This letter was written by Stephen Smith Sheldon (1803-1872), the son of David Sheldon (1780-1856) and Jerusha Smith (1779-1855). He was married to Lemira Wheaton Harris (1802-1868) in 1827. Several of their children are mentioned in the letter: Shepard L. Sheldon (b. 1828), Mary Lemira Sheldon (b. 1832), Alfred H. Sheldon (b. 1837), and Charles Stuart Sheldon (1848-1929).
Stephen wrote the letter to Joseph D. Cavarly (1803-1871), the son of Phillip Caverly (1763-1836) and Mary Denison (1764-1838) of New London, Connecticut. Joseph was married to Lucy T. Hall. He was an early merchant in Camden, New York. His store was situated on the north corner of Main and Mexico Streets, and his home was north on Main Street. In 1830, the firm was Cavarly & Sheldon. In 1843, it was Cavarly & Osborn. The firm advertised drugs as well as dry goods and groceries. [Source: Pioneer History of Camden, NY]
Addressed to Joseph D. Cavarly, Camden, Oneida County, New York
Brockport [New York]
August 13th 1848
In referring to my file of letters, I find that I have long been your debtor in the letter line, and am astonished at my protracted negligence. Your long and interesting communication merited a far earlier reply. Let this suffice for my apology and I will endeavor to do works meet for repentance and thus redeem the time.
Why have you not gratified your wishes as expressed in your letter, by making us a visit before now. We should most certainly have tendered you our hospitalities with heartfelt pleasure. And we still hope the time is not far distant when we shall be permitted so to do. Any one of your family would be to us a most welcome visitant. We did hope to visit our friends at the East before this time, but their kindness in visiting us frequently has prevented us and consequently we have not seen any place East of Rochester since the fall we came here. We are now contemplating taking a short tour to Oneida, Massachusetts & Vermont in a few weeks. If we do, we shall endeavor to see you on our return.
____ Miner & his wife are no longer one flesh but are twain. Well, they say Old Jack’s slaves are many of them his wives, and consequently he must be an Old Testament Christian. I hope friend M. does not covet any such distinction.
Our family with slight exceptions enjoy good health. Mary is off teaching school. Shepard is faithfully intent upon his business as a farmer and Alfred and Charles contribute their mites in aid of our common employment. And we can say that the smiles of a kind Providence have rested upon us since we seized the plow and the hoe. Our expectations have been fully realized. To be sure, all are not rapidly accumulating property — that having never been made the object of our efforts. We have a little competence and by our daily toil produce a little more than a sufficiency for our daily wants. Conforming willingly to the injunction that man shall live by the sweat of his brow, we enjoy life on our little plat of the Lord’s domain right well, and can sing from the heart, “How happy is the farmer’s lot, &c.”
We live in a pleasant section of country and we find our location to possess advantages over any one I had examined previous to my purchase. In this respect we are fully content. But when we look abroad over society, we find much, very much, to mar our enjoyment — violence & misrule — fraud & hypocrisy — are so rampant. False standards of virtue and morality are so common and so pertinaciously adhered to even by those who professed to be governed by the spiritt of meekness and wisdom, that the man on integrity, the man who makes the law of God the rule of his conduct, is forced to exclaim how long, how long O Lord, shall the wicked triumph. How long shall thy temples be desecrated and thy name dishonored?
Intemperance is rife here as in most villages on the [Erie] Canal and very little effort made to suppress it. “Men of property and standing” fear their pecuniary interests would suffer from an effort temperance=wise; so rum rules the day. And the same fear paralyzes every effort toward reform in any other direction. Pastor and people alike conform to worldly maxims, swim along in the popular current, sacrificing even religion herself upon the altar of manner or oppression as circumstances shall dictate. You see by my drift that, as usual, I require strict integrity in others, however far I may come short of it myself. That politics and all things should be made subservient to religion, and that in all cases, when moral principles is involved, right should be made the rule of expediency. Consequently “the least of two devils” doctrine finds no favor with me.
One fact I learn by experience — that a man can secure self-respect and the confidence of others only so far as his life, his acts shall agree with the avowed sentiments, and such is my course. Such is my frank disclosure of the sentiments I entertain religiously and politically, that an individual acquainted with me would have no occasion to ask whether I cast my vote for such a man as Clay or Polk or Cass or Taylor or Hale or Buren, because such a vote would betray the grossest inconsistency. So you see that altho’ I may secure the respect of others, the time has not yet arrived for me to become very popular. How corrupt, how debasing are the politics of the day! How many professing Christians will belie their profession by casting their votes for a Heaven-daring oppressor, thus piercing anew the would and dishonoring the name of Him whom they profess to love & adore.
But I am trespassing my limits. Do you ever intend to come this way? ‘Tis only a little way. Why, I stepped out to Ohio the other day and bought me a fine pair of colts and found it just no trick at all. A man can go a thousand miles and back now-a-days and hardly be missed from his business. So just trip out here some morning before breakfast and peep in upon us.
The Buffalo Convention is over and the delegates seem to be well satisfied with their doings. I am told that good order & kind feelings prevailed. I am happy to see that the people of the North are awaking to the great subject of securing equal rights, equal justice to all men. I bid them come on and will give them a hearty “God speed” in their progress. But what will the poor Hale abolitionists so now? Old birds ought not to have been caught in such a snare. Bought wit comes too dear sometimes. If Lemira were here she would say, give my love to Mrs. C. & Mrs. Tracy and tell them to remember me to all the good folks in Camden.
Yours truly, — S. S. Sheldon
Wheat comes in this year a little better than last. Spring crops never were better. Politics run high, nobody satisfied. Religion at a low ebb. Vital Godliness — a term becoming obsolete. What is the religion of the present day good for? How will it compare with that of apostolic times?