Selected correspondence of James Birket
[Three volumes of letters, typed and carbon-copied, apparently transcribed in the early 20th century, are still in the possession of the Spence family; other copies may exist. Full letter transcripts, below, are my own transcripts from photocopies from these volumes. Short notes on some other letters are also included, which were made for me by Sarah Lomas (née Spence) in July 2000. The letters, coving a period from January 1770 to 24th April 1783, were written from Lancaster.
[James Birket was great-uncle to Robert Foster (1754–1827)]
1772-02-15 to Francis Farley p. Robt Foster:
The bearer hereof, Robert Foster is a nephew of mine, a good lad (so far) and a good schollar was intended for a Physician, but he could not be prevailed on to study Physick (without forceing his inclination) being wholly bent upon going to the West Indies, and comes out with this ship the Marquis of Granby, and is to be in Issac Eccleston's Store. ...........
1772-06-09 to John Birket—reporting of letters from Bob Foster to his father and grandfather—telling of his hard work in the store and of being severely bitten by "Musketo's". He seems to have gone back to sea after this.
1772-09-08—reference is made to R.F in a letter to Francis Farley . . . referring to a present of sugar brought by R.F and to sending back p. R.F some knives—R.F is on the Rockingham & Capt. Roper. various refs follow in different letters to a variety of people, and concern messages taken by and sent with R.F. between England and the West Indies particularly Antigua.
1773-11-17 back in England again taking family gifts out to the West Indies to various people.
A further letter of Nov 1773 refers to storms in the Irish channel and in 1774 December there is correspondence concerning the anxieties associated with the gossip of the Rockingham's having foundered. This turned out to have been an exaggeration.
1775-03-24 a letter to R.F. p. The Goodwill, Capt. Richardson refers to R.F being with the Dolphin for Dominica, and asks him to write also gives news of home.
June 1775 letter to R.F. via the John and a Capt. Cuthbert—thanking RF for the "Box Yams which are the finest and best order of any I have ever had"
1775-08-24 in a letter to Thomas Thomasson—R.F. is referred to . . . "My Nephew Robt. Foster informs by a letter recd. from him last week that he stays over a year in Antigua, . . ."
1775-09-29 letter to Francis Farley. ". . . . I have heard that my nephew Foster stays over a year in Antigua, and he had mentioned to his father that he was like to be troubled upon account of his not appearing in the Militia. If so, should esteem it a favour if thou could find some means of excusing him from that duty first as he is still an apprentice to the Merchants, his masters here; and more especially as it is our well known principle not to bear arms in an[y] case. I well remember some time after I settled in Antigua, that there were some who insisted that I should appear in the field under arms; upon which I waited upon Gen. Mathew and informed him of my situation, when he was so obliging as to assure me I should not be put to the trouble on that account. But says he you must do what you can be easy with for the good of the community or words of that import. . . ."
1775-09-25 to R.F ". . . . I have wrote Coll. Farley to use his good offices to prevent thy suffering for not appearing under arms in the field. I was amazed when thy father told me thou had wrote for a gun and bayonet. I hope thou art quite destitute of some degree of sense of thy own principles in respect to bearing arms, as that has been uniformly testified against by friends ever since we were a people. . . ."
Copy letter 337
Lancaster 27th. 10th. month 1775
Robert Foster p. Isaac Ecclestone. in the True Blue.
Thy favr. of the 14th. of 8th mo. via Liverpool, I recd. ye. 12th curt. by wch. understand thou had just got mine sent thee by way of B'dos, as no other copy then offerd. I think thy Cousin, Joe Hill, or some for him had been a little negligent in forwarding it to thee. Thou need not wonder that thou was deprived of an accot. from thy Bror. of our tour to Kendal, Windermere Water and Wood &ca., when I tell thee that on the 12th of 4th. mo last I set him and his father 2/₃ over Sandy on his way to Ulverstone, by wch. got the gout, on the 18th. followg. I had a few lines condoling with me in my confinemt. concluding by apologizing for the shortness of his letter that he was not now his own master; From that day till this week now above six months never had the scrip of a pen from him, and now it was forced from him by a gentle reprehension. It is a very happy circumstance that he is so fully employd., it is good for him, and not only him but all Youth, it keeps them out of harm's way.
I think thou should have a better apology for not writing to thy Grandfather and self than of puting us to expence of posta. I know not yt. either of us begrudged the charge of a letter. As to thy staying in the Wt. Indies shall entirely refer thee to wt. thy father or Grandfather may have already wrote thee on yt. head. I know thy stay behind the ship gave thy Grandfather great uneasiness, as he told me, and I am sure it gave me a sensible concern, as thou was an apprentice thou was greatly to blame to stay without leave of thy masters, some of whom seemd. to resent it and with reason; but now as the ship is sold and gone to Jamaica, shall not pretend to advise but leave it to thy Father and Grandfather to advise thee as they may see occasion. If Collo. Farley's people neglected sendg. the sugr. for ye. Sally in time, thou had no right to detain ye. vessel. As a factor it would have been unjustifiable, as sufficient notice was given in time to send the sugr. down, but planters do not consider these things, and often blame others for their own negligence. Thr: Mercy am as well as have been for some years past; thy fr'ds and relations here are all as well as usual.
I was speaking this day to Isaac Ecclestone, respectg. my sendg. of some reliefe to the Widdow Booth, and we concluded that she should draw on me for what sum I shall direct her to draw for paya. in London, and Isaac says he will endorse the Bills and either get or give her the money for them according to the currt. course of Excha. I desire thou will fill up ye. bills by wch. means shall know them to be genuine, let this be kept private, as it may do her more harm than good if divulged and made public. I have only to add that I am &ca. J.B.
P.S.—The 22d. inst. I took thy cousins Billy and Absy Thornton from Yealand where they have been five years, but have not improved to my expectation, shall send 'em next week to Geo: Bewley's school at Kendal. Billy has determined to be a Physician and Absy a Merchant.
This letter contind.
Copy letter 339
N.B. This is a P.S. to Robt. Foster's letter No. 337 foregoing vizt. 10mo 28th. This evening after dark having finished the foregoing letter but not sealed it, I rece'd thy accept. favour of the 7th ulto. which was glad of, as I thought an ansr. to mine p. the James of the 3d. July last was now due. Thou will duly observe what I have wrote in the foregoing letter respecting the Widdow Booth, she was my particular fr'd for many years, so have determined to make her a present of £100 stlg. for her reliefe now in her old age when she labours under many difficulties and hardships, but not of her own procuring, but that of a despot of a husband who ruled the family just accordg. to his untoward humour; I shall signify to thy G.Father that part of the letter thou desires me to communicate to him for thy vindication in ye. disputed point. I am far from entering the lists with thee upon the controvetd. affair of staying over year, but I think I see some places which might easily be battered in breach. Excuse enlarging, the vessel being down at Sunderland or Glassen and suppose near ready to sail. I am &ca. J.B.
Copy letter 350
Lancaster 25th of 11th month 1775.
Robt. Foster p. the Ruby, Capt. Wm. Dalrimpell, by Ed. Rigg, Passenger
Thy favr. of 1st. Octor. I rece'd yesterday via Liverpool wch. hope left thee in health as thou says nothing to the contrary; I rece'd thy acceptable of ye. 14th. Augt, the 7th. of Sepr., and the 1st. Octor. ut supr. I writ thee ye. 29th. of 9th mo. p. Nanny, Capt. John Stables to wch. refer, I also writ thee ye. 27th. of 10mo wth. op:s of the 28th. Do. p. I. Ecclestone in ye. True Blue, Capt. Jas. Stables bound for Jama. but puts Capt. Patten ashore wth. his cargo at Antigua; in which informd. thee that I had rece'd thine of the 14th. Augt. p. Capt. Houghton and that of the 7th. Sepr. via London, wch. has given me full satisfaction, wth. regard to thy enquiry respectg. Eliza. Booth and thou will observe wt. I have wrote thee and her. p. Isaac Ecclestone and doubt not you will take care to advise me of said bill when drawn, that I may give orders for paymt. accordingly. Thy Grandfather rece'd thy letter yesterday when I rece'd mine, he shew'd it to me and upon the whole, did not seem dissatisfied, as thou pleads thy cause so strongly, I suppose it has given him some degree of satisfaction. Thy Bror. Myles has been over a week and returned home again this morng. He seems to be in good health and spirits, and chatters about Pills, Bolus's and Potions &ca. I find the Americans have taken the precaution of sendg. you as much of their produce as they could get away and make money of it before the mandates of their despotic rulers took place for a non-exportation took place. However you will reap the benefit of it this winter and of ye. lumber the ensuing crop. It now appears that the N. Americans conduct has lost them many fr'ds here; for adresses to the Throne in support of Governmt. has flowed from every quarter, very few of the principal towns and cities in England has omitted adressing the king in support of Governmt. and from Scotland amazing numbers has been sent up within these few weeks. There has been one from Lancr. one from Manchester and two from Liverpool, and one from this county which orignated here, set on foot by our High Sherrif, Lord Stanley member for the county came down from London to promote it, and the day it was voted here it was said there was between 2 and 300 names to it. It was afterwards to be sent to all the principals towns in the county to be signed. It's thought before it be compleated, it may have 2000 names to it; so much are the people in this country displeased wth. N. American tyranny that they have lost ground greatly.
The same day there was a Petition to the Throne, manufactured here by the Patriots; they had about 4 principal leaders, some of whom thou knows; they adjurn'd (after they had made as much opposition as they could) from ye. gentlemen at the castle to the Sun Inn, and there advertised in printed hand bills that it laid that eveng. at the said Inn for all who chused to put their names to it and it was said they got about six and twenty, and the market day following they had it at Capsticks for the country people and then I heard they made it abt. 50 chiefly such as was under influence; so thou may see that Lancashire, tho' an eminent manufacturing county as most in England are very loyal.
Thy fr'ds and relations here are all well so far as I know wch. concludes me thy &ca. J.B.
Joe Barclay and wife came to thy Aunt Thornton's last week from Topsham.
1776-06 Letters to Myles Foster mentioning his brother RF and saying he had not heard when RF would be leaving Antigua.
Copy letter 415
Lancaster 7th Octor. 1776.
Fras. Farley p. Thomas via St. Kitts.
Thy favr. of 14th July I rece'd via Liverpool ye. 3d. ulto. and immediately writ to London the same day for Insura. on ten hhds Sugr. p. Snow James, Isaac Higgins master valued at £15. p. hhd. Accordingly it was done at 10 guineas p. Ct. to return 5 if sailed wth. convay for the voyage and arrived safe.
Thy other favr. of 21st. July I rec'd the 1st. inst. via Bristol (coverg bill ladg. and memorandum of goods to be sent thee) The James was taken by a rebel Privateer some days after she left Antigua who put 5 men on board her and some Bristol sailors who they had on board. However they some way or other parted wth. the privateer and recovered the vessel, put the privateers men on board a man of war's tender at Bermudas and so proceeded with the James homewards. Whether the Bristol men overpowered or over perswaded the James's people is not known here, but an express arrived here acquainting Wm. & John Watson the owners with the vessel being arrived at Bristol, and that the people intended to make prize of her and the cargo and sell the same for salvage, upon wch. John Watson set off immediately for Bristol to prevent such an absurd and illegal proceedure and I suppose will order her round here; have not heard from him since he went but expect an accot. from him in a post or two. I send this p. the Thomas via St. Kitts, which only waites for a fair wind. I am much obliged to thee for the notice thou took of my application respectg. my nephew Foster, thy care and advice to him is highly accepta. to his relations here, but his untoward conduct has been a severe stroke to his relations and friends, I think may say it has amazed the whole town who knew of has any acquaintance with him. His grandfather told me he thought it was a more severe stroke to him than when he lost his only son. He has been repeatedly writ to by his grandfather, his father and myself to come home, since he went out last to Antigua but all in vain. He staid behind the vessel before his apprentiship was expired which was a breach of his contract, wch. grieved his Grandfather exceedingly. I sincerely wish he may repent of his folly in time and return to his duty and father's house again like the prodigal son and as truly penetant, and indeed there is no other way to redeem his lost character. I do not hear of any vessel now fiting out for your Island, so thought would just give thee these few lines. I suppose thou wo'd hear of the capture of the James, as it's said the Privateer's people gave a Tortola sloop wch. they had taken to one Willock super cargo on board the James, and some other people in which they proposed to return to Antigua. Some weeks ago I took a ride to Clithero and that neighbourhood, and went to see thy Bror. John and his wife who were very well and happy in their own house. They promisd. to come and stay a few days wth. me at Lancaster, but did not, and if either was any way out of order the other could not come, being true yoak fellows, they are not to be parted being ever uneasy wn. assunder, if it be but for a night in a twelve month. I hope to write thee again the first copy for your Island, and in the intrim am respectfully &ca. J.B.
1777-03-08 to Thomas Thomasson—Tortola ? Mentions R.F. "As for R.F., I am sorry to say it has been guilty of so reproachful a conduct to those of his late profession, that I suppose he shames to hold any correspondence with any of his friends or relations here, notwithstanding it is kind on thee to take notice of him on my account . . . ."
Copy letter 488
Lancaster the 6th of 8th. mo. 1777
Robt. Foster p. Nanny, Capt. Stable.
My mind has been often deeply exercised on thy accot. frequently advising and endeavourg. to perswade thee to live up to the principles thou was educated in and pretended to profess. Read my letters of the 28th. Decr. 1774, the 24th. of 3d. mo. and 29th. of 9th. mo. 1775 if thou have not destroy'd them. I may also give thee an extract from thy letter dated in Antigua the 25th. Apl. 1775 wherein thou says, "I shall endeavour to the utmost to put in practice thy friendly and good admonitions, and sincerely thank thee for thy tender regard for one who shall strive to prove himself thy dutifull and obedient nephew." After such a declaration from thee which had great reason to hope, and with joy believe, had been founded in sincerety and truth from the bottom of thy heart; But alas! Alas! from thy late conduct there is but too much reason to fear that it was calculated to deceive. O! Robert, take care of Hypocrisy, for the Wo was to it from Jesus Christ which thought pains my very heart. What shall I say, or what can I do to reclaim thee? for since I have heard of thy late proceeding, I could conclude no less than that thou was determined to abolish all connexions not only wth. thy father, Grandfather and Grandmother, but with the rest of thy relations and true fr'ds, so that at present there appears no prospect of thy being reclaimed or brought to a sense of thy grievous lapse and breach of duty to the Lord of Heaven and the whole Earth, also to thy Father, Grandfather and Grandmother, wch. has gone near to bring thy Grandfather's gray hairs wth. sorrow to the grave, for he mourned day and night for a long time, and he told me that the death of his only son he thought did not affect him so deeply. O! Robt, what has thou done? For the sake of a little illgotton pelf, thou has set at nought the councel and command of they Father and Grandfather to return home and that from time to time: so that I was ready to conclude, all further application to thee seemd. to me inefectual, for wth. a stiff neck and uncircumcised heart, thou has disdaind. all advice, under wch. mournfull consideration, I thought it was in vain to write to thee any more; but the bowels of tender compassion towards thee engaged me once more to try if happily thou might be prevailed upon to look seriously and in deep humility and contrition into thy own heart and there see thy sore defection and falling from the Truth, and say wth. the Prodigal Son, I have sinned and am no more worthy to be called thy Son, but I will return and say &ca. I ardently wish this may be thy immediate resolution, thro' the assistance of the Grace of a Mercifull God. Myy heart mourns within me when I consider the imminent danger thou art in, should thou be cut off in a moment (as many are) in thy present situation, who has chosen fire and sword, instead of the meek, humble self-denying spirit of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who told his followers, my Kingdom is not of this World, if my Kingdom were of this World, then wo'd my servants fight &ca. I had not the least doubt in my mind that thou wo'd have sufferd. thyself to have been so far deluded by the unwearied enemy to all our happiness so as to have engaged in an undertaking so diametrically repugnant to our principles and holy profession, laid down by Christ himself when upon Earth, where he says, Mat. 5th. 39th. v. But I say unto you that ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. See also Luke 6th. 29th v. and 31st. v. And as ye would that men should do to you do ye also to them likewise. Also Mat. 5th. 44th. v. But I say unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse yo. do good to them that hate you &ca. And the Apostle Paul, Rom. 12th. 20th. v. Therefore if thine enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heal coals of fire on his head. This doctrine is directly opposite to the destroying of enemies with fire and sword, and indeed the Holy Scriptures are so replete wth. the above christian doctrine that I need not enlarge here. If thou read them (as I advised thee) wth. attention thou wilt find sufficient cause to bemoan thy present backsliding wch. I most ardently wish and pray that thou may be prevailed on to do before it be too late, for there is no repentance in the grave. I will now set before thine eyes some of the commands and advices (respecting the duty of children) wch. thou has formerly read but I fear have not had that place in thy mind wch. they ought to have had. I therefore now desire and charge thee to take thy Bible and read them all in reverence and holy fear as they are left upon record by Christ and the inspired penmen of the old and new Testament. Gen. 28th. 7th v. Exod. 20th. 12th. v. Levit. 19th. 3d. v. Deut. 5th. 16th. v. Do. 21st. 18, 19, 20 and 21st. v. Do. 27th, 16th. v. Prov. 30th. 17th. v. Mat. 15th. 4. Do. 19th. 19th. v. Rom. 1st. 30th. v. Eph. 6th. 1st. 2nd. 3d. vs. Coll. 3d. 20th. v. 2d. Timo. 3d. and 2nd v. I could enumerate to thee a number of other texts for thy perusal on this subject but these are sufficient for my present purpose which please to observe are all scripture language and our Lord Jesus Christ declared Mat. 24th. 35th. v. Heaven and Earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away. Now may I examine a little thy motives for thy late conduct. Is it a desire of possessing another man's property?. Yea, Then it is not according to Christ's rule and command wch. I will again repeat, Mat. 7th. and 12th. v. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to yo. do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets. Now I beseech thee, lay thy hand upon thy heart and see if be agreeable to thee that any man sho'd forceably take away thy property, if not, then thou must allow thou art absolutely breaking the law of God wch. says Exod. 20th. 17th. v. thou shall not covet &ca. Also Micah. 2d. 2 3d. and 8th. v. And Hab. 2nd. 9th. 10th. 11th. 12th.
Tho' I cannot write wth. that propriety of language as many others yet hope can so far express the feeling of my own heart so as to be understood, have accordingly set before thee good, evil and most ardently wish from the very bottom of my heart, that thou may be prevaild. upon to eschew the evil and embrace the good and turn to the Lord with all thy heart and wth. all thy soul and love and fear him that made Heaven and Earth and I hope the day of thy visitation may het be received, for there is mercy wth. the Lord that he may feared, but it comes fresh in my mind at this time to say, Have nothing to do with the accursed thing, it will eat like a canker, it was the sin of Achan, he coveted the accursed thing the Babylonish Garment, the silver and wedge of gold, it was an evil covetousness and he suffered for it; the law is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever agst. covetousness which is idolatry; an unjust acquisition (says a wise man) is like a barbed arrow that must be drawn backward wth. horrible anguish, else it will be your Destruction; again he says: Seek Virtue rather than Riches, you may be sure to acquire the first, but cannot promise for the latter. No one can rob you of the first without your consent, you may be deprived of the latter a hundred ways. If a temptation (says he again) solicits think whether you would yield to it if yo. knew you should die the next moment.
Now I hope have done my duty to thee whether thou will hear or forbear but I wo'd still fain indulge a secret hope that before this time thou may have seek into thy folly and wish for a reconciliation wth. thy God and if so and that thou will return a true penitent like the Prodigal. I will use my best interest wth. thy Father and Grandfather to pass by thy late unguarded conduct. It has been reported here that thou had made thy boast that they could not hinder thee from possessing Stablethwt. [sic in the typed copy, but surely sc. Hebletht.] Hall wch. is a great mistake, for I can assure thee it is in his power to leave it to whomsoever he pleases wch. will depend on thy future conduct. Thy Grandmother is very weakly and has been above a yr. occasiond. by something of a paralytic so that she can but with difficulty walk cross the room. The rest of thy relations are pretty well. W. Thornton is bound to Dr. Fell and is there wth. his Cousin Myles; Absy still wants a master. I had the most severe fit of the gout I ever had in my life; it began abt. 20th of 1st. mo. in my lungs and had two drs. who attended me twice a day until it abated, it held me abt. 10 weeks after wch. got out of doors for some time but after wch. it returnd. agn. and held me a mo. longer, am now pretty well again now but feet weak.
If I knew anything further that I could say wch. might gain thy attention I would willingly do it, but as I have said what has come before me must leave the success to the searcher of hearts and that thou may comply wth. my earnest desire and prayer for thy eternal salvation and remain thy mournfull and sorely distressd uncle J.B.
P.S. I saw (suppose) thy last letter to thy Father wth. thy reasons for thy present conduct, if they may be called reasons, but in truth so futile and inconclusive that I really admired from thy natural good sense and education that thou could ever thing of commiting them to writing.
I heard Jane Thornton had a letter from thee some time ago, but was never communicated to me. I never saw it.
no further mention until:—
1778-08-11. Letter to Myles Foster. " . . . With respect to thy Brother whom thou inquires after; can give thee no account as am not acquainted with any advises from him this long time. I heard thy Grandfather say his station was now on board the Defiance, but your Nanny told some folks last week, that he was not on board that ship; that's all that I know about him as he hath rejected all correspondence with me long ago, notwithstanding my ardent wishes for his present and future happiness. I sincerely wish him unfeigned repentance for all his backsliding and disobedience to his relations and friends. I desire it may be a warning to thee to keep close to that principle of Light and Truth that preserves from the snares of the enemy of our happiness. Thine J.B.
Copy letter 684
Lancaster 13th of 8th month 1779.
Thomas Backhouse at No.
Thy favour of the 26th. ulto. I duly rece'd and was glad to find thou got well to London wthout any accident and in good health. Am obligd. to thee for thy accot. of the Pellican, Capt. Lloyd's arrival at Portsmo. as thou seemed interested as to Rob. Foster's safety on accot. of an engagemt they had had wth. a French man of war; we had pretty near the same accot. in Lloyds paper the post after, but it was not for some time that he writ his father wch. gave him great uneasiness. It seems the gentleman was highly disgusted with ye. Lords of Admiralty because they would not confirm him in his Lieutenancy (to which he had been appointd by Capt. Reynold's at Lisbon) as he had not served the stated time, and talked of coming home and turning farmer, however it's said he is gone 5th Lievt. on board the Marlborough who sailed to join the grand fleet under Sr. Charles Hardy
I thought p'haps that some further accot. might have come from him, of which might have advised thee as thy letter required not an immediate answer, but have heard nothing further.
Thy favour of the 6th. inst. came to hand the 9th. advising thy having sent me a box of Tobacco by the Waggon which came to hand the day before yesterday for wch. am much obliged to thee as it will serve me a long time, but may asure thee that it is neither what I expected or desired that thou shouldest have put thyself to so large and expence on my accot. as I has laid in a store of ½ a pd. just before it arrived, have not broached it yet but doubt not it will prove excellent.
Thy Grandmother, Aunts and Uncles are I think near as thou left us; accept the return of their love. We had the 30th. 31st. and 1st. inst. all our windward fleet arrived 13 in number so that we now make a considerable fleet at our quay with what was there before. I hear they sell Bdos'es at 57 and 60/ for the scale, above 2,000 bags of cotton in this fleet but do not hear of any being sold, the cotton buyers keep ... as yet, and some of the merchants do not care to set a price upon their sugar. I see a letter from one of the first houses in London which says sugars are going down ding dong havg. faln above 10 p. Ct. since ye. fleet arrived.
Now I beseech thee as thou art surrounded with temptations and dissipations have an eye to the recompence of reward and let us stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free and not be entangled with the yoak of bondage, for be thou assured that giving way to the idle ridiculous fathions, customs and the corrupt friendship of the World, gend th [sic in typed transcript] to bondage of the worst sort even that of the mind which is abundantly more hurtfull than that of the body. I travail in spirit for thy happiness here and hereafter and am &ca. J.B.
Copy letter 684
Lancaster 30th. of 8th. mo. 1779.
Tho. Backhouse at John Blakes to Darlington.
My last to thee was of the 13th. currt. wch. doubt not wo'd come to hand in course. This is chiefly to convey to thee the distressfull accot. of the death of thy Cousin Myles Foster, wch. is a deep affliction to his relations here.
He was seized with a violent fever at his Master's at Ulverston on first day the 22nd. inst. in the evening and departed this life on 4th. day the 25th. about 10 in the evening and was burred at Swarthmore the 27th. We had no accot. of his illness before the night he died; his father got an accot. of it in the night and set off wth. Dr. Wright next morning abt. 4, but when about half way over Sandys, they met a Messenger wth. an accot. of his death, but I had no accot. of it until after breakfast that morning; in the afternoon we went over and next day he was descently interrd. and accompanied to the grave by a number of friends and neighbours. It is a close trial upon his Father and Grandfather, and indeed to all his relations here as he seemd. the chief hopes of the family.
I thought could not omit giving thee an accot. of this sorrowful event and ardently wish it may have its proper weight with every individual of us, as we see that a youth in the very prime of life is as soon taken away as the aged, when the Messenger is sent to our houses; that thou and I may be prepared for this awfull call is the sincere wish of thy affectionate uncle J.B.
P.S. I see a letter from Bob Foster after we returnd. from Ulverston by which I find he is still at Portsmouth and not gone in the Marlborough as mentioned in my last.
9th. mo. 2d. I had prepared the above to go by 3d. day's post but before I closed it I rece'd thine of the 28th. giving me an accot. of thy seting out the next day for Darlington which gives me an oppy of addressing this to thee there.
We are all in tolerable health, love to all friends, Thine &ca. J.B.
1779-09-07—Letter to Wm. Thornton.
". . .Robert Foster came home on 1st day (as we were going to Mg (meeting) ) to see his father; he looks very thin, notwithstanding his fierce cockade and uniform; I am told his furlough is but for a fortnight, so suppose he cannot say many days here as from Portsmouth here and back again is above 600 miles, I supose he was an very unexpected guest. . . ."
1779-09-21 Letter to Absalom Thornton—refers to R.F's brief visit "Robert Foster being at Portsmouth and having an account of his Brothers death, came over to see his Father and friends and staid a week and returned the 13th instant. He had but 14 days alowed, he had 600 miles on to travel which he performed in about 3 days and a half each way. I do not understand that he inclines to return to his father and friends from his disagreeable employment. . . ."
1779-11-09 Letter to William Thornton—". . . Robert Foster came home last 4th day and has cast of his coat of divers collours for a plain one and seems to be in good heath. . ."
1779-12-10 Letter to Absalom Thornton—". . Thy cousin Robrt Foster came home the 3rd of 1st month and has now quitted the fighting trade, I hope for a better, altho' Admiral Sir Tho. Pye offered him a Lieuts. Com. on board the Ajax a 74 gun ship. . ."
1780-02-23 Letter to Thomas Backhouse.—". . .The 3rd Nov. Robt. Foster came home having quitted the fighting trade. He seems to be unsettled, but I believe would be willing to go master of a merchant ship if the oppy offered, but they are mostly out at present. . ."
1780-04-24—Letter to Absalom Zeigers Thornton. " . . . Thy cousin Robt. Foster has gained himself abundance of friends since he came home, and behaves with great propriety, and now seems quite zealous in support of his profession as a friend, is courteous and civil to all, at the same time bears his testimony against all undue liberties, inconsistent with his profession. I hope if he continue he make a valuable man in the community and at large and amongst his friends in particular. I believe he is this day 26ys of age. . . ."
1780-08-18—Letter to Absalom T. ". . . . I writ thee last the great and desirable change there was in thy cousin R.F. since his return to this place, once might imagine he had never been among seafareing people, for his whole delight seems now to be among friends and is a most diligent and constant attender of Meetings and manfully bears his testimony against drinking healths and light, vain conversation when he falls in company with some of our young ones that he thinks take undue liberties. I hope he will continue stead and an example to others. . ."
Copy letter 766
Lancaster 18th. of 8th. [sic in typed transcript] mo. 1780
Robert Foster at Sedbergh.
Thy acceptable of the 11th. curt. I duly rec'd and it gives me pleasure to find thou had once again renewed our epistolary correspondence which has now been dropt for some yrs. not on my part as I continued p'haps longer than agreeable; however I can honestly and with great truth say I had no other plot or design than thy welfare here and hereafter, as I believe all my letters if have not lost them will testifie and bear me witness. I thought by thy answers that thou received my advice with affectionate cordiality, which I found a concern to give from time to time as opportunity offered.
I say I rec'd thy letter with a degree of satisfaction to find thou had a desire to renew our correspondence though as thou says with a degree of diffidence from what cause p'haps thou knows best; indeed I did think thy long stay at Sedbergh before thou came home last, might one day or other have afforded a spare hour to have wrote a line, or so, to thy affectionate uncle; but however submitted to that until thou found freedom in thy own mind to do it.
I find you as well as we, have had a favourable haytime which yet continues, and in some places I am told, the corn harvest is begun about this town.
I am apt to think Robert does not plead poverty without reason, but as to thy taking ye. management of the Estate, i dare not advise, as I am neither consulted, nor yet have any interest wth. thy G.F, nor others concerned, yet entre nous, I think it wo'd be much better, than to let Robt. stay until he is much in arrear that it will be impossible for him to retrieve himself, consequently so much money thrown away. I like to hear yt. thou thinks thou could make a good practical Husbandman, which I esteem much before theory; I find thou has made an attempt in that line, by mowing and working hay; thou must also learn to hand the plow and shear.
I am pleased to hear thou took so much pains as to attend Kendal general Mg. and that thou proposes to attend York Qr. Mg. next month; I hope thou will profit by it. I assure thee I never find so much real satisfaction as in the company of honest friends, there is a love that far exceeds anything that the transitory world can afford to the well informed mind. I am with affectionate regard &ca.
P.S. Attend to what W.D. advised when thou was there.
Copy letter 774
Lancaster 15th. of 9th. mo. 1780.
Robt. Foster at Sedbergh.
Thy most accepta. favr. of 30th. ulto. I duly rec'd the 1st. currt. I find myself quite defective in expression to acknowledge to thee my dear Robt. the emphatic feelings of my mind upon reading thy affectionate letter; it brought tears of thankfullness into mine eyes to find in thee so sweet, so sensible and so humble a disposition of soul, it has produced breathings in my spirit to the Almighty that thou may be daily strengthened to persevere in thy desires for real and substantial happiness. O! That it was in my power to assist and corroborate and confirm thee in that good disposition which now prevails in thy mind, and I am wthout the least doubt in my mind as thou keeps low and humble thou will be assisted in thy progress through the Wilderness of this world, for it is the humble that he teaches of His ways and the meek that He guides in judgmt. Wherewith (saith the 'Salmist) shall a young man cleanse his ways? by taking heed thereto according to the word. (What Word?) The Apostle Paul to the Hebrews tells us: For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and now says the same Apostle in another place, Brethren I commend you to God and to the Word of His Grace which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified; at the same time it is an incontestable doctrine utered from the lip of Truth; for without me (says He) you can do nothing. (ie. nothing that's good) Let us then take David for our ensample where he says: Lead me in thy Truth and teach me for thou art the God of my Salvation, on thee do I wait all the day; And in another place he says: I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me and heard my cry, he brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praises unto our God. This seems to me to be true Christianity. It is also the command of our dear Lord and Saviour, who saith, Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation, ye spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. And also, What I say unto you I say unto all Watch. Now the desire of my soul is, that thou with me, and I with thee may be preserved daily in this watchfull frame of mind, for we know not at what hour the Bridegroom cometh, whether at midnight, the cocks crow or at the dawning of the day, but this we certainly know, that we have no continuing City here; Let us then, my dear, consider that every moment of time is a Monument of God's mercy to us and it is our incumbent duty as well as our very greatest Interest, to endeavour according to that ability rece'd to improve it from day to day; whoever is condemnable for neglecting the Mercies of God, how much more if we do not by unfeigned repentance and amendment of life wait for his appearance, for it it had not been by and through his protecting providence both thou and I had been cut off long ago, but His mercy to us has been unspeakable, for which let us bless and praise His Holy name.
That part of thy letter which relates to what W.D. mentioned to thee is much to my satisfaction; I am convinced it is from a feelings sense of the situation of thy mind and of thy own unworthyness, which leads to true contrition of soul; but I beseech they my dear do not let in any slavish fear, for thou says "Fearfull that I should not have strength to persevere." Trust in ye. Lord who has all power in his hand both in Heaven and in earth and is able to turn the heart of man as a man turns a water course in his field; let us hope in him and confide in His mercy and His unspeakable loving kindness who said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain. The Apostle Peter says: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise (as some men count slackness) but is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Let us then wait in Faith and in his Fear, true filial Fear, which is said to be as a fountain of Life to preserve from the snares of Death. As I writ thee before, I wo'd not have thee by any means to do anything to save appearances, but what thou does may be from a well grounded hope yt. ye. Lord will strengthen thee to run the ways of his requirings; as thou never has been publickly amputated from the Society, so I think it will greatly add to the satisfaction of Faithfull Friends that thou has found it thy concern to testifie against thy outgoings. Read with what tenderness the lost sheep that straid into ye. Wilderness was brought back to the fold again. Thou will please to observe that tho' I greatly desire that thou may be a true penitent for the sake of thy soul's salvation, yet I would by no means be understood to perswade thee to do it until thou find full and perfect freedom in thy own mind, and think it thy duty for clearing the Society of conniving and winking at the miscarriages of some, whilst others in a more low and reduced station are publick dealt with.
For my own part as thou asks my advice respectg. the managemt. of H.H. it wo'd give me great pleasure to find thee comfortably settled on shore, and I believe thou wo'd find real satisfaction in a rural life, if thy G.F. wo'd but think so.
It gives me pain and affliction of heart I assure thee my dear Robt. that thou should be any ways straightened and kept back rather than forwarded in doing what thou believes to be thy duty, but we must take up the Cross, if ever we expect the Crown and comply with his admonitions who says: A man's foes shall be they of his own household, and further, He that loveth Father or Mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me, he that findeth his life shall lost it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. This is close doctrine but is what must be obeyed by us, for He saith in another place: If a man love me he will keep my words.
I intended to have answered thy letter 'ere now, but as I understood that thou was to be sent for to the Election, and the horse was ordered up before Fenton declined a Poll. If thou had come over as expected, I thought we could converse of matters entre nous, but since writing part of the foregoing I understand thy G.F and Uncle intend paying thee a visit next second day the 18th. inst. health and weather permiting. I am affectionately &ca. J.B.
Copy letter 807
Lancr. 8th. of 1st. month 1781.
Thy letter of 22d. ulto. rec'd the 24th. I thought the piece of coin thou mentiond. had been lost, or ye. man who brot. ye. letter (whom I did not see) might have forgot to deliver it, but soon after taking up ye. letter again thought thou used clumsy wafers at it stuck all to one side of the paper broke it, and out dropt the piece of coin from between two wafers where it was inclosed; I think it a great curiosity.
I also found a copy of the acknowledgmt. which thou had and no doubt thought most naturally sent to thy Father, tho' confess did not not think it full enough and if I had had an oppy with thee in drawing it up I believe it might have been more acceptable to friends and also to thy own mind, in a more ample acknowledgmt. especially the word "overlook'd" did not sit well on my mind, as fr'ds cannot overlook but endeavour to bring delinquents to s due sense of misconduct; for where the Church is kept in the true infallible Judgment as described by the prophet, Psa. 25th. 9. v. The meek will he guide in Judgment and the meek will he teach is way. It is here and here only that true Judgment is given; however I concluded that if the Mg. found freedom to accept it there arose a secret home in my mind that thou wo'd endeavour with all thy mind and strength receivd. to confirm their good opinion of thy sincerity by thy future conduct. Accordingly on first day the 31st. ult. at our prepa. mg. I see thy father there who staid the latter mg. which I have not observed him to do before for a long time and fully expected he would have given in thy Acknowledgment but the Mg. ended and nothing transpired which made me suspicious that there was some impediment thrown in the way, which thy letter of the 28th. that came to my hand the next day ie the 1st. inst. fully confirmed, to my inexpressible anxiety and sorrow of heart. What shall I say or what shall I do for thee my dear Robt. My heart is as it has often been, pained for thee and how to meddle in this affair with thy relatives, is a close question for me to determine upon thy accot. only; as to them I am quite clear, being fully convinced in my judgment that they do not by any means weigh and properly consider thy affecting and distressful situation, for if they did in a proper and feeling sense of thy desire after a more close and Brotherly communion and fellowship with the Society in Gospel love, they would by every tye both natural and spiritual have used every means to have promoted the same for their comfort and thy edification as our time here is most uncertain and every moment of time is a Monumt. to the Almighty's great and unmerrited mercy to us poor frail creatures. Therefore I beseech thee that thou with me and I with thee may strive to the utmost of our power which the Lord has favoured us with, to obey his commands and particularly wherein he says Mark 13 ch. and 35, 36, 37 vs. Watch ye therefore (for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight or at the cock-crowing or in the morning) lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what i say unto you I say unto all Watch. Also Mat: 25. 13 v. Watch therefore ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh; with many other exhortations of the same sort. Also the Apostle Paul 1st. Cor: 15, 13 v. Watch ye stand fast in the Faith quit you like men, be strong, 140 Let all your things be done with charity.
It is as we keep in this watchfull frame of mind alone waiting for the blessed assistance of his holy spirit, the Grace of God that bringeth Salvation that hath appeared unto all men that we can witness safety from the snares of the enemy; for our Lord has declared that of ourselves we can do nothing. Therefore let us waite his time in all things, and I hope and verily believe, as thou keeps here that way will be made for thy reliefe in due time; but in the first place (which did not understand before) there must be something done respecting thy debts in the West Indies, for a proper Certificate cannot be given before fr'ds are certain or at least well satisfied, that the person certified with is clear of debt &ca. I was apprehensive that thou would think me dilatory in answering thy letters. As to the first hou'l observe as above that I was in suspence; the letter I rec'd this day week, the day following was our M. Mg. the day after the Qr. Mg. and 5 day our Week Mg. and sundry other things intervening, could not to my mind set down to write this letter, and indeed even now finding much diffidence attending me in so weighty an affair, but hope as my desires and prayers for thy preservation are sincere and often offered p to the Father and Fountain of all our mercies, I yet enjoy a secret hope (and more especially as thou desires my advice and councel) that thou will by redoubling thy diligence persevere in that course of life which thou art fully convinced to be thy duty and by Divine assistance fill up the place of some of our valuable predecessors who are gone from works to rewards, which that thou and I may strive for is the earnest desire of they &ca.
Copy letter 820
Lancr. 11th. of 3d. mo. 1781.
Thy Father got well home on 6th. day eveng. and yesterday p.m. he and Betty was here at tea, and among other things mentiond. thy being bit by a dog, suspected to be mad and that he had advised thee to take the medicine which he says Esqr. Willis always keeps by him, but that thou seemed to apprehend not danger as he says the skin was not broke and therefore thou declined taking anything on that accot; the medicine has seldom failed if ever when properly taken, and for want of taking it the effects has been dreadful. Tho' the skin might not be broke, and thou perfectly satisfied that there is no danger from it, yet I cannot say that I am so, being under great concern last night on thy accot., and to be short, I desire thee if thou has any regard for my advice, friendship and peace of mind, must desire thee to go to Esq. Willis's, get the medicine and take it accordg. to directions, and immediately when so done, write me that thou has done it, for I cannot be easy until thou acquaint me thou has complied with the earnest request of thy affectionate Uncle J.B.
P.S. If the medicine is not to be had at Sedberg, I desire thou'l send to me; I believe it is still sold in this town as usual.
1781-03-31 Letter of [sc. to] Absalom Thornton. ". . . I may also inform you with pleasure that thy cousin Rt. Foster is from a fighting saylor become a peaceable Christian and has taken up his abode at Heblethwaite Hall and turned husbandman, and is highly esteemed and I believe deservedly for his sobriety and amiable conduct and I hope will make a valuable man in the community in general and in the Society in particular. . . ."
Copy letter 827
Lancaster the 11th. of 4th. mo. 1781.
I make no doubt thou will think I have been very dilatory in answerg. thine of the 26th. ulto. which I did not receive before the 30th. but first must acqt. thee that I do not observe that I have answerd. thy affect. letter of 21st. of 1st. mo. which gave me great satisfaction to find thou seems to think thyself now in they place and endeavouring to act accordingly. As to other things mentioned I hop thou'l strive to bear all with patience 'till way is made for thy relief.
Thy letters of the 13 and 16th. ulto. I rec'd in course in answer to mine of the 11th. The latter gave me ease of mind in a double respect, first that thou had taken the medicine, according to my request, and secondly thy affectionate care and condescention in making me easy and satisfied; and should gladly have writ thee in answer if I had been able, but my last fit affected my hands as well as feet, so that sometimes after writing 3 or 4 lines was attended with such a tremulous motion that I could not form a letter, indeed they are still very weak. But now I come to thy last which I rec'd as above the 30th. ulto. and if I remember right thy father called the follwg. eveng. We had a deal of discourse about thy affair and he seemed very averse to thy acknowledgmt. being presented. (for he first asked me if I had heard from thee; I told him I had, and then shewed him it and thy letter) He said as though had not been disowned, nor dealt with, consequently still a Member and that there was no occasion for it, and seemed bent upon presenting a paper from the Clerk of Sedber Mo. Mg. (I have forgot his name) and insisted that was sufficient. I told him that I was of a different opinion and that the acknowledgment ought to be prior to ye. other, and when that was done, that paper wo'd be a strong corobration of thine; so at last he said, to oblige me he would defer presenting that paper at our last Mo. Mg. and I was not able (not being once up street, nor out (save once in a chaise) for 7 seeks before first day) before last got to Mg. but had set to get home again, my limbs are so weak, and to see some friends which I much desired before I writ to thee to see whether their sentiments coincided with min; accordingly I yesterday got up street and shewed thy paper to Wm. Jepson, Wm. Wilworth and John and Jane Routh, but to all of them privately; they all approved of it very well and seemed pleased with it, particularly W.D. seemed to me much rejoiced at it and appeared quite clear in his Opinion with me that thy paper ought to precede a Certificate being granted, and if the Mo. Mg. thought anything further was first necessary they might depute a fr'd or fr'ds to converse with thee on the subject before a Certificate was granted, but both he and myself thought there was no occasion; however that must be left to the feelings of Friends at the Mo. Mg. so that I hope the affair is now in such a state as may soon bring it to an amicable conclusion which is my earnest and ardent desire for thee, as I would hope there will be no opposition to it, and I am fully convinced the body of fr'ds will rejoice that the lost sheep is by the great and good Shepherd sought out of the Wilderness and brought back to the fold again where my earnest prayer is thou may steadily continue.
I am much obliged to thee my dear nephew for thy kind invitation to Heblethwaite to come and see thee. The last time I was there, thought yt. I should hardly see that place any more, and took in my mind a sort of final farewell of it, but now as there is such a magnet fixt there, should be much pleased to see it once more, which hope may some time this summer, if favoured with ability for such a journey. I was on horseback this a.m. for the first above 7 months and rode out and home ab'ut 7 miles and bore it pretty well considering my feeble state. I find my poor right hand begins to complain, the gout now making an attack on my forefinger, must therefore conclude thy &ca. &ca. J.B.
Copy letter 830
Lancr. 28th. of 4th. mo. 1781.
Robt. Foster at Heblethwt. Hall.
My last to thee was under date the 11th. currt. to which please to be referd. as hope thou rec'd it in course. I have now the pleasure to present thee with 50 seeds of the Stone pine, which I took this week out of a cone as big as a midling eating pine and exactly of the same form and outward appearance, each of those divisions produce in general two or three nuts, the seem to be in perfection; I have never seen any accot. of them in any author in timber trees, but imagine they must grow to a great bulk from the uncommon size of the cones. James Backhouse jr. of Darlington sent the cone to me, he bought it in London for me where the sailors from Italy or the Levant bring them to sell about the streets in London also he sent me ten young plants wch. he had raised last summer which appear exactly like young first, the outcoat full of turpentine, and I take upon me to suppose that the fine Venice turpentine is produced from these trees; would have thee to approprie. a small spot in the garden to plant 'em in rows 3 inches assunder and 4 inches between each row for a trial. I do not know whether the climate will be friendly to them or not, however it's worth while to make the experiment.
Thy G.F will but poorly but think him rather better. The rest of thy friends much as usual. I hope thy acknowledgmt. may be presented at our Mo. Mg. on 2d. day week of which hope to advise thee in due time. I have of late made several excursions of 8 or 10 miles out of home in order to enuse me to greater undertakings.
I am &ca.
Copy letter 835
Lancaster 7th. of 6th. mo. 1781.
Robert Foster at Heblethwaite-hall.
I intended to have writ thee last week, but upon trial (the weather being so exceeding hot and my nerves so much relaxed that) I found myself not able to undertake it, otherwise should then have informd. thee yt. on second day 28th. ulto. at our Mo. Mg. Wm. Dilworth having prepared thy Certificate it was presented and read and also signed with that alacrity and pleasure yt. I don't remember to have seen one signed with so much chearfull unanimity, mostly one in waiting for the pen before another had done, and believe except some boys and one or two at the lower end of the Mg. was signed by everyone in the Mg. so far as I could observe. I hope this chearfull acquiescence of fr'ds with thy request (I think am safe in saying yt. it seemd. to produce a sensible feeling joy in the minds of Fr'ds for thy restoration) will be a means of encouragemt. and strength to persevere in a course of conduct agreeable to the dictates of our Holy Monitor, the Grace of God that bringeth Salvation and which hath appeared unto all men; altho' it is the incumbent duty of fr'ds to deal with such of their members as deviate from the paths of rectitude and rules of the Society by endeavouring to keep the camp clean; yet thou sees where there is a good disposition and desire for reformation, wth. what sincere love and affection such are again rec'd into the fellowship of the Gospel of Peace. O! it is joy and gladness to the honest hearted, and it is my ardent wish and prayer for thee, night and day, that thou may be preserved in a meek and humble frame of mind, thro' this wilderness state of probation, according to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. Learn of me, says he, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest to your souls; O! for this rest and peace at our conclusion; I wish thou with me and I with thee may labour for it, as it will be of more worth to us than ten thousand Worlds at the winding up of our days at the conclusion here on earth; and as I have no other view whatsoever in writing to thee than only for thy good and wellfare here and hereafter, hope thou'l take in good part what little advice may occur to me from time to time as it presents itself to my view as oppy offers, and I find myself impressed with ardent desires for thy good. And now please to give me leave to mention my fears, least thou should be too anxious after outward things and hurt and weaken thy pursuit and desires after that which is more substantial and spiritual which ought always to have the chief place and room in our hearts and affections according to Christ's Command; Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and the righteousness thereof, and other things shall be added unto you. Indeed I have had a jealousy least thy over anxiety for the improvement of the estate by too much fatigue should injure thy health and hurt thy constitution; let thy Adage take place, first creep and then go, for it's a valuable piece of advice. Let your moderation appear unto all men for it holds good in eating, drinking, apparel, also in being too carefull and cumbered about the affairs of this world as also in the government of the tongue, i.e. let your words be few and savory season'd with salt. I was one evening at Wm. Dilworth's with some valuable fr'ds and they being chearfully talking together after supper, one of thie ie, Geo. Boone of Bermingham seeming to recollect himself said (tho' the conversation seemed quite inoffensive) "I am afraid I talk too much". I have thought of it many a time since, and hope have profited by it, for when I have been in the compa. of Fr'ds I esteemed, it has sometimes raised my spirits, so that I have been in danger to run too much into tongue talk, which I have found a check for in my own breast; communicating our feelings one to another I hope cannot hurt us.
I omitted to tell thee when I was upon the subject of thy certificate that it was dd. to thy Father in the mg. to be forwarded to thee; I doubt not fr'ds at Brigflats will receive it with pleasure.
Last 2d. day the 4th. inst. I was at Preston Mg. at the marriage of Jno. Albright and Agnes Pearson, where I see our fr'd Tho. Sill who told me that he intended for Sedbergh G. Mg. the next day and from thence to pay thee a visit. I am much obliged to thee for the kind present of what's called a cream cheese; it was quite different from thy Cream Cheeses they make in this country, and might more properly be called a Butter Cheese as I think, for it was as rich as butter; thy Uncle John and self are very busy with it, and chiefly with young goosebery tart, which has been our frequent supper since we got it and only finished it last night. I never met with anything of the kind so exquisitly delicate.
As thy stay here last time was very short, I had not so much oppy with thee in conversation as I could have desired, but the eveng. thou was at our house and speaking of the dissipation that prevails in these days among most sorts of people thou seemed in particular to be much displeased with a neighbour of thine, who keeps and Alehouse, who imitating some others in making races and other deversions to alure the unwary in idleness and excess for the benefit of selling his liquours &ca. and that if thou had been longer settled in the vicinity and had any authority &ca. thou would have endeavourd. to have dispersed them. I have thought of it several times since and as it now comes to my mind, I believe it would not be prudent to go to these lengths thou mentioned, as it might occasion more hurt than good for people when heated with liquor will neither be advised nor controuled, and there may be a danger of making them commit more sin; would it not be much more safe as oppy offers cooly and mildly to represent to him, or them, as the case may be, the inconsistancy of such conduct and the inevitable consequence of continuing therein &ca. as we may be favoured with ability for such service; no doubt at all but it is our bounden duty to avoid such places of diversion and dissipation and what fr'ds advises against in an especial manner in our queries &ca. I make no doubt of thy care and circumspection in what have wrote above, but as our fr'd Bena. Holme used to say, a caution cannot hurt the best of us. What I write is in pure love in which I remain with love to thy sister and M. Barton &ca. thy affectionate &ca. &ca. J.B.
Copy letter 842
Lancr. 27th. of 7th. mo. 1781.
Thy favr. of the 22d. I rec'd the 24th. curt. desiring my assistance by discharging Leod. Stout's demd. on thee for £8. 8. 10 Antigua Curry. Thou had made a small error in calculating the excha. ie, £5. 1. 4¾ stlg, but upon my casting up find it to be £5. 2. 4 nearest, which I yesterday paid to his sister and took her rect. I find which did not know before, that he is gone out again to the West Indies. It gives me some concern to find so many repeated losses among thy calves and thy cows milking so poorly.
I hope thou art so far establishd. on that rock wherein there is safety alone, that thou'l endeavour to submit with patience to the wise dispensations of Providence, which all work together for good to those who fear the Lord. So long as thou does thy best, with due moderation strive for stillness and resignation without murmering in which I believe thou will find peace; trials of sundry kinds may be permitted for our refinement.
I suppose thou art pretty forward with thy Hay, I suppose people here aways have nearly done; it has been the finest season for it that I remember; I have got my loft full of the best hay I think I ever had. Thy Grandfather got well home about 6 that eveng. and I think seems much improved by his journey.
Am obliged for thy hint respecting Isa. Rittson; shall give Billy a caution to have no further connexion with him than his Tutorage.
Tomy Backhouse left us and set off for London the 17th. curt. and returnd. last night being disappointed in his errand.
We are generally pretty well, and hope this will find thee in the same enjoymt. for which great favr. let us all be reverently gratefull to the Father of all our Mercies.
I am &ca.
Correspondence concerning family and farming matters continues throughout 1781 1782 —
Copy letter 900
Lancaster 25th. of 7th. month 1782.
Robert Foster at Heblethwaite Hall.
Thou may be subject to think me a very negligent correspondt. as am 3 letters in thy debt unanswered, but hope thou'l believe me, when I plead inability. I will begin with the first in course dated 10th. of 5th. mo. which I rec'd the 12th. the very day I was seized with this fit of the gout and consequently deprived of writing to anybody, as I had it in both feet, both hands &ca. and even yet my feet continues so very weak and tender, that to thy G'father's Chapel, yard and Dyehouse in the farthest I have walked now going in 11 weeks, and my left hand still continues weak, so that have been helped hitherto with my cloaths on and off and is with some difficulty I write, my right hand continues so weak and tremulous; however will make an attempt at each. Then to begin with the first. I last week intirely settled John Laforey's accot. and paid the balla. due to him from me to my neighbour Saml. Simpson in which gave him credit for the debt due from thee to the Est. of Fras. Farley dec'd; when he mentioned that debt to me, he did it in the most obliging, courteous manner and left it to thee to discharge it when it suited the convenience. Thou must know that I wrote to him last yr. and desired him to depute some person here in my stead to sell his sugr. &ca. and pay John Farley his qua. as I had done for 20 years last past (as my age and infirmities prevented me from doing it so easily as formerly) His answer was that he knew nobody here and desired me to recommend one to him. Accordingly I did recommend Sam Simpson as a proper person, and he has writ to S.S. that he this year ships his sugr. to his address, and also to me in the most obliging manner to pay the balla. due him from me into Sam. Simpson's hands, wch. have done as above; and may tell thee that I am under extray. obligations to him indeed, for he has got me an old debt in Antigua wch. I never could prevail with either Judge Christian or Collo. Farley to get for me (tho' both my old and intimate acquaintance) a debt of now near 20 yrs. standing which he by his industry has obtained with Interest, and last week rec'd his own draft for the mony amountg. to above £50 stlg. without one penny expence save only posta. of a letter and Bill. I think the above piece of singular service and kindness from a person whom I never saw in my life is very remarkable and merrits great commendations, for I looked upon the debt as doubtfull or rather quite bad.
It gives me great pleasure to find Molly was so exceedg. dilligent and nursed thee so well in thy ilness; she is much to be respected for it, and as to her way of housekeeping, I commend her for keeping the house in a respectable manner, both for thy own credit and reputation as living upon one of the most respectable estates in the parish, but as to this part of thy letter, it is more proper for our conversation when we meet, than to letter correspondence. I now come to thy second letter unanswd. of the 19th. of 5th. mo. As to the first part of it, I hope my remitta. to Capt. Laforey as mentiond. above, I hope will make thee easy in thy mind in that respect so far, and as to thy expence in housekeeping at present, I cannot see, that if thou change thy situation in life and meet with a woman of spirit and that would be glad to keep a good commendable house that thou can expect to be at less expence that at present, and my dear lad suppose thou should meet with one of 3 or 400 fortune, what great difference will that make by the Interest of it in house expence &ca. . . . family of children to nurse and rear untill they are of age to attend themselves; I do not know how far thou may spin that word, real necessaries, I hope thou does not desire to abridge the family of good and wholesome meat and drink, sufficient and desent for their support and accomodation, a charracter is to be supported in housekeeping as well as in other parts of our conduct, but as I said above, I hold this far more proper for personal intercourse than by letter &ca. However I desire to be understood what I have said above is not in the least to discourage thee from thinking of matrimony, far from it, for I approve of it as much as any person whatsoever.
The last is under date the 5th. currt. wherein thou seems anxious for my advice and councel in an affair (in which I do not think myself quallified so well as many others) of the utmost consequence to our temporal happiness which I am sure I desire anxiously for thee; and thou seems to be sensible of thy own weakness and inability to judge for thyself, which is a great happiness for it naturally follows that thou will earnestly apply for that guidance which is our safety through life. I have often thought of that encouragemt. given the Apostle Paul when he was hard beset and besought the Lord thrice, what was the answer? "My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness." And he is the same to this very day to all who seek him in Truth and with a perfect heart. I do not find in my mind any objection to thy present object, being a sober, religeous, and industrious and good tempered person, which are valluable quallifications, far beyond gold or silver, or all the mines of Mexico or Peru &ca. and as thou inclines to change thy situation in life for a married state, I intirely aprove of thy resolution and judgment in making choice of a young woman brought up to and accustomed to a country life, as I am of opinion our young women brought up in Towns and at boardg. school who chiefly learn to dress and adorn themselves (and as I heard Justice Whitehead once say, when they come to wives hardly knew how to make a pudding or raise a tart) are only fit at best for Towns wives, but wo'd answr. poorly for the care of a . . . the country.
I made free to shew thy letters to thy Uncle John who thou knows is a person of profound taciturnity & can be trusted with a secret as well as any man in England as I believe, for his opinion in this weighty affair. He wrote a very good letter and seemed to approve of thy proposal without the least objection, but still thou knows that by the rules of our Society (which are very good) no one can make any overture or proposal to a young woman in . . . marriage, without the consent of parents or relations concerned, and I am convinced and verily believe that thou will not diviate from these rules which has been as a hedge to the preservation of our youth so that if thou find it . . . to proceed in thy proposed affair, thou must come over and have thy Father's consent at least if not approbation. I hope thy G'father will have some weight with him. Thou sees what a long letter have wrote thee with a weak hand and . . . excuse the inaccuricies that may appear in it and believe me to be as I am in sincerity thy &ca. J.B.
I doubt not you are now closely engaged at hay, but hope we shall see thee over as soon as convenient.
Copy letter 937
Lancaster 21st. 1st. mo. 1783.
Thy favr. of 17th. curt. came to hand whilst I was at Mg. on first day p.m. but could not spare time yesterday to answr. it on accot. of other business and particularly writing a long letter to Wm. Thornton havg. rec'd one from his Father Thomason for him, who has been poorly ever since the death of his dear Absy, which I wanted to forward.
As to the substance of thy letter may inform thee that have seen thine to thy Father and Grandfather and discoursed them on thy application, and as far as appears to me, they seem both well satisfied wth. thy proposed connexion with thy fr'd M.T. [sic in typed transcript, but should presumably be M.B.] which gave me a feeling pleasure. I likewise (as thou desired) shewd. thy letter to thy Uncle John, who chearfully agreed to thy proposal. Thou'l now be apt to say but I should have been pleased to have rec'd thine also. Thou knows my dear Robt. my judgmt. in respect to a matter of this moment the very greatest we can be engaged in relating to mundane affairs. As to the young woman thou knows I can form no judgment further than the accot. I have from thee vizt. Religious virtue, chearfulness, economy and industry, all which an ample recommendation indeed, and everything (I think) that can be wished for in a partner for term of life. It is a weighty concern and ought to be undertaken in the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, which I hope you have mutually done; as thou writes me that thou hast a perfect freedom in thy own mind to proceed to the completion of yr. affair now in agitation, and may add you have my hearty concurrance so far as relates to myself; as I hope and believe your proceedings has been in the wisdom of Truth, which is the sure guide to happiness here and hereafter.
In writing this my mind has been deeply bowed even to tears on yr. accot. and my prayers to the Father of mercies is for your preservation and growth in the Blessed Truth you make profession of.
And now dear Robt. indulge me in expressing my feelings for in what thou mentions respecting thy ardour or life thou has had in recounting the dangers thou has been exposed to by thy past conduct and that thou now sees (and I am fully convinced it is shewn thee by that divine Monitor the Spirit of Truth in thine own heart) the inconsistancy of being pleased in relating those dangers. instead of being humbly contrited in heart before the Lord for his preservation and protecting providence to give thee more time to work out thy own salvation with fear and trembling, for there is mercy wth. the Lord that he may be feared, worshiped and adored whilst we have a being here. A jealisy has for some time attended my mind in this very respect, that thou relates those dangers as a pleasing amusemt. but now sees thy great mistake, Blessed by the Lord for all his mercies, and my mind is much relieved thereby.
I one evening after supper was at W. Ds. where was a number of fr'ds conversing in a chearfull manner, amongst others was our dear fr'd Geo. Boone of Bermingham, who after a little pause said: "I am afraid I talk too much". Those few word was such an affecting sermon to me (tho' I had not joined much in the conversation) that I never forgot it at times to this day conformable to the advice of our Lord, Let your words be few and savory, &ca. Many other things offer to my view, as I could write with pleasure to thee of many things as thou always seems pleased with my correspondence, and takes everything I say as intended for thy good but I must now conclude to save the post, and am with that love that neither sea nor distance can ever annihilate
Thy truly affectionate &ca.
1783-01-22 to John Laforay Esq. " . . . My nephew Robt. Foster is going to take unto himself a wife and is intirely settled in a country life and sleep in a whole skin."
Copy letter 944
Lancaster 11th. of 3d. mo. 1783.
My last to thee was under date 21st. of 1st. mo. in answr. to thine of the 17th. since which have been deprivd. of any from thee, tho' thy Father shewd. me one to him some time ago, wherein it seemd. to appear yt. ye. affair between thee and M. T. was postponed for some time, without assigning the occasion which he was at a loss to accot. for, as you in some sort affixd. the time of his coming over. However I doubt not you had your reasons for it; indeed I was not at all sorry for it, as i thought there wo'd not be time sufficient for thee to put the house in any kind of decent order for the reception of a bride, which wo'd willingly hope thou has in a good degree acomplished, as you cannot avoid having visitors on the occasion and some perhaps of distinction. Thy G'F. sometimes complains to me of thy dilitoriness in writing him (which is not right) I desire for the future that thou write him frequently. Thou never can want subject matter in acquainting him how you go on in the course of business; he has not been well and seldom gets out since thou was here the 9th. Decer, and as he has little company has the more time to think and to wish to hear from thee. Thy G'mother is as weak as ever. Thy Aunt Thornton is finely recoverd. of late and hope may be spared to us for some time to come.
Henry Baines was here some time since, and he growles much about that accot. of his. I wish thou had settled it with him when thou was here in one manner or another for he will not speak to thy Father or G'father and I bear all the brunt; he says he has had letters from Antigua that thou has recd. the whole debt. I wish thou would state the accot. Dr. and Cr. as it really stands and give me a copy of it, that I may see what he says to it which seems to be the present needfull from thy &ca. J.B.
This is the last mention of Robert Foster in these letters.