Letter to the Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel

Charles Inglis

October 31, 1776

I have the Pleasure to assure you that all the Society’s Missionaries, without excepting one, in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, &, so far as I can learn, in the other New England Colonies, have proved themselves faithful loyal Subjects in these trying Times; & have to the utmost of their Power opposed the Spirit of Disaffection & Rebellion which has involved this Continent in the greatest Calamities. I must added, that all the other Clergy of our Church in the above Colonies, tho not in the Society’s Service, have observed the same Line of Conduct; & although their joint Endeavours could not wholly prevent the Rebellion, yet they checked it considerably for some Time, & prevented many thousands from plunging into it, who otherwise would certainly have done so…

The Clergy, amidst this Scene of Tumult & Disorder, went on steadily with their Duty; in their Sermons, confirming themselves to the Doctrines of the Gospel, without touching on politics; using their Influence to allay our Heats, & cherish a Spirit of Loyalty among their People. This Conduct, however harmless, gave great offence to our flaming Patriots, who laid it down as a Maxim—”that those who were not for them, were against them.” The Clergy were everywhere threatened; often reviled with the most approbrious Language; sometimes treated with brutal Violence. Some have been detained in the close Confinement for several Weeks, & much insulted, without any Crime being even alleged against them. Some have been flung into Jails by Committees, for frivolous Suspicions of Plots, of which even their Persecutors afterwards acquitted them. Some who were obliged to fly their Own Province to save their Lives, have been taken Prisoners, sent back, & are threatened to be tried for their Lives because they fled from Danger. Some have been pulled out of the Reading Desk, because they prayed for the King, & that before Independency was declared. Others have been warned to appear at Militia Masters with their Arms—have been fined for not appearing, & threatened with Imprisonment for not paying those Fines. Others have had their Houses plundered & their Desks broken open, under Pretence of their containing treasonable Papers…

The present Rebellion is certainly one of the most causeless, unprovoked and unnatural that ever disgraced any Country—a Rebellion marked with peculiarly aggravated Circumstances of Guilt & Ingratitude. Yet amidst this general Defection, there are very many who have exhibited Instances of Fortitude & Adherence to their Duty, which do Honour to Human Nature & Christianity—many who for Sake of a good Conscience, have incurred Insults, Persecution & Loss of Property; when a Compliance with the Spirit of the Times had insured them Applause, profit & that Eminence of which the human Heart is naturally so fond. Perhaps such Cases are the most Trying to a Man’s Fortitude—much more so, in my Opinion, than those which are sudden & where Danger, the more apparent, yet is not more certain or real…

Thus matters continued, the Clergy proceeding regularly in the Discharge of their Duty, where the Hand of Violence did not interfere, until the Beginning of last July, when the Congress thought proper to make an explicit Declaration of Independency; by which all connection with Great Britain was to be broken off, & the Americans releases from any allegiance to our gracious Sovereign. For my part I had long expected this event—it was what the Measures of the Congress from the Beginning uniformly & necessarily led to.

This Declaration increased the Embarrassment of the Clergy. To officiate publickly, & not pray for the King & Royal Family according to the Liturgy, was against their Duty
& Oath, as well as Dictates of their Conscience; &yet to use the Prayers for the King & Royal Family, would have drawn inevitable Destruction on them. The only Course which they could pursue to avoid both evils, was to suspend the public Exercise of their Function; & shut up their Churches. This accordingly was done…

How Matters are circumstanced in the more southerly Colonies, I cannot learn with any Certainty; only that the Provincial Convention of Virginia have taken upon them to publish an Edict by which some Collects for the king are to be wholly omitted in Liturgy, & others altered, the Word “Commonwealth” being substituted for the King. For my Part I never expected much Good of those Clergy among them who opposed an American Episcopate; if such should now renounce their Allegiance & abandon their Duty, it is no more than what might naturally be look for. There are however several worth Clergymen in those Provinces; some of whom, I hear, have taken Sanctuary in England—particularly from Maryland…

Upon the Whole the Church of England has lost none of its Members by the Rebellion as yet—none, I mean, whose Departure from it can be deemed a Loss. On the contrary, its own Members are more firmly attached to it than ever; & even the sober & more rational among Dissenters—for they are not all equally violent & frantic—look with Reverence & Esteem on the Part which Church People have acted. I have not a Doubt but with the Blessings of Providence, His Majesty’s Arms will be successful, & which Reason, Prudence & Common Sense dictate, the Church will indubitably increase, & theses Confusions will terminate in a large Accession to its Members. Then will be the Time to make that Provision for the American Church which is necessary, & place it on at least an equal Foot with other Denominations, by granting it an Episcopate, & thereby allowing it a full Toleration. If this Opportunity is let slip, I think there is a Moral Certainty that such another will never again offer…

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