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Determining the Facts

Reading 3: Insight into Joseph Bellamy

Historians and scholars describe Reverend Bellamy "in person manly, of tall stature, in the latter part of his life well-clothed with flesh."1 He was physically imposing, standing more than six feet tall and weighing approximately 300 pounds. His voice was large and clear. Like Jonathan Edwards and other ministers of the time, he wore a white wig and a simple robe when he was in the pulpit. "His whole air and manner were indicative of authority."2

Reverend Bellamy's religious writings present only one side of this complex man. His personal correspondence provides additional insight into his character. Joseph Bellamy, father of seven children, wrote the following letter to his son, Jonathan:

Bethlem Feb. 6 1773
For Mr. Jonathan Bellamy at Norwich
My dear Child,
Yours of Jan. 20 and one a little before I have received, and it gives me pleasure to hear that your situation pleases you...You need an almighty allwise Father, my Child, who will live forever. The great Conductor of allthings & the Father of Lights to take care of you, to guide yr [sic] steps & be yr Father. Of him you might ask wisdom, every hour & he can give & is willing to give Wisdom to him that asketh; & how to get through this world's evil, die in peace & be happy in the World to come without his friendship & patronage I know not. He has been my hope & my life & my guide from my youth up, & he is a very kind Father...Take time to read your Bible. Take time two or three times a day for a secret prayer--the favour of God is worth more than all the world & without it you are undone forever. Therefore seek first the kingdom of God & his righteousness & all things shall be added unto you...How much Cash will you have need of in the Spring? Or What else do you want that we can do for you?...All well at Common. Lucy more healthy than for many years past. May God Almighty Bless you.3

Since it was common practice in colonial times for young theology students to spend a year or two under the direction of a pastor, Bellamy had always accepted students in his home. With his success as a speaker and writer, greater numbers sought his instruction, so Bellamy organized a theology school in his home, the first in the country. At least 42 students are known to have studied with him, and as many as six resided at the same time in the third floor dormitory. Following a planned course of study, Bellamy engaged his students' minds through question-answer discussions and reading from a wide variety of Christian and anti-Christian writers. Former students included Jonathan Edwards, Jr., future vice-president Aaron Burr (Jonathan Edwards' grandson), and Joseph Eckley. Reverend Bellamy continued to correspond with his former students, even after they had left his bustling household, as seen in this letter sent to him by Joseph Eckley:

August 20 1775
Mr. Chapman is this morning to set out on his journey to New England. By him I take the opportunity of sending these lines, together with the money I am indebted to you for my board etc. last winter...I often think of the privilege I enjoyed at Bethlem & the improving & agreeable hours spent in your company. I bear in mind your advice & instructions & hope I shall always regard them....
Whenever you take a journey into the Jerseys my Father & Mother would be glad of the pleasure of your company at their house. They desire to join with me in respectful compliments to yourself, Mrs. Bellamy & all the family.
Joseph Eckley 4

Questions for Reading 3

1. How did Joseph Bellamy's physical appearance and voice help him to communicate?

2. From reading Bellamy's letter to his son, what can you infer about the kind of parent he was? From reading Eckley's letter to Reverend Bellamy, what can you infer about the kind of teacher he was?

3. Are Bellamy's actions as a parent and teacher consistent? Explain your answer.

Reading 3 was compiled from The Clergy of Litchfield County (Litchfield, CT: Litchfield County University Club, 1896); Glenn Paul Anderson, Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790): The Man and His Work, (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1971); Caroline Woolsey Ferriday, Reverend Joseph Bellamy (Bethlehem, CT: privately published); and the Litchfield Historical Society, Bellamy Papers.

1The Clergy of Litchfield County (Litchfield, CT: The Litchfield University Club, 1896), 41.
2 Glenn Paul Anderson,
Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790): The Man and His Work (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1971), 258.
3Caroline Woolsey Ferriday,
Reverend Joseph Bellamy (Bethlehem, CT: Privately published), 183.
4Ibid., 192.

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