Project Canterbury




Preached by the


Right Reverend William Thomas Manning


Bishop of New York


in the


Cathedral of St. John the Divine


on St. John the Evangelist Day, 1921


at the Dedication of the Founder's Tomb


Erected as a Memorial



Right Reverend Horatio Potter

Sixth Bishop of New York


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton 2007

[3] Our annual service on the Festival of Saint John the Beloved, to whom this great Temple of God is dedicated, has this year an unusual historic importance and significance, for at this service we have blessed and dedicated the Memorial Tomb in which now rest the mortal remains of Horatio Potter, Sixth Bishop of New York, and Founder of this Cathedral. The Tomb, a beautiful work of art in itself, occupies the position, immediately in the rear of the High Altar, which is traditionally held by the Tomb of the Founder.

It is indeed most fitting that there should be in the Cathedral this memorial to its Founder and first projector and that he should have his resting place by this Altar. As a matter of record I may mention that it was my own great privilege, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cathedral, to move in this matter, and at a meeting of the Trustees held on October 3rd, 1911, to propose the erection in the Cathedral of a suitable memorial to its founder. At that meeting a committee consisting of Mr. George Macculloch Miller and myself was appointed to take up the question. At a meeting on February 25th, 1913, it was decided "that instead of a tablet as a memorial to Bishop Horatio Potter there shall be erected a Tomb between two of the great columns immediately behind the Altar." Later Mr. Robert G. Hone who has done so much to carry this undertaking to its successful conclusion was made a member of the committee.

The Charter of Incorporation of the Cathedral was granted in 1873, and this instrument shows that those applying for the Charter and constituting the first Board of Trustees of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in the City and Diocese of New York were Horatio Potter, Morgan Dix, Henry C. Potter, John Cotton Smith, George H. Houghton, Philander K. Cady, Hamilton Fish, John Cisco, Stephen P. Nash, William H. Guion, William Butler Duncan, Samuel B. Ruggles [3/4], William Scott, George Macculloch Miller, Howard Potter, and William T. Blodgett. These are names which stand out preeminent in the records of the Church and in the life of this city. To the son of one of them, Mr. Thomas Nash, we owe the noble design which gives due dignity to the Founder's Tomb, and makes it so real an artistic addition to the Cathedral.

Horatio Potter was born in Beekman, Dutchess County, New York, in 1802. He was graduated from Union College, and, in 1827, began his ministry in Saco, Maine.

In 1828 he became Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Washington College, which is now Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. In 1833 he became rector of St. Peter's Church, Albany, and continued in charge of that historic and important parish until 1854 when he was elected Provisional Bishop of New York, succeeding the honoured and beloved Bishop Wainwright, whose devoted episcopate was cut short by death in less than two years.

Bishop Horatio Potter took charge of the Diocese in difficult and trying times. He was consecrated in Trinity Church on November 22nd, 1854 and, as his biographer says, "the day was the guarantee of the coming era of rest, recovery and peace, of great development, and of abounding works of grace, to the glory of God, and the extension of the Church."

Elected Provisional Bishop, Dr. Potter became Bishop on the death of Bishop Onderdonk in 1861.

To quote the words of one who knew him most intimately, and loved him deeply, Dr. Morgan Dix, "Wise, prudent, and skillful, he piloted his own diocese through stormy weather, and in dangerous places."

"Dignified in bearing, courtly in manners, somewhat austere, as becomes an overseer of God's heritage, cordial and delightful in the trusted society of intimate friends, devout and earnest, a holy man full of prayer and good works, he was, to those who knew him best, the mirror of the Episcopal Character, and a shining example among the chief pastors of the flock of Christ."
[5] "Among the notable events of his administration was the subdivision of the diocese, in 1868, by which the new dioceses of Long Island, Albany and Central New York came into existence. His influence, strongly felt at home, in the House of Bishops, of which he was a distinguished member, was exerted on a much wider scale through his active participation in the Lambeth Conferences held in 1867 and in 1878." Among his personal friends in the English Church he numbered John Keble, Isaac Williams, Charles Simeon, Dr. Pusey, Bishop Moberly and many others.

In illustration of the character, and the influence, of Bishop Potter one incident may be given as described by the late Dr. John Fulton. It was in the period of unsettlement after the war. There was intense desire that the Church in the North and in the South should at once be brought together, but no one saw quite how this was to be done. The Bishops of North Carolina and Arkansas determined to go to Philadelphia at the time of the General Convention, not with any idea of taking their seats there, but to consult with friends and to see what might be done to bring about a reunion.

The course of events at the Convention is described by Dr. Fulton in the following words: "At the opening service of the General Convention of 1865 the two Southern bishops modestly took seats with the congregation in the nave of the Church, and a thrill of deep emotion passed through the vast assembly when their presence was observed, and it was whispered that the South was coming back. Messengers were sent to conduct them to seats among the other bishops in the Chancel, a courtesy of which they were fully sensible, but which they felt it to be proper to decline. After the service the Bishops of New York and Maryland went with others to greet them, and with friendly violence drew them toward the House of Bishops. It was then, when they hesitated to enter that House until they should know on what terms, and with what understanding they were to be received, that Bishop Potter addressed to them the memorable words 'Trust all to the love and honor of your brethren.' They could ask, and they desired, no other assurance. They knew the men with [5/6] whom they had to deal. They entered without further hesitation, and the House of the Bishops nobly redeemed the noble pledge made by the Bishop of New York."
At this moment, when the Washington Conference on Limitation of Armaments is in session, and we are praying with new faith and hope for the bringing in of peace and brotherhood among men, it is inspiring to think of the Bishop of this Diocese fifty-six years ago playing so noble a part at that critical juncture in the interests of peace in the Church and in our own Country.

In 1879, on Saturday, November 22nd, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bishop Potter's consecration was celebrated. Divine service was held at eleven o'clock in Trinity Church. On the night of Tuesday, the 25th, a reception was given to the Bishop in the Academy of Music which was crowded to its utmost capacity. An elaborate programme was carried out including addresses of congratulation and affection by a number of the most distinguished men of the day, among them the Hon. John Jay and the Hon. William M. Evarts.
At the conclusion of these addresses the venerable Bishop made his response, and in the words of an eye witness, "as he advanced to do so the immense audience rose and remained standing while he spoke to them." "A sight more impressive in its way has probably never been seen," says this writer, "it was rendered the more affecting by the reflection that these were, for the most part, his own children in the faith, communicants of the various parishes, great numbers of them on whose heads his hands had been laid in confirmation, men and women who stood thus reverently before him as their Father in God, to hear his words of affectionate greeting, and to receive his personal benediction."
Many of those who were confirmed by Bishop Potter, some perhaps who were present at that meeting, have felt it a privilege to make their gifts towards the erection of the memorial to him in the Cathedral. On January 2nd, 1887, the faithful Bishop and Chief Shepherd entered into his rest. We thank God to-day for his good example, and for the fruits of his faithful labours which are our spiritual heritage.

[7] The project of this Cathedral inaugurated by Bishop Horatio Potter was splendidly carried forward under Bishop Henry Codman Potter and Bishop Greer, and it occupied a large share of the thought of Bishop Burch during his brief term of office.

Much has indeed been accomplished since that group of men in 1873 joined with Bishop Potter in procuring the Charter.

This great enterprise has already extended through four Episcopates and into a fifth. It is for us, as a Diocese, to build on these foundations, and to carry this magnificent work towards its completion.

This Cathedral as now planned will be a monument in which our whole country will take pride. It will be one of the greatest buildings of the world. It will be a witness for God, and for the things of the spirit, the power of which will be felt not only in this metropolis but in our whole national life. It will stand before the eyes of men a visible evidence of the power among us of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the faith of men like Horatio Potter its founder, and those who, following after him, have carried thus far towards its realization his noble vision of a mighty Temple of God, free and open as a House of Prayer for all people.

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