Project Canterbury

A Sketch of the First Bishop of New York

By James Grant Wilson

From The Centennial History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York 1785-1885.

New-York: D. Appleton and Company, 1886.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008


What he undertook was to be admired as glorious; what he performed, to be commended as profitable; and wherein he failed is to be excused as pardonable.--THOMAS FULLER.

SAMUEL PROVOOST, the first Bishop of the Diocese of New York, and the third (possibly the second) of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America--Seabury, of Connecticut, being the first--was born in the city of New York, 26th February, 1742. He was the eldest son of John and Eve Rutgers Provoost. His ancestors were Huguenots, [* Some of the early settlers at Quebec bearing the name Prevost and Provost, were from St. Aubin, in Bretagne, Rouen, in Normandy, and from Paris.--Tanquay's Dictionaire Genealogique des Families Canadiennes.] who had first settled in New Amsterdam in 1638. Young Provoost was one of the seven graduates of King's, now Columbia College, at its first commencement in 1758, carrying off the honors, although the youngest of his class. [* His classmates were the Rev. Joshua Bloomer, Judge Isaac Ogden, of the Supreme Court of Canada; Joseph Reade, of New Jersey, Master in Chancery; Rudolph Ritzema, Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army; Col. Philip Van Cortlandt, of the American Service, and Samuel Verplanck, one of the Governors of King's College.] In the summer of 1761 he sailed for England, and in November of the same year entered St. Peter's College, Cambridge. He soon became a favorite with the master, Dr. Edmund Law, afterward Bishop of Carlisle, and the father of Lord Ellenborough, and two English bishops. John Provoost being an opulent merchant, his son enjoyed, in addition to a liberal allowance, the advantage of an expensive tutor in the person of Dr. John Jebb, a man of pro-found learning, and a zealous advocate of civil and religious [127/128] liberty, with whom he corresponded till the doctor's death in 1786. In February, 1766, Mr. Provoost was admitted to the order of deacon at the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace, Westminster, by Dr. Richard Terrick, Bishop of London. During the month of March he was ordained at the King's Chapel, Whitehall, by Dr. Edmund Kean, Bishop of Chester. In St. Mary's Church, Cambridge, he married, on June 8th of the same year (1766), Maria, daughter of Thomas Bousfield, a rich Irish banker, residing on his beautiful estate of Lake Lands, near Cork, and the sister of his favorite class-mate. [* Provoost's brother-in-law, Benjamin Bousfield, afterward a member of the Irish Parliament, wrote an able reply to Edmund Burke's celebrated work on the French Revolution, which was published in London in 1791.] The young clergyman with his attractive and accomplished wife sailed in September for New York, and in December he became an assistant minister of Trinity Church, which then embraced St. George's and St. Paul's, the Rev. Samuel Auchmuty, rector, the Rev. John Ogilvie, and the Rev. Charles Inglis, assistant ministers. During the summer of 1769, Mr. and Mrs. Provoost visited Mrs. Bousfield and her son on her estate in Ireland, and spent some months in England, and on the Continent.

Some time previous to the commencement of the Revolutionary War, Mr. Provoost's connection with Trinity Church was dissolved. [* Dr. Berrian and other writers are wrong in giving the year 1770 as the date of this event. From endorsements on MS. sermons submitted to the writer, it appears that Provoost was preaching regularly in the parish church and chapels as late as the month of December, 1771. It is probable that the connection was continued beyond this date, possibly as late as the beginning of 1774.] The reasons assigned for the severance of this connection were, first, that a portion of the congregation charged him with not being sufficiently evangelical in his preaching; and, second, that his patriotic views of the then approaching contest with the mother-country were not in accord with those of a majority of the parish. Before the spring of 1774, Mr. Provoost purchased a small place in Dutchess, now Columbia County, adjacent to the estate of his friends, Walter and Robert Cambridge Livingston, who had been fellow-students with him in the English University, [128/129] and removed there with his family. At East Camp, as his rural retreat was called, the patriot preacher occupied him-self with literary pursuits, and with the cultivation of his farm and garden. He was an ardent disciple of the Swedish Linnaeus, and he possessed, for that period, a large and valuable library. Provoost was, perhaps, the earliest of American bibliophiles. Among his beloved books were several magnificent Baskervilles, numerous volumes of sermons, and other writings of English bishops, including the scarce octavo edition of the poems of the eccentric Richard Corbet, of whom Provoost related many amusing anecdotes; a rare Venetian illustrated Dante of 1547; Rapin's England, in five noble folios; a collection of Americana and Elzeviriana, and not a few incunabula, including a Sweynheym and Pannartz imprint of 1470. These were chiefly purchased while a student at Cambridge, and contained his armorial book-plate, with his name engraved, Samuel Provost. It was not until 1769 that he adopted the additional letter which appears in his later book-plate and signatures.

While in the enjoyment of his books and flowers and farm, and finding happiness in the society of his growing family and his friends, the Livingstons, and far away from "the clangor of resounding arms," Mr. Provoost occasionally filled the pulpits of some of the churches then existing in that part [129/130] of the diocese--at Albany, Catskill, Hudson, and Poughkeepsie. At the latter place, he preached the consecration sermon at Christ Church, the Rev. Mr. Beardsley, rector, on Christmas Day, 1774. In the following year, among his literary recreations was the translation of favorite hymns in Latin, French, German, and Italian; also the preparation of an exhaustive index to the elaborate Historia Plantarum of John Baushin, whom he styles the "prince of botanists" on a fly-leaf of the first volume of this work, purchased while at Cambridge University in 1766. To the year 1776 also belong the passages appended below, which are written on the last leaf of a sermon that would seem to have been delivered in St. Peter's Church, Albany.

[* In times of impending Calamity and distress, when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy Colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent Devotion, publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him, and to supplicate his inter-position for averting the threaten'd danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the Cause of Freedom, Virtue, and Posterity.

The Congress, therefore, considering the warlike preparations of the British ministry to subvert our invaluable rights and privileges, and to reduce us by fire and sword, by the savages of the wilderness, and our own domestics, to the most abject and ignominious Bondage; desirous at the same time to have people of all ranks and degrees, duly impressed with a Solemn sense of God's superintending Providence, and of their duty devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprises on his aid and direction: Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the seventeenth Day of May next, be observed by the said Colonies, as a day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; that we may with united hearts confess and bewail, our manifold sins and Transgressions, and by a Sincere repentance and amendment of Life, appease his righteous Displeasure and thro' the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon & forgiveness. Humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the Cruel purposes of our unnatural Enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the farther effusion of kindred blood. But if continuing deaf to the voice of reason and humanity, and inflexibly bent on Desolation and war, they constrain us to repel their hostile invasions by open resistance, that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and Soldiers with invincible fortitude; to guard and protect them in the day of Battle, and to crown the Continental arms by sea and land with victory and Success. Earnestly beseeching him to bless our Civil rulers and the representatives of the People, in their Several Assemblies and Conventions; to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent and disinterested [130/131] love of their Country; to give wisdom and stability to their Councils; and direct them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America, on the most honourable and permanent basis--that he would be graciously pleased to bless all the people of these Colonies, with health and plenty, and grant that a Spirit of incorruptible patriotism and of pure and undefiled religion may universally prevail; and this Continent be speedily restored to the blessing of Peace and Liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity,--and it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said Day.--Congress

March 16. 1776.

May that being who is powerful to save, and in whose hands is the fate of nations, look down with an eye of tender pity and Compassion upon the whole of the united Colonies,--may he continue to smile upon their Councils and Arms, and crown them with success, whilst employed in the Cause of Virtue and of mankind--may every part of this wide-extended continent, thro' his divine favour, be restored to more than their former lustre and once happy state, and have peace, liberty, and safety, secured upon a Solid, permanent and lasting foundation.]

[131] In a hitherto unpublished letter, without date, addressed to his brother-in-law, Bousfield, the patriot preacher wrote one hundred and eleven years ago: "I received with pleasure the books you sent me by Captain Lawrence. They afford me the most agreeable amusement in my Country retirement. Dalrymple has set the period he treats of in a clearer light than any person before him, and made some most interesting discoveries un-known to previous historians. Lord Chesterfield had always the character of one of the politest writers and best-bred per-sons of the age. His letters show him, at the same time, the tenderest of fathers and most amiable of men.

"I suppose you interest yourself somewhat in the fate of this Country, and am therefore sorry that my distance from town and the uncertainty of opportunities for Ireland puts it out of my power to write anything that you will not be acquainted with when you receive my letters. The late iniquitous acts of Parliament, and the sanguinary measures adopted to enforce them have induced the various Provinces to unite firmly for their common defence. Each Province has its separate Congress intended to enforce resolves, and to be subject to the control of the Grand Continental Congress, which sits at Philadelphia. An Association has been [131/132] formed, and signed by an incredible number of people, to support the measures of these various Congresses, never to submit to Slavery, but to venture our lives and property in defence of our Liberty and Country. Gentlemen of approved abilities are appointed to take command of our forces. As Colonel Hall has, I think, served in America and may be able to give you their characters, I shall mention a few of them. Colonel Washington, a Virginia gentleman of considerable property and respectability who behaved very gallantly in many engagements of the last war, is appointed commander-in-chief of our army. Colonel Lee has given up his half pay and accepted a commission as Major-General in the American Service. Horatio Gates, formerly, I think, a Major in the English Army, is appointed Adjutant-General. Captain Montgomery, an Irishman, brother of the Countess of Raneleigh, and our near neighbor in the country, is made a Brigadier-General, and Fleming, formerly adjutant of the Sixteenth Regiment which was quartered a few years ago at Cork, is a Lieutenant-Colonel. The other general officers are mostly of the country.

"There are so many thousands in this wide extended continent determined not to survive the loss of their liberties, that there is little probability the English will get the better in this impolitic contest, the outcome of which, I think they have greater reason to fear than the Americans, for our numbers increase so rapidly and our Country supplies us so fast, that we must naturally rise superior in the end over any present difficulties, whereas if England once sinks, she will find it difficult, if not impossible, to emerge again.

"General Gage has had two engagements with the people of New England in which his men were so roughly handled that they have thought proper to remain quiet for some weeks past. It is reported that there were about a thousand officers and soldiers killed in the last engagement, in which the loss of the Provincials was inconsiderable."

Mr. Provoost was proposed as a delegate to the Provincial Congress, which he declined, as also an invitation to become Chaplain of the Convention which met in 1777, and framed [132/133] the Constitution of the State of New York. About the same period he deemed it in no wise derogatory to, or inconsistent with his clerical character to bear arms against the enemies of his country. After the British burned Esopus on the Hudson, he joined his neighbors, the Livingstons and others, in their pursuit. Mr. Provoost was also proffered, in 1777, the rectorship of St. Michael's Church, Charleston, S. C., and in 1782, that of King's Chapel, Boston, where his patriotic principles and practice were strong recommendations, but he declined both calls, on the ground that he was unwilling to avail himself of his politics for acting toward his brethren who differed from him, in a manner that might be imputed to mercenary views, and an ungenerous desire of rising on their ruin.

In another undated letter, addressed to a friend in New York and written about the close of the war, Mr. Provoost says, "As you sometimes amuse yourself with the different systems of theologists, I recommend to your perusal Dr. Law's Theory of Religion, which contains many judicious observations, and is written with a freedom and impartiality which I wish was more common than it is among divines of all professions. The theory (that we are in a progressive state and that we have advanced in religious knowledge in proportion to our improvements in the arts and sciences) is a very pleasing one, and except a few retrogrations which he accounts for ingeniously enough, very well supported. The work, I think, merits being more known than it is in our American world. But perhaps the very great obligations I am under to its author may make me partial in its favor.

"Colonel Peter Livingston acquaints us that he is to set off for town tomorrow. I am going to the Manor to trouble him with a few lines to inform you that we have received the articles you sent by the Judge's sloop, and to return Basford Abbey, for the use of which I am much obliged to your son David. You cannot expect much news from our situation. I have been prevented from going to Nine Partners by an ugly wound my right-hand man, Master Hanlet, gave himself in the foot with an axe, as he was cutting wood. The children [133/134] are all well, but Maria is poorly. If the farm is not yet advertised, I really think it would be advisable to mention it as for sale, as well as to be let. Mr. Livingston will be able, without doubt, to put you in the way of sending up the money that you are to receive for me."

After the colonies had gained their independence and New York had been evacuated by the British and their Loyalist allies, Mr. Provoost was unanimously elected rector of Trinity Church, January 13, 1784, and immediately removed with his family to the city, and entered upon the duties of his office, preaching his first sermon on the Sunday following from the text, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" It so happens that the joyous event was described to the writer in his youth by a venerable and ardent patriot who was present, and who said: "It was a glorious occasion, and many friends of their Country met that day for the first time in years. There were no rascally Tories there that morning." The rector of Trinity received many other honorable marks of the high esteem in which he was then, and always, held by his Whig contemporaries.

Before the close of the year (1784) Mr. Provoost was made a member of the Board of Regents of the University, and when the Continental Congress removed from Trenton to New York, he was, in November, 1785, chosen as their chap-lain. In the summer of 1786 he was selected by the Diocesan Convention, which met at that time, as first Bishop of New York. The choice seems to have been made by a simple resolution, "Resolved, That the Reverend Mr. Provoost be recommended for Episcopal Consecration." There is no record of a ballot. [* 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 the members of the General Convention held at Wilmington, Del. (of which Convention Dr. Provoost was President) on the 11th of October, 1786.--Berrian's Sketch of Trinity Church, New York, 1847.] Three weeks later he received from the University of Pennsylvania the degree of Doctor of Divinity. In November of the same year Dr. Provoost proceeded to England in company with his friend, Dr. William White.

[135] They arrived in London on Wednesday, the 29th of that month, and after various preliminaries had been duly settled, including their presentation to the primate by John Adams, the American Minister, [* Adams was particularly polite and cordial to the bishops elect, notwithstanding his being the author of the following lines: "If Parliament could tax us they could establish the Church of England with all its creeds, articles, tests, ceremonies, and tithes, and prohibit all other churches as conventicles and schism-shops."--Works, vol. x., p. 287.] they were consecrated in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, February 4, 1787, by Dr. John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. William Markham, Arch-bishop of York, Dr. Charles Moss, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Dr. John Hinchcliff, Bishop of Peterborough, participating in the ceremonial. It has been claimed that, as senior presbyter and also senior in years, Provoost was consecrated first. While it would be pleasant to assign this honor to New York, it would appear that it properly belongs to Pennsylvania, the weight of the evidence being in favor of Dr. White's just claim to that distinction.

[*Dr. Samuel Seabury, of Connecticut, the first bishop of the American Church, meeting with obstacles and objections to his consecration from the English bishops, proceeded to Scotland where he was consecrated at St. Andrews by three bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, November 14, 1784. Chaplain-General Gleig, of the British Army, whose father was a Scottish Bishop (1753--1839), in a letter to the author of this paper, dated March 10, 1886, says: "I am glad to learn that you are engaged in a work which cannot fail to interest very many readers both in America and in England. The rise and growth of a Church in a nation, or any portion of a nation, which has expanded like the United States, is perhaps the most important theme in the history of the nation itself. And when I add that my father played a considerable part in getting Bishop Seabury consecrated when sent out on his great mission, you will see that something more than mere love of antiquarian research will carry me through the perusal of your promised volume." It may be added that this venerable man and well-known writer, before he entered the ministry, fought with Wellington in Spain nearly four-score years ago, and was severely wounded in the battle of New Orleans.]

On the following day the bishops left London for Falmouth, which was reached in five days. Detained by contrary winds, they at length embarked on the 18th, reaching New York on the afternoon of Easter Sunday, April 8th, after a long and tempestuous passage, during which Dr. Provoost was so ill that for several days it was supposed he would die.

[136] Bishop Provoost immediately resumed his duties as rector of Trinity parish, the two positions, in those primitive times, being filled by the same person. He was one of the Trustees of Columbia College, appointed by act of legislature April 13, 1787, reviving the original charter of that institution. Two years later, in the organization of a new Congress under the present constitution, the bishop was elected Chaplain of the United States Senate. After his inauguration as the first President of the United States, Washington proceeded with the whole assemblage on foot from the spot now marked by his statue in Wall Street, to St. Paul's Chapel, where, in the presence of Vice-President Adams, Chancellor Livingston, Secretary Jay, Secretary Knox, Baron Steuben, Hamilton, and other distinguished citizens, Bishop Provoost read prayers suited to the occasion. So closed the inauguration ceremonies of General Washington. The first consecration in which Provoost took part was that of the Rev. Thomas John Claggett for the Church of the Diocese of Maryland, being the earliest of that order of the ministry consecrated in the United States. It occurred at Trinity Church, September 17, 1792, during a session of the General Convention. As the presiding bishop Dr. Provoost was the consecrator, Bishops White of Pennsylvania, Seabury of Connecticut, and Madison of Virginia, [* Dr. James Madison was consecrated Bishop of Virginia in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, September 19, 1790. He was the third and last bishop of the American Church consecrated by the bishops of the Anglican Church.] joining in the historic ceremony and uniting the Succession of the Anglican and Scottish episcopate; his last act in conferring the episcopate [136/137] was in joining with Bishop White, as 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 of the Eastern Diocese, in Trinity Church, May 29, 1811.

Dr. Provoost's first ordination was the admitting, July 17, 1787, in St. George's Chapel, New York, as deacon, Richard Henry Moore (sic: Richard Channing Moore); his last, the admission as priest of John Henry Hobart in Trinity Church in April, 1801. The first corner-stone laid by the bishop was at the rebuilding of Trinity Church, August 21, 1788; the last that of the present St. Mark's Church in the Bowery, April 25, 1795. These edifices, when ready for worship, were the first and the last consecrated by him.

A special meeting of the corporation of Trinity parish was held at the house of Bishop Provoost, No. 53 Nassau Street, on December 20, 1799, on an occasion when the country was plunged in the deepest grief by the news of the death of Washington. The vestry were called together to give expression to their sorrow. The record on their minutes from the pen of the bishop is beautiful for its simple brevity. "ORDERED, That in consideration of the death of Lieutenant-General George Washington the several churches belonging to this corporation be put in mourning."

Mrs. Provoost died after a long and lingering illness August 18, 1799, which, with other domestic bereavements and declining health, induced the bishop to resign the rector-ship of Trinity Church, September 28th of the following year, and his bishopric on September 3, 1801. His resignation was not accepted by the House of Bishops, by whom consent was, however, given to the consecration of Dr. Benjamin Moore as an assistant bishop. He was subject to apoplectic attacks, and from one of these he died suddenly, Wednesday morning, September 6, 1815, aged seventy-three years and six months. [* Died suddenly this morning in the seventy-fourth year of his age, the Right Rev. Samuel Provoost, D. D., of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York. As among such a number of relations and so long a list of friends, it is impossible to send particular invitations, without some, tho' involuntary, omissions, the friends and relatives of Mr. Colden, and generally the friends of the Church, are hereby invited to attend the funeral of the bishop from his late residence, No. 261 Greenwich Street, tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock.--Evening Post, Wednesday, September 6, 1815.] His funeral at Trinity was numerously [137/138] attended. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. William Harris, rector of St. Mark's Church, and the place of his interment was the family vault in Trinity churchyard.

In person Bishop Provoost was above medium height. His countenance was round and full and highly intellectual. [* Among a most interesting group of portraits of rectors of Trinity, including the first and the last, in the vestry-room of Trinity Chapel, there are several of great artistic excellence and value. There is to be seen a particularly fine picture, by Copley, of Dr. John Ogilvie; another by Inman, of Bishop Moore, and the admirable portrait, by Benjamin West, of Bishop Provoost, from which the frontispiece of this volume is engraved. A good copy of the painting is in the gallery of the New York Historical Society--the gift of Cadwallader D. Colden, the bishop's son-in-law. Another portrait of Provoost is in the possession of the Bishop of Western New York.]

He was stately, self-possessed, and dignified in manner, presenting, in the picturesque dress of that day, an imposing appearance. He was a fine classical scholar, and thoroughly versed in ecclesiastical history and church polity. He was learned and benevolent and inflexibly conscientious; fond of society and social life. He was a moderate Churchman. Under his administration as rector, for seventeen years, of Trinity, the church was rebuilt on the same site, but on a much larger and more imposing scale. During his episcopate of fourteen years the Church did not advance as rapidly as during the same period under some of his successors. It must not, however, be forgotten that those were days of difficulties and depression in the Church, and that the people of Pennsylvania threatened to throw their bishop into the Delaware River, when he returned from England in 1787. While it cannot be claimed that Provoost is among those "upon the adamant of whose fame time beats without injury," or that he should rank with those eminent founders of [138/139] the American Church, Seabury and White, or with the epoch-makers Hobart and Whittingham, it may with confidence be asserted that for elegant scholarship Bishop Provoost had no peer among his American contemporaries. To his polished discourses he gave the greatest care. They were characterized by force and felicity of diction, if not rising to the rank of the highest order of pulpit eloquence. So indifferent was he to literary distinction that I cannot discover that this faithful and diligent student ever printed a single discourse or brochure of any description. He translated Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered," for which congenial work he found ample leisure on his Dutchess County farm. It was never given to the world, nor any of his occasional poems in English, French, and Ger-man of which examples are in the writer's possession. He conversed freely with Steuben and Lafayette in their own languages and had several Italian correspondents. He was the trusted friend of Washington, John Adams, Jay, and Hamilton, one of whose sons was believed to be the last survivor of all who enjoyed a personal acquaintance with the bishop and had sat at his hospitable board in the Greenwich Street residence where he died. There, and in his previous place of residence, corner of Nassau and Fair Streets, the bishop gathered around him at his weekly dinner-parties most of the prominent men of the city, including Dr. J. H. Livingston of the Dutch and Dr. John Rodgers of the Presbyterian Churches.

[* Though Dr. Provoost had probably little sympathy with the views and feelings of most other denominations of Christians, his general courtesy was never affected by any considerations merely denominational. For instance, he was in very agreeable, and I believe intimate, social relations with most of the clergymen of the Presbyterian and Reformed Dutch Churches; and I suspect he rarely made a dinner-party but some of them were among his guests. An Episcopal clergyman from Ireland had come to this country, and I believe, through the bishop's influence, had obtained employment, both as a teacher and as a preacher, in St. Anne's Church, Brooklyn. As the bishop was about to ordain one or more persons to the ministry, he invited this Mr. W. to preach on the occasion. Dr. Beach, the bishop's assistant minister, sent invitation to Dr. Livingston, Dr. Rodgers, and some other of the ministers of the city, not connected with the Episcopal Church, to be present. The Irish parson took it into his head to magnify his office that day to a very bold defence of the Doctrine of Apostolic Succession, involving rather a stern rebuke to those whom he regarded as preaching without [139/140] any authority. Though it is not likely that the bishop dissented from his views, he felt that it was at least an apparent discourtesy to his friends who were present at the service, and he was evidently not a little annoyed by it. Old Dr. Rodgers, in speaking of it afterwards, shrewdly remarked, "I wonder from what authority the bishop derived his baptism," referring to the fact that he had been baptized by Dominic Du Bois in the Dutch Church.--Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, vol. v., pp. 245, New York, 1855.]

In England he had enjoyed the distinction of an acquaintance with Dr. Johnson and the celebrated John Wilkes, whose grandniece married the bishop's grandson, David Cadwallader Colden, and of frequently listening to Lord Chatham and other illustrious public men of that period.

[* For much of the material used in this monograph the writer is indebted to a venerable friend of his early youth, who was a frequent guest at his father's table. From the handsome old man of four score and ten, with his rich stores of memory, the writer heard many particulars of Bishop Provoost and his contemporaries. By the bishop he had been presented to Washington, and he was present at his inauguration, the concluding ceremonies of which, as we have seen, occurred in St. Paul's Church. Daniel Burhans (1763-1854), the person of whom the writer speaks, was the last survivor of those who were ordained by Bishop Seabury, and he was well acquainted with almost all the early American bishops, including White, Madison, Moore, Bass, Hobart, Claggett, Griswold, and Ravenscroft. He was a delegate to several General Conventions, was in the ministry over half a century, and preached in St. Paul's Church, Poughkeepsie, where he resided for many years, at the age of eighty-nine. Two interesting letters written by the Rev. Mr. Burhans (D. D.'s were not so abundant in those days), descriptive of his friends, Bishops Seabury and Jarvis of Connecticut, may be seen in Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit. The writer is also indebted to the Rev. S. H. Weston, D. D., for the perusal of a number of Bishop's Provoost's MS. sermons, and to the Rev. Drs. Dix, Eigenbrodt and Seabury for data kindly contributed.]

At the first meeting of the Diocesan Convention held after Bishop Provoost's death, his successor, Dr. Moore, having followed him in February, 1816, Dr. Hobart said of our first bishop, Integer vitae, salerisque purus--"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 [140/141] 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, and who through the whole of it never knew a word or even a sensation, tending to personal dissatisfaction or disunion.

"The character of Bishop Provoost is one which the en-lightened Christian will estimate at no ordinary standard. The generous sympathies of his nature created in him a cordial concern in whatever affected the interests of his fellow-creatures. Hence his beneficence was called into almost daily exercise, and his private charities were often beyond what was justified by his actual means. In the relations of husband and parent he exhibited all the kindly and endearing affections which ennoble our species. As a patriot, he was exceeded by none. As a scholar, he was deeply versed in classical lore, and in 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. He made considerable progress also in the natural and physical sciences, of which botany was his favorite branch."


Project Canterbury