John Ireland.

A second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author online

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have been in fault in other matters, there has been a disposition on the part
of these, to push some favorite points to extremes ; — a want of charitable
construction of the pastor's motives and conduct in relation to points on
which there existed a difference of opinion between him and them ; and a
deficiency of that kindness and courtesy which he had a right to claim as a
Christian minister, and particularly as their pastor.

The Council hope that they will see their error, and that in whatever
future ecclesiastical connection they may be placed, they will seek to be
possessed of a spirit of wisdom, and of a sound mind, and will remember,
that charity, kindness and forbearance are as important parts of Christian
character, as zeal in suppressing the errors and vices of society.

Parsons Cooke, Moderator.

E. A. Lawrence, Scribe.

[p. ]07.J

So much has been said respecting the sale of Howard Street bell, organ,
&c., as if unauthorized, — and other erroneous statements having been circu-
lated, — we here present some facts and documents.

At a meeting of the proprietors, regularly notified. May 28th, 1847, it was
Voted 3d, That the standing committee shall ascertain what is the amount
of all the debts due from this corporation, and report at an adjourned meet-
ing, one week from this evening ; and that they be authorized to raise, in
some way, what money may be necessary for immediate use. June 4th, the
proprietors met by adjournment. The committee stated, that they had been
unable to raise money in any way. The minority were then asked, if they
had any proposition to make. They declined making any. It was then
Voted, That the standing committee be, and they are hereby authorized to
sell so much of the corporate property, as will meet all the legal demands
against this corporation, viz., the organ, lamps, carpet on the aisles, the bell,
and the furnace, if necessary, to liquidate the debts due from this corpora-


tion ; and report their doings to the proprietors at a meeting called for that
purpose. Tke above vote loas passed with only two dissenting.

The standing committee thus had the power to sell the above articles at
once, but they waited, hoping that some other course might be practicable.
Not one of the above articles was sold, until more than two months after
the vote to sell. On the 2d of August, a note became due at the bank,
which had been given by the former treasurer (who was one of the minor-
ity) to Mr. Mann, and endorsed by Mr. Mann. The payment of this note
had been guaranteed by six of those who continued at Howard Street. On
arriving at maturity, the note was unpaid. Mr. Mann was desirous of being
released from his liability to the bank, and likewise desirous of being paid
for his services subsequent to the last settlement by the note. The minority
were notified, that unless the bills were paid, the property must be sold.
The committee offered to sell the property to the minority, but these refused
to buy. Offers were repeatedly made to the minority to have the whole
property appraised by disinterested men, and after the appraisal, they might
either buy or sell. Other offers were made, to have the whole subject in
regard to the house referred ; but these they also declined.

March 20, 1848, a meeting of the Proprietors was called, at which it was
Voted, That it is expedient to sell the property of the corporation for the
purpose of paying its debts and dividing the surplus, if any, equitably among
the proprietors ; and that we fully concur in the petition of R. P. Waters
and others, now pending before the Legislature. The vote stood 29 yeas —
9 nays.

It having been ascertained that there was no prospect of adjusting the
difficulties, and expense continuing, such as rent for cellar and interest
money, it was thought best to close the concern. Immediately after the vote
of June 4 was passed, an individual of the minority who was present, and
strongly objected to paying the debts by assessment of the pews, but did not
object to selling the property, had an attachment placed on all the articles
which it was voted to sell; thus endeavoring to prevent paying the debts.
The committee became personally responsible to the sheriff, and sold the
articles. The suit was brought for $1,000.

The plaintiff and four others, as if representing the proprietors, com-
menced a new action at law against the committee, who had retained part of
the money received from the sale of the articles, but had offered to pay the
debts — the plaintiff's among the rest — provided he would relinquish his suit
for the recovery of the money. Thus were the committee placed in a situ-
ation, in which they could not pay the money, without risk to themselves,
and requiring them to defend themselves, in two actions, for the same money.

The following Agreement was written by S. E. Sewall, Esq., Plaintiff's

It is agreed by and between the parties to the suits now pending in the
Supreme Judicial Court, in the County of Essex, April term, 1849, between
Daniel Millet against Isaac P. Foster and others, and the Howard Street
Church against Isaac P. Foster and others.

The said suits shall be dismissed by an entry of neither party ^ each party
paying his own counsel fees.

The defendants in said suits agree, that they will account for all the
moneys received for the sale of the bell, organ, lamps, carpets and church-
furniture of the Howard Street Church.

The defendants are to be allowed for all sums paid for debts, justly due
from said corporation, and the balance of the money is to be paid to Mr.
Michael Shepard, who is to apply the same to pay the following debts now
due from the Church, to wit : — cellar rent, note due Benjamin Trask, bal-
ance due Henry Hale, and balance due Daniel Millet. Said Shepard is to
adjust, as referee, the amount due said Hale and Millet, about which contro-


versy may arise. And the said Shepard shall also audit the accounts of said

The defendants are to be charged with interest on all sums received by
them, except for such time as they can show that the money, or any part of
it, was specially deposited, as the money of the Church, or for the benefit of
said Church. The balance of the money to be paid on the note of Mrs.

Said Shepard, as referee, shall decide any disputed claims. The bill of
N. J. Lord, Esq., for counsel fees, amount $34, not to be brought into this
account. Signed, Signed,

S. E. Sewall, Plaini'fFs Att'y, A. Huntijsgxon, Def'ts Att'y,

both cases. both cases.

Daniel Millet.
Isaac P. Fostkk.
Henry Hale,
May 2, 1849. A. T. Brooks.

The subscriber, by consent of parties, appointed Referee in the case of
Daniel Millet vs. Isaac P. Foster and others, and Howard Street Church vs.
Isaac P. Foster and others,— having met the parties at several different
times, heard their claims and objections to the same, and having duly con-
sidered the matter, do award to the several persons hereafter named, the sura
set against their respective names in full for their several claims and de-
mands, viz : —

To Daniel Millet, $220 59

" Henry Hale, for self and J. & H. Hale, . . . 154 33
" Benjamin Trask, note and interest, .... 56 80

" Isaac P. Foster, for allowance by general consent,

for cash paid Miss Barker and Mr. Emilio, 25 00

" R. P. Waters vs. D. Millet, . . , 5 10
" T. & A R. Brooks's bill, .... 75

" Aaron Smith, 3 00

" cash paid P. E. Webster for cellar rent, per

receipt, 97 50—131 35

563 07

To Charles F. Bates, the sum of $94 00, payable in pews in
the meeling-house of the value aforesaid, being for $23 50
advanced in cash.

Leaving the sura of $339 66 on account of the note to Mrs.

Saunders, 3S9 66

$952 73

The referee received of Isaac P. Foster, for the balance due
on sale of church organ, and for interest paid by him, the
sum of $936 82, 936 82

The sales of the bell, lamps, and church-furniture were set-
tled for by Mr. Foster, with Henry B. Smith, Treasurer,
and duly accounted for in said Treasurer's account.

Balance of account due from Henry B. Smith, Treasurer,

1847, paid the referee, 15 91

$952 73
Signed, Michaei. Shepard, Referee.

Salem, May 31, 1849.

And thus was the money appropriated at last, just as the Proprietors' Com-
mittee had wished to appropriate it, before the suit was commenced by Mr.
Millett. Upon other parts of the foregoing statement of facts, we leave the
candid to make their own comments. The Proprietors, by a very great ma-
jority, were determined that the debts of the corporation should be honora-


bly paid. And they could not, therefore, leave in the hands of the minority
the property which had been set apart for this purpose, — although the minor-
ity were ready to assume the debts, if they could be allowed to retain the
property. The church-plate is held by the minority, under bonds ; and the
house of worship is occupied, without the possession of the keys of the Pro-
prietors. Those who had the possession. May 4, 1847, have never surren-
dered the least part of their legal right in the church-plate, or the house of

[p. 114.]

We have in mind a small Council, convened in the early part of the year
1775, — by a Letter Missive of " fourteen brethren," " representing that the
Boston Presbytery, sitting in Salem, in September last, had declared them,
(together with many sisters of the Church, provided they did not return in
the time limited, now past,) to be dismissed, ^c, but without censure ; and
requesting advice and assistance in a re-establishment of church-order." The
Council proceeded to organize " the fourteen brethren," with a larger num-
ber of females, and formally recognized them as a sister Church in good and
regular standing. Having done thus, they voted, that "m a reasonable and
just construction^^ they were the very Church from which they had been dis-
missed, and from which they had previously withdrawn; not, however, the
Church as it then was, — or as it was ivhen those brethren withdrtiv from it, —
or as it was when some of them were its Presbyterian elders ; — but as it was,
twelve years previous. This was about equal to the doings of the first, or
of the last Ex parte Council, at Howard Street. " We speak as unto wise
men." They ma.y "judge"!

Letter 3Iissive for the Mutual Council, April 14, 1847.

The Howard Street Church to the Church in Lynn, sendelh greeting:

Rev. and Beloved, — Our Pastor, the Rev. Joel Mann, having renewed
his request for the calling of an Ecclesiastical Council to dissolve the pas-
toral relation subsisting between us, if it be found expedient, and we hav-
ing acceded to his request, you are hereby invited to attend, by your pastor
and a delegate, to consider and act on that subject, and to give such advice
as may be found needful in connection with your result, on Wednesday next,
at 9 o'clock, A. M., at the Vestry of said Church.

With Christian salutations and love, we are your brethren in Christ,

J. Mann, Pastor.
George H. Smith, > Com. of

Salem, Jipril 7, 1847. Isaac P. Foster, ^ the Church.

The other Churches invited are the Crombie Street, Salem, Washington
Street, Beverly, North and South Danvers, and Marblehead.

In a letter of Rev. Mr. Mann,— Kingston, R. I., Oct. 19, 1849,— it is said :
"I desire it to be understood and distinctly stated, that I did not advise a
single member of the dismissing Council to recommend the dissolution of
the Howard Street Church. I knew not that such a step was contemplated,
until I learned, t|iat it had been agitated in the first Council. Learning that,
I remarked to some friends, that I should not be surprised if the second
Council should recommend a dissolution. So far as I know, the measure
originated ivholly in the view which the Council had of the exigencies of the
case. It is much to be regretted, that the Ex parte Council did not take
ground with their brethren, as to the fact of dissolution, and then, if they
deemed it best, advise the formation of a new Church. This would have
avoided all disputation."



I agree, substantially, with the Council in regard to the facts in this case,
which are these. In the year 1847, a Mutual Council, called by the Howard
Street Church in Salem and their pastor. Rev. Mr. Mann, advised said
Church to dissolve, as a Church, providing letters of recommendation for
each member, by which each one could unite with some other Church at his
own election. In the same year, after due deliberation, the Howard Street
Church voted thus to dissolve ; seventeen voting for the dissolution, and ten
against it. In the year 1849, Mr. Ezekiel Goss, a member of the Tabernacle
Church in Salem, requested a letter of dismission and recommendation to
the Howard Street Church ; the said ten who voted against dissolving the
said Church claiming to be the Howard Street Church, as though no vote of
dissolution had been passed by the majority. To that request the Taberna-
cle Church objected, because in their opinion, there is no such body as the
Howard Street Church, regularly organized, and because of some alleged
irregularity in the conduct of Mr. Goss. Mr. Goss having asked a reference
of his request to a Mutual Council, and having been refused, called an Ex
parte Council for advice. The Council, thus called, have voted to sustain
Mr. Goss, and if need be, to recommend him to the Howard Street Church,
and also that the persons now claiming to be the Howard Street Church are
said Church as it originally existed.

Against this action of the Council, the subscriber begs leave, with feel-
ings of great deference, and the high personal regard which he entertains
for each member of the Council, to enter his remonstrance, including the
following objections.

[The first objection, which relates to the case of Mr. Goss, has been already
cited in full, on pages 33 and 34, of the preceding Keview.]

2. I am so unfortunate as to differ in opinion from the Council in regard
to the existence or non-existence of Howard Street Church. But here I
wish to say, once for all, that towards the individuals claiming to be said
Church, I have none but the kindest feelings. With some of them I have
had a pleasant acquaintance ; they having been once members of my con-
gregation. I should love to gratify them all by my vote on this occasion,
if I could do it conscientiously. But these are my difBculties.

Is the vote to dissolve said Church, by the majority of its members to be
pronounced a nullity, on account of its nature, its conditions, or its inherent
wrongfulness ? If so, then all proceedings growing out of it, and based
upon it are alike nullity. " From nothing nothing can come." The letters
of recommendation to its members are a nullity, the reception of some of
them into various Churches is a nullity ; they are still members of Howard
Street Church, and as such have the right to act and decide, in said Church,
on all matters of importance that may come before it. It follows that the
persons claiming to be Howard Street Church, before this Council, are such
only in part, and all their acts as such part are null and void. Their act in
withdrawing fellowship from or excommunicating, all those members who
took and used, in a proper manner, their letters of recommendation, has no
force. Shall we decide that the act of the very same men, on the same
time, in dissolving a Church, is nothing, and their act in recommending
members is sound and good ? especially, as this latter act, the granting of
commendatory letters, is based upon the former, the dissolving of the
Church ?

Can we decide that the vote to dissolve the Church is a nullity, because
it is not lawful, in any case, for a Church to dissolve itself? In looking at
this question, it may be well to inquire what right any competent number of


persons have to form a Church ? The answer is, that they have the right to
do so, when they believe, by so doing, they can best enjoy the public wor-
ship and ordinances of the gospel, and exert a greater and better influence
upon the world. Now if, upon experiment, they find that these ends are not
accomplished by their organization, and can be better answered by dissolv-
ing, have they not the right to dissolve ? Is it not as clearly their duty to do
so, as it was to form ? Is not the act of dissolving, in its nature, as lawful
as the act of forming ? Have not sundry Churches acted on this principle,
without rebuke ? Was not the Robinson Church in Middleboro' dissolved
on this principle ? and the late Church in Boston which worshipped in the
Marlboro' Chapel ? and more recently a Church in Charlestown ? and others ?
Were these acts of dissolution all unlawful, and therefore a nullity ? And
who is to judge whether any particular Church does answer the proper ends
of its organization ? Is it not clear that this question must be left to the
decision of the brethren constituting such Church ? As there is no power
that can enjoin upon any number of persons to form a Church, or hinder
them from doing so, it follows that they are the sole judges on the question
of dissolution. Advice may be asked, and given, and taken, but the decision
of the brethren is valid and final. Their act, in dissolving, is a lawful one.

The merits of the question, whether Howard Street Church, previously to
the vote of dissolution, accomplished, in a proper manner, the ends of its
organization, are not before this Council. The party calling us admits that
the Mutual Council which recommended its dissolution, did so for the alleged
reason, that Christian discipline could not be maintained in said Church.
And no proof has been adduced to show that it could be. No one has
ever said that it could be. The Result of that Council has been refused to
us, though called for; and it was in evidence, that it could, in all probability,
be easily obtained. In regard to the merits of this question, we have only
these two facts. The one, that a Mutual Council of sister churches, in the
neighborhood of Howard Street Church, advised to its dissolution. How
came they to do so ? What thought would be further from the minds of a
Mutual Council, formed by Churches in the immediate neighborhood of the
Church in Braintree, or of Mount Vernon Church, Boston, than the thought
of advising to the dissolution of either of those Churches ? Must there not
have been great want of order, at the time, in Howard Street Church ? The
other fact is this. It is in evidence before this Council, that such were the
difficulties in Howard Street Church, at the time of the vote to dissolve, that
numbers of the brethren refused to attend her meetings. Into this state of
things this Council has not been permitted to cast a glance. The question,
as laid before us, by the party calling us, has been, virtually this, was not
the vote to dissolve the Church, so far technically wrong, wrong in regard to
the order of business, as to be null and void ?

It is a well known rule that our Churches ought not to dismiss their mem-
bers to the world. They can only be severed from the Church by death, or
by excommunication, or by removal to some other Church. On this ground
it is contended, that no Church can dissolve itself, because, though as in the
case of Howard Street Church, letters of recommendation are provided for
every member, yet there is no security that they will be accepted, and prop-
erly used ; and if not, members will be virtually dismissed to the world.
This, as it appears to me, is a liability to which all Churches are necessarily
exposed, without their own fault. We give letters of dismission and recom-
mendation to our members going West, to Missouri, to Minesota, to Ore-
gon, to California, without any security that they will ever be used in a
proper manner. And if not, as our brethren are gone beyond our call, they
are virtually dismissed to the world. The fault and the responsibility are
theirs and not ours. This argument, therefore, against the right of a Church
to dissolve itself, if it prove any thing, proves too much, viz., that we can


never give a letter of dismission and recommendation to a member of the
Church, unless he will come under bonds to keep within hailing distance.

Can it be said in truth, that when a Church votes to dissolve itself,
providing letters of recommendation for all its members, they are thereby
cast out upon the world ? Does not every well-ordered Church hold fellow-
ship, not only with all the members of all other Churches, but also, with all
such as have good letters of recommendation, and admit them to occasional
communion, where Christian character is maintained ? Yea, do they not go
further, and when a Church, as in some cases has occurred, is dissolved by
decay, and removals, till but one member remains, take parol evidence in the
case of that one, instead of a letter, this being the highest evidence the case
admits ? To suggest that some members of a Church voting to dissolve,
may know of no Church with which they are willing to unite, is to cast re-
proach upon them for their want of attainment in " the bond of perfectness."
Such a. thing should never be said respecting our brethren, without the most
stubborn evidence, the direst necessity.

Can we decide that the vote to dissolve Howard Street Church is a nullity,
because the members were not all agreed in the vote, because there was a
minority, and therefore, that the minority are now the Church ? If we take
this ground, we virtually, if not explicitly, declare that the minority, have
the right to veto and nullify the act of the majority. The majority decide
that Howard Street Church is not. The minority decide that it is, and this
Council say the minority is to be sustained in their decision. It seems idle
to attempt to conceal this point. The facts speak for themselves, and intel-
ligent and unbiassed men have ears to hear, and they will hear. Now this
principle, that a few can thus control the many, appears to me a doctrine of
despotism, to which I am persuaded my neck was never made to bow. I
have given thanks to God for many years that I and my children are gov-
erned by majorities, and not by a few. There is an inherent probability that
many will not be so likely to err as few. " In the multitude of counsellors
there is safety." Any action which shall sanction the existence of an aris-
tocratic minority in our Churches is entitled to receive my serious, but feeble
and fallible remonstrance. I am aware that majorities may, and sometimes
do act, oppressively, and when they do, it is very desirable to afford all con-
sistent relief possible, to the individual or the few who constitute the minor-
ity. But in attempting this relief should we not use all precaution against
inflicting greater injury upon large communities? And will not our con-
ceding the principle that, in some instances, a minority may exercise the
veto against the act of the majority, expose our Churches to great confusion
and dissension ? Who shall bound or limit the instances in which this power
may be used ? Who is willing to belong to an association in which a minor-
ity of one or a few can block the action of the whole body ? What sound
lawyer or financier would advise a man to invest property in an association
thus managed ?

I have been aware, for some years, that a desire is floating in the commu-
nity to impose some check upon the action of majorities. More than once
have I been asked if I could not suggest some method by which this could
be accomplished. I have never seen the subject before any grave body of
good men until the late meeting of this Council. It seems that now a begin-
ning is to be made in the work, a new rule of action introduced, even this,
that in matters touching the alteration or dissolution of a covenant, major-
ities shall not rule, and minorities shall have the right of a veto upon their
action. But is not the remedy worse than the disease ? Be it so, that ma-
jorities sometimes act oppressively. What then ? Are we sure that minor-
ities will not, if they have the power ? Has power in the hands of one or a
few never been abused ? Let us not do a thing in our haste, which we shall
not love afterwards.

An attempt is made to represent this as an exempt case. The reasoning


is, that while, in the greater part of the proceedings of a Church, the major-
ity should rule, in cases like this, where the action respects a covenant, a
constitutional basis, a majority should not be allowed to decide. I am well
aware that there are cases in regard to civil constitutions, where a constitu-

Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 49 of 51)