THE LATE JEREMIAH EVARTS, ESQ.
In a tribute to the memory of the late Jeremiah Evarts, Esq. delivered and published at the request of the Executive Committee of the Auxiliary Foreign Missionary Society of New York and Brooklyn, by the Rev. Dr. Spring we find the following record of the principal incidents in the life of that excellent man.
N. Y. Observer
Mr. Evarts was born of respectable, but humble parentage, in the town of Sunderland, Vermont, on the 3d of February, 1781. At the age of ten years, he removed with his father to Georgia, in the same state, where he completed the usual English education and entered upon the study of the Latin language. In January 1798 he was sent to East Guilford in the state of Connecticut, with the view of preparing for college, under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Elliot the minister of the place; and in October of the same year, he entered Yale College then under the superintendence of the late President Dwight. His journal at this period, though very brief, exhibits many indications of a thinking, independent mind, that felt the responsibility of guiding and forming itself upon a high standard of excellence. His conversion took place during a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the College, during his senior year, in the winter of 1801 2; and in the April following, he made a public profession of religion, and united himself with the church in the college. At the same time his class graduated, in 1802, he united with these of his classmates who were professors of religion, in a mutual covenant, a copy of which has been found among his private papers to pray for each other, to learn one another's circumstances, and to correspond with and counsel one another in subsequent life. After leaving college, he engaged in no settled employment till April, 1803, when he became the instructor of an academy in the town of Peacham in his native state, and continued in this charge till near the close of March 1804. Shortly, subsequent to this, and after a short visit to his father's family, he returned to New Haven and entered himself as a student at Law in the office of the late Judge Channey. Early in the summer of 1806 he took the oath of admission to the bar, and opened an office for the practice of his profession in the city of New Haven. In May, 1810, he removed to Boston, for the double purpose of taking the editorial charge of a literary and religious publication and pursuing the duties of his profession. He continued in the editorial department of the Panoplist till the work was discontinued in 1820, and was himself the author of a large part of the original articles and reviews in the highly respectable work. Every one who is acquainted with the religious and ecclesiastical controversies of Massachusetts, knows with what ability that work was edited; how rapidly it rose in character and extent of circulation; and how important an agency it exerted, in stemming the tide of error, and in restoring an enlightened, scriptural, and active piety to many of the declining churches. At the third annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Mr. Evarts was elected a member of that body, and at the same meeting was chosen for their treasurer, and a member of their executive committee. In September, 1821 he was also appointed their corresponding secretary, in which office he remained to the time of his death. In the discharge of the duties of this office, he visited the Cherokee and Choctaw nations, in 1824, and the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations, again in 1826. In the duties of this office, also, he spent three or four winters in the city of Washington, during the session of Congress, where his principal object was to exert an influence in favor of the education and civilization of the Indians, and especially their protection from oppressive legislation.
The health of Mr. Evarts had been declining for more than a year previous to his disease. During the winter of 1829-30, though feeble, and evidently needing the benefit of relaxation and a warm climate, he continued his labors at the missionary rooms till about the 1st of April, when he repaired again to the city of Washington. The debate on the Indian Bill was just commencing. The excitement and labor of the months of April and May were intense; and he returned to Boston, with his health little, if at all, improved. During the summer and early part of the autumn, he was laboriously employed in preparing the annual report of the board, publishing the speeches on the Indian Bill, writing on the question, and attending to the common business at the missionary rooms. After the annual meeting of the Board, these, or similar labors continued; and added to these, he spent a fortnight at New Bedford, superintending the embarkation of a reinforcement to the Sandwich Island Mission. Here he was exposed to cold and storms, and exerted himself in writing and addressing public assemblies in the vicinity on the subject of missions. He returned from New Bedford, December 29th, much debilitated, and could labor only at intervals afterwards. He, however, wrote the memorial of the board to Congress, in behalf of the Indians, while he was so weak, as every hour or two to be obliged to lie down to rest. He wrote, also , a number of important letters. His last letter, as corresponding secretary of the Board, was written to the missionaries in the Cherokee Nation, relative to their removing, or remaining, and exposing themselves to the penalty of the laws of Georgia. The part he took in behalf of the Indians, was such as might be expected from such a man. He was early applied to, to second the effort that was about to be made to effect their removal beyond the Mississippi, but he saw no good to come from it to them and he abhorred and detested the means used to secure it. He was present when the bill to effect their removal passed the House of Representatives- a bill that marks this republic faithless towards it dependents. And when the vote was passed, Mr. Evarts remarked to a member of Congress who sat near him, 'My comfort is, that God governs the world, ' my hope is, that when the people of the United States come to understand the subject, there will a redeeming spirit answer; for I will not believe that the nation is yet lost to truth and honor.' His anxiety and labors on this question, the distress he felt in view of the violation of the good faith of the nation, and of the rights of the Cherokees, his apprehensions of the suffering, which would come on the Indian tribes, and of the judgements of Heaven which would visit the country for treachery, kept his mind in a state of exhausting excitement for the last year and a half of his life, which together with the accumulated labors which he sustained in consequence of his great effort, without doubt sunk him to his grave.
These, with previous trials not a few, had exerted a powerful influence in the formation of a character every day becoming more meet for the rest and joy of a higher world. God had chosen him in the furnace of affliction. He possessed a maturity of personal religion, a meetness for heaven, which was the result of long moral training; and by which the Spirit of God preparing him for an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. As his strength declined, and he became entirely unable to attend to business, he seemed to possess a mind remarkably detached from earth, and to enjoy peculiar fellowship with God. He spent much time in reading Baxter's Saints' Rest, and in contemplating that 'exceeding and eternal weight of glory' on which he often used to dwell with delighted interest, and for which his light affliction, which was comparatively but for a moment was preparing him. He himself had made arrangements for a journey of land, with some hope of recovering his health, at least for a season, and with this view, attended minutely to his secular affairs. His own plan was to proceed to Washington, and endeavor to exert his influence in favor of the Indians till Congress should rise, and then go on an agency for the board in the middle or southern states. This expectation he continued to cherish, till advised by his physician that a voyage to a warm climate was the only probable means of restoring his health. In this he cheerfully acquiesced; and in an interview with his associates in office with great tenderness and affection, told them to proceed in their work without reference to him.- This, to his own feelings, was probably the most trying moment of his life. But he did not faint in the day of adversity. God was with him. Before his embarkation, he was, to an uncommon degree, even for him, calm, serious, and affectionate. A cheerful acquiescence in the will of God, an entire and joyful trust in him, a bidding adieu to the solitude of time, and a tenderness in his intercourse with his family and friends which cannot be described, and that were painfully foreboding, seemed to say he should see them no more. And had he been assured of it, his parting from them could not have been more appropriate. He took passage for the Island of Cuba, on the 10th of February, and reached Havana, after a favorable voyage, on the 2d of March. But his health was not improved. After spending some time at Havana and Matadzas, and the interior of the islands, enjoying every advantage of climate, exercise, and kind attention of friends, he took passage for Savannah, and arrived there on the 24th of April, much exhausted by the voyage. In a few days his symptoms became alarming, and he proceeded to Charleston, where he arrived on the third day, much exhausted by disease and pain. Up to this time, both he himself and his physicians had mistaken the nature of his disease. There were now evident indications of his being in the last stages of a consumption. While in Charleston, he received every possible attention from eminent physicians, and numerous friends. He continued steadily to grow weaker, often enduring great bodily pain, till 1 o'clock on the 10th of May when his spirit was permitted to leave her frail, earthly, dissolved tabernacle, and enter in a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.