W2975 TO REV. THOMAS BAKER from Rev. Enoch Barker
Sep 29 1864
To: Rev. Thomas Baker, Newmarket, Ontario
From: Newmarket, Ontario
Please accept my thanks for your favor of yesterday, containing Mrs. Kirke's verbatim of my remarks respecting you. And I must acknowledge the, at least, courteous and respectful tone of your letter. My principal regret is that you could give credence so fully to the report of those who are not influenced by the most friendly feelings towards me, and who, on this account, would, almost of necessity, both hear and repeat any statement of mine on such a subject with a different shade of meaning. With your experience I need not remind you that the whole spirit of a conversation may be altered by the order to which it is reported, just as the entire pattern of a web may be altered by a different interweaving of the very same colors; and that the same effect may be produced by simply a change of tone and emphasis on the part of the person who attempts to report a conversation.
The reports moreover with which you have favored me are at variance with the truth in word, as well as in order; and I have good reason to suspect that the tone and emphasis with which they were repeated were quite as much at fault, being almost as certain to receive their coloring from the channel through which they passed, as water to derive its properties from the veins through which it courses.
Had Mr. Smith and Mrs. Kirke been influenced by no more unkindly feelings towards me than I had towards you when your name was by them brought up in conversation, the reports that you have received would have been very different from what you now have to represent: in fact, you would not in that case have received the reports at all, which, Mr. Baker, I am convinced have been brought to you no more out of charity to yourself than to me. When asked why I had not consulted you, as one acquainted with the history of the church for many years, I do not yet think it was too much for me to reply that "I had better not at all ask the advice of a predecessor, then feel myself obliged, as I might afterwards feel, to act contrary to that advice." And when I was blamed for not coinciding with you in Mr. Smith's case when your pastoral experience had been so much more lengthened than mine, I did not refrain from saying that "I considered neither age nor experience infallible, however much they were to be respected, and that I did not consider your management of the Brantford church the most successful," (of course I made no reference to your pulpit labors, which, I am very happy to learn were successful).
I do not pretend to recollect the exact language I had used in these conversations; nor do I see how one of a hundred could pretend to do so, especially, after a lapse of six months, as Mrs. Kirke's case. But I am satisfied that I soon put the dress [sic] on Mr. Smith's report, viz., He never succeeded with any church. He is no authority for I know not what pastorates you held before going to Brantford or whether you had any. Nor have I ever had the spirit towards you to speak with the contempt that is implied in the report. The word "infallible" I do not remember. I think I used also the word "successful," and I may have said when my opinion was quoted on good authority, that I have no recollection of saying so, that I could not receive any man's "authority" in the matter.
Whatever, may have been said in conversation with Mrs. Kirke, it was never said that I did not feel myself free to call on Mr. Baker when I came to Newmarket, for I did call on you freely and invite you to return the calls, until your reserve forbade further approach. I probably said that I did not feel "free" to consult you in church matters. Neither did I use such language as that I have heard reports injurious to Mr. Baker's Christian Character, or that I was "stumbled" at Dr. Lillie's continued intimacy with you--such terms convey stronger impressions than any feelings I have entertained towards you would allow me to convey. But why, I was asked did I not freely speak with you respecting what I heard?--Perhaps you would give a different version of it? "Perhaps not" I answered; and especially as you were not in church membership, I was not under any special obligation to revive a subject that might occasion needless complications. And on account of which I did not by any means consider you unchristianized.
[Notes written at side of page are illegible.]
None of my remarks can possibly be construed into slander of the mildest form. I took it for granted that you justified yourself in the positions you assumed in the church in Brantford while as in domestic affairs,1 and were not ashamed of this being known. I was not called to argue them with you. Neither am I ashamed of my position relative to Mr. Smith in his dispute with the church; and though you expressed surprise at the result, I do not regard you as doing me any injury. I admit that any reference to yourself as connected with Brantford, which has been at best needless had I not been drawn into it for self-justification; and had I known then, what I do now, of the animus of those with whom I was speaking, I might, perhaps, have considered it more prudent to suffer the imputation of self-conceit [any?] party has, than have stated my reasons for not deliberating with you (B.cxxxix.1)[sic]. On the other hand, I have ever said to those who have enquired about my delicate position in relation to yourself as former pastor, that your conduct towards me was gentlemanly in every respect; that I regretted only the reserve you felt yourself obliged to maintain, though this was very much preferable to active interference.
My accusers themselves know that the favorable remarks respecting you have not been all on their side. I have never harbored any feelings towards you inconsistent with my desire to have you supply my pulpit, or assist me at the Lord's Table, or associate with my family, but the very contrary. Though not agreed in minutia, as no two are; I believed that we were agreed in the main. I hope so yet, though I feel that you have done me an injustice in giving preference to the statements of those who would be happy to see me leave Newmarket tomorrow.
You will please excuse what may seem undue freedom in addressing one so much my superior in age and experience and believe me nevertheless,
Yours with much respect,
Rev'd T. Baker
1 This likely refers to the relationship of Rev. Baker's daughter, Mary Anne, to her late sister Harriett's widower, Frederick F. Wilkes.
Rev. Baker was so scandalized that he adamantly refused to visit Mary Anne even as she lay ill and dying, see W2855. For further correspondence between Rev. Baker and Rev. Barker, See W2791, W2982, W2984, W2986.