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E. S. Jenkins to Frederick Douglass, June 9, 1853


Letter from E. S. Jenkins.

FRIEND DOUGLASS:—Perhaps many of the
friends of progressive liberty and religious
freedom, who read your invaluable paper
would like to know something of the affairs
here in Waterloo. Many a battle has been
fought here for a man, the liberty of speech,
and free, untrammeled thought.

The Yearly Meeting of Congregational
Friends has just closed, June 7th, a session
of three days, in which much good feeling
prevailed. On Sunday, (the first day,) a
much larger number were in attendance
than I have ever before seen here on similar
occasions. The people were evidently anxi-
ous to hear, and more desirous of true
knowledge, than at any previous time, since
the attempt to throw off from the mind that
incubus—intolerance—that foe to progress
in every age. When the mind has struggled
long and hard for freedom, it is very natural
that the incipient stages of liberty should
mingle more or less with the recollections of
the past. Not every one can "let the dead
past bury its dead," though they desire to
"act in the living present," and lead on and
light up the darkness around. When those
who break from bondage can move on with-
out looking back to the chains which bound
them and casting reflections, then, surely,
from such minds the light will break forth


as the morning. That point few have attain-
ed. During the late meeting, less anxiety
was manifested to break old foundations, al-
ready rotten, than at any previous session.
To possess civil and religious freedom, was
more evidently the wish than to discuss an-
tagonisms and principles, in the light of that
abstract philosophy, that whenever made to
fathom the religious element is cheerless, and
can never meet our desires. This is progress
Congregational Friends needed, and still
leave much ground unoccupied, and many
points which must be attained. Indeed, all
our position and desires must not disguise
truth for our own good. I claim for Water-
loo Congregational Friends much freedom;
but not enough to be fully entitled to that
position we have essayed to take. Consis-
tency is a jewel not valued by the world;
but it will always seem the asceticism of the
good heart even, if not worn as "the pearl
of great price." The great beauty and
power of Christianity consists in its having
been transcribed into the hearts of men by
the actual deeds of its Author. Charity is
due to the good man who mistakes the line
of duty because of his early and erroneous


impressions; but when a protest is entered
against a clearly defined evil, it is reasona-
ble to expect the dissenting party to not
voluntarily apologize for that evil, either by
word or deed. The women here, and from
other places, who are interested, are more
free and less fearful than the men. Theodore
Parker says, "Man needs to be ordained;
woman is self-ordained," which is more than
one sense is true. Man easily fancies him-
self the only pillar of truth; woman more
naturally believes that it rests in God; and
should she fail to give it support, God is its
foundation forever.

In our meetings those forms prevail to
which the majority have been accustomed;
and of all others the Quakers hold their
early habits the dearest. Their old creed
and general exclusiveness, straight-jacket,
and peculiar speech, account for much.—Other sects have, with equally erroneous
faith, cultivated a more general character.—In the Divine economy, all things are good;
but however man was created, certain it is
that he must yet grow into the image of God,
by looking upon all men as breathren, and
unto God as our common Father. Anything
short of this, cripples our energies and
dwarfs the soul.

We have found by experience, that those
who are not constantly refreshing their
mind, cannot supply the demand for moral
and religious food in this place. A large


audience might be drawn by some sure and
energetic speaker, who, doubtless, could be
well sustained among us, were it not for the
Quaker fears of paying a teacher of lecturer.
This is a point of progress we have yet to
attain. The starving soul must be fed, des-
pite all the creeds of past time. The Quak-
ers own the house, and I think they will
soon see the propriety of placing it at the
service of the surrounding country. I say
service—for it would soon protect from the
elements large numbers, were it made known
that they could sustain an able man to speak
to them from week to week. Oh! how we
might all rejoice in helping to light up the
darkness with which we are surrounded.—We want a man, or a woman, which would
be far better, and able to entice from every
vilitating resort within five miles, to enjoy
the rich feast that might be given. "I came
not to call the righteous, but sinners to re-
pentance." In this, the house would be of
great service: whereas, now, it is of but lit-
tle use, except on special occasions, and for
yearly gatherings. With all the light, knowl-
edge and progress of Waterloo, we are still
in the midst of intemperance, pro-slavery,
poverty and crime, which shrinks but little
at noon-day. Here is a field, broad as hu-
man philanthropy, already white until the
harvest, and the reapers are few. Let us,
then, clear up this field of darkness by every
means wisdom may devise.

"With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,


Learn to labor and to wait."


WATERLOO, June 9th, 1853.


Jenkins, E. S.




E. S. Jenkins to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 17 June 1853. Discusses the proceedings of the recently concluded annual meeting of Congregational Friends.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper