NOTHING seems to be more noticeable in the quest for Episcopacy which we are following, than the extreme simplicity which characterized the seekers, and which made them the sport of the astute politicians civil and ecclesiastical with whom they had to deal. They sought to partake of the treasure which was held in trust for them as well as others: but the policy of the possessors was to keep the seekers seeking.
There is nothing very remarkable about this: it is merely the way of the world. What is remarkable, is that the seekers should have been so simple as to imagine the possibility of anything else. They lived under illusions. They saw what did not exist. They measured the possessors by their own standards of mercy and justice; and could not suppose that they would act otherwise than as they believed they themselves would act in a similar situation. It took their representative sixteen months to realize that he had been "amused, if not deceived"; that the seekers were being systematically treated as what they were--simple folk who believed that to do justice and love mercy was as natural, and seemed as obligatory, to others as it did to them; and that if laws stood in the way of mercy and justice those laws ought to be changed: and, O simplicity of simplicities! they actually believed that those laws would be changed for the sake of mercy and justice. They were slow to realize that the only way to deal with those who with such patient simulation of desire to satisfy them were determined to ignore their wishes, was to get what they sought from other possessors of the same treasure who would not allow themselves to be hindered by laws which precluded mercy and justice. At last they learned that lesson; and behold, as soon as they had acted on it, the wheels of policy began to turn in another direction; and not long after the law was changed so that mercy and justice could be done without contravening law. But it was of course too late to benefit them, and it was only to their disillusionment in this respect that they owed the success which they had in another quarter.
These simple ones were also under another illusion. They saw in the mild monarch who loved the Church of England as much as his grandfather hated it, a cheerful readiness to dispense with the necessity of administering the oath of allegiance in the consecration of a Bishop to reside in a foreign State. [Cf. Dr. Berkeley's letter--p. 127, Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury.] They saw what did not exist: for the monarch had his non possumus as completely committed to memory as the Bishops had. The law prevented him as well as them.
But at least, said the simple ones, whatever may be the issue of our confidence in these particulars, we have one anchor sure and steadfast, our hope in which can never be removed. The Venerable Society for propagating the Gospel in Foreign parts, which has been the tender guardian of the Church in Connecticut these many years; which has supported the weak hands and strengthened the feeble knees of those whose lives were devoted to the benefit of that Church; which has been instant in season, out of season, in the effort to obtain the completion of the Church in America by the supply of the Episcopate; which sees now the even greater needs of the Church in America, and the absolute dependence of her Missionaries upon it for the continuance of a support, the withdrawal of which would reduce them to poverty--this great Society will not now desert us, but will continue that tender solicitude for our interests which it has so long manifested in our behalf. But here too they saw what did not exist. The interest which had been manifested had not been only for the Church as the institution of Christ, but eminently for the Church as an institution of the British Empire. The Society for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, duly fortified by its Charter, had its non possumus ready too: it could not minister to the needs of the Church in a State independent of Great Britain, because it was foreign.
So the illusions were all dissipated at last; and the seekers, discerning the facts as they were, perceived that they must obtain the treasure which they sought from those who had nothing but that treasure to impart; and that they must be content to receive it without any recognition from, and with the cold disapproval of those from whom, as they conceived, both their duty and their affection had led them to seek it.
The story of that sixteen months, from the arrival in London of the Bishop Elect on the 7th of July, 1783, to his departure for Scotland about the same time in the month of November, 1784, is one of the most sickening that can be conceived. It has been often related, and no where more fully and plainly than in the life of Bishop Seabury by Dr. Beardsley, who, with his usual painstaking detail has given all the correspondence, and recorded all the events which are of chief importance in it. As I had the pleasure to loan him all of the Bishop's manuscripts relating to this matter I have little now to contribute in addition to what he has already published, and therefore avail myself of the convenience of his valuable book. All that need be done here, for the continuity of this narrative, is merely to relate the sequence of proceedings, and to show what the course of the subject of this memoir was in the discharge of that commission which had been entrusted to him. So far as his personal life during this period is concerned there seems to be nothing which throws any light upon it. All that apparently survives, is the account which from time to time he gave in writing to those who had commissioned him, and to others who were interested in his movements, of the several steps which he took in the performance of his duty. The only point of personal interest in the process seems to have been his poverty, and the straits to which he was put in the endeavour to maintain himself long enough to carry on the siege which he had undertaken: for his mission was entirely at his own cost; and in it he more than expended all that he had. One of the means by which he sought to make provision for his needs, was the effort to procure some compensation from the Government for his services and losses in its behalf during the War, an account of which has already been given in a previous chapter. All the rest of the written evidence which remains of the course which he pursued seems to relate simply to the discharge of his mission.
It will be remembered that the letter of the Revd. Mr. Fogg, one of the members of the Connecticut Convention at Woodbury, which has been previously quoted, states that the Clergy of that State, after consultation with clergymen in New York, had unanimously agreed to send Dr. Seabury to England to obtain consecration; and that they had instructed him, if he could not obtain consecration in England, to seek it in Scotland; and that Dr. Seabury had already sailed. Dr. Seabury is spoken of in Mr. Fogg's letter as highly recommended, and the credentials which he carried with him were very full and explicit in regard to his fitness for the Office which he was sent to seek; and it is proper to say here, once for all, that no personal objection was ever made against him by those from whom he sought consecration, and that all the objections which were made by them to his consecration were such only as would have applied to any applicant under the same circumstances. In other words they all related to the propriety of the consecration, and none of them to the propriety of consecrating him if consecration were to be determined upon.
On the 15th of July, 1783, he reports from London to those who had elected him that, having arrived on the 7th inst, and having failed of an interview with the Archbishop of York who had left the city a fortnight before, he had waited on the Bishop of London, from whom he had met with a cordial reception. "He heartily approved," continues the writer, "of the scheme, and wished success to it, and declared his readiness to concur with the two Archbishops in carrying it into execution: but I soon found he was not disposed to take the lead in the matter. He mentioned the State Oaths in the Ordination offices, as impediments, but supposed that the King's dispensation would be a sufficient warrant for the Archbishops to proceed upon. But upon conversing with His Grace of Canterbury, I found his opinion rather different from the Bishop of London. He received me politely, approved of the measure, saw the necessity of it, and would do all he could to carry it into execution. But he must proceed openly and with candor. His Majesty's dispensation he feared would not be sufficient to justify the omission of oaths imposed by act of Parliament. He would consult the other Bishops; he would advise with those persons on whose judgment he thought he could depend. He was glad to hear the opinion of the Bishop of London, and wished to know the sentiments of the Archbishop of York. He foresaw great difficulties, but hoped there were none of them insurmountable." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 106, 107.]
On the 10th of August following, continuing the account of his proceedings, the writer reports that he had visited York, in order that he might have the full benefit of the Archbishop's advice and influence. "This journey," he says, "I have accomplished, and I fear to very little purpose. His Grace is now carrying on a correspondence with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the subject; what the issue will be is not certain; but I think, unless matters can be put on a different footing, the business will not succeed. Both the Archbishops are convinced of the necessity of supplying the States of America with Bishops, if it be intended to preserve the Episcopal Church there; and they even seem sensible of the justice of the present application, but they are exceedingly embarrassed by the following difficulties:
1. That it would be sending a bishop to Connecticut, which they have no right to do without the consent of the State.
2. That the bishop would not be received in Connecticut.
3. That there would be no adequate support for him.
4. That the oaths in the ordination office cannot be got over, because the king's dispensation would not be sufficient to justify the omission of those oaths. At least there must be the concurrence of the king's council to the omission; and that the council would not give their concurrence without the permission of the State of Connecticut to the bishop's residing among them.
All that I could say had no effect, and I had a fair opportunity of saying all that I wished to say.
It now remains to be considered what method shall be taken to obtain the wished-for Episcopate.
The matter here will become public. It will soon get to Connecticut. Had you not, gentlemen, better make immediate application to the State for permission to have a bishop reside there? Should you not succeed, you lose nothing, as I am pretty confident you will not succeed here without such consent. Should there be anything personal with regard to me, let it not retard the matter. I will most readily give up my pretensions to any person who shall be agreeable to you, and less exceptionable to the State.
You can make the attempt with all the strength you can muster among the laity: and at the same time I would advise that some persons be sent to try the State of Vermont on this subject. In the meantime I will try to prepare and get things in a proper train here. I think I shall be able to get at the Duke of Portland and Lord North, on the occasion, and should you succeed in either instance, I think all difficulty would be at an end." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 108, 109.]
To Mr. Leaming, from 91 Wardour Street, London, September 3, 1783, the account is continued:
"With regard to my success, I do not only think it doubtful, but that the probability is against it. Nobody here will risk anything for the sake of the Church, or for the sake of continuing Episcopal ordination in America. Unless therefore it can be made a ministerial affair, none of the bishops will proceed in it for fear of clamor; and indeed the ground on which they at present stand, seems to me so uncertain, that I believe they are obliged to take great care with regard to any step they take out of the common road. They are apprehensive that my consecration would be looked on in the light of sending a bishop to Connecticut, and that the State of Connecticut would resist it, and that they should be censured as meddlers in matters that do not concern them. This is the great reason why I wish that the State of Connecticut should be applied to for their consent. Without it, I think nothing will be done. If they refuse, the whole matter is at an end. If they consent that a bishop should reside among them, the grand obstacle will be removed. You see the necessity of making the attempt, and of making it with vigor. One reason, indeed, why I wished the attempt to be made in Connecticut, related to myself. I cannot continue here long: necessity will oblige me to leave it in March or April, at furthest. If this business fails, I must try to get some provision made for myself: and indeed the State of Connecticut may consent that a bishop should reside among them, though they might not consent that I should be the man. In that case, the sooner I shall know it the better: and should that be the case, I beg that no clergyman in Connecticut will hesitate a moment on my account. The point is, to get the Episcopal authority into that country; and he shall have every assistance in my power.
Something should also be said about the means of support for a bishop in that country. The bishops here are apprehensive that the character will sink into contempt, unless there be some competent and permanent fund for its support. Please let your opinion of what ought to be said on that subject be communicated by the first opportunity, that is, provided you think anything can be done in Connecticut.
Dr. Chandler's appointment to Nova Scotia will, I believe, succeed. And possibly he may go there this autumn, or at least, early in the spring. But his success will do no good in the States of America. His hands will be as much tied as the bishops in England; and I think he will run no risks to communicate the Episcopal powers. There is, therefore, everything depending on the success of the application to the State of Connecticut. It must be made quickly, lest the dissenters here should interpose and prevent it; and it should be made with the united efforts of clergy and laity, that its weight may be the greater; and its issue you must make me acquainted with as soon as you can." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 110, III.]
The main objection to consecration, it will have been observed, was the legal obligation of the person consecrated to take the oaths of allegiance in connection with the Ordination Office. But the impression which the applicant appears to have received from the Archbishops was that there might be a concurrence of the King's Council in his dispensing with that obligation, if there was the permission of the State of Connecticut that a Bishop should reside there. Of course nobody promised anything. Probably nobody intended to perform anything. But that was the impression given. Accordingly it was urged upon the Clergy that they should endeavour to procure such consent. The letters of the applicant were submitted to the Clergy of Connecticut, who after conference in regard to them in a Convention held at Walling-ford, appointed the Rev. Messrs. Learning, Jarvis and Hub-bard a committee to confer with the leading members of both Houses of the Assembly then sitting at New Haven, as to such of the anticipated difficulties as had reference to civil government: and, having performed its function, this committee described the result in a letter to the applicant dated February 5th, 1784. In this letter the committee give the sentiments of these principal members as follows:
"Your right, they said, is unquestionable. You therefore have our full concurrence for your enjoyment of what you judge essential to your Church. Was an Act of Assembly expedient to your complete enjoyment of your own ecclesiastical constitution, we would freely give our votes for such an act. We have passed a law which embraces your Church, wherein are comprehended all the legal rights and powers, intended by our Constitution to be given to any denomination of Christians. In that act is included all that you want. Let a bishop come; by that act he will stand upon the same ground that the rest of the Clergy do, or the Church at large. It was remarked that there were some, who would oppose and would labor to excite opposition among the people, who if unalarmed by any jealousies, would probably remain quiet. For which reason it would be impolicy, both in us and them, for the Assembly to meddle at all in the business. The introduction of a bishop on the present footing, without anything more, in their opinion would be the easiest and securest way in which it could be done, and we might be sure of his protection. This they thought must be enough to satisfy the bishops, and all concerned in the affair in England. We are further authorized to say that the legislature of the State would be so far from taking umbrage, that the more liberal part will consider the bishops in this transaction as maintaining entire consistency of principle and character, and by so doing merit their commendation.
The act above alluded to, you will receive in a letter from Mr. Learning, attested by the clerk of the lower House of Assembly. It is not yet published. The clerk was so obliging as to copy it from the journals of the House. You were mentioned as the gentleman we had pitched upon. The Secretary of the State, from personal knowledge, and others, said things honorable and benevolent towards you. Now if the opinion of the governor and other members of the council, explicitly given in entire agreement with the most respectable members among the representatives, who must be admitted to be competent judges of their own civil polity, is reasonably sufficient to remove all scruples about the concurrence of the legislature, we cannot imagine that objection will any longer have a place in the minds of the Archbishops." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 113, 114.]
A copy of the Act of the Connecticut legislature has been preserved among Bishop Seabury's papers. It cannot be the same copy which was submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury, because that copy was received in London on the 17th of June, 1784, and this is officially certified August 6th of that year. But it will equally serve our convenience, if we take from it such extracts as show the bearing of the act upon the question of the permission of the State to have a Bishop settled within it.
"An act for securing the rights of conscience in matters of Religion to Christians of every denomination in this State.
"As the happiness of a people and the good order of civil society, essentially depend upon Piety, Religion and Morality, it is the duty of the civil authority to provide for the support and encouragement thereof: so as that Christians of every denomination, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the State, may be equally under the protection of the Laws: And as the people of this State have in general, been of one profession on matters of Faith, Religious Worship, and the mode of settling and supporting the Ministers of the Gospel, they have by law been formed into ecclesiastical Societies, for the more convenient support of their Worship and Ministry: and to the end that other denominations of Christians, who dissent from the Worship and Ministry so established and supported, may enjoy free liberty of conscience in the matters aforesaid--
Be it enacted by the Governor, Council and Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, That no persons in this State, professing the Christian Religion, who soberly and conscientiously dissent from the worship and ministry by Law established in the Society wherein they dwell, and attend public worship by themselves, shall incur any penalty for not attending the worship and ministry so established, on the Lords-Day, or on account of their meeting together by themselves on said day, for public worship in a way agreeable to their consciences.
And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all denominations of Christians differing in their religious sentiments from the people of the Established Societies in this State, whether of the Episcopal Church, or those Con-gregationalists called Separates, or the people called Baptists, or Quakers, or any other denomination who shall have formed themselves into distinct Churches or Congregations, and attend public worship, and support the Gospel Ministry in a way agreeable to their consciences and respective professions; and all persons who adhere to any of them, and dwell so near to any place of their Worship, that they can and do ordinarily attend the same on the Sabbath, and contribute their due proportion to the support of the Worship and Ministry where they so attend . . . every such person shall be exempted from being taxed for the support of the Worship and Ministry of said Society, so long as he or they shall continue so to attend and support public worship with a different Church or Congregation as aforesaid.
And be it further enacted . . . that all such Protestant Churches and Congregations as dissent from the Worship and Ministry established as aforesaid and who maintain and attend public worship by themselves, shall have liberty and authority to use and exercise the same powers and privileges for maintaining and supporting their respective Ministers and building and repairing their Meeting-Houses for the public Worship of God, as the Ecclesiastical Societies, constituted by Act of the General Assembly of this State by law have and do exercise and enjoy; and in the same manner may commence and hold their meetings, and transact their affairs, as occasion may require for the purpose aforesaid."
On the back of a copy of a letter from Dr. Seabury to Dr. Cooper of August 31, 1784, which will be referred to later, is a memorandum in Dr. Seabury's writing which seems to have escaped the eye of Dr. Beardsley in his inspection of the Seabury Manuscripts, and which shows that in the lapse of a year since the four objections were made by the Archbishops and transmitted to Connecticut, the Archbishop of Canterbury, under the guidance of the Ministry, had been able to discover new objections to the consecration. The memorandum is as follows:
"Objections made to the Connecticut Episcopate by the British Ministry, as represented to Dr. Seabury by his Grace of Cant, the beginning of Aug*. 1784.
1. That they cannot consent that a Bp. be consecrated for Connecticut, till the N. Scotia Episcopate be settled.
2. Nor unless Congress requested, or, at least acquiesced in the measure.
3. That Conn, was only one State and even their consent was not explicitly declared.
4. That the application was only from the Clergy and not from the Laity in Conn.
5. That the Laity of the Episcopal Communion in America were adverse to the having Bps. resident among them.
6. That the Country was not divided into Dioceses, nor any provision made for Bps.
7. That having never sent Bps. into America while the 13 States were subject to Great Britain, it would have a very suspicious look to do it now, and would probably create, or augment, ill will in that Country against G. B."
Yet in one way or other, probably through some communication which has not survived, the writers of the Connecticut letter had evidently been made aware of one of these objections, which therefore can hardly have been first broached at the time of the above memorandum. It is one that would occur naturally to the Erastianized mind, clerical or lay, and so was very likely to have been at least mentioned; but it was one which was difficult for those to appreciate whose circumstances had thrown them back upon the radical conception of the Church as a Divine and Spiritual institution essentially distinct from the State. "We feel ourselves," say the writers, "at some loss for a reply to the objection which relates to the limits and establishment of a diocese, because the government here is not Episcopal; and because we do not conceive a civil or legal limitation and establishment of a diocese, essentially attached to the doctrine of Episcopacy, or the existence of a Bishop in the Church. The Presbyters who elect the Bishop, and the congregations to which they minister, may naturally direct his active superintendence, and prescribe the acknowledged boundaries of his diocese." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 114-113.]
In other words, their conception of a diocese was that of the spiritual jurisdiction of a Bishop over clergy and laity in communion with him through the Faith and Sacraments of Christ, in whatsoever place, and under whatsoever circumstances that jurisdiction might be exercised. The recognition of State limits as the place within which such jurisdiction should prevail, was one which grew naturally out of the obligation of individual Churchmen to obey the civil laws under which they lived; but that involved no right on the part of the State to prescribe diocesan limits; much less any expectation on the part of Churchmen to receive the benefit of any provision made for them by the State, nor any privilege beyond that of the protection of the civil rights which they shared with all their fellow citizens of what religious persuasion soever.
But this objection was naturally connected with the idea of what was deemed, by those who had worldly conceptions of the dignity of the Episcopate, necessary pecuniary provision for the maintenance of that dignity. As to this too the answer of the Connecticut Clergy shows the spiritual as opposed to the worldly conception of the Episcopate:
"Under existing circumstances, and utterly unable to judge with any certainty what, in the course of divine providence, may be the future condition of the Church in this Country, we can contemplate no other support for a Bishop, than what is to be derived from voluntary contracts, and subscriptions and contributions, directed by the good will and zeal of the members of a Church who are taught, and do believe, that a Bishop is the chief Minister in the kingdom of Christ on earth. Other engagements, it is not in our power to enter into, than our best endeavors to obtain what our people can do, and we trust will continue to do, in proportion to the increase of their ability, of which we flatter ourselves with some favorable prospect. A Bishop in Connecticut must, in some degree, be of the primitive style. With patience and a share of primitive zeal, he must rest for support on the Church which he serves, as head in her ministrations, unornamented with temporal dignity, and without the props of secular power." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 115]
On April 30, 1784, Dr. Seabury acknowledges this letter of the Committee, and relates his use of it:
"I have communicated your letter to the Archbishop of York, and the Bishops of London and Oxford; the last did not seem to think it quite satisfactory, but said the letter was a good one, and gave him an advantageous opinion of the gentlemen who wrote it, and of the Clergy of Connecticut in general; and that it was worthy of serious consideration. The Bishop of London thought it removed all the difficulties on your side of the water, and that nothing now was wanting but an Act of Parliament to dispense with the State oaths, and he imagined that would be easily obtained. The Archbishop of York gave no opinion, but wished I would lose no time in showing it to the Archbishop of Canterbury." [Ibid. 118.]
On May 3, he continues the account relating the comments of Canterbury on May 1st:
"His Grace's behaviour, though polite, I thought was cool and restrained. When he had read the letter, he observed that it was still the application only of the Clergy, and that the permission was only the permission of individuals, and not of the legislature. I observed that the reasons why the legislature had not been applied to were specified in the letter, and that they appeared to me to be founded in reason and good sense--that had his Grace demanded the concurrence of the laity of the Church last autumn, it might easily have been procured. That it was the first wish both of the Episcopal Clergy and laity of Connecticut to have an Episcopate through the clear and uninterrupted channel of the Church of England and my first wish that his Grace and the Archbishop of York might be the instruments of its conveyance--but that if such difficulties and objections lay in the way as it was impossible to remove, it was but lost time for me to pursue it further; but that I hoped his Grace would converse with the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London on the subject. He said he would but that he was then very unwell. I thought it was no good time to press the matter while the body and mind were not in proper unison, and rose to withdraw, offering to leave the letter, as it might be wanted. I will not, said he, take the original from you lest it should fare as the letter you brought from the Clergy of Connecticut has fared. I left it with Lord North when he was in office, and have never been able to recover it; but if you will favor me with copies of both letters I shall be obliged to you. I promised compliance and took my leave.
Dr. Chandler has been with him to-day on the subject of the Nova Scotia Episcopate, which, I believe, will be effected. His Grace introduced the subject of Connecticut; declared his readiness to do everything in his power, complimented the Clergy of Connecticut, and your humble servant, talked of an act of Parliament, and mentioned that some young gentle-from the Southern States, who were here soliciting Orders, had applied to the Danish Bishops through the medium of the Danish Ambassador at the Hague, upon a supposition that he was averse to conferring orders on them; but that the supposition was groundless, he being willing and ready to do it when it could consistently be done." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 120, 121.]
On May 24, 1784, the account of the applicant is continued in a letter to Mr. Jarvis. Referring to previous letters, he says:
"Since those letters I have had two interviews with his Grace of Canterbury, the last this morning. He declares himself ready to do everything in his power to promote the business I am engaged in; but still thinks that an act of Parliament will be necessary to enable him to proceed; and also that the act of the Legislature of your State, which you mentioned would be sent me by Mr. Learning, is absolutely necessary on which to found an application to Parliament. I pleased myself with the prospect of receiving the copy of that act by the last packet, the letters of which arrived here on the 15". inst.; but great was my mortification, that no letter came to me from my good and ever dear friends. What I shall do I know not, as the business is at a dead stand without it; and the Parliament is now sitting. If the next arrival does not bring it, I shall be at my wit's end. Send it, therefore, by all means, even after the receipt of this letter: or if you have sent it, send a duplicate.
His Grace says he sees no reason to despair; but yet that matters are in such a state of uncertainty that he knows not how to promise anything. He complains of the people in power; that there is no getting them to attend to anything in which their own party interest is not concerned. This is certainly the worst country in the world to do business in. I wonder how they get along at any rate. But if I had the act of your State which you refer to in your letter, I should be able to bring the matter to a crisis, and it would be determined, one way or the other. And as it is attended with uncertainty whether I shall succeed here, I have in two or three letters to Mr. Learning, requested to know, whether in case of failure here, it would be agreeable to the Clergy in Connecticut that I should apply to the nonjuring Bishops in Scotland, who have been sounded and declare their readiness to carry the business into execution. I hope to receive instructions on this head by the next arrival, and in the mean time must watch occasions as they rise.
Believe me, there is nothing that is not base that I would not do, nor any risk that I would not run, nor any inconvenience to myself that I would not encounter, to carry this business into effect. And I assure you, if I do not succeed it shall not be my fault." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 123, 124.]
Dr. Seabury's letter of June 26, 1784, to Mr. Jarvis, continues the relation:
"I received on the 17" inst. Mr. Learning's letter, inclosing the act of the legislature of Connecticut, respecting liberty of conscience in that State. Upon the whole I think it a liberal one; and, if it be fairly interpreted and abided by, fully adequate to all good purposes. I have had a long conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and another with the Archbishop of York, on the act. They seem to think the principal objections are removed so far as you or I are concerned. They spoke handsomely of the Clergy of Connecticut, and declared themselves satisfied with your humble servant, whom the Clergy were pleased to recommend to them. But I apprehend there are some difficulties that may not easily be got over. These arise from the restrictions the Bishops are under about consecrating without the King's leave, and the doubt seems to be about the King's leave to consecrate a Bishop who is not to reside in his dominions; and about the validity of his dispensing with the oath in case he has power to grant leave of consecration. I have declared my opinion, which is, that as there is no law existing relative to a Bishop who is to reside in a foreign State, the Archbishops are left to the general laws of the Christian Church, and have no need either of the King's leave or dispensation. But the opinion of so little a man cannot have much weight. The Archbishop of Canterbury supposes that an Act of Parliament will be necessary; yet he wishes to get through the business, if possible, without it, and acknowledged that the opinion of the majority of the Bishops differed from his. The questions are referred to the Attorney and Solicitor-general, and their opinion, should they agree, will, I presume, determine the point. This opinion, I hope, will be obtained in a short time, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has promised to consult them. . . .
I have had opportunities of consulting some very respectable clergymen in this matter, and their invariable opinion is, that should I be disappointed here, where the business had been so fairly, candidly, and honorably pursued, it would become my duty to obtain Episcopal consecration wherever it can be had, and that no exception could be taken here at my doing so. The Scotch Succession was named. It was said to be equal to any succession in the world, etc. There I know consecration may be had. But with regard to this matter I hope to hear from you in answer to a letter I wrote to Mr. Learning, I think in April. Should I receive any instructions from the Clergy of Connecticut, I shall attend to them; if not, I shall act according to the best advice I can get, and my own judgment.
Believe me, there is nothing I have so much at heart as the accomplishment of the business you have intrusted to my management; and I am ready to make every sacrifice of worldly consideration that may stand in the way of its completion." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 130, 131.]
The last of this series is addressed to the Clergy of Connecticut, and contains the report of the final action taken in pursuit of their instructions to resort primarily to the English Bishops for the consecration. It goes again over the ground, so often traversed, of the necessity of a permissive act of Parliament; but it shows a nearer approach to the crisis, and that the point was being reached at which the question of consecration or no consecration in England must be decided. If Parliament refused, or omitted to give, the needed authority for the consecration of a Bishop to be settled in foreign parts, which would involve the omission of the State oaths, and the waiver of questions in regard to the position of a Bishop so to be settled, it would be considered as tantamount to the denial of the application in the present case, and the applicant would prefer his petition elsewhere. This letter is here given entire.
"London, July 26, 1784 Gentlemen,--I take the opportunity by Mr. Townsend to write to you, although I have little more to say than I have already said in my late letters.
On the 21st inst. I had an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was with him an hour. He entered fully and warmly into my business; declared himself fully sensible of the expediency, justice, and necessity of the measure; and also of the necessity of its being carried immediately into execution. An act of Parliament, however, will be requisite to enable the Bishops to proceed without incurring a Praemunire. A bill for this purpose I am encouraged to expect will be brought in as soon as the proper steps are taken to insure it an easy passage through the two Houses. The previous measures are now concerting, and I am flattered with every prospect of success. But everything here is attended with uncertainty till it is actually done. Men or measures, or both, may be changed to-morrow, and then all will be to go through again. However, I shall patiently wait the issue of the present session of Parliament, which, it is the common opinion, will continue a month longer. If nothing be done, I shall give up the matter here as unattainable, and apply to the North, unless I should receive contrary directions from the Clergy of Connecticut.
The various difficulties I have had to struggle with, and the various steps I have taken to get through them are too long to communicate by letter; but I hope to spend the next winter in Connecticut, and then you shall know all, at least all that I shall remember.
My best regards attend the Clergy, and all my friends and the friends of the Church. I hope yet to spend some happy years with them. Accept, my good brethren, the best wishes of your affectionate humble servant,
The cheerful and courageous tone of this letter appears not to have been inconsistent with the recognition of the very possible prospect of a final disappointment of the writer in the efforts which, hoping against hope, he had now made for more than a year. In their simple faith in the justice of their appeal to the English Bishops the Connecticut Clergy had commissioned him to seek consecration from them. In their relation to the Civil Authority of their Country, these Bishops did not think it safe to grant the request made of them: and refused to do so unless an act of Parliament should authorize such action as was needed. The result of all the waiting, the anxiety and suspense, the laborious efforts to prepare for and procure the desired sanction from Parliament, was that an act was passed authorizing the Bishop of London and his substitutes to dispense with the oaths which precluded ordination of foreign candidates for the Diaconate and the Priesthood; but without the admission of candidates for the Episcopate to the same privilege: so that the Bishop Elect in the present case was still left under all the disabilities which the English law imposed upon him. His duty therefore was accomplished so far as the English Episcopate was concerned; and it became necessary for him to look elsewhere for that which he had been commissioned to procure. The paths open to him, and the course actually pursued by him, are now to be considered.