Baker, S. Park
Autograph Letter Signed, Youngstown, June 22, 1857 to Alonzo & Ashley

small quarto, 4 pages, some light damp-staining, else in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Baker writes to his brothers and reflects at some length upon the nature of suicide:


             “… The frequency with which we read of the self-destruction of individuals and the common excuse urged of mental derangement is significant.

                   When we consider their daily occurrence and disastrous results of many to their own and others interests, the question arises, is the cause assigned for these rash acts, the true one?  We can conceive that a man is laboring under insanity when he commits self-murder, but we cannot understand by what process of reasoning or mental struggle he arrives at his determination. With few exceptions, the majority of suicides are among the middle aged or elderly persons of mankind; an age which is considered the coolest and most ripe; when the mind, by long contention and warfare with the world, is hardened to the ordinary disappointments and misfortunes of life. In this case a hypothesis of the causes which lead to these melancholy occurrences must be based upon other than merely temporal difficulties. In many instances, the exact disturbing causes are so frivolous, that it is impossible to accept them as the primal influences. The endemic is widely spread.

                  From Maine to Georgia the press terms such accounts of strange suicides and mental derangement is almost always ascribed as the motives.

                 As I stated previously, mental derangement was the immediate precursor and attendant of self destruction; but behind all this, and anterior to any disposition to be relieved of existence, there must rest special and powerful reasons other than pecuniary or personal embarrassments.

                We are told by the religious press and from such authority, upon such topics, we generally place reliance, that our country is peculiarly a religious country, where religious tolerance enables all men to … worship as their consciences direct; and that most men accept some faith to which they attach their hopes. In a measure all this is true; but the very freedom and license which are advanced to prove that we have facilities and are a religious people reject the conclusions of those who state that we are as their wishes and desires would have us.

                  I have arrived at the opinion that the chief cause of the multitude of suicides in infidelity; a total disbelief in the Supreme Being, his promises, and the truths of Revelation. And absolute disbelief in a future State, and a consequent apathy towards the duties incumbent upon any man, to live and accomplish his destiny. With these opinions firmly established in his mind, and over burdened with a temporary disaster, when hope is for a moment observed by the lowering clouds of misfortune, which the next breeze might dissipate, and the sun of prosperity again illumine and make happy a checkered existence, we can conceive of a mans destroying himself.

                 I hope you will properly weigh the above truths and ponder well upon the unfathomable region into which one enters who commits suicide and in all the relations which you and each of you may through life sustain and under all the circumstances you may be placed I hope you will ever keep before your mind the startling and disastrous results of committing suicide.  …”