I Would Feed Upon the Coarsest Fare and Lie On Straw

Colby Bicentennial Seal 1813-1863

Dec. 8, 1821

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That you may know the amount of my debts I will set them down in order, as follows:

  • To Mr. Balkam, for watch $16.00
  • To The Watervlle F.E.S., Cash 15.00
  • To Mr. Burleigh for cloth, trimmings and books 8.00
  • To Mr. Richards for shovel and tongs, slate and linen cloth 3.00
  • To Mr. Esty for candles and one book 2.25
  • To Mr. Sanborn for shoes 8.00
  • To Mr. Dalton for cloth 1.25
  • To Mr. Dunbare for room rent 1.00
  • To Mr. Proctor for one book .90
  • To Mr. Foster for cash 1.00
  • To Mr. Wilbur, Boston, for books 10.00

Image of pockect watch

Rev. Doct. Chaplin:

Whereas I am charged with imprudence I feel grateful that I am permitted to write you and make a simple statement of facts.

I am charged with imprudence in respect to my expenses and the manner in which I use my clothes.

In my expenses, 1. Because when I came to this place I purchased on credit some clothing and a watch. Now If I can make it appear that I stood in absolute need of these things, the crime of purchasing them will not, I apprehend, appear very great. I certainly needed a watch as I then roomed at some distance from the place of recitation and was obliged to be there at the appointed time. And as to clothing, I appeal to you, dear Sir, and to all my acquaintance in this place, whether I had any which I could appear in abroad with decency. And if I did not purchase these things on credit, how could I obtain them? I had not a cent of money. I was obliged to apply to the Treasurer of the Mass. Bap. Education Society for money to pay my expenses from Boston to this place. But, you say, “you ought not to have purchased these things without some prospect of getting able to pay for them. It is well known to most of my fellow students that I had a very encouraging prospect of being able to pay for them in the spring. Yes, so encouraging that many advised me to purchase such things as I needed. I was requested to teach a school in Palermo, for which, and for preaching, I was offered twenty-two dollars a month. I concluded to take the school and sent a letter to the Agent. The letter miscarried, and of course I lost the school, and with it, as the season was far advanced, all my prospects of getting money during the ensuing winter. Last winter I taught school two months for twelve dollars a month. This was the best school I could obtain.

I now come to the second particular upon which I shall say but few words. I have been charged with imprudence because I wear my best clothes every day. That, for nearly one year after I purchased the clothing above mentioned, I wore my best garments, I readily acknowledge; and I think I can give a very satisfactory reason. I had not other garments that I could wear unless I clothe myself with rags.

Dear Sir, I assure you my debts occasion me great anxiety and many sleepless hours, and could I have the means to pay them, rather than be so involved in debt again, I would beg. … Surely rather than wound the precious cause of Christ, nay, rather than obtain a finished education to prepare me for more extensive usefulness in the Gospel field, I would submit to any difficulties. I would feed upon the coarsest fare and lie on straw.

Your unworthy pupil.

John Hovey, Class of 1825
Waterville, Dec. 8, 1821
From Dr. Chaplin to Rev. Nath’l Williams

That he has been somewhat imprudent in respect to his expenses is undoubtedly true. But since the time when I called him to account, say six months ago, I have heard scarce any new complaint about him. He has evidently reformed, and if properly advised, will, I trust, make a useful preacher.

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