1837: Rev. Jonathan Greenleaf to Deacons of the Congregational Church

This letter was written by Rev. Jonathan Greenleaf (1814-1865), who served as the Corresponding Secretary of the American Seaman’s Friend Society in New York City from 1833 to 1841. Prior to taking that post, Greenleaf had started the Mariner’s Church in Boston.

Stampless Cover


Addressed to Deacons of the Congregational Church, Vassalborough, Maine

Office of the American Seaman’s Friend Society

American Seaman’s Friend Society Certificate

New York [City]
March 1837

Dear Sir,

We address you on behalf of the American Seaman’s Friend Society. We presume you are acquainted generally with the operations of this institution. For ten years this society has been laboring in various ways to advance the cause of religion & sound morality among season. In addition to labors in the “home department” and on our inland waters, the Society are now sustaining eight Chaplains stationed at the ports of Canton, Oahu, Havre, Marseilles, Smyrna, Rio Janiero, Cronstadt, & New Orleans, & they have commenced operations at four other places, viz: Lahaina, Batavia, Singapore, & Calcutta, resident Missionaries are their present Agents. We presume that we have no need to say to you that these operations should be sustained & ultimately greatly enlarged, nor need we inform you that to sustain & enlarge them, we must rely on the benevolence of the churches. The only question at issue is, how can the charities of the churches be best secured?

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We have hitherto like other Societies been in the practice of sending Agents to traverse the country presenting the claims of the sailor, making collections, & obtaining donations that we might continue the practice, and thus obtain means to carry forward the enterprise. But we feel persuaded there is “a more excellent way.” It will be allowed by all that our Agents must be paid for their time & expenses while performing this work & that the amount paid for this must be taken from the money collected by themselves, & in doing this it has been found that on some less productive fields, large proportions of the money collected has been expended in the agency. This is discouraging both to those who give & to those who receive. But there is a remedy. If the Churches would punctually make a very small collection every year & promptly remit it to us without charge, the whole work might be accomplished, & the Churches would have the satisfaction of knowing that all their bounty was applied to the purposes for which it was solicited.

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Believing that this cause will be more satisfactory to the Churches & that the wants of the Society will be promptly met without personal solicitation, the Executive Committee have resolved to discontinue all ordinary agencies after the 1st of May next, at which time all our present engagements of this kind are to terminate & thus to cast our cause on the unrestrained & unsolicited benevolence of the Christian public, nor shall we resort to agencies again while there is any fair probability that we can sustain our operations without them. May we now ask that you will lay this subject before the Church with which you are connected, & obtain some definite action on the subject. Should our plan be favorably received, we would suggest that some Sabbath in the year be designated when a collection shall be annually made & the avails be immediately transmitted to our Treasury.

A. Van Linderer, President

J. Greenleaf, Cor. Sec.


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