Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Lt 8, 1871

White, J. E.

Battle Creek, Michigan

May 6, 1871

Previously unpublished.

Dear Son Edson:

I feel like writing you a few lines. Your father has been much depressed since you were here. Amid all his cares and perplexities, your coming seemed to be an additional care and perplexity. He has had more discouragement and anxiety of mind, and has been positively afraid to sleep some nights because threatened with paralysis. I do not think you came with the right feelings or with the right spirit. It seems you had been talking over matters in regard to Father, and given your version of things, feelings had kindled in your breast which you were not authorized to have and should not have allowed there in regard to your father. When Father is overwhelmed with care and perplexity, I think it unwise in you to press your case upon his notice. But you get so anxious, in such a nervous hurry, that you consider no one but yourself. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 1

I wish to point out to you where I consider you have and do make mistakes. You made a mistake last winter when you had two hired men in your employ. Your circumstances did not admit of this. I think it was a disadvantage to you. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 2

This spring when you laid out so largely for improvements, you made a mistake. Had you waited until you could have done this more within yourself, and not had two or three boarders and wages to pay amounting to from thirty to fifty dollars per month for hired help, but done what you could yourself and not overworked—doing two day’s work in one—you would have been the gainer, not only as regards this life but your spiritual strength would have been more favorable. Your branching out so largely involves great expense and you will, I have no doubt, be disappointed in your returns. Your income will not warrant or meet the outlays. Brother McDearmon cannot afford to hire help as you have done, for experience has taught him it will not pay. Your father has seen this from the commencement; so have I. He told you you could not depend upon him to back you up. I think his position was correct. When you knew that you had nothing to depend on this spring, how could you feel like doing so much in improving when all this must cost money? 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 3

Your raspberries and strawberries surely would not warrant this expense. You told me that if it had not been for Father’s telling you to hold on, you would have marketed your raspberries and strawberries. Now, Edson, you are at too great a distance from your father to have him work for you in this line to advantage. I think you should make no dependence upon him, and then he will not be perplexed and anxious on your account, and you will have nothing to complain of. I am not reconciled to your casting even a feather’s weight of anxiety upon your already overworked father. You have been helped liberally by us, yet you are behind in debt. How can you run in debt by making such large calculations? You should keep on the safe side. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 4

You made remarks to me which grieved and distressed me. As you saw the two-hundred-dollar wagon your father had bought, you remarked that you meant to get just such a wagon. Would it not be more wise to invest your two hundred dollars in making payments upon your home? Although you had, with your father’s help, got a wagon which would answer your purpose for your business well, yet your grasping mind wanted one more valuable, to do a larger business. While you have not your place clear, do not talk of going into the extras. Brother McDearmon has not a wagon even as good as yours, and he has a good farm and a large family, which you would think would make such a wagon a necessity, yet he has not put his means into the extras. Edson, I beg of you to curtail your expenses; discharge your hired help—three hired men, I think you have, and only twenty acres of land. If you had improved only the land you could well take care of, and used the means you have exhausted on your place in making payments upon your place, or in even sustaining yourselves through the winter, you would be more wise and show better calculation. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 5

You made the remark that Brother McPherson said that you could not have done what you had on your place if you had not your father to back you up. Is not this truth? Is it not a fact? If we had not taken hold to help you and to give you things to start housekeeping with, and made you presents of clothing, of money, and so forth, could you have done it? 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 6

I hope, Edson, the enemy will not take possession of your mind and make you blind to your own interest in this world and the better world. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 7

We have known what pinching want was for years after we were married. We had no help from any quarter and it did us good. We obtained a valuable experience. You are surely, in my judgment, rushing on too fast. You want too many nice things, like the wagon your father now owns. Why did he get so expensive a wagon? He has for years gone back and forth with the mail bags and boxes and bundles to the post office and express office with the light single buggy; but now he thought he could afford a wagon that would accommodate his business better. But to hear you talk of getting an expensive wagon when you have just started in life with nothing, or next to nothing, is not the right principle on which to begin life or to make a success of life. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 8

Economy is with you and Emma the battle of your life. The letter I last wrote you called forth no response from you, but you said that you thought that Father had worked to get me on his side and then thought he could bear down on you as hard as he pleased; and you stated that you were not the only one who thought so, that Emma thought the same. I expect, Edson, that Emma will view things as you view them, and therefore it is highly important that you view things with right judgment and not let selfishness and self-interest pervert your judgment. You are in danger. Emma is in danger of thinking and feeling wrong. It takes but a small matter to kindle up feelings which should never exist in the bosom of a son toward a father. Sacred duties are resting upon you toward your father who is harassed by care and perplexities and burdens which he is bearing in the work and cause of God. You permit not one of the burdens to rest upon you, but your interest is undivided for yourself. Be careful that ingratitude does not possess your heart and you be found a transgressor of the fifth commandment. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 9

Your case, Edson, has been one of the greatest trials of our life. I hoped that when you were married and started in life, you would then consecrate your heart and affections to God and be that comfort and blessing to us that you have heretofore failed to be. I fear we are doomed to be disappointed, and that you will never have a true sense of your obligation to your parents. Your father has expected that you would be a blessing to us, that you would sense our long and wearing labor in the cause of God and know that we were worn and prematurely old and be prepared to help us, encourage us, and bless us. Must we be disappointed? Will you not view things candidly and unselfishly, and see that while you are working for your own interest you do not forget your duty to God and to your parents? Father has had tender feelings toward you and Emma. He has been proud of you both. But the impression of your last visit here has embittered his life and made it very hard for me. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 10

I beg of you to live within your means. Incur no debts, and carry on only that portion of your farm that you can do yourself, with occasionally hiring a few days’ work. Your father let you have his good old Jim to help you, that you should not run in debt to purchase a team. He also helped you to a good wagon and to means and furniture and clothing. Would he have done this if he had wanted to work against you? Now let Father rest. Don’t perplex him any more with your case or cast the slightest burden upon him. If you cannot do anything to help him, don’t require help of him. If you will calculate right, you can live well; but if you have two or three hired hands eating at your table and taking of your means at the amount of from thirty to fifty dollars per month, you would need an independent fortune to rely upon. This is not the way your father managed in the days of his poverty. For a few weeks this spring Willie has had hired help, but now he has only Arthur Genley. He has had orders to fill, the fruit to put in the ground, and general improvements to make on the place. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 11

Your father feels terribly discouraged and sad. I cannot help him. I wish you could see and understand that your course has a depressing influence upon him. Now, Edson, I think it is your duty from henceforth to rely upon your own resources. You have health. You are not burdened with any care in the cause of God. Your father and mother have this burden. You are interested only in your own case. Then when you bring discouragement upon your father you weaken his power to do good in the work and cause of God. If your father should not always have exactly correct judgment in your case, you should not take it to heart and let it separate your affection and feelings from him. Consider how many minds he has to be brains for and then pass over words that seem to you to be designed to hurt you. You are too independent, too easily touched. I hope Emma will help you in this matter instead of encouraging and fanning to a flame the feelings that exist in your heart against your father. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 12

I would not discourage either of you, but I beg of you, Edson, to control your feelings in regard to desiring this or that and launching out to get expensive things. Come up slowly and surely upon a right basis. I am your mother and I have a right to counsel you and you, as my son, should regard my counsel. Every dollar that you can accumulate, beside what you use to live upon, invest it safely somewhere to make payments upon your place. Your father means to do the right thing by you children, but if he sees you grasping and avaricious he will be so discouraged he will not have any heart to do anything. Do manifest affection and respect for your father. Honor your father and your mother. How? By taking their counsel and advice instead of rushing on in your own wisdom. Honor God by obeying all His commandments. Live for the next world. You may be cut down in the midst of your worldly plans, and if you have not made sure of a good foundation against the time to come, that you may lay hold on eternal life, you are truly wretched. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 13

Father knows not I am writing to you. I told him nothing of what you said except that he had told McPherson and Root in regard to you. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 14

My dear children, since writing the foregoing I have felt like saying a few words more. I have prayed to God, Edson, to know my duty in your case. I have been instructed in a dream that leads me to tremble for your soul. I look back on your visit as a great mistake. You did not come with right feelings as you should. You came to complain, to find fault. You have no just cause for complaint. Every bit of available means you have been using to invest upon your place when you should have used it to provide things to live on. You had strawberries and raspberries set out and one dozen dollars’ worth of seeds to put in the ground. Your large order for seeds besides this I look upon as a mistake. If you had done what you could and waited till your means would allow you to go further, and improved only as fast as you could and not involved yourself, all would be well. But as I consider your case I am astonished. You have been helped and helped and yet you continue to invest, take your own course, surround yourself with hired men, and then get in want and burden your father with your case. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 15

I hope you will look at this matter candidly. You are becoming selfish. Our means is lent us of God, not that we should use it for ourselves needlessly or expend it upon you to use to your own advantage. My son, I fear you will always be in want unless you work upon a different principle than you have. You work too hard. You work too many hours, and your blood-making organs are not in a healthy condition to make good blood. Your face shows a diseased liver; fever may cut you down. I want you to take such a course that you will be happy, and will fill your position in this world and secure a home in the better world than this. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 16

How many times do you pray daily that God will give you grace and wisdom? How much interest do you manifest for the salvation of souls around you? I fear you are sacrificing your eternal interest for a spot of land in this world, burying your talent in a napkin. You cannot afford to sell heaven so cheaply. May God help you to change, turn square about. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 17

In much love, 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 18

Your Mother. 2LtMs, Lt 8, 1871, par. 19