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seek consecration for its Bishops from the Church of Rome. He doubted whether it were in the power of the English Church to consecrate a Bishop without a royal, and probably a parliamentary, licence also : and even if the Church of England did consecrate such a Bishop, the American Congress would probably complain that England was still claiming a supremacy over the independent States.
The Scotch Bishops, after some deliberation, expressed their warm approval of the project of Dr. Berkeley; on August 31 Dr. Seabury made his application to them, and on November 14, 1784, was consecrated a Bishop at Aberdeen by three Bishops of the Scotch Church, Bishops Kilgour, Petre, and Skinner (Bishops respectively of Aberdeen, Ross, and Moray), the whole College at that time consisting only of four Bishops. On his return to America, two or three candidates from the Southern States received Ordination at his hands.
Nevertheless, though the validity of Dr. Seabury's consecration was undoubted, and generally accepted by Churchmen in America, the state of things was not considered satisfactory, and a desire still prevailed in America to obtain consecration for their Bishops through Canterbury; and on September 27, 1785, a Convention of clerical and lay deputies met in Philadelphia to consider the subject of the Episcopate. They first applied themselves to proposing, but not establishing, such alterations in the Book of Common Prayer as they thought to be important, or such as the changed circumstances of their country required, and these they published in a book since known as the “ Proposed Book.” They next addressed themselves to the English Bishops, stating that the Episcopal Church in the United States had been severed, by the civil revolution, from the jurisdiction of the parent Church in England; acknowledging the favour formerly received from the Bishops of London in particular, and from the Archbishops and Bishops in general, through the medium of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel ; declaring their desire to perpetuate among them the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England; and praying them to consecrate Bishops to their ministry 9,
This address was presented by Mr. Adams, the American Minister, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and in the spring of 1786 an answer signed by the two Archbishops and eighteen Bishops was returned, acknowledging the receipt of the Christian and brotherly address of the Convention, but delaying measures till they had received the revised Book of Common Prayer, it having been represented to them through private sources that the alterations in the Book were essential deviations, either in doctrine or in discipline, from the Church of England.
9 Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 21.
Not long afterwards the American Convention received another communication from the two Archbishops, writing in the name of the other Bishops, saying that they expected an Act of Parliament would be shortly passed enabling them to consecrate Bishops for America, but requesting that before they proceeded under the Act, satisfaction should be given them as to the omission in the Proposed Book of the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, and of the Descent into Hell in the Apostles' Creed.
On the receipt of the second letter the Convention met on October 10, 1786; the Nicene Creed was, without debate, restored and placed after the Apostles' Creed; the clause of the Descent into Hell was, after considerable debate, also restored; but the restoration of the Athanasian Creed was negatived. The difficulties were thus mainly removed ; and on February 4 Drs. Provoost and White were consecrated Bishops for America in the chapel of Lambeth Palace, by Archbishops Moore of Canterbury and Markham of York, Bishops Moss of Bath and Wells, and Hinchcliffe of Peterborough.
Not long afterwards, although the validity of Dr. Seabury's Orders was generally accepted, all doubt, in case any existed, was removed by the consecration in England of Dr. Madison, President of the College at Williamsburg ; so that the American Church was placed in a position thenceforward to consecrate canonically its own Bishops. Thus the succession of the American Bishops at the present time has descended from the English Church as well as from the Scottish. Accordingly, at the Triennial Convention held at New York in 1792, the first Episcopal Consecration in America took place, when Dr. Claggett, who had been elected by the Convention of Maryland, was consecrated by Bishop Provoost, assisted by Bishops Seabury, White, and Madison.
Mr. Pitt is said to have stated that, had the Church of England been efficiently represented in America, it was highly probable the United States would never have separated from Great Britain. As those Clergymen whom the Church had leavened remained the most loyal subjects of the throne of England, there is strong reason for believing that this opinion was well founded; and it is a melancholy reflection what might have been the result had the State in the last century carried out more faithfully its duty to the Church, and allowed it freedom in performing its undoubted duties. The Colonies, no doubt, would have obtained their independence, but there is no reason why they should not have retained their affection for the mother country; England and America might have been saved the bitter sufferings of the War of Independence, and the world, its evident result, the horrors of the French Revolution.
Not only justice to the Church and justice to America, but common humanity, pleaded for an American Episcopate. It was stated that for part
of a diocese to be 3,000 miles distant from its Bishop had never been paralleled in the Christian world. The support of, a Colonial Episcopate was again and again urged upon the State on the score of humanity. Not only did the journey entail on those who were forced to cross the Atlantic an expense of at least £100, but it was estimated that of those who crossed it nearly a fifth part lost their lives". As a consequence the native candidates for Orders were few in number, as a further consequence more than half the churches were frequently without Clergy; whilst another evil consequence followed, that in spite of every effort that could be made to the contrary, the Clergymen who went from England were often men of irreligious lives, who went to America in order to escape the Episcopal supervision to which they would be subjected at home.
* The small pox was exceedingly fatal to Americans who visited England. Within a few years seven candidates for Orders from the Northern Colonies died during their absence from America.