SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST AMERICAN BISHOP, & APPLE MUFFINS WITH CRANBERRIES AND MEDIEVAL SPICES
The Rt. Rev. (Bishop in the Episcopal Church) Samuel Seabury, was born on November 30, 1729 in Groton, Connecticut, earned a BA from Yale College in 1748, later earned a MA and then a DD, sailed to England to be ordained a priest in the Church of England, and served as a missionary in the Colonies for the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He was assigned parishes in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Jamaica, Long Island, NY; and Westchester County, NY. Like most Church of England clergy, he remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. After the Patriots removed him from his parish, he served as a chaplain to the British Army in NYC and also worked as a medical doctor.
As the American Revolution ended, he was elected bishop by the clergy of Connecticut and sailed to England to seek Episcopal Consecration. After keeping him waiting sixteen months for their answer, the Church of England denied his request. He turned to the Church of Scotland who granted his request on November 14, 1784.
He sailed home to serve Connecticut as their first bishop and as rector of St. James’ Church in New London. He was an integral participant in the Episcopal Church General Convention in 1789. In 1790, he was elected Bishop of Rhode Island. Along with three bishops consecrated by the Church of England, which had changed its policy shortly after the Church of Scotland stepped up, he consecrated the first bishop on American soil at the General Convention of 1792, officially and spiritually reconnecting the Scottish line with the English line in The American Protestant Episcopal Church for all time.
Bishop Seabury and his wife, Mary (who predeceased him), raised six children (a seventh died in infancy). Their names are Violetta, Abigail, Mary a.k.a. Maria, Samuel, Edward, and Charles. He died in New London, Connecticut on February 25, 1796 at age 67. The Episcopal Church honors him on November 14, the date of his Consecration as First Bishop.
A note on words: although Bishop Seabury was the president of the House of Bishops at the General Convention in 1789, a position based on seniority and then rotated regionally, he was not the first presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church because that didn’t become a thing until later, even though the subsequent presidents of the House of Bishops called themselves presiding bishops. In other words, Bishop Seabury served only Connecticut and later Rhode Island as their bishop, not the whole Episcopal Church as our modern-day presiding bishops do.
Also, I’ve been a confirmed member of The Episcopal Church going on 23 years, and I never knew that “Episcopal” is defined as bishop, or of bishops. Our Church is named for the way we organize our leadership roles, and it’s important. Our clergy report to their bishops, and the bishops report to our presiding bishop. No one in The Episcopal Church reports to the Crown in England or to the government of the United States because the separation of church and state is a part of our country’s Constitution. By the way, no one in The Episcopal Church reports to the pope in Rome either thanks to the Reformation. Not enough tea in the pot for that story now.
Okay. At this point, I feel the need to disclaim and rant. I’m hopeful that if I get it out of my system before I begin, I can proceed accordingly.
Disclaimer: I’m not an American history buff. Before researching Samuel Seabury, I only had a cursory memory from school of what went down before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War. I also had zero knowledge about the establishment of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America except what I learned in my study of St. Andrew the Apostle and his legendary connection to Scotland and Bishop Seabury. So, if I make any errors in facts or understanding of concepts, please let me know in the comments, and I will edit to correct my mistakes.
If you hold the fact that Samuel Seabury was a Loyalist before and during the Revolutionary War against him, stop it. It’s behavior unbecoming of a whatever you profess to be, and it’s also an unjustified and unfair assessment of his character. What you are doing is like remembering St. Paul for everything he did as Saul before his conversion. And Saul not only approved the stoning death of St. Stephen, he persecuted, jailed, and killed early Christians. Yet, we remember and honor him as St. Paul, the Apostle.
If your opinion of Samuel Seabury is based only on the play, HAMILTON, I lament the lack of our elementary education, and I applaud your initiative to learn more about the people involved in the birth of our nation, especially if you’ve read the book, ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Ron Chernow, which the play is based on. Remember though, that the book is a biography which means you are viewing history from the perspective of Alexander Hamilton. Oppositely, I’ve read a biography of Samuel Seabury, but I have not yet seen HAMILTON, nor read, ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
I have learned that most of the material in ALEXANDER HAMILTON comes from historical documents collected and preserved by Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth, and that when Lin-Manuel Miranda happened to read the book, a powerful creative connection was formed, via Elizabeth Hamilton and Ron Chernow, between himself and Alexander Hamilton. And the rest is Broadway history.
Samuel Seabury has a bit part in Hamilton’s story as the writer of the A.W. Farmer letters promoting Loyalist ideals to which Alexander Hamilton responded. These letters appeared in the newspapers and were therefore quite public and talked about. If you judge Samuel Seabury’s character negatively based only on this exchange, take a step back with me. I’m not yet suggesting that you zoom out with me enough to learn and understand this man’s character based on his whole life, we’ll get to that soon. I mean zoom out enough to consider that Seabury was known for writing in an intelligent, articulate, and readable style. He perfectly set up Hamilton to think about important issues and to respond to them from a Patriot’s point of view. Perhaps Hamilton swayed not only the Colonial newspaper reading public, but Samuel Seabury himself. Remember also that most Colonial Church of England priests were Loyalists because they had sworn an oath of loyalty to the CHURCH of England which reported to the Crown. After the war, instead of leaving the country as many Loyalists did, Seabury became an American citizen and resumed his quest to establish a self-perpetuating American Episcopal Church organized with allegiance directed toward Jesus Christ, not the government.
Considering the crap most of us spew forth on the internet, I ask you again, do not judge the memory of this holy man for the writing of three public letters under a pseudonym. Woe that we all might be remembered for our mistakes, or our mistaken beliefs, and nothing else.
Right, moving on – source material. The most well-known biography of Bishop Seabury is LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE OF THE RIGHT REVEREND SAMUEL SEABURY, DD: FIRST BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AND OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA by Eben Edwards Beardsley, published in 1881. It is out of print, but available as an e-book, or as a reprinted “as is” historical book.
Although I recommend Beardsley’s book to those interested in taking a deep dive into Bishop Seabury’s works and writings, I chose instead to study MEMOIR OF BISHOP SEABURY by William Jones Seabury, DD published in 1908 and only available, as far as I know, here at Anglican History, complete and downloadable.
The author refers quite extensively to Beardsley’s biography and adds other carefully-referenced source material plus general family knowledge with the goal of describing the full life of the man, not just his work. He includes written detractions against Bishop Seabury and offers lucid and witty arguments against them.
Oh yeah, the author leans heavily biased toward his great grandfather. I’m absolutely fine with that, and especially grateful for the information about Bishop Seabury that is recorded nowhere else. The author, William, is the grandson of Bishop Seabury’s youngest son, Charles. William did a good job in assembling this historical biography in memory of his dear and respected ancestor so that generations later, we can discover and connect to Bishop Samuel Seabury ourselves. And even though there are a lot of missing facts about the life of Bishop Samuel Seabury:
We are not, however, altogether without facts on which it is safe to encourage the imagination to work.” – William, Chapter I
Samuel Seabury was born in Groton, CT, on November 30, 1929, on the Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle (a touch of destiny). His father, the Rev’d Samuel Seabury MA was a licensed Congregational preacher at the time of his son’s birth, but he later conformed to the Church of England. Samuel was baptized on December 14, 1729. His mother, Abigail Mumford, died in either 1730 or 1731 while Samuel and his elder brother were both very young.
They were raised by their father’s second wife, Elizabeth Powell, along with their five younger step brothers and sisters. I’m briefly jumping ahead along the timeline here because this letter written to Samuel by Elizabeth later in life clearly demonstrates the writing style of the time and place in which Samuel lived:
North Hempstead July the 15, 1787
Revd and Dear Sir:
I do myself the pleasure to write to you and let you know that your pupil Mr. Daniel Whitehead Kissam is become your Nephew. He was married to Miss Elizabeth Treadwell on the 26 of June. They desire their most humble compliments to be presented to you and beg your blessing. The family here are all well and I hope you enjoy a large share of health. As to my own part I have not had any severe attack of the Rheumatism since last Fall but I feel continual aches and pains and I suppose I shall while I continue in this state of trials. And I beg your prayers that I may so pass through things temporal that I lose not things eternal. Your brother Adam’s family are well I believe though I have not seen any of them lately. I was in hopes I should have seen Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Campbell (his daughters) here before this. I hope they will not return without seeing me. My best regards attend all your dear children. I hear your brother David was in New York about a week ago, but I have not seen him as yet. I wish you all the happiness this dull world can give you and must conclude by telling you that I am your affection Mother.
Pray write. – William, Chapter XXII
Once you practice reading this style of writing, you understand it’s a typical complainy, guilt-inducing mama letter. Reminds me of the text I sent my son yesterday.
When his father sailed home from England as a newly ordained priest in the Church of England, the family moved to the rectory at St. James’ Church in New London, CT, where he served as rector and missionary for the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the Colonies until he was transferred to Hempstead, Long Island, NY in 1742, when Samuel was 13.
There, under the instruction of a tutor, probably his father, Samuel prepared for his entry to Yale College in 1744. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1748.
Soon after he graduated, Samuel was appointed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to serve as Catechist in Huntington twenty miles from Hempstead under the direction of his father. The Society supported their missionaries with a stipend. Most of the time, this was the only salary they received for their spiritual services. In other words, Colonial parishioners did not contribute financially to the living of their clergy.
While Samuel worked as a catechist for the three or four years he held that position, he also studied Theology and Medicine as did his father before him because healing of the body, mind, and spirit are connected. Also, these clergymen needed to supplement their small incomes especially upon marrying and raising children.
So, the Church of England policy was that men had to be not only sufficiently degreed and recommended, they had to be at least twenty-four years old to be admitted to priest’s orders. But, only twenty-one years old to receive deacon’s orders. Since the only way to received ordination was to sail to England, it didn’t make sense to take two separate sea voyages, so Samuel’s study of medicine, in between his theological studies and duties, was a practical use of his time until he reached the appropriate age.
Samuel sailed to England in 1752, and studied physics and anatomy in Edinburgh, Scotland while waiting that one more year until he would turn twenty-four. During his time there, he became acquainted with the Scottish Episcopal Church, which at that time were non-jurors because they disputed the succession of the Crown and refused to pledge allegiance to William and Mary and their successors. Not caring about their politics, Samuel was drawn to their spirituality and regularly attended their small Communion services.
One day while strolling along in Edinburgh, he heroically rescued a young woman on a runaway horse. Seriously. He ran after the galloping horse and with brute strength and skill he was able to grab the bridle to slow down and stop the steed. This would make for an especially good part of his biography IF this adventurous meeting led to a friendship and eventual engagement of marriage to the lass. Despite much handshaking and thankfulness from her and her father who had finally caught up to them and his runaway horse, it didn’t. Alas. However, it does show us how physically strong and able-bodied Samuel was.
Anyway, he traveled to London where, with the appropriate paperwork, he was ordained a deacon on December 21, 1753. The requirement of the usual interval of time between receiving Deacon’s and Priest’s orders was relaxed for the candidates from the Colonies. So, he was ordained a priest two days later, on December 23, 1753.
He preached his first sermon on Christmas Day at an evening service, and then made ready to sail home. According to a letter from one of his relatives to another:
Mr. Samuel Seabury has returned to America again; an excellent physician, a learned divine, an accomplished gentleman, and a pious Christian. – William, Chapter II
The Society for Propagating the Gospel assigned him his first mission as parson at Christ Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Money, and lack thereof, always seemed to be an issue for Samuel, and other clergymen as well. It seems that after the Reformation, which was the protesting of, among other things, the payment for spiritual indulgences and opulent livelihoods of Roman Catholic clergy; many Protestant church laity balked at paying their clergymen any type of salary. The money Colonial clergy received from the Church of England, if any, didn’t always cover their expenses. This is why financial support as missionaries for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel was so necessary. But, even then, these clergymen usually had to have side jobs to support themselves and their families.
Samuel was quite frugal, writing first drafts of his sermons on slate before writing his final drafts sideways on old letters to save on the cost of paper. But frugality wasn’t enough:
The parson of those days was won’t to supplement the scanty stipends arising from his proper vocation with what he could gather from other occupations; and so was sometimes, doctor, and schoolmaster, and farmer also, as well as parson. – William, Chapter III
William also shows in this chapter that according to letters Samuel wrote, he was not pleased with the wording related to the Consecration of Holy Eucharist in the English prayer book. He preferred the way the Scottish had it worded in their prayer book. It had to do with Transubstantiation and how he believed the Reformation caused the wording in the English prayer book to be lightened up too much. This will come up later at the General Convention of 1789.
Next, we are regaled with another heroic story in which Samuel, traveling to Long Island via ferry, once had to manhandle a drunken skipper and take over the helm to the great relief and safety of all passengers on board. Unfortunately, from the storyteller’s perspective, there was no potential wife involved in that adventure either.
He met Mary Hicks the regular way, among a group of families he socialized with on Long Island.
They were married at her uncle’s house where Samuel’s father solemnized the union on October 12, 1756.
Mary’s father opposed the marriage because he owed Mary inheritance money from her grandparents, and he didn’t want to pay it. Frustratingly enough, this situation took up a lot of time, attention, and litigation, especially because Samuel purchased a farm based on the promise of payment of this inheritance.
About Mary, it seems Samuel left no written records of his feelings for his wife. Perhaps it was a simple matter of his not needing to:
Writing was with him always a means to an end, and not an end in itself.” – William, Chapter XXII
Maybe Mary knew in her heart how her husband felt about her and that was enough. Or, maybe their children decided that the personal correspondence between Mary and Samuel should remain personal and not be published.
Here’s what we do know – the death of Mary Seabury on October 12, 1780, their 24th wedding anniversary, is NOT recorded in Samuel Seabury’s family bible along with all the other births, marriages, and deaths. It’s clear that Samuel couldn’t bear to write those words.
William sums up his great grandmother’s life quite nicely:
With regard to her who thus bravely cast in her lot with the subject of this Memoir, the tradition which my father told me he had derived from her children in their maturity was, that she was “a lady of good sense, of cultivated taste, and of refined and generous feelings; and that both as a wife and mother she was all that husband or children could desire.” I feel the more bound to perpetuate this tradition, as there is little else now known of her to whom it relates, and also as remembering how little there is of conspicuous action in the life of many a woman whose unseen influence nevertheless is the potent source of the strong and good living for which her husband has become known; and whose unselfish devotion, hardly noticed perhaps in life, is all the more deeply realized when it has passed away beyond recall. – William, Chapter III
In early 1757, Samuel was transferred by the Society to serve as Rector of Grace Church, Jamaica, LI, NY. William wrote a chapter about the difficulties involved with the Church of England appointing clergy to churches in the Colonies instead of the parishioners choosing their own spiritual leaders, via appropriate recommendations and interviews, and calling them to serve with them (and paying them their salary), as we do now in The Episcopal Church.
In this case, the parishioners were so displeased with the previous rector assigned to them, they stopped attending services in that building and attended lay prayer meetings in the town hall until they completed the building of another church across town.
They wanted The Rev’d Seabury and the Church of England responded thusly:
I, Sir Charles Hardy, Knight, Captain-General, and Governor-in-chief, in and over the Providence of New York and the territories depending thereon, in America, and Vice-Admiral of the same, do, in pursuance of the power devolved upon me, collate, institute and establish you, Samuel Seabury, Jr., minister of the parish church of Jamaica, in Queens County, on Nassau Island (commonly called Grace Church), and the adjacent towns and farms thereunto belonging, to have the care of the souls of the parishioners of the said parish church, towns and farms, and take your care and mine.
Given under my hand and the prerogative seal of the Providence of New York, the 12th day of January 1757.
Charles Hardy (with appropriate written back up from the Bishop of London) — William, Chapter IV
William sets this next stage for us:
The Rector of Grace Church would appear to have entered upon his pastoral work in Jamaica under circumstances very favourable to his successful prosecution of it, and very conducive to his own personal happiness. Being twenty-eight years of age and of good constitution, he rejoiced in youth, strength, and health. He possessed a devout and earnest spirit, and an excellent mental capacity and equipment for the duties of his calling. He had overcome many and serious obstacles in the attainment of a position which, by comparison with other positions of the same kind at that period, appears to have had a recognized eminence. He had a home of his own, situation upon a good farm, of sufficient but not burdensome extent, and within easy reach of his church. He had the incomparable satisfaction of having a congenial wife who graciously presided over the conduct and hospitalities of his home. He lived within a short distance from his father and other relatives and friends at Hempstead, and within about equal distance from almost equally agreeable associates in New York. He had also reasonable expectations of the moral support of the people over whom he was appointed, and of such cordial appreciation of him on their part as would tend to make his labours among them agreeable and edifying. – William, Chapter V
By 1762, however, the lack of an appropriate salary level, the financial strain of not receiving the promised monies owed to Mary by her father needed to pay for the farm, and the time involved in working a farm in addition to his church duties proved too much for Samuel. As William points out:
Of the seven children of his marriage, five were born within the nine years of his residence at Jamaica. It is perhaps not remarkable that he should sometimes have alluded feelingly to the expenses of a large and growing family. – William, Chapter V
Samuel had to sell the farm:
February 1, 1762. To be sold and entered on when the purchaser pleases, a small plantation half a mile east of Jamaica Village, on which Mr. Seabury, Rector of the Church, now lives. It contains twenty-eight acres of good land, a good dwelling house (one end new) a genteel building, a dry cellar under the whole house, a well of good water, a new barn, hovel and smoke house. There is a fine orchard that makes fifty barrels of cider; also a screw-press and cider mill of a new invention that grinds fifty bushels of apples in an hour. Also fourteen acres of woodland two miles from the farm and eight acres of salt meadow that cuts twenty loads of salt hay. Apply to the above said Samuel Seabury, Jr., who will give a good title. — William, Chapter V
Another challenge Samuel had to contend with was a situation with a bossy parishioner, who, because he donated the church bell to Grace Church, felt he had the right to essentially take charge of the parish. Now, aside from the main Grace Church in the center of town, there were two outlying churches within the parish which Samuel served on a rotating basis. The bossy parishioner tried to supplant Samuel with some preacher dude from another denomination who showed up at the outlying churches without Samuel’s knowledge. The parishioners believed he had been officially sent to them in their rector’s stead.
When Samuel found how what had happened and that this charlatan even performed baptisms, he was outraged. He demanded to know who this blaggard was and who the hell let him into the parish. Those are my words. William doesn’t quote him, but he does write that cussing was involved.
The cussing was all the bossy parishioner needed to pursue a course of public letter writing calling the rector out on his unprofessional decorum and language, but never quite owing up to his involvement in orchestrating the whole affair in an effort to replace the Rev’d Seabury.
This situation went on far too long, but Samuel did his best to deal and keep working. He had other concerns of which this situation was only a symptom. Other Christian denominations were growing much larger than Anglicanism (Church of England) in the Colonies. In his final bi-annual report from Jamaica to the Society, Samuel explains why:
Jamaica, April 17, 1766
We have lately had a most affecting acct. of the loss of Messrs. Giles and Wilson the Society’s Missionaries; the ship they were in being wrecked near the entrance of Delaware Bay and only 4 persons saved out of 28, their death is a great loss in the present want of Clergymen in these Colonies, and indeed I believe one great reason why so few from this Continent offer themselves for Holy Orders, is because it is evident from experience that not more than 4 out of 5 who have gone from the Northern Colonies have returned; this is an unanswerable argument for the absolute necessity of Bishops in the Colonies. The poor Church of England in America is the only instance that ever happened of an Episcopal Church without a Bishop and in which no Orders could be obtained without crossing an Ocean of 3,000 miles in extent. Without Bishops, the Church cannot flourish in America and unless the Church be well supported and prevail, this whole Continent will be overrun with Infidelity and Deism, Methodism and New Light with every species and every degree of skepticism and enthusiasm, and without a Bishop upon the spot I fear it will be impossible to keep the Church herself pure and undefiled. And that it is of the last consequence to the State to support the Church here, the present times afford an alarming proof . . . — William, Chapter VI
Note the date of the above letter. Samuel promoted the need for Bishops in America quite early in his career. Watch how he never gave up on this quest.
Interesting also to understand that instead of blaming Millennials and their ilk for the current comparatively small size of The Episcopal Church in the United States, we should blame the Church of England for not adequately propagating Bishops to grow Anglicans in Colonial America. I mean, whosoever plants the seeds first, and all that.
Around the same time the situation with the bossy parishioner was going on, Samuel’s father died, and Jamaica began to be not such a great place to serve anymore.
Soon after writing the above report to the Society, Samuel accepted the offer of Rectorate of St. Peter’s in Westchester County, NY. Two hundred year later, in that same county, I was born. Talk about connections!
William is about to write the bulk of his book around Samuel’s public efforts and writings. So, he believed it to be quite important to remind the reader that just as Samuel was a beloved and loving husband and father during all of this, so too was he a dedicated rector to his parish:
The glimpse of pastoral life at West Chester may perhaps suffice for the general understanding of the course of that life during the period of his active ministry in that Parish. There is little diversity in that kind of life, which involves the regular recurrence of services and sermons, visitations upon parishioners, and application of the teachings of the lessons and means of Grace of the Gospel to the individual needs, as well of the sick as of the whole, as opportunity may offer. And so far as I am aware there is nothing in the strictly pastoral life of the Rector of St. Peter’s that was particularly worthy of being commemorated. The same faithfulness and diligence which he had previously manifested in other cures, and which throughout his life he continued to manifest in the exercise of the Pastoral function, was manifested here, and while the results of his work were of momentous importance to those who experienced the benefits of it, yet there has not come down, to me at least, the knowledge of any particular event which would be of general interest in that aspect of his career.
On the other hand, in respect to points at which the life of the Rector touched the life of the Church beyond the Parish, or of the people of the Colonies, the time spent at West Chester was very full of incident, and produced events which were of pervading interest then, and are very worthy of remembrance now. – William, Chapter VII
Samuel met with other members of the Clergy of the Providence and organized a Convention in which their main objective was to promote the need for a Colonial Episcopate (bishop):
The Clergy, particularly those of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, were very earnest in their pursuit of the project. They contended very openly and honestly for the consecration of Bishops for America, in the exercise of all the influence they had both at home and abroad; and their contention was based upon the simple plea that it was necessary for the preservation of the Church. — William, Chapter IX
Samuel wrote pamphlets and public letters in newspapers about it. Detractors attacked his character in public. If they answered professionally and politely, their biggest argument was that these new bishops would take control of the government instead of sticking solely to ecclesiastic duties.
I’m not kidding. Samuel and other proponents clearly described what the Church in the Colonies needed these bishops to do, which is almost identical to what modern-day Episcopal Church bishops do now.
But, the Colonial detractors basically wrote, that’s all well and good, but once these so-call bishops have power, they will take over everything!
This is like gun proponents publicly shouting that universal background checks are all well and good, but if we allow that, the next thing we know the feds will be bursting into our homes to confiscate all our weapons!
Detractors from the Church of England or the British Crown, simply didn’t want to give up this control over the Colonists. Remember that everything having to do with the Church of England in the Colonies was connected to the British Crown. It was a hierarchy involving the government in the affairs of the Church, and vice versa.
Meanwhile, the English Society for the Propagating the Gospel were for establishing bishops in America as the only way to, um, adequately propagate the Gospel in the Colonies.
The initiative didn’t fail per se, it just kept going ‘round. To say that Samuel was frustrated, well, let’s have William say it:
The most quiet and even-tempered man may in fact sometimes find himself in a position which involves either his abandonment of truth and justice, or his plain and forcible assertion of them against those who have betrayed or misrepresented them. The subject of the present memoir was naturally a man of cool and impartial judgment and amiable disposition. But he had strong convictions, and remarkable capacity for the forcible expression of them. He was quick to see and to resent a wrong either to himself personally, or to the principles for which he stood; and he was so situated as to be involved in controversy, or personal argument with those who differed from him, almost throughout his life. — William, Chapter X
And so it was that during this time and in this frame of mind, Samuel wrote his pro Loyalist public letters under the pseudonym of A.W. Farmer. A mistake perhaps. But what if the French didn’t swoop in and help the Patriots win our independence? Then, he would have been counted among the victors. Either way, his reputation suffered under the hotheadedness of his youth.
Once the Revolutionary War began, the Patriots having uncovered the identity of the A.W. Farmer, arrested him and upon his release six weeks later, Samuel realized that returning to his parish in Westchester County would be unsafe. He joined his family, whom he had sent ahead to NYC for their safety.
Over the course of the eight-year war, he stayed in NYC. He had to borrow money at first, but eventually secured three positions for the duration, Missionary at Staten Island, Chaplain to the Provincial Hospital, and Chaplain to the King’s American Regiment. He also practiced medicine to supplement his income. In fact, the British Crown didn’t pay him for his services until well after the war ended. But the hospital probably paid him, and the Society provided their usual stipend retroactively as well.
It was during this period, on October 12, 1780, that Mary died.
Their daughter Mary, called Maria by her father, took over the domestic duties of the household. She remained a devoted companion to her father throughout his life.
Notwithstanding the many lives that were lost in battle, the war which boiled down to talking, waiting around, British Parliament not voting to send more troops, etc., etc., ended slowly in American victory.
William describes how the war ended in stages:
The articles of November 30, 1782 were provisional and were to constitute the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the Colonies recognized as Independent States, when peace should have been settled between Great Britain and France. On the 20th of January 1783, articles were agreed upon between Great Britain and France; whereby the provisional articles of November 1782 came into full force as the treaty of peace. These articles arrived at New York in March 1783. The articles were ratified by Congress in May 1783. And the British forces evacuated New York on November 25, 1783. – William, Chapter XI
Meanwhile, Samuel joined in a meeting of the Clergy of Connecticut on March 25, 1783, the feast day of the Annunciation. Samuel was elected to serve as their bishop and was asked to sail to England to seek consecration from the Church of England. He accepted and with all appropriate documentation, he sailed on June 7, 1783.
When he arrived and submitted his request in earnest, he was received courteously, even warmly. And, then he was made to wait for a decision while men discussed.
Samuel was made to wait so long, he had to borrow money from a friend, James Rivington, (which he paid back years later when he was able) to support himself and his unmarried children. He also pursued the course of obtaining back salary for his services rendered as chaplain during the war. But mostly, he met with the English decision makers and wrote and responded to letters.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Church offered him consecration as bishop. But he chose to wait for the Church of England to decide – would they waive the need for candidates to the American Episcopate to pledge their allegiance to the Crown, which as American citizens, they were unable to do?
William describes this period:
The story of that sixteen months, from the arrival in London of the Bishop Elect on the 7th of July 1783, to his departure for Scotland about the same time in the month of November 1784, is one of the most sickening that can be conceived. It has been often related, and nowhere more fully and plainly than in the LIFE OF BISHOP SEABURY by Dr. Beardsley, who, with his usual painstaking detail has given all the correspondence and recorded all the events which are of Chief importance in it. – William, Chapter XIV
Finally, after all of Samuel’s polite cooperation and explaining of the separation of church and state in the newly formed United States of America and how the Church of England didn’t need an act of U.S. Congress to proceed, etc.:
In their relation to the Civil Authority of their Country, these Bishops did not think it safe to grant the request made of them; and refused to do so unless an act of Parliament should authorize such action as was needed. The result of all the waiting, the anxiety, and suspense, the laborious efforts to prepare for and procure the desired sanction from Parliament, was that an act was passed authorizing the Bishop of London and his substitutes to dispense with the oaths which precluded ordination of foreign candidates for the Diaconate and Priesthood; but without the admission of candidates for the Episcopate to the same privilege: so that the Bishop Elect in the present case was still left under all the disabilities which the English law imposed upon him. His duty therefore was accomplished so far as the English Episcopate was concerned; and it became necessary for him to look elsewhere for that which he had been commissioned to procure. – William, Chapter XIV
We’ll just jump ahead a bit and let Samuel tell us what happened next via this letter:
To the Revd. Messrs. Learning, Jarvis and Hubbard, of the Connecticut Clergy, the following letter was written from London, January 5th, 1785:
My very dear and worthy friends, —
It is with great pleasure that I now inform you, that my business here is perfectly completed, in the best way that I have been able to transact it. Your letter, and also a letter from Mr. Learning, which accompanied the act of your Legislature, certified by Mr. Secretary Wyllys, overtook me at Edinburgh, in my journey to the north, and not only gave me great satisfaction, but were of great service to me.
I met with a very kind reception from the Scotch Bishops, who having read and considered such papers as I laid before them, consisting of the copies of my original letters and testimonial, and of your subsequent letters, declared themselves perfectly satisfied, and said that they conceived themselves called upon, in the course of God’s Providence, without regard to any human policy, to impart a pure, valid, and free Episcopacy to the western world; and that they trusted that God, who had begun so good a work, would water the infant Church in Connecticut with his heavenly grace, and protect it by his good providence, and make it the glory and pattern of the pure Episcopal Church in the world; and that as it was freed from all incumbrance arising from connection with civil establishments and human policy, the future splendor of its primitive simplicity and Christian piety would appear eminently and entirely the word of God and not of man. On the 14th of Nov. my consecration took place, at Aberdeen (520 miles from hence). It was the most solemn day I ever passed; God grant I may never forget it!
I now only wait for a good ship in which to return. None will sail before the last of February or first of March. The ship Triumph, Capt. Stout, will be among the first. With this same Stout, commander, and in the Triumph, I expect to embark, and hope to be in New York some time in April; your prayers and good wishes will, I know, attend me.
A new scene will now, my dear Gentlemen, in all probability open in America. Much do I depend on you and the other good Clergymen in Connecticut, for advice and support, in an office which will otherwise prove too heavy for me. Their support, I assure myself, I shall have; and I flatter myself they will not doubt of my hearty desire, and earnest endeavor, to do everything in my power for the welfare of the Church, and promotion of religion and piety. You will be pleased to consider whether New London to be the proper place for me to reside at; or whether some other place would do better. At New London, however, I suppose they make some dependence upon me. This ought to be taken into the consideration. If I settle at New London, I must have an assistant. Look out, then for some good clever young gentleman who will go immediately into deacon’s orders, and who would be willing to be with me in that capacity. And indeed, I must think it a matter of propriety, that as many worthy candidates be in readiness for orders as can be procured. Make the way, I beseech you, as plain and easy for me as you can.
Since my return from Scotland, I have seen none of the Bishops, but I have been informed that the steps I have taken has displeased the two Archbishops, and it is now a matter of doubt whether I shall be continued on the Society’s list. The day before I set out on my northern journey, I had an interview with each of the Archbishops, when my design was avowed; so that the measure was known, though it has made no noise.
My own poverty is one of the greatest discouragements I have. Two years’ absence from my family, and expensive residence here, has more than expended all I had. But, in so good a cause, and of such magnitude, something must be risked by somebody. To my lot it has fallen; I have done it cheerfully, and despair not of a happy issue.
This I believe is the last time I shall write to you from this country. Will you then accept your Bishop’s blessing, and hearty prayers for your happiness in this world and the next? May God bless also, and keep, all the Good Clergy of Connecticut!
I am, reverend and dear brethren, your affectionate brother, and very humble servant,
Samuel Seabury — William, Chapter XXII
Then he wrote a long letter to the Society reporting in and requesting the continuation of their paying him the stipend of £50 per year.
He sailed home. Arrangements were made for him to live in the rectory of St. James Church in New London. He resided there with his daughter Maria. Later, his widowed daughter Violetta and her children joined the household due to necessity. He also served as the Rector of St. James Church which provided him with some income. Let me be perfectly clear here – he did not receive a salary for serving as Bishop of Connecticut.
So, one can imagine how disappointed and frustrated he was to receive a letter from the head of the Society for denying his request to continue receiving their stipend because he was no longer a member of the Church of England.
But then, he received this news in a letter from the former secretary of the Society and someone who considered himself a friend and representative of friends:
As the willing secretary or agent to a much smaller, but not less benevolent Society, my importance perhaps is less, but not so my satisfactions. I feel a very sincere pleasure in directing you, from them, to draw on me, as soon as you please, at twenty or thirty days after sight, for fifty pounds. This is for one year, from the time of your arrival, as Bp., in Connecticut; which date you must be so good as to apprize me of, and yourself attend to. I hope, tho’ I dare not assure you, this or nearly this, will continue as long as you and I continue. One of your friends, Mr. Anthy Bacon is already dead, and we have not yet been able to find a successor to him. It is proper you should know to whom you are indebted for this Christian contribution, and tho’ I have no authority to tell you, I here set down their names: The Dean of Canterbury, the Revd. Dr. Poyntz, a Prebendary of Durham, the Revd. Dr. Glasse. King’s Chaplain; John Frere Esqr.; Chas. Eyre Esqr. King’s Printer, Thomas Calverley Esqr., my neighbor here, your old and true friend Wm. Stevens Esqr., and your humble servant, together with Mr. Fowle, who was my poor wife’s apothecary; each five guineas. They, as well as I, wish it were more; as well as more permanent; but in the nature of things, this cannot be . . . – William, Chapter XXII
It’s an amazing thing when friends step up.
Okay, I had no idea about this next part. I had believed that once The Episcopal Church had a bishop in the United States, we were all set. Nope. Bishop Seabury served Connecticut only (until Rhode Island called him to serve them as well in 1790). He didn’t ordain clergy from other states, nor did he consecrate bishops. Wait. He did ordain a deacon or priest here and there if they came to him from another state. And then he had to hear about it. But he made a clear decision to not consecrate bishops on his own.
Right so, the Bishops of the Church of England were not pleased that after sixteen months, Bishop Seabury accepted their “no” and went elsewhere. They were all, hey, we would have said yes. Eventually. To someone else. Definitely. In fact, they quickly changed their rule and invited American priests to come to London for episcopate consecration. Adding, y’all need three Church of England bishops to consecrate bishops in America, so we can do an end run around this Seabury fellow and his Scottish cohorts.
In 1787, Dr. Samuel Provoost from New York and Dr. William White from Pennsylvania sailed to London and were consecrated as bishops.
Then there was lots of talking and public letter writing which made Bishop Seabury believe the whole newly formed American Protestant Episcopal Church was against him, and he’d be unwelcome at General Convention. This turned out to be not so. In fact, it was mostly only Bishop Provoost. Bishop White was quietly in Bishop Seabury’s court for years until it was time to stand up and make things happen. And, boy, did he ever.
So, at General Convention 1789, which Bishop Provoost didn’t attend, Bishop Seabury served as the president of the House of Bishops because he was the first one consecrated. He and Bishop White worked quite diligently on updating the Book of Common Prayer to replace everything related to the British Crown. After much talking, editing, voting, and more talking with the other members of the General Convention, they eventually added a Scottish Communion Service. Many people believe this was added as part of a deal Bishop Seabury made with the Scottish Church. But he had favored the wording of that service over the English version since his younger days. Others agreed that it had it’s place in the prayer book.
Bishop White did several things to encourage the inclusion of the Bishop Seabury and the Scottish Episcopate, some quietly some quite outspokenly. He had to, what with Bishop Provoost being all negative about the lineage of the Scottish Church, and Bishop Seabury’s character in public letters, no less!
Okay, fast forward to General Convention 1792, where there is now a third bishop consecrated in England, Bishop Madison of Virginia. There was also Rev’d Thomas John Claggett who was elected Bishop of Maryland and had applied for consecration at General Convention.
Now, Bishop Provoost was so put out that Bishop Seabury was the president of the House of Bishops, that was pretty much all he could focus on. But, our Bishop Seabury who had waited ever so patiently for the moment yet to come, essentially said, Your turn!
So when it was time to lay hands of consecration upon Rev’d Claggett of Maryland, Bishop Provoost officiated and didn’t seem to care one whit that Bishop Seabury was involved, as long as they had three English-consecrated bishops doing the job, one more didn’t seem to matter to him. But it did matter. Bishop Seabury worked and waited eight years from the moment of his own consecration to make sure that the Scottish Church lineage merged with the English Church lineage forming one solid American Episcopal Church from that time hence.
Bishop Seabury wrote in his journal on September 20, 1792:
At this Convention, the Right Reverend Dr. Claggett of Maryland was consecrated a Bishop; in Trinity Church, by Bps. Provoost, White, Madison, and Seabury. All Glory be ascribed to God for his goodness to his Church in the American States. In his goodness I confide for the continuance of that holy Episcopate which is now begun to be communicated in this Country. May it redound to his glory, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ. Amen.” – William, Chapter XXI
On top of all that, Bishop White stepped up again and arranged for Bishop Seabury to join him in visiting Bishop Provoost at his home where they all got along famously. I really like this Bishop White fellow.
And then, Bishop Seabury returned to New London where he continued his good works as Bishop of Connecticut and Rhode Island, Rector of St. James Church, father, and grandfather:
So, he went steadily on with his regular work of every kind, until one day, after some parochial visits in New London, he stopped at the house of Mr. Roswell Saltonstall and remained to tea. Complaining at the end of the meal of a violent pain in the breast, he rose from the table, but instantly fell, and almost immediately expired: a sudden death, in the sense of being the wholly unexpected termination of a long, active, and useful life; but, surely, by no means the death unprovided for, against which it may be presumed we chiefly pray in the Litany. No one could have been more conscious than this faithful soldier and servant of Christ, of the need of being always ready to respond to the call of his Master, whensoever it might come. — William, Chapter XXIII
The date was February 25, 1796. Bishop Seabury was 67.
After spending two solid paragraphs explaining how February 25 was the Feast Day of St. Matthias because 1796 was a leap year (let’s just go with it), William writes:
This association of the Bishops’ death with the anniversary of St. Matthias, may seem to be fanciful—to some, perhaps, trivial; but I know not who is authorized to set bounds to the range of associations, or to the devout lessons which they are capable of teaching; and to me, I confess, there is something most suggestive and refreshing in the remembrance that the humble and self-denying Christian who was ordained to be the Apostle of the New World, began his earthly life on the Feast of St. Andrew, who gladly leaving all that he had, was the first disciple of Our Lord; and ended that life on the Feast of St. Matthias, who being numbered with the eleven Apostles after the defection of Judas, was thus appointed to repair the first breach in the succession of Christ’s Apostolic Ministry. William, Chapter XXIII
I’m encouraged to know that I am not the only one who recognizes saintly connections. I also agree with William’s closing:
And as I have tried, so far as that was possible, always to let the subject of this memoir to speak for himself, perhaps I cannot do better than to let him take leave with us with this brief summing up of his life’s experience with which he surrenders himself, after his manner, into the Divine keeping, as he makes in his journal the record of what appears to have been his last visitation.
On Wednesday, the 4th of November 1795, he notes his return to New London, after an absence of almost four weeks; and concludes as follows:
In this journey I travelled 134 miles, preached 10 times, administered the Communion 5 times, and confirmed 198 persons. And now, all glory to God for his innumerable benefits. Thou, O God, tookest me out of my mother’s womb; Thou hast preserved me ever since; Thou hast blessed me with health. Thou hast provided me with the comforts and decencies of life; Thou hast vouchsafed me the means of grace, and the hope of glory; Thou hast raised me to an honorable station in Thy Church; Thou hast given me a willing heart to do my duty in it—confirm that ready disposition; Let Thy Holy Spirit ever direct it to thy glory, and the good of thy Church; Continue thy blessings to me; Bless also thy Church; may thy goodness lead me to love Thee above all things, through Jesus Christ. Amen. – William, Chapter XXII
And so, we pray:
We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this church the gift of the episcopate; and we pray that, joined together in the unity with our bishops and nourished by your holy sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. – Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018
In honor of First Bishop Samuel Seabury and his hand in propagating The Episcopal Church bishops throughout the United States and beyond, let’s combine apples from his farm and cranberries from his region with medieval spices in memory of the hearty kick in pants he delivered to the Church of England when he sought episcopal consecration from our Scottish fellows and bake:
APPLE MUFFINS WITH CRANBERRIES AND MEDIEVAL SPICES
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oat meal
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking POWDER
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon medieval (Pumpkin Pie) spices*
½ cup or 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peeled and chopped apples sprinkled with sugar to prevent browning. (Use Honeycrisp or your favorite baking apples.)
1 cup fresh or slightly thawed frozen cranberries, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon medieval spices
*medieval (Pumpkin Pie) spices = 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.
Preheat oven to 375 degree. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
Combine flour, oatmeal, flax seed, sugar, baking POWDER, salt, and 1 teaspoon medieval spices in a large bowl.
Whisk butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla together in a small bowl.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in chopped apples and cranberries.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
In a small bowl, mix sugar, light brown sugar, and medieval spices. Sprinkle mixture on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with dry crumbs.
Cool slightly before popping out of muffin pan and serving. It’s fun to make multiple batches for sharing!
The Church of England eventually made up with us and the Scots, and we are all one big happy Anglican Communion now.
Lang may yer lum reek. – Scottish
Long may your chimney smoke. – English
Live long and prosper. – American
Dif-tor heh smusma. – Vulcan
Speaking of connections, it came to me today during contemplative prayer/psychic sleep/meditation that I do have a more than cursory knowledge of the American Revolution having read THE ANCHOR: P. MOORE PROPRIETOR and CECILIA’S HARVEST: A NOVEL OF THE REVOLUTION by Blonnie Bunn Wyche a few years ago.
Blonnie and I were in the same writers’ critique group for a several years before she died. I wrote about her in a post called Friendship and Chocolate Chip Cookies.
She wants me to let y’all know there are still copies of her books available for purchase.
You know what? They’re good books. I recommend them for learning more about the day-to-day life of young women during the American Revolutionary War era. I seem to recall being listed in the Acknowledgements of CELIA’S HARVEST, although I prefer THE ANCHOR.