William Allinson's journal spans more than a decade of his adult life, and includes mature reflections on both personal and spiritual matters. Closely written and very dense at over 270 pages long, the journal is an emotional and spiritual barometer of a man driven by as many disappointments as joys in his family circle, and even greater disappointments in his own soul. Allinson apparently intended to keep the journal to provide a marker of his spiritual development and as a means of contemplating his growth. Over the course of twelve years he struggled with whether his life could be worthy of recording, and whether a record of his spiritual progress could ever prove useful. Ultimately, he concluded that one day his diary would most likely to be consigned to the fire.
Seldom discussing worldly matters such as politics or the economy, Allinson examines instead a range of subjects of personal and religious interest from witnessing the crescentic shadows cast by plants during a total solar eclipse to witnessing a group of rowdy boys at meeting. Devout and deeply involved in the Society of Friends, he regularly recorded news of the Burlington Meeting and other meetings he attended as minister, elder, and visitor, as well as news of his family and local community, including disciplinary actions, laodiceanism, weddings, and committee meetings. Throughout, he displays a quintessentially Quaker understanding of the World, of conflict and its resolution, reflecting a deeply held and emotionally powerful attachment to the Society, his family, and community. Allinson was a contemporary and friend of important Quaker figures such as Jesse Kersey, George Dillwyn, Martha Routh, Ann Mifflin, Isaac Bonsall, and Elias Hicks, who appear throughout the journal.
The central point of interest in Allinson's journal, however, is a complex and finely detailed struggle with both sexual and spiritual self-discipline. At times, he indulges in the painful ruminations of a middle aged man on his seemingly eternal bachelorhood, posing a series of Quaker queries to himself: "What am I waiting for?" he asked: "Answer. For an Evidence in my own Mind that it will be right to make an Effort to change my condition, & for some satisfactory degree of Light that such procedure is approbated by Him" (1807 April 4). During the twelve years covered in the journal, Allinson found little peace within himself on spiritual issues. He never married, and did his best to deflect the pains of seeing his brothers seemingly stray from the Quaker path.
Allinson's involvement in Indian affairs stands out for note among other important issues appearing in the journal. As a member of the Committee of Indian Affairs of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (and despite doubting his own preparedness for such a role), Allinson was involved in the procurement of over 500 acres of land in August, 1808, on behalf of the Cattaraugus Indians, and he visited them in September and October, 1809. Of greater interest was his visit with the famed Stockbridge Indian "intercultural broker," Hendrick Aupaumut, while he was imprisoned for debt. Allinson discovered Aupaumut to be "pleasant & conversable" (1805 March 10), even while in prison. After paying Aupaumut's debts and having him released, Allinson bought him a new suit of clothes (in which, he noted approvingly, Aupaumut "prefer[ed] utility to shew"; 1805 March 11). Allinson discusses two stories told to him by Aupaumut, one concerning an "Embassy" that Aupaumut and other Indians had made to western Indians -- probably Stockbridge -- "with design to renew the League of Friendship & promote their acceptance of the Christian Religion -- Improvemt in Civilization &c." The Indians accepted Aupaumut's ministry, and gave him three ears of corn to return with, to have them planted and tended "by their choisest & best young women." Aupaumut also discussed the visions and conversion experiences of two Indians, one Shawnee, the other Seneca.