1824: Rev. John Barnwell Campbell, Sr. to John Barnwell Campbell, Jr.

Rev. John Barnwell Campbell, Sr. Gravestone

This letter was written by Rev. John Barnwell Campbell (1784-1847), a native of Beaufort, South Carolina, and a graduate of Queens College, Cambridge, England. He was ordained Deacon by George Tomlin, Bishop of Lincoln, on 12 June 1808, and after a time being Curate in the Parish Church of Broughton Astley in the county of Leicester, he returned to the United States and was ordained Priest by the Rt. Rev’d William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania on 9 June 1811. He was elected to the Church of St. Helena, in Beaufort, South Carolina, as assistant Rector in January 1810 and as a Rector in April 1812.

Rev. Campbell married Catharine Amarinthia Percy (1790-1818) on 21 November 1811. Died in Newport Rhode Island, 28 March 1847.

This letter was written to his nine year-old son, John Barnwell Campbell, Jr. (1815-1891) who was, at the time, attending school in Philadelphia. He later graduated from Princeton University and the New York General Theological Seminary. Like his father before him, John became a reverend in the Episcopal Church. He served as an assistant to Bishop Gadsden in South Carolina for a number of years and then served as pastor of St. Philips Church. He was married to Elizabeth Moore Parker (1824-1887) in 1841.

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Addressed to John Barnwell Campbell, Jun., Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
Care of Rev. Mr. Boyd

[Newport, Rhode Island]
September 28, 1824

My Dear Son,

I am glad that you have obtained a meritorious distinction in your class, but I would wish you to avoid overcharging your mind and you must be guarded against those who over reason upon any subject. Listen most to those who come to some solid and useful conclusion when which the mind can rest with pleasure, security, or any proper conviction of rectitude. I do not know altogether why your certificate is ornamented with a squirrel, a swan, and a hare. But you may possibly remember my saying that comparative anatomy teaches us the wisdom with which the animal creation is formed. Thus, the shoulders of the squirrel is formed somewhat after the manner of the human shoulder blade by means of which he is enabled to crack nuts for which his teeth is particularly well formed; whereas ours are often much injured by that practice which we do not think of at the time but are made to feel in after life. The swan is distinguished for the length and beauty of the head and neck and the grace with which it swims and moves upon the water. I recollect two lines of the poet [William] Wordsworth describing them this, “The swans upon St. Mary’s Lake swim double, swan and shadow!” I did not know until a few years ago that the hare was found in our country. They are met with in the State of New York. One of the sentiments of Socrates mentions that the timid animals have, in general, finer hair. Thus the deer and hare differ from the lion and the wild boar. The remark, however, does not always apply as the leopard has fine hair but is not particularly timid, but rather courageous. Seafaring people have generally coarser hair than those more accustomed to the land. Phoebe’s hair is taken from the silk worm whilst Patty’s and yours sits close upon the head like a duck.

You will remember I gave you a fife at Trenton but I do not know that you ever learnt to blow upon one. The sound is rather sharp and martial but you have a taste for music. A flagelette would suit your mouth and lungs best. Archibald ought to have a taste for music for both his Father & Mother played well. Make good use of your ears. Get a constant habit of resisting inward fear whether asleep or awake and you will save yourselves from many a troublesome hour. Thus some length of time ago, I dreamed or saw in a vision of the night the appearance as I thought of a large building of stone with the legs of numbers of persons hanging over the top cursing and swearing and doubling their fists like a collection of maniacs, but I awoke up and recollected the impressions arose from the swearing character of the English riding upon the top of a mail coach with their legs & feet hanging down. Thus, a thousand frightful things prove to be merely vain images in the memory of the brain or excited there by particular outward causes to which most, if not all of them, can be traced.

I did not hear until Mr. Jacobs came here that Charlotte Stuart and John Stuart were married, nor that Mrs. Nat Barnwell was married until Edwar Lining, who is here, mentioned the fact. I would not have you learn too much but what you do learn, make yourself perfect master of. The greater part of those who have learnt later have no conception of the elegance of the languages or of the grammatical construction. Do not waste your time and receive as little as possible into your mind which you do not comprehend. Some thing must, however, be learnt when trust.

My love to your uncles and aunts and kiss Phoebe and Patty for me and Archibald. Your affectionate father, — John Barnwell Campbell

P.S. Tell Phoebe to write to me.


William Wordsworth

Rev. Campbell refers to a poem by William Wordworth entitled, Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1803. The line actually reads:

“The swan on still St. Mary’s Lake,
Float double, swan and shadow!”


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