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Letters to Isaac Backus About Persecution in Massachusetts
[From two women who were jailed.]
"Norwich, Nov. 4, 1752.
My dear Son;
I have heard something of the trials amongst you of late, and I was grieved till I had strength to give up the case to God, and leave my burden there. And now I would tell you something of our trials. Your brother Samuel lay in prison twenty days. October 15th, the collectors came to our
[p. 29]
house, and took me away to prison, about nine o'clock, in a dark, rainy night. Brothers Hill and Sabins were brought there the next night. We lay in prison thirteen days, and were then set at liberty, by what means I know not. Whilst I was there a great many people came to see me, and some said one thing and some said another. Oh the innumerable snares and temptations that beset me! more than I ever thought of before. But oh, the condescension of Heaven! though I was bound when I was cast into this furnace, yet I was loosed and found Jesus in the midst of a furnace with me. Oh, then I could give up my name, estate, family, life and breath freely to God. Now the prison looked like a palace to me. I could bless God for all the laughs and scoffs made at me. Oh the love that flowed out to all mankind; then I could forgive as I would desire to be forgiven, and love my neighbor as myself. Deacon Griswold was put in prison the 8th of October; and yesterday old brother Grover, and (they) are in pursuit of others, all which calls for humiliation. This church has appointed the 13th of November to be spent in prayer and fasting on that account. I do remember my love to you and your wife, and the dear children of God with you, begging your prayers for us in such a day of trial. We are all in tolerable health, expecting to see you. These from Your loving mother,


[p. 184]
Another instance of oppression may be given in the language of the sufferer.
"MR. BACKUS: -- I understand that you are collecting materials for a Baptist history, in which you propose to let the public know how the Baptists have been oppressed in Massachusetts Bay. This is to let you know that in the year 1768, in a very cold night in the winter, about nine or ten o'clock in the evening, I was taken prisoner and carried, by the collector in the town where I live, from my family, consisting of three small children, in order to be put into jail. It being a severe cold night, I concluded, by advice, while I was detained at a tavern in the way to jail some hours, to pay the sum of 4/8 L. M.,1 for which I was made a prisoner, it being for the ministerial rate. The reason why I refused paying it before, was because I was a Baptist, and belonged to the Baptist society in Haverhill, and had carried in a certificate to the assessors, as I suppose, according to law. Thus they dealt with a poor widow woman in Bradford, the relict of Solomon Kimball, late of said town; -- at whose house the Rev. Hezekiah Smith was shamefully treated by many of the people in Bradford, who came, headed by the sheriff; Amos Mullikin, at a time when Mr. Smith was to preach a sermon in our house, at the request of my husband, and warmly contended with him, and threatened him if he did preach. Mr. Smith went to begin service by singing, notwithstanding the noise, clamor and threats of the people. But one of their number snatched the chair, behind which Mr. Smith stood, from before him. Upon which my husband desired Mr. Smith to tarry a little, till he had quelled the tumult; but all his endeavors to silence them were in
[p. 185]
vain. Upon which my husband desired Mr. Smith to begin public service; which accordingly he did, and went through, then, without further molestation.

BRADFORD, SEPT. 2, 1774.

"N. B. The above I can attest to. It may be observed, that the tavern whither they took me is about two miles from my house. After I had paid what they demanded, then I had to return to my poor fatherless children, through the snow, on foot, in the dead of the night, exposed to the severity of the cold." -- (MK)


1 i.e., Legal Money.

[From Alvah Hovey, The Life and Times of Isaac Backus, 1858; reprint, 1991, pp. 28-29, 184-185. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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