VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
BENNINGTON COUNTY. — CONCLUDED.
BY E. C. TRACY.
JEREMIAH EVARTS, Corresponding Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission; born February 3, 1781; died May 10, 1831.*
James Evarts had taken his young wife,† with other emigrants, from Guilford, Conn., soon after the successful termination of the French war, to the new region opened to New England enterprise by that happy event, and had settled in Sunderland, Vermont. Jeremiah was their first-born son. As soon, at least, as he needed a school, one was ready. We have only a glimpse of the boy's life in Sunderland; — small and slender, — beginning a life of benevolence, when three years old, by teaching a little playmate his letters; and, a year after, begging for a new school-book, — not that the one he had was worn out, but because he had "read all the sense out of it." Buddings, both, of the future man.
In 1787, tho rich promise of Franklin County attracted Mr. Evarts, and he removed thither as one of the original proprietors of the town of Georgia. ‡ Jeremiah, at this time, when not otherwise employed, always had a book in his hand. "I believe," said his sister, "that every page of THE SPECTATOR was as familiar to him as his spelling-book, when quite a child." A short time he spent at school in Burlington (so early, it seems, an educational centre), and then some months under the care of Rev. JOHN ELLIOT, D.D.; of East Guilford, Conn., when, in 1798, not yet a twelvemonth from his axe and plough, he entered the freshman class in Yale College.**
At the first recitation of his class, "there sat Evarts, in a plain rustic garb, with which fashion evidently had never intermeddled; his stature of the middling height; his form remarkably slender; his manner stiff, and his whole exterior having nothing to prepossess a stranger in his behalf, except a countenance which bespoke as much honesty as ever falls to the lot of man." †† When his turn came to recite, he made a strong impression on the minds of his classmates. He soon commanded their respect, and convinced the ambitious that they would find in him a competitor for the honors.
This was his entrance upon college life. Four years after, his place to speak at Commencement was at the close of the morning exercises. When his name was called, some of the wearied audience were retiring. In his personal appearance, the four years had made little change; "but he had scarcely begun to speak, when there was a marked attention among those who were near him, which soon spread through the house. His subject was 'The Execution of the Laws.' It was treated with such clearness of statement, such cogency of reasoning, and such
* See Sermon on the Death of Mr. Evarts, by Rev. Leonard Woods, D.D., Memoir of Mr. Evarts, by Rev. D. Greene, in the Missionary Herald for 1831, and Life of Jeremiah Evarts (8vo., pp. 448), by E. C. Tracy.
† Mrs. Evarts was a daughter of Timothy Todd, Esq., of Guilford. Her family came from Yorkshire, England, and was distinguished for literary tastes. Her uncle, Rev. Jonathan Todd, of East Guilford, was among the best scholars of his time. Rev. John Todd, D.D., of Pittsfield, Mass., is a nephew of Mrs. E. She was intelligent, pious, and benevolent. There was also a grandmother resident in the family to care for the future philanthropist, — a woman of strong mind and devoted piety. The Evarts family is probably of Huguenot origin; were among the early emigrants to this country, and had resided in Guilford from about the year 1640. James Evarts was a man of uncommon public spirit, and was the first representative in the Legislature of Vermont from the town of Georgia.
‡ The Georgia home of the family is now occupied by Jonathan Todd Evarts, Esq., brother of Jeremiah.
** Mr. Evarts took his son to Guilford on horseback. On his way, as was his wont when on that road, he spent a night with his friend, the late Col. SETH STORRS, of Middlebury. The object of the journey gave direction to the thoughts of these two public-spirited men, and the talk, evening and morning, was of a college that should provide at home for the education of Vermont boys. "This," said Col. Storrs, mentioning the incident to the writer many years ago, — "this was among the circumstances that led to the establishment of Middlebury College,"
†† Evidently, the young Vermonter was not of that delicate-handed class of young fellows so flatteringly described by Dr. Holmes as coming of the Brahmin caste of New England."
242 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
eloquence and solemnity of appeal, as awakened universal admiration." It was an utterance of the speaker's heart, and was afterwards published.
One event of his college life must be distinctly noticed. Though always one of the purest and most faithful of youths, it was not till his senior year that he was brought into those consciously near relations to God, through Christ, which he cherished to the hour of death as the strength of his heart and his portion forever.
Now came the work of life. His patrimony had been invested, as is so often done in New England, in his education. Henceforth ho must work his way.
A year was spent as Principal of the Academy at Peacham, where, besides the care of his school, he was a faithful helper of the Rev. Leonard Worcester, pastor of the Congregational Church, in every good work. At the close of the year, he returned to New Haven to marry,* and to enter upon the study of law.
The Vermont life of Mr. Evarts was now ended. The favorite plan of his father, that his son might help to settle, on the basis of right and sound law, the conflicting land claims of his native State, was to be disappointed. As in so many other cases, the State must give up to the wide world the son that might have been a blessing and glory to her at home. And the work of his manhood must be yet more briefly sketched, as belonging less peculiarly to Vermont, and because his services to mankind in other spheres were such as it is impossible, within these narrow limits, to give any just idea of.
While a law student, and after his admission to the bar (at New Haven), Mr. Evarts came into close relationships with the late Professor Stuart, of Andover, Dr. Morse, of Charlestown, and other prominent leaders of the religious movements then commencing, and was finally, in 1810, led to remove to Boston, — the centre of work and influence for the cause.
From 1810 to 1821, Mr. Evarts was editor of the Panoplist, a religious and missionary magazine; from 1812 to 1821, Treasurer of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; and from 1821 to his death in 1831, Corresponding Secretary of that Board. The Panoplist was the leading organ of the Congregationalists of New England, and, in the hands of Mr. Evarts, was a powerful agency in the awakening of a missionary spirit in the churches, in originating and directing measures for the supply of the religious wants of this country, in exposing religious errors and establishing the churches in the truth, and in the promotion of all the Christian and philanthropic enterprises of the time. But, among them all, missions to the heathen held far the highest place in his regard. He took an active part in the formation of the American Board, and his hearty devotion to the duties of Treasurer and Secretary identified him with it for the remainder of his life. The correspondence devolved on him to a great extent from the first, and it was his to present the new enterprise, from time to time, to the Christian public in such a way as to awaken a warm and well-principled interest in the object, and secure for that particular organization the necessary confidence and support. The remarkable success that crowned his labors and those of his associates, in this last respect, was often referred to in his later years with devout thanksgiving. In this service, he was called repeatedly to undertake laborious journeys into the then wild Indian country, among the Cherokees, Choctaws, &c., and to Washington, with reference to the relations of the Government to Indian civilization and improvement.
These official labors, however, were far from absorbing his Christian activity. In the church, in numerous local religious enterprises, and in plans for doing good in other parts of the country and the world, his counsel was sought, and he appeared as a leader, alike in judgment, in zeal, and in prompt efficiency. When he was removed from these counsels, the hearts of those who loved Zion throughout the land, and in the dark places of the earth, were smitten with the feeling that they had lost one who was unsurpassed in any quality that can render a wise man's counsels or a good man's influence valuable; and who, in the language of an eminent fellow-laborer, "showed as little liability to mistake as can be expected of any man in this state of imperfection."** "More unbending integrity," says another,† "more fidelity, and steadfastness, and true-heartedness, and modesty, and humility, and ardent devotion, and enlightened zeal, and sound judgment, and trust-worthiness, and kindness, I never expect to find in this world; and not many have gone to the other who have more excelled in all that belongs to the true character of the Christian, the scholar, and the gentleman." "Envy, slander, detraction, and every thing of that nature, were as remote from him as from any man I have ever yet known. There was an expansive, enlightened, elevated, noble state of mind and feeling, that rendered him incapable of descending to the arts which many employ, either to thwart his opponents or to throw obstacles in the way of those who were treading with himself the path to high esteem and elevated station. All that was or could be gained by his fellow-Christians, of true and solid reputation, seemed to him to be clear gain to the church, and therefore to the stock whose interests he was most engaged to promote."
The amount of work that Mr. Evarts was able to accomplish was remarkable. His mem‑
* Mrs. Mehitable Barnes, daughter of Hon. Roger Sherman.
** Rev. Leonard Woods, D.D.
† Rev. Professor Stuart.
ory was such that he rarely hesitated as to a name, or date, or fact that he wanted to use. He wrote very rapidly, and almost never had occasion to change a word; and was methodical, — his work always so before him that no time was wasted in taking it up just where he had left it without looking back. To this accuracy and method he had trained himself from early life. While in college, and even earlier, he had kept a journal, making almost daily entries, and reviewing it at regular intervals, to see wherein he had failed as to the best discharge of his stewardship. This included an exact account of money received and expended, to the last farthing. And, in the busiest years of his life, be sometimes tested his own faithfulness by entering upon his journal the use made of every hour and moment of the day. With all this economy of time, his disposition was most kind and social, and no man enjoyed more or contributed more to the pleasures of society.
As to personal and family expenditures he was equally exact and conscientious. It was a life-long self-denial, for to his taste the elegances of life had strong attractions. But his frugal home was an open one. The coming and going of guests constituted a characteristic part of the family life. And while learned and distinguished men were glad to enjoy, at his table and fireside, the earnest overflow of elevated thought, they might not unfrequently meet there the ignorant seeking light, and the distressed asking for relief or counsel; men of all colors, and of every clime — literally, Greek and Jew, barbarian and Scythian, — the negro, the Indian, — natives of the four quarters of the world, and of the islands of the sea.
In the use of his small income there was a most generous and yet careful liberality. As a steward he would neither hoard nor squander the Master's gifts. There is now before the writer a memorandum of his entitled, "Plan of Charities for the year 18—." It embraces the appropriation, for charitable purposes, of not less than a quarter of his whole income for the year, while that income would have been regarded by most persons as only sufficient for the economical support of such a family in the position he occupied.
Thus, "by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness, on the right hand and on the left," * he commanded for every work of his hand a degree of confidence that the cause was the stronger for long after he had ceased to appear among its counsellors. It was felt that the object must be worthy that enlisted his warm advocacy. "While in college," says a classmate, "he exhibited the same noble, generous, and fixed traits of character which were so happily developed in his subsequent life. When I have seen him in Boston, in New York, in Philadelphia, and elsewhere, in private consultation, or in public discussion, I have been struck with the fact, and have remarked it to others, how very like in his manner, in his matter, in his chief aim, was our friend Evarts to what he was in college; calm, cool, dignified, of unbending integrity, with the spirit of an acute jurist, of a statesman, an apostle, and a hero."** All these high qualities, together with his power of expression as a writer and speaker, rose with the occasion, and became more marked in proportion as weightier duties and wider spheres of action pressed their claims upon him. This was especially noticed when he succeeded Dr. Worcester as Corresponding Secretary of the American Board: in several of his last reports in that capacity; in his defence of the people of the Sandwich Islands, and the mission there, against wickedness in high places, English and American; and especially when he roused and swayed the mind of the nation by his cogent reasonings and eloquent appeals, — his laborious, protracted and exhausting efforts to secure to the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians the rights pledged to them by solemn treaties.
It was under the pressure of this last subject that, in the ripe meridian of his intellectual power, and of his personal influence, the frail body gave way. With the slender frame already described, he had through life been subject to consumptive complaints, which sometimes threatened his life, and repeatedly drove him to a milder climate. A wise care had enabled him to keep himself for the most part in working order. His appetite was uniformly good, and he could always sleep well, whatever cares might occupy his waking hours. But his work at Washington and elsewhere, for the Indians, in the years 1829 and 1830, and other special exertions connected with missions, with scarcely an hour of relaxation, proved too much. Reluctantly he left his beloved office and the work so near his heart, and sought relief at the South, — this time by a visit to Cuba. But it was too late. He soon turned his face homeward, and reached Charleston, S. C., on the 3d of May, 1831. There he lingered, under the tender care of attached friends, till the 10th, when the strong and loving spirit entered into its Saviour's joy, exclaiming, with a rapture that cannot be described: "Praise him, praise him, praise him in a way that you know not of!" "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful glory! We cannot understand; we cannot com‑
* 2 Cor. vi. 6, 7.
** In personal appearance, also, Mr. Evarts remained much the same through life; but his manner lost its stiffness, and he moved, in whatever society, with gentlemanly ease. He was slender, as has been remarked, and of medium height; his head not large, but indicative of force, readiness, and quiet balance; the hair brown; the eyes large and blue; the nose large; the chin square and rather prominent; the lips thin; mouth. expressive of readiness, and decision, and self-control; the complexion dark.
244 VERMONT HISTORICAL MAGAZINE.
prehend, — wonderful! I will praise him; I will praise him!" "Wonderful, — glory, — Jesus reigns! "
Four children of Mr. Evarts survived him; John Jay Evarts, a young man of high promise and Christian character, who died soon after leaving college; William M. Evarts. Esq., of New York; Mary, late wife of Rev. David Greene, of Westboro', Mass., and Martha Sherman, wife of E. C. Tracy, of Windsor, Vt.
The writings of Mr. Evarts are not of the kind that appears to best advantage in brief extracts. What he published, beginning while in college, and extending to almost the last day of his life, would fill many volumes. But for the most part there was an immediate object to be answered by each, and the parts were so compacted and interdependent that single paragraphs lose much of their significance and power, when severed from their connection. They will be found chiefly in the Panoplist, the Missionary Herald, the Spirit of the Pilgrims, the North American Review, the Reports on Foreign Missions, etc. His series on the rights of the Indians, first published in the National Intelligencer, under the signature of WILLIAM PENN, doubtless had a wider circulation, and commanded the attention of a larger number of intelligent readers, than any such series of articles since the days of Junius and The Federalist.
Our extracts are from his last Missionary Report, — passages showing characteristic trains of thought being preferred.
FUTURE PROGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES.
"It has been computed, after a careful estimate of the capabilities of America, that, with the present degree of knowledge, and without any reliance upon future discoveries in agriculture and the arts, this whole continent will sustain at least two thousand millions of inhabitants in circumstances of comfort. Let it be supposed, then, that after a hundred years from this time the population shall be doubled in thirty years instead of twenty-five. At this rate the descendants of the present inhabitants of the United States, in one hundred and seventy years from this day, will amount to one thousand millions. If we keep in view the fundamental position that religious restraints are not to be diminished, this conclusion is in no degree improbable. But the calculation founded on this position will certainly be safe if the descendants of the present inhabitants of British America be thrown into the scale, and if it be considered that the emigration from Europe to America is constantly and rapidly increasing, and is likely to increase still more rapidly. For obvious reasons, the inhabitants of Spanish America will not increase so fast as the people of' the United States. It may be assumed, then, that if the power of religious principle be not weakened among us and our descendants, there will be, on this continent, in the year 1880 (when the young children now around our tables and in our schools will not have ceased to take an active part in human affairs), fifty millions of human beings speaking the English language, and in fifty years more (when some of our grandchildren shall be spectators, if they cease to be actors), there will be two hundred millions; and, in seventy years more, one thousand millions. The condition of this amazing mass of human beings must, according to the established laws of the divine government, be more or less affected by the principles and conduct of the present generation. If, according to the supposition, the relative power of religion be not diminished, the diminution will be prevented, with the favor of heaven, by the strenuous efforts of the friends of God."
"The remaining supposition is that the relative power of religion will increase, till before the expiration of the longest period here mentioned, opposition shall gradually have died away; and all the happy millions of this continent shall live together as brethren, adoring their Creator and Redeemer, and lending a cheerful influence to every good design. Then will be a day of glory, such as the world has never yet witnessed. As the sun rises on a Sabbath morning and travels westward from Newfoundland to the Oregon, he will behold the countless millions assembling, as if by a common impulse, in the temples with which every valley, mountain, and plain will be adorned. The morning psalm and evening anthem will commence with the multitudes on the Atlantic coast, be sustained by the loud chorus of ten thousand times ten thousand in the valley of the Mississippi, and prolonged by the thousands of thousands on the shores of the Pacific. Throughout this wide expanse, not a dissonant voice will be heard. If, unhappily, there should be here and there an individual whose heart is not in unison with this divine employment, he will choose to be silent. Then the tabernacle of God will be with men. Then will it be seen and known to the universe what the religion of the Bible can do, even on this side of the grave, for a penitent, restored, and rejoicing world. But while contemplating such a display of glory and happiness on earth, we are not to forget that this illustrious exhibition of divine power and love would derive nearly all its interest from the fact that these countless millions were in a process of rapid transmission from earth to heaven."
"When John Carver and his associates landed at Plymouth, and afterwards John Winthrop and his associates arrived at Charlestown, they might have doubted, on some accounts, whether their names would be known to posterity. They labored, however, for the good of mankind, and laid foundations with a distinct, and special, and declared regard to the benefit of future times. Their posterity remember them with
inexpressible gratitude, and their names will receive new tributes of admiration with every succeeding age.
"The moral enterprises of the present day are novel; if not in their character and principle, yet in their combination and effect. They will be thoroughly examined hereafter, and the hundreds of millions of Americans, will, in the next century, declare the result. We may now imagine these millions convened, as in some vast amphitheatre, and directing their anxious and concentrated gaze upon us. Happy will it be for our country and the world, if they can then exclaim, 'These were the men of the nineteenth century, who came to the help of the Lord against the mighty; these friends and patrons of missionary and Bible institutions; these supporters of a press truly free, which, by its salutary issues, emancipated the nation from the thraldom of sin; these defenders of the Sabbath and all its holy influences; these are the men who counted the cost of denying themselves, and cheerfully made the sacrifice of throwing all their powers and resources into an effort for the world's deliverance. God smiled upon their persevering and united labors, acknowledged them as his friends and servants, and we now hail them as benefactors of our happy millions, and of thousands of millions yet unborn.' "
"As to consecrated talent, never was there such a call to bring it into exercise; never such a reward as it now has to offer to a benevolent heart. The man whose labors contribute, in any material degree, to raise up, and purify, and ennoble the future millions of America, will do more for himself, as aiming to exert a salutary influence (even if his name should never be known to his grateful fellow-men), than has ever yet been done for the most successful aspirants by all that the world calls fame.
"The preacher who sends abroad a sermon full of great and striking thoughts, that command the attention of the religions world, and make their way, through a thousand channels, to successive ages; the sacred bard, who composes a hymn that shall be stereotyped a century hence, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, and printed on the same page with Cowper's 'Oh for a closer walk with God,' or the 'Martyrs Glorified,' of Watts; the writer who shall print a warm and stirring treatise on practical religion, which shall stand by the side of Saint's Rest in the library of every family, when our country shall have become thoroughly and consistently Christian; the editor of a periodical, or the agent of any of our religious charities who shall indite a paragraph able to move the hearts of men to great and noble deeds, and to secure for itself a permanent existence among the elements of thought and action; the man who shall do any one of these things, or anything of a similar character, will exert an efficient influence over more minds than have ever yet heard the name of Homer or Cicero; and will cheer more hearts, during a single generation, than have ever yet responded to the calls of the mightiest genius. To aid, even in a feeble and indirect manner, the work of bringing thousands of millions to glory and virtue, to heaven and to God, is to reach an exalted rank among those whom their Saviour will honor as the instruments of his divine beneficence."