1840: Hiram Manley to Thaddeus Clapp

What Hiram Manley might have looked like

I feel certain this letter was written by Hiram Manley (1802-1853), the son of David Manley of Eaton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard College in 1825, he taught an academy in Massachusetts, and then settled as a lawyer in Tallahassee, Florida, where he resided ten years before relocating to St. Mark’s. He died 9 July 1853 while serving as a judge of of one the courts in Florida. He was married to Martha Ann Bott (1801-1874) in November 1843.

Hiram wrote the letter to a former student of his named Thaddeus Clapp (1811-1861) of Dorchester, Massachusetts. “Thaddeus Clapp was the noted hybridizer of the “Clapp’s Favorite” pear, a cross breeding of the “Bartlett” pear and the “Flemish Beauty” pear. From 1840 until his death Clapp was “celebrated among fruit growers for his theoretical and practical knoweledge, and obtained many premiums for choice varieties and fine samples of fruit.”

“Born in Dorchester, the son of William Clapp (1779-1860) and Elizabeth Humphreys Clapp, he was educated at the academy of Hiram Manley before entering Harvard College, being graduated in 1834; he attained a distinguished rank with “the second honors of his class” and delivered the salutory oration in Latin. He was to receive his master of arts in 1838, and though he had taught at a private school in Brookline, his ill health precluded full time employment. During the 1840’s he served as a member and secretary of the Dorchester School Committee (Dorchester remained an independent town from Boston until 1870.) In 1838 he served as tutor to the family of William T. Palfrey in Franklin, Louisiana thinking that the warm climate might be beneficial to his health. The Palfreys were from Boston, and were probably acquainted with his family, but he returned shortly therafter. He returned to his family home in 1840, a large Federal house built by his parents at 195 Boston Street and called the “Mansion House.” His father was a well to do leather tanner with tanneries on his extensive estate that stretched back to South Bay and which had been in the family since the seventeenth century.

The Thaddeus Clapp home in Dorchester, MA

“After his return to Dorchester, Thaddeus Clapp “engaged in horticultural and pomological persuits, which he continued until the winter of 1860.” During that time he and his brothers Lemuel and Frederick Clapp hybridized many pear seedlings which were quite successful and the names of which were given to new streets that were cut through the former Clapp Estate; the new streets were named Mayhew, Mount Vernon, Harvest, Dorset and Bellflower to perpetuate the early hybrid pears, but it was his pear seedling “Clapp’s Favorite” that became reknowned as it was an early ripening fruit, in an age when fresh fruit was thought to ensure continued good health. So successful was this pear seedling that the the Clapp’s Favorite pear, was greatly desired by the Massachusetts Agricultural Club, which wished to name it after Marshall P. Wilder, and to disseminate it for general cultivation. They offered Mr. Clapp one thousand dollars for the control of it, but the offer was politely declined. For two decades Clapp continued his horticultural persuits and was an active member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the Norfolk Agricultural Society. He was said to be of a “most amiable disposition and led a life of unspotted integrity. In 1873, over a decade after Clapp’s death, the “Clapp’s Favorite” pear was awarded the Wilder Medal in 1873; this medal is awarded to individuals or organizations for distinguished service and contributions to the advancement of pomological science and for outstanding fruit varieties.”

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Thaddeus Clapp, Dorchester, Massachusetts

Northboro, [Massachusetts]
March 23, 1840

Much esteemed Friend,

Your letter, I trust I need not say was gratefully received and though I may not be able this evening to write so long a reply as I could wish, I shall improve the opportunity, afforded by the absence of my chum at singing school, to pen at least a few lines. I have heard it said that the interest of a letter was in direct proportion to the number of times the letter I is used therein. As I have used it at least once for each line, mine bids fair to be interesting beyond most epistles.

I do not know of anything of local interest to write to you except that Mr. Emerson,¹ worried into detection and ill health by the unrelenting opposition of a few unprincipled members of his society, and a few more fanatical bigots, for whom he is not narrow and prejudiced enough, has asked a dismission from his people, and contemplates the establishment of a seminary for young ladies. You may judge of the character of some of those who oppose him when you hear that they wished to invite Dr. [Samuel Austin] Fay (formerly of C., now residing in this place) to fill the vacancy. There are those who have looked with jealousy, and it is to be feared with something of anger, upon the mild & charitable spirit with which Mr. Emerson has treated Mr. A. ² and the efforts he has made to provoke this feeling in his society. He is not enough of the narrow bigot, he has not enough of the spirit of proselytism to suit them. Mr. A. is now very anxious as to the result of this occurrence and it would indeed be very much to be regretted if a man of their own stamp should be settled here, who would again sharpen up for a fresh contest the weapons of sectarian controversy so long disused, and build up again the middle wall of partition between those who now live on terms of friendly intercourse and harmony. But, deplorable as such a circumstance would be and attended with so many evils, I can conceive of one good result which might flow from it. As a violent tempest sometimes purifies the stagnant waters of some turbid lake; as a desolating war may call forth the latent energies of a country; so, from the the clashing din of sectarian warfare, and the conflicting elements of party spirit, the moral atmosphere of a community may become purified, some slumbering spirits may be awakened, and, from the scathing fires, some gold may come forth purified of its dross. And there is need of something to awaken the people here. There is a fair outside, but there is much of hollowness. There is a lamentable want of spiritual life and vigor. How would it grieve the heart of our good Mr. A. could he see what a deadness there is. But he is disposed in the benevolence of his heart to judge very indulgently of his people, and it is easy for anyone to put on at least a “moral” face.

But I did not mean to speak in this censuring tone, and the sentiment of scripture recurs forcibly to my mind, “Thou that judgest another, look within thy own heart,” but I have felt that there is among the people here a lamentable want of spiritual life, and I have asked myself again and again why it is. Mr. A. is a man of warm affections, deep and glowing devotional feelings, and I cannot conceive how it is that his people should be so cold. I am only able to give one reason — the habitual love of amusements prevents their having time for thought and self-examination, and takes away their taste for, and their power of perceiving spiritual truths. But I am led to enquire, is not this coldness too general among unitarian societies, and are there not topics of the most important nature upon which the Unitarian pulpit is too silent?

While I was at D., I had a few minutes conversation with Mrs. Codman and, adverting to the prospect of my becoming a minister, she spoke of the importance of making Christ the great theme of preaching. yes, she is right. “Christ the cornerstone in whom all the buildding fitly framed together, growth unto a holy temple of God.” Now is not this great theme the “Corner Stone” of our faith. is not the doctrine of repentance, and that of future retribution too little commented upon by Unitarian preachers generally? If there are bright exceptions, are they not the few? I have less and less confidence in the preaching even of Christian Morality until the foundation of it has been laid in the spirituality of the heart. I thank you for your remarks upon this point. I hope you will ever be free not only in making general suggestions in relation to duty, but in apprising me of any deficiencies or faults you may observe in me. I sometimes deeply feel the coldness of my heart and I ask myself if it shall go on increasing till it is indurated to a marble hardness, and chilled to an icy impenetrableness? God grant me at least, though it be in the far off distance, a perception still of the light that shineth from above, and tears for the coldness which shuts out from my own soul its warming and life-giving beams.

You will wonder, perhaps, that I am not oftener discouraged in looking at the great work before me, and yet I am not often. It is because I feel convinced that it is a work which God has given me to do, to stand as a mirror to reflect upon my fellow men the light which he sheds upon my soul, and the little brook whose nourishing moisture has caused a few blades of bright verdure to spring up on its banks has performed its mission as truly and as acceptably as the mighty river which has inundated and fertilized many a wide spreading interval. The brook may dry up and all its sweet influences vanish, for its sources are not in itself, but the rains of Heaven can swell it again, and the green herb and the fresh flower gladden its path with their beauty. And thus with the feeling that my supplies are drawn from an unfailing fountain, I go trustfully on, rejoicing in the hope that in all my weakness and frailty, I may yet be made the channel through which God in his omnipotent wisdom may see fit to impart his blessings to his children.

With kind regards to all, and hoping very soon to hear from you again, I am very truly and affectionately yours, — Hiram


¹ Daniel Hopkins Emerson, D. D., was a son of Rev. Brown Emerson. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1810, graduated from Dartmouth College, and studied at Andover and New Haven, after which he spent three years as teach of a Young Ladies’ Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He was first settled as a pastor of the Congregational Church in Northborough, Massachusetts, being ordained in October 1836. In 1841, he was installed pastor of the Presbyterian CHurch in East Whiteland, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Rev. Joseph Allen

² “Mr. A.” was probably Rev. Joseph Allen (1790-1873). “He prepared for college under the care of the Rev. Dr. Prentiss, the minister of Medfield, and graduated at Harvard in the class of 1811. He then began the study of theology under the direction of the Rev. Henry Ware. He received approbation to preach from the Boston Association of Ministers in the autumn of 1814, and preached his first sermon in October of that year. After supplying pulpits in Salem, Dorchester, and Lexington, and spending nearly a year in West Boylston, he was settled at Northboro on October 30, 1816. He was ordained as minister of the town, and retained that office until his death….His long pastorate included the time of sharp division between the Calvinistic and liberal parties in New England. Dr. Allen was a most outspoken Unitarian, but his abounding charity and his reputation for conscientious fidelity won him the deep respect of the men of all denominations.” [Source: Heralds of a Liberal Faith]


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