Project Canterbury

The Life of the Reverend James Lloyd Breck, D.D.
Chiefly from Letters Written by Himself
Compiled by Charles Breck, D.D.

New York: E. & J. B. Young, 1883.

Chapter I. Early Life

JAMES LLOYD BRECK was born in Philadelphia County, now for many years within the city limits.

His father was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and his mother in the Island of Jamaica. In the latter part of the last century, his grandparents removed to the city of Philadelphia, where his father, George Breck, married Catharine D. Israeli. They were blessed with a large family, eight sons and six daughters,--twelve out of the fourteen growing up to be men and women. Lloyd was the fourth son, and, until his thirteenth year, attended the schools of the neighborhood. There were two things in which his parents were united in bringing up their children,--the cultivation of habits of industry, and the requiring of them regularity of attendance upon divine worship. They were both devout communicants of the Church. Lloyd, from his earliest youth, became acquainted with all kinds of work connected with farming and gardening, including, of course, the care of horses and cattle. He inherited a good constitution, which was strengthened for the work of after years by an early life filled largely with out-door employments.

In his thirteenth year, his uncle, the Hon. James Lloyd of Boston, died; and out of an estate approaching a million, left to his namesake a bequest of one thousand dollars. To his wife, he left about what she brought to him--some eighty thousand dollars, to which he added an annuity of four thousand. The providence of GOD over the "one thousand" will be manifest as this history proceeds.

After the death of Mr. Lloyd, his widow was visiting her brother George. The question was discussed what would be the best application of the bequest for the future benefit of Lloyd. It was settled to apply it to his education. The next most important thing was to decide where to send him. With Mrs. Lloyd was then visiting her very dear friend, Miss Emily P. Aspinwall, of New York, who afterward married Edward Woolsey, Esq., and who yet survives him (1880). Miss Aspinwall named the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg's Institution, at Flushing, and so set forth its advantages that it was decided to place Lloyd under the charge of that distinguished educator.

This was a most marked turning-point in his life,--a thorough and radical change in his pursuits and associations. His teachers were gentlemen distinguished for their scholarship; and the principal, a man eminent for his erudition, and his loveliness of character. His devotion to the highest interests of the boys, together with the example set by him as a possessor of all virtues, these exerted an influence never surpassed in any of our Church schools. While at Flushing he was confirmed, and at the age of sixteen consecrated himself to the sacred ministry; and, what is remarkable, in view of subsequent influences brought to bear upon him, he almost vowed himself to a life of celibacy.

He was happy in the acquaintance and companionship of most diligent students, many of whom afterwards became men of note in the Church. Bishops Odenheimer, Bedell and Kerfoot, the Rev. Drs. Mahan, Van Bokkelen, and J. C. Passmore, the Rev. William Passmore, and Messrs. Charles Kirkham, James J. Biddle and George W. Hunter, were all at Flushing at that time.

Writing from Flushing, in 1836, to his uncle, the Hon. Samuel Breck of Philadelphia, he remarked: "I have a very great deal to be thankful for, when I consider the numerous advantages which I have, in receiving a good education, and in being placed at such an Institute as this. All, I may say, that I have ever learned has been obtained at this school." In March, 1834, the Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg wrote of him: "James is an excellent boy. His persevering industry, amiable disposition, and, I may now add, consistent piety, afford gratifying promise that the wishes of his parents and instructors will not be disappointed. We have not a more industrious boy in the Institute." In 1836, changes took place in the Institute, such as induced his brother Charles to advise him to enter the Junior Class of the University of Pennsylvania, in the city of Philadelphia, where he graduated in 1838.

It is time to ask how the one thousand dollars sustained him all these years. Three years at Flushing used them up; and then his aunt, Mrs. Lloyd, came to his help, and assumed the balance of his expenses there, and his whole support during the two years at the university. The noble generosity of this highly-cultivated lady could only be appreciated by those who knew that, for seven years, from the death of her husband until 1838, she had sustained her nephew, Charles Breck, for four years at the University in Philadelphia, and for three years at the General Theological Seminary in the city of New York. Mrs. Lloyd, in her father's house in Boston, and afterwards in Philadelphia, and during her married life in Boston and Washington, was always in the most refined society. Her intelligence was not more conspicuous than her Christian simplicity. Her last illness overtook her at Bristol, Pennsylvania, in her brother George's house, where she was ministered to by his wife with all the love and tender solicitude of a daughter, and of one who felt that she was under infinite obligations for kindnesses shown to her children, of which only a part has here been related.

In a letter to his aunt, dated Bristol, July 20, 1838, Lloyd wrote, expressing to her his thankfulness for her past unexampled kindness:

I have now graduated at the University. A diploma has been granted me; of which, pardon me for saying, I am a little proud. My dear Aunt, the only present return I can make is to proffer to you my sincerest thanks for the means you have afforded to give me an education. I hope, dear Aunt, that you may long live to see good fruit arising from this guardian care you have taken over my mind.

My profession has long been chosen in my own mind,--long ere I disclosed it to any one. I think the Ministry was the very first occupation for life that came into my mind, and none other, I can truly say, has since come in to be compared with it; indeed, the thought of serving in the temple of the LORD has afforded me the greatest joy I have ever experienced. The LORD has been peculiarly gracious unto me through all my rebellings against His HOLY SPIRIT! He has gently led me through the wilderness to see a faint light of what heaven is. Oh! may He go on and perfect His good work begun in me. Use me, O LORD, as seemeth to Thee good. Rather than not work in Thy vineyard, let me labor in the meanest corner of it, even among the briars and thorns where no good seed has ever taken root! Such have been my feelings, and I think my heart does not deceive me when I say, I am willing to go and preach the gospel in the remotest and most heathen portion of earth's wide surface, should the LORD see fit to send me. One thing I trust I have not presumed in, viz.: that He has called me to serve in His Church. All my feelings have biassed me wholly to it, and therefrom has my great pleasure arisen. I feel as well assured of it as though a voice from heaven called me to the work. I am further grateful to say that I can thank, not only yourself, for the kindness done me, but GOD, who has inclined you to benefit me so greatly. On Sunday we witness the ordination of Charles at this place. How much I wish you could be present! It will be a scene of the deepest joy to our dear parents.

During his University course it was a great delight to the two brothers to spend their vacations together. Among other things, read with great diligence, was the whole controversy of "Episcopacy Tested by Scripture." One read, while the other held the Bible, and, as texts were recited or referred to, they were carefully examined. Lloyd was thus so grounded and settled as never afterwards to be moved by sentiments of miscalled charity, or the blunders of prejudiced historians.

The same estimable relative who had helped him hitherto, continued her benefactions, so as to enable her nephew to complete a course of study in preparation for the sacred ministry. In October, 1838, he entered the General Theological Seminary. Writing to his Uncle in Philadelphia, November 3d, he tells him that the class that has entered numbers twenty-six, and adds:

One is from Trinity College, Dublin,--an Irishman, possessed of their quick parts in no small degree, who has been in this country about three months. My room is situated in the third story of the West Seminary Building, facing a delightful prospect of the Hudson and the Jerseys opposite.

To his mother, a few days later, November 8th:

By this time I have learned house-keeping. A new method I have discovered of so making my bed on Monday evenings, as not to require making over again till the following Monday! When I left Bristol, I could not have believed I should have got into the "way-of-doing-things" so soon.

He expresses his great interest in his brother's missionary labors in the wilds of Northern Pennsylvania, and remarks: "I think no one will now say, that the Episcopal Church is not adapted to the country."

His letters in 1839 to his brother, exhibit the great interest felt by him in all the subjects affecting the welfare of the Church, such as Christian education and the observance of the festivals and fasts. Instruction, he thought, by pastors, should not be confined to the Sunday-school, but there should be daily instruction for at least an hour. His contributions to The Churchman were of no little value.

During this year he thought of Northern Pennsylvania as the field where he would begin his ministerial work, which determination gave great satisfaction to his brother Charles, whose labors extended over several counties. May 30th, 1840 alluding to his contemplated visit to Wellsboro', Tioga County, in the summer, he says:

I anticipate no little pleasure arising from paying you and yours a visit in the coming vacation. When I am on the spot, it can best be determined whether it would be profitable for me to settle near you. . . . When you, dear Brother, entered the Seminary it was a time of rejoicing; but, alas! ere I have got through my course, the Star of the Seminary has set. I say not, that it has not set to rise again in another sphere, to shine the more brilliantly; but to us, it has set. In plain language, Professor Whittingham is elected Bishop of Maryland, and of course, according to his Catholic principles, will accept. This is a glorious thing for Maryland, and, doubtless, must be for the Church at large. Only imagine the influence he must wield in the House of Bishops! His piety, his zeal, and his Catholic and Apostolic principles, will command the respect of all. But what are we poor students to do? He is the very life of the Seminary. In all our necessities, he is ever ready to supply, he is accessible by and to all. In fact, he gives character to the students, and stamps them with a measure of his own gifts and excellencies. One of the students asked him: "Will you not decline, Professor?" "As I fear GOD, I dare not." Again--"I hope, sir, you will never have to regret it." Answer--"I shall not in heaven, though I may here."

Now follows an account of Bishop Kemper's visit to the Seminary, which was to have a life-long influence on himself and the "young Irishman of very quick parts":

Bishop Kemper was here, and addressed us on Friday night last. He gave very great satisfaction, and made us more proud of our "Missionary Bishop" than ever before. His two chief wants at the West are means and men: the first, to found seminaries of learning to be under the control of the Church; the second, laborers to assist him in preaching the Gospel. The good bishop spoke very plainly respecting the kind of men he wanted, the burthen of which was--self-denying men, men willing to go there and endure every species of hardship for the sake of CHRIST and His Church. He spoke as though he fully apprehended that the time was drawing nigh when persecution and suffering should again be the lot of CHRIST'S ministers. He warned all against entering upon the Ministry that were not willing and ready to go through these. He told us plainly that men going out to the West must be willing to forego marriage for some years, and perhaps through life. Those were the only kind of men fit for him and the West.

(June 15th, 1840.--To his Brother Charles.)

My very dear Brother--When you receive this hasty reply, I fear you will say--"Lloyd had better be at his studies for the approaching examination." I think so too, but the truth of the matter is, that when I receive a letter from you, dear Brother, I always feel like talking with you the remainder of the day. And so, examination or no examination, here comes a sheet full. I would venture to say there has not been a class in the Seminary from its foundation, that has had half the Church spirit in it that ours has, except, of course, the graduating one of 1838!

But what think you, dear brother? The following is mooted in our class--and be not surprised if time should strengthen it--that six or eight of us clan together, going out West, place ourselves under Bishop Kemper, all at one point, and there educate and preach; to live under one roof, constituted into a Religious House, under a Superior. Thus and thus only, it is believed, can the Romanist be made to feel sensibly the power of the Church Catholic.

But more hereafter. I shall endeavor to be ready to accompany Mrs. Lee and her son William P. in July, and it will give me very great happiness to stand as sponsor for your dear infant.

I am truly glad that you have a garden,--quite an inducement for me to visit you. Your sentence, "I hope to have something fit to eat by the time you arrive," pretty clearly proves that you have not had much in this line during the winter. How is your horse? Does he ever return home without his rider? You need not lament your cow being dry, as your brother only drinks water morning, noon and night.

My love to dear Jeannie and her sweet infant; also to Mrs. Goodwin. Have you got tired ringing that bell yet? I speak for that office when I am with you; also that of "dark," also that of sweeping out the school-room, and any other offices of not too great responsibility that you may have to dispose of, such as currying down the bay horse.

In a letter of July 7th, he speaks of the great gratification it would be to him to be with his brother in the capacity of a Deacon, and then goes on to say:

If another field is opened before me, and a voice so distinct that it cannot be misunderstood--a voice from Heaven--tells me to go and labor there, can I refuse? Would you or dear Jeannie say--Don't go? I know you would not. In the whole disposal, as it was with yourself, let it all be under God's direction.

The last three weeks at the Seminary have been truly refreshing--a festival season, owing to the many addresses and cheering meetings that we have had. The Catholic Missionary meeting on the departure of Bishop Southgate; Professor Whittingham's powerful sermon before the Board of Missions, laying much stress on-the fact that we want men, not means; the Students' farewell missionary meeting (Dr. Whittingham, by request, addressed us and took an affecting farewell); the next day followed the commencement, at which Bishop Ives' address was grand. On my way from New York to Bristol, I became acquainted with Bishop Gadsden, and I like him much. He is a most humble-minded man.

His visit to Wellsboro' afforded him the greatest pleasure, as it did also his brother and family. His letters home are filled with accounts of the beauty of the country, of the Church work, of the people, and of his standing as one of the sponsors for his little niece. The brothers consulted fully respecting the work to be done in the far West. Charles was deeply impressed with its importance, and although the cherished anticipations of years--the, having him for a co-worker--had to be relinquished, he nevertheless advised Lloyd to go to the help of Bishop Kemper. A number of the students were to take their vacation as a season for full and prayerful consideration of the whole subject, for consultation with friends, with their bishops, and for careful consideration of their own fitness and willingness to enter upon a life of great self-denial. On his return to the Seminary he wrote as follows:

Dearest Brother--Believe me, the severest trial I've to make in going to the West, is the disappointment of that long cherished hope of being settled near yourself. It is most kind in you to give me up so readily for what appears a superior good to the Church. It can only be from the sincere love you have for her, and this the more evidently inasmuch as the difficulty of securing a fellow-laborer in your field is very great.

In his letter of December 1st, he copied Bishop Whittingham's Confirmation certificate, wherein the Bishop styles the Church, "The Catholic Church of CHRIST in these United States of America;" adding, "I hope to see the day when we shall be called solely by the title--'Catholic.'" He says, also:

I hear the question of discipline is likely to come up in General Convention next September. This is a matter of great rejoicing if so.

Bishop Whittingham took great interest in the contemplated Associate Mission. He was called upon by a Mr. Lee, of Iowa, who was laboring to interest the Church to send clergymen to an important part of the State. The Bishop encouraged him to hope that the right man might be found to undertake the work the next summer; and told him to write to Bishop Kemper on the subject. On November 7th, Bishop Kemper wrote from Burlington, Iowa, that he had not heard from Mr. Lee. Since June he had gone over more than half his missionary field. His heart and mind were all the time fully occupied with thoughts and plans concerning the mission or missions to be established. Wisconsin presented to him. the best field. The climate, and its location between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, made it, in his judgment, the right place to found an institution. He speaks of the prodigious efforts of the Romanists in this part of the Valley of the Mississippi; and of the rapid spread of fanaticism and delusion. He impresses upon the students again, the fact, that sacrifices must be made:

It is useless to think of entering the Ministry at the present day, unless we are prepared for self-denial, toil, and sufferings. And to whom should the Church look to accomplish the high objects to which she is pledged, but to those students whom she may most emphatically call her own? The objects to be accomplished are worthy the loftiest aspirations, and the most devoted zeal, of the best of her sons.

The winter of 1841 was one of much perplexity to Lloyd, his own bishop not having given his consent to his going to the West. He had serious thoughts of continuing his studies for a year or more, and possibly delaying his ordination. All his trials and difficulties were fully laid before his brother, and his advice constantly sought. The other students had their share of troubles. Upon his return to New York, Mr. Miles (one of them), informed him that he had heard from Bishop Gadsden, and that he strongly opposed his leaving his diocese. The Rev. J. B. Kerfoot wrote to Lloyd, from St. Paul's College, and requested him to take into consideration a proposal to unite with him in conducting a new department of the College, called "Cadets' Hall," the intent of which was, to train up men for the Church, and under more rigid discipline than the Collegiate department. "What I propose is this: that you unite with me in the moral and religious culture of those who may come under my charge." In case the Associate Mission should not at once be carried into effect, this proposal struck Lloyd very favorably. In less than a month the Bishop fixed the date and place of his ordination, at All-Saints' Church, near Holmesburg, where his father had been warden for thirty odd years, and where he had worshipped from childhood. It was to take place in July.

Bishop Kemper meanwhile came to the East, and addressed the students twice. Five or six gave themselves up to him--four for the express purpose of founding a Religious House in Wisconsin Territory, provided the consent of their respective diocesans could be procured. The four who thus gave themselves were Adams, Breck, Miles and Hobart.

Now there seemed every probability that some arrangement would be made with Dr. Muhlenberg and the Rev. J. B. Kerfoot, for at least a year, to prepare themselves more thoroughly for the work of education. Dr. Muhlenberg was very enthusiastic over this plan, having great experience as a wise and successful educator and disciplinarian, and being in the fullest sympathy with the missionary enterprise. Letters from Bishop Whitting-ham and from his own brother Charles highly favored this plan. A question of great moment had yet to be settled, the securing a suitable Presbyter as a Superior. Dr. Muhlenberg gave his full permission to them to select any one of his men. "We think," wrote Lloyd, "that we might have got the Rev. J. B. Kerfoot had he not become so identified with 'Cadets' Hall.'" On further consultation with Bishop Kemper, two things were resolved upon--the Bishop would endeavor to get the Rev. Mr. Cadle, a missionary of experience, laboring in the West, to act in the capacity of Superior; and they were to go out soon after their ordination.

We cannot too much admire the spirit and wisdom of the Missionary Bishop in this whole matter from its inception. He infused into the students his own self-devotion, and he kept alive the coals he had ignited. A man of less enthusiasm and boldness might have failed to secure their services. Under GOD, he was the instrument made use of to lay the foundation of the greatest mission the American Church had yet seen.

Bishop Onderdonk had given his consent, and the way was rapidly opening for their going. They ceased not their prayers for grace and guidance. "We four have a private liturgy, which we use together every Friday afternoon. It has the sanction of Bishop Whittingham." Writing to his uncle in Philadelphia, March 19th, he said:

Those of us that have banded together for the West meet weekly at my room on Friday, at 4 P. M., to mature our plans, &c. Such was the case this afternoon. I accordingly announced to them the kindness of a relative (Mrs. Lloyd, in presenting me with $200 towards my Library; and I said that, going forth as we contemplated, I should leave the choice of books with them. But they one and all insisted upon my getting such books as I should myself prefer.

(April 7th, 1841.--To his Brother Charles.)

. . . . After prayer in my room, Brother Hobart reported the reception our plan met with from the Domestic Committee. The Committee unanimously approved of our entire system, and agreed to receive us as Missionaries. We will receive between two and three hundred dollars per annum individually.

The subject of dress then came up. Adams said, "We must not go so filthy as St. Francis, who only wore sandals, a loose gown, and a rope tied about his waist." "Hold," cried Hobart, "I bargain for a shirt." But, seriously, we concluded to wear an uniform garb, and this to be a cassock, of coarse cloth in winter, and other material in summer of lighter texture.

But the best is yet to be told. Will you not congratulate us? We have a Superior at last,--just the man we have so much wanted.

The letter on this subject was to Hobart, their general business man:

March 10th, 1841.

Dear Sir: In consequence of a request from Bishop Kemper, I address a few lines to you. In a letter of the 17th ult., from Philadelphia, he has given me the outlines of a plan for the extension of the Church in Wisconsin by the establishment of an institution combining the instruction of the young with missionary labors in neighboring villages; mentioning also that yourself, with Mr. Adams, Mr. Breck, and Mr. Miles, were willing to associate for the carrying of this plan into effect, and further inviting me to take part in this service in the name of the gentlemen associating for the above-mentioned objects.

Previously to my receiving the Bishop's letter, I had communicated to General Brooke, commanding Fort Crawford, my wish of retiring from the chaplaincy of the post on the 1st of July next; so that after that date I shall be at liberty to enter upon new fields of labor. I replied to Bishop Kemper that I willingly consented to act as he has requested, for one year at least. Having the promise of leave of absence before retiring from my present station, I hope to visit New York in the month of May, and to have the pleasure of meeting yourself and the other gentlemen proposing to devote themselves to the advancement of the Church in Wisconsin. To them and to yourself I feel greatly indebted for the expression of confidence which I have received; and I earnestly trust and pray that our labors in this Territory may not be in vain.

I remain, respectfully, &c., truly yours,

In regard to this letter, Lloyd says:

What can be more encouraging than this, or what better could we expect? He has all his life been a devoted missionary, is about forty-five years of age, and has always been a celibate.

But it could not be expected that everything should be favorable in an undertaking like this. On the 6th of May he writes to his brother Charles:

Now, dear Brother for the adverses. There is a dark side to every picture, and here begins this, Where it will end I know not!

Bishop Otey has been on, and has spoken against our Mission. This has not affected any of us engaged in it, for his objections were futile. This we do not regard as of any consequence. But we have, at least for the present, lost one of our firmest men, indeed the suggester of the whole scheme. Bishop Gadsden has ordered Brother Miles home to be ordained. This to us is melancholy, but not discouraging. Miles is the very first man in the Seminary; and Bishop Gadsden's decision is not surprising, considering the destitute state of things in South Carolina. But this is not all. Bishop Kemper secured me to himself from Bishop Onderdonk. Brother Hobart was in Philadelphia last week, and called upon my Bishop, who, in course of conversation, touched upon our Mission. The Bishop then told him that he wished him to tell Mr. Breck for him (for, he said, he would now speak through Hobart more plainly than he had ever done before to me), that he wholly disapproved of the character of the Mission; that he thought I ought not to go out to Wisconsin; and it was my duty to remain in Pennsylvania. What this means I know not, and wrote him immediately to know. Do write and appease my Bishop. Do urge his allowing me to go.

(To his Brother Charles)--May 26th.

My very dear Brother: I can only say one word at this time respecting your Ordination, and that is, to congratulate you on your priesthood. You have spent a good long season in the Diaconate. I dislike this striding that is of late so customary. But, in fact, we have lost the distinctive character of the first order. I have only time to write a very few words, the purport of which is, to ask you to defer your visit so late that you may remain to my Ordination, which takes place on the 11th of July.

(July 12th, Bristol.--To his Brother Charles.)

Dearest Brother: I have passed my examination with the Bishop, which was upwards of three and a quarter hours long, and another by the Rev. F. W. Beasley of about an hour and a half; and yesterday, by Divine permission, I was admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons by our Bishop. The service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Beasley, the Rev. Mr. Germain reading the lessons. The sermon and address were by the Bishop, and the presentation of myself was by Mr. Beasley. How much I longed for your presence, dear brother! I cannot express to you the feelings that impressed my mind after the reception of Orders. No longer a layman:--a Minister of Christ,--a Deacon,--an office that can never be laid aside,--forever a servant of the Most High! I have for many years longed after Orders; yet when admitted thereto, it almost made me shudder to think I was now and forever to be one who was to stand between the people and the Altar. How mighty would it be to the saving of souls if we could at all times realize our self-dedication to God! I call you now brother in a sense different from, and higher than, I have ever before done. I feel related to you in a nearer and closer manner than ever before; indeed I regard our former relationship as but weak compared with this. Dear Brother, pray that I may have grace to serve the Lord acceptably for CHRIST JESUS' sake. There were present at my Ordination our dear parents, Uncle S. Breck and Aunt Lloyd, William H. Aspinwall and wife (sister Anna), also brother Samuel and wife, brother Lardner and wife, sister Mary, brothers George and Malcolm; also sisters Kate, Jane, and Lucy. The day was very fine and cool Many went down from Bristol. The church was crowded to excess. The Bishop preached a most admirable sermon. Brother Adams preached at the Oak Grove School House in the afternoon, and at Bristol in the evening. A letter from Hobart informs us that the Bishop wishes us to be at Milwaukee on the 8th of August; that he had called together there a Convocation of the Clergy of the Diocese at that time; and that the Convention would receive and send us forth to the field of labor, headed by the Bishop. Brother Hobart suggests the propriety of his preceding us by a week or two, as Father Cadle wished to visit his mother before returning West, not having seen her for five years. Brother Adams and myself leave for New York to-morrow morning to digest preliminaries. We hope to return to Bristol, with permission to remain until the first of September.

August 9th.--My dear Brother: I thank you heartily for the congratulations contained in yours of July 27th.

(August 3d.--To his Brother Charles)

We accepted Brother Hobart's proposal to go out and represent us at the time and place appointed by the Bishop. We met Father Cadle and were much pleased with him, though I think he has need of a further realization of Catholic Truth. We thank the LORD for giving us an experienced missionary to lead us, notwithstanding he may not be in every respect fitted for the station.

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