Slavery riots in New York


Date Written

Aug. 12, 1834

Jacob Helffenstein was 31 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Margaret Birnie, was 39 when it was received.

Jacob Helffenstein died 49 years, 7 months, 5 days after writing this.
It was written 189 years, 3 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.

Pleasant Valley Aug. 12th 1834

My Dear Sister,

When your last letter was received we were making preparations to leave the city & have been unsettled ever since. New York before our departure presented a scene of tumult the most distressing. It originated from the discussion of slavery. The course of the abolitionists so enraged the other party that not only their meetings were disturbed but some of their dwellings & churches greatly injured. Dr. Cox’s, Mr. Ludlow’s & 2 churches belonging to the colored people were all much damaged. The rioters would undoubtedly have gone still further had not force been employed to quell them. The storm has now subsided & the city restored to its former tranquility. How long things will remain thus I cannot predict but I fear scenes still more dreadful are yet to be witnessed in N. Y. & perhaps throughout the country. The excitement as I have remarked originated from the subject of slavery, but the wrath of the reactors was evidently not restricted to this. It was directed against the gospel & many of the rabble would have exulted in the destruction of every Christian & evangelical church in the city. Our church as a body has never been agitated with the slavery question nor have I ever dwelt upon it myself. Still our meeting house was threatened & had it not been for a strong guard, it would have fared the same fate of others.

The only reason that I could learn for this opposition to the [?] Church is the fact that we are a New Measure Church! Our country is ripe for the judgement of God—already is “the Pestilence” that walketh in darkness & wasteth at noon day spreading its desolating influence & if that mercy which our nation has long abused does not continue to forbear it must surely be most severely scourged for its sins.

We are now as you perceive from the heading of this letter at Pleasant Valley. In this place, I have labored in three interesting Revivals that the state of religion at present is comparatively low.

When I wrote to you last we were at Matteawan [Beacon, NY]. In my labors there I met with considerable encouragement—A church was organized & about 50 conversions took place. In consequence of repeated & earnest solicitations I at length concluded that duty called me to New York. It is now about 9 months since our arrival there & during that time we have been permitted to enjoy what might be called a continued Revival. Two protracted meetings were held during the winter, at the first of which it is estimated that 150 were hopefully converted & at the second about 100¬¬--Between three & four hundred in all have probably passed from death unto life. I have made it a practice to call forward the anxious in the meeting house every Sabbath evening from the upon the commencement of my labors. From 10 to 50 have usually appeared. The Sabbath before I left the city there were 15 mostly new cases.

During the winter several of the churches in New York were received, but at present there is a general seclusion. It is deplorable to see how fluctuating Christians are in their feelings & how much affected by the seasons & external circumstances.

I have been making some inquiry for a minister who would suit your people but I can hear of none . Should you continue destitute, I will make further inquiry when I return to the city & should I hear of anyone I will write you on the subject. The disputations of divine providence towards your little church have been trying but I trust they will prove solitary—Christians in Taneytown have great reasons to be low before God--& when they are sufficiently humbled the great head of the church will undoubtedly appear for their relief. Mrs. H. smiles with me as love to all.

Yours affectionately,
Jacob Helffenstein

I need not tell you my dear sister that your letter afforded us great pleasure though we are far from being as punctual as we should in our answers. We are now at sister Wile’s, she has a house full of company. I have been in the midst of so much bustle that I could not write a long letter as I had intended. Our intention was to return to N. Y. this week, but as the cholera has appeared there, we shall stay a little longer in the country. My health is much better. I have rec’d more benefit from a physician’s prescription in N. Y. than I have from all the others who have attended me. Though Mr. H. is not installed he has engaged to stay till May and will probably continue longer as it is a place for great usefulness. We should be extremely happy to have a visit from you and family. The boat leaves Philadelphia at 6 o’clock A.M. arrives in N. Y. at 2 P.M. Mr. H. has applied to classes for his dismission to join the Presbyterian Church. Sisters join in love.

P.S. Our residence is 141 Washington St. Do write soon. My apology for not replying to your other letter. The physician advised me to keep my bed while following his prescription.

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