W0171 TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from Isaac Baldwin Jr.
Mar 27 1856
To: Dr. Calvin McQuesten, [Hamilton, Ontario]
From: Clinton, Iowa [U.S.A.]
My dear Sir,
The following is of that class, usually denominated--"begging letters"-- and if your experience or rules of action have taught you to "have nothing" to do with such applications you can act your pleasure whether or not you bestow upon this any farther attention. But if you are still open to appeals from the needy I will endeavour as briefly as possible to state the merits of the cause in behalf of which I now ask your aid, material aid if you can render it--at least, encouragement, if we seem to you worthy of it.1
Clinton is a newly settled town situated upon the west bank of the Mifsifsippi River,2 due west from Chicago. The people who have determined to make this place their home come from New England, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio and are mostly of such stock as makes good citizens in any town or State and are desirous of establishing churches of similar faith and doctrine as are those in which they have received their religious education. They embrace Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Methodists.
A few Presbyterian-styled old School--desiring to organize a church and society sent for the Rev. J.D. Mason of Davenport, Iowa, also of the "old school" to come up and organize a church. In connection with and subject to the form of government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America--Mr. Mason came and the preliminary steps were taken for the purpose of organizing a church and society and also by resolution, unanimously adopted the "old school" presbytery of this district, were requested to take measures to organize a church here, and a committee was chosen to draw up articles of incorporation, enabling the Society to hold property &c. under the general law of Iowa, and report the same at a subsequent meeting. I happened to be one of this committee.
A majority are anxious to have it distinctly understood what doctrine and form of church government the Society intended to adopt and maintain and to declare the same openly and for that reason introduced an article into the Charter declaring the object of its incorporation "to be for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a Presbyterian Church in connection with & subject to the form of government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America." A couple of individuals claiming to be presbyterians thought such a clause too restricting, illiberal and not in accordance with the "progressing spirit of the age," and substituted therefore as the declared object of the Society "religious purposes" leaving it for a majority here after to say what the nondescript society should be, if anything, and by means not very reputable to those engaged therein carried their measure by a majority composed of "new school" presbyterians, congregationalists, methodists and persons of no creed at all.3
Wherefore it became necessary for those who wish to know on what ground they stand relative to the doctrine and church government to associate themselves together, upon such a basis as to place beyond question the objects & character of the society now and hereafter and a few of those most interested there upon proceeded to organize and corporate a society to be known as the First Presbyterian Society in Clinton declaring its object to be as above stated "establishing and maintaining a church in connection with & subject to the form of government of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America," hoping by so doing to guard against future troubles & divisions, and also deriving the present satisfaction of occupying before the community an unequivocal position as regards church matters.
The Society has procured a lot where on with some foreign aid, we hope to be enabled to erect a church. For this object we ask your assistance, hoping all things may work together favourably for the promotion of a cause. The effect of which so closely relates to our welfare. We have raised a sum of money to defray the expenses of supplying ourselves with preaching the coming summer and have organized a Sabbath school, wherein we hope to do some good.
The officers of our society are for the remainder of this year John S. Ramsey, Pres. of the Trustees John Houston V.P. Chas. Maclay Treas. Joseph Nimmo and and Isaac Baldwin Secretary. Mr. Ramsey with whom I board comes here from Springfield Ohio. Mr. Houston from Scotland. Maclay from Pa. Mr. Nimmo is the son of a clergyman now preaching in Long Island, N.Y. and we each of us, hope to receive some encouragement from friends in the East. If I have not already exhausted your patience will you favour me with a notice hereof and so very much oblige,
Isaac Baldwin Jr.
1 Dr. Calvin McQuesten received many of these "begging letters," another example is W0175. Dr. Calvin McQuesten retired in 1857 at the age of 56 and "received $500.000 not including the value of the land and buildings, for which he still held the deed" (Minnes 4). He then devoted himself to his favourite avocation, evangelical Protestantism. The writer, Isaac Baldwin Jr., was likely a relative of Dr. Calvin McQuesten's second wife, Estimate R.E. Baldwin (1816-51). She also named their son Isaac Baldwin McQuesten (1847-88). See W2183, January 15, 1856, for a letter from the same writer to Isaac Baldwin McQuesten. Dr. Calvin McQuesten married Estimate Ruth Esther Baldwin in 1844. She was the daughter of Isaac Baldwin Sr. She died in 1851.
2 This is an example of the writers use of the now archaic "fs" construction for the "ss" sound. We have transcribed using the current "ss" construction for ease of reading.
3 We note that in this paragraph the writer uses the lower case for these religious groups, presbyterians, etc., that he considers to be lacking in religious conviction--"of no creed at all."