Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HOPPER, Isaac Tatem, philanthropist, born in Deptford township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, 3 December, 1771; died in New York city, 7 May, 1852. He learned the tailor's trade of an uncle in Philadelphia. He early joined the Quakers, and afterward became a believer in the doctrines taught by Elias Hicks, whose followers were subsequently known as Hicksites. When he was young, Philadelphia was infested by slave kidnappers, who committed many outrages. Under these circumstances the Pennsylvania abolition Society, of which Mr. Hopper became an active and leading member, was frequently called upon to protect the rights of colored people, and in time he became known to every one in Philadelphia as the friend and adviser of the oppressed race in all emergencies. He was one of the founders and the secretary of a society for the employment of the poor; overseer of the Benezet school for colored children; teacher, without recompense, in a free school for colored adults; inspector of the prison, without a salary; member of a fire company, and guardian of abused apprentices. When pestilence was raging, he was devoted to the sick, and the poor were continually calling upon him to plead with importunate landlords and creditors. He was not unfrequently employed to settle estates involved in difficulties, which others were disinclined to undertake, and he had occasional applications, to exert his influence over the insane, for which he had a peculiar tact. Although he was a poor man with a large family, his house was for many years a home for impoverished Quakers, and he transacted much business for the Society of Friends. In 1829 he removed to New York to take charge of a book-store established by the Hicksite Quakers. In the autumn of 1830, being called to Ireland on business connected with his wife's estate, he availed himself of the opportunity to visit England. In both countries he was at first treated somewhat, cavalierly by the orthodox Quakers, and pointed, out as the one "who has given Friends so much trouble in America." His candor and amiability, however, soon removed these unfavorable impressions, and he had no occasion ultimately to complain of his reception. On his return to New York, he threw himself heart and soul into the work of the Prison association, whose aims and plans of action were entirely in accordance with his views. To render such practical aid as would enable the repentant to return to society, by engaging in some honest calling, he devoted the greater part of his time and attention. No disposition was too perverse for his efforts at reform; no heart so hard that he did not try to soften; no relapses could exhaust his patience, which, without weak waste of means, continued "hoping all things" while even a dying spark of good feeling remained. In the spring of 1841, the demand for Hicksite books having greatly diminished, Friend Hopper became treasurer and book agent for the Anti-slavery society. Although he had reached the age of seventy, he was as vigorous as a man of fifty. In 1845 he relinquished these offices, and devoted the rest of his life entirely to the work of the Prison association. In his labors he was greatly assisted by a married daughter, Abby H. Gibbons, who was as vigilant and active in behalf of women discharged from prison as was her father in behalf of men. Through her exertions, an asylum was founded for these unfortunates, which was called the "Isaac T. Hopper Home." The aged philanthropist frequently had occasion to visit Albany, New York, to represent the association and to address the legislature. Judge Edmonds thus refers to one of these occasions: "His eloquence was simple and direct, but most effective. If he was humorous, his audience were full of laughter; if solemn, a death-like stillness reigned; if pathetic, tears flowed all around him." He had often to plead for the pardon of prisoners, and Governor John Young, of New York, once said to him: "Friend Hopper, I will pardon any convict whom you say you conscientiously believe I ought to pardon." The career of this untiring benefactor is best summed up in the words of one of his own sect: "The Bible requires us to love our neighbors as well as ourselves; and Friend Hopper has loved them better!" His life was written by Lydia Maria Child (Boston, 1853).
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