if they disclose to me any of the proceedings, which I tell him they will be sure to do if I ask them.

You don't know what a pleasure there is in listening to an intelligent "white" sermon now and then, after the darky trash to which I am forced to lend an unwilling ear, week after week, for the sake of example. Mr. W. is a much better preacher than ordinary, and is so thoroughly in earnest, & feels so the dignity and importance of his office that it is a real treat to have him here now & then. I enjoy above all things a visit from him and a talk with him, but now he is so worn out with his incessant labors among the freedmen at this critical time, that we have not the conscience to ask him to do anything but rest when he is free from dusky visitors. He is at this moment asleep on the sofa, for it is not morning as it was when I began. The Union League is established, and the Leagues are all gone. I have been to school, and kept eighty odd boys in trim, besides imparting to them a variety of useful information. We have only two weeks after this, then I am going to try to form a select school out of the materials I have, as I very easily can, and do wonders this summer, after all the rest are gone home. Mr. Whittemore's family will go North, but he intends to remain, except perhaps a few weeks in August. one teacher will remain in Camden, thirty miles off, and one at Society Hill in the Northern part of the state. Those are all that I know of. Do you hope I shall be homesick. I shant come home, if I am. Unless I get "popped over" I mean to stay just to keep the whites from forgetting about the Yankees.

Oh, isn't it funny that after all they are forced to admit me to the Loyal League because there is nobody in it who can write, and not likely to be, as the whites here are not favorable to the movement--any expect Mr. Fleming, who is not here, nor likely to be for some weeks. So I am an enviable [?] [Note: her question mark in brackets] exception to the entire feminine world. The distinction is likely to be greater than the enjoyment of it, I think.

I was made happy this morning by the receipt of another letter from you. I am glad Eddie thinks favorably of engineering; but you did not say whether I might write to my brother about him. You know I gave myself no sign of a foundation for my chateau en Espagne, but began building right in the air. I think that E.'s education is now amply sufficient, if you wish him to go, at least I know my brother has had young men who were not nearly so well prepared. But, as I told you, he has one young man with him now, and it is only my fancy that he needs another. I know it is a good deal of trouble to getting one to please him, and I know he has a great deal of business now--almost more than he can tend to. But that business is very fluctuating in our part of the world--Sometimes driving and then so wholly at rest that there might as well not be any such thing. Well, I have talked long enough to no purpose about that.

I am going to venture to write to my brother about him. If you should decide to do anything about it, my brother's address is "Joseph Smithe Esq. Hansom Gap."

I want to answer you about our duty in religious ceremonials, but I don't know how. A good answer is in my heart I know; I am sure yours will lead you aright.

I never joined any church. When I was young I could not get up the requisite experience though I made the most strenuous efforts. I concluded that the Holy Spirit did not care about calling me, and after trying various ways to "get converted" gave it up. Then Unitarianism came in my way, and a long deep religious experience. I am now on the most ultra side of the Unitarians in intellectual belief, and have no faith in any church organization which makes membership a condition of admission to the Lord's table. I fight against it with all my heart; I make it one of the saving points of my faith. I think nothing could be more unchristian, and I would no more join a church on that basis than I would turn a Mohammedan. So, as fate has never thrown my lot where there was any other kind of church, I have never joined any. When I am able I join in the Communion, and dearly love it, but that is not often.

It seems to me a Church should be properly a society whose members should strive to help each other in their onward walk;--a band of spiritual brothers & sisters. But it never is so. If we say we hesitate to enter it because of the unworthiness of its members, we are invariably met with the reply that this should not make any difference &ct. How can we get help where there are none to help us? If a drunkard enters a temperance society, hoping to be strengthened in his resolution to reform, and after he gets in there finds that half the members indulge in whiskey more or less, he won't be likely to get much help. What shall you do? Indeed I don't know dear Fuller. No person can be a judge of another's duty in any such case. No one could be a more useful man than my father; no one could do more for the support of religious institutions; and he did not believe in people forming churches at all. Still I think that if any one feels that they can live a truer life themselves, can do more good to this world by uniting with a church they ought to do it. It seems to me wholly a matter of one's own conscience. I confess I don't see any advantage any way, but that's nothing.

Friday night has come once more, and this must be done. A task, isn't it? Do you feel flattered to hear me take a long breathe and say, "There, that's done for one more week!" Tis not that I have not enough to say, -- not that I do not like to write, but -- I don't know why, no matter. I wish I were where you are tonight. I am getting tired of politics. Oh dear, what a thing it must be to be yoked to an uncongenial companion for life. It is bad enough for a single year. I have only two more weeks with mine, but they seem interminable. Now how spleeny that looks.

To go back to the "previous question" I like the system of the Methodist church organization very much, and for the colored people it is the thing. The close watch they keep over their young embers makes each one, even the poorest & youngest, feel as if he were of some consequence to the whole body, & that something depends upon his faithfulness. Your account of the neglect you have experienced from your church--is it not a satire upon ecclesiasticism?

The young lady you describe -- "nothing like excitement in her temperament--even & quiet," &ct. could you see her as she is sometime when she seems at the calmest, I fancy you would see great billows of emotion rolling over her mind, and conflicting sentiments creating a perfect war in her heart. I can't very well express my meaning, but you have no idea how much excitement a woman can cover with a calm exterior. Such women really feel more for the very reason that they express less.

"The ocean deeps are mute;
The shallows roar."

I don't know of course that your friend is one of that class--her apathy may be as complete as it seems--I only know that such persons are more common than one thinks. Don't say a word about my coming home this summer. I expect to be the most important element in South Carolina politics. It is fortunate for you that I am so far away from any where you expect to make a home -- the masculine reputation I am likely to acquire might not be to your taste. The morning looks like rain. I sit by my garden window, looking out upon Frank at work among the cabbages. We are beginning upon our cucumbers, & squashes. I can see a watermelon as large as a pint, and I heard Frank say there was a muskmelon "yonder."

We are going to have a grand political mass meeting of the Union Republican party Monday evening. Mr. Randolph (colored) and Mr. Bowen (white) are to address the meeting and all the prominent white citizens are to be invited. You had better come. We shall probably have at least three thousand people. It is necessary to keep the ball in motion this campaign. So many are the wiles of the enemy, and so very, very cunning are they. My love to Mrs. Fisk. How I should like to see you all.

Truly yours

Jane B. Smith

 

 

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