Hopedale in 1853 after the controversy that she wrote about below.
INQUIRY AND EXPLANATION
From The Practical Christian, July 2, 1853
Providence, June 23, 1853
Dear Friend Price:-
I write to you because I am troubled in spirit. It is reported that you, with two or three others,
(Henry Fish is named as one,) are about being, or are excluded from the Hopedale Community.
I hear nothing as a reason but that you have adopted what is called by some the "Free Love"
principle. What is it? What does it mean? Will you not gratify an earnest and true soul, who
desires your welfare and happiness and the welfare and happiness of all the members of your
Community, by communicating as soon as it may be practicable, the facts in relation to this
story. I dare not say a word to any one until I hear something definite, and not then, unless I am
permitted to do so; but for my own gratification, will you not write, or if not, ask Br. Wm. H. Fish to
do so; if agreeable to you. You cannot imagine my feelings. Seldom, if ever, has my spirit been
troubled as it is now. Do write immediately.
God Bless you and yours. My love to all. Yours, Sam'l W. Wheeler
Dear Br. Wheeler:
Your letter came duly to hand. The facts in regard to the last sad transgressions are due to
your long tried friendship; but I had rather some other hand might give you the painful recital. I
had much rather contemplate my untrodden path before me, that the shadowed way behind.
For sometime past suspicion has rested upon the minds of our Community of improper
intercourse between brother Henry Fish and sister Seaver, a woman who came among us
some two years ago, well recommended. She was a great sufferer from domestic troubles,
diseased, bodily and mentally. Br. Fish protested that what he did for her, was as for a sister,
that he could not see any one in his family needing assistance without giving such kind offices
and sympathy as he thought would be helpful to her. His wife said to me that although she
believed Henry's attentions to Mrs. Seaver were pure and well-meant, yet his course made her
feel wretchedly, and that she feared her bad feelings in consequence would alienate his love
from her. Often my feelings of sympathy would be much aroused for her, but on hearing Henry's
version of the same thing, the blame would appear divided -- and while I was earnestly
requested by Mrs. Fish to make no public stir abut the matter, with the hope that it would be
finally adjusted among themselves, I sometimes felt that they were all to blame. I believed
enough was known to incite to investigation should it be deemed advisable, while I had no fear
of criminal intercourse, believing that their relation was only fraternal. I often told Br. Fish that any
course of conduct that would be disapproved by the Community was wrong, that however good
his intentions might be I could not justify it for myself, nor for him-- I also aid to him that no wife
could happily consent to such things, and therefore it was wrong to grieve a companion's
feelings. I felt sometimes called on for what I deemed Justice's sake to palliate his conduct,
feeling that I understood his motives better than many, and did not think so badly of them.
Mrs. Fish finally complained to the Council, and startling facts were brought out that left little or
no doubt on the minds of our people, that crime had been committed. Facts from which they
inferred crime -- I had only seen hazardous impropriety -- Here let me state that Mrs. Fish has
ever affirmed her belief that no crime had been done, but her great trouble was the loss of his
By the report of the Council I was seriously implicated as having known too much to keep still.
My course was pronounced by one person deeply reprehensible, and that it was a sad sad night
for Hopedale when one of their Teachers was proved to sanction crime.
I called upon the Council to prove that their report was correct. A searching investigation was
entered into by them, and I was charged, 1, with knowing too much to keep dark, and 2, with
double dealing. Facts to sustain the first charge were abundant, and therefore I had aided and
abetted wrong. I confess with great sorrow my want of decision, and that had I seen the end
from the beginning I should have acted differently. In regard to the second charge which imputed
to me contradictory statements at different times, I confess also that it had some apparent
foundation in the changes of opinion through which I passed, and of course expressed, during
different stages of the affair, respecting the comparative blame of the parties concerned. But my
God knows that I have not intended to sanction or cover crime; that my errors have been of
judgment, not of intention. In the panic and dismay of the excitement I found I could not make
myself fully understood by the Council, and that injustice has been done me, I am sure time will
prove. I therefore quietly withdrew from the Community membership. Should we decide to go to
the Raritan Bay Union, I shall be received with a cordial welcome by friends who know me better
than do the persons here who so bitterly condemn me. I have no views in regard to "free love"
different from the others here.
In relation to the whole matter, my opinion is that in their zeal for principle and purity, our
people have been less merciful than their better judgment will incline them to be after mature
Yours with a sad heart.
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