That house cannot stand. -- Mark iii, 25.
The times change and we change with them. -- Proverb.
The omission of all persecuting acts from the revision of the laws in 1750 was evidence that the worst features of the great schism were passing, that public opinion as a whole had grown averse to any great severity toward the Separatists as dissenters. But the continuance in the revised statutes of the Saybrook Platform as the legalized constitution of the |Presbyterian, Congregational or Consociated Church,| and the almost total absence of any provision for exempting Congregational Separatists from the taxes levied in its behalf, operated, notwithstanding the many acts of conciliation between these two types of churches, to revive at times the milder forms of persecution. And such injustice would continue until the Separatists as a body were legally exempted from ecclesiastical rates, and until the Saybrook Platform was either formally annulled or, in its turn, quietly dropped from the statute book. But henceforth, the measure of intolerance would be determined more by local sentiment and less by the text of the law, more by the proportion of Old Lights to New in a given community. And the measure of toleration must eventually take the form of legalized rights rather than of special privileges, and this through a growing appreciation of the value of the Separatists as citizens. The abrogation of the Saybrook Platform might follow upon a reaffiliation of all Presbyterians and all Congregationalists in a new spirit of mutual tolerance and helpfulness. Whatever the events or influences that should bring about this reaffiliation, the new bonds of church life would necessarily lack the stringency of the palmy days of Saybrook autocratic rule. Consequently when such a time arrived, the Platform, at least in its letter, could be dropped from the law-book. The old colonial laws for the support of religion would still suffice to protect and exalt the Establishment, and to preserve it as the spiritual arm of the State. It so happened that toleration was granted to the Separatists at the beginning of the Revolutionary struggle, and that the abrogation of the Saybrook Platform followed close upon its victorious end. Many influences, both religious and secular, had their part in bringing about these progressive steps toward religious freedom, toward full and free liberty of conscience.
The revision of the laws completed in 1750 had been under consideration since 1742. At the beginning of the great schism, the important task had been placed in the hands of a committee consisting of Roger Wolcott, Thomas Fitch, Jonathan Trumbull, and John Bulkley, Judge of the Superior Court. The first three names are at once recognized as Connecticut's chief magistrates in 1750-54, 1754-66, 1769-1783, respectively. During the eight years that the revision was in the hands of this committee, the church quarrel had passed its crisis; the Old Lights had slowly yielded their political, as well as their ecclesiastical power; and their controlling influence was rapidly passing from them. The Old French War, with its pressing affairs, had so affected the life of the colony as to lessen religious fervor, weaken ecclesiastical animosities, and, at the same time, to develop a broader conception of citizenship.
English influence, moreover, had modified the ecclesiastical laws in the revision of 1750. The Connecticut authorities, when imbued with the persecuting spirit, did not always stop to distinguish between the legally exempt Baptist dissenters and the unexempted Separatists. This was due in part to the fact that many of the latter, like the church of which Isaac Backus was the leader, went over to the Baptist denomination. The two sects held similar opinions upon all subjects, except that of baptism. It was much easier to obtain exemption from ecclesiastical taxes by showing Baptist certificates than to run the risk of being denied exemption when appeal was made to the Assembly, either individually or as a church body, the form of petition demanded of these Separatists. The persecuted Baptists at once turned to England for assistance, and to the Committee of English Dissenters, of which Dr. Avery was chairman.
This committee had been appointed to look after the interests of all dissenters, both in England and in her colonies, for the English dissenting bodies were growing in numbers and in political importance. To this committee the Connecticut Baptists reported such cases of persecution as that of the Saybrook Separatist church, which in 1744 suffered through the arrest of fourteen of its members for |holding a meeting contrary to law on God's holy Sabbath day.| These fourteen people were arraigned, fined, and driven on foot through deep mud twenty-five miles to New London, where they were thrust into prison for refusing to pay their fines, and left there without fire, food, or beds. There they were kept for several weeks, dependent for the necessaries of life upon the good will of neighboring Baptists. The Separatists could report the trials of the Separate church of Canterbury, of that of Enfield, of the First Separate church of Milford, hindered in the exercise of its legal rights for over twenty years, and they could also recount the persecution of churches and of individuals in Wethersfield, Windsor, Middletown, Norwich, and elsewhere. Upon receiving such reports, Dr. Avery had written, |I am very sorry to hear of the persecuting spirit which prevails in Connecticut.... If any gentleman that suffers by these coercive laws will apply to me, I will use my influence that justice be done them.| The letter was read in the Assembly, and is said to have influenced the committee of revision, causing them to omit the persecuting laws of 1742-44, in order that they might no longer be quoted against the colony. Governor Law replied to Dr. Avery that the disorders and excesses of the dissenters had compelled the very legislation of which they complained. To which Dr. Avery returned answer that, while disorders were to be regretted, civil penalties were not their proper remedy. This was a sentiment that was gaining adherents in the colony as well as in England. Among other instances of persecution among the Baptists was that of Samuel, brother of Isaac Backus, who in 1752, with his mother and two members of the Baptist society, was imprisoned for thirteen days on account of refusal to pay the ecclesiastical taxes. Another was that of Deacon Nathaniel Drake, Jr., of Windsor, who, in 1761, refused to pay the assessment for the Second Society's new meeting-house. For six years the magistrates wrestled with the Deacon, striving to collect the assessment. But the Deacon was obstinate, and rather than pay a tax of which his conscience disapproved, he preferred to be branded in the hand. Outside of Baptist or Separatist, there were other afflicted churches, such as that of Wallingford, where the New Lights could complain that, in 1758, the Consociation of New Haven county had refused to install the candidate of the majority, Mr. Dana; and had attempted to discipline the twelve ministers who had united in ordaining him; and that as a result the twelve were forced to meet in an Association by themselves for fourteen years, or until 1772.
The Separatists attempted to obtain exemption through petitions to the Assembly, trusting that, as each new election sent more and more New Lights to that body, each prayer for relief would be more favorably received. One of the most important of these petitions was that of 1753, when more than twenty Separatist churches, representing about a thousand members, united in an appeal wherein they complained of the distraining of their goods to meet assessments and taxes for the benefit of the Established churches; of imprisonments, with consequent deprivation of comforts for their families; and of the danger to the civil peace threatened by these evils. The Assembly refused redress. Whereupon the petition was at once reconstructed,[a] and, with authentic records and testimonies, to which Governor Fitch set the seal of Connecticut, was sent, in 1756, to London. The Committee in behalf of Dissenters were to see that it was presented to the King in Council. The petition charged violation of the colony's charter, excessive favoritism, and legislation in favor of one Christian sect to the exclusion of all others and to the oppression, even, of some. The English Committee thought that these charges might anger the King and endanger the Connecticut charter. Accordingly, they again wrote to the Connecticut authorities, remonstrating with them because of their treatment of dissenters. At the same time, they sent a letter advising the petitioners to show their loyalty to the best interests of the colony by withdrawing their complaint. These dissenters were further advised to begin at once a suit in the Connecticut courts for their rights, and with the intent of carrying their case to England, should the colony fail to do them justice. Legal proceedings were immediately begun, but were allowed to lapse, partly because of the press of secular interests, for the colonial wars, the West India expedition, and other affairs of great moment claimed attention, and partly because there were indications that the government would regard the Separatists more favorably.
In the colony itself a change was taking place through which the college was to go over to the side of the New Lights. In 1755, President Clap had established the College Church in order to remove the students from the party strife that was still distracting the churches. In order to avoid a conflict over the matter, he refused to ask the consent of the Assembly, claiming the right of an incorporated college and the precedent of the English universities, since, in 1745, the Assembly had formally incorporated |The President and Fellows of Yale College,| vesting in them all the usual powers appertaining to colleges. In the same year, also, the initial step toward establishing a chair of divinity had been taken, and it became the first toward the founding of the separate College Church. President Clap always maintained that |the great design of founding Yale was to educate ministers in our way,| and the chair of divinity had been established in answer to the suggestion of the Court that the college take measures to protect its students from the New Light movement. President Clap was hurried on in his policy of establishing the College Church both by his desire to separate the students from the New Light controversy in Mr. Noyes's church, where they were wont to attend, and by an appeal to him, in 1753, of Rector Punderson, the priest recently placed in charge of the Church-of-England mission in New Haven. The rector had two sons in college, and he asked that they and such other collegians as were Episcopalians might be permitted to attend the Church-of-England services. President Clap refused to give the desired permission, except for communion and some special services, and he at once proceeded to organize a church within the college. The trustees and faculty upheld him, but the Old Lights, then about two-thirds of the deputies to the Assembly, opposed his course of action, and succeeded in taking away the annual grant that, at the incorporation of the college, had been given to Yale. After this, they regarded President Clap as a |political New Light,| but as the latter party increased in the Assembly, and became friendly to Yale, the college gradually reinstated itself in the favor of the legislature.
If in his petitions the Separatist demanded only exemption, only that much toleration, in his controversial writings he ably argued the right of all men to full liberty of conscience. Unfortunately, the ignorance and follies of many of the Separatists, when battling in advance of their age for religious liberty, militated against the logic of their position. Harmony among themselves would have commended and strengthened their cause, and given it a forceful dignity. They blundered, as did their English predecessors of a much earlier date, by laying too much stress upon the individual, upon his interpretations of Scripture, and upon his right of criticism. Much of their work in behalf of religious liberty took the form of pamphleteering. Again, it was their misfortune that the Establishment could boast of writers of more ability and of greater training. Yet the Separatists had some bold thinkers, some able advocates, and, as time wore on, and their numbers were increased and disciplined, the strength and quality of their petitions and published writings improved greatly. Sometimes these dissenters were helped by the theories of their opponents, which, when pushed to logical conclusions and practical application, often became strong reasons for granting the very liberty the Separatists sought. Sometimes an indignant member of the Establishment, smarting under its interference, was roused to forceful expression of the broader notions of personal and church liberty that were slowly spreading through the community. A few extracts from typical pamphlets of the time will give an idea of the atmosphere surrounding the disputants.
In 1749, a tract was issued from the New London press by one E. H. M. A. entitled, |The present way of the Country in maintaining the Gospel ministry by a Public Rate or Tax is Lawful, Equitable, and agreable to the Gospel; As the same is argued and proved in way of Dialogue between John Queristicus and Thomas Casuisticus, near Neighbors in the County.| In answer to this, and for the purpose of vindicating the religious practices and opinions of the Separatists, Ebenezer Frothingham, a Separatist minister, took the field in 1750 as the champion of religious liberty. His book of four hundred and fifty pages had for its title |The Articles of Faith and Practice with the Covenant that is confessed by the Separate Churches of Christ in this land. Also a discourse.| So influential and so characteristic was this work, that rather long extracts from it are permissible, and, with a few arguments from other writers, will serve to reflect the thought and feeling of the day, and will best give the point of view of both dissenter and member of the Establishment, of liberal and conservative; for the pamphlet of the period was apt to be religious or political, or more likely both.
Frothingham, speaking of the injustice done the Separatists, writes: --
That religion that hath not authority and power enough within itself to influence its professors to support the same, without Bargains, Taxes or Rates, and the Civil Power, and Prisons, &c. is a false Religion. ... Now, if the Religion generally professed and practiced in this land, be the Religion of Jesus Christ, why do they strain away the Goods of the Professors of it, and waste their substance to support it? which has frequently been done. And which is worse, why do they take their Neighbors (that don't worship with them, but have solemnly covenanted to worship God in another place) by the throat, and cast them into Prison? or else for a Rate of Twenty Shillings, Three or Six Pounds, send away Ten, Twenty, or Thirty Pounds worth of Goods, and set them up at Vendue; where they will generally assemble the poor, miserable Drunkard, and the awful foul-mouthed Swearer, and the bold, covetous, Blasphemous Scoffer at things Sacred and Divine, and the Scum of Society for the most part will be together, to count and make their Games about the Goods upon Sale, and at the owners of them too, and at the Holy Religion that the Owners thereof profess; and at such Vendues there are rarely any solid, thinking men to be found there; or if there are any such present, they do not care to act in that oppressive way of supporting the Gospel. Such men find something is the matter. God's Vice-regent in their Breasts, tells them it is not equal to make such Havock of men's Estates, to support a Worship they have nothing to do with; yes, the Consciences of these persons will trouble them so that they had rather pay twice their part of the Rates, and so let the oppressed Party go free.
Upon the difficulty of securing collectors, Frothingham remarks: |If it be such a good Cause, and no good men in the Society, to undertake that good Work, surely then such a Society is awfully declined, if that is the case.| Frothingham quotes the Suttler of the |Dialogue| as saying, |We have good reason to believe, that if this Hedge of human Laws, and Enclosure of Order round the Church, were wholly broken down, and taken away, there would not be, ('t is probable) one regular visible Church left subsisting in this land, fifty years hence, or, at most, not many. |To this, Frothingham replied that if by the |visible church, here spoken of,| is meant |Anti-Christ's Church, we should be apt to believe it,| for |it needs Civil Power, Rates and Prisons to support it. But if the Gospel Church, set up at first without the aid of civil power could continue and spread, why can't it subsist without the Civil Power now as well as then?| |To this day,| this author adds, |the true Church of Christ is in bondage, by usurping Laws that unrighteously intrude upon her ecclesiastical Rights and civil Enjoyments; .... And Wo! Wo! to New England! for the God-provoking Evil, which is too much indulged by the great and mighty in the Land. The cry of oppression is gone up into the ears of the Lord God of Sabbaoth.|
Frothingham thrusts at the payment or support of the ministry by taxation in his assertion that |there is no instance of Paul's entering into any civil Contract or Bargain, to get his wages or Hire, in all his Epistles; but we have frequent accounts of his receiving free contributions.| (Here, he but repeats a part of the Baptist protest in the Wightman-Bulkley debate of 1707.) Frothingham states that |the scope and burden of it [his book] were to shew ... both from scripture and reason that the standing ministers and Churches in this Colony [Connecticut] are not practising in the rule of God's word.|
The book at once commanded the attention desired by its author. It drew upon Frothingham the concentrated odium of the Rev. Moses Bartlett, pastor of the Portland church, in a fifty-four-paged pamphlet entitled |False and Seducing Teachers.| Among such Bartlett includes and roundly denounces Frothingham and the two Paines, Solomon and his brother Elisha. Elisha Paine had removed to Long Island. Returning to Canterbury for some of his household goods, he was seized by the sheriff for rates overdue, and thrown into Windham jail. After waiting some weeks for his release, he sent the following bold and spicy letter to the Canterbury assessors: --
To you gentlemen, practioners of the law from your prisoner in Windham gaol, because his conscience will not let him pay a minister that is set up by the laws of Connecticut, contrary to his conscience and consent.
The Roman Emperor was called Pontifex Maximus, because he presided over civil and ecclesiastical affairs; which, is the first beast that persecuted the Christians that separated from the Established religion, which they call the holy religion of their forefathers; and by their law, fined, whipped, imprisoned and killed such as refused obedience thereto. We all own that the Pope or Papal throne is the second beast, because he is the head of the ecclesiastical, and also meddles in civil affairs.... He also compels all under him to submit to his worship, decrees and laws, by whips, fines, prisons, fire and fagots. Now what your prisoner requests of you is a clear distinction between the Ecclesiastical Constitution of Connecticut, by which I am now held in prison, and the aforesaid two thrones or beasts in the foundation, constitution and support thereof. For if by Scripture and reason you can show they do not all stand on the throne mentioned in Psalm xciv: 20, [b] but that the latter is founded on the Rock Christ Jesus, I will confess my fault and soon clear myself of the prison. But if this Constitution hath its rise from that throne ... better is it to die for Christ, than to live against him.
From an old friend to this civil constitution, and long your prisoner.
WINDHAM JAIL, Dec.11, 1752.
In 1744, in addition to his memorials and letters, Solomon Paine had published |A Short View of the Constitution of the Church of Christ, and the Difference between it and the Church Established in Connecticut.| Frothingham, when alluding to Moses Bartlett's denunciation of himself and Paine, refers to this book in his remark, |Elder Paine and myself have labored to prove, and I think it evident, that the religious Constitution of this Colony is not founded upon the Scriptures of truth, but upon men's inventions.|
In the year 1755, the same in which he established the college church, President Clap issued his |History and Vindication of the doctrines received and established in the Churches of New England,| [c] to which Thomas Darling's |Some Remarks on President Clap's History| was a scathing rejoinder. Darling asserted that for the President to uphold the Saybrook System of Consociated Churches was to set up the standards of men, a thing the forefathers never did; that the picture of the Separatists' |New Scheme,| which the President drew, was a scandalous spiritual libel; and then, falling into the personal attacks permitted in those days, Darling adds that President Clap was an overzealous sycophant of the General Assembly, a servant of politics rather than of religion, and that it would be better for him to trust to the real virtues of the Consociated Church to uphold it than to strive for legal props and legislative favors for his |ministry-factory,| the college. To raise the cry of heresy, Darling declared, was the President's political powder, and |The Church, the Church is in danger!| his rallying cry. He concluded his arraignment with: --
But would a man be tried, judged and excommunicated by such a standard as this? No! Not so long as they had one atom of common sense left. These things will never go down in a free State, where people are bred in, and breathe the free air, and are formed upon principles of liberty; they might answer in a popish country, or in Turkey, where the common people are sank and degraded almost to the state of brutes.... But in a free state they will be eternally ridiculed and abhorred.... 'T is too late in the Day for these things, these gentlemen should have lived twelve or thirteen hundred years ago.
Among the champions of religious liberty was the Seventh-day Baptist, John Bolles. He wrote |To worship God in Spirit and in Truth, is to worship him in true Liberty of Conscience,| and also |Concerning the Christian Sabbath, which that Sabbath commanded to Israel, after they came out of Egypt, was a Sign of. Also Some Remarks upon a Book written by Ebenezer Frothingham.| These works were published in 1757, and, five years later, called out in defense of the Establishment Eobert Ross's |Plain Address to the Quakers, Moravians, Separates, Separatist-Baptists, Rogerines, and other Enthusiasts on immediate impulses, and Revelation, &c,| wherein the author considers all those whom he addresses as on a level with Frothingham, whom he names and scores for |trampling on all Churches and their Determinasions, but your own, with the greatest disdain.|
In the same year, 1762, the Separatist Israel Holly published a defense of his opinions, quoting freely from Dr. Watts and from his own earlier work, |A Seasonable Plea for Liberty of Conscience, and the Eight of private Judgment in matters of Religion, without any control from Human Authority.| This |A Word in Zion's Behalf| [d] boldly ranges itself with Frothingham and Bolles, arguing against, and emphatically opposing, the state control of religion. Holly also engaged in a printed controversy, publishing in connection with it |The Power of the Congregational Church to ordain its officers and govern itself.|
In 1767, while the Separatists still outnumbered the Baptists in Connecticut, Ebenezer Frothingham put forth another powerful and closely argued tract, |A Key to unlock the Door, that leads in, to take a fair view of the Religious Constitution Established by Law in the Colony of Connecticut,| [e] etc. In his preface he states: --
The main Thing I have in View thro' the whole of this Book is free Liberty of Conscience... the Right of thinking and choosing and acting for one's self in matters of Religion, which respects God and Conscience ... for my Readers may see Liberty of Conscience, was the main and leading Point in View in planting this Land and Colony.
Frothingham defines the Religious Constitution as |certain Laws in the Colony Law Book, called ecclesiastical, with the Confession of Faith, agreed upon by the Elders and Messengers of the Churches, met at Saybrook, especially the Articles of Administration of Church Discipline.| This Constitution Plan |gives the General Assembly (which is, and always should so remain, a civil body to transact in civil and moral things) power to constitute or make a spiritual or ecclesiastical body.|
Such power, Frothingham maintains, is contrary to reason. Citing from the Colony Law Book the statute, |Concerning who shall vote in town or Society meeting| Frothingham comments thus: --
This supposes no person to have a right to form themselves into a religious society without their [the Assembly's] leave. No, -- not King George the Third himself would have liberty to worship God according to his conscience. [Yet] any Atheist, Deist, Arian, Socinian, a Prophane Drunkard, a Sorcerer, a Thief, if they have such a freehold (as the law demands), can vote to keep out a minister. [Such a] plan challenges the sole right of making religious societies and the government of conscience. Yea, I think it assumes the prerogative that belongs to the Son of God alone.
The fines for the neglect of the established worship and for assembling for worship approved by conscience [leave] no gap for one breath of gospel liberty. For if we exercise our gifts and graces in the lawful assemblies, we are had up, and carried to prison, for making disturbance on the Sabbath. I myself have been confined in Hartford prison near five months, for nothing but exhorting and warning the people, after the public worship was done and the assembly dismissed. And while I was there confined, three more persons were sent to prison; one for exhorting, and two for worshipping God in a private house in a separate meeting. And quick after I was released, by the laws being answered by natural relations unbeknown to me, then two brethren more was committed for exhorting and preaching, and several afterward, for attending the same duties and I myself was twice more sent to prison for the ministers rates.
I have no Man or Men's persons as such, in View in my Writings, But would as much as is proper, separate Ministers, Civil Rulers, and Churches, from the Constitution, and consider this Religious Constitution as it is compiled or written, as though it was not established in this Colony; but presented here from some remote part of Christendom, for Examination, to see if it was according to the Word of God, and the sacred Right of Conscience.
In scathing terms, Frothingham attacks the |Anti-Christian| character of the Establishment and its fear that, by granting liberty of conscience, an open door for church separation would result, and thereby its speedy downfall, because of the multiplication of churches and the loss of taxes enforced for its support. Experience had taught the authorities that, even when all the people favored one form of religion, compulsory support had to be resorted to as a spur to individual contributious. Moreover, the best governments of which they knew had recourse to a similar system in order to maintain purity of religion and the moral welfare of the state. The authorities could not see, as did the champion of religious liberty, the opportunities of oppression that such a system afforded; nor could they feel with him the harshness of its taxation, nor the injustice of distraining dissenters' goods, -- or, as he phrased it, |their lack of faith in God and in God's people to uphold religion.| They certainly would not acknowledge Frothingham's charge that they seriously feared the loss of political power through the granting of soul liberty, and as a consequence the probable disintegration of the Establishment.
Frothingham argues that to suffer the existence of different sects would really strengthen the authority of the colony; since, --
when persons know that the Most High is alone the absolute Lord of Conscience; that no mortal breathing has any right to hinder them from thinking and acting for themselves, in religious affairs... the law of nature, reason and grace will lay subjects under strong obligations to their rulers, when equal justice is ministered to them of different principles, in the practice of religion. [l46]
Frothingham confutes the declaration that there was liberty of conscience in the colony, |for the separates have gone to the General Assembly with their prayers, from year to year, asking nothing but their just rights, full and free liberty of conscience, and have been, and still are, denied their request.|
Furthermore, the colony law supported criminals in prison and gave the poor man's oath to debtors, but nothing to the man who was in prison for conscience's sake. Such a one was dependent upon the charity of his friends for the very necessities of life. Such laws and the ecclesiastical constitution which they support become --
a forfeiture of the charter grant because they exercise that oppression and persecution contrary to its first intent, and are the direct cause of contention and disunion, which is repugnant to the principal design of constituting the colony; viz. that it |May be so religiously, peaceably and civilly governed as may win and invite the natives to the Christian faith.| [l47]
This |Key to unlock the Door| was probably the strongest work put forth from the dissenter's standpoint, and within three years it was followed by a legislative act granting a measure of toleration. But there were other important books of similar character. Two among these were Robert Bragge's |Church Discipline,|[f] reprinted in 1768, and Joseph Brown's (Baptist) |Letter to the Infant Baptizers of North Parish in New London.| Brown closes his book with a mild and reasonable appeal to every one to try to put himself in the place of the oppressed dissenter.[g] In Brown's argument, as in that of the majority of the dissenters, the plea is for toleration in the choice of the form of religion to be supported, and not for liberty to support or neglect religion itself. Those who believed in the voluntary support of religion were not seeking exemption as individuals, but as organized societies or churches, whose highest privilege it was to support Christ's teachings. Considered from this point of view, they were only seeking those privileges which had been granted the Episcopalians, the Quakers, and Baptists in 1727-29. Looked at from the point of view of the government, however, these Separatists varied so slightly from the legalized polity and worship, and yet withal so dangerously, that they did not deserve to be classed as |sober dissenters.| To recognize them as such would be to set the seal of approval upon all who chose to question the authority, or the righteousness, of the Saybrook system. With the fear of such an undermining of authority, and realizing the increasing tendency of churches throughout the colony to renounce the Saybrook Platform, the very conservative people felt that to grant toleration to the Separatists might prove disastrous both to Church and civil order.
While the Baptists and the Separatists were waging the battle for toleration and for religious liberty with the great weapon of their time, -- the pamphlet, -- the Consociated Churches were also making valiant use of it, not only in defense of the Establishment, but in controversial warfare among themselves, for in the New England of the second half of the eighteenth century, two schools of religious thought were slowly developing. They gained converts more rapidly as the means of communication, of publication, and of exchange of opinion increased. The improvement of roads, the introduction of carriages and coaches, the establishment of printing-presses, and the founding of newspapers, were important agents in developing and moulding public opinion. Of these, the printing-press was foremost, for with its pamphlet and its newspaper it gained a hearing not only in the cities, but in the isolated farmhouses of New England, carrying on its weekly visit the gist of the secular and religious news.
The newspaper made its first appearance in Connecticut in 1755, when the |Connecticut Gazette| [h] issued from the recently established New Haven press. The newspaper arrived later in the distant colony of Connecticut than in those on the seaboard that were in closer touch with European thought by reason of their more direct and frequent sailing vessels. Among American newspapers, the year 1704 saw the birth of the |Boston News Letter|; the year 1719, of the |Boston Gazette| and of the |American Weekly Mercury| of Philadelphia. Boston added a third paper, the |New England Courant,| in 1721, while New York issued its first sheet in 1725. Benjamin Franklin founded the |Pennsylvania Gazette| in 1729, and, in 1741, began the publication of the |General Magazine and Historical Chronicle for, all the British Plantations in America.| In 1743, Boston sent out the |American Magazine and Historical Chronicle,| containing, along with European news, not only lists of new books and excerpts therefrom, but full reprints of the best essays from the English magazines. New York, in 1752, issued the |Independent Reflector,| a magazine of similar character. Thus, through papers and magazines, as well as through a limited importation of books, and through personal correspondence, the life of Europe, and preeminently of England, was brought home to the colonists.
In the religious non-prelatical world of England, the Presbyterian churches were undergoing a transformation, and were, by 1750, prevailingly Arian. The English Congregationalists resisted Arianism, but they, also, felt its influence, as well as that of Arminianism, and they began to attach less importance to creeds, and to develop a broader tolerance of many shades of religious belief. New England sympathized more with the Congregational movement, but, as interest in both was awakened, English thought came to have great influence in the religious development of New England during the next half-century. Broadly speaking of these progressive changes, Connecticut, and Connecticut-trained men in western Massachusetts, developed the so-called New Divinity, while Massachusetts clergy, especially those of her eastern section, favored that liberal theology which, after the Revolutionary period, gave rise to the Unitarian conflict.
The older religious controversies had concerned themselves with church polity, or, popularly speaking, with what men thought concerning their relation to God through his church, in distinction from doctrine, or what men felt should be their attitude towards God and their fellow-men. Pushing aside polity and doctrine, the twentieth century emphasizes action, or man's reflection of the life of Christ. Doctrine came to the front with Jonathan Edwards. In his opposition to the Arminian teaching of the value of a sincere obedience to God's laws and |the efficacy of means of grace,| Jonathan Edwards asserted the Calvinistic idea of the sovereignty of God, and maintained that justification was by faith alone; but his idea of justification held within it the duty of personal responsibility in loving and obeying God. Edwards, though defining love as general benevolence, a delight in God's holiness, and the essence of all true virtue, did introduce, as factors in personal religion, the will and the emotions. These characteristics of true, personal religion, as his mind, influenced by the Great Awakening, conceived and elaborated them, he set forth in his |Religious Affections,| published in 1746. In his |Qualifications for Full Communion,| 1749, he again dwelt upon the same theme; but his main purpose was to uproot the Half-Way Covenant practice and the Stoddardean view of the Lord's supper. He attempted to do this by exposing the inefficiency of |means,| and at English Arminianism in particular Edwards leveled his |Freedom of the Will,| [i] published in 1754. His friend and disciple, Joseph Bellamy, put forth in 1750 |True Religion Delineated,| wherein he advances from Edwards's limited atonement theory to that of a general one. [j] In 1758, Bellamy, in brilliant dialogue, replied to |A Winter's Evening Conversation Upon the Doctrine of Original Sin in which the Notion of our having sinned in Adam and being on that Account only liable to eternal Damnation, is proved to be unscriptural,| a book by Rev. Samuel Webster of Salisbury, Massachusetts, and of which a reprint had appeared from the New Haven Press in 1757, the year of its publication. Bellamy took sides with the Rev. Peter Clark of Danvers, Massachusetts, who replied in |A Summer Morning's Conversation.| Both men summoned as their authority a work of Edwards, |Original Sin Defended,| which was about to appear from the press, and to which Edwards's followers were looking forward as the last work of their master, he having died while its pages were still in press. Edwards had destined the book to be a refutation of English Arianism of the Taylor school, of which Webster was a follower. This same year, 1758, Bellamy discoursed upon |The Wisdom of God in the Permission of Sin,| and gave a series of sermons on |The Divinity of Jesus Christ,| a defense of the Trinity, which Jonathan Mayhew of Boston had attacked. Bellamy may have felt that this defense was due from a Connecticut man because the colony, strenuously orthodox, had in the revision of the laws in 1750 added the requirement of a belief in the Trinity, and caused the denial thereof to be ranked as felony. Denial of the Trinity, or of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, was punishable, for the first offense, by ineligibility to office, whether ecclesiastical, civil, or military, and, upon a second conviction, by disability to sue, to act as guardian or as administrator. Though there was never a conviction under the statute, the presence of such a law in the colony code indicates the religious temper of her people at a time when radical changes were creeping into man's conception of religion.
Joseph Bellamy's influence, great as it was as writer and preacher, was even greater as a teacher. His home in Bethlehem from 1738 to 1790 was virtually a divinity school, and it is estimated that at least sixty students, trained in his system of theology and in his antagonism to the Half-Way Covenant, [k] spread through New England an influence counter to that of the Mayhews, Briant, [l] Webster, and other disciples of the Liberal Theology. Upon Bellamy, as a leader, fell Edwards's mantle.
While Bellamy was the great exponent of Jonathan Edwards's teachings in Connecticut, another friend and famous pupil of the great divine's, Samuel Hopkins, taught at Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 1743-69, and in Newport, Ehode Island, 1770-1803, urging an extension of his master's principles -- especially of that of |benevolence.| Hopkins, however, attributed a certain value to |means of grace,| while teaching that sin and virtue consist in exercise of the will, or in definite acts. [m] Consequently, he included in his theology a denial of man's responsibility for Adam's sin, which Edwards had maintained. Hopkins advocated also a willing and disinterested submission to'God's will, the Hopkinsian |to be saved or damned,| since God, in his wisdom, will do that which is best for his universe. These characteristic doctrines, both of Bellamy and Hopkins, were modified by the younger generation of students, notably by Stephen West, John Smalley, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., and -- greatest of all -- Nathaniel Emmons, who, together with the first Timothy Dwight, were to introduce two sub-schools of the New Divinity. [n] Emmons, following Hopkins, developed extreme views of sin, even in little children; held the theories of reprobation and election; and was most intensely Calvinistic. Dwight developed a more conciliatory and benign system of theology, but his influence, as founder of a school of religious thought, belongs to the post-Revolutionary era. Emmons held one long pastorate at Franklin, Massachusetts, 1773-1827, [o] where, as a trainer of youth for the ministry, his influence was greatest, and his powers at their best. Nearly a hundred ministers passed to their pulpits from his tutelage.
Such were the teachings that fashioned a generation of preachers, of ministers, wielding a tremendous influence over the men and measures of pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary days. The clergy were then the close friends of their parishioners; their counselors in all matters, spiritual or worldly; and frequently their arbitrators in disputed rights, for the legal class was still small, and its services costly. The pastor knew intimately every soul in his parish. He was the State's moral guardian. He was the intellectual leader and more, for, in the scarcity of books and newspapers, not alone in his Sunday sermon but in those on fast days and thanksgivings, and on all public and semi-public occasions, he talked to his people upon current events. The story is told of a clergyman who in his Sunday prayer recounted the life of his parish during the preceding week, making personal mention of its actors; who then passed, still praying, from local history to the welfare of the nation, including a tribute to Washington and a description of a battle; and who did not end his hour-long prayer until he had anathematized the enemy, and circled the globe for recent examples of divine wrath and benevolence. Such a clergyman is by no means a myth. Each pastor made his own contribution, inconspicuous or notable as it might be, to the broadening of thought, and contributed his part to the development among his people of ideas of personal liberty, even as the colonial wars were developing confidence in the ability to defend that liberty should it be endangered. A voluntary theocracy may uphold a faith which teaches that only a very limited number are of the |elect,| but, under the ordinary conditions of life, such a belief is discouraging, deadening, and as men threw off this idea of spiritual bondage, they advanced to a larger conception of personal responsibility, dignity, and freedom. Such enlargement of ideas necessitated a mutual tolerance of diverse opinions. It also tended to create revolt against infractions of civil liberty or violations of political justice. The colonists were not so badly taxed -- as colonial policy went -- when they made their stand for |no taxation without representation,| when they exhausted their resources in a long war because of acts of Parliament that, had they submitted to them, would have offered a precedent for still more repressive measures and for the overthrow of the Englishman's right to determine, through the representatives of the people, how the people's money should be spent.
If the town-meeting, the sermon, the religious or political pamphlet, and the newspaper did each its part in developing a people, there was also another factor that, starting as part of a discussion of ecclesiastical polity, brought before all men important questions of civil, political, and personal liberty, and of constitutional rights. However unnecessary the severe anguish of Jonathan Mayhew's spirit, due to his exaggerated fear of the American episcopate, he did but express |the sincere thought of a multitude of his most rational contemporaries.| [l49] A review of events will show some reason for the antagonism and horror that filled New England when the project of the episcopate was revived. After the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the Crown took no interest in the project of an American episcopate until Thomas Sherlock became Bishop of London in 1748. The Connecticut clergy of the Church of England, together with others of New England and the Middle colonies, had, however, never ceased their efforts to secure an American bishop; and now, in Bishop Sherlock, their Metropolitan in London, they had one who firmly believed in the necessity of colonial bishops, who deliberately refused to exercise the traditional powers of his office, or to obtain a legal renewal of them (in so far as they applied to the colonies), because he had determined that by such a policy he would force the English government to appoint one -- or preferably several -- American bishops. He defined his scheme for the episcopate as one in which the Bishop was: (1) to have no coercive power over the laity, only regulative over the clergy; (2) to have no share in the temporal government; (3) to be of no expense to the colonists; (4) and to have no authority, except to ordain the clergy, in any of the colonies where the government was in the hands of dissenters from the Church of England. This plan was essentially the same as that advocated later by Bishops Secker and Butler, and by succeeding bishops to the time of the Revolution. Bishop Sherlock obtained the King's permission to submit his plan to the English ministers of state. So great was the dread inspired in America by the rumors of a revival of active measures for a colonial episcopate, that a deputation, sent to England in 1749, appointed a committee of two to wait upon those nearest to the King and to advise them that the appointment would be |highly Prejudicial to the Interests of Several of the Colonies.| This committee redoubled its energies in 1750, and it was due to its watchfulness as well as to the clearer foresight of the King's ministers that Bishop Sherlock's plan was frustrated. The chief advisers of the government objected to it on the ground that it would be repugnant to the dissenting colonies, to the dissenters of all sorts in England, and would also rouse in the home-land party-differences that had slumbered since the overthrow of the Pretender in 1745.
Despite the English opposition to Bishop Sherlock's scheme, its discussion in England and the journey of the bishop's agent through the several American colonies to sound their sentiment had created so much apprehension that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel enjoined its missionaries, in 1753, |that they take special care to give no offence to the civil government by intermeddling with affairt, not relating to their calling or function.| Even Bishop Seeker of Oxford, a strong adherent of Bishop Sherlock, saw fit, in 1754, to suppress Dr. Johnson of Stratford, Connecticut, bidding his enthusiasm wait until a more propitious season, and advising him, and the rest of his clergy, to conciliate the dissenters. Bishop Sherlock, himself, in 1752, withdrew sufficiently from his first position to assume the ecclesiastical oversight of the colonies, although he would not take out a commission to renew that which had expired by the death of Bishop Gibson. Meanwhile, Sherlock's demonstration that the Bishop of London had little authority in law, or in fact, over the American colonies created two parties. One [p] held that the colonies were a part of the English nation and consequently were subject to the civil and religious laws existing in the home country, and that the authority of the Church of England extending to the colonies had been reinforced by the Gibson patent of 1727-28. The other party maintained that the colonists were not members of the Church of England, nor subject to its rules. They quoted the Lord Chief Justice, who declared to Governor Dummer, in 1725, that |there was no regular establishment of any national or provincial church in these plantations| (of New England), and that Bishop Gilman, in his letter of May 24, 1735, to Dr. Colman had written, |My opinion has always been that the religious state of New England is founded on an equal liberty to all Protestants, none of which can claim the name of a national establishment, or of any kind of superiority over the rest.| This party further maintained that no acts of Parliament, passed after the founding of the colonies, were binding upon them, unless such acts were specially extended to the colonies. Here again was the old contention that had appeared in the earlier controversy over the Connecticut Intestacy Act.
An American controversy, parallel in time with the attempt to establish the episcopate, roused the always latent New England hostility to the Episcopal church as one contrary to gospel teaching. This controversy of 1747-51 [q] broke out over the validity of Presbyterian ordination versus Episcopal. The battle surged about the contingent questions of (1) whether the Church of England extended to the colonies; (2) whether it was prudent for the long established New England churches to go over to the English communion; and (3) whether it would be lawful. In debating the last two, incidental matters of expense, of unwise ecclesiastical dependence, and of the consequent decay of practical godliness in the land, were discussed by the Rev. Noah Hobart of Stratford, Conn., who represented the Consociated churches, while Episcopacy was defended by Rev. James Wetmore of Rye, N. Y., Dr. Johnson of Stratford, Conn., Rev. John Beach of Reading, Conn., and by the Rev. Henry Caner of Boston.
This discussion at once suggested to a few far-sighted men that the bishops recently proposed, and which at the end of the Seven Years' War, in 1763, were again earnestly advocated by Bishop Seeker (who had become Archbishop of Canterbury) should not acquire any powers in addition to those suggested by Bishop Sherlock. The growing fear of such increased authority flamed out again in the Mayhew controversy of 1763-65, when all the inherited Puritan dislike to the Church of England as a religious body, and all the terror of such a hierarchy, as a part of the English state, hurled itself into argument, and threw to the front the discussion of the American episcopate as a measure of English policy, -- an attempt to transplant the Church as an arm of the State; an attempt to |episcopize,| to proselyte the colonies, and eventually to overturn the New England ecclesiastical and civil governments.[r] |It was known,| wrote John Adams fifty years later, |that neither the king nor ministry nor archbishop could appoint bishops in America without Act of Parliament, and if Parliament could tax us, it could establish the Church of England with all its creeds, articles, ceremonies, and prohibit all other churches as conventicles and schism-shops.| [s] Therefore, when England declared her right to tax the colonies, and followed it by Sugar Act and Stamp Act, the political situation threw a lurid light about the Chandler-Chauncy controversy [t] of 1767-71 as it rehearsed the pros and cons of the proposed episcopate. The New England colonies were greatly excited, and others shared the unrest, for, even where the Church of England was strongest, the laity as a body preferred the greater freedom accorded them under commissaries as sub-officers of the Bishop of London. The indifference of the American laity as a whole to the project of the episcopate; the impotence of the English bishop to attain it, thwarted as he was by the threefold opposition of the ministry, the colonial agents, and the great body of English dissenters, did not lessen the prevailing suspicion and fear among the colonists, especially among those of New England. They felt no confidence in the profession [u] that authority purely ecclesiastical would alone be accorded to the bishop, or that American churchmen themselves would long be satisfied with a bishopric so shorn of power. And already, on November 1, 1766, the Episcopalians of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had met together in their first annual convention at Elizabethtown. [v] The avowed object of their conference was the defense of the liberties of the Church of England, and |to diffuse union and harmony, and to keep up a correspondence throughout the united body and with their friends abroad.|
It was a time of drawing together, whether of the colonies as political bodies, or of their people as groups of individuals affiliating with similar groups beyond the local boundaries. Upon November 5, 1766, also at Elizabethtown, the Consociated Churches of Connecticut had united with the Presbyterian Synod of New York and Philadelphia in their first annual convention, which was composed of Presbyterian delegates to the Synod and of representatives from the Associations in Connecticut. While the general object was the promotion of Christian friendship between the two religious bodies, the spread of the gospel, and the preservation of the liberties of their respective churches, the conventions of 1769-75 determined to prosecute measures for preserving these same liberties, threatened |by the attempt made by the friends of Episcopacy in the Colonies and Great Britain, for the establishment of Diocesan Bishops in America.| Accordingly this representative body at once entered into correspondence with the Committee of Dissenters in England. In recalling these movements towards combination, one remembers that, among the dissenters, the Quakers had long held to their system of Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Meetings, to their correspondence with the London Annual Meeting, and to the frequent interchange of traveling preachers. In the years 1767-69, the scattered Baptists of New England had united in the Warren (Rhode Island) Association. It was a council for advice only, yet its approval lent multiple weight to the influence of any Baptist preacher. It urged the collection of all authentic reports of oppression or persecution, and a firm, united resistance on the part of the weaker churches. [w] The founding of Brown University, Rhode Island, as a Baptist College in 1764, gave the sect prestige by marking their approval of education and of a |learned ministry.|
To return to the subject of the episcopate, the Chandler controversy had been precipitated by Dr. Johnson of Connecticut, who, at the Elizabeth convention, urged that the opposition to the American bishops was largely caused by ignorance concerning their proposed powers and office, and that if some one would put the scheme more fully before the people, they might be won over. The task was assigned to Thomas Bradbury Chandler, who published his |An Appeal to the Public,| 1767. Dr. Charles Chauncy of Boston replied to Chandler, giving the New England view of bishops in |The Appeal Answered.| Chandler, as has been said, retorted with his |The Appeal Defended,| and the newspapers took up the controversy. The discussion turned immediately and almost entirely from the ecclesiastical aspect, with its dangers to New England church-life, to the political and constitutional phases of this proposed extension of the Church of England. The New York and Philadelphia press agitated the subject in 1768-69, while all New England echoed Mayhew's earlier denunciations of the evils to be anticipated. In the pulpit, by the study fire, and at the tavern-bar, leaders, scholars, people discussed the possible loss of civil and personal liberty. Let the bishops once be seated; and would they not introduce ecclesiastical courts, demand uniformity, and impose a general tax for their church which might be perverted to any use that the whim of the King and of his subservient bishops might propose? There is no question that this subject of the episcopate, with its political and constitutional phases, and with the considerations of personal and civil liberty involved, did much to familiarize the people with those principles upon which they made their final break with England, and helped to prepare their minds for the separation from the mother country.
In considering the various elements that contributed to the development of the national spirit, to the destruction of that provincialism so marked in the colonies before 1750, and to the creation in each of breadth of thought and clearness of vision, trade and commerce had their part. Because of them, came increasing knowledge of the widely different habits of life in the thirteen colonies. It came also from the association of the people of the different sections when as soldiers of their King they were summoned to the various wars. Still another impetus was given to the national idea by the fashion of long, elaborate correspondence. Especially was this true after the Albany convention of 1754, called to discuss Franklin's Plan of Union, had introduced men of like minds, abilities, and purpose, and also the needs of their respective sections, and had interested them in the common welfare of all. Moreover, Franklin was the highest representative of still another movement that roused the slumbering intelligence of men by opening their minds to impressions from the vast and unexplored world of natural science. He founded, in 1743, the University of Pennsylvania and the American Philosophical Society. The recognition, in 1753, [x] of his work by European scholars was an honor in which every American took pride as marking the entrance of the colonies into the world of scientific investigation. Such honorable recognition produced a widespread interest in the stuiy of the physical world and its forces. Following this awakening and broadening of the intellectual life, there came, at the very dawn of the Revolution, the first out-cropping of genuine American literature in the satires and poems of Philip Freneau of New York, a graduate of Princeton, and in those of John Trumbull and Joel Barlow [y] of Yale. New Haven became a centre of literary life, and the cultivation of literature took its place beside that of the classics, broadening the preeminently ministerial groove of the Yale curriculum.
In considering some of the individual acts leading up to Connecticut's part in the Revolution, we find that the colony had disapproved Franklin's Plan of Union of 1754. She thought it lacking in efficiency and in dispatch in emergencies, and possibly dangerous to the liberties of the colonies. She also believed it liable to plunge the colonies into heavy expense, when many of them were already floundering in debt. Yet Connecticut had, with Massachusetts, willingly borne the brunt of expense and loss necessary to protect the colonies in the wars arising from French and English claims. She, accordingly, greatly rejoiced at the Peace of Ryswick, 1763, for it gave security to her borders by the cession of Canada to England, brought safety to commerce and the fisheries, and promised a new era of prosperity. The attempt of England to recoup herself for the expenses of the war by a rigid enforcement of the Navigation Laws -- an enforcement that paralyzed commerce, and turned the open evasion of honorable merchantmen into the treasonable acts of smugglers -- grieved Connecticut; the Sugar Act provoked her, and the proposed Stamp Act drove her to remonstrance. Her magistrates issued the dignified and spirited address, |Reasons why the British Colonies in America should not be charged with Internal Taxes by Authority of Parliament.| [z] It was firmly believed in the colony that when the severity of the English acts should be demonstrated, they would at once be removed and some substitute, such as the proposed tax on slaves or on the fur trade, would be adopted. Jared Ingersoll, the future stamp-officer, carried the address to England. There it received praise as an able and temperate state-paper. Ingersoll is credited with having succeeded in slightly modifying the Stamp Act and in postponing somewhat the date for its going into effect. Having done what he could to modify the measure, and not appreciating the growth of opposition to it during his absence, he accepted the office of Stamp-Distributer, and returned to America, where he was straightway undeceived as to the desirability of his office, but made his way from Boston to Connecticut, hoping for better things. On reaching New Haven, he was remonstrated with for accepting his office and urged to give it up. But learning that Governor Fitch, after mature deliberation, had resolved to take the oath to support the Stamp Act, and had done so, though seven of his eleven Councilors, summoned for the ceremony, had refused to witness the oath, Ingersoll decided to push on to Hartford. Starting alone and on horseback, he rode unmolested through the woods; but as he journeyed through the villages, group after group of stern-looking men, bearing in their hands sticks peeled bare of bark so as to resemble the staves carried by constables, silently joined him, and, later, soldiers and a troop of horse. Thus he was escorted into Wethersfield, where, virtually a prisoner, he was made to resign his commission. The cavalcade, ever increasing, proceeded with him to Hartford, [aa] where he publicly proclaimed his resignation and signed a paper to that effect. Everywhere the towns burned him in effigy. Everywhere the spirit of indignation and of opposition spread. The |Norwich Packet| discussed the favored East Indian monopolies and the Declaratory and Revenue Acts of Parliament. The |Connecticut Courant| (founded in Hartford in 1764), the |Connecticut Gazette,| the |Connecticut Journal and New Haven Post-Boy,| [ab] and the |New London Gazette| encouraged the spirit of resistance. A Norwich minister preached from the text |Touch not mine anointed,| referring to the people as the |anointed| and arguing that kings, through Acts of Parliament which take away, infringe, or violate civil rights, touch the |anointed| people in a way forbidden by God. This Norwich minister was not alone among the clergy, for the sermons of the three sects, Baptist, Separatist, and Congregational, |connected with one indissoluble bond the principles of civil Government and the principles of Christianity.| The laity of the Episcopal church were, as a body, patriots, and so, also, were many of their clergy; but party spirit, roused by the discussion of the episcopate and of their relation to the King, as head of their church as well as head of the State, tended to Toryism. From their pulpits was more frequently heard the doctrine of passive obedience. But in all the opposition to the Stamp Act, in all the preparations for resistance, in the carrying out of non-importation agreements, in the movement that created small factories and home industries to supply the lack of English imports, and later during the struggle for independence, the Connecticut colonists, whether Congregationalists, patriotic Episcopalians, Baptists, or Separatists, worked as one.
Toward the Separatists, oppressed dissenters yet loyal patriots, there began to be the feeling that some legislative favor should be shown. Accordingly the Assembly, having them in mind, in 1770 passed the law that --
no person in this Colony, professing the Christian protestant religion, who soberly and conscientiously dissent from the worship and ministry established or approved by the laws of this Colony and attend public worship by themselves, shall incur any of the penalties ... for not attending the worship and ministry so established on the Lord's day or on account of their meeting together by themselves on said day for the public worship of God in a way agreeable to their consciences.
And in October of the same year, it was further decreed that --
all ministers of the gospel that now are or hereafter shall be settled in this Colony, during their continuance in the ministry, shall have all their estates lying in the same society as well as in the same town wherein they dwell exempted out of the lists of polls and rateable estates.
But for the Separatists to obtain exemption from ecclesiastical taxes for the benefit of the Establishment required seven more years of argument and appeal. During the time, they and the Baptists continued to increase in favor. The Separatist, Isaac Holly, preached and printed a sermon upholding the Boston tea-party. The Baptists were so patriotic as to later win from Washington his |I recollect with satisfaction that the religious society of which you are members have been throughout America uniformly and almost unanimously the firm friends of civil liberty, and the persevering promoters of our glorious revolution.| In 1774, good-will was shown to the Suffield Baptists by a favorable answer to their memorial to be relieved from illegal fines. In behalf of these Baptists, Governor Trumbull frequently exerted his influence. He also wrote to those of New Roxbury, who were in distress as to whether they had complied with the law, assuring them that the act of 1770 had done away with the older requirement of a special application to the General Assembly for permission to unite in church estate. Notwithstanding such favor, there was still so much injustice that the Baptists of Stamford wrote, during the rapid increase of the sect through the local revivals of 1771-74, that the emigration from Connecticut of Baptists was because |the maxims of the land do not well suit the genius of our Order, and beside, the country is so fully settled, as population increases, the surplusage must go abroad for settlements.|
Among the Baptists, the most vigorous champion for mutual toleration and for liberty of conscience was Isaac Backus, |the father of American Baptists,| and their first historian. In An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, Boston, 1773, after calling attention to the lack of state provision in Massachusetts as well as in Connecticut for ecclesiastical prisoners, he thus defines the limits of spiritual and temporal power: --
And it appears to us that the true difference and exact limits between ecclesiastical and civil government is this. That the church is armed with light and truth, to pull down the strongholds of iniquity and to gain souls to Christ and into his church to be governed by his rules therein; and again to exclude such from their communion who will not be so governed; while the state is armed with the sword to guard the peace and to punish those who violate the same. Where they have been confounded together no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued.
He proceeds to argue that every one has an equal right to choose his religion, since each one must answer at God's judgment seat for his own choice and his life's acts. Consequently, there is no warrant for the making of religious laws and the laying of ecclesiastical taxes. With this premise, it followed that the Baptist exemption act of 1729 was defective and unjust, in that it demanded certificates; and from this time there began a steadily increasing opposition to the giving of these papers. Backus objected to the certificates upon several grounds, chief of which were: --
(1) Because the very nature of such a practice implies an acknowledgement that the civil power has right to set one religious sect up above another.... It is a tacit allowance that they have the right to make laws about such things which we believe in our own conscience they have not.
(2) The scheme we oppose tends to destroy the purity and life of religion.
(3) The custom which they want us to countenance is very hurtful to civil society.... What a temptation then does it not lay for men to contract guilt when temporal advantages are annexed to one persuasion and disadvantages laid upon another? i.e., in plain terms, how does it tend to lying hypocrisy and lying?
In all his writings this man pleads the cause of religious liberty, and, whenever possible, he emphasizes the likeness of the struggle of the dissenters for freedom of conscience to that of the colonists for civil liberty, and argues the injustice of wresting thousands of dollars from the Baptists for the support of a religion to them distasteful, while they exert themselves to the utmost to win political freedom for all; |with what heart can we support the struggle?|
Two remarkable little books of some eighty or ninety pages that were issued from the Boston press in 1772 require a word of notice because of their hearty welcome. Two editions were called for within the year, and more than a thousand copies of the second were bespoken before it went to press. They had originally been put forth, the first in 1707, |The Churches Quarrel Espoused: or a Reply In Satyre to certain Proposals made, etc.| (the Massachusetts |Proposals of 1705|), and the second in 1717, |A Vindication of the Government of the New England Churches, Drawn from Antiquity; Light of Nature; Holy Scripture; the Noble Nature; and from the Dignity Divine Providence has put upon it.| In 1772 their author, the Rev. John Wise, a former pastor of the church in Ipswich, Massachusetts, had been dead for over forty years. In his day, he had regarded the |Proposals| as treasonable to the ancient polity of Congregationalism, and had attacked what he considered their assumptions, absurdities, and inherent tyranny. His books were forceful in their own day, serving the churches, persuading those of Massachusetts to hold to the more democratic system of the Cambridge Platform, and largely affecting the character of the later polity of the New England churches. The suffering colonist of 1772, smarting under English misrule, turned to the vigorous, clear, and convincing pages wherein John Wise set forth the natural rights of men, the quality of political obligation, the relative merits of government, whether monarchies, aristocracies, or democracies, and the well developed concept that civil government should be founded upon a belief in human equality. In his second attempt to defend the Cambridge Platform, Wise had advanced to the proposition that |Democracy is Christ's government in Church and State.|
Such expositions as these, and those in Isaac Backus's |The Exact Limits between Civil and Ecclesiastical Government,| published in 1777, and in his |Government and Liberty described,| of 1778, together with the discussion prevalent at the time, and with the logic of the Revolutionary events, opened the mind of the people to a clearer conception of liberty of conscience, though their practical application of the notion was deferred. For many years longer, persons had to be content with a toleration that was of itself a contradiction to religious liberty. Yet in May, 1777, such toleration was broadened by the |Act for exempting those Persons in this State, commonly styled Separates from Taxes for the Support of the established Ministry and building and repairing Meeting Houses,| on condition that they should annually lodge with the clerk of the Established Society, wherein they lived, a certificate, vouching for their attendance upon and support of their own form of worship. Said certificate was to be signed by the minister, elder, or deacon of the church which |they ordinarily did attend.|
Israel Holly's |An Appeal to the Impartial, or the Censured Memorial made Public, that it may speak for itself. To which is added a few Brief Remarks upon a Late Act of the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, entitled an 'Act for Exempting those Persons in this State Commonly styled Separates, from Taxes for the Support of the Established Ministry &c.'| gave in full an |Appeal| of eleven Separatist churches to the General Assembly in May, 1770. That body would not suffer the petition to be read through, stopping the reader in the midst, while some of its members went so far as to declare that |all, who had signed it, ought to be sent for to make answer to the Court for their action.| But the majority of the legislature were not so intolerant, so that during the session the act above mentioned was passed. Holly, in his book, includes with the |Appeal| a severe criticism of the new law, and, in quoting the petition, he gives a full explanation of its text as well as the comments of the Assembly upon it and their objections to parts of it. When recounting the long struggle for toleration and in detail the persecutions of the Suffield Separatists, Holly dwells upon the fact that before the recent legislation of the Assembly, the spirit of fair dealing had in some communities influenced the members of the Establishment in their treatment of the Separatists. Holly also enlarges upon the inconsistency between demanding freedom in temporal affairs from Great Britain and refusing it in spiritual ones to fellow-citizens. The |Censured Memorial| closes with an expressed determination on the part of the Separatists to appeal to tte Continental Congress if the state continue to refuse to do them justice. Holly, remarking upon the act of 1777, expresses great dissatisfaction with it as falling short of the liberty desired, and, particularly, with its retention of the certificate clause.
Such continued agitation of the rights of individuals and of churches eventually created a broader public opinion, one that, permeating the Establishment itself, tended to make its ministers resent any great exercise of authority on the part of those among them who clung to the strong Presbyterian construction of the Saybrook
Articles. Communications upon the subject of religious liberty were to be found in many of the newspapers. Two governors of Connecticut wrote pamphlets that tended to weaken the hold of the Saybrook Platform over the people. Governor Wolcott in 1761 wrote against it, and in 1765 Governor Fitch (anonymously) explained away its authoritative interpretation. The term |Presbyterian| came to be applied more frequently to the conservative churches of the Establishment, and |Congregational| to those wherein the New Light ideas prevailed. Some years later, while the two terms were still used interchangeably, the term |Congregational| rose in favor, and, after the Revolution, included even the few Separatist churches. As for the latter, they had by 1770 concluded that with reference |to our Baptist brethren we are free to hold occasional communion with such as are regular churches and ... make the Christian profession and acknowledge us to be baptized.| For some years these two religious parties attempted to unite in associations, but finding that they disagreed too much on the question of baptism, they mutually decided to give up the attempt, and separated with the greatest respect and good will toward each other. In 1783, the Presbyterians refused to meet the Separatists in the attempt to devise some plan of union between them, but did advance to the concession |to admit Separatists to Ordination with the greatest care.| The Presbyterians were beginning to realize that if the Saybrook Platform was to govern the churches of the Establishment, its old judicial interpretation must give way. An example of the revolt to be anticipated, if such interpretation were insisted upon, followed the attempt by the Consociation of Windham in 1780 to discipline Isaac Foster, a Presbyterian minister, for |sundry doctrines looked upon as dangerous and contrary to the gospel;| [ac] and a similar attempt to reprove Mr. Sage of West Simsbury drew forth such stirring retorts from Isaac Foster and from Dan Foster, minister of Windsor (who defended Mr. Sage), that church after church promptly renounced the Saybrook Platform. These churches agreed with Isaac Foster in his declaration of the absolute independence of each church and that --
no clergyman or number of clergymen or ecclesiastical council of whatever denomination have right to make religious creeds, canons or articles of faith and impose them upon any man or church on earth requiring subscription to them.... A church should be the sole judge of its pastor's teachings so long as he teaches nothing expressly contrary to the Bible. ... The Consociation has no right to pretend that it is a divinely instituted assembly with the Saybrook Platform for its charter, imposing a tyranny more intolerable on the people than that from which they are trying to free themselves.
The result of all this agitation for liberty of conscience, emphasized by its counterpart in the political life of the state and nation, was that in the first edition of the |Laws and Acts of the State of Connecticut in America,| [ad] appearing in 1784, all reference to the Saybrook Platform was omitted, and all ecclesiastical laws were grouped under the three heads entitled Eights of Conscience, Regulations of Societies, and the Observation of the Sabbath. Under the Sunday laws, together with numerous negative commands, was the positive one that every one, who, for any trivial reason, absented himself from public worship on the Lord's day should pay a fine of three shillings, or fifty cents. The society regulations remained much the same, with the added privilege that to all religious bodies recognized by law permission was given to manage their, temporal affairs as freely as did the churches of the Establishment. Dissenters were even permitted to join themselves to religious societies in adjoining states, [ae] provided the place of worship was not too far distant for the Connecticut members to regularly attend services. To these terms of toleration was affixed the sole condition of presenting a certificate of membership signed by an officer of the church of which the dissenter was a member, and that the certificate should be lodged with the clerk of the Established society wherein the dissenter dwelt. While legislation still favored the Establishment, toleration was extended with more honesty and with better grace. All strangers coming into the state were allowed, a choice of religious denominations, but while undecided were to pay taxes to the society lowest on the list. Choice was also given for twelve months to resident minors upon their coming of age, and also to widows. In any question, or doubt, the society to which the father, husband, or head of the household belonged, or had belonged, determined the church home of members of the household unless the certificates of all dissenting members were on file. If persons were undecided when the time of choice had elapsed, and they hadjiot presented certificates, they were counted members of the Establishment. Thus the Saybrook Platform, no longer appearing upon the law-book, was quietly relegated to the status of a voluntarily accepted ecclesiastical constitution which the different churches might accept, interpreting it with only such degrees of strictness as they chose. Consequently, all Congregational and Presbyterian churches drew together and remained intimately associated with the government as setting forth the form of religion it approved.
As toleration was more freely extended, oppression quickly ceased. The smaller and weaker sects [af] that appeared in Connecticut after 1770 received no such persecution as their predecessors. Among them the Sandemanians [ag] appeared about 1766, and from the first created considerable interest. The Shakers were permitted to form a settlement at Enfield in 1780. The Universalists began making converts among the Separatist churches of Norwich as early as 1772. The year 1784 saw the organization of the New London Seventh-day Baptist church, the first of its kind in Connecticut.
The abrogation of the Saybrook Platform was implied, not expressed, by dropping it out of the revised laws of 1784. The force of custom, not the repeal of the act of establishment, annulled it. As in the revision of 1750, certain outgrown statutes were quietly sloughed off. After the abrogation of the Saybrook system, the orthodox dissenters felt most keenly the humiliation of giving the required certificates, and the favoritism shown by the government towards Presbyterian or Congregational churches. This favoritism did not confine itself to ecclesiastical affairs, but showed itself by the government's preference for members of the Establishment in all civil, judicial, and military offices. If immediately after the Revolution this favoritism was not so marked, it quickly developed out of all proportion to justice among fellow-citizens.
[a] As a petition |To the King's Most Excellent Majesty in Council.|
[b] |Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by law?|
[c] The |History| is brief, and the |Vindication| is largely of President Clap's own reasons for establishing the college church. See F. B. Dexter, |President Clap and his Writings,| in New Haven Hist. Soc. Papers, vol. v, pp.256-257.
[d] |Let no man, orders of man, Civil or Ecclesiastical Rulers, majority, or any whoever pretend they have a right to enjoyn upon me what I shall believe and practice in matters of Religion, and I bound to subject to their Injunctions, unless they can convince me, that in case there should happen to be a mistake, that they will suffer the consequences, and not I; that they will bear the wrath of God, and suffer Damnation, in my room and stead. But if they can't do this, don't let them pretend to a right to determine for me what religion I shall have. For if I must stand or fall for myself, then, pray let me judge, and act and choose (in Matters of Religion) for myself now. Yea, when I view these things in the Light of the Day of Judgment approaching, I am ready to cry out Hands off! Hands off! Let none pretend a right to my subjection in matters of Religion, but my Judge only; or, if any do require it, God strengthen me to refuse to grant it.| A Word in Zion's Behalf. Quoted by E. H. Gillett in Hist. Magazine, 2d series, vol. iv, p.16.
[e] A Key to unlock the Door, that leads in, to take a fair view of the Religious Constitution Established by Law in the Colony of Connecticut; With a Short Observation upon the Explanation of the Say-Brook-Plan; and Mr. Hobart's Attempt to establish the same Plan, by Ebenezer Frothingham.
[f] Robert Bragge, Church Discipline, London, 1738. The author takes for his text 1 Peter ii, 45, and under ten heads considers the Congregational church as the true Scriptural church, its rights, privileges, etc. Under topic four, |The Charter of this House,| he says: |The charter of this house exempts all its inhabitants from obeying the whole ceremonial law:... from the doctrines of men in matters of faith,... from man's commands in the worship of God. Man can no more prescribe how God shall be worshipped, under the new testament than he could under the old.... He alone who is in the bosom of the Father hath declared this. To worship God according to the will and pleasure of men is, in a sense to attempt to dethrone him: for it is not only to place man's will on a level with God's, but above it.| -- Church Discipline, p.39.
[g] |Now suffer me to say something respecting the unreasonableness of compelling the people of our persuasion to hear or support the minister of another. Can a person who has been redeemed, be so ungrateful as to hire a minister to preach up a doctrine which in his heart he believes to be directly contrary to the institutions of his redeemer? How if one of you should happen to be in the company with a number of Roman Catholicks, who should tell you that if you would not hire a minister to preach transubstantiation and the worshipping of images to your children and to an unlearned people, they would cut off your head; would you do it? Can you any better submit to hire a minister to preach up a doctrine which you in your heart believe contrary to the institution of Christ? I do not doubt but that many of you, and I do not know but that all of you know what it is to experience redeeming love; and if so, now can you take a person of another persuasion, and put him in gaol for a trifling sum, destroy his estate and ruin his family (as you signify the law will bear you out) and when he is careful to support the religion which he in his conscience looks upon to be right, who honestly tells you it is wronging his conscience to pay your minister, and that he may not do so though he suffer?... Is it not shame? Are we sharers in redemption, and do we grudge to support religion? No: let us seek for the truth of the gospel. If we can't think alike, let us not be cruel one to another.|
[h] Connecticut Gazette (New Haven) April 1755-Apr.14, 1764; suspended; revived July 5, 1765-Feb.19, 1768. The New London Gazette, founded in 1763, was after 1768 known as the Connecticut Gazette , except from Dee.10, 1773, to May 11, 1787, when it was called The Connecticut Gazette and Universal Intelligencer.
Maryland published her first newspaper in 1727, Khode Island and Sonth Carolina in 1732, Virginia in 1736, North Carolina in 1755, New Hampshire in 1756, while Georgia fell into line in 1763.
[i] Edwards's Nature of True Virtue, written about 1755, was not published until 1765.
[j] This book, otherwise essentially Edwardean, was second only to Edwards's Religious Affections in popularity and in its success in spreading the influence of this school of theology, and it did much, in Connecticut, to break down the opposition to the New Divinity. Edwards himself approved its manuscript, and in his writings recommended it highly.
[k] In 1769-70, Bellamy wrote a series of tracts and dialogues against this practice. They were very effective in causing its abandonment by those conservative churches that had so long clung to its use.
[l] Experience Mayhew in his Grace Defended, of 1744.
Lemuel Briant's The Absurdity and Blasphemy of Depreciating Moral Virtue, 1749. This was replied to in Massachusetts, by Rev. John Porter of North Bridgewater in The Absurdity and Blasphemy of Substituting the Personal Righteousness of Men, etc.; also by a sermon of Rev. Thomas Foxcroft, Dr. Charles Chauncy's colleague; and by Rev. Samuel Niles's Vindication of Divers Important Gospel Doctrines. Jonathan Mayhew, son of Experience, wrote his Sermons (pronouncedly Arian) in 1755, and in 1761 two sermons, Striving to Enter at the Strait Gate.
Other ministers were affected by these unorthodox views, notably Ebenezer Gay, Daniel Shute, and John Rogers. This religious development was cut short by the early death of the leaders and by the Revolutionary contest. Briant died in 1754, Jonathan Mayhew in 1766, and his father in 1758. -- See W. Walker, Hist. of the Congregational Churches in the United States, chap. viii.
[m] Hopkins replied in 1765 to Jonathan Mayhew's sermons of 1761. Mayhew died before he could answer, but Moses Hemenway of Wells, Maine, and also Jedediah Mills of Huntington, Conn, (a New Light sympathizer), answered Hopkins's extreme views in 1767 in An Inquiry concerning the State of the Unregenerate under the Gospel. This involved Hopkins in further argumentation in 1769, and drew into the discussion William Hart (Old Light) of Saybrook, and also Moses Mather of Darien, Conn, (also Old Light). This attack upon Hopkins resulted in 1773 in his greatest work, An Inquiry into the Nature of True Holiness. The whole question at stake between the Old Calvinists and the followers of the New Divinity was how to class men, morally upright, who made no pretensions to religious experience.
[n] West, in his Essay on Moral Agency, defended Edwards's Freedom of the Will against the Rev. James Dana of New Haven in 1772, but his Scripture Doctrine of Atonement, published in 1785, was his best-known work. In his doctrinal views, he was greatly influenced by Hopkins. Both West and Smalley trained students for the ministry. The latter was the teacher of Nathaniel Emmons. Smalley was settled in what is now New Britain, Conn., from 1757-1820.
[o] Emmons died there, in 1840, at the age of ninety-five. Apart from his influence upon the development of doctrine, he did more than any other man to bring back the early independence of the churches and to create the Congregational polity of the present day.
[p] To fortify their position, this party cited various acts of Parliament and the Act of Union, 1707, wherein Scotland is distinctly released from subjection to the Church of England, -- an exemption, they maintained, that had never formally been extended to the colonies.
[q] On January 30, 1750, Jonathan Mayhew preached a forceful sermon upon the danger of being |unmercifully priest-ridden.|
[r] Rev. East Apthorpe, S. P. G. missionary at Cambridge, Mass., had replied to a newspaper criticism upon the policy of the Society for Propagating the Gospel in New England, in his Considerations on the Institutions and Conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Jonathan Mayhew published in answer his Observations on the Character and Conduct of the Society, censuring the Society not only for intruding itself into New England, but for being the champion of the proposed episcopate, which he denounced. This was in 1763. For two years the controversy raged. There were four replies to Mayhew. Two were unimportant, a third presumably from Rev. Henry Caner, and the fourth, Answer to the Observations, an anonymous English production, really by Archbishop Seeker. Mayhew wrote a Defense, and Apthorpe summed up the whole controversy in his Review. -- A. L. Cross, Anglican Episcopate, p.145 et seq.; footnote 1, p.147.
[s] John Adams's Works, x, 288.
[t] Dr. Charles Chauney attacked the S. P. G. as endeavoring to increase their power, not to proselytize among the Indians, but to episcopize the colonists. Dr. Chandler, of Elizabethtown, N. J., replied in An Appeal to the Public. Chauney retorted with The Appeal Answered, and Chandler with The Appeal Defended. The newspapers of 1768-69 took up the controversy.
[u] In 1767, Dr. Johnson in a letter to Governor Trumbull assured him that |It is not intended, at present, to send any Bishops into the American Colonies,... and should it be done at all, you may be assured that it will be done in such manner as in no degree to prejudice, nor if possible even give the least offense to any denomination of Protestants.| -- E. E. Beardsley, Hist, of the Epis. Church in Conn., i, 265.
[v] There were nine clergymen from Connecticut, and twenty-five from New York and vicinity.
[w] The Association had sent petitions in behalf of the Baptists to the legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Both were refused. For its Circular Letter of 1776, see Hovey's Life of Backus, p.289; also p.155.
[x] This year the Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal for his discovery that lightning was a discharge of electricity.
In 1761 the medal of the Royal Society was also awarded to the Rev. Jared Eliot of Killingworth, Conn., for making iron and steel from black ferruginous sand.
[y] John Trumbull, b.1750, d. in Michigan, 1831; Joel Barlow, b.1754, d. in Poland, 1812; Gen. David Humphreys, b. 1752, d. in New Haven, 1818. These Yale men, together with Dr. Lemuel Hopkins, were the leadjng spirits in the club known as |The Hartford Wits.| Dr. Dwight was a fellow collegian with them. Trumbull and Dwight did much to interest the students in literature. The latter was also tutor in rhetoric and professor of belles-lettres and oratory.
[z] Conn. Col. Rec. xii, Appendix. This was drawn up by the Governor and three members of the General Assembly, May, 1761.
[aa] With grim humor, he turned to one of his escort, saying that he at last realized the description in Revelation of |Death riding a white horse and hell following behind.|
[ab] The latter half of the title was omitted about 1775.
[ac] Foster replied: |One man is not to be called a 'heretick,' purely because he differs from another, as to the articles of faith. For either we should all be 'hereticks' or there would be no 'heresy' among us.... Heresy does not consist in opinion or sentiments: it is not an error of head but of will.| -- Foster, A Defense of Religious Liberty, p.47.
[ad] This revision of the laws was in charge of Roger Sherman and Richard Law.
[ae] Quakers and Baptists frequently crossed the state line to attend services in Rhode Island.
[af] There was only an occasional Romanist; Unitarians first took their sectarian name in 1815; Universalists were few in number until the second quarter of the new century.
[ag] This sect received its name from Robert Sandeman, the son-in-law of its founder, the Rev. John Glass of Scotland. Sandeman published their doctrines about 1757. In 1764, he left Scotland and came to America, where he began making converts near Boston, in other parts of New England, and in Nova Scotia. He died at Danbury, Connecticut, 1771. The members of the sect are called Glassites in Scotland, where the Rev. John Glass labored. He died there in 1773. See W. Walker, in American Hist. Assoc. Annual Report, 1901, vol. i.