John was an Irish orphan, whose parents died of yellow fever, when he was very young.
He obtained a scanty living by doing errands for cartmen.
In the year 1800, when he was about fourteen years old, there was a long period during which he could obtain scarcely any employment.
Being without friends, and in a state of extreme destitution, he was tempted to enter a shop and steal two dollars from the drawer.
He was pursued and taken.
Isaac T. Hopper
, who was one of the inspectors of the prison at that time, saw a crowd gathered, and went to inquire the cause.
The poor boy's history was soon told.
liked the expression of his countenance, and pitied his forlorn condition.
When he was brought up for trial, he accompanied him
and pleaded with the judge in his favor.
He urged that the poor child's education had been entirely neglected, and consequently he was more to be pitied than blamed.
If sent to prison, he would in all probability become hardened, if not utterly ruined.
He said if the judge would allow him to take charge of the lad, he would promise to place him in good hands, where he would be out of the way of temptation.
The judge granted his request, and John was placed in prison merely for a few days, till Friend Hopper
could provide for him. He proposed to his father to have the boy bound to him. The old gentleman hesitated at first, on account of his neglected education and wild way of living; but pity for the orphan overcame his scruples, and he agreed to take him. John lived with him till he was twenty-one years of age, and was remarkably faithful and industrious.
But about two years after, a neighbor came one night to arrest him for stealing a horse.
Old Mr. Hopper
assured him it was not possible John had done such a thing; that during all the time he had lived in his family he had proved himself entirely honest and trustworthy.
The neighbor replied that his horse had been taken to Philadelphia
and sold; and the ferryman from Woodbury
was ready to swear that the animal was brought over by Hopper
's John, as he was generally called.
John was in bed, but was called up to answer the accusation.
He did not attempt to deny it, but gave up the money at once, and kept repeating that he did know what made him do it. He was dreadfully ashamed and distressed.
He begged that Friend Isaac would not come to see him in prison, for he could not look him the face.
His anguish of mind was so great, that when the trial came on, he was emaciated almost to a skeleton.
Old Mr. Hopper
went into court and stated the adverse circumstances of his early life, and his exemplary conduct during nine years that he had lived in his family.
He begged that he might be fined instead of imprisoned, and offered to pay the fine himself.
The proposition was accepted, and the kind old man took the culprit home.
This lenient treatment completely subdued the last vestige of evil habits acquired in childhood.
He was humble and grateful in the extreme, and always steady and industrious.
He conducted with great propriety ever afterward, and established such a character for honesty, that the neighbors far and wide trusted him to carry their produce to market, receiving a small commission for his trouble.
Eventually, he came to own a small house and farm, where he lived in much comfort and respectability.
He always looked up to Isaac as the friend who had early raised him from a downward and slippery path; and he was never weary of manifesting gratitude by every little attention he could devise.