To Nathaniel Barrell

    Biddeford        25 December 1788, 1 January 1789

    My friend—

    Yours of the 22d instant, by Cap. [Thomas?] Leigh was handed me last evening—It flattered me, and alarmed Mrs. [Sarah Savage] Thatcher—Tho’ going from home, so much as a federal Representative must, is both disagreeable to me &, I think, will be injurious to my interest, yet not to be pleased at the majority of the suffrages from two such respectable Towns as Kittery & York,1 would be evidence of a criminal insensibility—The Love of praise is natural to man; and in its place, among the principles of human nature, is as necessary as reason itself—’tis not, in my opinion, as some say, an instance of human weakness but an active spring to Greatness and virture—Hence had I been determined, in my own mind, not to accept should I be choosen, no one would believe me were I to say that I am altogether indifferent to the honour you have done me—perhaps a free people cannot give a stronger & more convincing evidence of their good opinion of a fellow citizen than to make him their Legislator.

    That some should not vote for me on account of Religious notions is not strange—but it is more surprising that so many gave me their votes as did, considering the force of religion, & the weight of prejudice that lays against me on that account—

    In the County of Cumberland this prejudice is carried much further than in this [York County]; several ministers have made a very serious matter of my Religion; or rather my want of Religion—they have preached against me; they have prayed against me; they have told falsehoods against me—in fact, they have exerted their full force among the people to keep me out of the future Congress—Should they fail of their object, I shall really set them down on the same footing with Baals priests2—And, at present, appearances are not much in their favour—

    I said Mrs. Thatcher was alarmed at the contents of your Letter—for she has joined the ministers of Cumberland in hoping I may not be elected—tho her motives I believe are not of the religious kind—I think I may say she, tho religious herself, does not mix religion with politics—The whole affair affords me much curious matter for speculation—And I assure you I can hardly determine with myself, where I will can do most good—in the Congress, or in this part of the Country in endeavouring to reform religion and establish Christianity upon its true Basis, by pruining off the accressences of human Invention—which Business I propose to enter very seriously upon—True religion is certainly of importance to the ease & happiness of every man—while superstition is & bigotry are exceedingly injurious to the improvement of the mind & the perfection of society—To carry Religion into politics is, and, in all ages of the world, has been attended with very unhappy consequences—And as you justly observed in your Letter, the framers framers of the new Constitution, have gone as far as they could to prevent this mixture in the Government of the United States—Religion is not mentioned in the Constitution as a quallifycation of for any office whatever—And it would be very unfit that it should be, seeing the Government of the United States is to protect not only people of all Religions, but if there are any such beings which I very much doubt, people of no religion whatever—for these are men & are intituled to all the priviledges, Rights & immunities the Government holds out to any Sect or Denomination whatever—How absurd then it must be to say, as some do, that a man of this, that or the other denomination only is fit for a Representative or Senator—I think it may be easily demonstrated as well from the nature of man, his passions and affections, as from the History of civil Society, that the more liberal people are, & the less attached to any particular Sect in religion, all other things being equal, the better quallified they will be to administer the Government of the United States—Time, & the Limits of a Letter will not permit me to go throw the foregoing Demonstration—but ’tis my opinion—& I am ready to meet any man whether Synod, Council or Assembly upon this Subject—Upon these principles I have for years regulated my conduct & conversation, and any deviation therefrom in me would be nothing better than dishonesty & hypocricy—which vices, whatever others I may be guilty of, I think if you know me, you will acquit me of—

    Not to be elected in the federal Government will be no loss to me—but to sacrifice truth and principles to gain the Character of a Religious man would be a loss that an age of ceremony; the tithing of mint, annis & cummin,3 with the sacrificing of all my sheep, oxen & old Dagon in the bargain could never make atonement for—

    There are certain principles in which men of all Religions & all Sects agree; and if these are properly cultivated no man will ever have just occasion to ask what Religion his neighbour is of—much less will one man ever so far transgress these important principles as to persecute or speak ill of his neighbour for his particular notions that respect the regulation of his conduct towards his God—

    But I will not be weary to my friend—Let me only add—that in defending my character by saying you knew me to believe in future rewards & punishments—you supported the truth—And my joy & satisfaction in the Doctrine that Life & immortality are brought to light by the Gospel are surpassed by no consideration of a temporal king—while these are really of no moment but as they are some way or other connected with the others—But in what manner Life & Immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, may possibly be the subject of another Letter—’Tis a Subject I have contemplated much during fifteen years—And the result of these contemplations I am not ashamed of—

    Christmas evening—Mrs. Thatcher & Tempe [Temperance Hedge] make up my company—the two little children [Samuel and Sally] are put to bed—the little Girl I hear talking to herself—If you were near this place I think we should spend many happy evenings—but as this cannot be—I shall now & then send you the result of an even[ing]’s thinking—

    Mrs. Thatcher & Tempe join in Love & compliments to yourself, Mrs. [Sarah Sayward] Barrell & the Girls— I am my friend, yours. &c

    Post-Script—Jany 1, 1789, In the evening—Mr. Low has called upon me, from York & will return on the morrow—By him I will send this—I wish you & your family a happy new year—& expect to call on you early in the next week on my way to Boston—

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    ALS, Barrell Correspondence. Addressed to York.