Submitted to the Standard -Times by our incoming Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Arthur P. Motta, Jr. Posted to Southcoasttoday.com on Dec 31st
New Year’s resolutions are a perennial topic this time of year. For most of us, following through on them is a perennial challenge. So it was for New Bedford’s first historian, Daniel Ricketson (1813-1898). A man of letters, Ricketson, hosted some of the great literary minds of the 19th century at his country estate, Brooklawn. These friends included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and A. Bronson Alcott.
Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Ricketson’s History of New Bedford. But of all his writings, the work he kept close at hand was a little booklet he apparently never published. Its 16 pages of well-worn blue paper were handwritten, which he bound with needle and thread. Ricketson titled it “Rules of Conduct, Hints,” Written in 1863, it is preserved among the 100,000 manuscripts at the Whaling Museum’s Research Library.
On the cover Ricketson also printed, “In hoc signo vinces I.H.S.”, the motto on the imperial standard of the Emperor Constantine, meaning “In this sign you will conquer,” and one of the earliest monograms of Christianity, I.H.S. In the pages that followed, Ricketson set down his “Rules: Imprimus” for personal goodness in 16 resolutions:
1. To invoke on rising, The Spirit of Truth as my guide, and support through the day.
2. To take whatever is set before me at table with thankfulness.
3. To guard my lips from all harshness, and to speak in a low, and gentle tone of voice, however earnest I may be.
4. To cultivate patience towards all and to remember in my efforts to reform, that the welfare of the evildoer is to be considered, as well as that of the sufferer, if possible.
5. In my religious communications, to keep close to the Spirit of Truth, and avoid extravagant expressions.
6. I fear that I am a poor listener, and I would thrive henceforth to be less eager to communicate knowledge then to receive.
7. In my ordinary intercourse with mankind, I must strive to be more silent, and reserve my communication for public occasions when I can address a larger number and spare myself and others the fatigue of a too excited conversation.
8. To endeavour more and more to live in the Spirit of Purity and Love and to keep my mind in as close a communication with our Heavenly Father as possible.
9. To govern my thoughts as well as my words and deeds.
10. To beware of over estimation of myself, and remember as a caution, that from self-examination for more than ten years past, I have been convinced that my sphere in life is a small one – that neither nature nor education has fitted me to occupy any very high position, nor does my calmer and better judgment lead me to choose other than a humbler walk in life.
11. Above all else, I desire to be a good man, for which end I must still strive, though now so far from the great description of success herein.
12. To forbear judgment upon the words and works of others until I have well established grounds for decision.
13. To cultivate a mild and genial demeanor towards all and to learn to listen more patiently.
14. To avoid all heated arguments, and particularly too earnest talks in the evening, which I always find productive of unpleasant excitement to my brain and consequent poor sleep and lassitude the next day.
15. To endeavour also, when I have honestly, though perhaps too fiercely spoken my convictions, to leave it in the hands of the Lord, and give myself no further concerns herein.
16. To avoid criticisms on others as much as possible, and to endeavour to make every possible allowance for the infirmities of human nature.
Over the years, Ricketson reviewed these resolutions and noted on the final page his desire to have done better to follow them:
Alas, how little have I improved these good intentions. Aug. 27th 1869. D. R.
– Even to the present time. May 25th 1871
– And until now. Dec. 9th 1883
Ricketson’s famous friend, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”