JAMES ARRINGTON CLAY (1814) was a proponent of free love and was convicted in 1854, along with is female lover, for committing adultery. His female lover moved in with him and shared his bed in his family home.
Clay viewed marriage as slavery and wrote this to the young woman – which was the basis for the adultery charge. He considered his personal life to be an important part of his religious beliefs. Clay was also involved with the free-thinking Utopian Community in New York.
While in jail, Clay wrote a book to protest his conviction and that of his lover and to provide an explanation of his religious feelings. “A Voice From Prison; Or, Truths and Pearls” in 1856, 363 pp, published by Bella March, Gardiner, Maine. A previous dealer of this book, noted in his advertising, that many copies were suppressed. [advertisement included]
Clay writes that his book was written “long, long after the people declared that no man’s religion should be questioned, but that his right to worship God after the dictates of his own conscience should be guaranteed him...In America’s New England, the emporium of human freedom; in Augusta, Maine’s capital, -- that the prison doors are closed on one for living truthfully obedient to his own consciousness of right, and the Christian religion, sacredly regarding the right of every other living being...This little book...is a plea against such injustice, and like misrule, and in favor of universal life, love, liberty, harmony, and happiness...”
At the time of his imprisonment, Clay was also thought to be insane for harboring beliefs of free love.
In a letter to Clay, included in the book, the unidentified writer states that if Clay is released and does not return to his family, “an effort will be made to find a still more gloomy place for you...It is openly stated they will do their best to get you into the Insane Hospital...”
The woman with whom Clay was accused of intimacy was also tried. She was sentenced to four months or a $50 fine, which Clay paid. “...She has fled from your state, as many others have fled in times past from the persecutions of those who could not so readily receive new thoughts...”
Fascinating look of a mid-19th century New England town as it grapples with religious persecution.
The cover has wear. Foxing to the pages.
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