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Jesper Harding, Printer, 36 Carter's Alley




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007



THE subscribers being assembled with a view to the contemplated consecration of the Rev. Henry U. Onderdonk, D. D. to the Episcopacy, having taken under consideration ten reasons presented in a remonstrance against the measure, declare their sense of them as follows: confining themselves to the matters contained in the said ten reasons, with evidence for the sustaining of them, left yesterday with the presiding Bishop; to the facts on the Journal of a Special Convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, held in Philadelphia, in October, 1826; and to facts on the Journal of another Convention, held in the borough of Harrisburg, in May of the present year. The accuracy of the said Journals has not been denied, so far as we have heard.

1. Relatively to the first reason, it does not appear, that the nomination of the Rev. William Meade, of Virginia, was referred by the Special Convention to that in Harrisburg; and that this was the sense of the signers of the Remonstrance against the consecration, may be inferred, from their not having brought the alleged nomination into view at the proper time. [* The remonstrance, with the reasons comprehended in it, is appended to this Instrument, for the convenience of comparing it with the references.] The signers having abandoned what they now contend to have been a nomination of Mr. Meade, it is too late for them to urge it to the setting aside of the record on the Journal; and to the faulting of the measures of the Convention, which were not faulted by them at the time.

[3/4] 2. Under the second reason, there has not been stated to us evidence of a combination to detain any member from the Convention. If there have been the advice of any individual to the purpose, especially if it were confidential, the circumstance does not fall under our notice. Besides, we have before us a letter from the Clergyman, supposed to have been so detained, in which he ascribes his absence to domestic circumstances, and denies its having been produced by communications made to him. In a letter of the 1st instant, he writes as follows, "I did support the Rev. Mr. Meade at the Special Convention, and am a friend to the principles of the brethren of that side of the house. But, that the letter which I received, termed the improper means to prevent my attendance at the Convention, held in May last, did prevent my attendance at the said Convention, I wholly deny. Previous to the session of the last Convention, I gave my Bishop my reason for not being present at the Convention, viz. the indisposition of my family."

3. On the third reason we are of opinion, that the Convention of each diocese is the judge of the qualifications for membership in their body. But it does not necessarily appear to us, that the Rev. Mr. Carter, occupied as he was in a temporary employment, was, in the view of the Institutions of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, a resident person, and entitled to a seat in the Convention; or that the Bishop and the Convention were incorrect, in considering his letter dimissory, as not amounting to what is required by the 13th canon,

By request the two following certificates are subjoined.



The Rev. Lucius Carter came into the diocese of Maryland in an irregular manner; but, as he pleaded ignorance of canons, which was indeed an inadequate plea, I relieved [4/5] him from his embarrassment. Last autumn he applied to me for a letter dimissory to the diocese of Ohio, alleging that he had engaged with Bishop Chase, either as a missionary or as a parish minister. His request was granted: but not long after he told me he was prevailed on by his people to remain. Early this year he applied to the standing committee, and obtained a testimonial for priest's orders; but when I expected to ordain him, he presented a dismissal from the vestry, which he said he had obtained at his own request; inasmuch as it seemed he could do no good in that parish, for the people would not attend him. He also said that if I would give him a letter dimissory, he would prefer being ordained in Ohio. I told him I would state his situation exactly as it was. To this he consented, but at the same time said, that it was possible he might settle in New York or Vermont, where he was going to visit his friends. I then declined addressing my letter to any particular Bishop; but had I addressed it to any, it would not have been to the Bishop of Pennsylvania; for Mr. Carter never intimated to me an intention to settle in that diocese.




Whereas, in the evidences under consideration, and under the point of residence, the case of the Rev. Samuel Sitgreaves, in the Special Convention, is represented as similar to the subsequent case of Mr. Carter; I certify that being in Easton on the 25th of September, 1826, precisely a month before the Special Convention, I found him with his family, there resident. I was told that in consequence of the low condition of body of his father, the son, to be near to him, had undertaken the pastoral charge of the place; and that his brother-in-law, the Rev. Samuel Bowman, in consequence of domestic arrangements, was to return to Pequea, where he had formerly officiated. This was confirmed to me by Mr. Bowman. From [5/6] Easton, I went to the Beech Woods; and, on my return, which was on the 10th of October, Mr. Sitgreaves had gone to his former parish at Auburn, to take leave of his former parishioners, and to bring away some articles of property.



In the exhibition made of this matter, there is a confounding of the subject of residence with that of the date of a dimissory letter. The letter was not obtained until within a very short time of the Convention; because of Bishop Hobart's being on a visitation to the western parts of his diocese. He reached New York about the middle of the month, and there was the intervention of a few days between that and Mr. Sitgreaves's journey to New York, for the procuring of the letter dimissory.

4. It is inconsistent with the fourth reason, that the Convention in Harrisburg were the proper judges, at what stage of their proceedings new churches should be admitted into union; and had they been admitted at an earlier period, it does not appear in what manner it would have affected the election.

5. On the subject of the fifth reason, it can hardly be expected, that the Bishops can have fully the means of judging relative to the correct decision of questions of mere order in diocesan conventions; nor can it be supposed, that their judgment on these points, can be material to the determination of the validity of an election of a Bishop. But if, as alleged, rules of order were disregarded, which certainly does not appear, the remedy was an appeal from the decision of the chair at the proper time; which the journal does not state to have been made.

It appearing from the evidences given to sustain the reason, that there is said to have been a motion to adjourn "sine die," the presiding Bishop desires it to be recorded, that he [6/7] denies there having been any motion to that effect, although there was public intimation of the intention of it, which was not carried to effect. No such motion is on the journal. It is also remembered by the presiding Bishop, concerning a motion made of an amendment to a resolve before the house, that he decided what was so moved, not to be an amendment, but a rejection of the moved resolve, and therefore out of order. No appeal was made from his decision.

6. Under the sixth reason, the Bishops decline to be judges of the sincerity of overtures made in a diocesan convention, at which none of them, except the presiding Bishop, were present, or competent to determine what degree of confidence was due on any one side of a question to professions made on the other.

7. In contrariety to what is alleged in the seventh reason, we state, that the character of a coadjutor or assistant Bishop, and his being chosen with the designation of his succeeding of the Diocesan, being familiar in the history of the Christian church generally, and in that of the Church of England in particular, and having been adopted in three instances in the American Church, we do not perceive any call on us, either to question or prove the right of the diocese of Pennsylvania to follow the example so set: and we remark that the proposers of these reasons had no scruples as to the lawfulness of the measure, when in the Special Convention, and when in that at Harrisburg, they gave their sanction to the election of an assistant Bishop, with the provision that he should succeed the present Bishop on his demise. In the three instances referred to, the assistant Bishops were admitted, without scruple, as members of the House of Bishops; and the principle of admission was settled, in the Convention in Trenton in September, 1801, as may be seen on the journal. In what is professed to be produced as evidence of sustaining the seventh reason, there are given authorities from [7/8] the venerable sources of the apostolical, the Nicene, and the Antiochian canons, and of the authors of the primitive Church. We venture to pronounce that these authorities are misstated, partly by imperfect quotation, and partly by severance of passages from the connexion in which they respectively stand. When the passages are so taken, there is visible, on the face of them, the one or the other of these two misconceptions--the confounding of the character of a coadjutor or assistant Bishop, with that of one co-ordinate and independent--and the not distinguishing of the case of a Bishop's appointing, and ordaining of his successor, as an act of his own will and authority, from that of the canonical ordination of a Bishop canonically appointed.

Under the same head of evidence there is presented the opinion of a gentleman learned in the law, designed to disprove the right of the diocese of Pennsylvania to choose an assistant Bishop. It would be easy for us to oppose to that opinion, the opinions of sundry gentlemen learned in the law. But we judge that it would be an assumption in us to bring the matter under our deliberation. In the Convention of 1801, a principle was adopted, and a course was begun, which have prevailed ever since; and have governed in elections, and in consecrations to the episcopacy.

8. To the minds of the subscribers it is evident, that in the objections under the eighth reason, there is a misunderstanding of the second canon of the General Convention. We know that it was intended for the case of an incipient episcopacy in any state, and has no bearing on the case of a successor to a deceased Bishop. We think this proved by a connected view of the whole canon, and by contemporary facts. But, if the contrary construction be admitted, it will prove the nullity of the canon, which would then be in opposition to the 4th article of the Constitution. It provides that "the Bishop or Bishops in every state, shall be chosen agreeably [8/9] to such rules as shall be fixed by the convention of such state."

9. If the objection under the ninth reason should be held valid, it is probable, that there will never be an election, under the prevalence of opposite opinions as to the person worthy to be chosen, when the defeated party will not press for its being set aside, on the ground of the professed apprehension of future consequences.

Concerning the preceding nine reasons, there has not been brought before us evidence of acquiescence in any one of them, of any person, who, according to the canons of the Church, possesses the right of expressing an opinion, in reference to the contemplated consecration, in such form as to have any influence on it. In our views of the reasons referred to, we find ourselves strengthened by the facts, that although the said reasons have been long in the possession of our right reverend brethren now absent, not one of them has signified to us his dissatisfaction with his consent given; and that although of the seventeen committees who had transmitted their testimonials, six individuals have desired their names to be withdrawn, their doing so is rested on the tenth reason only: the other nine being, therefore, intentionally disregarded.

10. Concerning the tenth reason, and the evidence in support of it, we are of opinion, that both the charge and the evidences should have been laid before the bishops, if at all, before their giving of their consent, or, at least, a considerable time before the proposed consecration. If charges and evidences may be delayed until the eve of a contemplated, consecration, they will be ex-parte; not to be admitted with safety; there not being present the other party, who are in this instance, the Convention of the diocese; nor any persons by them appointed, and furnished with evidence to resist what may be opposed to their desires.

[10] This remark may be applied with especial force, when the objections are intended to affect the religious and moral character of the person presented for consecration, who may be possessed of sufficient ground of defence, while his witnesses are too distant to be of service to him: or, if delay only should be proposed, it would be the holding up of his character to obloquy, during an indefinite tract of time; and when the reason for the keeping back of evidence against him, may have been the taking of unfair advantage.

A letter of Dr. Onderdonk, to Samuel Andrews, Esq., of Rochester, has come under our serious consideration; and at our entrance on the subject, there was manifest to us, that there had been an endeavour to mislead the public mind in reference to it. That letter, with another from Wm. Atkinson, Esq., was printed, by whom we know not, accompanied by two falsehoods; one of which, contains an assertion made by the publisher, which, had it been true, would have been highly censurable in Dr. Onderdonk. The publication, before it could be known to him, and before a sight of it could be obtained by his friends in this city, was sent abroad to the bishops, and to others whom it was of more importance to mislead; and we know, that to this day, there are many who have no further knowledge of the subject, than what was furnished to them by that publication, and whose first impressions continue to be confirmed by it. One of the errors so induced, was, that of supposed dissatisfaction in Rochester with Dr. Onderdonk's interference in the impending election of a minister, which is sufficiently disproved in a subsequent publication, issued under his sanction.

On the question of the right of a clergyman of a diocese to give his opinion in reference to the propriety of the electing of any other clergyman to a congregation within its bounds; we think that the answer must depend on existing circumstances. On the present occasion, it is contended and proved [10/11] that Dr. Onderdonk was in habits of acquaintance with sundry of the inhabitants of Rochester; that, principally by his agency, a congregation had been originally there gathered; that of a portion of the old congregation the one now to be gathered was a part, the severance being dictated by the growth of the congregation, and by local circumstances.

In Dr. Onderdonk's letter, the most prominent allegation was of reports, that the contemplated candidate had lost his popularity in two places where he had previously settled; and into the ground of these reports, he advised his correspondent to inquire. It has been proved to us, that such reports existed; and while we do not vouch for the correctness of them, we see no cause to censure the advice to the making of inquiry.

In the same letters there are more specified allegations, involving matters of opinion and of affirmed facts. So far as opinion is concerned, we do not think it of such a nature as to call for the expression of any judgment on our part. For matters of affirmed fact, Dr. Onderdonk has drawn responsibility on himself. On this point, we think, that, if required either by the party supposed to be aggrieved, or by any persons who have a right to concern themselves in what has a bearing on the reputation of the church, Dr. Onderdonk ought to be ready to present his proofs; and if they should be found not to sustain his charges, to revoke them.

In the evidence in our hands intended in support of the tenth reason, there is brought up what is represented as a deceptive proffer of hospitality on the part of Dr. Onderdonk, that he invited to dinner, and offered a bed in his house to the clergyman against whom the aforesaid letter was intended, and at, or about the time when it was written; the said clergyman being then a candidate for the place to be soon vacant at Brooklyn.

[12] When we put out of view the peculiar circumstances of the case, we must suppose it to be granted, that the hospitable attentions were called for by courtesy to a congregation, from whom a severance was now to be made. It ought in charity to be supposed, since nothing to the contrary appears, that there was not in the mind of Dr. Onderdonk, personal hostility against a clergyman, whom he did not wish to be elected, either to the congregation at Rochester, or to that at Brooklyn. There being no personal hostility, we do not perceive any thing which should have prevented the act of hospitality in question.

In the aforesaid evidences presented to us, there is a recital of expressions said to have been uttered by Dr. Onderdonk, in conversations which took place in New York, relatively to his acceptance of an assistant episcopacy in Pennsylvania. In the narrative given to us of those conversations, it does not appear under what circumstances, and whether under a caused excitement which would throw light on the intendments, the expressions referred to were drawn from Dr. Onderdonk. As the ex-parte statement of the remonstrants is before us, and is on, record, we deem it proper to put on record, the following counter statement which he has presented to us.

"I may have said, as asserted by the remonstrants, that 'I gloried in the letters sent to Mr. Andrews;' because I deemed it a discharge of duty of which I had no need to be ashamed. I have probably said that 'it was producing the contrary effect to that intended by those who published it;' because I thought and still think, that calm reflection will satisfy most persons that I was right in sending it, and because the disgust produced by the violation of good faith in those who circulated and published it, cannot but operate in my favour. I may have told the Rev. Dr. Milnor that 'I cared not for the clouds' which he said this letter would bring on me in Pennsylvania; [12/13] because I thought, that those who used that letter for mischief, would have created mischief without the letter; that the mischief so produced would come whether or no and that the letter had little necessary effect in regard to it; also, because I am in the habit of looking more to remote than to immediate consequences, and of the probable nature of the former in this case, I had little doubt. I must also state, that the conversation with Dr. Milnor was very frank and open; such as we have often had together, neither of us being sparing of language, though without violence. He called my letter to Mr. Andrews an infamous traduction of character; and spake of the body of our clergy, before the party called Evangelical came into note, as cold, lifeless, &c., and also of one of the Bishops in similar terms; and when, on his comparing the good done by his party with that done by mine, I pleasantly remarked, that 'High Churchmen were too modest to blazon their successes,' he answered, laughing, 'they are the most impudent set of fellows in the world.' This will show the entire frankness of our conversation."

We dismiss all further consideration of the subject, with a request to the presiding Bishop, to lay this document before the Standing Committee of the Church of Pennsylvania,

Presiding Bishop,

Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York.

Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Maryland.

Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New Jersey,

Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Philadelphia, October 24th, 1827.


[15] To the Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States of America.


THE undersigned, ministers and members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, address you on the present occasion, with mingled emotions of hope and fear. Of hope, when they consider you, in your official character, as the appointed guardians of the church of Christ, and the conservators of her peace and purity; of fear, lest the influence of unhappy prejudices, which have been raised against us personally, may operate to the disadvantage of the cause which we plead. Nothing short of an imperious sense of duty, looking forward to that account which we have to render to the great head of His church, could induce us to present ourselves before you in the attitude of remonstrants. Many and alarming evils appear to us to be hanging over our beloved Zion. The cause of righteousness, and truth, and sacred love, in our estimation, is exposed to imminent peril. We lift our eyes to heaven in humble supplication: to you, Rt. Rev. Sirs, we address the language of respectful, though earnest entreaty.

You have been requested to consecrate to the high, holy, and responsible office of an Assistant Bishop, the Rev. Henry U. Onderdonk, D. D. We have, from the beginning, felt ourselves compelled, by the highest obligations, to oppose the elevation of that reverend gentleman. On every proper occasion we have manifested our disapprobation of the proceedings by which he has been presented before you, as the Assistant Bishop elect of Pennsylvania: and in the same spirit, and under the same sense of accountability, we now present for your serious consideration, the following reasons why, in our opinion, the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Onderdonk ought not to be consummated.

First. Because we are convinced that the Rev. William Meade, of Virginia, was duly nominated to the office of Assistant Bishop of this Diocese, at the Special Convention held in this city, in October last: the whole matter of which nomination was referred to the Convention to meet at Harrisburg, and entirely passed over by said Convention.

Secondly. Because improper means were used to prevent the attendance of one clergyman, at least, at the Convention held in May last, who, if he had been present, would have voted with those that opposed the election of the Rev. Dr. Onderdonk.

[16] Thirdly. Because the Rev. Lucius Carter was denied the privilege of voting in the Convention, at Harrisburg, although he had come with the canonical testimonial and had been for some weeks, and is now, actually resident in the state.

Fourthly. Because the Convention at Harrisburg refused, previous to the proceedings in relation to the election of an Assistant Bishop, to admit into connexion, several churches, delegates from which were in attendance; and thus denied to the lay members, representatives of those churches, the privilege of voting on the main question, or on previous questions.

Fifthly. Because several rules of order were disregarded during the proceedings in reference to the election, whereby all opportunity for compromise, and conciliation was denied.

Sixthly. Because of the conduct of the majority, in refusing to listen to any overtures for peace.

Seventhly. Because the Convention at Harrisburg had no authority to elect any person the future Bishop of Pennsylvania.

Eighthly. Because a majority of the officiating presbyters of the diocese did not concur in the election, as required by the second canon of the General Convention.

Ninthly. Because we sincerely believe that the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Onderdonk will be fraught with consequences prejudicial to the peace and prosperity of our church in this diocese.

Tenthly. Because the Rev. Dr. Onderdonk has manifested a spirit, since the Convention at Harrisburg, which forbids us to hope that he will exercise the office of a Bishop to the Honour of God, the edifying of his church, or as a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.

In addition to the above, we deem it our duty to state, that many persons, learned in the law, have given it as their deliberate opinion, that the Rev. Dr. Onderdonk has not been legally chosen the Assistant Bishop of this diocese. If a question of this kind should arise, to be decided in a court of justice, however it may eventuate, the consequences cannot be other than such as every friend of the church must deprecate.

Whatever may be the issue of the present remonstrance, we appeal to God for the purity of our motives, and do confidently refer the decision to that tribunal, where every work shall appear in its true character, and receive its appropriate reward. May God grant unto you that wisdom, which is profitable to direct, in this important crisis. May the church, of which we are members, become as distinguished for its piety and zeal in the cause of Christ, as it is for its scriptural faith, and primitive constitution: And may you, respected and Right Reverend Sirs, long live to witness its increasing prosperity.

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