A History of the Baptists
The Baptists in the American Revolution.
The Thirteen Colonies? The Policy of England?The Discovery of the Valley of the Ohio?The Population of the Country?The Social, Political and Religious Conditions?Political and Religious Freedom?The Forces Against America?George Ill?The Attitude of Pope Pius VI?John Adams on the situation?The Position of Canada?The Quebec Act?The Roman Catholics of Great Britain?The Attitude of America Toward the Roman Catholics?The Mercenaries from Germany?The Roman Catholics of Ireland?Of America?The Clergy of the Established Church of England?Rev. Charles Inglis?Foreign Born Citizens? A Conspiracy Against Washington?William Pitt?The Baptists of England?Dr. Rippon?The Baptists of America?The Warren Association?The Philadelphia Association?An Appeal to the Continental Congress?Rhode Island Favors Independence?The Baptists of Virginia?A Memorial to Congress?Soldiers?Chaplains in the Army?Oliver Hart?John Hart.
The thirteen colonies were feeble settlements in the wilderness, scattered along the coast of a continent, little connected with each other, and almost unknown to the world. Their affairs were superintended by a Board of Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. This Board had no representative in the cabinet or access to the king, hence there was always confusion. The Duke of Bedford was the Secretary at the time‑a man of inflexible honesty and good will to his country, untainted by duplicity or timidity‑of considerable ability though not brilliant‑fearless, positive, uncompromising, energetic, without sagacity, stubborn, and with a narrow range of thought. In a short while plans were laid for the taxation of the colonies, and in 1748 a convention was held at Albany with the ostensible purpose of providing against the French and Indian incursions, but the officers made known their desire to tax the colonies. The Governor of New York, followed by others, resisted this proposition.
While these plans were being put into execution the Valley of the Ohio had been discovered. This vast wilderness with broad prairies, giant forests and cloud‑piercing mountains was soon to be open to colonization. The great question was, would it be English or French? The English cabinet became enlisted and sent George Washington to the French commander. This ultimately brought on the war.
At the time of this convention at Albany the following estimate is given by the historian Bancroft of the population of this country:
They (the thirteen colonies) contained at this date (1754) about one million, one hundred and sixty‑five thousand white inhabitants, and two hundred and sixty thousand negroes; in all, one million four hundred and three thousand in Connecticut; in New England, therefore, four hundred twenty‑five thousand souls. Of persons of European ancestry perhaps fifty thousand dwelt in New Hampshire, two hundred and seven thousand in Massachusetts, thirty‑five thousand in Rhode Island, and one hundred and twenty‑five thousand. Of the middle colonies, New York may have had eighty‑five thousand; New Jersey, seventy‑three thousand; Pennsylvania, with Delaware, one hundred and ninety‑five thousand; Maryland, one hundred and four thousand; in all, not far from four hundred and fifty‑seven thousand. For the Southern Provinces, where the mild climate invited emigrants to the inland glades‑where the crown lands were often occupied on warrants of surveys without patents, or even warrants‑where the people were never assembled but at musters, there was room for glaring mistakes in the enumerations. To Virginia may be assigned one hundred and sixty‑eight thousand white inhabitants; to North Carolina, scarcely less than seventy thousand; to South Carolina, forty thousand; to Georgia not more than five thousand; to the whole country south of the Potomac, two hundred and eighty‑three thousand. The white population of any of five, or perhaps even of six of the American Provinces was greater singly than that of all Canada, and the aggregate in America exceeded that in Canada fourteen fold. Of persons of the African lineage their home was chiefly determined by climate. New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine may have had three thousand negroes; Rhode Island, four thousand five hundred; Connecticut, three thousand five hundred; all New England, therefore, about eleven thousand. New York alone had not far from eleven thousand; New Jersey, about half of that number; Pennsylvania, with Maryland, eleven thousand; the central colonies collectively, seventy‑one thousand. In Virginia there were not less than one hundred and sixteen thousand; in North Carolina, perhaps, more than twenty thousand; in South Carolina, full forty thousand; in Georgia, about two thousand; so that the country south of the Potomac may have had one hundred and seventy-eight thousand.
The following is a condensed account of the social, religious and political condition of the country at the time:
Of the Southern group, Georgia, the chosen asylum of misfortune, had been languishing under the guardianship of a corporation, whose benefits had not equaled the benevolence of its designs. South Carolina prospered and was happy. Its fiery people had increased their power by every method of encroachment on the executive and every claim of legislative self‑direction. The love for rural life prevailed universally. The frugal planter enjoyed the undivided returns of his enterprise, doubling his capital in three or four years; while the thrifty mechanic exchanged his workshop, and the merchant left the risks of the sea, to cultivate estates of their own. North Carolina had not one considerable village. Its rich swamps near the sea produced rice; its alluvial lands teemed with maize; free labor, little aided by Negroes, drew turpentine and tar from the pines of its white, sandy plains; a hardy, free and increasing people lay scattered among the fertile uplands. Careless emigrants occupied lands without an owner. Their swine had the range of the forests; the open greenwood was the pasture of their herds; their young men trolled along the brooks for fish, or trapped the beaver, or with, gun and pouch lay in wait for the deer, as it slaked its thirst in the running stream; while they reposed from their toils in pleasant sleep under the forest tree. In Virginia, the country within its tide water was divided among planters, who, in the culture of tobacco, were favored by British legislation. Insulated on their estates, they were cordially hospitable. In the quiet solitude of their life, unaided by an active press, they were philosophers, after the pattern of Montaigne, without having heard of him, learning from nature to bound their freedom of mind only by self‑circumscribed limits. The horse was their pride, the county courts their holidays; the race course their delight. Maryland enjoyed unbroken quiet, furnished no levies for the army, and small contributions of money. The scattered planters led in their delightful climate as undisturbed and as happy a life as was compatible with the prevalence of Negro slavery and the limitations on popular power by the privileges of Lord Baltimore, as prince palatine. The laws established for Pennsylvania complete enfranchisement in the domain of thought. But New York was the central point of political interest. Its position invited it to foster American union. Having the most convenient harbor on the Atlantic, with bays expanding on either hand, and a navigable river penetrating in the interior, it held the keys of Canada and the lakes. Crown Point and Niagara, monuments of French ambition, were encroaching upon its limits. Its unsurveyed island frontier, sweeping round on the north. disputed with New Hampshire the land between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut, and extended into unmeasured distances in the West. Within its bosom, at Onondaga, burned the council fire of the Six Nations, whose irregular bands had seated themselves near Montreal, on the northern shore of Ontario, and on the Ohio; whose hunters roamed over the northwest and west; whose war parties had for ages strolled to Carolina. Here were concentrated by far the most important Indian relations, round which the great idea of a general union was shaping itself into reality. It was to still the hereditary warfare of the Six Nations with the Southern Indians, that South Carolina and Massa?chusetts first met at Albany; it was to confirm friendship with them and their allies, that New England, and all the Central States but New Jersey, had assembled in Congress. But a higher principle was needed to blend the several colonies under one sovereignty; that principle existed on the banks of the Hudson, and the statesmen of New York clung perseveringly and without wavering to faith in a united American Empire.
New York had been settled under large patents of lands to individuals; New England under grants of towns; and the institution of towns was its glory and its strength. Yet in these democracies, the hope of inde?pendence, as a near event, had not dawned. The inhabitants of New England clung to the land of their ancestry, the people of their kindred, and the nationality of their language. They were of homogeneous origin, nearly all tracing their descent to English emigrants of the reigns of Charles the First and Charles the Second. They were a frugal and industrious race. Along the sea side, wherever there was a good harbor, fishermen, familiar with the ocean, gathered in hamlets; and each return?ing season saw them with an ever increasing number of mariners and ves?sels, taking the cod and the mackerel, and sometimes pursuing the whale into the icy labyrinths of the Northern seas; yet loving home, and deeply attached to their modest freeholds. In the settlements which grew up in the interior, on the margin of the greenwood, the plain meeting house of the congregation for public worship was everywhere the central point; near it stood the public school, by the side of the very broad road, over which wheels enough did not pass to do more than mark the path by ribbons in the sward. The snug farm houses, owned as freeholds, without quitrents, were dotted along the way; and the village pastor among his people, enjoyed the calm raptures of devotion, ?appearing like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year, low and humble, on the ground, standing peacefully and lovingly in the midst of the flowers round about; all, in like manner, opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.? In every hand was the Bible; every home was a house of prayer; in every village all had been taught, many had com?prehended, a methodical theory of the divine purpose of creation, and of the destiny of man.
The great dominating idea of America at this time was politi?cal liberty. They understood to a less degree the liberty of the human conscience, and do not fully grasp that conception even now. They were approximating the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The contest was certain to be long continued; and would demand exertions and sacrifices beyond anything the colonies had hitherto experienced.
The forces arrayed against them at home and abroad were formidable, George III had allied himself with many persons and nations opposed to liberty. He was on good terms with pope Pius VI. Two of the brothers of George III, William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince Edward Augustus, were received by the pope with great honor in 1777. He wrote to the Roman Catholic bishops, vicars‑apostolic, in that kingdom, to include obedience to that monarch. ?The good will of George III,? said the pope, ?makes this virtue a goodness. He is the best of sovereigns; his authority is full of mildness to Catholics. They do not bear so hard and heavy a yoke; they have been delivered from a part of the severe laws and hard conditions to which they were subjected. They now possess privileges; our brethren may serve in the army, and have obtained Catholic schools for youth. Nor has the beneficent monarch shown his goodness only to Catholics of his kingdom; he has favored and supported them in the vast Indian realms subject to his authority? (Chevelier Artant de Montor, The Lives and Times of the Roman Pontiffs, II). The pope was likewise opposed to republics and favored monarchies. ?Monarchy,? says he, ?is the most natural form of government,? and ?the populace . . . follow no wisdom and no counsel, and has no understanding of things.? The appointment of the Roman Catholic clergy in Great Britain was made by Cardinal York, who was a kinsman of George III.
The hostility of the pope was well understood by the Americans. John Adams, afterwards President of the United States, writing to the President of Congress, in an official manner, August 4, 1770, says:
The Court of Rome, attached to ancient customs, would be one of the last to acknowledge our independence, if we were to solicit it. But Congress will probably send a Minister to his Holiness, who can do them no service, upon condition of receiving a Catholic legate in return; or, in other words, an ecclesiastical tyrant, which, it is to be hoped, the United States will be too wise ever to admit into their territories (Adams, Works, VII).
The reasons for Roman Catholic hostility were manifest. Practically all of the colonies had severe anti‑papal laws on‑their statute books. Likewise, the House of Bourbon had banished the Jesuits from France, and the French favored the claims of the United States. ?The rancor of the Jesuits,? says Bancroft, ?against the house of Bourbon for exiling them from France and Spain was relentless. The Roman Catholic clergy in the insurgent British colonies had been superintended by a person who resided in London; and during the war they were directed by Jesuits who favored the British? (Bancroft, History of the Constitution, I). Marbois, the French Minister, wrote to Rayneval, from Philadelphia, August 15, 1784, as follows: ?The Catholics, always directed by the Jesuits in the country, have been illdisposed to the Revolution, they are not better disposed toward us? (Bancroft, I.).
It was hoped by some that Canada would make the fourteenth State in the American Union. The Quebec Act was passed by Parliament, June, 1774, the effect of which was to make Canada a Roman Catholic province. Some of the wisest and best men in England opposed this measure. The spirit of the opposition to the Act in England may be seen in the attitude of Sergeant Glynn, backed by many other members of Parliament. He represented Middlesex and was the Recorder of London. Lord Chatham described him as being ?a most ingenius, solid, pleasing man, and the spirit of the constitution itself? (Chatham, Correspondence, III). Mr. Glynn said:
Considering, therefore, Sir, that the laws about to be given to the Canadians are the French laws; that the religion, as far as it becomes a subject of legal attention, is to be the Roman Catholic religion; that the Protestant religion is no wise taken notice of than as being one that ought to be tolerated; and that, whatever the disposition of the governor from whom they receive those laws may be, the government will be as absolute as any king of France could make it, and that without an irresistible necessity. I am persuaded that no gentleman, who carefully attends to the subject, and reflects upon the consequences, can, as a friend to the British Constitution, give his consent to the bill now before us (Cavendish, Debates in the House of Commons, A.D., 1774).
Perhaps there was not a prominent Roman Catholic in Great Britain who did not endorse the war against America. There is an important paper to that effect called ?an Address of the Roman Catholic Peers and Commons of Great Britain,? to the king, dated May 2, 1776, published in the London Gazette. It expresses their appreciation of the constitution and their loyalty to it. And that for years ?their conduct has been irreproachable,? they are going to stand by the king in ?public danger,? and are ?perfectly ready, on every occasion, to give proofs of our fidelity.? The address further says:
We beg to assure your majesty, that our dissent from the legal establishment, in matters of religion, is purely conscientious; that we hold no opinions averse to Your Majesty?s government, or repugnant to the duties of good citizens. And we trust that this has been shown decisively by our irreproachable conduct for many years past, under circumstances of public discountenance and displeasure, than it can be manifested by any declaration whatever.
In a time of public danger, when Your Majesty?s subjects can have but one interest, and ought to have but one wish and one sentiment, we humbly hope it would not be deemed improper to assure Your Majesty of our unreserved affection to your government, of our unalterable attachment to the cause and welfare of this our common country and our utter detestation of the designs and views of any foreign power, against the dignity of your Majesty?s crown, and safety and tranquility of Your Majesty?s subjects.
The delicacy of our situation is such that we do not presume to point out the particular means by which we may be allowed to testify our zeal to Your Majesty, and our wishes to serve our country; but we entreat leave faithfully to assure Your Majesty, that we shall be perfectly ready, on every occasion, to give such proofs of our fidelity, and the purity of our intentions, as Your Majesty?s wisdom, and the sense of the nation, shall at any time deem excellent (Almon, The Remembrancer, VI, 133‑135).
This Address was signed by two hundred and five Peers and Commoners, all Roman Catholics.
The acts of the British government were followed by the most solemn protests from all parts of the country; the crown was asked not to sign the Quebec Act; and there were many riots. The American Congress, October 21, 1774, sent an Address to the people of Great Britain. It not only gives the attitude of the Americans in general; but in particular is clear upon the religious side of the controversy. Altogether it is a fearless and plainspoken expression of convictions. It was signed by George Washington and many others.
At the risk of length some of the statements are here quoted:
We think the legislature of Great Britain is not authorised, by the constitution, to establish a religion, fraught with sanguinary and impious tenets, or to erect an arbitrary form of government, in any quarter of the globe. Those rights we, as well as you, deem sacred; and yet, sacred as they are, they have with many others, been repeatedly and flagrantly violated.
At the conclusion of the late war?a war rendered glorious by the abilities and integrity of a Minister to whose efforts the British Empire owes its safety and its fame: At the conclusion of the war which was succeeded by an inglorious peace, formed under the auspices of a Minister of principles and of a family unfriendly to the Protestant cause and inimical to liberty: We say, at this period and under the influence of that man, a plan for the enslaving of your fellow subjects in America was concerted, and has been ever since pertinaciously carried into execution.
Nor mark the progression of the ministerial plan for enslaving us. Well aware that such hardy attempts to take our property from us, to deprive us of that valuable right of trial by jury, to seize our persons and to carry us for trial to Great Britain, to blockade our ports, to destroy our charters, and to change our form of government, would occasion great discontent in the Colonies, which might produce opposition to these measures, an act was passed to protect, indemnify and screen from punishment, such as might be guilty even of murder, in endeavoring to carry their oppressive edicts into execution; and by another act the Dominion of Canada is to be extended, modeled and governed, as by being disunited from us, detached from our interests, by civil as well as religious prejudices, that by their numbers daily swelling with Catholic emigrants from Europe, and by their devotion to administration so friendly to their religion, they might become formidable to us, and on occasion be fit instruments, in the hands of power, to reduce the free Protestant Colonies to the same state of slavery with themselves.
This was evidently the object of the act; and in this view, being extremely dangerous to our liberties and quiet, we cannot further forbear complaining of it, as hostile to British America. Superadded to these considerations we cannot help deploring the unhappy condition to which it has reduced the many English settlers, encouraged by the royal proclamation, promised the enjoyment of all of their rights, have purchased estates in that country. That they are now the subjects of an arbitrary government, deprived of trial by jury, and when imprisoned, cannot claim the benefit of the habeas corpus act, that great bulwark and palladium of English liberty. Nor can we suppress our astonishment, that a British Parliament can ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion through every part of the world. This being a true state of facts, let us beseech you to consider what end they lead (Journal of Congress, 1774, I, 27, 30).
The mercenaries sent over from Germany by Great Britain to fight the Americans were the soldiers of a Roman Catholic prince, Frederich II, Landgrave of Hesse‑Cassel. ?This prince,? says Lowell, ?was the Catholic ruler of a Protestant country. His first wife had been an English princess, a daughter of George II. She had separated herself from the Landgrave on his conversion to Catholicism, and returned to Henau, with her precious son.
?Frederich had led a merry life of it at Cassel. He had taken to himself a cast‑off mistress of the Due de Bullion, but he set up no pretentions to fidelity, and is said to have had more than one hundred children. A French theater, with a corp de ballet, was maintained. French adventurers, with good letters, obtained a welcome, and even responsible positions of State? (Lowell, The Hessians).
The Roman Catholics of Ireland were mustered into the service as soldiers. The methods used by the priests and others to induce them to enlist in the army are very interesting.
At first many of the Irish Catholics of America enlisted in the colonial army; but under the pressure of the priesthood many of them deserted and went over to the enemy. In reply to Dr. Shea, a Roman Catholic author, who said: ?The Catholics spontaneously, universally and energetically give their adhesion to the cause of America, and, when the time came, to American independence? (Shea, Catholics and Catholicity in the Days of the American Revolution). Martin I. Griffin, a very able Roman Catholic, wrote as follows:
Every sentence is an error. When we know how Catholics had fared at the hands of their fellow colonists, and remember the deep anti-Catholic hostility to ?Papists? in the early days of the Revolution, as we will find in the neat Researches fully set forth, we regard it to the credit of the Catholics who were Tories, rather than an ignominy. Think of how they were reviled, even in Pennsylvania, where, ?alone their rights were recognized? by law, and think if possible that all would ally themselves with the haters of their faith; just as probable that Catholics of our day would do so with the church burners of 1844, or the Know Nothings of later or present days.
Then apart from the religious aspect, but viewing the contest politically, why should Catholics have been all on one side? Could none have honestly thought the demands of the Colonists unfounded in law or justice? Could none have honestly declined to be approvers of the many outrages which were committed and which were sought to be excused because ?much must be pardoned in the spirit of liberty?? Were no Catholic subject to British official or personal influence and moved to no self‑interest to take the side of Britain? If it is such a glory to have been ?a Whig? that it is eternal infamy to have been a Loyalist, then the Catholics of Canada, who by the authority of the clergy were kept loyal, must now merit execration for their obedience, as they suffered by excommunication for assisting ?the Bostonians? (American Catholic His?torical Researches, VI).
Likewise consideration must be taken of the attitude of the clergy of the Established Church of England. Some of the peo?ple adhered to the mother country, but that number was not large. At the close of the Revolutionary War scarcely an Epis?copal clergyman remained in the country. That church was completely destroyed. At the beginning of the struggle a large number of the clergy at once assumed a position on the side of England, and against the liberty of the colonies. They brought the subject into their pulpits; they denounced the people as in?surrectionists and traitors; and commanded them to abandon the rebellion, and submit, without resistance, to their legitimate rulers. So offensive were the sermons of some of them, that the citizens felt themselves insufferably outraged. On one occasion at least, a clergyman, after a Sunday?s vaporing in the pulpit, was seized by the congregation, carried into a neighboring forest, fastened to a tree, and there received thirty‑nine lashes vigor?ously administered. Another, to avoid a like fate, carried his pistols into the pulpit, and laying them by the side of his prayer book, in the presence of the assembly, told the congregation that he should proceed with the service; that England had a right to govern them; that he would read all the prayers for the king, the royal family, and the government; and that he would shoot any man who attempted to restrain him. Not many of the clergy, however, were so intrepid. The fearful and the faint?hearted, therefore, fled with all practical haste (Howell, The Early Baptists of Virginia).
The attitude of the clergy of the Episcopal Church is well illustrated by the extract given below from a letter written from New York by Rev. Charles Inglis, Rector of Trinity Church, under date of October 31, 1776, addressed to Dr. Hind, of England.
The present rebellion is certainly one of the most causeless, unprovoked, and unnatural that ever disgraced any country; a rebellion with peculiarly aggravated circumstances of guilt and ingratitude...
The (Episcopal) clergy, amidst this scene of tumult and disorder, went on steadily with their duty; in their sermons, confining themselves to the doctrines of the Gospel, without touching on politics; using their influence to allay our hearts and cherish a spirit of loyalty among their people. This conduct, however harmless, gave great offence to our flaming patriots, who laid it down as a maxim, ?That those who were not for them were against them.?
Thus matters continued; the clergy proceeding regularly in the discharge of their duty where the hands of violence did not interfere, until the beginning of last July, when Congress thought proper to make an explicit declaration of independency, by which all connection with Great Britain was to be broken off, and the Americans released from any allegiance to our gracious sovereign...The only course which they (the clergy) could pursue, was to suspend the public exercise of their function, and shut up their churches.
This was accordingly done. It was very remarkable that although the clergy of those provinces I have mentioned did not, and, indeed, could not, consult each other on this interesting occasion, yet all fell upon the same method in shutting up their churches (The Congregational Quarterly, July, 1880, II, 312).
Surrounded as the patriots were by Tories and opposed by foreign armies yet they had friends in England. When William Pitt stated in the House of Commons, May 30, 1781, that ?the American war was conceived in injustice and nurtured in folly, and that it exhibited the highest moral turpitude and depravity, and that England had nothing but victories over men struggling in the holy cause of liberty, or defeats which filled the land with mourning for the loss of dear and valuable relatives slain in a detested and impious quarrel?; and when six months later, in the same assembly, and two days after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown had been published in England, the eloquent Fox adopted the words of Chatham, uttered at the beginning of the Revolution, and said: ?Thank God that America has resisted the claims of the mother country!? (Hums, Smollett and Farr, History of England, III); and Burke and others in the same legislature, spoke words of kindred import, full of peril to themselves, they expressed the sentiments of the Dissenters of England, and especially those of the Baptists.
When Robert Hall, the future eloquent preacher, was a little boy, he heard John Ryland, of Northampton, a man of commanding influence among the Baptists, say to his father:
If I were Washington I would summon all the American officers, they should form a circle around me, and I would address them, and we would offer a libation in our own blood, and I would order one of them to bring a lancet and a punch bowl, and we would bare our arms and be bled; and when the bowl was full, when we all had been bled, I would call on every man to consecrate himself to the work by dipping his sword into the bowl and entering into a solemn covenant engagement by oath, one to another, and we would swear by Him that sits upon the throne and liveth forever and ever, that we would never sheathe our swords while there was an English soldier in arms remaining in America (Robert Hall, Works, IV.).
Dr. Rippon, of London, in a letter written to President Manning, of Rhode Island College, May 1, 1784, says:
I believe all of our Baptist ministers in town, except two, and most of our brethren in the country were on the side of the Americans in the late dispute...We wept when the thirsty plains drank the blood of our departed heroes, and the shout of a king was among us when your well fought battles were crowned with victory; and to this hour we believe that the independence of America will, for a while, secure the liberty of this country, but if that continent had been reduced, Britain would not have long been free (Backus, II).
So great was the peril and the uncertainty of the actions of foreign born persons that the generals in the army could only trust native born citizens. General Gates issued the following orders from headquarters, Cambridge, July 7, 1775:
The General has great reason, and is highly displeased with the negligence and inattention of those officers who have placed as sentries at the outposts men with whose characters they are not acquainted. He therefore orders that for the future no man shall be appointed to these important stations who is not a native of this country, or has a wife and family in it, to whom he is known to be attached. This order is to be understood as a standing one, and the officers are to give obedience to it, at their peril (American Archives, 4th Series, II, 1834).
The next day the General gave orders for the enlistment of men as follows:
You are not to enlist any person who is not an American born, unless such a person has a wife and family, and is a settled resident of this country (American Archives, II, 1368).
After the great conspiracy on the life of Washington the life guard was reorganized, April 30, 1777. Washington was then at Morristown, New Jersey. He sent to the commanders the fol?lowing confidential letter:
Sir: I want to form a company for my guard. In doing so I wish to be extremely cautious, because it is no more than probable that in the course of the campaign my baggage, papers and other matter of great public import may be committed to the sole care of these men.
This being promised, in order to impress you with proper attention in the choice, I have to request that you will immediately furnish me with four men of your regimant; and as it is my further wish that this company should look well, and be nearly of a size, I desire that none of the men shall exceed in stature 5 feet 10 inches, nor fall short of 5 feet 9 inches??that possesses the pride of appearing neat and soldier like?am satisfied that there can be no absolute security for the fidelity of this class of people, but yet I think it most likely to be found in those who have family connections in the country. You will, therefore, send me none but natives. I must insist in making the choice you will give no intimation of my preference for natives, as I do not want to create any invidious distinction between them and foreigners (Philadelphia Ledger, December 14, 1896, from the New York Sun).
These statements give a good insight into the perils which surrounded the Americans in the period of the Revolutionary War. They were surrounded with enemies from without; and Tories and traitors within. The most careful watchfulness was demanded. Only patriots could be trusted; and true men with the American spirit and liberty were imperatively demanded. The Baptists were such men. They were accustomed to a hardy life; had long. been trained in the rugged school of experience; were loyal and trusted citizens; and above all were endued with the spirit of wisdom and liberty. Not a man of them proved a traitor. They cast their united strength into the American cause.
The Baptists were among the first of the religious bodies to recognize the authority of the Continental Congress. The War?ren Association of New England recognized the Congress as the highest civil resort. A Convention in the county of Suffolk, at this time the head county in Massachusetts, gave countenance to the Congress, in these words: ?This county, confiding in the wisdom and integrity of the Continental Congress, now sitting in Philadelphia, will pay all due respect and submission to such measures as may be recommended by them to the colonies, for the restoration and establishment of our just rights, civil and religious.? These resolves were carried by Backus to the Con?tinental Congress and were as follows, as represented by the Warren Association:
To the Honorable Delegates of the several colonies in North America, met in a general Congress in Philadelphia
Honorable Gentlemen: As the Antipedobaptist churches in New England are most heartily concerned for the preservation and defense of the rights and privileges of the country, and are deeply affected by the encroachments of the same, which have lately been made by the British parliament, and are willing to unite with our dear countrymen, vigorously to pursue every prudent measure for relief, so. we would beg leave to say that, as a distinct denomination of Protestants, we con?ceive that we have an equal claim to charter rights, with the rest of our fellow subjects; and yet have long been denied the free and full enjoy?ment of those rights, as to the support of religious worship. Therefore we, the elders and brethren of the twenty Baptist churches met in Association in Medfield, twenty miles from Boston, September 14, 17?44, have unanimously chosen and sent unto you the reverend and beloved Isaac Backus as our agent, to lay our case, in these respects, before you, or otherwise to use all the prudent means he can for our relief.
John Gano, Moderatos,
Hezekiah Smith, Clerk.
(Backus, A History of New England with particular reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, II).
All kinds of indignities were cast upon the Baptists. It is re?lated that on one occasion they met in a field by the river side, where prayers were made, and a sermon begun, when the chief officers of the town, with many followers, came and interrupted their worship. The owner of the field warned them to depart out of it if they would not peaceably; but they refused to go. The Baptist ministers desired them to act like men, if they would not act like Christians; and reminded them of the liberty of con?science which is generally allowed, and even by the powers with which we were at war, and began to open the divine warrant therefor, upon which an officer said: ?Don?t quote Scripture here!? Another of them, who was a communicant in their church, cast the odious name, Tory, upon one of those candidates for baptism. And he no sooner attempted to discover the injustice thereof, than the officer said, ?Hold your tongue, I?ll beat your teeth down your throat!? And a dog was carried into the river and plunged, in evident contempt of our sentiments. A gentleman of the town then invited the Baptists to hold their meetings at his house, which was near another river. They accepted the invitation, and so went through with their worship; at the close of which a man was hired with a bowl of liquor to go into the river, and dip another two or three times over; where also two or three more dogs were plunged after which three officers of the town came into the house where the Baptist ministers were, and advised them immediately to depart out of the town for their own safety. Being asked whether their lives would be in danger if they did not depart, no answer was returned. But seeing their temper, the Baptists agreed to disperse, and to meet at a different place of water; which was done, and those six persons were decently baptized, though further abuse was offered at the close of it.
The grievances in the Philadelphia Association were likewise severe. That Association, in 1774, stated:
The case of our brethren suffering under ecclesiastical oppression in New England, being taken under consideration, it was agreed to recom?mend to our churches to contribute to their necessities, agreeable to the pattern of the primitive churches, who contributed to the relief of the dis?tressed brethren in Judea. And that the money raised for them be re?mitted to Mr. Backus, in conjunction with the committee of advice in said colony, distributed to the brethren.
The case of our brethren above considered induced us to appoint a committee of grievances, who may from time to time receive accounts of the sufferings and difficulties of our friends and brethren in the neighbor?ing colonies; and meet as often as shall appear needful in the city of Philadelphia, to consult upon and to prosecute such measures for their relief, as they shall judge most expedient; and may correspond with the Baptist committee in the Massachusetts Bay, or elsewhere (Minutes of the Philadelphia Association, 141, 142).
On that committee, among others, was appointed Rev. Sam?uel Jones, who cooperated with Backus in presenting the Baptist petition to the Continental Congress. In the year 1807 he preached the ?Century Sermon? before the Association. He made the following remarks:
When the first Congress met in this city, I was one of the com?mittee under the appointment of your body, that, in company with the late Rev. Isaac Backus, Massachusetts, met the delegates in the Con?gress from that State, in yonder State House, to see if we could not obtain some security for that liberty, for which we were then fighting and bleeding by their side. It seemed unreasonable to us, that we should be called upon to stand up with them in defence of liberty, if, after all, it was to be liberty of one party to oppress the other.
But our endeavors availed us nothing. One of them told us that if we meant to effect a change in their measures, respecting religion, we might as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens (Minutes, 459, 460).
The Continental Congress made the following reply to the petition of the Baptists:
In Provincial Congress, Cambridge, December 9, 1774.
On reading the memorial of the Reverend Isaac Backus, agent of the Baptist churches in this government
Resolved, That the establishment of civil and religious liberty, to each denomination in the province, is the sincere wish of this Congress. But being by no means vested with powers of civil government, whereby they can redress the grievances of any person whatever, they therefore recommend to the Baptist churches, that when a General Assembly shall be convened in this colony, they lay the real grievances of said churches before the same, when and where their petition will most certainly meet with all that attention due to the memorial of a denomination of Christians so well disposed to the public weal of their country.
By order of Congress.
John Hancock, President.
A true extract from the minutes.
Benjamin Lincoln, Secretary.
The first colony to take an official stand against Great Britain was Rhode Island (Benjamin Cowell, The Spirit of ?76 in Rhode Island, 42, Boston, 1850). This was twenty‑two days before Virginia acted. However reluctant other portions of the continent may have been to entertain the idea of a final separation from the Mother Country, in this colony the desire for absolute independence was early conceived and steadily followed. The democratic character of Rhode Island enabled the legislature to represent fairly and fully the will of the people, and their will was, at all hazards, to preserve that charter, albeit at the expense of their former loyalty.
?The Baptists have always been,? says Morgan Edwards, ?more numerous than any other sect of Christians in Rhode Island; two‑fifths of the inhabitants, at least, are reputed Baptists. The governors, deputy‑governors, judges, assembly men and officers, civil and military, are chiefly of that persuasion.
?The first work of the Rhode Islanders after their incorporation in 1644, was to make a law that ?Every man who submits peaceably to civil government in this Colony shall worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience without molestation?? (Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society, VI. 304) .
The date of the withdrawal of the colony from Great Britain was May 4, 1776, two months before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The matter came up on an act to repeal an act entitled: ?An act for the more effectually securing to his Majesty the allegiance of his subjects, in his colony and dominion of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,? and altering the forms of commissions, of all writs and processes in the Courts, and of the oaths prescribed by law. The following recital of the misdeeds of George III is included in the act:
WHEREAS, in all States, existing by compact, protection and allegiance are reciprocal, the latter being only due in consequence of the former; and, WHEREAS, George the Third, King of Great Britain, forgetting his dignity, regardless of the compact most solemnly entered into, ratified and confirmed to the inhabitants of this colony, by his illustrious ancestors, and, till of late, fully recognized by him, ?and entirely departing from the duties and character of a good king, instead of protecting, is endeavoring to destroy the good people of this Colony, and of all the United Colonies, by sending fleets and armies to America, to confiscate our property, and spread fire, sword, and desolation throughout our country, in order to compel us to submit to the most debasing and detestable tyranny; whereby we are obliged by necessity, and it becomes our highest duty, to use every means which God and nature have furnished us, in support of our invaluable rights and privileges, to oppose that power which is exerted only for our destruction (Arnold, History of the State of Rhode Island, II).
The people were tremendously in earnest. They immediately removed the artillery from the royal fort to be used by the colonists. When the Declaration of Independence was announced they were enthusiastic with shouts of ?Liberty o?er and o?er the globe.? ?The Rhode Islanders were such ardent patriots,? says Farr, ?that after the capture of the island by Sir Peter Parker, it required a great body of men to be kept there, in perfect idleness for three years to retain them in subjection? (Hume, Smollett and Farr, History of England, III). Governor Green, in a dispatch to General Washington, says that ?some times every fencible man in the State, sometimes a third, other times a fourth part, was called out for duty? (Collections of Rhode Island Historical Society, VI, 290) .
The Baptists in Virginia took a bold stand. ?The Baptists,? says Dr. Hawks, ?were not slow to discover the advantageous position in which the political troubles of the country placed them. Their numerical strength was such as to make it important to both sides to secure their influence. They knew this, and therefore determined to turn the circumstance to their profit as a sect. Persecution had taught them not to love the Establishment, and they now saw before them a reasonable prospect of overturning it entirely. In their Association, they had calmly discussed the matter, and resolved upon their course; in this course they were consistent to the end, and the war which they waged against the church was a war of extermination? (Hawks, Contributions to Ecclesiastical History).
The Baptists of South Carolina likewise took a noble stand. Richard Furman, a young man, was pastor in Charleston. ?He was an ardent advocate of rebellion. Everywhere, on stumps and in barns, as well as in pulpits, he preached resistance to Britain. Pursued by the Tories, young Furman fled to the American camp, and there by his prayers and eloquent appeals so reassured the patriots that Cornwallis is said to have remarked that ?he feared the prayers of that godly youth more than the armies of Sumter and Marion?? (McCrady, History of South Carolina under the Royal Government, 456, New York, 1899) .
The colonists did not decide on a final resistance to England till 1776. The Baptists, in 1775, anticipated this action by a year. In a Memorial to the House of Burgesses soldiers were promised; the overthrow of the Establishment suggested; and the parity of all ministers requested. The Memorial is quite informing and is as follows:
To the Hon. Peyton Randolph, Esq., and the several delegated Gentlemen, convened at Richmond, to concert Measures conducive to the Good and Wellbeing of this Colony and Dominion, the humble Address of Virginia Baptists, now Associated in Cumberland, by Delegates from the several Churches.
Gentlemen of the Convention?While you are (pursuant to the important Trust reposed in you) acting as the Guardians of the Rights of your Constituents, and pointing out to them the Road of Freedom, it must needs afford you an exalted satisfaction to find your Determinations not only applauded, but cheerfully complied with by a brave and spirited people. We, however, distinguished from the Body of our Countrymen by appellatives and sentiments of a religious nature, do nevertheless look upon ourselves as Members of the same Commonwealth, and, therefore, with respect to matters of a civil nature, embarked in the same common Cause.
Alarmed at the shocking Oppression which in a British Cloud hangs over the American Continent, we, as a Society and part of the distressed State, have in our Association consid?d what part might be most prudent for the Baptists to act in the present unhappy Contest. After we had determined ?that in some Cases it was lawful to go to War, and also for us to make a Military resistance against Great Britain, in regard to their unjust Invasion, and tyrannical Oppression of, and repeated Hostilities against America,? our people were all left to act at Discression with respect to inlisting, without falling under Censure of our Community. And as some have inlisted, and many more likely to do so, who will have earnest Desires for their Ministers to preach to them during the Campaign, we therefore delegate .and appoint our well beloved Brethren in the Ministry, Elijah Craig, Jeremiah Walker and John Williams, to present this address and to petition you that they may have free Liberty to preach to the Troops at convenient Times without molestation or abuse; and we are conscious of their strong attachment to American Liberty, as well as their soundness in the principles of the Christian Religion, and great usefulness in the Work of the Ministry, we are willing that they may come under your examination in any Matters you may think requisite.
We conclude with our earnest prayers to Almighty God for his Divine Blessing on your patriotic and laudable Resolves, for the good of Mankind and American Freedom, and for the success of our Armies in Defence of our Lives, Liberties and Properties. Amen.
Sign?d by order and in behalf of the Association the 14th of August, 1775.
Sam?1 Harries, Moderator.
John Waller, Clerk.
(American Archives, Fourth Series, 1775, III, 383).
In reply the Convention passed the following resolution:
Resolved, That it be an instruction to the commanding officers of the regiment or troops to be raised, that they permit dissenting clergymen to celebrate divine worship, and to preach to the soldiers, or to exhort from time to time, as the various operations of the military service may permit, for the ease of such scrupulous consciences as may not choose to attend divine service as celebrated by the chaplain (Journal of the Convention of 1775, 17).
The growing influence of the Baptists and their unanimity made them most formidable in elections. ?The influence of the denomination,? says Howison, ?was strong among the common people, and was beginning to be felt in high places. In two points they were distinguished. No class of people in America were more devoted advocates of the principles of the Revolution; none more willing to give their money and goods to their country; none more prompt to march to the field of battle, and none more heroic in actual combat than the Baptists of Virginia. Secondly, in their hatred of the church Establishment? (Howison, History of Virginia, II, 170. Richmond, 1848).
Thoughtfully ?they had considered what part it would be proper to take in the unhappy contest, and had determined that they ought to make a military resistance to Great Britain in her unjust invasion, tyranical oppression, and repeated hostilities? (Headley, Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution, 250. New York, 1864) . They proclaimed that to ?a man they were in favor of the Revolution? (Semple).
Several Baptist preachers did great service in the army as chaplains. The Baptist General Association of Virginia sent, in 1775, Jeremiah Walker and John Williams to preach to the soldiers. These were the most popular preachers in the Old ?Dominion. McClanahan raised a company chiefly composed of Baptists, whom he commanded as captain and preached to as chaplain. Charles Thompson, of Massachusetts, served as chaplain three years, and Hezekiah Smith was from the same State.
J. M. Peck gives the following interesting account of Hezekiah Smith:
Dr. Smith was full six feet high, of an erect gate, and majestic aspect. His manners were uncommonly bland and courteous, and his noble heart full of love to God and man. When he went to Haverhill, the Congregational church had just divided upon the subject of new and old light. One of the parties, supposing Mr. Smith to be a Pedobaptist minister, invited him to preach. They were all delighted with him, and wished to settle him as their minister ?right off.? But he informed them that he was a Baptist, and this soon turned the tide of affairs; their admiration gave way to contempt, and their love to hatred. They could not even bear his presence, and the selectmen of the town commissioned an officer to warn him out of the place. The poor man who was sent to read the notice was so awed by Mr. Smith?s dignified presence that he could not read it, but tremblingly stammered out, ?I‑I‑warn you off God?s earth? ?Why man,? said the Doctor, ?where shall I go?? ?To the Isle of Shoales, if you have a mind to,? replied the man and then ran off. Mr. Smith did not obey the lordly mandate of his Pedobaptist inquisitors, but continued to preach the gospel?treated every one with kindness and courtesy, treated the opposition in the spirit of Christian love, and finally overcame it. He was never known to say an unkind word, or meet the abusive conduct of his enemies except with generous allowance and compassion. He was chaplain in the Revolutionary Army, and gained the esteem of officers and men. His preaching was truly evangelical, rich and impressive. He was a great friend to ministerial education, and advocated the doctrine of giving pastors and preachers an adequate support?sentiments exceedingly unpopular in those days. He never disputed or contended about his opinions, but would state them calmly, deliberately and kindly, quoting the words of God as his authority, and then leave them to produce their effect. He was preeminently a godly man. There was a heavenliness in his conversation which at once interested and delighted. His labors were greatly blessed in the conversion of souls. He died A. D. 1804, universally beloved and lamented (The Baptist Banner and Pioneer, June 27, 1839. IV, 2).
Rev. Samuel Rogers of Philadelphia was one of the foremost preachers of his day. He was appointed chaplain of a brigade by the legislature. David Jones followed Gates through two campaigns.
John Gano was the foremost chaplain of the American Revolution. ?As a minister of Christ he shone like a star of the first magnitude in the American churches, and moved in a widely extended field of action.? He was a Huguenot by extraction. He was born in Hopewell, New Jersey, July 22, 1727. ?He was in person,? says Dr. Furman, ?below the middle stature, and, when young, of a slender form; but of firm, vigorous constitution,. well fitted for performing active service with ease, and for suffering labors and privations with constancy. In the more advanced stages of life, his body tended to corpulency; but not to such a degree as to burden or render him inactive. His presence was manly, open and engaging. His voice strong and commanding, yet agreeable and capable of all those inflections which are suited to express either the strong or tender emotions of an intelligent, feeling mind. In mental endowments and acquired abilities he appeared highly respectable; with clear conception and penetrating discernment, he formed, readily, a correct judgment of men and things. His acquaintance with the learned languages and science did not commence till he arrived at manhood, and was obtained chiefly by private instruction; but under the direction of a clerical gentleman, well qualified for the office. To the refinements of learning he did not aspire‑his chief desire was such a competent acquaintance with its principles as would enable him to apply them with advantage to purposes of gen?eral usefulness in religion, and the most important uses of so?ciety; and to this he attained? (Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, VI).
Such was the trusted friend of Washington. He was brave and true, and made an indelible impression on the soldiers with whom he was associated.
There were several other Baptists who served in conspicuous positions in various capacities. Oliver Hart was one of the fore?most pastors in South Carolina. He was useful not only as a minister, but as a citizen, and especially in connection with the events of the Revolution. In 1775, he was appointed by the Council of Safety, which then exercised the executive authority in South Carolina, to travel, in conjunction with Hon. William H. Drayton and the Rev. William Tennent, into the interior of the State, to enlighten the people in regard to their political interests, and reconcile them to certain Congressional measures of which they were disposed to complain.
He was very impressive in his personality. ?In his person he was somewhat tall, well proportioned and of graceful ap?pearance; of an active, vigorous constitution, before it was im?paired by close application to his studies and by abundant labors. His countenance was open and manly, his voice clear, harmoni?ous and commanding; the powers of his mind were strong and capacious, and enriched by a fund of useful knowledge; his taste was elegant and refined? (Sprague, VI).
Of his usefulness as a citizen there is no doubt, Dr. Furman says of his actions as a citizen:
To all of which may be added his usefulness as a citizen of America. Prompt in his judgment, ardent in his love of liberty, and rationally jealous for the rights of his country, he took an early and decided part in those measures which led our patriots to successful opposition against the encroachments of arbitrary power, and brought us to possess all the blessings of our happy independence. Yet he did not mix politico with the Gospel, nor desert the duties of his station to pursue them; but, attending to each in its proper place, he gave weight to his political sentiments, by the propriety and uprightness of his conduct; and the influence of it was felt by many (Sprague, VI.).
The story of John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, is pathetic. ?The father of Mr. Hart,? says Cathcart, ?was a man of courage and patriotism; he raised a company of volunteers, which was led to Quebec, and with them he fought bravely on the Plains of Abraham against the French. The son inherited his spirit, and was universally regarded as one of the best men in New Jersey. He was well informed on Colonial and European questions, and thoroughly understood the inalienable rights of mankind. He was held in such high esteem that he was generally selected to settle the disputes of the neighbors, who spoke of him affectionately as ?Honest .john Hart.? In the social relations of life he was a man of great modesty and benevolence, and his highest ambition was to serve God and promote the best interests of his countrymen. He had no taste for political life, and in the conventions of his fellow citizens he expressed himself by brave deeds rather than by eloquent speeches. When he entered the Continental Congress of 1774 he was about sixty years of age. He resigned from Congress in 1775, and became Vice‑President of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey. He was again elected in 1776 and took his place among the patriots and heroes who sent forth the immortal Declaration. It was issued July 4, 1776. When first published it had only the name of John Hancock as President and Charles Thompson as Secretary. Two days before it was given to the world the British landed a powerful army on Staten Island, and to impart greater weight to the Declaration it was signed on the 2nd day of the month after its adoption by all the members and circulated extensively throughout the colonies. Mr. Hart had passed beyond the age of ambition and vigorous activity, and the period of life when men voluntarily make sacrifices and even imperil their property or safety, but he considered nothing but his country?s liberty. He owned a valuable farm, grist, saw and fulling mills; he had a wife and family whose happiness and security were dear to him; his residence was on the highway of the enemy and his signature was sure to bring down vengeance in a week or two; he knew that everything which he owned except the soil would be destroyed, his dear ones scattered, and his life taken if by the providence of the Evil One he was captured, and yet he did not hesitate to sign the Declaration of Independence, though it might prove his own death warrant, and though it could hardly fail to inflict the heaviest losses and the most painful sufferings on him and his. The enemy soon found out his patriotism and the happy home of Mr. Hart. His children fled, his property was wasted, and though an old man heavily laden of years he was compelled to leave his residence and conceal himself. He was pursued with unusual fury and malice, and could not with safety sleep twice in the same place. One night he had the house of a dog for a shelter and its owner for his companion. Added to the intensity of the bitterness of his persecutions, he was driven from the couch of his dying wife, whose anguish he was not permitted to as?suage? (Cathcart, The Baptists and the American Revolution). He built the Baptist meeting house at Hopewell and gave it the burying ground. A shaft of Quincy marble now marks his resting place, which was dedicated by the Governor of the State.
Books for further reference:
Robert Boyle C. Howell, The Early Baptists of Virginia. Philadelphia, 1867.
John A. Broadus, The American Baptist Ministry of one hundred years ago, The Baptist Quarterly, IX, 1‑20. Philadelphia, 1875.
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