THE animosity cherished by the first Bishop of New York towards his Episcopal brother of Connecticut, had a marked effect upon the fortunes of the American Church. Springing from political differences, the influence of which, though we fail at this day fully to appreciate their strength, must then have been very great, this unkindness of feeling and wanton disregard of courtesy on the part of Bishop Provoost, tended for a time to an open rupture and schism in the feeble Church then struggling for existence. To trace briefly, and, in the main, from hitherto unpublished documents, the growth and decline of this untoward disagreement; to bring to light from private correspondence the hidden springs of action, and lay bare the secret machinations of one who used his high position in the Church of God, for party purposes and the gratification of personal spleen and caprice; and to place in strong contrast with this excuseless course the noble forbearance and exemplary endurance of Seabury, first of American Bishops and one of the best of men, is our task. Save in the last feature, it is far from being a pleasant one; but it is the duty of the annalist and historian to lay bare the follies and even the sins of a forgotten age, the better to warn and advise the men of his own and succeeding times.
When, in a little gathering of the half a score of Connecticut Clergymen--remnant of a band of worthy confessors, and martyrs too, for loyalty to Church and State,--choice was made of the faithful Seabury for their Bishop, and instructions given him to seek for Consecration either in England or Scotland, as the case might be, Provoost, an ardent Whig, was at his country-seat on the Hudson, sharing none of the discomforts of his loyalist brethren, and, in fact, exercising none of the functions of his ministry. He had left New York and [3/4] his post at Old Trinity, in consequence of a disagreement with Clergy and people on the absorbing subject of politics. But, while we find no fault with his patriotism, in which he was doubtless conscientious, as were those too, who were firm to their oaths of allegiance and the vows of their ordination, we must condemn his disregard of his ministerial functions, and his seeming indifference to the fate of the Church of his choice. Other patriot clergymen found plenty to do in the field or in the camp; but the accomplished and erudite assistant-minister of Trinity preferred inglorious ease at his place on the Hudson, and the careful watchfulness, not indeed over souls, but of his goods and grounds at East Camp.
Fourteen years of retirement from the exercise of his ministry, hardly fitted Provoost for the Episcopate; but the reputation of "proscription" for his country proved an incontrovertible argument in his favor, and amidst the rejoicings over the evacuation, and the welcomings of peace, the Whig Episcopalians of New York fixed upon the patriot minister in Dutchess County as Rector of Trinity, and first Bishop of New York.
In the meantime the pains-taking Seabury, repulsed in England, had sought and secured from the remnant of the Church in Scotland, the Consecration to the Episcopate he had been sent to obtain. Passing through difficulties unnumbered, hazarding the loss of the missionary stipend which had long been his laboriously-earned support, and all on account of this alliance with the persecuted Church at the North, the newly made Bishop, after a brief sojourn in London, sailed for his Diocese in the United States. He was received with open arms. The interesting correspondence of the excellent Parker, second Bishop of Massachusetts, still preserved, and well worthy of publication, from its many contributions to our Ecclesiastical history, is full, at this period, of expressions of the deep interest and solicitude felt all over New England, and even in New York and at the South, in the success and safe return of the indefatigable Seabury. And so, when the Clergy of Connecticut met at Middletown in glad Convocation to meet their newly arrived Bishop, there were representatives of other sections of the Church present; [4/5] and not only the little band of Connecticut Churchmen, but the scattered Episcopalians throughout New England and New York, seemed full of rejoicing at the completion of the Succession in the American Church.
Amid these jubilant expressions of feeling, one discordant voice was heard. Mr. Granville Sharp, of London, renowned for his philanthropic labors in defence of the rights of enslaved Africans, and a pioneer in that noble work subsequently carried on to distinguished success by Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Buxton, had, in common with other English Churchmen, ardently desired the introduction of the Episcopate into America, in the English Succession. In one of his numerous publications, he had, even during the progress of the war, endeavored to call the attention of the American public to this measure, and immediately upon the cessation of hostilities, he recommenced his exertions to that end, with most commendable zeal. In one point only did his zeal outrun his knowledge. Inheriting certain traditional family antipathies, and possessing also documents belonging to his ancestor, an Archbishop of York, throwing doubt upon the regularity and consequent validity of the Scottish Consecrations, he entered into correspondence with individuals in the Northern States of America, with the avowed intention of preventing, if possible, the general recognition of the Scottish line. Thus he hoped to make a more evident necessity for the introduction of the Episcopate, through consecrations in the English Succession. Among the correspondents of this excellent, but somewhat erratic man, were President Manning, a Baptist Minister, and head of the College of that Denomination in Providence, and the Rev. Mr. Provoost, in New York. It was the old scene at Jerusalem re-enacted. Herod and Pilate, the determined Dissenter and the jealous Churchman,--were made friends, in their common antipathy to one both innocent and unsuspecting. The activity of the Baptist President received the especial thanks of Mr. Sharp, and his published Memoirs give abundant proof of the pains taken by Provoost, as well, to accomplish this malicious end.
Well may honest Fitch Oliver, then a student for Holy Orders, at Providence, and soon after one of the first applicants [5/6] to Bishop Seabury for Ordination, give vent to his righteous indignation, in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Parker, of Boston, as follows :
"I have lately seen a letter from Granville Sharp, Esq., (London), on the subject of Dr. Seabury's being nominated by the Scottish Nonjuring Bishops, which I shall endeavour to show you when I see you in Boston, if I can obtain permission. 'Tis addressed to President Manning. Has Mr. Sharp no correspondence with any Clergyman of the Episcopal Church in this Country, that he writes on a subject of that Nature to a Baptist Minister? He seems to be dubious as to the Validity of Consecration obtained thro' that Channel, but if the Succession has been preserved, I cannot perceive why it should not be sufficient." [* Reprint of the Journals of General Convention, vol. I, page 642.]
God maketh the wrath of man to praise him. The success of Seabury, his welcome by the Churchmen of the North, the indifference manifested by the civil authorities of Connecticut to his assumption of the Episcopal name and authority, and the failure of the presence of a Bishop among them to arouse the jealousy of the predominant Sects, served as opening wedges for securing success, at a later day, in the English line. It may be doubted whether it would ever have been sought, but for the encouragement thus afforded, by the persevering determination of the first Bishop of Connecticut. White, the most prominent of the Pennsylvania Clergy, had, at an earlier date, written a pamphlet, looking, at least, to an establishment of the Church, de novo, in the event of certain supposable necessity. Smith, the Bishop-elect of Maryland,--the sad history of whose unsuccessful attempt to obtain consecration, is a dark page in the unpublished annals of the Church, was himself casting about for receiving the Episcopate from the Schismatics in Scotland who refused Canonical obedience to the Church in regular line. In Virginia, so great was the laxity of morals and latitudinarianism in belief, on the part of the Clergy, that they first despoiled the Episcopal Office of all its prerogatives of discipline, and then, even after going through the form of an election of a Bishop, placed every obstacle in their power in the way, to hinder the man of their choice from success. In South Carolina, so great was the indifference to the fate of the Church, that the Clergy only entered the Confederation at Philadelphia, on the stipulation, that no Bishop [6/7] should be sent to them; while, in North Carolina and Georgia, unpublished letters represent the feeling of the remnant of Clergy and people to have been the same. Even in New York, with the exception of the vindictive Provoost, the main body of the Clergy were united with their brethren of New England, in their recognition of the authority of Seabury; the more so, as he had been at the first elected in that city, and that too, with the approbation and concurrence of themselves.
It is, then, not too much to assert, after a careful examination of both the published and manuscript authorities of the time,--from patient searchings of contemporary letters, filled with expressions of hesitancy, doubt, and even excuseless indifference, and from the recorded action of Conventions in Resolutions, preambles, and Canons, that, but for the success of the good Bishop of Connecticut, in securing Consecration from the Church in Scotland, no application to the English Archbishops and Bishops would have been made, at least, till, from the want of Episcopal authority in guiding and restraining its Councils, the American Church had lapsed into Presbyterianism, or fallen into the sadder disgrace of a departure from the Catholic Faith. God be thanked for Samuel Seabury, the corner-stone of the American Episcopate
The else inexplicable strangeness of his course at the time, confirmed by his whole subsequent career, gives us reason to believe that it was mainly from feelings of personal pique against his old Tory rival that Mr. Provoost gave his countenance to the plans of the Whig Episcopalians of New York, for securing him the Bishopric from the Mother Church of England. This was now comparatively easy. The question was already settled, that the Americans no longer feared the introduction of the Episcopal Office among them. The fact was patent, even to the cautious and time-serving Ministry of the English government. It could no longer be doubted by the scrupulous and procrastinating Prelates. Informal gatherings of Clergy and Laity soon developed into more authoritative and respectable Conventions. The Parishes sent delegates to the State Assemblies; the States accredited representatives to the General Convention. The analogy of Republican Institutions [7/8] was closely followed, and every care taken, by the admission of the Laity and the consulting of the authorities of the State, to prevent the arising of any misrepresentations in the popular mind, and to anticipate any clamor excited by Denominational spleen.
These meetings culminated in the Convention of the Church in seven States, at Philadelphia, in September and October, 1785. At this meeting, an organization, so far as it could be secured without the Episcopate, was effected. The Liturgy was conformed to the changes in the civil authority. Steps were taken, looking to a more serious departure from the English Prayer Book; and an address to the English Prelates for the Succession was agreed upon.
It is in connection with the forwarding of this "Address," which is to be found, in full, in White's "Memoirs of the Church," and in the printed "Journals of Convention," that we introduce the first Letter of the strange correspondence we propose to copy from the original Manuscripts. It is the only one of the series previously seen in print. Its noticeable peculiarity is, the vindictive resentment it displays towards the Bishop of Connecticut, whose name here, as elsewhere, Provoost pertinaciously misspelled:
Dear and Revd. Sir,
* * * * The Address was sent by the Packet with recommendatory Letters from the President of Congress and John Jay, Esq., who have interested themselves much in our business. I also enclosed a Copy I had taken of the Address, with some other Papers relating to the Church in America, in a Letter to the Bishop of Carlisle.
I expect no obstruction to our Application but what may arise from the Intrigues of the non-juring Bishop of Connecticut, who a few days since paid a Visit to this State (notwitstanding he incurred the guilt of misprision of Treason, and was liable to confinement for life for doing so) and took shelter at Mr. James Rivington's, where he was seen only by a few of his most intimate friens; whilst he was there, a piece appeared in a newspaper under Rivington's direction, pretending to give an account of the late Convention, but replete with Falsehood and Prevarication, and evidently intended to excite a prejudice against our transactions, both in England and America.
On Long Island, Dr. Cebra appeared more openly--preached at Hempstead Church, and ordained the Person from Virginia I formerly mentioned, being assisted by the Revd. Mr. Moore of Hempstead and the Revd. Mr. Bloomer of New Town, Long Island.
I relates these Occurences, that when you write next to England, our Friends [8/9] there may be guarded against any misrepresentations that may come to them from that Quarter.
I am, with respects to Dr. Magaw and Mr. Blackwell,
Your most sincere Friend and Humble Servant,
New York, Nov. 7th, 1785.
[* Reprint of Journals of the General Convention, Vol. I, page 653.]
In the mean time, the true friends of the American Church abroad were anxiously noting this threatened rupture between the North and South. In England, the civil disabilities of the Scottish Church not having been removed, it was impossible, without conflicting with the State, to recognize the Scottish Orders; and, even subsequently to Bishop Seabury's Ordination, the officials of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel studiously withheld the Episcopal title from him. [* Ibid. page 614.] But, at the same time, the initiative had already been taken, with the countenance of the most dignified of the English Clergy, which soon resulted in the removal of these disabilities; a result directly consequent upon the action of the Scottish Church, in having granted Consecration to Seabury; and while these plans were already in a state of forwardness, there was no little pain felt among the more unprejudiced and better informed of the Clerical Order, at the apprehended Schism in America. The Rev. Jacob Duche, of London, a refugee Clergyman from Philadelphia, and then on terms of familiar intercourse with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had, earlier, been the medium of communication between Dr. White and the English Prelates, wrote, as follows, to his American correspondent, under date of March 25th, 1786.
* * * * "In the mean time I cannot but lament the prospect there seems to be of so early a schism among you. Here we could not recognize Dr. Seabury's Episcopal character. But with you there can remain but one point to be settled, and that is, the validity of his Consecration from Proofs adduced of the uninterrupted Succession in the Church of Scotland. This once settled, I should think you might receive him, or at least invite him, by previously acknowledging his Episcopal Character, to join your General Convention and assist you and your future Bishops (from whatever source you may obtain them) in making such further regulations in discipline and worship, as may finally introduce a general uniformity in [9/10] the Episcopal Church throughout the States. If something of this kind is not done, I fear an unpleasant disunion may take place, and put a stop to the progress of your Church. Bishop Seabury, who was much with me during his residence here, appears to be a man of great moderation, strong judgment, good affections, and solid piety. And I really thought from one of your letters to me that you were all eager to receive him. But enough on this subject. You will excuse these hints, which are suggested from real affection to you all, and a sincere wish that unanimity and brotherly love may prevail and continue among you."
The amiable White would readily have thus received the Bishop of Connecticut, but he was under the influence of the strong minded Rector of Trinity, New York. Mr. Duche's wise counsels were disregarded, and years passed, ere the breach was healed, and the Church, again at unity in herself, was enabled to advance, from conquering to conquer, in the name of her Lord. Different, indeed, in style and temper, are the extracts we next present. Like the former, they are printed from the original manuscripts, preserved in the voluminous correspondence of Bishop White.
Rev. Mr. Provoost to Rev. Dr. White.
NEW YORK, OCTOBER 25, 1785.
* * * * I have been told that another Gentleman has just past thro' this City on his way to Connecticut for Ordination, with recommendations from some Clergymen in Virginia. If private persons continue these recommendations to Dr. Cebra, the Validity of whose Consecration as a Bishop has neither been acknowledged nor discuss'd in Convention, I fear that the Bands which united us together at Philadelphia will be converted into a Rope of Sand.
Rev. Mr. Provoost to Rev. Dr. White.
* * * * If we may judge from appearances, Dr. Cebra and his friends are using every art to prevent the success of our application to the English prelates, A close correspondence is kept up between him, Chandler, [* The Rev. Thomas Bradbury Chandler, D. D., of New Jersey, and first Lord Bishop-designate for Nova Scotia. This last honor he declined.] &c., and a few days ago two large packets were seen at Rivington's address'd to the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of which it was imagined came from Dr. Chandler. Governor Clinton assures me that Dr. Cebra is in the Bill of Attainder, a circumstance which I did not know when I mentioned him in a late letter. He certainly would never have run the risque he did by coming to Now York, unless some political ends of consequence were to be answered by it.
New York, Dec. 28, 1785.
 But not only was the note of warning against this threatened rupture sounded from friends in England. The excellent Parker, Rector of Trinity, Boston, at that time the most influential, as he was certainly the most accomplished and pious of the Clergy of the States north of Connecticut, wrote to Dr. White earnestly deprecating the measures tending to separation. His testimony is conclusive, as to the regard in which Bishop Seabury was held, throughout New England, and in the warmth of his support, he throws out the idea, that it was even then doubtful "whether a Bishop from England would be received in these Northern States, so great was the jealousy still remaining of the British Nation," while, he adds, that "of a Scotch Bishop there can be no suspicions, because, wholly unconnected with the civil power themselves, they could introduce none into these States." [* Letter to Dr. White, under date of Jan. 31, 1786. Bishop White MSS.]
Arguments and advice alike failed to moderate the bitterness of Mr. Provoost. Finding that the general recognition of the validity of Bishop Seabury's Consecration occasioned frequent applications for Ordinations, on the part of Candidates for the Ministry from all parts of the country, he endeavored to commit the various Conventions to some act whereby they would throw discredit upon the Scottish Orders, by excluding the newly Ordained Clergy from seats in those bodies.
Still, so apparent were the motives influencing the Rector of Trinity to this course, that even the members of his own Convention were far from being unanimous in support of these measures. Joining in the issue made by the more conservative Churchmen of New Jersey, who were acting under the advice of the Rev. Thomas Bradbury Chandler, D. D.,--the Loyalist Rector of the Church at Elizabethtown, in that State, who had returned to the scenes of his long and faithful Ministry to die,--the New York Clergy gradually gained courage to withstand the outside political pressure of the day, and, in some cases, openly espoused the cause of the Connecticut Bishop, by inviting him to officiate in their respective Churches, and by warmly defending his course; while the well-directed [11/12] efforts of others rendered Mr. Provoost's labors, for a radical change of the Common Prayer, completely inoperative.
In a letter addressed to Dr. White early in the Spring of 1786, announcing the reception of a parcel of the "Proposed" Prayer Book,--that ill-judged and abortive result of the effort at the South to eliminate Churchmanship and the Catholic Faith alike from the formularies of the American Church,--Mr. Provoost alludes to this opposition, and indicates the revulsion of feeling on the part of the Clergy. The leaven was evidently at work, and even the patriot Provoost could no longer close his eyes to its effects.
"Such a strong party has been raised against the Alterations, that I am afraid we should not be able to adopt the Book at present, without danger of a Schism,--the ostensible objection is, that they were made without the sanction of a Bishop, but the Thanksgiving for the Fourth of July, in all probability, is one principal cause of the opposition." [* From the Bishop White Correspondence.]
The impatiently awaited packet at length brought the response of the English Prelates to the Address of the Philadelphia Convention. It was far more favorable than had been anticipated, and at once gave fresh vigor to the efforts for the Succession in the English line. Hurrying off a copy of the communication from England to Dr. White by the hands of a Presbyterian Minister, traveling southward, Mr. Provoost briefly remarks:
"Pains have been taken to misrepresent our proceedings, yet I flatter myself, from the seeming candor of the Bishops, that these misrepresentations will do us no material injury,"
and defers, till a few days after, the following more elaborate defense of his personal hostility to Seabury, and the Scottish line.
* * * * Your best friends in this City approve of your conduct in not admitting persons Ordained by Dr. Cebra to your Pulpit. The Clergy in New Jersey act with the same precaution. Mr. Spragge and Mr. Rowe were not to be received as members of their Convention.
The Archbishop, by not choosing to answer private enquiries, has left the matter in dubio, and you may still act literally, even in that respect, upon the principle of sub Judice lis est. But I really think our line of conduct is plain before us. As [12/13] the General Convention did not think proper to acknowledge Dr. Cebra as a Bishop, much less as a Bishop of our Church, it would be highly improper for us, in our private capacities, to give any sanction to his Ordinations. It would also be an insult upon the Church and the truly venerable Prelates to whom we are now making application for the Succession. For my own part, I carry the matter still further, and as a friend to the liberties of mankind, should be extremely sorry that the conduct of my brethren here should tend to the resurrection of the Sect of Non-Jurors, (nearly buried in oblivion,) whose slavish and absurd tenets were a disgrace to humanity, and GOD grant that they may never be cherished in America, which, as my native country, I wish may always be sacred to Liberty, both civil and religious.
I am, with sincere regard, Dr. and Rev. Sir,
Your most affectionate Brother and Humble Servant,
New York, May 20, 1786.
[* From the Bishop White Correspondence.]
Following closely upon this communication was another, revealing a latitude of theological belief, of itself quite enough to account for the fears of the Bishop of Connecticut, that the Doctrines of the Catholic Faith were likely to be tampered with in the Conventions at the South.
* * * * "I am sorry to find that your Convention has not been without its Altercations. The Doctrine of the Trinity has been a bone of contention since the first ages of Christianity, and will be to the end of the world. It is an abstruse point, upon which great charity is due to different opinions, and the only way of securing ourselves from error is, to adhere to Scripture expressions, without turning into definitions. The following lines of the Bishop of Llandaff, in his late collection of Theological Tracts, shew a truly Christian and liberal spirit."
"Newton and Locke were esteemed Socinians, Lardner was an avowed one; Clarke and Whiston were declared Arians; Bull and Waterland were professed Athanasians: who will take upon him to say that these men were not equal to each other in probity and Scriptural knowledge? And if that be admitted, surely we ought to learn no other lesson from the diversity of their opinions, except that of perfect moderation and good will towards all those who happen to differ from ourselves. We ought to entertain no other wish, but that every man may be allowed, without loss of fame or fortune, et sentire quce velit, et quce sentiat discere. This absolute freedom of Inquiry, it is apprehended, is the best way of investigating the sense of Scripture, the most probable means of producing an uniformity of opinion, and of rendering the Gospel dispensation as intelligible to us in the 18th Century, as we presume it was to the Christians in the first."
"Strong objections, in my opinion, may be made against the validity of the Non-Juring Consecrations in general, and stronger still against Dr. Cebra's in particular. I never had the pleasure of any conversation with you upon this subject, and real want of time obliges me to waive the discussion of it at present. The line of conduct [13/14] our delegates are to observe towards the persons ordained by the Dr., will, I hope, be pointed out to them before they go to Philadelphia."
New York, June 10th, 1786.
[* From the Bishop White Correspondence.]
That "line of conduct" was marked out by the following resolution, passed in Convention, in St. Paul's Chapel, New York, three days after. It was the closing business of the Session, as recorded in the thin, clingy pamphlet giving the records of the opening meetings of that Convention, whose doings, at a single gathering, now-a days, require a volume for their publishment.
"Resolved--That the persons appointed to represent this Church, be instructed not to consent to any acts that may imply the validity of Dr. Seabury's Ordinations."
The first Session of the General Convention of 1786 was barely organized, when the Rev. Robert Smith, of South Carolina, moved:
"That the Clergy present produce their Letters of Orders, or declare by whom they were Ordained."
This motion, as we are informed by Bishop White, in his "Memoirs" of the Church, [* Second edition, pp. 115,116.] was aimed at the Rev. Joseph Pilmore, a Convert from Methodism, who had received Orders from Bishop Seabury, and the Rev. William Smith, of Stepney Parish, Maryland, who had been Ordained in Scotland, by a Bishop of the Church from whence Seabury had obtained Consecration. The judicious application of the "Previous Question," moved by Dr. Smith and seconded by Dr. White, precluded the discussion which it was anticipated would grow out of this motion, and the resolution itself was lost.
Mr. Provoost, not satisfied with this expression of the will of the Convention, soon came directly to the point with a motion--
"That this Convention will resolve to do no act that shall imply the validity of Ordinations made by Dr. Seabury."
Again the "Previous Question" cut off discussion, and the main question was determined in the negative,--New York, New Jersey and South Carolina, alone supporting it.
 So determined was the feeling of opposition to Bishop Seabury shown in these measures, that a compromise resolution was carried, unanimously, on the motion of Dr. White, seconded by the Rev. Robert Smith, of South Carolina, to the effect--
"That it be recommended to this Church, in the States here represented, not to receive to the Pastoral Charge, within their respective limits, Clergymen professing Canonical subjection to any Bishop, in any State or country, other than those Bishops who may be duly settled in the States represented in this Convention."
This Resolution, as explained by its author in the "Memoirs" so frequently referred to, (vide pp. 115, 116 of the second edition,) was offered with a view to meet the allegation made on the floor of Convention, that Bishop Seabury required a pledge of Canonical obedience from those who received Holy Orders at his hands, even though they might reside outside the limits of his immediate Diocese. The Rev. Mr. Pilmore, the only one in the body who had received Orders from the Bishop of Connecticut, expressly denied this charge, and the Resolution for which, as Bishop White expressly states, there was never "any ground," other than this apprehension, was carried without opposition.
The following day, the Rev. Robert Smith, with a perseverance worthy a far better cause, returned indirectly to the attack, and there was passed, unanimously, on his motion, the following Resolution:
"That it be recommended to the Conventions of the Church, represented in this General Convention, not to admit any person, as a Minister, within their respective limits, who shall receive Ordination from any Bishop residing in America, during the application now pending to the English Bishop for Episcopal Consecration."
This time-serving action of the Convention, and particularly this last Resolution, drew forth from Parker, of Boston, a plain-spoken reproof. It was contained in a long letter, under date of Sept. 15, 1786, addressed to Dr. White, and is as follows:
* * * * "When the Convention discouraged the settling more Clergymen in your States under Bishop Seabury's ordinations, if they meant to limit it, during the pending of your application to England, and were actuated herein from the principle of not doing anything that might possibly give umbrage to the English [15/16] Bishops, it may be a prudent step; but if it was not from this motive, it seems to be a declaring war against him at a very early period, and forebodes a settled and perpetual enmity." [* From the Bishop White Correspondence.]
Thus was this action of the Philadelphia Convention received in Connecticut. The departure of Drs. White and Provoost, after a second Session of that body, in which no measures for conciliation, or comprehension, were even suggested,--their reception of this coveted English Episcopate, and their failure, even then, to indicate any plan for the union of the Churches, seemed, to the New England Churchmen, a clear expression of unwillingness to come to unity and uniformity. The following winter, the Convocation of Connecticut met at Wallingford, February 27th. [* The particulars of this Convocation are taken from a racy letter of the Rev. Roger Viets, who was present at the Session. The original letter is preserved among the valuable papers of Bishop Parker, to whom it was addressed.] There it was decided to send another Presbyter to Scotland for the Episcopate, to act as coadjutor to the over-worked Seabury. The old and worthy Jeremiah Learning was first chosen, but he declined, in consequence of years and infirmities. The saintly Richard Mansfield was then elected, by the suffrages of his brethren, but he felt this burden too heavy to be borne, and the choice finally fell on the Rev. Abraham Jarvis, who was deputed to go to Scotland "to obtain Consecration, that the Episcopal Office might be Canonically conferred." [* Vide Sprague's Annals of the American Episcopal Pulpit, page 238.] Hints thrown out, not only in Bishop Seabury's letters, but derived from other sources, indicate, that the Rev. Samuel Parker, of Boston, would next have followed, to complete, as Bishop of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Canonical number for the transmission of the Episcopate in the Scottish line.
But even at so late a day as this, Bishop Seabury was still willing to labor for union. To this end he deferred the action contemplated by the Convocation, and addressed to his most determined foe, the newly consecrated Bishop of New York, a letter of congratulation and invitation. This letter, hitherto unpublished, is as follows:
The Right Rev. Bishop Provoost, New York.
Right Rev, and dear Sir,--It is with pleasure I take this opportunity of presenting my congratulations on your safe return to New York, on the success of your application to the English Archbishops, and on your recovery from your late dangerous illness.
You must be equally sensible with me of the present unsettled state of the Church of England in this country, and of the necessity of union and concord among all its members in the United States of America, not only to give stability to it, but to fix it on its true and proper foundation. Possibly nothing will contribute more to this end than uniformity in worship and discipline, among the Churches of the different States. It will be my happiness to be able to promote so good and necessary a work: and I take the liberty to propose, that before any decided steps be taken, there may be a meeting of yourself and Bishop White with me, at such time and place as shall be most convenient, to try, whether some plan cannot be adopted, that shall in a quiet and effectual way, secure the great object which, I trust, we should all heartily rejoice to see accomplished. For my own part, I cannot help thinking, that the most likely method will be, to retain the present Common Prayer Book, accommodating it to the Civil Constitution of the United States. The government of the Church, you know, is already settled: a body of Canons will, however, be wanted to give energy to the government, and ascertain its operation.
A stated Convocation of the Clergy of this State is to be held at Stamford, on Thursday after Whitsunday. As it is so near to New York, and the journey may contribute to the re-establishment of your health, I should be much rejoiced to see you there; more especially as I think it would promote the great object, the union of all the Churches. May God direct us in all things!
Believe me to be, Rt. Rev. and Dear Sir,
Your affectionate Brother and humble servant,
SAMUEL, Bishop of Connecticut.
[* Copied from Bishop Seabury's MS. Letter Book, now in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Seabury, of New York City.]
A letter similar to this noble overture for peace and union, was addressed to Bishop White, and is still preserved among his correspondence. In what manner it was received by the Bishop of New York, we are unable to say. Bishop Seabury, in a letter written a few days afterwards, to his friend in London, William Stevens, Esq., after alluding, very kindly, to the return of the newly Consecrated Bishops, adds:
--"I have written to them both, proposing an interview with them, and an union of the Church of England through all the States, on the ground of the present Prayer Book, only accommodating it to the Civil Constitution of this Country; and the government of the Church to continue unaltered as it now is, with a body of Canons to give energy to it, and direct its operations. I know not what effect this overture may have,--but my fears are greater than my hopes. Everything I can fairly do, to procure union and uniformity, shall certainly be done." [* Copied from Bishop Seabury's MS. Letter Book, now in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Seabury, of New York City.]
With this effort on the part of the noble-minded Seabury for peace and comprehension, the matter was for a time suffered to rest. Letters from Mr. Parker allude to the unchanged ill-feeling, on the part of Bishop Provoost, as being the chief obstacle in the way of a consolidation of the Churches, and it was only an unwillingness, on the part of Bishop Seabury, in any way to perpetuate the cause of difference, that kept still in abeyance the plan for additional Consecrations in the Scottish line. No notice seems to have been taken by Provoost of Bishop Seabury's letter. Bishop White appears to have responded vaguely, and even with coldness. And there seemed little prospect, that the American Church would ever re-unite its scattered fragments, and, with unbroken front, maintain the Faith once delivered to the Saints.
It was from Massachusetts, that the proposition tending to unite the divergent lines of Episcopacy finally came. To this quarter Bishop Seabury had long looked, for some such step as this. There is reason to believe, that it was taken with his full knowledge and concurrence: and that it was at length taken by Dr. Parker, when there was a slight and temporary alienation of feeling between the Bishop of Connecticut and himself, caused by misrepresentations, and removed during the course of these very negociations, is highly creditable to Dr. Parker's amiability, as well as to his eminent devotion to the Church. In the same direction, Bishop White had also been looking for the proposition for union. In letters, [* Still preserved in the autograph collection of the writer.] one under date of July 5, 1787, and the other, written the following year, stronger in its language and plainer in its indications of a wish, that Dr. Parker should be the one chosen to go to England for Consecration in the English line, that the triple Succession might be thus obtained, hints were thrown out, and wishes earnestly expressed, that finally induced action in Massachusetts, which, through the characteristic modesty of Dr. Parker, placed, at length, the Rev. Edward Bass, of Newburyport, in the Episcopal chair, and formed the hinge of union between the Northern and the Southern Churches. This step was the application of the [18/19] Clergy of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, to the General Convention of 1789, requesting the Consecration of Mr. Bass, by the union of the three Bishops, Seabury, Provoost and White, in the act of conferring the Episcopate. In connection with this application it was further suggested, that in the event of an unwillingness of the Bishops in the English line thus to unite with the Bishop of Connecticut, the General Convention should apply to the English Prelates for the expression of their opinion, as to the justice or expediency of this union. This measure we owe to Dr. Parker. It was an expedient suggested by himself, in a letter to Bishop White, in 1787, and its success in introducing into the first Session of the General Convention of 1789 measures accomplishing the union ere that year expired, should fill us with grateful appreciation of his merits, to whose pains-taking exertions and striking self-denial, we must attribute so much.
Strange is it, but true, that even at this late day, Bishop Provoost was still implacable. His own Convention had taken measures looking for a union. He himself had declined acting on the absurd proposition of the Virginia Convention, that, in connection with Bishop White, he should consecrate Dr. Griffith to the Episcopate of Virginia, without waiting the completion of the Canonical number of Consecrators. But, with that long-cherished and vindictive dislike of Bishop Seabury, which had strengthened with his years,--even in the midst of the presages of the coming union, he thus wrote the last sad letter of this series.
"An invitation to the Church in Connecticut to meet us in General Convention, I conceive to be neither necessary nor proper--not necessary, because I am informed that they have already appointed two persons to attend, without any invitation--not proper, because it is publicly known, that they have adopted a form of Church Government, which renders them inadmissible as members of the Convention or Union."
The rest of our story may be briefly told. The General Convention of 1789, in the absence of Bishop Provoost, disavowed the offensive declarations of their earlier meetings, and fully attested their reception of the Orders of the Bishop of Connecticut. A kind and courteous correspondence followed, [19/20] quite unlike that which it has been our task to bring to light, and, at the adjourned Session of the Convention of the same year, Bishop Seabury, with two of his Clergy, in company with Dr. Parker of Massachusetts, attended, and ratified the plan for union. Concessions were made on both sides, and, beginning by throwing overboard that wretched compilation known as the "Proposed Book," of which all parties were now heartily sick, there was not only a return to unity, but also to uniformity, on the part of ALL the American Church.
Bishop Provoost never lost his animosity towards his Episcopal brother of Connecticut. The story of their subsequent meeting, in which the Christian forbearance of Seabury shows strongly forth in contrast with the positive incivility of Provoost, is told in White's "Memoirs,'' with a tenderness towards the Bishop of New York hardly fair to the object of his resentment. Death soon after translated the first Mitred American to Paradise. His unworthy brother in the Episcopate lived long enough to be a troubler in Israel, by a strange opposition to Hobart's Consecration, and, by a subsequent course of laxity in morals and belief, proved, most incontrovertibly, that political opinions are hardly the best grounds to influence us in the choice of a Bishop for the Church of GOD!