Chapter 21


FROM this time there was an element of "Bible secretiveness" in the development of Complex Marriage. Bible secretiveness according to Noyes would not permit making a false statement, but it would permit withholding facts from inferiors. Christ and Paul delivered their message truthfully. But Christ came "like a thief in the night;" he spoke to the multitude in parables; he charged the people not to make him known; he said to his disciples: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." So Paul to a higher class in the Primitive Church spoke wisdom too advanced for "babes in Christ."

Noyes also delivered his message with frankness from the begin-fling. He avowed his principles in print nine years before he put them to practice. The step from principles to practice, when it was made, was an easy inference from his puNished writings. After the migration to Oneida he placed these publications in the hands of the Governor of the State, the local authorities and other prominent persons. He did not withhold more particular information from sincere inquirers. But he did not promulgate views too advanced for his hearers, nor unseasonably thrust himself upon the public, nor go out of his way to put weapons into his enemies' hands.

Noyes tolerated no secretiveness toward superiors. He believed that progress and safety depended upon unbroken communication with God. To this end he thought every person should have counselors superior to himself from whom he kept no secrets. Jn the Oneida Community Noyes himself and the central members were a clearing house for secrets.

While secretiveness was sometimes justifiable, duplicity never. Bible secretiveness left a picture incomplete but single-faced and true.



January i846.-At the request of Mr. Noyes I now commence a journal of what has taken place among us of late with regard to the increase of brotherly love.

This month Mr. Cragin left for Belchertown and Southampton, not intending to stay long. He did not go to Southampton as we expected, but went to visit the Prescott sisters. While absent he wrote a letter to Mrs. Harriet A. Noyes expressing his love for her as a sister in Christ. This letter, together with his visit to Prescott, gave rise to some remarks about his partiality for women. Mr. Noyes addressed a letter of friendly caution to him, in which he spoke approvingly of his love for the feminine character, but reminded him that such men as Dr. Gridley and Charles Mead were watching him with an evil eye. Mrs. Noyes was brought into tribulation by the remarks of some about Mr. Cragin's letter, and when Mr. Noyes talked with her upon the subject she made known to him her love for Mr. Cragin. Mr. Noyes approved of her feelings, and appointed a meeting of the four, Mr. and Mrs. Noyes, Mr. and Mrs. Cragin. We met one Saturday evening about the middle of the month. Mr. Noyes requested Mr. Cragin to read the letter of counsel referred to, and added words of caution which Mr. Cragin confessed were needed. Mr. Noyes said this was the negative side of the subject; we would now turn to the positive side. He then called upon Mrs. Noyes to speak. She said that she was pleased by Mr. Cragin's letter, and that her heart was drawn out toward him by it. Mr. Cragin confessed a similar feeling toward her, which prompted the letter. Mr. Noyes then asked Mr. Cragin's leave to tell me that he loved me. Mr. Cragin heartily consented. I said that 1 had loved Mr. Noyes so much that I feared he would find it out; for 1 was not certain, my awe of him was such, that he wanted me to love


him so much. After these avowals we considered ourselves engaged to each other, expecting to live in all conformity to the laws of this world until the time arrives for the consummation of our union. The effect was most refreshing to our spirits. We have formed a circle which it is not easy for the Devil to break. We find this evidence that our love is of God: it is destitute of exclusiveness, each one rejoicing in the happiness of the others.

A few days after this meeting Mr. Noyes said that he wanted to extend the blessing to all as fast as they were able to receive it. He talked with Harriet Skinner, and found her nearer ripe for a community of hearts than he had supposed. Also at an incidental interview Mr. Miller gave a satisfactory testimony.

Mr. Noyes gave a lecture upon the proper bounds of demonstrations of love between the sexes. He cut off kissing and everything which would be considered as leaning toward licentiousness.

March 15.-Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, Mr. and Mrs. Noyes, and Mr. and Mrs. Cragin met at Mr. Miller's. Mr. Noyes spoke of Mr. Miller's testimony at the printing-office, and remarked upon the increasing tendency to unity among us. He then said that a nucleus must be formed in order to draw the others in; and he asked whether, if he should find it necessary to commence, there was sufficient confidence in him to prevent evil surmisings and jealousies. An expression was obtained from each one, and the conclusion was unanimous that Mr. Noyes as the head and pilot in this matter had a claim on our confidence and an undoubted right to do as he pleased.

Charlotte said at the meeting that her husband, she thought, did not love her so well as formerly. Mr. Noyes read to us the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians, dwelling with emphasis upon the sixth verse: "That no man go beyond and defraud his


brother in any matter." I was brought into considerable tribulation by a spirit which accused me of being the occasion of Charlotte's difficulties. 1 will relate the particulars: Last June Mr. Smith of Rondout came to Putney to see Mr. Noyes. On hearing of his arrival I was plunged into distress. My husband was gone, and I felt desolate and wretched. Mr. Miller happened to call, and his sympathies were drawn out in my behalf. He acted the part of a brother toward me through all my tribulation, for which I felt very grateful. As I supposed that he still retained the exclusive affection for Charlotte which I knew he once had, I was not so much on my guard as 1 should have been. This winter some trifling familiarities took place, which gave me uneasiness. I feared that I had unconsciously attracted him, and I opened my heart to my husband for advice and rebuke if I needed it. 1 also told Mrs. Noyes, from whom I have no secrets. Mr. Noyes called to give us advice. He had noticed how things were going. He did not condemn any one, but wished such intimacies put an end to before they went too far. I had the night before sent word to Mr. Miller by Mr. Cragin, requesting him to treat me with coolness and reserve for his own sake and Charlotte's and mine. Mr. Noyes said I must tell Mr. Miller myself, if it was necessary. In the afternoon Mr. Cragin went up to see Charlotte. While he was gone Mr. Miller, who had previously called to talk with us when Mr. Cragin was at home but had been interrupted, came in. He said that once he had felt disposed to see and talk about my faults, but that his feelings had changed; that he had a strong attachment for me, stronger than for any woman in the Community. I was surprised at this, and felt full of zeal to plead Charlotte's cause. I told him that I would not do anything that looked like defrauding her, and that I would seek her happiness before my own, because I considered her more worthy. He left, and I took the first opportunity of relating what had passed to my


husband and Mr. and Mrs. Noyes. The next day in a conversation with Mr. Noyes at which Charlotte was present Mr. Miller said that I misunderstood him. There the matter rests until all parties can be heard in their own defense.

March 22.~An interview took place between Messrs. Noyes, Miller, Skinner and Cragin with their wives at Mr. Noyes's house. Mr. Noyes remarked that he hoped we had come together for peace and not for war. He then requested Mr. Miller to commence the conversation. This Mr. Miller declined to do, wishing me to bring forward my charges against him. It was finally settled that J should state the conversation which took place on the previous Wednesday, which I did. Mr. Miller said that I correctly stated it, but he insisted with much warmth that in his declaration of attachment to me he meant of course to except his wife. This seemed to be the point at issue between us. In reply to my defense of Charlotte that afternoon he had said nothing that looked like surprise at my having received the impression I did. Mr. Noyes labored to convince him that he had been imprudent in his course toward me, particularly in leaving that expression of attachment so unguarded. Mr. Miller again and again disclaimed all intention of doing wrong, of which no one accused him. Charlotte was much distressed that I should have received such an impression from what he said, and I was distressed that 1 could not conscientiously fully acquit him of having defrauded Charlotte for my sake. Finally Mr. Miller acknowledged that he might have been imprudent, and Charlotte said she thought her mind would become calm. So we parted. The next day Mr. Cragin tendered his sympathies to Mr. Miller, and begged him not to he so sensitive, assuring him that we all loved him and that what had taken place was an external affair.

March 24.-Mr. Miller wrote a letter to Mr. Noyes in which he fully and heartily sanctioned Mr. Noyes's course with


him and acknowledged his imprudence in full. Charlotte remains distressed. Alas! That I should be an apple of discord in a family to whom I am under such untold obligation! But this seems to be my fate.

March 25.~Mr. Noyes called to state Mr. Miller's opinion of a remark which I made to him on the evening of our meeting, which was this: I said to Mr. Miller that I had not loved him, that I only felt grateful to him for his partiality to me. I felt as though I had not acknowledged enough as soon as I had said it, but did not know how then to alter it. I was irritated by what he had said just before about my having madc an avowal of love to him, which I did not think I ever had. However the truth is that I did love him more than I was aware. I still love Mr. Miller as well as ever, but with a firm determination to infringe on no one's rights. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor." I will just add that I think Charlotte has not been jealous of me without a cause.



One evening in May 1846 Mrs. Cragin and I went for a stroll. Coming to a lonely place we sat on a rock by the roadside and talked. All the circumstances invited advance in freedom, and yielding to the impulse upon me I took some personal liberties. The temptation to go further was tremendous. But at this point came serious thoughts. I stopped and revolved in mind as before God what to do. I said to myself, "I will not steal." After a moment we arose and went toward home. On the way we lingered. But I said, "No, I am going home to report what we have done." On reaching Mr. Cragin's house I called a meeting of the four. A searching talk ensued. Mr. Cragin at first was tempted to think that I was following the course of Abram C. Smith, but he finally recognized the dif-


ference and gave judgment of approval. My wife promptly expressed her entire sanction. The last part of the interview was as amicable and happy as a wedding, and the consequence was that we gave each other full liberty.


[About] August I, 1846.

"He that doubteth is damned if he eat." Mr. Miller doubteth. His last position in conversation with me was that he would not do again what he did on the road from Clarendon. He stands opposing my theory and withholding submission. Yet he is availing himself of the privileges of my theory. He embraced Mrs. Cragin last evening. What advances he is making to you I know not. But I wish you to be on your guard. You must tell him you will not allow him to do anything which he thinks is wrong and will be ashamed of afterwards, for to him such things are licentious. I cannot go along with him until he has decisively adopted our principles and has put himself wholly into my hands. He will need much discipline, and he has never yet shown that he knew the value of discipline. He will need to be instructed in regard to secretiveness and the law in relation to propagation before he can safely be trusted with liberty. But in his present spirit and position I cannot instruct him. I wish you therefore to h~d yourself aloof from him, or at most to coquette with him, and not allow him to feel free with you until he openly avows our principles and

submits to my instructions. J. H. N.


Putney, August 18, 1846.

Dear Brother Noyes: . . .
I came into the store, arid after praying earnestly that God would show me his will on the subject of our conversation 1


opened the Bible to these verses: "For we write none other things unto you than what ye read and acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end ; as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus." This seems to me to be plainly the manifestation of the will of God. As such I am willing to receive it, and follow the leading of his spirit through you without questioning or knowing why it is so. I believe that God is able and willing to show me the whole truth on this subject in due time, and I will wait patiently.

Your whole past life has been such as to inspire me with confidence. 1 can point to no one act which I do not think was right and directed by the spirit of God. In all my past difficulties I can plainly see the hand of God directing them for my good.

Yours in sincerity,


Putney, September 17, 1846.

Dear Brother:
Don't, I pray, expect ready wit or anything else but commonplace sayings, written crookedly too, for I have little George on my lap assisting in his way, and John, who has just taken a fit of jealousy, pulling me to take him up too. However I am determined to write a little, if it is only to tell you that I love you some too, and I am confident that you will yet come out bright and happy and be able to say that you count your greatest trials as your greatest reasons for rejoicing, inasmuch as they will yield the most fruit. Doubtless you are enjoying yourself as well as you can considering you have left your heart behind you. I only hope that you want to see


us as much as we want to see you. Georgy will not let me write any longer.

Yours affectionately,


Putney, October 28, 1846.

Dear Brother Burnham:

I never loved you, never felt so near to you as I do now. If you are going through the same sufferings that I have been through, I know how to sympathize. .

If God calls us to suffer, we must learn to rejoice in it. . We may not always see at the time why it is that God calls us thus to separate from things we hold dear. But I can now see that all the sufferings I have been through for the past summer have been for my everlasting good. I could never have gained such a victory over the world, the flesh and the Devil without it, and never should have had this experience if it had not been for Brother Noyes. I thought a good many times, "These are hard sayings; who can hear them?" And have been ready to go back into Egypt. But when 1 have come out from under the Devil's magnetism into the glorious sunlight of heaven, I have seen that it was not only the best thing that could be done, but the only thing to remedy the evil. I had an immense amount of worldly wisdom to be purged out before I could be brought into perfect fellowship with Christ. The great question was, what will the world think of this? But I have learned that to the children of God the question and the only question is, what will my Father think of this? And when we have once learned his will, the world is nothing more to us than if we were the inhabitants of some other planet.

It may seem to us that the course in which the spirit leads


will bring us to ruin. But is not he, without whose notice a sparrow cannot fall to the ground, able to uphold us if we put our trust in him?

We should keep distinctly in mind that nothing is of any value to us that is not yaluable to God. I say then, Away with everything else, the sooner the better. If I am going to buy goods, I do not want my pocket-book filled with good bills and counterfeit together. I want none but what are current in market. And I want nothing about me but what will pass in the market of heaven. .

When I have been led to doubt and hesitate about what we were doing, God has shown me his will as plainly as if I had heard a voice from heaven saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." When I have looked back, all has been darkness and misery, but when I have gone forward in the course God has marked out, my heart has been filled with the peace and happiness of heaven. . .

Yours affectionately,



We, the undersigned, hold the following principles as the basis of our social union:

1. All individual proprietorship either of persons or things is surrendered, and absolute community of interests takes the place of the laws and fashions which preside over property and family relations in the world.

2. God as the ultimate and absolute owner of our persons and possessions is installed as the director of our combinations and the distributor of property. His spirit is our supreme regulator.


3. John H. Noyes is the father and overseer whom the Holy Ghost has set over the family thus constituted. To John H. Noyes as such we submit ourselves in all things spiritual and temporal, appealing from his decisions only to the spirit of God, and that without disputing.

We pledge ourselves to these principles without reserve; and if we fall away from them, let God and our signatures be witnesses against us.


On November 4, 1846, the Putney Perfectionists carried through a consolidation of households. Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Noyes moved into the Campbell house with Mr. and Mrs. Cragin and William H. Woolworth. At the same time the Skinners, Millers and Leonards took possession of the Noyes homestead. J. H. Noyes's house was not occupied this winter. "For want of better names," wrote Harriet Skinner, "the Campbell house came to be known as the Lower House, and the Noyes homestead as the Upper House." This consolidation implied greater freedom in the development of Complex Marriage.

The night before the move the Skinners gave a party at which all were present. Miller wrote of it to Mrs. Polly Noyes: "The evening till about nine o'clock was spent in reading and conversation. It was then proposed that Mr. Skinner should make a speech on the occasion of leaving the J. H. Noyes house. This proposal called out a speech from every one present. There was much glorious testimony of the love and union that exists among us. At eleven o'clock we returned to our homes."




Welcome! thrice welcome to our home!
Within our breasts there stands enshrined
A love which bids thee never roam,
But in our hearts thy dwelling find.

For thou hast taught our erring feet
To walk in wisdom's narrow way;
Awakened us from error's sleep,
And shed truth's light o'er all our way.

Thou art our shepherd! and dost keep
An ever watchful jealous care
Within thy fold among thy sheep.
No subtle foe can enter there.

Thou art our lion! and canst rend
The wolves which fain would drink our blood.
To thee earth's haughtiest sons shall bend,
And thou shalt be approved of God.

Thou art our lamb! In gentlest strains
Thou speakest comfort to our hearts,
When writhing 'neath those needful pains
Which seem to rend our souls apart.

Thou art our lover! From thy heart
A tide of living healthful love
Rolls o'er us, and makes us a part
Of the blest family above.


And she, thy meek and gentle wife,
Stands ever ready by thy side
To help thee in the arduous strife.
She is our sister, friend and guide.

Ye've left your quiet, happy home
To come and dwell awhile with us
Within this plain, old-fashioned dome
From motives that but few would guess.

'Tis the same spirit brings you here
Brought the Redeemer from the skies.
His image doth in you appear,
And this is His self-sacrifice.

God will reward your deeds of love,
And when ye seek to enter heaven,
His faithfulness to you he'll prove.
"Abundant entrance" will be given.

November 1st, 1846.

Of the move Harriet Skinner writes to her mother: "John says that we up here must contrive to present an extraordinary weight of attraction or we shall not draw them up that hill very often this winter, especially as they have everything agreeable to keep them at home. I told him I wished the work-shop was up here. You don't know how he does luxuriate in Mr. Woolworth's magazine of tools. It was proposed also to keep the apples up here, and that Mr. Miller should invariably take The Courier from the post-office and bring it home before John had a chance to see it. What more attractions we can muster do let us know, for I will go far and near and spend my last farthing."


Putney, November 5, 1846.

Dear Mrs. Noyes:
I never felt such a love for all the household of God as I have lately. I have had many trials the past summer, but every


wave that has dashed against the ship has driven it nearer the shore of eternal rest. I feel now that my hope is truly an anchor to the soul, which the world and the Devil cannot move. . . . I wish to be nothing but a tool in God's hands to be used in any way that shall best promote his honor and glory, and my prayer is that I may never be released from trials and sufferings until every thought and feeling shall be brought into obedience to his will. I rejoice, yea and will rejoice in God's dealings with me. . . . The spirit of God is a two-edged sword, which I believe has been put into John's hands to separate me from every earthly tie, and faithfully does he fulfill the duties of his office.

Yours affectionately,


February 12, 1847.-I met Mr. Miller in company with Mr. and Mrs. Noyes, Mrs. Miller and Mr. Cragin. I told him that J was desirous of entering into partnership with him upon certain conditions, which were these: his full and hearty consent that Mr. Noyes should be a third party to our union, that we should keep in open and direct communication with him, relying on his honor and generosity to teach us how to love each other in that way which would be the most improving to our characters and tend to make us the happiest.

The Putney Perfectionists were accustomed to meet every Sunday forenoon at the Chapel. Noyes usually took the lead, and others spoke as they felt inclined. After meeting they assembled at one of the houses for what they called a "national dinner."

There was another consolidation of households at the end of March 1847. The Noyes, Cragin, Skinner and Miller families occupied the Noyes homestead, Locust Grove, while the Leonards moved into the Campbell house with Woolworth. Thus the four


principal families of the Putney Community united into a single household.

Burnham was invited early in April to come from Belchertown with his wife and Occupy I H. Noyes's house, a privilege for which he felt "inexpressible gratitude."

After this consolidation the families at the Noyes homestead began having a daily evening meeting at eight o'clock.


Chapter 22: Divulging the Secret | Contents