From the Fortress of Solitude
Many of our ancestors on the Williamson / Willis lines were strong Quakers. They left England in a quest for religious freedom. Tonight I continue on the Quaker theme by introducing you to Jesse Kersey (b. 1768), a well know Quaker minister until the end of his life in 1845. Jesse was the son of our 6th Great Aunt Hannah Bennett and her husband William Kersey, making him our 1st cousin, six times removed.
We begin our study of Cousin Jesse Kersey's life with a Relationship Chart (Click to Enlarge):
The following is a description of his early life from a book titled The Early Life, Travel, and Labours of Jesse Kersey.
He was the son of William and Hannah Kersey, of Yorktown, Pennsylvania. Was born on the 5th of 8th month, 1768. In his childhood and early youth, he was much exposed to the corrupting influence of vain and vicious company ; but through the guardian care and religious concern of his parents, and the restraining influence of the Divine gift in himself, he was preserved in a great degree from the contamination of guilty compliance with the customs and manners of the time, by which he was surrounded. In a manuscript found among his papers, he says of himself: " I have frequently looked back with gratitude and wonder, that I should have wholly escaped the crime of using profane language, notwithstanding it was common among my play-fellows. This preservation, I am aware, was without any merit in me, still I cannot reflect on it without a real satisfaction; and I fully believe that those who have children under their care, cannot be too watchful in keeping them from that "hardihood of mind and manners, which is always attendant, when an early habit of using wicked words, is allowed or acquired." It appears that among the first temptations that beset him to disobey his parents, was to accept the invitations of his youthful companions, to wander about with them on the first day of the week; and although he was at a loss to imagine why he should be restrained from this, yet he says, "in every instance, such indulgence rendered him very unhappy afterwards." It seems that on looking back upon the scene of his juvenile sports and pastimes, he was ready to believe that the regrets he had felt for having disobeyed his parents, might have been occasioned more by his affection for them, than from any clear conviction, at the time, of the evil of the practice.
Among the influences that operated to restrain him, he mentions, that " his mother's tears were not soon forgotten." About the fourteenth year of his age, he had frequent convictions for his follies, which induced him often to think it was necessary to be more guarded. Yet he continued to join with his acquaintances in their diversions, until at length those feelings of conviction seemed to be much worn off, and his taste for cheerful company to have left but little relish for serious things. "My parents," he continues, " carefully kept me to meetings, and the frequent reading of the Scriptures."
Our Cousin Jesse worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery in the United States. The following is taken from the same book mentioned above.
About the year 1804, he visited England and Ireland; and was afterwards extensively engaged in the ministry within this and other Yearly Meetings; and in the
year 1814, again visited the South under a concern, in especial relation to the cruel and unrighteous system of American Slavery, and the mode of deliverance from its terrible consequences, having opportunities with the President of the United States, and other distinguished men, and holding meetings among the people of color and others. On his return, it appears his mind was oomforted in the belief, that way would yet be made safely to remove what he describes as " one of the greatest evils that ever the Spirit of delusions has succeeded in imposing upon mankind."
Friends Intelligencer,, xiv, 1858, 412, quoting the New Bedford Standard, which quotes the Fall River News. As Madison married Dolly Payne, a Quakeress, he was probably used to plain Quaker speech. Another Quaker, Jesse Kersey, who visited President Madison in 1814, reports that the latter "had thought of the plan to removing the slaves to Africa, as contemplated by Paul Cuffe." (Narrative of Jesse Kersey, 1851, p. 74.)Jesse Kersey was an accomplished author and poet. The following is an example of his work - a poem on the death of his wife.
JESSE KERSEY, ON THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE.
Ah ! whither, sainted spirit, art thou gone.
And left thy tender spouse now all alone ?
Our time together sweetly passed away,
While we were partners, each returning day.
But now, my love, no more can I behold
Those brilliant eyes that oft thy kindness told.
No ; dearest partner,—thy blest race is run,
And thou art told that all thy work is done.
While we were passing through this world of care,
How oft thy counsel bid me not despair.
When storms and tempests seem'd on ev'ry side.
In thee I found (however greatly tried)
A mind superior to the darkest hour,
Whose trust was firm in the Almighty's power.
Thy gentle spirit, govern'd by the Truth,
Maintain'd with constancy the vows of youth.
Nor did thy soul e'er separated stand
From thy all-wise Creator's blest command.
But, being faithful to " the Light within,"
Was thereby kept from each besetting sin.
And having known a heart that was sincere,
Thy end was peace,—thy future prospects clear.
Thus pass'd the partner of my life away,
The blessed subject of eternal day.
No sorrows, griefs, nor clouds of dark despair,
But joy and peace forever centre there.
Oh! may her offspring, guided as she was,
By principles Divine, and holy laws,
Enjoy with her the pure reward of peace,
Nor from the beauty of her life e'er cease.
Then will they ever prove themselves to be
Examples from all vice and folly free.
Thus wisely meeting ev'ry task assign'd,
In ev'ry trial they will be resign'd.
And when their race on earth shall have an end,
Jehovah God will be their lasting Friend.
Another examples of Jesse Kersey's writing:
But, adored forever be the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls; - his arm is not shortened that it can not save, nor his ear grown heavy that it cannot hear. By the blessed interference of his adorable goodness, wisdom, and power, deliverance was miraculously furnished, and a way made for me to rise again into the glorious liberty of the ever blessed Truth. This I acknowledge with gratitude to have been nothing short of a Divine work. And having witnessed that my God is indeed a God of mercy and long-suffering kindness, I am humbly bound to speak well of his excellent name, and to magnify the arm of his power. Oh! how wonderful is his loving-kindness to the children of men! When, by his Spirit my mind is opened to take a view of his marvellous kindness, long-suffering, and forbearance with transgressing mortals, - no language is sufficient to do the great subject justice. Sometimes the query arises, how is it, that he permits transgressing mortals to go on year after year, in a state of rebellion against the clear impressions of his Spirit, and lengthens out the opportunity for such to return to him, and enjoy his favor? Thus he even extends his call to the eleventh hour of the day; evident ly not willing that any should perish in their sins, but that all should return, repent, and live.Click to read a sermon delivered by Jessey Kersey
And finally, Jesse Kersey wrote the following book on the Fundamentals of Being a Quaker. Click for the Book on the Fundamentals of being a Quaker