Duncan Paton


Duncan Paton


John Muir


Markesan May 7th/60

Dear Friend: Yours in reply to mine has just come to hand, and glad am I to learn that you are still persevering with the spirit of a true Scotchman, and that in a good cause. But what are you fitting for John? You tell me that you are studying Greek. I would infer from that, that you design becoming a minister of the gospel. If that is the case John I shall be glad to know that you have so concluded, and I hope to God that I may one day have the honor of sitting an attentive listener to your words. You exacted a promise from me that I would write you my opinion regarding matters of religion. I promised you that I would ponder the matter well and let you known the conclusions of my reflections. I must confess John that I am more in the mist than before. The more I think of it the more bewildered I become. Can it be possible that that God who made us and gave us life will punish us in the terrible manner spoken of in the good book? Would it be just in him, who know what we would do ere we were born to condemn us to eternal punish- ment? No I cannot reconcile my mind to the thought. You may say that we are free moral agents. What then. He implanted that spirit in me good as well as bad. Am I accountable? Suppose John, that you or I were parents. We bring home some beautiful picture or perhaps some candy we lay the candy on the chair and hang the picture on the wall, and then tell our children that they must neither touch the one nor look at the other, on the penalty of a whopping could that be right? The Bible told us that God made Adam & Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden, giving them the use of the garden, with the single proviso that the tree of life, the should not touch. You know the result! The devil triumphed. is he greater than the Supreme Being. I think not still this would


lead one to suppose that he (the Devil) was the most powerful of the two (illegible) Now John I hope that you will enlighten my dark mind on some of these points and I sincerely hope that you will not be offended at my asking you such. I am not one of that class of men who because they do not understand the beautiful mechanism of a machine condemn it. At the same time when I say 'no' I do not mean 'perhaps'. Some people would try to make one think that black is white (I refer to the construction that some people put upon the Bible) - Do you still go in swimming as we were wont to do when I was there? I suppose you miss the chap who was wont to accompany you on the cold mornings and chilly evenings when all save you and I shrank at the thought. Where is friend Shieber is he still expounding sublime problems to that "Master of Euclid" I have forgotten his name. I think that he was preparing for the ministry. I pity his congregation. We want more of ability in that calling and not conceited loons like him, but men high minded men who know the nature of us poor mortals. Ma[illegible] John I am sorry that this war has happened. It has thrown the plans and lives of thousands to the winds My three brothers are still fighting the battle of their country and do not be surprised should you hear of the fourth and last your friend Duncan should turn the pruning hook to the sword. Hoping that that great and merciful being who holds our lives in his hands may give you health and strength to pursue your studies to the end I remain your humble and affectionate friend Duncan Paton

P.S. Don't fail to write soon



Markesaw, [Wisc]

Date Original

1863 May 7


Original letter dimensions: 31.0 x 19.5 cm

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 01, Image 0523

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

Copyright Statement

Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Owning Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.


3 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



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