August 12, 2007

I don’t know how I missed this, but I did. In 2006 a number of sources–including the National Public Radio, reported, “A construction crew excavating land for a new high rise in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood recently dug-up a well-preserved chunk of the city’s maritime past: A 19th-century whaling ship that archeologists believe was buried and forgotten as landfill after being abandoned by fortune-seeking sailors during the Gold Rush.”

So what does this have to do with Adventist history? Plenty as it turns out. The ship was identified as the barque Candace which once carried Captain Joseph Bates on a voyage from Peru to Boston. Bates did not command the ship on this particular voyage but apparently travelled as a passenger, according to the Adventist News Network report.

Joseph Bates was a founding member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is particularly known for his promotion of the seventh-day Sabbath. During the spring of 1845 he accepted the seventh-day Sabbath after reading a pamphlet by T. M. Preble. Bates became known as the “apostle of the Sabbath” and wrote several booklets on the topic. One of the first, published in 1846, was entitled The Seventh Day Sabbath, a Perpetual Sign.

Bates’ autobiography has the wonderfully unwieldy title: The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates; Embracing a Long Life on Shipboard, with Sketches of Voyages on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas; Also Impressment and Service on Board British War Ships, Long Confinement in Dartmoor Prison, Early Experience in Reformatory Movements; Travels in Various Parts of the World; and a Brief Account of the Great Advent Movement of 1840-44; and was first published as a book in 1868. (Its first publication was as a series of fifty-one (yes 51!) articles in the Youth’s Instructor between November 1858 and May 1863.), Later editions carried the more readable title: The Early Life and Later Experience and Labors of Elder Joseph Bates. An online copy of this second (1877) edition edited by James White is available online. In this edition, Bates’ voyage home to Boston is found in chapter 14.His voyage on the Candace take place before his conversion and before his encounter with the teachings of William Miller. A dedicated sailor, Bates records his feelings as the Candace left port:

“None but those who experience these feelings can tell the thrill that fills every soul, from the captain to the cabin-boy, when the order is given to ‘weigh anchor for home.’ New life, with energy and strength, seems to actuate all on board. The hardy sailors clinch their hand-spikes, the windlass begins to roll and bring the watery cable on deck. The gallant ship, seemingly participating with her joyous crew, advances step by step to her anchor, until the officer cries out, ‘Hold! the cable is a-peak!’ The top-sails are now loosed, sheeted home, and hoisted to the mast-head, and the yards are braced to cant the ship’s head out of the harbor. The windlass is now manned again. The ship is soon up with her anchor. A few more turns of the windlass, and the anchor breaks its hold, and the gallant ship is free. The anchor is up and swung to the cat-head, and the ship’s sails fill with the freshening gale. The sailors cry, ‘We are homeward bound.'”

Upon his arrival in Boston, Bates met a daughter whom he had not yet seen: “A little blue-eyed girl of sixteen months, whom I had never seen, was here waiting with her mother to greet me, and welcome me once more to our comfortable and joyous fire-side. As I had been absent from home over two years, I designed to enjoy the society of my family and friends for a little season.”

Godfrey T. Anderson has written a wonderfully interesting article based on Bates’ logbook for his 1827 voyage on the brig Empress (“The Captain Lays down the Law” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 44:2 (1971), 305-309.).

As Anderson points out, the logbook “handwritten by Captain Bates and over a hundred pages in length, gives an insight into the strong feelings on religion which he was experiencing at this precise time. Typical of the comments was his entry of September 28, 1827: (Sunday) ‘I know not what the Lord is preparing me for, or why I have such conflicts in my mind…. But I feel sometimes such a spirit within me for fear I shall be led to commit some dreadful sin for which I know I must suffer.'”


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