This letter was written by 20 year-old Milo Parker Jewett (1808-1882) — “a graduate of Dartmouth College (1828) and Andover Theological Seminary (1833). He became professor of rhetoric and political economy two years later in Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio, then resigned in 1838 after adopting Baptist tenets.
He was the founder (1838) and first president of Judson College, a Baptist women’s college in Marion, Alabama. He conducted the college until 1855. He then established a seminary for young women at Poughkeepsie, N. Y., where he aided Matthew Vassar in planning Vassar College, of which he became the first president in 1862. The Milo P. Jewett House at Vassar is named after him in honor of both his promotion of female education and his service to the college. He resigned his office in 1864 and in 1867 removed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” [Soure: Wikipedia]
Jewett wrote the letter to his childhood friend, Joseph Paddock Fairbanks (1806-1855) of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Joseph studied law from 1828 to 1833 and had a law practice in Vermont before joining his brothers in the platform scale business. He was elected to the legislature in 1845 and fought for improvements in education, temperance, and spoke out against slavery and against the Mexican War. Together with his brothers he founded St. Johnsbury Academy. He married Almira Taylor in 1845 and had two children: Edward Taylor (1836-1919), and William Paddock (1840-1895). His papers are housed in the Vermont Historical Society.
Addressed to Joseph P. Fairbanks, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
[Hanover, New Hampshire]
May 12, 1828
My dear Joseph,
I have a letter of yours before me dated February 22, which I suppose I have not answered. The best assignable reason for this omission is that I have not had anything to write before this time, but still, because I write now, I would not have you infer that I have any thing particularly interesting. I have not heard any thing from St. Johnsbury during the last months. This is a long embargo on intelligence from friends good and true.
Surely God has been very, very good to the people of St. Johnsbury. A revival of religion unattended by any other great publick benefits is of value beyond computation, but when in addition to this, “He has provided a Temple in which his people may worship and a faithful Pastor to feed his flock, we have reason to praise and magnify the name of the Most High.” Consider too the direction of the effusion of grace. God has in compassion visited many of the most influential persons belonging to your society and a number of the young where He had long with-held the light of his countenance. Where aged stillness forgot that their gray hairs were going in sin and sorrow to the grave. Where the young men filled with thoughtless gaiety and wantonness, forgetful of the past, and reckless of the future, consequently spreading a poisonous influence among the strangers who might become associated with them. An influence not the less baleful because its victim was sweetly unconscious of its presence; when all were intent on personal pleasure or absorbed in schemes of aggrandizement, in which self had no inconsiderable part. Then God appeared to wake the hoary transgressor to the approach of ruin – to guide the young to the only source of true pleasure, and to secure a people to himself. I have been in a revival and I can conceive of the change which has taken place in your little society. I wish it were consistent that I might rejoice with you being present in the body as well as in spirit.
How do you now amuse yourselves in your little partie? Not long since you could not pass an hour together unless cards were introduced. Now, I hope you are cheerful and very sociable, without any aids of this kind. You must not let religion throw a gloom over your happy circle. I hope you do not deprive yourselves of the pleasure of an occasional walk, or party on the water, enlivened by social, but rational glee. This, by the way way, leads me to mention a walk which I had a few evenings since. Two or three boats were to be filled with students among whom was a violin, two flutes or more, and many good singers. This was designed as a private party of our class, and was kept secret until the day of the ride. It was beautiful moonlight at evening and it was conceived the musick in the boat would sound finely on the shore, and the ladies here might like to walk down and hear. It was mentioned to several students and a party was got up. I thought it would be as pleasant to walk as to ride and, accordingly, walked with my lady. To our surprise, we found the shore lined with almost all the college students — all the ladies & gentlemen in Hanover, and the ladies of Norwich. We had a delightful time. I am fond of female society and by good luck, I have somehow been acquainted with most of our ladies in this place. They are very interesting — very literary, ’tis true — but there is more formality, more coquetry among them, than is found among our good girls of St. Jonesbury. Of all good things in the number of female accomplishments, I like simplicity of character the most. I do from my soul, detest the ceremony — the cunning, the maneuvering — observable in some fine ladies.
But to drop this epistle and resume the thread of my discourse, I should like much to visit you and it is possible that I may see St. Jonesbury next September.
I believe I wrote you last from Charlestown. I closed my [select] school there about the first of March, having kept four months. I believe I satisfied my employers. Apart from religious considerations, no place can be more pleasant that Charlestown. I shall spend a part of next vacation there. The vacation begins on the 22 of this month and continues two weeks and a half. I shall visit Putney.
I am soon to go out into the wide world. How little I am prepared to toss about on the tumultuous waves of society. I am soon to act for myself. How small is my experience! I tremble for myself, but I maun ‘ten push for some small corner — main push for an existence, taking Principle for my guide. I think I shall go South — probably to Alabama. I have had an offer of the same amount & kind as Adams, about one mile from Mobile. Prof. Adams has written to enquire particularly about the salubrity of the situation. There are two or three schools in New England of which I have had the offer — doubles small salaries. From this you can infer that schols are plenty and pedagogues scarce.
Tell Uncle I believe I shall make out to get through. College President offered me an interest in the $10,000 Fund, but I did not think it honorable to avail myself of his kindness, not having determined whether or not I shall study Divinity. I am young. Shall keep school three years probably. Afterward, determine on my profession. What is Manser about? How flourishes Female Academy? Why left Miss T.? Does Mira receive particular attention of Dr. Abbot? Is Lucy F. married? Give her my love. Hope she will be soon. Saw F. Phelps a fortnight since at Rumney, Pa. Has “his own hired house” — neat & small enough. Family contented, though I was secretly homesick — sick of home — to see them cooped up in that manner.
Last, but by no means least, won’t you come to commencement? I’ll be obligated to render you every facility which can make your stay here pleasant. Do come — Monday — Return Thursday, to Bradford, & so on. Come!