Chapter III. Farewell to Nashotah
AFTER nine years of incessant labor, we find him turning his steps to his father's house, and to the homes and parishes of the numerous friends who had been attracted by his wonderful faith and self-denial. Both Clergy and Laity, from the North to the South, earnestly desired to see his face and hear his voice. No Missionary of the Church, before or since, whether Presbyter or Bishop, ever received such a welcome. He excited a general enthusiasm, which was not in the least diminished in after years, when, at long intervals, he returned from the remote West. He fully met all expectations and anticipations, whether on the part of the lambs of the flock or the venerable and the learned. All classes and degrees of men and women showed for this man of GOD their deep reverence.
When, at length, it came to be known that his tent was to be removed, and pitched in the wilds of Minnesota, the hearts of old friends went with him, and co-laborers were raised up, and new hearts were enlisted--all to strengthen the hands about to lengthen the cords of the Church and drive deeper her stakes.
He had no sooner reached the East than earnest pleadings came from the North and the South, from the large cities, from New England and from South Carolina. The Clergy informed him as to the time of their Convocations, that he might thus see many of the brethren at once and present the claims of the vast fields white unto the harvest. He had not been East but a short time, when the Rev. Timothy Wilcoxson gave himself to the work. In a letter addressed to him on Easter Monday, he says: "I cannot but bless GOD for disposing you to engage along with me and others in the formation of a second Nashotah Mission in the Northwest."
It may, perhaps, be well here to emphasize some things, in connection with the story of Nashotah, which might not otherwise strike the ordinary reader with sufficient distinctness. The root idea of Nashotah, originally, was that of a Religious House, conducted on some approximation to the principles of a Religious Order. Formally, indeed, there was no taking of the permanent vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as in Monastic institutions. But the entire self-surrender took the place of "poverty" (they were as poor as the Mendicant Orders were at their beginning, and lived in the same way on the alms of the Church); their all being unmarried--with no thought of anything else--took the place of "chastity" in the monastic view; and their joint labor, under one head, was the very inadequate substitute for "obedience." It was the actual asceticism of the working system at Nashotah, which struck the sensitive chords of the Church's heart, as it always does, and produced a depth and strength of sympathy, and glowing admiration and liberality, the like of which our American Church had never known before.
But while Mr. Breck was devoted to "the System," 's colleagues were by no means equally strong in their convictions. One of the original "three" soon left them, to return no more from the East. Another, who remains there to this day, a veteran pillar in the edifice, was more of an educator than anything else, and after his return from the East would not take any share of responsibility in running "the House"--as the original "system" was called--or in keeping up its "discipline," by which word was meant the "rules" which constituted its peculiarity as a Religious House. The educational part of the work, meanwhile, was steadily increasing in magnitude and importance. And when the property was all put into the hands of "Trustees," and one of the Professors took to himself a lovely wife, it was plain that the original "System" was no longer in working order. That the change should have been accomplished not without friction, and some heat, and great soreness of heart, was none the less a bitter trial because, in the nature of things, it was simply unavoidable.
The heart of Breck clung to his favorite "System:" and, indeed, the intensity with which this original System or Plan had seized upon his mind and heart may be seen all the way back from the beginning, and can best be understood by a retrospective view, devoted to that one point. Even as early as December 3, 1840, while yet at the General Theological Seminary in New York, he had occasion to write to Bishop Kemper concerning a most flattering opening in Iowa, which was offered to their acceptance, through the Bishop of Maryland, but which would have required a modification of the original plan, so that the members of the Mission could not live together in one House. Mr. Breck says on this point: What we object, to our being scattered, instead of being stationed at one point, under one roof, held together by one System, are the following reasons: 1. Unity of action is greatly impaired. The inexperience of ourselves as individuals, which the united judgment of all would greatly counterbalance. 3. There would be little security against our soon modifying it yet further, and becoming parochial ministers simply. 4. The original System is calculated to live, should it once be planted, while the modification is subject to speedy dissolution. 5. Our number has decreased already from eight to four, consequently the stronger reason for combined action for those who are left.
After the first year at the West, when Hobart had left them, and just after the Bishop's visit, at which he had made Breck the Head of the Mission, he thus writes to the Bishop, under date of Nashotah, 22d of October, 1842:
.... Contrary to my wishes, and drawn to it purely from force of circumstances, I received the Priesthood. It was but a few days previous to your visit to our grounds, that I went to Adams, and solemnly affirmed my wish that he should take Priest's Orders, and my readiness to pledge obedience to him, under the Bishop, for six years to come; but to this he would, in no manner of respect, assent; on the contrary, declared that he would not receive Priest's Orders unless I did myself. Being persuaded that we could not continue another year without the Holy Eucharist (to save, if possible, our almost shipwrecked Mission), I resolved to let myself be ordained, the will of GOD not preventing. I have been ordained, and furthermore have been appointed by yourself Head of this Mission. It is unnecessary to state my unfitness for both these offices. My learning is nothing, and my natural faculties are weak, and it yet remains to be proved whether I have not committed a grievous sin in entering upon the Priesthood under the age of thirty. As respects the headship of this Mission, my being constituted as such was the work of others solely; and I shall look to you, Right Reverend Father, to appoint another in my stead, so soon as my deficiencies appear, or another at all qualified shall join himself unto us. I am ready to work just so long as you shall think it fit, according to our first Principles; and I trust I am ready to do this under the rule of another, no matter who it is, only so that he is a Priest, and appointed by the Bishop. If we can have the Holy Eucharist weekly, and be under a strict Discipline, then I believe in my heart that I shall be capacitated to do active work in the Mission field. But to act in a higher capacity I have many serious failings. But--as I have already stated--so far from maintaining any rights to the station now held by me, I shall, upon the least intimation by you, give it up, and become subject to another. We are as yet small, but, by adhering firmly to our first Principles, the time will be when we must be strong, and then it will be necessary to have a strong man for our head.
Inasmuch as we are now diminished to two, our work must necessarily be slower than it would otherwise have been. Our students, for a year or two, must be few in number--the object being now to gain strength rather than magnitude. When this is accomplished, then you may, dear Bishop, look for something both substantial and durable....
The number engaged in the Mission had fallen from eight to four, and from four to three, before they even left New York. In a year the three became two; and after the return of Adams from the East in 1844, he was practically only a most valuable teacher, but not an active member of the House; so that the two were reduced really to only one. Changes were made the same year, and lay brethren introduced,--a deviation from the original plan, but one which promised well for awhile. On the 19th of November, 1844, he writes to the Bishop:
We have every cause to cheer us in our undertaking, and it would be criminal to falter. Everything is working together for our good. We must, with the increase of four brethren, strengthen our Discipline,--self-denial, in opposition to luxurious habits, must be practised daily; and this, I trust, is the path we are walking in. Our work is one of years even yet, and I hope in GOD the Church has strength enough in her unworthy servants to carry it on. I deeply mourn my own faithlessness, and averseness to the spirit of a true Soldier of the Cross of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. Will the Bishop always be so kind as to reprove me for all my many faults? I am young and inexperienced, and often, often wonder how I ever came to occupy the post that I do. We now number thirty-three in family, and I have the satisfaction to assure the Bishop that our System has never before been so compact, and so fitted for building upon, as at the present moment. If we are only true to our Principles, we must be like the arch that becomes stronger in proportion to the increase of pressure upon its keystone.
These expressions of confidence and hope were natural in an ardent spirit, in whom hopefulness was strong. But sign after sign is given, in his correspondence with the Bishop, that the new modification was not, in all respects, the brilliant success that was anticipated. The following April he writes:
That I am and have been indiscreet respecting many economical arrangements connected with the well-being of the House, I pretend not to deny; but this must be charged to my youth and inexperience. The past year has given me wisdom in these respects, that I did not suppose possible to be gained in ten. It has been dearly purchased, but is nevertheless of the utmost advantage to me, in whatsoever sphere of labor I shall be cast during life. Again I repeat to the Bishop, that I am and have always been ready to state candidly all our plans and designs here at Nashotah to the Bishop; neither am I aware of a single plan or design that has been on foot, or now in operation or contemplated, that the Bishop has not in full possession.
In July he has already discovered that making his students "lay brothers" did not amount to much, so long as there was no definite bond connecting them with the House at least for a given time. On this point, both he and Brother Adams were firmly of the opinion,--
That at the close of one year's Probation, they shall pledge themselves in the most solemn manner to the service of the Institution for the space of three years; and that, at their close, to leave if so- disposed, being no longer bound by our rules. But if content to remain, to pledge themselves for a year or more (not less than a year) in like manner; so that nothing during such interval shall cause them to create either difficulties in the Brotherhood, or vex their minds with calculations about the possibility of leaving. And, under such provision, no one must be admitted Brother that is in debt.....
Early in December, 1845, he writes to his Bishop, showing signs of more than one kind of trouble, without and within:
.... The times are truly most peculiar, and it is the duty of the clergy to give as little offence as is possible. I have been examining myself a good deal of late, and to my Bishop I confess that the practical inability of the Church to receive Catholic principles freely and unwaveringly has influenced me to live much in by-gone days, and to turn away with disgust from the present party-strife; as Brother Adams has said of me, that I should have been born 500 years earlier. And such, in truth, has all along been the craving of my heart, not for the present, not for the future, but the past, though I would date it a little earlier than the period that the above time would lead me back. The Bishop himself has doubtless seen this, and therefore gathered therefrom my imperfect view of the Church as she is here in America. I candidly confess that I have never desired any other life than such as I now lead; and I pray the Bishop not to abandon me, or eject me from this sphere of duty because I open my mind freely unto him. Parochial duty I love; and yet there is some internal movement in my mind driving me from it. Even now, when visiting families where I am persuaded that it is considered that I am thereby doing them a favor, I feel ready to sink through the floor, and never step beyond my dwelling again. .... My element has ever been, and must ever be, in a systematic body of young men; neither is it in the capacity of a schoolmaster, but one of a System. I am pretty much indifferent what position therein I hold, only so that the Discipline is strong, and strenuously carried out. Every system must be gradual in its growth to be permanent; and hence, whilst speaking of a strong Discipline, I am perfectly sensible that our own has been in many respects very imperfect, and which time alone can rectify, and even now it is being rectified. But, Right Reverend Father, I must come to the point mainly dwelt upon in your letter, namely: "That the times are such, that it is most evident to my mind, that our effort must be, to show forth the Church, not as she was in primitive times, or at the days of the Reformation, but as her Creeds, Liturgy, Rubrics, and Canons require."
By this, Sir, I am ready to stand, and also am persuaded that the Church can only be brought up to the Primitive standard by acting out her present capabilities to the full. I am furthermore anxious that the Bishop should visit us, and make such alterations in our present system and Discipline as he thinks expedient. I can readily understand the necessity for an experienced head, where both youth and warmth of temperament unite in the same individual..... I do the more cheerfully submit my will and personal wishes to the Bishop, only asking the forbearance that the times will grant me. I shall now expect to be commanded, and I promise to obey. I do not ask the Bishop to consult my feelings, but what will be most serviceable to the Church. Whatever may be the impression abroad, I am well persuaded there is no Romanism in our House.....I have uniformly suppressed all Romish books and other things of Romish stamp. I desire the Church to know us as a body belonging to the Church, and pledged, soul and body, unto the Church. Only in things innocent, that cannot give just cause of offence, I pray the Bishop to spare us. .... We do want more than the bare Principles, though nothing that is contrary to the Principles, or that would have the appearance of denying them.
In the same month we find him thus writing in regard to Brother Adams,--which we gladly put on record here, though a little aside from the main point of these extracts at present:
......If Brother Adams leaves this, there is scarcely another man in the Church (certainly not another that would come West on three or five hundred dollars) that could supply his place. I firmly am of the opinion, and have been so for some time past, that, notwithstanding his peculiar temper of mind, he will stand by this Mission for many years to come; and he did last night express this same wish to me, that, provided he could live out of the House, as for instance at my brother's, and be excused from Sunday duty, he would give us six hours a day for six days in the week......He would attend services at our Chapel. My desire is, that he shall be allowed this, for such another theological teacher, in respect to conveying Divinity, and putting students forward, and instilling into the dullest the desire for study and determination to study, is not, other things equal, hardly to be found in the Church. He is too important a man to be put into a parish. Brother Adams is further very desirous of making the School one of a high order for learning, and this implies permanency in him. To admit of this, I promise to make an effort amongst my friends and some others to raise a sum of $500 yearly for three or five years, which shall be appropriated to him. We are of dispositions as opposite as the poles, and yet of the very same stamp of Church feeling and principle and aim for the Church: this much might not be found between myself and another clergyman in the Church...... He loves society, and especially female society. He will be content at my brother's, until he is married; and then we may be able to build him a house, which we are not, at present, for him or any other clergyman.
In June, 1846, we find him still trying to persuade himself--with the affectionate perseverance of a hopeful enthusiast--that the "original design," though so far modified already, is still in a way to be realized. He writes to the Bishop:
Thank you, dear Bishop, for ... the assurance given me in your letter, that you desire no relaxation in the "original design" of Nashotah. And I am not only myself more and more persuaded of its great necessity for the future well-being of the Church, but the more thoughtful of our clergy are also of the same opinion. I believe, Sir, that in case of heresy or error of any kind creeping into the Church, these Institutions, once founded, will be the powerful barrier against their progress. I begin to feel this to be the working of our own system already: CATHOLIC TRUTHS without party,--PRACTICE, not theory or romance.
And yet, by October of the same year 1846, the increasing internal friction drew from him the following significant letter, in which we substitute initials, in alphabetic order, for the names of individuals mentioned:
......Mr. A., as well as every man with us except Dr. B., has been perfectly undisciplined previous to coming to Nashotah. I have had, at the very commencement of an arduous and most trying undertaking, entirely raw material to deal with,--nay, in most cases, worse than raw,--half-baked, to use a vulgar expression; for little can be done with food in this condition. Such men I have had to train in various lines of duty, that only the most perfect in respect to patience, obedience and humility could be expected quietly to submit to. Now that I have had some experience, and know somewhat the value of trained men, through the much annoyance of ill-trained ones, I have firmly resolved henceforth to consent to no student, however smart, however talented, taking the least advanced position from that of his class. The students owe a debt to the House, they have many and various duties apart from their studies, and these I am bound to see attended to by all parties. Brother C. was granted many privileges, and the Mission suffered ten times the receipts of money paid in for him. Mr. A. has been advanced; since which time he has given me five times the trouble of an ordinary student, and gives me trouble now; and were it not that February next were so near at hand, I would put him through a system, such as he ought to have gone through under all circumstances, for he is now the very least fitted man for a hard struggle. But between this and February there is no time for me, and he goes forth an ill-made divine, but perhaps no worse than the generality of the clergy. Mr. D. with his lay-reading has given me the very same trouble, and he is almost untouched by our Discipline. Mr. E. has been hurt by his late difficulties, but Nashotah has alone availed him in ever entering the Ministry. Mr. F. is a rare child in many things; but what has been done for him has been of the nature of a miracle. He is wonderfully changed for an old tree, devoid of all sap: and even now, he has no more unction than a Quaker. Mr. G. has been benefited, but too frequently interrupted by sickness and other causes to have been perfected. Dr. B. is the only perfect man! Mr. H. has been put ahead, and he commenced giving me trouble; but I have resisted, and will resist it, in him and all others. He shall go back, rather than interfere with the DISCIPLINE of the House in any degree. Sometime since, I informed the Bishop that it was not suitable to have any more students in the condition of Mr. I. They must all be in the House and of the BROTHERHOOD. I am now fully persuaded that no student, even as candidate, and for no part thereof of the candidateship, must be excused from any portion of the allotted labor, at any price. They must leave the House, rather than burden our System. I am well and fully persuaded of this, and have not come to any hasty conclusion.......Men with us, must be wholly with us. They must be poor men yet awhile: but after the System has sent forth its few courses of DIVINITY STUDENTS, its very weight will alone keep it moving right onward and right through all who put themselves under its influence. I ought never to be out of the yard of this House; and I believe, from next Easter, it must be so. Night and day, year in and year out, I must be in the very midst of my Brethren.
If I am not, it will occupy twenty years in doing the work of five. I must work in the System, and be its very life-spring. If I am its soul, the soul must be in the body. I am sure that there is a greater or less degree of fault every time that I am absent. This constant weakening and strengthening will never do. It will not do in an ordinary Institution; and here, where there is an intricate system attached to it, it must necessarily be far worse. I could write this page and the next full; but my time has run out, and the rest I will speak, the Bishop willing, by word of mouth.
This being already the condition of things in 1846, it is no wonder that by the beginning of 1850 they had come to a crisis. Mr. Breck had arrived at the East about the 6th of January, having come for the purpose of procuring aid, personal as well as pecuniary, for Nashotah; but consultations with Eastern friends coincided with letters from the West, to satisfy him that the time had come for a radical change of some sort. Already, on the 26th of January, he replies to a letter received from the Bishop:
Your long and interesting, but somewhat painful letter of the 9th inst., was received last evening at my father's house, where I have as yet passed but three or four days. I wish now to write you, dear Bishop, a full and free expression of my views, and the views of my best friends here, respecting Nashotah and myself. I left Nashotah in the honest purpose of heart to secure co-laborers for the same. But I find it will be impracticable to procure men for Nashotah as a divided House;--I mean, a House that has a married and an unmarried atmosphere about it at the same time. I have most keenly felt the unnaturalness of my position for two years past, and it has been growing more and more upon me ever since. I am not prepared to marry, though as a man alone (without associate un-married clergy) I should be both more happy and do more good were I married, than I could possibly do otherwise. But I feel my calling to be a hard life; and married, this cannot be. The living idea of "unity and concert of action" kept me for several years; and, night and day, it was the only thought in my mind in all that I did,--hoping continually that laborers would join me. I am persuaded that laborers will yet join me, or I them; and the System, so long sought after, and prayed over, and prayed for, by so many, will be yet realized. After explaining matters to Dr. Muhlenberg, Mr. Parks, and a number of others both clergy and laity, the almost unanimous conclusion is, that it will be absolutely impossible for me again to recover, at Nashotah, the integrity of the System aimed at in the commencement of the Mission. Several of the clergy (Dr. Muhlenberg, Dr. Seabury, Mr. Parks, and others) have openly invited me to begin again the same system for the poor in the city of New York. I should have both a Church Hospital, and a House to live in. But I have uniformly told them that my life was devoted to the West;--that I should return to Nashotah, provided the System could be again carried out there; but if not, I wished to go into Minnesota Territory, provided clergy would join me there; and if not, I would go wheresoever they would co-work with me, or I with them, for I have had enough of governing. A young man should never be permitted to exercise rule. Had I not been compelled to the charge of Nashotah, I intended remaining a deacon till thirty years of age; and I promised Brother Adams to obey him for ten years, if he would assume the control of matters at Nashotah, but he would not. Therefore--wisely or foolishly--I assented; and no one has joined me, in the capacity in which I have labored, to this day. Now, my dearest Bishop, I do not wish to run away from Nashotah, much less to involve Nashotah in any difficulty that may injure her prospects of usefulness for the Church. But I think all must be persuaded, by this time, if they have not been heretofore, that I am not the person to carry forward this work to its completion; and that the longer my continuance at Nashotah should be, the deeper and more inextricable will the difficulties also become. I do not refer to pecuniary considerations, but to the unnaturalness of the system, breathing two atmospheres at the same time. There appears to be a crisis in Nashotah at this time. The Mission ground is occupied by parish clergymen. I have no longer any charge amongst the people. The House is evidently in a very disturbed state. The younger members of the Divinity department will leave, perhaps all, saving the candidates; and these last, as a body, would I think prefer another clergyman to their charge. What better period therefore can arrive for making a most salutary change? . . . The school will be entirely CHURCH. It has a charter, with devoted trustees. It will do effectual work for the Church, as St. Paul's College has, and St. James's, and other Church institutions are now doing. As respects the pecuniary aspect of things, all, I think, can be set aright.....Therefore, if I leave the House with her original purchase of 465 acres free from all debt, and the Institution in possession of a number of "buildings and a good farm, &c., and the House well (abundantly) provided with bed and bedding, and the young brethren more than decently clad, besides having on hand a considerable amount of clothing, and scholarships that will certainly be continued, I think none can blame me very severely in this the result of an experiment. I am so far firmly persuaded of the truth and efficiency of the System, as to be ready to embark in a like effort again; and the experience already gained will prove of the very highest service to me. I shall be enabled to ward off evils that are seen in the distance, which heretofore have arisen to our exceeding confusion. I am only ambitious to serve the Church well, according to the little ability that GOD has given to me. I have no thoughts of greatness, a great name, and the like. I simply wish to labor in my own sphere of duty as faithfully as I can and do my own work as quietly as possible. These are the true and sincere emotions of my heart. Now, my dearest Bishop, why detain me where I cannot work? The difficulties of Nashotah are not the cause of my present state of mind. If they were ten times so many and so great, I would face them with good courage, and strive long, were there not direct inconsistencies growing out of the system itself,--I mean, its present complex character. I have felt this for a long time,--long before the present evils or discord had any being. This I wish to be clearly understood by all my brethren, for a disreputable thing I abhor, as the running away from difficulties would be. I expect difficulties wheresoever I may go. It would not be earth, to be free from them. But not to multiply words, that which I propose is for the truest interest of Nashotah, and the good of the Church elsewhere,--if I am worthy of her Vineyard.
I ask, therefore, of you, my Bishop, in case I am relieved at Nashotah, to permit me to go into Minnesota Territory, for the purpose of beginning another "Associated Mission" there. That Territory is under your jurisdiction. I have no wish to go from under yourself. And I will labor with all zeal and self-denial again, provided you are willing again to receive me into your field on the same understanding as that with which I left the Seminary in 1841 for Wisconsin. I profess to be a true and loyal son of the Church. I am no Romanizer, and I am well satisfied that the Church to which I belong is THE BODY OF CHRIST. If you assent to this, please reserve St. Paul and the ground generally, for us; that is, please leave the ground open for our examination and choice. I have told Brother Adams that I withdraw all claim to the loan made by me to the House prior to the reception of the charter. And to show my interest in Nashotah, in a will that I made a short time before leaving for the East, and duly witnessed, I made over to the House the property that is to fall to me on the decease of my dear parents. I have been received everywhere and by all with the very greatest kindness; and all see, with me, the necessity for my change, and all highly approve of my going again on to the frontier, where, as yet, not a missionary of the Church is laboring.
Please, dearest Bishop, give all these things their full consideration. If you determine on ------ as my successor at Nashotah, act freely and fully as though I had already resigned. To secure so good a man is a point of vast importance. I hope Brother Adams will labor along with him; at least, I hope he will consent to try it. He will, I believe, find that I was the source of all the confusion. This may be the case again, even in Minnesota, but I think not. At all events, I do not wish to be the head; yet I will be, if it is required for the existence of such another Mission.....I should wish Brother Akerly to be informed of all that is in this letter. When the charter was received, I had no suspicions of------'s defection, and the entirely isolated position that I have since had to hold.
The Bishop's prompt reply decided the question which was now ripe for decision; and in the following letter of Mr. Break's in rejoinder, it will be seen that he goes over the entire history of the successive departures from the original plan of 1841, and of the entanglements arising therefrom, thus demonstrating with the utmost clearness the correctness of the explanation we have given of the great change now to take place:
BRISTOL, PA., Feb. 7th, 1850.
My Dear Bishop: Your important letter of the--January, 1850, was received yesterday, and it has decided the question about which I have been writing to yourself, Sir, and to others in Wisconsin. I am fully persuaded that I am unfitted for the post of responsibility hitherto held by me at Nashotah. In the first place, dear Bishop, please recollect that the only condition upon which I came to Wisconsin in 1841 was, as one of a band of clergy. You would certainly, Sir, have never had my labors in the West as an isolated (single-handed and singly-equipped) Missionary. Until the "Associated Mission" was projected, I was expecting to go into Northern Pennsylvania; and it was only possible for me to leave Bishop H. U. Onderdonk by both yourself and Mr. Hobart visiting him in person in my behalf. Work was also had for me in a Diocese neighboring to this. But for the greater good to the Church, as I conceived, I gave up the pleasures of home and of domestic life, for the toil of the West and celibacy. I considered that I could bear these along with a band of clergy only. I therefore consented to go, and threw myself heartily into the System: but 1 never dreamed being made the head of the Mission, being left alone in the System, and continuing so for a number of years.
When going into the West, I expected to have been forgotten by many of my friends here, and certainly not to have made new ones. But by reason of the isolated position that I have so long held, the Church (not through any willing publications of my own) has associated the Mission itself and myself together, as though we were one and the same.
When deserted by all my clerical associates, I found myself surrounded by a body of Divinity students. I hesitated disbanding them, and did therefore, with the Bishop's consent, for my further assistance in the administration of affairs (mainly the temporal, and for governing whilst absent myself upon Missionary duty) organize the Lay-Brotherhood. This was a scheme never calculated upon by the original founders of the Mission; and only devised by me to meet the exigencies of the case, expecting clergy to join the Mission in two or three years. And it will be remembered that, at the late meeting of the Trustees, when I was so kindly permitted, for my own comfort, to return to the integrity of Nashotah, I did not wish the Lay-Brotherhood to be revived. So that the evils arising out of that scheme are not to be attributed to the original System itself, but to the want of co-laborers amongst the clergy in the House, under one Discipline, and laboring for its furtherance amongst the students and themselves. There has not been one such clergyman with me, since the time Brother Adams first left me. Others have been in the system to some extent, but not one has in himself recognized the System, and given himself up to it. Hence I must say, that the System of our Associated Mission has never been tested at Nashotah.
And yet I must confess that all the power that has displayed itself there has been owing to that 'System; for by it (in myself) I have labored unceasingly, and realized it to the full in myself, and in what I was able to do, and which did the work of the Church, until my energies as one man were spent. And hence when the Lay-Brotherhood was changed in 1847 by the clergy assembled at Nashotah, this very realization by me was clogged, and as may be seen in my address, Sir, to the Trustees, one thing after another happened, till all the spirit of the old System was gone.
I am not, my dear Bishop, censuring any one. I am willing to bear all the blame; but if my friends will hear and judge, I think they will perceive that the legitimate issue is now a CHURCH SCHOOL, and this mainly. I am persuaded that the head should be a married man; and, were I prepared to marry, it would be unsuitable for me to make the change; but I am, dear Bishop, persuaded, by the candor of your letter, of my un-fitness for the post again under any circumstances. The un-naturalness of my position has made me change about from one thing to another too much, as you state; and the elder students, undisciplined in youth, have been unyielding afterwards, and this has not been duly considered by me. Again, I have been severe, at times. The immense pressure of all sorts of things upon myself alone, from the merest trifle of every department of labor (a department unknown in every other institution, and of importance enough for one man's time certainly), through the other departments of mere secular business of all kinds,--providing (and judging of) clothing for old and young, keeping the accounts, &c., &c.,--the pressure of all these callings (I may term them) up to the SACRED OFFICES of the House, and the correspondence (which last arose out of voluntary ALMS and circumstances) all have pressed upon myself alone, until they have well nigh pressed me under the waters. Therefore, when it was said by my "truest friend," in "Wisconsin," "that of $1000, I would spend two-thirds foolishly, and the remaining one-third more economically than any other man could," he certainly could not have reflected upon the above circumstances, and did not furthermore reflect on the fact, that I was in MY place, only (by the original compact') ONE-THIRD of the System; and, therefore, if I did my one-third better than any other man could, I did my part well, at least.
But I am willing to leave the whole matter to the severest lay-judges, and ask them whether more could have been expected of one in an unnatural position, as I have been in (not in the System as I contemplated it), and by voluntary ALMS have entirely supported, by food, clothing, books, stationery and many other personal expenditures of a kind furnished by parents only to their children,--a family to the average number of twenty-five for eight years; and also have built many houses, and opened two farms, &c., &c. And all this within nine years, without having once made a. public appeal, and but once or twice complaining seriously to my Bishop of our wants, &c. I am willing to leave to the severest judgment of friend or foe the facts in the case: and if they should then confirm what my "truest friend" has said, I will confess to a fault that I otherwise deny absolutely. I am mortified, my dearest Bishop, that you should have referred me to the Ice-house, which was built with money procured by Mr. Markoe for that special object. Yet the extravagance of W------ made it larger than were my wishes. The Milk-house was so built against my judgment, and overruled by a Brother of the House. But this will soon perhaps, come to use in its right purpose again. And so has the Ice-house done good service in more than its own way. The Poultry-house was a failure! But it has nevertheless done good service at a little expense of alteration. As respects the well, the extra curb, made for its entire depth, was more expensive than the bricking up of the same. It is an easy matter for my friends, dear Bishop, to expose the defects of the Nashotah machinery, when they have seen nothing of its means, whereby it has had to work. But they might have expatiated on my youth and inexperience, instead of taking faults resulting from these (in any man) and holding them forth as the character of my life, &c., which I think is not the truth. I love all that is practical, and intend, by the help of GOD, still to labor practically for the CHURCH of my infancy. I am, my dear Bishop, no Romanizer; and, as I have said to Brother Adams, I do not intend having anything to do with a doubtful man. I still desire to go into Minnesota, and beg of you, my dear Bishop, to permit me to go there, and to take along with me a band of clergy (if they can be had), and there to missionate over the length and breadth of that country. Will you write me plainly upon the entire of this subject, so that I may enter there at as early a day as possible. Your suggestions, and those of the brethren here and in the West, along with my own experience, will, I trust, secure me from any extravagances. I wish no vows, but those of the Ordinal, I do not desire, and am opposed to any form of, Lay-Brotherhood. I wish the LOVE of CHRIST to be the high and constraining motive of action in spreading the Gospel throughout the frontier. This visit of mine to the East will do me much good; but I shall, after paying it, be more glad than ever to be in the heart of the wild West again. I think men of the right stamp, conservative men, be had for such an "Associated Mission," if the Bishop will permit it. Let me know at your earliest convenience, my dear Bishop; for this beating up of recruits requires me to speak with certainty as to my own course of life. The mails come slowly, and I wish to be instructed after a manner that will not require much correspondence; or else, summer will be upon us before anything can be decided...... I have come to the East with as single an aim, as that with which I went to the West in 1841. And if you, dear Bishop, will permit me, I shall go again with the same, and a great deal better judgment.
I have written to Brothers Adams and Akerly, and hope they will show you my letters, for some things contained in them are wanting in my own to yourself, Sir; and in turn, if you see proper, please show my last, and this, to them.
Besides the above letters to his Bishop, it may be well to add another, written very shortly after, on the same general subject, to one of his friends at Nashotah. Of course, in the searching and sifting of minds and hearts about those times, there were some who sympathized more with Breck, and some who leaned the other way. The following letter was the outpouring of a friend to a friend, which was meant, at the time, to be entirely confidential, and this should not be forgotten by the reader:
My very dear Schetky: Your letters of the 11th and 14th ult. have greatly refreshed my spirits. I thank you from my heart that you stand by me under all circumstances. The unfortunate have few friends indeed, and I have felt this in some respects--not in the East, for I have been received, alas! as an angel of GOD, rather than as a poor weak sinner, as I am. GOD bless you, my dear Schetky, for the forbearance that you have showed me, when I know that you have been ready to weep bitterly for the distress of Nashotah. I had not intended writing to you relative to my own position, and the views that I have been compelled to take in respect to the future; but I will now do so, as fully as my time will permit......
In consequence of certain expressions in a letter of the Bishop to me,.....I carried into effect my thoughts, which were to resign the Presidentship. You will remember my address to the Trustees in November last, in which I urged upon them the modification of Nashotah--hence this cannot be considered as hasty or rash. My intentions when leaving you for the East ''were as pure, as they have ever been in my life for the cause of Nashotah, and Nashotah alone. And I can produce all the evidence from the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg and several others to this effect, if it were required. But upon detailing the position of things at Nashotah (not pecuniary) all said to me that Nashotah could never become Nashotah again! I took counsel of the truest friends of Nashotah. All approved of Nashotah undergoing a change, and this change to be to a Church School, and married Clergy introduced, whilst I should go again on to the frontier, aided by clergy, and«do the same work over again, but far better, I trust, than hitherto. You have known all my affairs; you have known what miserable interest was taken in the affairs of the House, after the meeting of the clergy in '44 (when the laws were changed), and it will now be cast in my face that I would not take advice. My good Brother A. made with me (upon his return to Nashotah) the express stipulation that he should have no responsibility in money matters or the Discipline of the House. I therefore never consulted him, for I had not the liberty to do so. And again, I have always been unwilling to receive responsible advice from him. Again, whenever, since 1844, I have read letters to the Brethren, &c., relative to the House, no interest, such as I hoped to produce, followed; and often the very reverse. All these things you know. And now it will be said, that I would control all things myself. Our original System contemplated three, at least. Why did not the three continue? Had they done so, I could never have been led into this "folly," or whatever it may be called. I have acted according to the original flan, as truly as I could. I have failed in a System such as I never devised (according to the change), and which, since 1844, has not been the Nashotah System, such as I engaged in when leaving New York in 1841. Hence all fault will fall upon my head, and is falling. But with the help of GOD, I shall yet, if permitted, meet all my engagements up to the last dollar...... I lay no claim to a dollar of my legacy of $2,375 loaned to Nashotah, and the expenses of the House I hope to meet in due time, up to the last dollar, the salary of Prof. A. and all the rest. But I must have time allowed me. To move the Church here in a permanent way, requires time--especially without making appeals such as are ordinarily made. But that represent labors (which have been unceasing for the Church ever since my arrival on Epiphany morning) will be blessed to accomplish all that Nashotah requires, and my future labors in the Church, I firmly believe. I am laboring day and night for the West, and never had harder work to go through, even in the severest clays of Nashotah. I am with my friends, but it is only in my body, my mind is continually at work elsewhere. I am preaching twice and three times every Sunday, and occasionally during the week, and visiting individuals and families continually,--and all through invitation. I am not, in any instance, thrusting myself upon clergyman or people. I propose going into Minnesota Territory so soon as Nashotah is fixed in a definite shape. How soon this will be, I know not. I hope to be permitted to undertake another Mission there. I care not for being its head. I have had enough of ruling for my lifetime. I wish to labor in a System. I have had several requests to labor here, that is, in New York, for the poor; but I wish to labor on the frontier. ..... Your dear mother very cheerfully consents to your joining me anywhither. Are you willing to encounter the System again with me? Or do you know me too well, or not well enough, to run the risk? But more after hearing from the Bishop. I anticipate a hard struggle in freeing myself, and much reproach in the West. All here favor my going into a new field. After hearing from the Bishop, I will write you again. ......I have, my dearest Schetky, learned valuable lessons by dealing broadcast with men out of the System in which I have been laboring. Nashotah has gone beyond her legitimate limits to please others. Prof. A. threatens to leave at once. Should he do so, please stand in the gap; you alone can do this, and you can. I may not return before the 1st of June. It is necessary to finish this work in which my hands are engaged. It will produce permanent results (under GOD) of the most salutary character. If the Divinity students all leave Nashotah, it will be no loss, if they are so minded. What do such men care for her? They cannot, therefore, be of any benefit to her. I understood all but the candidates would leave: is it so?..... You can aid my good Brother A. better than any one else. I shall send money on as fast as I can; but at times a month may roll by without any, so be prepared for emergencies......
P. S.--Please bear in mind that all my traveling expenses here are met by other moneys than those of Nashotah in every instance.
There is nothing that calls for a tenderer judgment than the thoughts and words--and sometimes the deeds--of good men, excitedly anxious about some indisputably good thing, to which their whole lives are devoted, and which, therefore, they cannot look at dispassionately. Some passages of the above letter are inserted, not as stating facts--which there is no sufficient ground to assert--but merely as showing the agitating and tormenting surmises, under the pressure of which that noble work at the East was still, so laboriously, done for "my good Brother A.," and all the rest of them, at Nashotah. And in this connection it may be best to insert a large portion of the letter written to the Editor, by the Rev. Mr. Schetky (to whom the above letter was addressed), remembering also, in some parts of it, how thoroughly, in these heart-distressing difficulties, he sympathized with the one of whom he writes:
......Although my close acquaintance with your Brother dates from April 24th, 1845, when I entered Nashotah, yet, in my early boyhood, while a Sunday-school pupil in St. Peter's Church, Philadelphia, he was my teacher for a few Sundays. This fact, so pleasing to us both, was remembered by me when I heard first of the Brotherhood at Nashotah; and it had its influence in deciding me to be under his care and tuition during my preparation for the Holy Ministry. The Rev. Dr. Merrick--who was associated with him in Minnesota and on the Pacific Coast, and has rejoined him (in July, 1877), we may trust, in the company of the Church in Paradise,--was in the same Sunday-school class, and had for him the like loving regard......
The conviction upon my mind, at the time he left Nashotah, that he had not received that grateful and appreciative testimony to his labors that he so well merited from his colleagues, remains unchanged to this day. He was inflexible in his opinion, which he ever based upon Churchly principle; and this, while it made him to be regarded as a rigid disciplinarian in the House, and an uncompromising zealot in matters of Churchmanship when he came in contact with Dissenters, nevertheless won for him, generally, respect, esteem, admiration, and ultimately affectionate regard: especially was this the case with the hard-fisted, honest-hearted pioneer. What the carping criticism of the easy-going in the world, or the lax in Church principles, might stigmatize as asceticism, was, by the greater portion of the people, regarded as the strict, consistent life and purity of character required in the herald of the Cross. There was a quietness in all his work; and the influence of his personal character became, "in all the region round about" Nashotah, so potent, that even those who, at first, were unwilling to accord any regard for the Church, were led by the sanctity which shone forth in his intercourse, in all its varied nature--parochially, missionary, socially--to dismiss their prejudice, lay aside their hostility, and receive his teachings with docility; and, where the inherited prejudice had become fixed, stern and immovable, with tenacious clinging born of local influences or relationships, even there I have known more than the half-way admission made, that he was a Minister, whose life proved the sincerity of his profession, and showed that holiness which he presented for the imitation of others.
Combined with that earnestness which entered into all his labors, there were gentleness and meekness which were features of his character that had a special charm, and won friends for himself, and attracted them to the Church.......I do not desire in the least to detract from the just meed of honor due to his colleagues in the Associate Mission, when I assert, as my, conviction, that, in a very eminent degree, his influence was widely felt, and reached where they could not gain access. No future annalist of the Church in Wisconsin can fail to discover that by the Associate Mission a work was performed which secured for the Church her early advantage and vigorous growth in that Territory. But if he be unbiased and veracious, he must acknowledge, that, under GOD, it was mainly attributable to the influence of so rare a personal character as that of the Rev. James Lloyd Breck.
I need not say aught of his administration at Nashotah. In all respects he sought to infuse his own missionary spirit in all; and his self-sacrifice, self-denial, the entire consecration of self to the sacred trust placed in his hands, was daily manifested before the members of the "House." Though some, from their natural temperament, failed to give him their confidence, cooperation, and cheerful obedience, I never knew him to waver in the duty appertaining to his official position, nor yet changing his demeanor. By some regarded as undemonstrative, by all he was esteemed as thoroughly sincere in the motives which prompted every action; and the dignity of his manner, while it forbade any familiarity, was rather attractive than repellent to those who best understood him, and who--may I not add--reciprocated the love which, evidently, he bore towards each.
I have some delightful recollections of the journeys we took in company to Mission Stations; and one in particular (which occupied nine days, a pedestrian trip of more than 250 miles), to Green Lake. This was in June, 1845, about six weeks after my entrance at Nashotah; and from that time we had the most kindly and fraternal affection towards each other. Doubtless it was from the conversations we had during those journeys that he found I had such experience as induced him to assign me to positions involving care, patience, method, accuracy and trust;--such as the Offices of Infirmarian (having care of the sick, with the training of another who was to succeed me), Librarian (including the cataloguing and classification of the books), Teacher of Vocal Music, and Precentor; Organist; Tutor in the Parish School; and, at last, Accountant and Bursar, which I held from July, 1846, up to the arrival of his successor, September, 1850. You may readily conceive that my intercourse with him was constant, and his letters will show in what regard he held me. In one of them he refers to a loan from the Rev. Solomon Davis. This he sent for, by me, in Christmas week, 49, and the amount, in gold (I think $1,200), I wore in a belt on my person, by day and night, until I returned from my embassage on Epiphany, 1850. None knew of the object for which I took that midwinter journey. Such was our relation towards each other, of confidence and trust in all matters. In one of my Diaries I find a note, to the effect that I was his "private secretary." I know that he was thrice greatly disappointed upon my declining to join him--1st, At the organization of the Minnesota Mission; 2dly, Upon the invitation to the Church at St. Paul; and 3dly, When he was going to the Pacific Coast.....During my severe illness in 1849, he was scarcely absent from my room, and nursed me most of the time,--nearly three weeks,--and during the most critical period did not leave me through the day and night.......
But I have exceeded the limit I had proposed in this letter. I may not have given you any information of special value, yet I must thank you for the opportunity you have offered me of telling you of our dear mutual love, and bearing my testimony to his sanctity of life and purity of character.
Remembering the rays of interior light thrown, by these letters, on the real meaning both of things that were then past, as well as troubles that were then present,--to say nothing of their bearing upon the future also,--we resume, with less interruption, the series of letters which show his absorbing and delightful work at the East, his loving farewell labors for Nashotah, and the crystallizing going on simultaneously for the new work in Minnesota.
.....The many friends that GOD has been pleased to raise up for me in all parts of the East is truly marvellous in my eyes. Will you not pray that I may pass through all, without hurt, to my scene of labor? I feel as if I had been suddenly enriched by a number of loved ones, who love me for the Gospel's sake. GOD be praised for His goodness towards so unworthy a servant! I am ever dissatisfied with myself for the poverty of my language when I am with my best friends, in expressing to them the real emotions of my heart for their kindnesses towards me; yet I love them all in truth, as devoted servants of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. How little, until now, have I realized what the Seabury Society is doing for Nashotah! A more purely unselfish work I have never seen, than I was permitted to witness on Monday night last, at the meeting of the Seabury Society; unless, indeed, I except the one of Shrove Tuesday morning [alluding to a purse which had been made up for him by the ladies]. I did not know what you had done until late in the afternoon of that day. That I was surprised and overcome, is saying but little indeed. But my resolution was fixed at once;--I determined that it should be the first offering to the LORD upon the first administration of the blessed Sacrament, within my next appointed field of labor, be this Minnesota or elsewhere. I can the better understand, since this visit, the reasons for St. Paul's earnest mention, by name, of so many of his co-laborers in the LORD, male and female. He must have experienced their love for CHRIST, by their forwardness to spend and be spent in His service. I trust GOD is blessing my labors for His Holy Church. I feel most delightfully encouraged for the care of Nashotah, and the commencement of a new Mission. I have been unceasingly occupied ever since I left New Haven;--teaching, preaching and talking, day after day. I submit to this for the sake of the Nashotah system of missionary operation. I hope the intercourse among so many will do me no harm. I long for the woods, at times, but yet I must spend more time in this work. And it is encouraging to find the deep conviction that exists already (prior to my coming East) in the hearts of so many (clergy and laity) that Nashotah is the only true system of the Church. While it is a marvellous thing to me, how the burden of this system has fallen upon me, who am so unworthy, yet, since all pronounce it to be my work, and no other will step forward, I have ventured to speak openly in its behalf everywhere. There is, I think, a blessed prospect of a great work being done for the Church, in the way of Missions, that will do more to rouse the Church than anything that has yet taken place for many years. But humility alone can effect it; and this, I trust, will be the disposition of all who engage in it. But GOD may see fit to nip it in the bud. "Pray for us."
It has been a source of continual thanksgiving to GOD, for His goodness in raising you up to me as a fellow-laborer in CHRIST'S Vineyard. And the one voice throughout those parts of Connecticut which I have traveled, testifying to your adaptation for the work which we have in common before us, was peculiarly gratifying to me.
All he heard respecting Brother Wilcoxson was fully realized, as this history will show. On the 18th of May, we have the first note from the Pioneer of Minnesota, Rev. Mr. Gear, Chaplain at Fort Snelling:
I wrote you a few lines before I received your last note, and can only add that I am rejoiced above measure at the prospect of your coming here with such a noble band of brethren; and I trust you will not be disappointed on your arrival.
I have been disappointed about answering your last letter, but must make my wanderings my apology. I can claim no time to myself whilst in the East. Indeed you speak the true state of my mind, when you judge of my desire to return to that order of systematic duty and devotion, which this episode of an eastern visitation must so unpleasantly have interrupted. I will not, however, subscribe to the word "unpleasantly;" for I cannot but regard my entire visit to the North, East and South, as one continuous feast of the most delightful friendship, such as few, I think, are permitted to enjoy in that fulness of personal intercourse that I have. I have, it is true, felt keenly the loss of the weekly Eucharist, and at times daily, such as we enjoyed at Nashotah, as also the constant prayer that the hours of the Church called us to keep to GOD. But soon again I shall, with. Divine permission, be on the frontier of this lower world; but, to all my tastes and feelings, I must regard it as also the frontier of a "better country," that is, a Heavenly. We are, there, more out of this world, and, I trust, nearer, in very deed, to Heaven. How can I be sufficiently thankful, for all GOD'S good gifts to me, unworthy as I am of the least of His benefits! He has given to me many to love me, and has permitted me to love them in return. I trust it has been His guidance by which I have taken this journey. It has, in a sense, given me a time for reflection,--reflection, I mean, upon the peculiar work that GOD has given me to do. I think the past experience of Nashotah will be worth an hundred-fold more to me, returning to the West, than it was, or could have been, had I remained continuously within the walls of our House. I am most thankful to say that we are three; three at this time, and a good hope of three more. All this betokens GOD'S goodness towards the mission of my heart. I trust in GOD to accomplish this work, which has so long time engaged my heart and its affections, and now engages the hearts of so many of the faithful. Oh, that f may not be over anxious, but patiently wait for the time appointed by GOD!
(June 8th, Nashotah.)--I am now in my old familiar room, writing to you, dear Sister, amidst scenes of touching interest to me, but which I must soon leave. It is with thankfulness of heart that I state, my return has been greeted with almost the warmth of relationship. But whilst I am going away from Nashotah, it is made the less painful by reason of the excellent man, the Rev. Azel D. Cole, that is expected to become its head the next week,--a man in whom we all have the greatest confidence, and with whom I have had the most intimate acquaintance for several years. Besides, I hope to establish a bond of lasting union between this Mission and the new one, which will mutually benefit us both. I am now writing in haste, expecting to walk nine miles this afternoon (4 p. M.) to officiate in the woods (beneath the trees) to-morrow. Will not this be a proper mode to begin the first preaching of the new Mission, ere we have reached our field of labor? Brother Wilcoxson has gone twelve miles, having started with one of the students an hour since, on foot.
My dear Sister, nothing but the love of CHRIST could lead me to leave you all. The parting in New York was hard indeed!
Perhaps we shall add to the completeness of our impressions concerning the farewell to Nashotah, if we give the following brief notice of it from the "Diary" of the Rev. Mr. Schetky, to which we have been indebted before. Speaking of Mr. Breck, he says:
He went East about January 1, 1850, where he remained until June, during which time he procured funds wherewith to relieve Nashotah of pecuniary embarrassment; resigned his connection with the Mission and House, and proceeded to Minnesota, there to engage in the work of an Associate Mission. On his route he tarried with us from the 4th to the i8th of June, and was accompanied to Minnesota by the Rev. Timothy Wilcoxson of Connecticut, and the Rev. John Austin Merrick (then in his Diaconate) of Philadelphia,--the companion of my boyhood--who united with him in a farewell service in the chapel on the Third Sunday after Trinity, June i6th. The lessons for the day presented some peculiar coincidences, which were remarked at the time, and especially so on the morning of the i8th (Acts xx, 17), which were read by the Rev. Mr. Breck, shortly after which he left us, some of us "accompanying him" to the bounds of the Mission, and "sorrowing most of all" that we might "see his face no more." My record of all the occurrences of that memorable fortnight in the history of Nashotah, was very full and circumstantial. While they are, in a measure, ineffaceably impressed" upon my memory, it may, perhaps, be inexpedient to repeat the record of facts and feelings.