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The church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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The Chaplains and the head of the ecclesiastical department. The Arch-
deacon's friendly relations with the clergy. The baptism case at St. George's.
Archdeacon protects S. Ridsdale. Rebukes H. Baker. His tact. The
C.M.S. and the episcopal licence. No need of a Court. The first ritual case.

DuEiNG the first years of his episcopate Bishop Middleton
travelled to the principal stations in his vast Indian diocese
and made notes as to the requirements of the times. After
his second visitation of the Madras Archdeaconry in 1819 he
wrote a letter, which is quoted in his ' Life,' commenting upon
the relationship of the Chaplains to the military officers of the
Company, and deprecating the attitude of the latter towards
the former. The Archdeacon's records show that on several
occasions at different stations there was unpleasantness, brought
about by the assumption that the Chaplains in their ministra-
tions, methods, and ecclesiastical arrangements were under the
orders of the commanding officers.

It is not known what was in the Bishop's mind. In 1821
inquiries were made of the Government of Madras as to the
estabhshment of the Consistorial Court contemplated in the
Letters Patent. It is possible that the Bishop had some
intention of bringmg its powers to bear upon the military
officers of whom he complained.

The Government informed the Directors of the inquiries,!

1 Letter, July 6, 1821, Eccl.


who replied that the necessary assistance should be given to his
lordship of Calcutta in the formation of the Court. ^

Meanwhile, it must be presumed, the matter was talked
about in Madras, and reached the ears of the Judges of the
Supreme Court of Judicature ; for early in 1824 they declared
their intention of appohiting Proctors to practise in the proposed
Court. This intervention seemed to be judicially necessary.
If the ecclesiastical Court was merely for the purpose of
correcting the doctrine, ritual, and morals of ecclesiastics,
it would not matter to anyone but ecclesiastics how it was
constituted or who practised in it. But if it was to be used
for the purpose of correcting the conduct of the Christian
laity, it was necessary, in the interest of the liberty of the
subject, that it should be under the control of the Supreme
Court. The Government thought that it would suffice if the
new Court were mider their own control, and referred the
question home.^ The Directors referred it to their standing
counsel, and the reply was that the Judges might appoint
Proctors to practise on the ecclesiastical side of the Court
without licence or leave from the East India Company or
the local Government.^

This reply was not only an answer to the question put, but
was also an authoritative declaration that the proposed Con-
sistorial Court would be under the authority of the Supreme
Court, and could only be regarded as its ecclesiastical side. Li
consequence of the contention, the formation of the new Court
was postponed till the expected arrival of Bishop Heber in

Archdeacon Mousley had no use for such a Court and made
no effort to obtain it. Archdeacon Vaughan followed in his
footsteps, and would have been contented to do without it.
But Bishop Middleton was convinced of its necessity in 1819 ;
and it must have been at his lordship's suggestion that
the Archdeacon made his inquiries about it in 1821. The
further references to it between that date and 1826 were

• Despatch, July 28, 1824, 54, Eccl.

- Letters, Jan: 14, July 4 and 11, 1824, Eccl,

3 Despatch, July 13, 1825, Eccl.

^ Letter, Sept. 9, 1826, 23, 24, Eccl.


not promoted by Archdeacon Vaughan. They were due to a
fear among the laity in Madras that an Inquisitorial Court
was contemplated, and that it might prove to be an engine
of oppression.

It seems likely that the question would have been allowed to
rest if Bishop Heber had not been appointed to Calcutta in
1823, and if Archdeacon Robinson had not been appointed
his private Chaplain first, and Archdeacon of Madras afterwards.
Both were disciplinarians. Robinson's sense of discipline was
nourished and enhanced by his official connection with Bishop
Heber. In the Archdeacon's Act Book there is a copy of a
letter, dated March 8, 1824, written by the Bishop to the Bombay
Junior Presidency Chaplain, reprimanding him for acting in a
certain matter without first consulting the Bishop or in his
absence the Archdeacon. It appears that the Chaplain applied
to the Governor in Council for permission to make use of the
Hon. Company's frigate Hastings for the purpose of holding
divine service on Sunday afternoons for the European seamen
in the port of Bombay. Permission was granted, and the
circumstance came to the knowledge of the Bishop through
a paragraph in one of the Calcutta newspapers. If the
proceeding was a little irregular, the intention was so good
that it hardly deserved the severe expression of opinion
which the Bishop felt himself called upon to give. This
letter was communicated for information to the Archdeacons
of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, and was the foundation
of a stricter departmental discipline than had hitherto

Soon after his appointment as Archdeacon of Madras, Dr.
Robinson inquii-ed of the Government of Madras if the Directors
had authorised the establishment of such a Court. The reply
was in the affirmative, and the reference given was to the
Directors' Ecclesiastical Despatch of July 28, 1824, para. 54.
Then the Archdeacon asked the Government to sanction the
payment of rent for a house at the rate of Rs.227 a month,
the wages of a clerk, two writers, and four peons ; clothing for
the peons, including belts and brass plates engraved with the
name Archdeacon ; and a supply of furniture for the Court
House, consisting of :


1 long table with green cloth.
12 chairs.

1 small platform ^

2 larger chairs > for the Judge and Assessor.

1 small table )

2 large inkstands.

1 desk for the Apparitor.

2 Almirahs for the records.

The Government acquiesced and reported what they had
done, and the Directors approved ; i but they added that the
house must not be used as an official residence by the Archdeacon,
nor for any other pm-pose than that of a Court, and that the
establishment must not be put to any other duty.

The natural inference is that the Archdeacon had some
intention with regard to discipline when he made all this
preparation. Tliere is no record that any use was ever made of
the Court and its machinery for the purpose. The arrival of a
despatch from the Directors in January 1829 defining the
relationship of the Chaplains to the military authorities had
probably some effect in altermg the Archdeacon's intentions.

For some time before that date there had been occasional
differences of opinion between some of the Chaplains and the
military officers conmianding stations. The former denied that
they were military Chaplains, alleging that they were appointed
to minister to all the Company's servants, military and civil.
The latter contended that Chaplains serving with troops were
responsible to the military authorities and subject to Courts
]\[artial. The first reference home on this question was made
by the Bengal Government in 1824 ^ on a case submitted to
them by the Government of Bombay. The Court of Directors
did not reply until 1827/^ when they said :

' 2. From the best consideration we have been able to apply
to the several documents to which we have been referred in this
para., we are induced to think that considerable misapprehen-
sion has existed on the subject to which they relate.

' 3. When our Ecclesiastical EstabHshment was placed on

' Despatch, April G. 1830, 5, Eccl.
-■ Letter, Dec. 31, 1824, 22, Eccl.
3 Despatch, May 23, 1827, 2-5, Mil.


the footing on which it now stands it became a necessary part
of the arrangement that the Indian ^ Clergy should be submitted
to the general superintendence of the Bishop, and rendered
subject to his ecclesiastical jurisdiction for all offences of
ecclesiastical cognizance ; but it was never intended to except
this portion of our servants from the jurisdiction of the tem-
poral courts in the event of their being charged with any offences
of a civil nature or any crimes against the peace and well-being
of society.

' 4. We wish it therefore to be distinctly understood that
all the Chaplains on our Establishment are amenable to the
Ecclesiastical tribunals in England, and for all other offences
they are hable to be tried, as all other Europeans in India are,
by the ordinary tribunals of the country.

' 5. If, however, the offence should be committed out of the
jurisdiction of the ordinary court, and in places where the rest
of the community are subject to military law, in such a case and
in such a case alone, we deem it right that our Chaplains should
be subject also to military law for all offences of temporal

This extract from the Court's despatch was comm.unicated
to the Archdeacon of Madras on January 9, 1829, and ordered
to be registered in the Act Book. It must have had an im-
portant influence in shaping the Archdeacon's future policy.

It may be said at once that no question of morals was
involved in the reference home ; it was the question of subordina-
tion of the Chaplain to the mihtary authorities. The matters
in dispute sometimes referred to the time of divine service,
sometimes to the length of the sermon, sometimes to the matter
of it, and in one case in later years to the length of the Chaplain's

On the other hand the intention of Bishop Heber and
Archdeacon Robinson may not have had reference to the
laity at all. It may have referred to the missionary clergy
only, and to the irresponsible position they held with respect
to the Bishop. The C.M.S. clergy were not episcopally licensed
before 1824 ; some received no licence till 1830. The missionaries
of the S.P.C.K., even those ordamed by the Bishops of Zealand,
held no licence before the days of Heber and Robinson. It

^ The European clergy in India.


may have been their intention to bring all these missionaries
mider episcopal authority.

A case occiu'red in 1828. One of the S.P.G. missionaries,
Peter Wissing, refused to receive the Bishop's licence. He was
invited to attend upon the Archdeacon in order to take the
necessary oaths and make the necessary subscriptions. He
pleaded that no missionary belonging to his Society had
hitherto been licensed by the Bishop in India. The Arch-
deacon gave him time to communicate with his brother mission-
aries ; told him that he could not be allowed to officiate in any
Chm-ch or chapel of the diocese miless he were licensed ; and
added that every episcopal clergyman had to be licensed before
taking a cm-e in an English diocese. Wissing refused to take
the oaths of allegiance and canonical obedience, though ac-
knowledging and submitting to episcopal authority ' according
to the nature of the Danish Church.' The Archdeacon there-
upon inhibited him from performing any clerical duty in any
Church or chapel in the Archdeaconry ' in conformity with
the Bishop's instructions.' i

The Archdeacon then sent copies of all the letters to the
Bishop and reported what he had done, though this had
apparently been previously authorised by the Bishop. He had
some reason to complain of the tone of Wissing's letters and
did so. He also mformed the Madras District Committee of
the S.P.G., and sent copies of the letters to them also.

Wissing defended his action in writing to the Bishop, by
urging that when he was entertained by the S.P.G. he was not
told of the necessity of subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles.
He pleaded that though he objected to nothing in them, he
could not heartily and willmgly subscribe them, because the
doing so might be misunderstood by his brethren of the Danish
Episcopal Church, and that it behoved him to look after his
own interests.

Bishop James of Calcutta died before this letter reached
him. It was, however, answered by the Commissary of the
Diocese, Archdeacon Corrie, who said : ' I understand from
other sources that yom' mam objection is to acting in connection
with the District Committee ' ; and he entreated him to

' Bishop James of Calcutta.


reconsider this point, showing the importance of working tvith
the Committee, ' who are men of piety and influence who will
encourage your labours by participating in them and obtaining
means to extend them.'

Archdeacon Eobinson sent a copy of the correspondence to
Kohlhoff of Tanjore. In his letter to Kohlhoff he expressed
a regret that he had joined with Wissing in an appeal to the
late Bishop, more especially ' from the circumstance that you
are not in episcopal orders, and it is "therefore impossible for
you to receive the Bishop's licence or take the necessary oaths.'
He mentioned Wissing's declared difficulty, which was not one
of conscience, but as to whether he could swear allegiance to a
Bishop in Lidia, and subscribe his confession of faith, when he
intended hereafter to live under a Bishop of Denmark. After
mentioning that Dr. Eottler had received the licence without
hesitation, he proceeded :

' There was nothing therefore to lead me to imagine that
there was any reason of distinction between the episcopal
clergymen from Denmark and ourselves, while serving under
the same Bishop ; for while talking on the subject Dr. Eottler
agreed with me that if the case were reversed, and I were to go
into the Diocese of Copenhagen, I could not take any cure of
souls there without taking the oaths and subscribing to a

In his reply Kohlhoff said that he had had no correspondence
with Mr. Wissing, and that he had signed the appeal to the
Bishop on the solicitation of his colleague Mr. Haubroe, by
whom it was drawn up : ' I had every reason to fear that my
refusal would lead him to withdraw every assistance required
to direct the concerns of this extensive mission, and leave the
burthen upon me.'

Wissing was inhibited on August 6, 1828. On November 24
he wrote to the Archdeacon requesting that what had passed
of an uncomfortable nature might be remembered no more.
With regard to his relationship with the Madras District
Committee he said :

' I have always insisted upon a strict conformity to the rules
of the Society ; consequently if I entertain any doubt about


the full and implicit power of the Committee, such doubts
could only exist till the Society's sanction had been given to
it. . . . In the Society's last resolutions of June 1827 the
relation in which the missionaries stand to the respective
Committees has been pointed out, and from those resolutions
I should be the last man to deviate.'^

The Archdeacon in reply was obliged to point out that no
regret had been expressed for the unpleasant tone of the earlier
letters. ' The point at issue was wdiether clergymen of the
Lutheran Chm'ch who are in episcopal orders shall serve in an
Enghsh diocese without the licence of the Bishop.' With
regard to Wissing's sentiments towards the Madras District
Committee the Archdeacon was glad to see that they had

' You are in error if j-ou imagine that a resolution of the
Parent Society dated June 18, 1827 is the only source of the
Committee's authority. ... I deeply deplore the unfortunate
position you have assumed towards that body ; the tone of
your letters at one time, no less than your silence to letters
addressed to you at another, being so utterly at variance with
any hope of cordial and effective co-operation. . . . They
felt strongly your rejection of the Bishop's authority as well as
your resistance to theirs ; so that they asked me to take steps
to relieve the Society of the burden of your salary. I declined ;
taking into consideration your youth and inexperience, and the
evil counsels by which you were guided. . . . You are at
liberty to minister to the English residents at Vellore if
requested. There is no licensed building at Vellore to which
the Bishop's inhibition can extend. ... I will write to the
authorities at Vellore regarding your appointment there.'^

From beginning to end it was a case of discipline, but it
was one of those many cases which can be dealt with without the
aid of a Consistory Court. The only feature of the case worthy
of remark is the difference made by Archdeacon Robinson

1 See p. 241.

" The Rev. Peter M. D. Wissing arrived at Madras in 1828, and went to
Vellore at the beginning of 1829 ; he remained there till Sept. 1830, when
he returned to Europe. He resigned the Society's service in 1833. In his
letters to the Archdeacon he signed his name P. M. D. Wissing.


between Lutheran ministers ordained in the Lutheran way by
their fellow ministers, and those ordained by the Danish
Bishops. He assumed that the Bishop of Copenhagen was in
the apostolic succession, and therefore was as capable of a
valid ordination as an Anglican Bishop ; and he regarded
Wissing's objection to being licensed as frivolous and un-

Another case of discipline occurred in the same year. The
Eev. D. Rosen had been from the time of his arrival in 1819
somewhat of a thorn in the side of the senior S.P.C.K. mission-
aries Bottler, Schreyvogel, and Kohlhoff. He appears to have
imbibed rationalistic doctrines before his arrival, and with
these the older and not less learned missionaries had no sym-
pathy. It had been the custom of the German missionaries
from the commencement of their work in the Company's
territories to meet together occasionally for mutual encourage-
ment. At these meetings they submitted their daily journals
for remark. In 1830 Rosen inserted in his journal some remarks
animadverting on the conduct of one of the missionaries at
Tanjore. Dr. Bottler and others who were present reproved
him, and desired him to expunge the paragraphs. They
thought so seriously of the matter that on his refusal they
referred it to the Archdeacon. There were also in the journal
some speculations on the source of evil which were not in
accordance with the teaching of the Catholic creeds.

Archdeacon Bobinson therefore wrote a severe letter of
expostulation, reminding him of the impropriety of sitting in
judgment on his seniors, exhorting him to submit respectfully
to those under whom he was called to work, and reminding him
of the danger of his speculations.

This might have been a case for a Consistory Court if Bosen
had been an English clergyman. The letter of reproof sufficed,
for Bosen shortly afterwards resigned the Society's service and
retired to Tranquebar.'^

^ On the invalidity of Danish episcopal orders see Schafi's History of the
Christian Church, ii. 516 ; Mosheim, ii. 412 ; Colonial Church Chronicle, vol.
xvi. (1861) ; and the Report of the Lambeth Conference, 1897.

- He was re-employed by the S.P.G. in 1834, and was stationed at Mudulur,
remaining there till 1838.

T 3


In the year 1830 the Archdeacon asked the Government to
prohibit the Chaplains from addressing letters direct to the
Government instead of through himself as the official channel of
communication. This seems to be the first recorded attempt
at an internal discipline, by which the Archdeacon became the
recognised head of the Ecclesiastical Department. From the
beginning his position had been peculiar, and to some extent
isolated from the Chaplains and the Churches. Bishop Middle-
ton arranged in 1816 that he should preach at St. George's
Church seven times in each year, namely on the Feast of the
Circumcision, Scptuagesima, Mid Lent, Easter Day, Whit-
smiday, the First Sunday in Advent, and on Christmas Day.
Except for this he had no official connection with any Church
in the diocese. It is to the credit of Archdeacon Robinson
that whilst he was tightening the strings of discipline, his
relations with the Chaplains and missionaries were most
friendly and confidential. A breezy letter is extant i from the
Rev. James Baker Morewood, one of the C.M.S. missionaries
at Alleppee in Travancore. He was on leave at Ootacamund,
and was writing to ask that he might be officially recognised
as Acting Chaplain of the station. He went on to describe
the beautiful country and scenery ; said that whilst staying
with Captain Salmon he had been ' banging away at elk,
woodcock and jungle fowl ' ; and concluded with some excellent
advice to people who visit the Nilgiris.

At the beginning of 1830 there was a dispute between the
Archdeacon and the Chaplains of St. George's Church, which
was sooner or later inevitable. It was a question of authority.
The dispute was about the baptism of a child in St. George's
Church. The Archdeacon being requested by the parents to
baptise the child, did so without taking care that permission
should be obtained from the licensed Chaplains. Dr. Roy
hearing of the intention removed the register book to his
own house, contending that the Chaplains of the Church were
the proper persons to make the entry in the register book.

' If however,' he wrote, ' you particularly wish to register
the baptism in question, I shall readily consent to it so soon as

' Archdeacon's Records.


my permission has been asked by Sir James Home or by your-
self on his part. But I beg respectfully to state to you, as
Archdeacon, my objection to any person making an entry in any
of the register books of my Church without my permission
previously obtained.'

The Archdeacon allowed the justice of Dr. Roy's contention.
On one occasion the Archdeacon protected the Rev. Samuel
Ridsdale, C.M.S. missionary at Cochin, when he was reported
to Government by a local subordinate official for refusing to
baptise his child. The case was sent to the Archdeacon for
investigation and report. It appears that the refusal was to
accept the father as a sponsor, not being qualified in any way
to undertake the Christian education of a child. Mr. Ridsdale
actually gave another reason, one which was vahd enough but
not usually recognised to be valid. The Archdeacon supported
him ; but at the same time he pointed out to Mr. Ridsdale that
he was officiating among Europeans without a licence, and that
he must not expect protection from the ecclesiastical authorities
unless he put himself in the right by obtaining one.

On another occasion he rebuked the Rev. Henry Baker, a
C.M.S. missionary at Cottayam in Travancore, for a breach of
Church order in opening a chapel at Cannanore, intended for
the joint use of ministers of all denominations. He quoted from
Bishop Heber's letter i on the necessity of order and co-operation
among the clergy and due subordination to authority, and
pointed out that there was already a Church in the station that
he could borrow, and a Chaplain whom he had not consulted.

Archdeacon Robinson was so tactful and judicious in his
methods, and such a master of style in his correspondence,
that he won the confidence of all the clergy, both Chaplains and
missionaries. At the beginning of a caste dispute at Trichino-
poly in 1830 the S.P.G. missionary Schreyvogel consulted the
Archdeacon in his difficulty. There were some in the Arch-
deaconry, such as Rottler and Kohlhoff, who had longer ex-
perience and greater knowledge of the matter, but it was
Archdeacon Robinson who was consulted.

The C.M.S. forbade their earliest missionaries to seek
a licence to officiate in the ^Archdeaconry. There is some

> Dated March 8, 1824, referred to above.


obscmity as to the reason of this. It has been asserted
that the Society wished their missionaries to have no
hcence to preach the gospel except their own. It may have
been due to the high fee which was payable when the licence
was gi*anted. \Vlien the Society removed the prohibition in
1824, several of the C.M.S. missionaries had landed at Madras,
and had gone to their distant stations southward and westward,
without taking the oaths of canonical obedience, &c., and
receiving the formal episcopal licence. Even as late as 1830
the Rev. Henrj^ Baker, who arrived in 1818, wrote from
Cottayam that he had had no opportunity of obtaining a
licence, and that he and his colleague J. B. Morewood hoped
to be able to do so soon.

In a quiet and conciliatory way Archdeacon Robinson was
the originator of officialism in the Ecclesiastical Department and

Online LibraryFrank PennyThe church in Madras : being the history of the ecclesiastical and missionary action of the East India Company in the Presidency of Madras in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 39)