William White.

Memoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America; containing, I. A narrative of the organization and of the early measures of the church. II. Additional statements and remarks. III. An appendix of original papers online

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Online LibraryWilliam WhiteMemoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America; containing, I. A narrative of the organization and of the early measures of the church. II. Additional statements and remarks. III. An appendix of original papers → online text (page 5 of 44)
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ter, that they have no intention of returning to the Book
of Common Prayer, though expressing their regret that
they had been so long deprived of the benefit of the sacra-
ments. They also say: " By the terms of the ordination
which Mr. Montague,^ minister of Christ Church in this
town, has received from the Right Rev. Bishop White, we
find he has only subscribed a declaration of faith in the
Holy Scriptures, and a solemn engagement to conform to
the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal
Church in the State of Massachusetts; in this state no
doctrines or form of worship are yet established. Has not
our Church therefore as good a claim to style itself the
Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Massachusetts
as any other? " The Bishop of New York, after consulta-

* Wilson's "Memoirs," p. 326.

f It will be seen by reference to page 1 16 of this work that a delegate from Vir-
ginia, in General Convention, proposed to omit the first four petitions of the Litany,
but not because he doubted the divinity of our Lord. Some no doubt supposed
that in revising the Liturgy the committee of King's Chapel were moved by such
reasons as controlled the action of the person alluded to.

\ The Rev. William Montague, ordained June 24th, 1787.

Greenwood's "King's Chapel," p. 182.


lion with some of the laity, referred the committee to the
coming convention of the Church, and made the answer
that he did not feel at liberty to act on the question at the
time.* This, it would appear, decided their course, and
they resolved upon Congregational ordination for Mr.
Freeman, which was accomplished, November i8th, 1787.
Then, says Mr. Greenwood, "the first Episcopal Church\
in New _Erigland became the first ^Tjnitarian Church in /
America." We, however, have already seen (ante p. xxiii.)/
that King's Chapel was not the first Episcopal Church in \
New England, while it yet remains to be demonstrated that
the twenty-four who created the change were ever church-
men in any true sense of_the term. All that they them-
selves claimed was the character of legal " proprietors."
At that period confirmation was not to be had, and men
attached themselves to congregations in a loose way.
Governor Dudley, for instance, while a vestryman of
King's Chapel attended the Congregational service at
Roxbury and received the Communion. The Earl of
Bellomont also while in Boston affected the " Thursday
lecture." Then as now there was a class of men who
have no deep convictions, but simply seek respectable con-
nections, persons who join in movements without changing
their opinions, because they have no opinions to change.
The following confession of a recent writer shows the
true state of the case. "Candor," he says, "requires me to
add that the conservative element in the society had, no
doubt, left the country; and that the proprietors who re-
mained were of a robust cast of mind not reluctant to

To say that no doctrines or forms of worship were established in Massachusetts
is not altogether consistent with the fact that, as shown on page 89 of this work,
Massachusetts, Sept. 8th, 1784, distinctly declared for the doctrine and orders and
worship of the Church of England. On the other hand, the course of Bishop Pro-
voost was not what might have been expected, as their rebellion was patent to the
whole country, entitling them to nothing more than a plain denial. Bishop White,
however, exonerates Bishop Provoost from the charge of doctrinal sympathy with
King's Chapel. See page 117, note.


change." * It is sufficiently clear that many of those who
represented the conservative element had left Boston, and
that a majority of those left behind were of the " robust,"
or opinionless class, ready to acquiesce in a change when
asked for by one to whom they were attached. The
change at King's Chapel was in reality a Congregational
victory. The Congregationalists were elated, while, on the
other hand, churchmen were highly indignant. In the pub-
lic press, Parker, Bass, Montague and Ogden, of Portsmouth,
on behalf of the clergy, denounced the act as illegal. The
majority of twenty-four practically acknowledged the weak-
ness of their position, by offering to pay for twenty-nine
pews, which they had declared forfeited to the corporation
in order to control the property. Technically, the rights
of the proprietors may have been extinguished, but, if* so,
it was in accordance with results accomplished by the war,
which drove many parishioners from their homes; an
event not anticipated and therefore not to be taken ad-
vantage of. In fact, no such advantage would have been
sought, but for the desperate strait of the Unitarians, who
were determined to obtain possession of the property; and
who, after depriving the proprietors of their sacred rights,
added to the indignity by offering money. Still more, the
usurpers told the remonstrants, that they were out of their
senses; for "no man in his senses will assert that they [the
Unitarians] had not a just right so to do." Bishop White,
nevertheless had anticipated the difficulty in 1785, when,
in writing on the subject of their revised Liturgy, he framed
a paragraph from which we have already quoted. He says:
"But give me leave briefly to suggest, that should my
apprehensions be well founded, of your society becoming
either Arian or Socinian, or Congregational in government,
or both, I might rest my argument on moral obligation, in
respect to the keeping of possession of the house heretofore
known by the name of King's Chapel. Our churches, and

* James Freeman Clarke, in the "Independent," New York, Feb. 5th, 1880.


other property belonging to them, were evidently bought
and given as to component parts of a church, the great
outlines of whose doctrine and government are well known.
But for a majority of a congregation to destroy these, and
so, of course, to compel the minority to give up their in-
terest in said property, in order to seek what they conceive
to be the pure Word of God, and a more Christian wor-
ship elsewhere, is, I humbly apprehend, to deprive them of
their just rights; whereas .no injury is offered, in expecting
a majority to relinquish an interest, if they can no longer
comply with the terms on which it is given." The far-see-
ing bishop here disposed of the whole question, showing
that the action of the twenty-four was without proper

Reference has already been made to the glee with which
this action was greeted by Congregationalists. But their
rejoicing soon came to an end. Unconsciously they had
applauded a Congregational Samson, and when this single
pillar of the faith was pulled away, the house ecclesiastical
fell and crushed them.f The first fruit was in 1792, when,
as Dr. Dexter confesses, at Taunton, the entire Congrega-
tional society, " with the exception of three males and one
female seceded from the town parish, organized an eccle-
siatical society .... which continues to the present time."
Buddington, however, shows the worst of it where he says,
speaking of the general defection to Unitarianism, all the
ancient churches of Boston were ranged among the advo-
cates of the New Opinion, with the exception of the Old
South. Then all the superiors in age, " the church of Rob-
inson of Plymouth, of Higginson of Salem, of Cotton in
Boston," renounced, "the system of faith in which they
were baptized, and for which they were nurtured by their
pious founders. "

* Wilson's "Memoir," p. 326. Letter Dec. 1st, 1785.

f See the "Churchman," Jan. loth, 1880, on "King's Chapel."

\ Buddington's " History of the First Parish of Charlestown."


In the mean while the Protestant Episcopal Church,
under the leadership of the sagacious White, stood firm.
It is remarkable, upon the whole, that the losses were not
greater. Indeed, if King's Chapel had been furnished with
a regularly educated clergyman, it is probable that the
Church would never have been endangered. All the losses
of the Church elsewhere were such as resulted from the war.
These were very severe in Virginia, where many churches
were destroyed and where the clergy were reduced from Si t
ninety-one to twenty-eight. One good result nevertheless /
followed the war. It removed the popular hostility to 2-0
bishops, as it was at once perceived, that, under a republic,
they could have no advantages over the laity in any mat-
ters connected with the state. It therefore became pos-
sible to organize the Church. This leads us, in bringing
this sketch to a close, to notice the career of him, whom
the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1836, styles "in more
senses than one," the Father of the American Church.*

William White, son of Colonel Thomas White and
Esther Hewlings, was born in Philadelphia, March 24th,
1747 (O. S.). Pursuing his preparatory studies in the city
of his birth, he graduated from the College of Philadelphia
at the age of seventeen. At this time he had fully decided
to adopt the sacred profession. After pursuing his theo-
logical studies under the guidance of the local clergy,
being especially indebted to Dr. Peters and Mr. Duche,
he sailed for England, where, December 23d, 1770, in / *7
the Royal Chapel, London, he was ordained deacon by
Dr. Young, Bishop of Norwich. Remaining in London
about a year and half, he saw considerable society, meeting
Goldsmith and Dr. Johnson. June, 1772, he was advanced 1*17 'i
to*~the priesthood by Dr. Terrick, Bishop of London. He ' '
at once sailed for Philadelphia, where he arrived September
1 3th, soon being elected assistant minister of Christ Church
and St. Peter's.

* Wilson's "Memoir," p. 264.


When the Revolution dawned he took sides with the
colonies without wavering. Upon the Declaration of In-
dependence, he ceased praying for the King, and was the
I second person to take the oath of allegiance to the Com-
monwealth of Pennsylvania. September, 1777, he became
chaplain to the Continental Congress. April, 1779, he was
elected rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's, Phil-
adelphia, devoting himself with much zeal to the dis-
charge of his duties, and winning the approval of the
entire community.

When the time drew near to take measures for the or-
ganization of the Church, believing that it would be imprac-
ticable to obtain the Episcopal succession from England,
at least for a time, he prepared a pamphlet, entitled "The
Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States Con-
sidered," in which he proposed a prqvi^iojTal^ organization^
that was to be superseded as soon as the succession could /
be obtained. Happily, however, the accomplishment or
political independence was attended by its recognition on
the part of the British Government, leaving no difficulty
in the way of organization in accordance with the system
of the Church of England. Nevertheless the author of
the pamphlet was misunderstood in some quarters, while,
at a later period, his production was used for purposes en-
tirely foreign to the author's intentions. The criticism ex-
cited was met by Bishop White and disarmed of force, so
that no permanent harm resulted from his proposition.*
The churchmanship of Bishop White was thoroughly
sound, he being conservative and opposed to all doctrinal
and ecclesiastical innovations.

When peace was declared, he was at once looked to as
the proper person to lead in the organization of the Amer-
ican Church, and accordingly he was elected Bishop of

* On this Pamphlet, see the present volume, p. 99. For a list of Bishop
White's writings, see Wilson's "Memoir," page 305, and Sprague's "American
Pulpit." v. 283.


'ennsylvania. His own narrative gives the story of his
election and consecration, which took place in Lambeth

ipel, London, February 4th, J7J7_. He arrived in New / 'J % *i
York, on Easter S"unday~of tnesame year. Easter Day, j
1787, will, therefore, possess a peculiar significance to the <
end of time. It marks the Renaissance of the American )
Church; of which he stood the acknowledged head until |
his decease. That event took place July I7th, 1836. He
is now known to the world as the Father of the Protestant /
Episcopal Church in the United States of America. It
is, therefore, needless for the writer to enter here upon
,jj any fresh estimate of his character and work. These have
been weighed judiciously, by various writers, and notably
>i by the late Alonzo Potter, Bishop of Pennsylvania, who
i'V attributes to Bishop White commanding intellectual and
moral qualities; saying, "If his rhetorical powers had
equalled his erudition and his capacity for thought, and
had we been ready to honor as we ought the writers of
our own country, the name of White had now stood side
by side with those of Seeker, Porteus, Horsley and Home."
The time, however, is coming, he says, "when Bishop White
will be recognized as the Founder and wise Master-builder
of a system of Ecclesiastical Polity, which, though not
faultless, is as perfect as the condition of things then ad-
mitted, and of which the essential excellence is likely to
be demonstrated by the progress of events." *

Yet the opinion of the large-hearted and able prelate,
whose words we quote, goes farther. Bishop White is
regarded by him as a providential character, and as ac-
complishing for the Church what Washington did for the
Nation. Therefore, after speaking of Washington's singu-

* The Address of Bishop Alonzo Potter, delivered on the occasion of laying the
corner-stone of Calvary Monumental Church, Philadelphia, April, 1851. See
Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit," also the "Memoir of Bishop White,"
by his friend and admirer Dr. Bird Wilson, and the very valuable work entitled,
"Account of the Meeting of the Descendants of Colonel Thomas White of Mary-
land," Philadelphia, 1879.


lar adaptation to his mission, and of the impossibility of ac-
counting for it on any human principle, Bishop Potter says,
referring to Bishop White, " It was the same with him
who was called, like another Moses, to lead our Church
out of her long captivity, and through a wilderness of
suffering and humiliation, he was sent of God." This
is a generous estimate, but it is evidently just; there
being, however, no desire to overlook the claims of those
who early shared with him the onerous duties of the
Episcopal office, nor any wish to ignore the services of
presbyters and faithful laymen who from the beginning
stayed up his hands. Bishop White was fortunate in his
associates, of whose reputation he was never envious; and
the care which he took to secure to them their true posi-
. tion in the public estimation will render his own fame safe
to the end of time.







THE motive to the prefixing of a dedication to these
Memoirs, is the opportunity thus afforded of testifying to
the Church at large, the harmony which has subsisted
among us in our joint counsels for the conducting of our
ecclesiastical concerns. If, at any time there has been a
shade of difference of opinion, it has been overbalanced
by the pleasure of mutual concession, and by the profit
of amicable discussion.

AH of you have been ordained to the Episcopacy by
my hands. Submission of opinion on this account, is
what I have never had the arrogancy to claim : but if
any degree of personal respect should be supposed a
natural consequence, I can thankfully acknowledge that
it has been bestowed.

Having lived in days in which there existed prejudices
in our land against the name, and much^more against the
office, of a bishop; and when it was doubtful whether any


person in that character would be tolerated in the com-
munity; I now contemplate nine of our number, conduct-
ing the duties of their office without interruption; and
in regard not to them only, but to ten of us who have
gone to their rest, I trust the appeal may be made to
the world, for their not being chargeable with causes
of offence to our fellow Christians and our fellow citi-
zens generally, or with the assuming of any powers
within our communion, not confessedly recognized by
our ecclesiastical institutions.

Being your senior by many years, I enjoy satisfaction
in the expectation of the good which you may be ex-
pected to be achieving, in what is now our common
sphere of action, when I shall be removed from it: and,
with my prayers for the success of your endeavors to
this effect,

I subscribe myself,

Your affectionate brother,




MANY years ago, the author of the following work began to com-
mit to writing the most material facts which had occurred, relative to
the Church of which he is a minister: intending, in the event of the
continuance of life and health, to carry on the recital. This was not
with a view to early publication, because of the small extent of the
sphere, in which the detail of very recent events was likely to interest
curiosity. Accordingly, what was thus prepared lay unnoticed, until
an application was made, about twelve years ago, by the editor of the
American edition of Dr. Rees's Cyclopedia, requesting attention to
certain parts of that work, with a view to other objects. On this
occasion it occurred, that there might be propriety and use in insert-
ing, in a work of that kind, a brief account of what had been trans-
acted during some years preceding, within the Episcopal Church. For
this reason, there was made a draft from the notes before taken, for
the purpose stated. As what remained comprehended sundry matters,
not of sufficiently general concern for insertion in the Cyclopedia,
it was afterwards reviewed under the impression that the time might
come, when the former labor would not be unacceptable, within the
communion for which it had been designed. In the present publi-
cation, the narrative has been continued to the present time. With
it, there are given the matters kept back from the publication in the
Cyclopedia; and a continuation of similar statements and remarks.

It has been occasionally suggested, from a knowledge of the mate-
rials in the hands of the author, and in consideration of the oppor-
tunities which he has possessed of personal observation of characters


and of facts, that it would be better to embody the narrative with the
remarks, and to make a history of the whole. The mere melting of
them into one mass, after the separation of them as related above, did
not seem likely to be fruitful of any considerable advantage; and as to
the name of "a history," it would not only be disproportioned to the
work, but perhaps pledge to an attempt, beyond what there are mate-
rials to accomplish. Of materials concerning the aggregate Church,
the author possesses all that are necessary, and more than will be here
given; the view being confined to the more important: but his collec-
tions in regard to the Church in the different dioceses, are perhaps
incomplete, although he is furnished with almost all their journals,
and thinks himself well informed as to all the material events which
have occurred for half a century backward. Besides, there are a few
points on which he wished to retain a liberty that would be incon-
sistent with the fulness, and, considering what is to be expected in
such a work, the fidelity of a history. One of these points is, that he^~
chooses to be silent in regard to a few transactions, which, although*/ ^
sufficiently known and discoursed of when they happened, are not of j
so much importance to the future concerns of the Church, as to in-/
duce a wish to perpetuate the remembrance of them; and thereby the J
personal irritation by which they were accompanied. ^

Besides these reasons, there is one arising from the desire of avoid-
ing such a development of the characters of agents, as might induce
the relating and the unintentional mis-stating of what may have passed
in unguarded conversation. It is an unfair advantage taken of a de-
ceased character, for an author to represent him as his own prejudices
or his passions dictate; when, perhaps, the other party would have
had the precaution to make his own story known, had he foreseen
such a result of the freedom of social intercourse.

Another license which has grown out of the adopted plan, is the
anticipating of some circumstances which took place in England, dur-
ing the intercourse with his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury; when
such anticipation might illustrate any matter previously under review.


The motive, was the desire to record the said intercourse in the form
in which it now appears, that is, in letters to the committee of the
Church in Pennsylvania; which, having been written when the mat-
ters related were fresh on the mind of the narrator, is the more likely
to be a faithful exhibition of them. To have enlarged the letters
would have been incorrect; and yet, in what passed in the intercourse,
there was such connection with some points in an earlier part of the
work, as was too material to be disregarded. Although there has not
been an enlargement of the letters, nor an alteration of them in any
instance, there have been attached to them a few notes, containing
matters of less moment

The motive of the author in the Statements, is principally to record
facts, which may otherwise be swept into oblivion by the lapse of time.
For the mixing of his opinions with the facts, a reason may be thought
due. It is, that the habits of his life having exercised him much, on
subjects which have bearings on the concerns of the Church in doc-
trine, in discipline, and in worship; and his principles having been
formed with deliberation, and acted on with perseverence, not with-
out prayer to the Father of Lights for His holy guidance; there seems
to him nothing unreasonable in the wish, to give the weight of long
observation, to what are truth and order in his esteem. He' has not
the presumption to aspire to, nor the vanity to expect to share in the
direction of the concerns of the Church, after the very few years in
which there will be a possibility of his being present in her councils:
but he commits his opinions, to the issue of what may be thought in
reason due to them.

On the author's review of his Statements and Remarks, he had often
a painful sensation of the frequent prominence in them of himself.
In the way of apology, let it be remarked first, that the apparent
fault is in a great degree inseparable from the delivery of the results
of personal observation; and, secondly, that he has had more agency
than any other person, in the transactions recorded : owing to the cir-
cumstances in which he was placed; to a cause for which he can not


be sufficiently thankful, the continuance of his health and strength;
and to his having attended every General Convention, from the be-
ginning to the present time. Under the weight of these considera-
tions, he commits himself to the candor of the reader.

Of the papers in the Appendix, a great proportion are what may
be read in the printed journals; but they were thought necessary to
the series of the events presented. Those papers which were in the
private possession of the author, and were designed to have an influ-
ence on the concerns of the Church, he has thought it due to the ob-
ject of this work, to perpetuate. The printing of any document
which took the shape of a canon, has been judged unnecessary.

In regard to letters, let it be noticed, that there are none besides
those, which, like the papers above referred to, were designed to have
public influence. In private letters, there is much to confirm the
statements made, and to enlarge them, if that were the design.




THE Memoirs of the Episcopal Church edited some years ago by
the present author, being out of print; and there being none on
hand so far as is known to him, except a few copies in his posses-
sion; he lays by the following sheets, under the idea, that in the
event of a future reprint, they may be thought a desirable addition
to the volume. It will then contain whatever relates materially to
the concerns of the Episcopal Church for the space of fifty-two
years; of which the former publication was devoted to the first
thirty; and the present is limited to the remaining twenty-two.

Online LibraryWilliam WhiteMemoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America; containing, I. A narrative of the organization and of the early measures of the church. II. Additional statements and remarks. III. An appendix of original papers → online text (page 5 of 44)