Journal of Dr GFW
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I will now attempt the recital or description of an occurrence which should have been done on the 13th inst. I have seen before many similar before I had a house of my own, and have thought my conduct would have quite different if I had been in the same situation of those who could act cold and indifferent to the sufferer. I am not perfectly satisfied with my own acts on the subject. I will leave it for you to make up your judgement and approve or otherwise by the recital of the whole affair.
On the evening of the thirteenth, as we were seated by a fine blazing fire, in mutual happiness after partaking last meal for the day, I was rather wet and cool, and I was felicitating myself that I was at home and could enjoy the happiness of our situation not probably imagining that any human being was in a less happy situation than myself. While indulging in these ideas and conversing on the occurrences of the day, suddenly a call was made for admittance and the opening of the door was folowed by the entrance of a female with an infant in her arms. She was tall and delicate in appearance. Her face was pale and countenance indicated intenese sorrow. Her child still more feeble and seemed to be verging fast to the grave. She had sought for shelter in this place at several wealthy and poor places, but could not. They turned her from the door and bid her be gone. The night was cold and an infant that requires her care and the sympathy of mankind, or shall we have no feelings for those that have been unfortunate. Shall this poor creature be deprived of even a shelter and forced to suffer in the streets? Here in this pretended Christian town. The refusal by those who profess Christianity in this is a proof of its reality. Such is not hte conduct said to become a true follower of Him who spake as man never spake. We cannot be justified in refusing this requested shelter even if the mother has once left the course of virtue and wandered in the damps of vice. Such is not the case of the infant in her arms. It is free from crime as the child of a virtuous mother, and common humanity requires of us the same help because it is our duty to give relief in distress, and he who will not does not possess a Christian heart. I looked on her in silent commiseration and sorrow, imagining the keen remorse her unhappy situation produces. May she not have attoned for her folly and now leave a course which experience has taught her the folly of? We made her comfortable for the night as we could. I could not follow the example set by my neightbors and drive her from my house. To superficial observer, she appeared to have a mind quite at ease and contented, but otherwise was the conclusion to those who from the sad experience had become familiar with the agony of misfortune. To me, I thought I could observe the appearance of a mind exhausted with those enervating reflections unavoidably attendant on her forlorn situation. We soon all retired for the night and my companion soon fell asleep and left my mind free for reflection and contemplation. I found that a spirit of selfishness was rapidly fillling my mind and my circumstances are such that it requires all I can procure. Yet I wished to do justice and act correctly and make a strict regard to justice. My line of conduct, I said to myself, never act unjustly to any and particularly against a helpless infant and a destitute mother, although that mother may have deserved her present distress. My house must be where circumstances do not forbid a shelter for the destitute and those that require a lodging for the night. Never can I turn from my door the distressed while they properly conduct themselves; never will I say you cannot have shelter here because you have done wrong once; go and find a place in the midst of vice or in the streets. No. It is injustice and inhumanity. It shows a feeling of inhospitality unknown among the untutored savages of the forest and a total want of any philanthropy which ought to dwell in every individual bosom. It is no reasonable or rational excuse to say that the sufferer has done amiss. But now the morning develops a new train of ideas. A new train of ideas which emphatically come home and touch the mainspring of benevolence, placing the benevolent in a critical situation. This morning she declares her intention of staying with me until her infant recovers or dies and from present symptoms it is not probable it will be long, but it may possible live months. But I have not any doubt of the fate of the child. What must now be done? How am I to do? How shall I act and do justice?
I took a view of my family and situation, and I found this situation: I have just commenced a home of my own and have not had time to fix and arrange those things necessary for our own convenience, and am now repairing my dwelling and outhouses and necessarily must have laborers and they require a place and add much to our perplexity, and I have to earn everything by my own labor. Now am I, in justice, bound to keep this unfortunate woman? Does even humanity demand it of me or do the tears of the sufferer call to me or any individual under these circumstances to yield to their melting tones? I think not. My reasons are: first, no person or individual is bound to make himself or family unhappy in order to accomodate others. Secondly, it is the duty of every individual to use his endeavor to diminish the sum of misery in the aggregate and of each individual as much as he has the power, and not diminish the small quantity of those dependent on him. And to do this, of course, our assistance must lie to individuals and this proceed from one to the other until it reaches the extremity of society. Here then I have placed my justification, because if I had granted the request I should have made a greater number unhappy and uncomfortable and from this consideration alone, did I tell her she must seek for a more convenient abode. I gave her the proper direction in relation to her child and the probability of her soon being freed form the necessity of further trouble with and that she would be at liberty to procees to labor free from any incumbrance, but feeble health.