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[The original MS. Autobiography of the Rev. John Barnard, of Marblehead, has been for some years in the archives of the Massachusetts
Historical Society. From the date at the end, it appears to have been \drawn up in 1766, when the writer was in the 85th year of his age. It
was formerly in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Stiles, President of Yale College ; and he undoubtedly is the person alluded to towards the close, at whose “ earnest desire” it was prepared. In a letter to Mr. Barnard, dated Newport, Oct. 3, 1767, Dr. Stiles says, “On the first of last month I received a packet from you, containing five volumes of your works, two pamphlets, the MS. of your own Life, and your kind letter of 12th August
. With great pleasure I have read your Life again and again. It has proved a feast to me. So long a Life of a gentleman of your figure and extensive connections must contain much ecclesiastical history, abound in political anecdotes, and involve very interesting participations in the public occurrences and transactions, concerning which you have the honor to say, Quorum pars magna fui.”.
The Rev. Dr. Chauncy, of Boston, in a letter to Dr. Stiles, dated May 6, 1768, in which he gives a sketch of ihe eminent men of New England, says, “Mr. John Barnard, of Marblehead, has been a long and near friend and acquaintance of mine. He is now in his eighty-seventh year, and I hear is seized this winter with blindness. I esteem him to have been one of our greatest men. Had he turned his studies that way, he would perhaps have been as great a mathematician as any in this country, I had almost said in England itself. He is equalled by few in regard either of invention, liveliness of imagination, or strength and clearness in reasoning." (i Hist. Coll. X. 157, 166.)
The MS. appears to have been used by the author of the Historical Account of Marblehead, contained in 1 Hist. Coll. VIII. 54, in which may be seen a sketch of Mr. B.'s life and character. It was also in the hands of Dr. Eliot, while preparing his Biographical Dictionary, who says of Mr. Barnard, that he was a burning and shining light for many years ; his praise was in all the churches ; and he seemed like a high-priest among the clergy of the land.” Mr. B. is numbered among the benefactors of Harvard College. On the burning of the Library in 1764, he presented many books from his own library, and imported others from England to the value of £10 sterling ; and in his will bequeathed £200 to the same institution. He died Jan. 24, 1770, in the 89th year of his age.
The first leaf of the MS. is somewhat mutilated, and it has been found rather difficult to fill the chasms. Whenever words or parts of words are inserted from conjecture, they are printed in italics.-Publishing Committee.]
1, John BARNARD was born at Boston, 6th Nov. 1681 ; descended from reputable parents, viz. John and Esther Barnard, remarkable for their piety and benevolence, who devoted me to the service of God, in the work of the ministry, from my very conception and birth; and accordingly took special care to instruct me themselves in the principles of the Christian religion, and kept me close at school to furnish my young mind with the knowledge of letters. By that time I had a little passed my sixth year, I had left my reading-school, in the latter part of which my mistress made me a sort of usher, appointing me to teach some children that were older than myself, as well as smaller ones ; and in which time I had read my Bible through thrice. My parents thought me to be weakly, because of my thin habit and pale countenance, and therefore sent me into the country, where I spent my seventh summer, and by the change of air and diet and exercise I grew more fleshy and hardy ; and that I might not lose my reading, was put to a school-mistress, and returned home in the fall.
In the spring of my eighth year I was sent to the grammarschool, under the tuition of the aged, venerable, and justly famous Mr. Ezekiel Cheever. But after a few weeks, an odd accident drove me from the school. There was an older lad entered the school the same week with me; we strove who should outdo; and he beat me by the help of a brother in the upper class, who stood behind master with the accidence open
for him to read out off ; by which means he could recite his
three and four times in a forenoon, and the same in the afternoon ; but I who had no such help, and was obliged to commit all to memory, could not keep pace with him ; so that he would be always one lesson before me. My ambition could not bear to be outdone, and in such a fraudulent manner, and therefore I left the school. About this time arrived a dissenting minister from England, who opened a private school for reading, writing, and Latin. My good father put me under his tuition, with whom I spent a year and a half. The gentleman receiving but little encouragement, threw up his school, and returned me to my father, and again I was sent to my aged Mr. Cheever, who placed me in the lowest class ; but finding I soon read through my
in a few weeks he advanced me to the
and the next year made me the head of it.
In the time of my absence from Mr. Cheever, it pleased God to take to himself my dear mother, who was not only a very virtuous, but a very intelligent woman. She was exceeding fond of my learning, and taught me to pray. My good father also instructed me, and made a little closet for me to retire to for my morning and evening devotion. But, alas! how childish and hypocritical were all my pretensions to piety, there being little or no serious thoughts of God and religion in me.
Just as I had completed my eighth year, my father saw cause to take a second wife, a virtuous woman, an excellent wife, and an extraordinary good mother-in-law, in whom God graciously very much made up my loss; who, though she could not be supposed to have the love of me which she had of her own children by my father, yet was she constant in her dutiful regard to and care of me and a younger brother. I remember to have heard persons of figure, who knew her, say to me when I was grown up a young man, that they never knew but two good mothers-in-law, and mine was one of them. My honored father died in December, 1732, having just completed his 78th year; my good mother-in-law outlived him twenty-six years, and died January the last day, in 1758, being in her 94th year.
Though my master advanced me, as above, yet I was a very naughty boy, much given to play, insomuch that he at length openly declared, “You Barnard, I know you can do well enough if you will ; but you are so full of play that you hinder your classmates from getting their lessons; and therefore, if
of them cannot perform their duty, I shall correct you for it. One unlucky day, one of my classmates did not look into his book, and therefore could not say his lesson, though I called upon him once and again to mind his book; upon which our master beat me. I told master the reason why he could not say his lesson was, his declaring he would beat me if any of the class were wanting in their duty; since which this boy would not look into his book, though I called upon him to mind his book, as the class could witness. The boy was pleased with my being corrected, and persisted in his neglect, for which I was still corrected, and that for several days. I thought, in justice, I ought to correct the boy, and
compel him to a better temper; and therefore, after school was done, I went up to him, and told him I had been beaten several times for his neglect; and since naster would not correct him I would, and I should do so as often as I was corrected for him ; and then drubbed him heartily. The boy never came to school any more, and so that unhappy affair ended.
Though I was often beaten for my play, and my little roguish tricks, yet I don't remember that I was ever beaten for my book more than once or twice. One of these was upon this occasion. Master put our class upon turning Æsop's Fables into Latin verse. Some dull fellows made a shift to perform this to acceptance; but I was so much duller at this exercise, that I could make nothing of it; for which master corrected me, and this he did two or three days going. I had honestly tried my possibles to perform the task ; but having no poetical fancy, nor then a capacity opened of expressing the same idea by a variation of phrases, though I was perfectly acquainted with prosody, I found I could do nothing; and therefore plainly told my master, that I had diligently labored all I could to perform what he required, and perceiving I had no genius for it, I thought it was in vain to strive against nature any longer; and he never more required it of me. Nor had I any thing of a poetical genius till after I had been at College some time, when upon reading some of Mr. Cowley's works, I was highly pleased, and a new scene opened before me.
I remember once, in making a piece of Latin, my master found fault with the syntax of one word, which was not so used by me heedlessly, but designedly, and therefore I told him there was a plain grammar rule for it. He angrily replied, there was no such rule. I took the grammar and showed the rule to him. Then he smilingly said, “ Thou art a brave boy ; I had forgot it.” And no wonder; for he was then above eighty years old.
While I was a schoolboy, I experienced many signal deliverances from imminent danger, on the land, and in the waters. I mention two signal deliverances; the one in the year 1692, in my eleventh year, I fell from a scaffold at the eaves of the old North Meeting House, eighteen feet high, between two pieces of timber that lay on the ground, without touching them. I lay upon the ground until somebody ran
to my father's house, about two hundred feet off, and acquainted him with my fall; who came and took me up, without any apparent signs of life in me, and carried me home; where, by the blessing of God upon the means used, in some hours I recovered breath and sensation, and had no bone broken nor dislocated, though I complained of inward ails ; but through the divine mercy soon got well.
The other is a more remarkable instance of the goodness of God to me.
In June, 1693, in my twelfth year, Sir Francis Wheeler, with his fleet, which had in vain made an attempt upou Martinico, came to Boston, and brought with him a violent and malignant distemper, called the scarlet fever, by which he lost many hundreds of his men. The distemper soon spread in Boston, of which many persons died, and that within two or three days of their being taken ill. It pleased God I was seized with it, and through the rampancy of the fever, and a violent pain at my heart, which rendered every breath I drew to be as though a sword had pierced me, I was so bad that life was despaired of. On the third night, (I think,) it seemed to me that a certain woman, wife of a doctor, who used to supply my father's family with plasters upon occasion, came and brought me some small dark-colored pills, and directed me to put one in my mouth, and hold it there till it grew mellow, then sqeeze it flat betwixt my thumb and finger and apply it to my right nipple ; it would soak in, and before I had used them all so, I should be well. I followed the prescription, and when I had used the third pill, my pain and fever left me, and I was well. My tender father, very early the next morning, came into my bedchamber to inquire how it was with me, I told him I was quite well, and intended to get up presently, and said the pills Mrs. (naming her) had given me last night had perfectly cured me. He said to me, “Child, I believe she was not here; I heard nothing of it.” To confirm him I said, “ Sir, I have the remaining four pills now in my hand,” and put my hand out of bed to show them, but they dropped out of my hand into the bed. I then raised myself up to look for them, but could not find them. He said to me, “I am afraid, child, you are out of your senses.” I said to him, “Sir, I am perfectly awake, and in my senses, and find myself truly well.” He left the room with the supposition that I was delirious, and I saw by his countenance that he was ready to give me over for lost.