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A NARRATIVE, &c,
ALTHOUGH it happened, as might be expected, that a proportion of the settlers of English America were of the profession established in England; yet the number was not so considerable as might be supposed from the existing relation ; owing probably to the circumstance, that several of the colonies arose in a great measure from dissatisfaction with the establishment at home, and partly to an influx of subsequent settlers, not only from other countries, subject to the same crown, but also from countries on the continent of Europe; principally some of the states of Germany. In the northern and eastern states, the comparatively small number of the Church of England may be seen in the fact, that when the revolutionary war began, there were not more than about eighty parochial clergymnen of that Churela to the northward and to the eastward of Maryland ; ana that those clergymen derived the greater part of their subsistence from the society instituted in England, for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; with the exception of those resident in the towns of Boston and Newport, and the cities of New-York and Philadelphia: there being no Episcopal congregations out of those towns and cities, held to be of ability to support clergymen of themselves.* In Maryland and in Virginia the Episcopal Church was much more numerous, and had legal establishments for its support. It was especially numerous in those parts of the said provinces which were settled when the establishments took place; for in the more recently settled counties, the mass of the people were of other communions, scarcely
The clergy in the province of Pennsylvania, exclusive of those in the city of Philadelphia, were never more than six in number; all of whom were missionaries, receiving salaries from England. The parochial clergy of the city were four
known among them in the early period of their histories. In the more southern colonies, the Episcopalians were fewer in proportion than in the two last mentioned; but more than in the northern.
It may be supposed, that however comparatively few the original emigrants of the Church of England in the northern and the middle colonies ; yet they must have derived aid from the executive of the parent state, through the medium of its representatives, the governors. This was, indeed, the case in a degree; but the aid was inconsiderable, and contined to two or three of the earliest seats of population. Besides, it may well be doubted, whether, under the continually existing jealousy in the colonies of the parent power, there did not result some disadvantage to a denomination comparatively small, from a community of profession: for this circumstance may have bad a tendency to render the denomination unpopular among a great proportion of their fellow-citizens; especially under the apprehension that it might, at some future day, be an engine aiding in the introduction of a new system of colonial government.*
But even if the Episcopal Church found any source of increase in the connexion, this was more than counterbalanced by the peculiar circumstances under which it existed; which prevented, and probably, under the old regime, would have continued to prevent its organization. Separated by the Atlantic ocean from the Episcopacy, under which it had been planted, it had no resource for a ministry, but in emigration from the mother country, and by sending its candidates for the ministry to that country for orders. The first could not be the channel of a respectable permanent supply. And the second, which was the most depended on in the latter years of the colonies, was very troublesome and expensive. The evil of the want of an internal Episcopacy did not end here. For although the bishop of London was considered as the diocesan of the Episcopal churches in America, it is evident, that his authority could not be effectually exerted, at such a distance, for the removing of unworthy clergymen; besides which, there were civil institutions supposed to be in opposition to it, in the provinces where establishments had been provided. In Maryland, in particular, all interference of
Perhaps the only considerable endowment by the English government was of lands to Trinity Church, New-York. Its being considerable, is owing to ite having become of great value by the increase of that city.
the bishop of London, except in the single matter of ordination, was held by the proprietary government to be an encroachment on its authorities.
For these reasons, and on the ground of the evident propriety of being supplied with all the orders of the ministry, recognised by their ecclesiastical system, application had been made to England, at different times, by the clergy, especially those in the northern colonies, for the obtaining of an Episcopate. These applications had produced much contention in pamphlets and in newspapers; the writers on the Episcopal side pleading the reasonableness of being indulged in the full enjoyment of their religion; and their opponents objecting, that bishops, sent from England to America, would of course bring with them, or, if not, might be clothed by the paramount authority of Britain, with the powers of English bishops, to the great prejudice of people of other communions, and in contrariety to the principles on which the settlement of the colonies had taken place. What would have been the event, in this respect, had the Episcopal clergy succeeded in their desires, is a problem, which it will be for ever impossible to solve. In regard to the motives of the parties in the dispute, there are circumstances which charity may apply to the most favourable interpretation. As the Episcopal clergy disclaimed the designs and the expectations of which they were accused; and as the same was done by their advocates on the other side of the water, particularly by the principal of them, the great and good Archbishop Secker, they ought to be supa posed to have had in view an Episcopacy purely religious. On the other hand, as their opponents laid aside their resistance of the religious part of it, as soon as American independence had done away all political danger, if it before existed, it ought to be believed, that in their former professed apprehensions they were sincere. A.
* The author, before his being in the ministry, knew a gentleinan (the Rev. Mr. Edminston) who, being in London for orders, had brought with him such recommendations to Lord Baltimore, proprietary of Maryland, as induced the promise of an order to his governor, før any future parish that might be vacant. It was necessary after ordination, to show the testimonial of the transaction to the proprietary: who, perceiving with the instrument a license to preach in the province of Maryland, was much dissatisfied with the bishop of London on that account. The bishop usually gave such a license, according to the province for which the party was ordained: a practice similar to what obtains in England. From this, and from other circumstances, the conviction is felt, that his lordship would not have endured in his province any Episcopal authority distinct from his designation of the person. It'is mentioned, as one of the difficulties attendant on the subject of an Amorican Episcopacy.
If such was the difficulty of being supplied with a ministry during the acknowledged supremacy of the British crown; much greater, as may be supposed, was the same difficulty during the struggle which ended in the elevating of the colonies to the rank of independent states. During that term, there was no resource for the supply of vacancies; which were continually multiplying, not only from death, but by the retreat of very many of the Episcopal clergy to the mother country, and to the colonies still dependent on her. To add to the evil, many able and worthy ministers, cherishing their allegiance to the king of Great Britain, and entertaining conscientious scruples against the use of the liturgy, under the restriction of omitting the appointed prayers for him, ceased to officiate. Owing to these circumstances, the doors of the far greater number of the Episcopal churches were closed for several years. In the state in which this work is edited, there was a part of that time, in which there was, through its whole extent, but one resident minister of the church in question, he who records the fact. B.
No sooner was it known in America, that Great Britain had acknowledged her independence, than a few young gentlemen to the southward, who had been educated for the ministry, but kept back from it by the times, embarked for England, and applied to the then bishop of London, Dr. Lowth, for orders. As the bishop could not ordain them, without requiring of them engagements inconsistent with their allegiance to the American sovereignty, he applied for, and obtained, an act of parliament, allowing him to dispense with requisitions of that sort. While this matter was depending, and the success of the candidates was doubtful, there was an incident, which it may be proper to record, in justice to the intended good oflices of a foreign sister church.
Mr. Adams, then the minister of the United States at the court of St. James, being in company with M. de St. Saphorin, the minister of the crown of Denmark, mentioned to him the case here stated, of the candidates for orders, with a view to his opinion, whether they could be gratified in the kingdom which he represented. Some time after, the Danish minister made a communication to the American, from which it appeared, that the inquiry of the latter had been notified to the Danish court; that the consequence had been a reference to the theological faculty of the kingdom; and that they had declared their readiness to ordain
candidates from America, on the condition of their signing of the thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, with the exception of the political parts of them; the service to be performed in Latin, in accommodation to the candidates, who might be supposed unacquainted with the language of the country. This conduct is here the more cheerfully mentioned to the honour of the Danish Church, as it is reasonable to presume, that there would have been an equal readiness to the consecrating of bishops, had necessity required a recourse for it to any other source than the English Episcopacy, under which the American churches had been planted. The proceeding in Denmark was made known to the American government by Mr. Adams; a copy of whose letter to the president of congress, was sent to the author by the then supreme executive council of Pennsylvania. Mr. Adams stated, that the transaction arose from his having been applied to by an American gentleman, in behalf of the candidates for ordination referred to. Mr. Adams mentioned the matter to M. de St. Saphorin, the Danish minister; who accordingly wrote to the Count de Rosencrone, privy counsellor and secretary of state to the king of Denmark. The result was as above given.
In truth, there was no idea of having recourse, in the first instance, to any other quarter than that of the English Episcopacy, in the minds of those who had begun to direct their attention to the supply of the present and the future exigencies of the churches. But it seemed to those at least who took up the subject in the middle states, that nothing could be done to effect, without some association, under which the churches might act as a body: they having been heretofore detached from, and independent on one another; excepting the bond of union which had subsisted through the medium of the Bishop of London. That medium of connexion had been confessedly destroyed by the revolution; and therefore it was evident, that without the creating of some new tie, the churches in the different states, and even those in the same state, might adopt such varying measures as would for ever prevent their being combined in one communion.
The first step towards the forming of a collective body of the Episcopal Church in the United States, was taken at a meeting for another purpose, of a few clergymen of
a New-York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, at Brunswick, in New-Jersey, on the 13th and 14th of May, 1784. These