Boston, Dec. 16th, 1853.
My Dear Mann: — I cannot express to you the relief — yes ! relief as well as pleasure, which the sight of your beloved old sign manual has given me. I wrote to you soon after your departure,1 and though nothing that I said was worthy your notice I have been hoping for some reply.
From Downer's and from all other accounts you are doing a noble work. I will not say God speed you in it, for I think the sooner we get rid even of the forms of speech which favour the doctrine implied in them, the better for the world. You ask, may not a man be a cripple and a hunchback in his soul, as well as in his legs and his dorsal vertebrae? Doubtless he may — nay! how few are not so! But I cannot help thinking that this doctrine of reliance upon something outside of and above us helps to cripple us. This constant reference to we know not what leads us to disregard we do know what — the capacities and dispositions put within us. I presume that au jond we think much alike, however much we may differ in forms of expression. I believe that what is called religion — the creeds, the sects — even the mildest of them, swaddle humanity and keep it in the wickedness and weakness of infancy. I believe if all who see and know that man has capacities, tendencies, powers to be true and good irrespective of any hopes or fears of the consequences, here or hereafter — that man is so constituted that he need not rely on any thing or being extraneous to himself — if they who see this dared say it openly, it would be better for the race.
But not to talk of these abstractions: I am greatly moved, dear Mann, I am deeply touched, I am exceedingly rejoiced to find that you have got into such a field as you are now breaking up and planting, for a glorious harvest of good to humanity. It cheers me in my little, narrow beat to know that one whom it is my cherished privilege to call friend is filling such an orbit of beneficence. I feel this from my heart, and am humbly proud of the consciousness that I would rather be doing what you are doing than be master of the White House.
Downer tells me you are well, and this cheers me, for I feared you were rapidly using up the oil of life.
I have nothing to tell you of affairs here that you do not know. The Coalition millstone that was about our necks is gone, and we shall not, I trust, be drowned with it. The great commercial prosperity is against us, for alas! as yet men will not quit Mammon when he pays very high, illegal interest.
Good-bye; Love to all!
S. G. H.
1 For Antioch College.
SOURCE: Laura E. Richards, Editor, Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Volume 2, p. 395-6