The family, from which Bishop Provoost was descended, at the earliest period to which it can be traced, (1550,) was French. The name probably was originally "Provot," and may have been changed by the circumstance of different branches having been transplanted and having lived for a century or two amongst the Dutch and English. The orthography of the name with the double O seems of quite modern date, some of the family using only the single O; and the Bishop himself, in the early part of his life, appears sometimes to have written his name in this manner.
I find in some of the old books which must have belonged to the former generations, the Provoost coat of arms. Without being able to describe it scientifically, I may mention that it is a plain shield, (argent,) bearing three mullets pierced with arrows; the crest is a hand grasping a spear; the arms bent as in the act of casting an arrow; the motto, "Pro libertate." It has sometimes been supposed that Bishop Provoost adopted this motto at the time when he took a decided part in favor of the liberties of this country; but this is a mistake, as it was undoubtedly borne by the family in remote times.
The first of the family of whom I can find any trace, is a William Provoost, who resided in Paris at the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. The family were Huguenots; and this William Provoost, and another of the same name, made their escape from the murderers employed on that occasion. The latter took refuge in Geneva. William escaped to Amsterdam, where he married a French lady, also a fugitive from Paris. Of this marriage there were five sons; the eldest was Johannes, who married a Dutch lady, by whom he had three sons; the youngest of whom (David) came to this country, then New Netherlands, in 1624. He soon after returned to Holland, and there married a lady by the name of Tam Waart, and in 1634, with his wife, came to New York, then New Amsterdam. He was soon after commissioned by the Director General of New Netherlands, to command a military expedition against the English, who had settled at Versche River, (Connecticut River,) on what the Dutch claimed as their territory. He was successful in driving away the intruders, and built a fort at what is now called Saybrook, to which place he removed his family, and continued to command and reside in the fort for a number of years. There was another brother, Elias, who also came to this country and settled in Albany, then fort Orange. From this Elias Provoost sprang the Provoosts of that quarter. David Provoost had a number of children, and died in 1657. His third son, David, was born at Saybrook, in l642, and in 1668, married Catharine Lawrence, who was born in Holland, in 1650. They had a number of children; the fourth of whom, Samuel, was born in New York, in 1687. Samuel Provoost had several children--his son John was born in New York, in 1713. He became a merchant of respectability and wealth. He married Eve Rutgers of the same city. They had many children, the eldest of whom, Samuel Provoost, the subject of our memoir, was born in New York, on the 26th of February, 1742 O. S. It is curious to observe, as indicative of the superstitions of the times, that his father was not only careful to record the exact hour and minute of his children's birth, but he also set down the aspect of the heavens at the time.
Samuel was baptized by Dominie Henricus Du Bois. After he had received the rudiments of ordinary classical instruction, he entered as one of the students of King's (now Columbia) College, then a frame building in Trinity-church yard, and was one of a class of nine that graduated at its first commencement, receiving his baccalaureate degree in his seventeenth year.
His ancestors for several generations belonged to the Dutch Church. When he joined the Church of England does not appear. The probable conjecture is, that he may have been somewhat influenced in this respect, by pursuing his collegiate course at home, under President Samuel Johnson, (who was also a settled minister of Trinity Church,) and by finishing his education abroad, at an English University; or what is more probable, he may like others, have been driven from the Dutch Church, by its consistory's pertinaciousness, in disregarding the entreaties of the younger part of the two congregations, to have a part of the services conducted in the English language.
In the summer of 1761 he embarked for Europe. He arrived at Falmouth, in September; and in November he entered fellow commoner of St. Peter's College, Cambridge, England. While he seems to have partaken freely of the gayety which was then the fashion of the English universities, he appears also to have prosecuted his studies with great assiduity. His father allowed him a private tutor, the celebrated Dr. John Jebb, a man of distinguished talents, with whom Mr. Prevost formed an ardent friendship, and was in correspondence so long as Dr. Jebb lived.
Soon after Mr. Provoost had commenced his studies at Cambridge, he seems to have decided on the Church as his profession, and it is evident, from the letters between him and his father, that this was his own unbiassed choice. He had acquired a knowledge not only of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, but he made himself master of the French and Italian.
On the 23rd February, 1766, he was admitted to the order of deacon at the Chapel Royal of St. James' Palace, Westminster, by the Bishop of London; and on the 25th of March of the same year, he was admitted to priests' orders at the King's Chapel in Whitehall, by Dr. Edmund Kean, Bishop of Chester.
Benjamin Bousfield was a fellow student of Mr. Provoost at the University of Cambridge, they were intimate friends. Mr. Bousfield was the only son of Thomas Bousfield, a man of large estate, and then the only banker in the city of Cork, Ireland. The son was afterwards a conspicuous character in the Irish House of Commons, and ex-sheriff of the county of Cork, during the great political contentions of that country. He was so far a literary man that he ventured to enter the field with the great Edmund Burke, and write a pamphlet in answer to Mr. Burke's celebrated book on the French Revolution.
At about the period last mentioned, the widowed mother of Mr. Bousfield, and her daughter, paid a visit to Cambridge. The acquaintance between Mr. Provoost and the sister of his friend soon ripened into a mutual attachment, and on the 8th of June 1766, they were married in St. Mary's Church, Cambridge, by one of the senior fellows of Trinity College.
Soon after his marriage he returned to New York, with his bride, and in December, 1766, he accepted a call to be one of the assistant ministers at Trinity Church, which embraced St. George's and St. Paul's Chapels; the Rev. Samuel Auchmuty, Rector, the Rev. John Ogilvie, and the Rev. Charles Inglis, assistant Ministers.
In 1768, he was prevailed on by his wife, to pay a visit with her to her relations in Ireland. He seems to have had the permission of the vestry, with an understanding on his part, at least, that when he returned he should resume his station in the Church, on the same terms as when he went to Ireland. But the vestry appear to have thought themselves at liberty to make his continuance in his office, to depend on conditions which they thought proper to propose.
Soon after his return, it was proposed in the vestry (Oct. 26th, 1769) to dismiss Mr. Provoost, on account of the insufficiency of the corporate funds to meet his salary £250, or $625. This proposition was not adopted; but on the 6th of the next month, it was resolved, that he should be continued as an assistant Minister, if he could be content, instead of a salary, to receive such compensation as could be raised by subscription. While this matter was pending, Mr. Provoost remonstrated against what he considered as the bad faith of the attempt to place him on any other footing in the Church, than that on which he stood when he left it, with the consent of the vestry, to make his visit to Ireland. How he treated the offer of the vestry, that he should be supported by subscription, does not appear. It is very certain, however, that it was not accepted, and that about this time his connection with Trinity Church was dissolved.
But it is probable that the insufficiency of the funds, was not so much the cause of the proceedings of the vestry as a discontent with Mr. Provoost; for it was evident that some part of the congregations were dissatisfied with him; and of this he was not unconscious. In a letter written soon after his return from Ireland, he says,
"I am now returned to my native country; we have a fine son and daughter, and I should think my situation perfectly agreeable, if it were not for the bigotry and enthusiasm that generally prevails among people here, of all denominations. Even the Church, particularly the lower members of it, is not free from the general infection. As I found this to be the case, I made it a point to preach the plain doctrines of religion and morality, in the manner I found them enforced by the most eminent divines of the Church of England. This brought an accusation against me by these people, that I was endeavouring to sap the foundations of Christianity, which they imagined to consist in the doctrines of absolute predestination and reprobation; placing such unbounded confidence in the merits of Christ, as to think their own endeavors quite unnecessary and not in the least available to salvation; and consigning to everlasting destruction all who happen to differ from them in the most trivial matters. I was, however, happy enough to be supported by many of the principal persons of New York."
The excitement alluded to in this letter, had its origin in the pulpit displays of the celebrated Rev. George Whitefield, who had visited New York. There were among the disciples of this popular preacher, some who called upon Mr. Provoost, by anonymous letters, to preach Mr. Whitefield's doctrines, and reprobated Mr. Provoost's sermons, because "they were too moral, and contained not enough of evangelical truths."
It is extremely probable, also, that much of the discontent of the vestry with Mr. Provoost, grew out of the political questions which then agitated the country, and bred discord in every society. Though the Church and State were not united in the colony of New York, exactly as it was, and is, in England, yet the church was very dependant on the King and his government, and it cannot be denied that the Episcopalians of the city of New York, very generally, took part with the mother country. It is believed that the members of the vestry who passed the resolution which obliged Mr. Provoost to leave Trinity Church, did (with the exception of two or three) preserve their loyalty during the revolutionary struggle.--Mr. Provoost was entirely on the side of those who were opposed to the British government, and took no pains to conceal his sentiments.
Soon after he left Trinity Church, he determined to seek in the country that quiet, which the perturbed state of the city did not permit. He purchased a small farm at East Camp, which was then in Dutchess County. In the selection of this spot, he was, no doubt, in some measure influenced by its being in the neighborhood of the Livingston families. Mr. Walter and Mr. Robert C. Livingston had been fellow students with him at the English University. In the latter part of 1770, or beginning of 1771, he removed with his family to East Camp. From this time till the close of the revolutionary war, Mr. Provoost seems to have lived in perfect retirement, occupying himself with literary pursuits, for which he had a great taste. His political sentiments however, were so well known, and his character and abilities so much respected, that his name was put, by the leading politicians of the day, at the head of a list of persons who were to be delegates to the Provincial Congress; but he declined accepting this office.
When the convention which formed the first constitution of the State of New York met at Kingston in 1777, they elected Mr. Provoost their chaplain; but he refused to accept the appointment, and gave the following reasons to one of his friends for so doing:
''In the beginning of the present war, when each province was endeavoring to unite the more effectually to oppose the tyranny of the British court, I remarked with great concern, that all the Church clergy in these northern States, who received salaries from the Society, or emoluments from England, were unanimous in opposing the salutary measures of a vast majority of their countrymen,--so great a harmony among the people in their particular circumstances pretty clearly convinced me, that some, at least, were biassed by interested motives. As I entertained political opinions diametrically opposite to my brethren, I was apprehensive that a profession of these opinions might be imputed to mercenary views, and an ungenerous desire of rising on their ruin. To obviate any suspicions of this kind, I formed a resolution never to accept of any preferment during the present contest; although as a private person, I have been and shall always be ready to encounter any danger that may be incurred in the defence of our invaluable rights and liberties."
Governed by this determination, he refused an offer which was made him in 1777, to be the Rector of St. Michael's Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with a handsome salary, and another call which he received in 1782, to take the pastoral charge of a Church called the King's Chapel, in Boston, Massachusetts.
The merit of Mr. Provoost's adherence to this resolution will be more appreciated when his circumstances at this time are considered. The situation in which he was placed by the Revolution, he describes thus:
"I have no salary or income of any kind--the estate which formerly supported me having been in the hands of the enemy ever since they took possession of the city of New York. The place, on which I live, is so far from maintaining my family, that I am now in debt for the greatest part of the wheat which they have consumed since the beginning of the war. Besides selling part of my furniture, etc., and running in debt for various necessaries, I have from time to time borrowed money of my friends to considerable amount. My mother and family are refugees from the city, and nearly in the same situation with myself; and I am prevented by the constitution of the State and Canons of the Church from entering into any secular employment.
An anecdote which I have heard Bishop Provoost relate, belongs to this period, (September, 1777.) When the British fleet ascended the Hudson River, and burnt Esopus, after they had set fire to Judge Livingston's house, which was but a little way below Mr. Provoost's farm, a detachment of soldiers from the fleet was observed approaching the shore not far from Mr. Provoost's dwelling. He and a number of his neighbors armed themselves, with a hope that they might defend their property. The soldiers were seen to land and leave their boats in charge of a guard of two or three men. It was immediately proposed by the armed citizens to surprise the guard and destroy the boat, which would insure, with the force that could soon be raised in the country, the capture of the whole detachment. With this design, Mr. Provoost and his party crept along the river, concealed by the rocks and bushes till they got so near the boat, as to be on the point of executing their design, when to their great disappointment, the soldiers who had left the shore, met with something which hastened their return, and the reverend gentleman and his associates were glad to keep themselves hid, not without fears that they would be discovered. If this had happened they certainly would have been the captured, instead of the captors; and very probably would not have been exchanged, as the British officers might have chosen to exhibit in England a rebel fighting-parson as a curiosity.
But after the termination of the revolutionary war, Mr. Provoost's prospects very soon changed. A few days before the British troops finally evacuated the city of New York, the persons, who then claimed to be the vestry of Trinity Church, elected the Rev. Benjamin Moore, rector in the place of the Rev. Dr. Inglis, who was about returning to England with the army in consequence of an act of the legislature, passed four years before, which banished his person and confiscated his estate.
When the Americans took possession of the city of New York, it excited great discontent among the members of the church who had been driven from their home during the war, and who disputed the validity of any election of vestrymen while the city was in possession of the enemy. These appointed a committee to confer with the vestry, and to endeavour to induce them to adopt such measures as might produce an amicable arrangement. It was proposed to the vestry that the new rector should resign, and that another should be chosen in his place: after a deliberation of some days the vestry refused to accede to this proposition. The committee then applied to the Council appointed by the legislature for the temporary government of the southern parts of the State, whenever the enemy shall abandon or be dispossessed of the same, until the legislature can be convened. The contending parties had eminent lawyers to defend their respective rights, and after a full hearing on both sides, the Council decided that the vestry was not legally constituted, and that their election of a new rector was of course void. The council also vested the temporalities of the church in nine trustees, who on the 13th of January, 1784, took possession of the church. This procedure was immediately followed by the election of a new vestry, which vestry unanimously elected Mr. Provoost their rector.--A deputation was sent to him to request that he would accept the office: to this he consented, and with his family returned to the city.
The return of Mr. Provoost must have been agreeable to him on many accounts; among others, it could not have been the least satisfactory, that it restored him to his property. His revenue from the church, his farm and his private fortune which he inherited from his father, not only relieved him from pecuniary embarrassments, but rendered him entirely independent, and enabled him to indulge the disposition he always had for great hospitality.
The decision of the Council, the election of the new vestry, the termination of the trust created by the Council, it being vested in the vestry, with several amendments to the original charter, so as to make it conformable and consistent with the constitution of the State, passed the Legislature the 27th April, 1784. That body in the following November appointed Mr. Provoost a Regent of the University of the State. On the removal of the Continental Congress from Trenton to New York, Mr. Provoost, in November, 1785, was elected Chaplain.
No sooner had the country established its political independence, than the members of the church thought not only of freeing it also from all foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but of establishing for it, as far as circumstances would permit, a republican government; that is, an elective and representative government; in the formation of which the members of the Church seems also to have had in mind as a model, the federative constitution of the country: the State conventions would be in the place of the State legislatures, and the general conventions would be the Church Congress. The first meetings of the clergy and laity to carry out these views were held this year (1784) at New Brunswick and New York. The following year a meeting was held in Philadelphia, Mr. Provoost was appointed chairman of a committee to draft an ecclesiatical constitution for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and to prepare the necessary and proposed alterations in the liturgy. The proceedings of those early meetings after the termination of the war (as well as those that followed) contemplated the necessity of having an independent order of Bishops; but difficulties seemed to present themselves in obtaining a due consecration of persons to this holy office. The English Bishops could not confer it without the candidate would take certain oaths, and could produce certain documents entirely inconsistent with the new relations between Great Britain and the United States--besides, it was feared that it was too soon to expect that the animosities which are always generated by civil wars, would have so subsided, as to render the mother country disposed to be indulgent to her rebellious children.
Shortly after this period, intelligence was received that the Episcopacy could be obtained from one of the European continental powers. It seems that Mr. John Adams, then our ambassador at the court of St. James, had gone over to Holland, and in a letter to the President of Congress, dated the Hague, April 22, 1784, he says; "I received some time since, a letter from an American gentleman, now in London, a candidate for orders, desiring to know if American candidates might have orders from Protestant Bishops on the continent, and complaining that he had been refused by the Bishop of London, unless he would take the oath of allegiance, &c."
Mr. Adams applied to Mr. de St. Saphorin, the Danish Ambassador, to know whether consecration might be obtained in Denmark: this Mr. de St. Saphorin sent to his Court, by which it was referred to the Theological faculty of Denmark, and their answer was communicated by Count Rosencrone, Privy Counsellor of the King of Denmark, to Mr. de St. Saphorin, and by him to Mr. Adams, in a letter which was as follows:
"The opinion of the Theological faculty having been taken on the question made to your Excellency by Mr. Adams, if the American ministers of the Church of England can be consecrated here by Bishops of the Danish Church,--I am ordered by the King to authorize you to answer, that such an act can take place according to the Danish rites; but for the convenience of the Americans who are supposed not to know the Danish language, the Latin tongue will be made use of on the occasion; for the rest nothing will be exacted from the candidates, but a profession conformable to the articles of the English Church, omitting the oath called the test, which prevents their being ordained by the English Bishops."
The answer was transmitted by Mr. Adams to the United States Office of Foreign Affairs, and by the Secretary of State to Governor George Clinton, and by him sent to Mr. Provoost.
But the friends of the Church in New York, with their friends in the States south of it, were not satisfied to accept this offer of the Danish government, any more than they were content with an Episcopacy that could be procured in Scotland, (as to the latter it proved to be valid;) they therefore exerted themselves to obtain an act of the British Parliament authorizing the Archbishop of Canterbury and York, to consecrate foreign Bishops, and removing the objections which persons not in allegiance to the King of Great Britain, must have had to the English forms. In their efforts in this respect the friends of the Church seem to have been very fortunate in obtaining the co-operation of the high officers of the government of the United States, who appear to have taken considerable interest in the subject; particularly John Adams and Richard Henry Lee, to whom the State convention (12th June, 1786) returned thanks for the interest those gentlemen had taken in procuring the Episcopate.
This convention the next day elected Mr. Provoost Bishop, and three weeks after he was honored by the University of Pennsylvania with the degree of Doctor of Theology.
The testimonials of Dr. Provoost as Bishop elect of New York, Dr. William White as Bishop elect of Pennsylvania, and Dr. David Griffith as Bishop elect of Virginia, were signed by members of the general Convention held in at Wilmington, Delaware, (at which convention Dr. Provoost was president,) on the 11th of October. On the second of November, the two first named prelates sailed from the port of New York, and landed at Falmouth, after a passage of nineteen days, and one fourth day of February 1787, were consecrated at Lambeth Palace by Dr. John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Bishop of Peterborough, participating in the consecration.
I will here mention a fact which I learned from Bishop Provoost. I have heard him say that when the ceremony of consecration was about to be performed, a question arose as to which of the candidates was entitled to precedence, and it having been ascertained that Dr. Provoost was the senior in years, as well as senior in ministry, he was first consecrated, and thus became the first duly consecrated American Bishop, or the first protestant Episcopal Bishop then acknowledged by the Church of England in the United States.
Shortly after their consecration, Bishop Provoost and Bishop White sailed from England, and after a very tedious and boisterous passage, during which Bishop Provoost was so ill that it was feared he would not live, they arrived in New York on Easter Sunday, April 8th, 1787, just in time for Bishop Provoost (as rector) to hold the annual election for wardens and vestrymen. He had every reason to be gratified with his reception on his return, as he was cordially greeted by his fellow citizens of all denominations.
The convention of the Church addressed him a congratulatory letter, in which they expressed their high "confidence in his integrity, piety, love of peace and order, and unremitted endeavours for the advancement of true religion and virtue." The following is an extract from the Bishop's reply:
"Let us, then, my beloved friends, zealously strive to make a due improvement of the spiritual privileges we now enjoy. Let our faith be sincere, and our lives unblemished, as our doctrine and worship are pure and holy; and God will continue to shower down his blessings upon us and our Church with a bountiful hand.
"May you, my reverend brethren, aided by his gracious Spirit, continue to be watchful Shepherds of the flocks committed to your charge, and maintain the doctrines and discipline of his excellent Church, with constancy and zeal, and at the same time, with candor towards those who differ with us in religious opinions, that our moderation may be made manifest, and we may joyfully contribute to that peace, love and charity, which are so strongly enforced in the gospel of our blessed Redeemer."
The Congress, under the old confederation, terminated in 1789. By the organization of a new Congress, under the present constitution, Bishop Provoost was now elected Chaplain to the Senate of the United States. Bishop Provoost continued as rector for nearly seventeen years. Mrs. Provoost, after a long and lingering illness departed this life in August, 1789; in the ensuing July, he followed to the grave his younger and favorite son, who died a very distressing death; and he was made very unhappy by the conduct of his only surviving son. In the mean time his own health had been and continued to be seriously impaired, and he was induced on the succeeding 8th of September, 1800, to retire from Trinity Church as rector.
His exercise of the Episcopal office continued till the third of September, 1801. The Convention was then in session, over which he presided till the moment he made his resignation verbally, and left the Convention. The resignation was accepted, and a successor was chosen, and on the seventh of the same month, Bishop Provoost addressed a letter to Bishop White, as President of the house of Bishops, as the General Convention was to be held in, Trenton, New Jersey, next day. In this letter he says, "That induced by ill health, and some melancholy occurrence in my family, and an ardent wish to retire from all public employment, I resigned at the late meeting of our Church Convention, my jurisdiction as Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York."
When the letter was considered by the House of Bishops, they resolved among other things, "that they judged it to be inconsistent with the sacred trust committed to them, to recognize the Bishop's act; as an effectual resignation of his Episcopal jurisdiction, and though the Bishops were," as they say in the same resolution, "ready to consecrate a person to render him competent in point of character to all the Episcopal duties, this house," they say, "must understood to explicit in their declaration, that they should consider such person as assistant or coadjutor Bishop during Bishop Provoost's life." This with Bishop Provoost's letter, was communicated to the house of clerical and lay deputies, who now signed the testimonials of the Rev. Benjamin Moore, the elected successor of Bishop Provoost, which testimonials with the proceedings of the New York Convention, were sent to the house of Bishops, and the Bishop elect was consecrated.
It does not appear that any notice of what had taken place at Trenton was ever officially communicated to Bishop Provoost. There is no resolution in the journal that he should be made acquainted with it. In 1812, he addressed a letter to the State Convention which was held in September, in the city of New York. In this letter he says:
"You well know that in the year 1801, I proffered to the State Convention a resignation of my jurisdiction as Bishop of this Diocese, and that immediately afterwards I communicated to the General Convention, then in session at Trenton, information of the step I had taken. For a long time I fully believed that my act of resignation was recognized as effectual. But having sometime since become acquainted with the proceedings of the State and General Conventions in relation to this subject, and feeling a due respect for the sentiments of the General Convention so strongly and decisively expressed in the resolution of the House of Bishops, I think it my duty to inform you, that though it has not pleased God to bless me with health that will enable me to discharge all the duties of a Diocesan, and for that reason I cannot attend the Convention, yet I am ready to act in deference to the resolution above mentioned, and to concur in any regulations which expediency may dictate to the Church; without which occurrence I am, after the resolution of the House of Bishops, bound to consider every Episcopal act as unauthorised."
The Convention resolved "that the Right Rev. Samuel Provoost, from and immediately after the acceptance of his resignation by the Convention of the Church in this State, ceased to be the Diocesan Bishop thereof, and could no longer rightfully exercise the functions or jurisdiction appertaining to that office; that having ceased to be Diocesan Bishop as aforesaid, he could neither resume nor be restored to that character by any act of his own or of the General Convention, or either of its houses, without the consent and participation the said State conventions; which consent and participation the said Bp. Provoost has not obtained; and that his claim to such character is therefore unfounded." The desire of resumption or jurisdiction by the Bp., proceeded from no diminution of his desire for retirement, nor for any other wish to exercise the power of prelacy, than that he might be enabled to interpose to arrest proceedings of the vestry of Trinity Church and the ecclesiastical court, which he disapproved, against the Rev. Cave Jones, who was an assistant minister of that Church, and an old and particular friend. These proceedings were in 1813, submitted to the decision of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the State, as referees, and by them were adjudicated.
A different construction, however, seems to have been put upon the motives of Bishop Provoost, by some of the Maryland Clergy. The Church in this State, had at this period, been called to provide an assistant to Bishop Claggett; and after several unsuccessful efforts, it was accomplished in 1815, in the election of the Rev. James Kemp, as suffragan Bishop. A portion of the minority raised several objections as to the election and to the candidate, all of which were eventually overruled, and the consecration took place. A few of the minority clergymen, headed by the Rev. George Dashiell, rector of St. Peter's Church, Baltimore, rather than submit to the new state of things, resolved to secede from the Church, and establish a separate Episcopal Communion. From what had transpired to the church in New York, their attention was directed to Bishop Provoost, in the hope that he would, by adulation, be weak and stupid enough to answer their purpose. Accordingly, a letter was addressed to him, in which, after going over their grievances, they say, "that deeply anxious that the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, might be preserved in their purity, we have looked around for some apostolic Bishop, from whom we might obtain, for some duly qualified clergyman, the office and Episcopate. Our attention has been drawn to yourself; placed in peculiar circumstances of liberty and independence, by the persecuting injustice of the hierarchy from whose tyranny we would escape.
"Would, you, sir, give the desired consecration to a clergyman whose qualifications in piety, learning, and attachment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church, would be attested by at least six clergyman of our Church?
"We are deeply sensible that it is an important step we require you to take, but we are fully persuaded that it would prove as beneficial as important. To whom can we so properly look for relief from our difficulties, as to yourself? You are at this moment an independent Bishop in the Church of Christ, made and declared so by those men, who have robbed you of your authority and rights as Diocesan of New York, and who display a determined resolution to seize upon the rights and privileges of every clerical member of the Church, to be disposed of according to their sovereign pleasure.
"Will you refuse, sir, to exert that power with which God has clothed you, for the advancement, protection, and support of the cause of piety? We trust not; we trust we shall find in you a spiritual father, alive to the best interests of man, and determined to promote them, regardless of the frowns of a persecuting tyranny.
"In order to remove any objections which may spring from respect to Bishop Claggett, we here pledge ourselves, that no Episcopal act shall be performed during his life, without his approbation and consent. For his death we should have waited, had not your advanced age made us apprehensive that we might for ever lose the opportunity of making this application."
It is only necessary to say, that Bishop Provoost treated this affair with such marked contempt, that he would not condescend to answer it.
The first consecration of a Bishop, in which Bishop Provoost took part, was the Bishop referred to in the aforesaid letter, the Right Rev. Thomas John Claggett, for the Church in the State of Maryland, being the first of that order of the ministry consecrated on this side of the Atlantic. It took place on the 7th of September, 1793, in Trinity Church, in the city of New York, during a session of the General Convention. Bishop Provoost was the consecrator, (also president of the house of Bishops) Bishop White, of Pennsylvania, Bishop Madison, of Virginia, and Bishop Seabury of Connecticut, joined in the imposition of hands.--Bishop Provoost's last act in conferring the Episcopate, was in uniting with Bishop White, the consecrator, and Bishop Jarvis, of Connecticut, in the imposition of hands at the consecration of the Rev. John Henry Hobart, for the Diocese of New York, and the Rev. Alexander Viets Griswold, for the Eastern Diocese, on the 29th day of May, 1811, in the Church as aforesaid.
His first ordination was the admitting to the older of deacon, Richard Channing Moore, on the 15 July, 1787, in St. George's Chapel, in the city of New York. His last ordination was the admitting to the priesthood, the Rev. John Henry Hobart, in April, 1801, in Trinity church in said city.
The first foundation or corner stone laid by Bishop Provoost, was the re-building of Trinity, Church, in the city of New. York, on the 21st August, 1788. The last time he performed this ceremony, was the building of St. Mark's Church, in said city, the 25th April, 1795.
These edifices, when ready for public worship, were the first and last by him consecrated to the service of Almighty God: the former on the 25th March, 1790, the latter on the 9th May, 1799.
He suffered occasional attacks of an apoplectic character, and died very suddenly of one of these fits on the 6th September, 1815, aged 73 years and 6 months.
His funeral was numerously and respectably attended to Trinity Church, where the psalms and lessons were read by the Rev. Thomas Y. How, assistant minister in that Church; the sermon was preached by the Rev. William Harris, rector of St. Mark's Church, and the sentences and prayers at the place of interment, (the family vault in the church yard,) were read by the Rev. Cave Jones.
At a meeting of the Convention, Bishop Hobart, in his annual address, alluding to the departed Bishop, said, "To the benevolence and urbanity that marked all his intercourse with the clergy, and indeed every social relation, there is strong and universal testimony;" and then added the words of Bishop White, in regard to his official and personal intimacy with the deceased Bishop, calling it a sacred relation "between two persons, who, under the appointment of a Christian Church, had been successfully engaged together in obtaining for it succession to the apostolic office of the Episcopacy; who in the subsequent exercise of that Episcopacy, had jointly labored in all the ecclesiastical business which has occurred among us; who, through the whole of it, never knew a word, or even a sensation, tending to personal dissatisfaction or disunion.
It remains to add but a few words. "The character of Bishop Provoost is one which the enlightened Christian will estimate at no ordinary standard; the principles which he professed were an additional stimulus with him in the discharge of its responsible duties, the generous sympathies of his nature created in him a cordial concern, in whatever affected the interests of his fellow creatures. Hence his Philanthropy was one of the most extensive order, and his beneficence was called into almost daily exercise. His private charities were often beyond what his actual means justified.--As a patriot he was exceeded by none, and his sensibilities to the honor and interests of his country were of the liveliest nature. In the relations of husband and parent he exhibited all the kindly and endearing affections which enoble our species. As a scholar, he was deeply versed in classical lore and the records of Ecclesiastical history and Church polity. To a very accurate knowledge of the Hebrew, he added a profound acquaintance with the Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, and other languages. It is affirmed, that, as a literary recreation, he made a new poetical version of Tasso. In a knowledge of the natural and political sciences, he also made considerable progress. Of these pursuits, Botany was his favorite. He had attended, while at Cambridge, the lectures on this last named branch of Physical investigation, and became conversant with the classifications of plants, from Caesaral pinus to Linnaeus, whose system was then taught by the Cambridge Professor. So great was his delight in botanic pursuits, that he formed an extensive index to the elaborate Historia Plantarum of John Baushin, whom he calls the Prince of Botanists, in a written leaf affixed to the first volume of the work, and which manuscript bears date 1766, with his name, Sam Provoost, B. D. St. Petr. Cantab. et. Lugd, Bativ. Of his ample library, an appropriate portion was given by his son-in-law, Hon. C. D. Colden, to the New York Hospital, and a part to the New York Historical Society Library."