To the Episcopalians of Maryland.
Baltimore: no publisher, 1815.
On the 8th December, the Standing Committee of the Protestant Episcopal Church met, by Bishop Claggett's command, for the investigation of a charge against the Rev. G. Dashiell. As the accused minister, who had previously renounced all connection with our communion, declined to attend, judgment passed against him for contumacy. The penalty for this offense, according to the 28th Canon, extends to suspension and excommunication. A report of the proceedings was sent to the Bishop, with a request that he would pronounce sentence. His sanction may be expected by the Parishes in a few days.
The next morning a member of the committee was met in the street by a gentleman, who immediately commenced a conversation respecting the unhappy business of the preceding day. He appeared to be a friend of Mr. Dashiell, and professed to speak his sentiments. He assured the member that he knew, from the minister's own declaration, that, though he would not submit to be tried by the committee, he was ready and willing, at any time, to have his case examined by the Bishop, who was the proper judge of a clergyman. The member said, he would communicate this information to Dr. Claggett. The gentleman replied, you cannot do Mr. Dashiell a greater favour.
The conversation, of which the above is a short extract, and which must be regarded as a sort of message to the diocesan, was detailed to him on the 16th inst., and at his request reduced to writing. The following sentences form a part of the letter:
I therefore take the liberty of advising you to proceed without delay to Baltimore, and to accept Mr. Dashiell's proposal. Take the affidavits which are now among the papers of the committee. Compare them with the testimony which he can offer in his defence. Sift the character of the witnesses on both sides. Should Mrs. —— not be permitted to swear for him, you will readily know, what dedication ought, on that account, to be made from the weight of the opposite evidence. If, after a full examination, you think the man has been falsely accused, the course, which you ought to pursue, will be plain and easy. Declare publicly that you are satisfied of his innocence. Advise him to revoke his renunciation; to stand a trial pro forma; and to have his suspension and excommunication taken off in a canonical manner. There will, I am pretty confident, be no difference of opinion between you and the committee. Some of the members indeed may think, as I do, that he has been laboring for many years to exalt himself by unchristian arts; and that he has uttered the most atrocious falsehoods concerning the late Dr. Bend, Bishop Kemp, Bishop Hobart, Mr. Jackson, Dr. Beasly, and other respectable ministers, who refused to fall down and kiss the toes of his holiness. But Mr. Dashiell was not impeached on these grounds; and the objects of his feeble malice never will, I presume, condescend to summon him before you and the committee. The only charge against him is, obscene conduct towards certain women. Of this thing, not having heard the testimony on both sides, I do not know him to be guilty. But if you, after a thorough investigation, pronounce him innocent, the church and the world will concur in the sentence.
It is indeed possible that Mr. Dashiell may refuse to be tried even by the Bishop. In this case you can say that you have delivered your own soul. And there will then be no danger that the young clergymen, on whose concurrence he is supposed to calculate, should follow him in the separation.
Thus, Right Rev. Sir, I have freely given you my private opinion respecting the measures which you ought to adopt in this perilous situation of the church.
With great respect, I am, &c.
The original letter, from which the foregoing are extracts, was enclosed by the Bishop in the following note to Mr. Dashiell, and immediately deposited in the Post Office:
Annapolis, December 18, 1815.
Reverend and dear Sir,
Be pleased to read the enclosed letter, and to inform me whether your wish is such as the writer supposes. If so, I will not decline the painful task. You will oblige me by a speedy answer.
Your friend, in Christ Jesus,
THOMAS JOHN CLAGGETT.Now, if the gentleman, with whom the member conversed in the street, did not practise an unworthy trick; and if Mr. Dashiell be really desirous of an investigation before a competent and impartial tribunal, he will joyfully meet the offer of his aged diocesan, for whom, during the last two or three years, he has been in the habit of expressing himself, as he ought, in terms of unlimited confidence and the most profound veneration. But if, unfortunately, he should disavow the act of his supposed agent, or should, on any pretense, shrink from the inspection of the episcopal eye, will not the weak brethren suspect, that he had a weightier reason for renouncing all connection with the church than the extreme ungodliness of his judges? Will they not fear that, notwithstanding his incessant and obstreperous proclamation of his own sanctity, he is not quite so pure as the Hebrew who left his garment in the hands of Potiphar’s wife? The matter is now drawing rapidly to a crisis. A few days will either cover his accusers with infamy, or tear the mask from the visage of the Apostle of Maryland.