Whittier As Man, Poet, And Reformer -- By: F. B. Sanborn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:258 (Apr 1908)
Article: Whittier As Man, Poet, And Reformer
Author: F. B. Sanborn

Whittier As Man, Poet, And Reformer1

F. B. Sanborn

It is no light task, in a brief space, to deal with the long and active life of one who was not only Man and Poet, and a Reformer in many directions, at the period of all others in our history abounding in the need and the diversity of reforms, political, religious, and social; but also a typical and representative New England citizen,—that character almost new in the world’s long story, and destined to play so great a part in the drama of civilization on this continent. John Greenleaf Whittier bore in both his family names the evidence that his ancestors had been among the early settlers of New England; and if it be true that he was also descended from a daughter of Christopher Hussey, then he was likewise of the posterity of that sturdy old colonizer Rev. Stephen Bachiler, born four years earlier than Shakespeare, and dying, at nearly a hundred years old, in the domination of his associate in religion, Oliver Cromwell, and his son Richard. This clergyman, dispossessed of his parish in western England, at

the suggestion of Bishop Laud, wandered for a time about England and Holland, and, after doing his part to establish a religious colony at Portland in Maine, and Yarmouth in the Pilgrim Colony, did found and partly organize the ancient town of Hampton in New Hampshire, to which his son-in-law Christopher Hussey, and his three grandsons of the Sanborn name, followed him in 1638 or soon after. The house in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, in which Whittier died stands on a part of the large estate of Christopher Hussey, and the house occupied by that patriarch of New Hampshire was not far off. Hussey also owned land in Haverhill, although he is not supposed to have lived here for any long time. In 1653, Thomas Whittier, the poet’s paternal ancestor, joined with Hussey, Edward Gove, and the three Sanborn brothers in petitioning the Boston magistracy in favor of Major Pike of Salisbury, who had spoken too freely against the Boston tyranny in suppressing Joseph Peasley, another ancestor of Whittier, who felt a call to exhort in meeting, and afterward became a Quaker. Hussey was then dwelling at Hampton Falls, and was one of the few petitioners who refused to withdraw their signatures, when bidden so to do by the Boston authorities; as Thomas Whittier, and two of my ancestors, John Sanborn and Edward Gove, also refused, and were fined for their contumacy. In the next generation most of the Husseys, Goves, and Whittiers were Quakers; for by 1675 George Fox had visited New England, the Boston and Dover Puritans had whipped and hanged Quaker women, — the graceless physicians Dr. Barefoot and Dr. Greenland, aided by Major Pike,...

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