The Hazard Family
Of the one absorbing romance in his life, his courtship and marriage of the famous beauty, Frances Minturn, in 1838; of his business successes, through which he gained a modest competence at an early age (43); of his settlement at the beautiful Vaucluse near Newport; of his life there, and death of his adored wife and five beautiful daughters, who followed each other in swift succession, slight record remains.
With his marriage began his career of public service. These sixteen years of married life must have been his happiest years. As the children grew up at Vaucluse, it was the usual thing for Shepherd Tom to drive in to Meeting on First Days, whither his handsome span of buckskin horses used to convey the delightful daughters. Afterwards girl friends would be taken back to Vaucluse for the night, a treat fondly remembered by some still living.
The death of Shepherd Tom's wife was the pivotal event in his life. It was a blow so cruel and crushing, and it fell upon a nature so gentle and loving, that for years it changed his whole outlook. His mental vision became suddenly astigmatic.
Personally, I saw much of my uncle's grief, for I attended the last rites of at least three of my cousins, and helped to lay them in the family burial ground on the farm at Vaucluse, after the old Rhode Island custom. There was a grim pathos about these occasions which impressed me mightily. Uncle Thomas would often chide those who were in open grief, if he noticed red eyes or swollen, by saying something of that happy state to which death had called his child, and urging us to be more cheerful. So he sought to hide his own grief. So clear was his belief in the future life that it is quite possible he really felt fewer pangs than the ordinary selfish nature, which grieves for the loss of those who minister to us. His was surely an unselfish soul.
So strong was his dread of cant, that he never, so far as I can remember, had any clergy in attendance, but chose rather to have a prayer put up by one of his own blood. Neither did he ever permit a paid undertaker to be in charge.
He turned to Spiritualism for comfort when his wife died, and records his devotion to that cult, saying that he "has no higher ambition than that his name should be handed down to the coming generations" as a worker in the cause of Spiritualism.
To this sore and wounded soul came the plundering host of so-called "Spirit mediums," whose liberal patron he became. His advocacy of this cult was thoroughly sincere, as one would expect. Whatever he did, he did with all his might. His writings enumerate the names of all the well-known and many obscure mediums of his time. He quarreled on the subject with George William Curtis. He believed in Henry Slade and his magic slate writing, Mrs. Cushman, one Gordan, Charles H. Foster, Mrs. Seaver, Mrs. Mary Andrews of Moravia, - but why record the names long since forgotten? He honored them all as honest men and women. He could not think them other than himself. Once, while vexed at my persistent doubt, he handed me one-half of a stage moustache, such as actors often use, saying he had it from the spirit of an Indian who "materialized" for him at a recent "sťance." He had told this Indian spirit that he never had seen him wear a moustache before; on which the brazen impersonator had pulled off this half and handed it to him , saying "There's a nut for you to crack." Even this did not shake his faith a particle.
Mr. Hazard was proud of his ancestry, and became a genealogist of sorts, printing a "Genealogy of the Family of Hazard or Hassard" in connection with his delightful "Recollections of Olden Times," published at Newport in 1879. Genealogies of the Robinson and Sweet families also appeared in this collection.
It is noteworthy that the quaint reminiscences recorded in the "Jonny-Cake Papers" hark back to the early days in Narragansett. Hardly any mention is made of the school at Westtown, Pennsylvania, where he was given all the schooling he ever had. His brief, but strenuous, business life gave him personal acquaintance with the group of worthies on Little Rest Hill.
A series of papers afterward collected under the title "A Constitutional Manual; Negro Slavery and the Constitution," published two years after his wife's death (1856), takes as model Washington's Farewell Address. It is an impassioned plea for the preservation of the Union, and clearly points out in prophetic vein the inevitable evils of the Reconstruction period. He undertakes to set out "an authentic narrative of outrages, wrongs, and cruelties equally numerous and atrocious as those detailed in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' out of the abuses occurring within the last thirty years in the asylums and poorhouses in Rhode Island alone." Throughout this pamphlet runs a strong religious tone, but Jesuits and their ways are fiercely denounced. In his later writings denunciation takes full possession, and supplants religion in his mind; in fact it became a religion, negative yet positive.
The "Providence Journal" in 1878 said of him that he had rendered four distinguished services. First, his labors in behalf of the poor and insane. Second, his successful campaign against capital punishment. Third, his earnest advocacy and munificent support of African Colonization. Fourth, his originating the movement in this country to relieve the Irish famine, concluding, "No one who knows him doubts the earnestness of his convictions, or the purity of his personal character, and he carries his years as lightly as a man of fifty."
As Shepherd Tom lay a dying, he said, "I fear I'm better, and am sorry, for I'm eager to begin the new life."
So much may be said, yet there remains much more which must be left unsaid. Upon the back of the portrait of himself given me at the time of writing the "Jonny-Cake Papers," he wrote in his clear, rugged hand "To my dear Cousin," A Shakespearean use of the term, still common among Friends.
As such I delight to think of him, and I expect to meet him on that further shore. If he chides me gently for this writing, as is not unlikely, I shall tell him that I have tried to do a filial duty. As he himself never shrank from duty, he will forgive tis faulty sketch, and I trust his kinsfolk will be equally kind.
It is not unlikely that Shepherd Tom would be not only surprised but perhaps a little chagrined to think that the republication of his "Jonny-Cake Papers" has furnished the moving cause for this brief note upon his life and writings, for it is distinctly remembered that he regarded them as a mere amusement.
The origin of these papers is just what it appears to be from the quotation taken from the Providence Journal at the head of the "first baking." The Journal's challenge, evidently issued in friendly spirit, happened to fall under his eye at the psychological moment.
The first paper was so favorably commented upon, and so many of his friends urged him to finish what he had begun, that he was easily led on through the whole series, which appeared at somewhat irregular intervals through a period of about two years. The whimsical style adopted naturally led along a path whose branches are legion. To some this is undoubtedly rather an annoyance than otherwise, but the general favor with which the papers were received made him one of the popular authors of the moment.
The original form in which these papers were reprinted was in two pamphlets, twelve "bakings" in the first, and fourteen with a supplement in the second. There were two editions in this early reprint, both published by the indefatigable Sidney S. Rider of Providence. Both have been out of print for many years.
In arranging the present republication, the supplement is placed first as an introduction to the main body of the book. Dealing as it does with the Narragansett schools, it seems to deserve to lead. Moreover, it is one of the most admired specimens of Shepherd Tom's discursive style.
Special thanks are due to Mrs. Hiram F. Hunt for the loan of the portrait of the Witch, Sylvia Tory, by Mrs. Samuel Rodman of Rocky Brook, from which the drawing was made.
To Thomas G. Hazard, Jr., also, thanks are rendered, as without his special knowledge and careful work the map presented with this edition could not have been drawn. Acknowledgments are due to Mr. Dexter W. Hoxie, who has read the proofs with the greatest care and intelligence, and to Miss Edith Carpenter, to whom the completeness of the Index is largely due.
ROWLAND GIBSON HAZARD