A History of American Christianity
by Leonard Woolsey Bacon
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Transcriber's notes:

Greek words in this text have been transliterated and placed between marks.

Words in italics are surrounded with underscores.

A list of corrections made is at the end of the text.

The American Church History Series

Consisting of a Series of Denominational Histories Published Under the Auspices of the American Society of Church History

General Editors


Volume XIII

American Church History




New York The Christian Literature Co. MDCCCXCVII Copyright, 1897, by The Christian Literature Co.



Purpose of the long concealment of America, 1. A medieval church in America, 2. Revival of the Catholic Church, 3, especially in Spain, 4, 5.


Vastness and swiftness of the Spanish conquests, 6. Conversion by the sword, 7. Rapid success and sudden downfall of missions in Florida, 9. The like story in New Mexico, 12, and in California, 14.


Magnificence of the French scheme of western empire, 16. Superior dignity of the French missions, 19. Swift expansion of them, 20. Collision with the English colonies, and triumph of France, 21. Sudden and complete failure of the French church, 23. Causes of failure: (1) Dependence on royal patronage, 24. (2) Implication in Indian feuds, 25. (3) Instability of Jesuit efforts, 26. (4) Scantiness of French population, 27. Political aspect of French missions, 28. Recent French Catholic immigration, 29.


Controversies and parties in Europe, 31, and especially in England, 32. Disintegration of Christendom, 34. New experiment of church life, 35. Persecutions promote emigration, 36, 37.


The Rev. Robert Hunt, chaplain to the Virginia colony, 38. Base quality of the emigration, 39. Assiduity in religious duties, 41. Rev. Richard Buck, chaplain, 42. Strict Puritan regime of Sir T. Dale and Rev. A. Whitaker, 43. Brightening prospects extinguished by massacre, 48. Dissolution of the Puritan "Virginia Company" by the king, 48. Puritan ministers silenced by the royal governor, Berkeley, 49. The governor's chaplain, Harrison, is converted to Puritan principles, 49. Visit of the Rev. Patrick Copland, 50. Degradation of church and clergy, 51. Commissary Blair attempts reform, 52. Huguenots and Scotch-Irish, 53.


George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, 54; secures grant of Maryland, 55. The second Lord Baltimore organizes a colony on the basis of religious liberty, 56. Success of the two Jesuit priests, 57. Baltimore restrains the Jesuits, 58, and encourages the Puritans, 59. Attempt at an Anglican establishment, 61. Commissary Bray, 61. Tardy settlement of the Carolinas, 62. A mixed population, 63. Success of Quakerism, 65. American origin of English missionary societies, 66.


Faint traces of religious life in the Dutch settlements, 69. Pastors Michaelius, Bogardus, and Megapolensis, 70. Religious liberty, diversity, and bigotry, 72. The Quakers persecuted, 73. Low vitality of the Dutch colony, 75. Swedish colony on the Delaware, 76; subjugated by the Dutch, 77. The Dutch evicted by England, 78. The Dutch church languishes, 79. Attempts to establish Anglicanism, 79. The S. P. G., 80.


Puritan and Separatist, 82. The Separatists of Scrooby, 83. Mutual animosity of the two parties, 84. Spirit of John Robinson, 85. The "social compact" of the Pilgrims, in state, 87; and in church, 88. Feebleness of the Plymouth colony, 89. The Puritan colony at Salem, 90. Purpose of the colonists, 91. Their right to pick their own company, 92. Fellowship with the Pilgrims, 93. Constituting the Salem church, and ordination of its ministers, 95. Expulsion of schismatics, 97. Coming of the great Massachusetts colony bringing the charter, 98. The New England church polity, 99. Nationalism of the Puritans, 100. Dealings with Roger Williams, Mrs. Hutchinson, and the Quakers, 101. Diversities among the colonies, 102. Divergences of opinion and practice in the churches, 103. Variety of sects in Rhode Island, 106, with mutual good will, 107. Lapse of the Puritan church-state, 108.


Dutch, Puritan, Scotch, and Quaker settlers in New Jersey, 109. Quaker corporation and government, 110. Quaker reaction from Puritanism, 113. Extravagance and discipline, 114. Quakerism in continental Europe, 115. Penn's "Holy Experiment," 116. Philadelphia founded, 117. German sects, 118. Keith's schism, and the mission of the "S. P. G.," 119. Lutheran and Reformed Germans, 120. Scotch-Irish, 121. Georgia, 122. Oglethorpe's charitable scheme, 123. The Salzburgers, the Moravians, and the Wesleys, 124. George Whitefield, 126.


Fall of the New England theocracy, 128. Dissent from the "Standing Order": Baptist, 130; Episcopalian, 131. In New York: the Dutch church, 134; the English, 135; the Presbyterian, 136. New Englanders moving west, 137. Quakers, Huguenots, and Palatines, 139. New Jersey: Frelinghuysen and the Tennents, 141. Pennsylvania: successes and failures of Quakerism, 143. The southern colonies: their established churches, 148; the mission of the Quakers, 149. The gospel among the Indians, 150. The church and slavery, 151.


Jonathan Edwards at Northampton, 156. An Awakening, 157. Edwards's "Narrative" in America and England, 159. Revivals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 160. Apostolate of Whitefield, 163. Schism of the Presbyterian Church, 166. Whitefield in New England, 168. Faults and excesses of the evangelists, 169. Good fruits of the revival, 173. Diffusion of Baptist principles, 173. National religious unity, 175. Attitude of the Episcopal Church, 177. Zeal for missions, 179.


Growth of the New England theology, 181. Watts's Psalms, 182. Warlike agitations, 184. The Scotch-Irish immigration, 186. The German immigration, 187. Spiritual destitution, 188. Zinzendorf, 189. Attempt at union among the Germans, 190. Alarm of the sects, 191. Muehlenberg and the Lutherans, 191. Zinzendorf and the Moravians, 192. Schlatter and the Reformed, 195. Schism made permanent, 197. Wesleyan Methodism, 198. Francis Asbury, 200. Methodism gravitates southward and grows apace, 201. Opposition of the church to slavery, 203; and to intemperance, 205. Project to introduce bishops from England, resisted in the interest of liberty, 206.


Distraction and depression after the War of Independence, 208. Forlorn condition of the Episcopalians, 210. Their republican constitution, 211. Episcopal consecration secured in Scotland and in England, 212. Feebleness of American Catholicism, 214. Bishop Carroll, 215. "Trusteeism," 216. Methodism becomes a church, 217. Westward movement of Christianity, 219. Severance of church from state, 221. Doctrinal divisions; Calvinist and Arminian, 222. Unitarianism, 224. Universalism, 225. Some minor sects, 228.


Ebb-tide of spiritual life, 230. Depravity and revival at the West, 232. The first camp-meetings, 233. Good fruits, 237. Nervous epidemics, 239. The Cumberland Presbyterians, 241. The antisectarian sect of The Disciples, 242. Revival at the East, 242. President Dwight, 243.


Missionary spirit of the revival, 246. Religious earnestness in the colleges, 247. Mills and his friends at Williamstown, 248; and at Andover, 249. The Unitarian schism in Massachusetts, 249. New era of theological seminaries, 251. Founding of the A. B. C. F. M., 252; of the Baptist Missionary Convention, 253. Other missionary boards, 255. The American Bible Society, 256. Mills, and his work for the West and for Africa, 256. Other societies, 258. Glowing hopes of the church, 259.


Working of the voluntary system of church support, 261. Dueling, 263. Crime of the State of Georgia against the Cherokee nation, implicating the federal government, 264. Jeremiah Evarts and Theodore Frelinghuysen, 267. Unanimity of the church, North and South, against slavery, 268. The Missouri Compromise, 270. Antislavery activity of the church, at the East, 271; at the West, 273; at the South, 274. Difficulty of antislavery church discipline, 275. The southern apostasy, 277. Causes of the sudden revolution of sentiment, 279. Defections at the North, and rise of a pro-slavery party, 282. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill; solemn and unanimous protest of the clergy of New England and New York, 284. Primeval temperance legislation, 285. Prevalence of drunkenness, 286. Temperance reformation a religious movement, 286. Development of "the saloon," 288. The Washingtonian movement and its drawbacks, 289. The Prohibition period, 290.


Dissensions in the Presbyterian Church, 292. Growing strength of the New England element, 293. Impeachments of heresy, 294. Benevolent societies, 295. Sudden excommunication of nearly one half of the church by the other half, 296. Heresy and schism among Unitarians: Emerson, 298; and Parker, 300. Disruption, on the slavery question, of the Methodists, 301; and of the Baptists, 303. Resuscitation of the Episcopal Church, 304. Bishop Hobart and a High-church party, 306. Rapid growth of this church, 308. Controversies in the Roman Catholic Church, 310. Contention against Protestant fanaticism, 312.


Expansion of territory and increase of population in the early part of the nineteenth century, 315. Great volume of immigration from 1840 on, 316. How drawn and how driven, 316. At first principally Irish, then German, then Scandinavian, 318. The Catholic clergy overtasked, 320. Losses of the Catholic Church, 321. Liberalized tone of American Catholicism, 323. Planting the church in the West, 327. Sectarian competitions, 328. Protestant sects and Catholic orders, 329. Mormonism, 335. Millerism, 336. Spiritualism, 337.


Material prosperity, 340. The Kansas Crusade, 341. The revival of 1857, 342. Deepening of the slavery conflict, 345. Threats of war, 347. Religious sincerity of both sides, 348. The church in war-time, 349.


Reconstructions, 351. The Catholic Church, 352. The Episcopal Church, 352. Persistent divisions among Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, 353. Healing of Presbyterian schisms, 355. Missions at the South, 355. Vast expansion of church activities, 357. Great religious and educational endowments, 359. The enlisting of personal service: The Sunday-school, 362. Chautauqua, 363. Y. M. C. A., 364. Y. W. C. A., 366. W. C. T. U., 367. Women's missionary boards, 367. Nursing orders and schools, 368. Y. P. S. C. E., and like associations, 368. "The Institutional Church," 369. The Salvation Army, 370. Loss of "the American Sabbath," 371.


Unfolding of the Edwardean theology, 374. Horace Bushnell, 375. The Mercersburg theology, 377. "Bodies of divinity," 378. Biblical science, 378. Princeton's new dogma, 380. Church history, 381. The American pulpit, 382. "Applied Christianity," 385. Liturgics, 386. Hymns, 387. Other liturgical studies, 388. Church music, 391. The Moravian liturgies, 394. Meager productiveness of the Catholic Church, 394. The Americanizing of the Roman Church, 396.


Growth of the nation and national union, 398. Parallel growth of the church, 399; and ecclesiastical division, 400. No predominant sect, 401. Schism acceptable to politicians, 402; and to some Christians, 403. Compensations of schism, 404. Nisus toward manifest union, 405. Early efforts at fellowship among sects, 406. High-church protests against union, 407. The Evangelical Alliance, 408. Fellowship in non-sectarian associations, 409. Cooperation of leading sects in Maine, 410. Various unpromising projects of union: I. Union on sectarian basis, 411. II. Ecumenical sects, 412. III. Consolidation of sects, 413. The hope of manifested unity, 416. Conclusion, 419.




The heroic discovery of America, at the close of the fifteenth century after Christ, has compelled the generous and just admiration of the world; but the grandeur of human enterprise and achievement in the discovery of the western hemisphere has a less claim on our admiration than that divine wisdom and controlling providence which, for reasons now manifested, kept the secret hidden through so many millenniums, in spite of continual chances of disclosure, until the fullness of time.

How near, to "speak as a fool," the plans of God came to being defeated by human enterprise is illustrated by unquestioned facts. The fact of medieval exploration, colonization, and even evangelization in North America seems now to have emerged from the region of fanciful conjecture into that of history. That for four centuries, ending with the fifteenth, the church of Iceland maintained its bishops and other missionaries and built its churches and monasteries on the frozen coast of Greenland is abundantly proved by documents and monuments. Dim but seemingly unmistakable traces are now discovered of enterprises, not only of exploration and trade, but also of evangelization, reaching along the mainland southward to the shores of New England. There are vague indications that these beginnings of Christian civilization were extinguished, as in so many later instances, by savage massacre. With impressive coincidence, the latest vestige of this primeval American Christianity fades out in the very year of the discovery of America by Columbus.[2:1]

By a prodigy of divine providence, the secret of the ages had been kept from premature disclosure during the centuries in which, without knowing it, the Old World was actually in communication with the New. That was high strategy in the warfare for the advancement of the kingdom of God in the earth. What possibilities, even yet only beginning to be accomplished, were thus saved to both hemispheres! If the discovery of America had been achieved four centuries or even a single century earlier, the Christianity to be transplanted to the western world would have been that of the church of Europe at its lowest stage of decadence. The period closing with the fifteenth century was that of the dense darkness that goes before the dawn. It was a period in which the lingering life of the church was chiefly manifested in feverish complaints of the widespread corruption and outcries for "reformation of the church in head and members." The degeneracy of the clergy was nowhere more manifest than in the monastic orders, that had been originally established for the express purpose of reviving and purifying the church. That ancient word was fulfilled, "Like people, like priest." But it was especially in the person of the foremost official representative of the religion of Jesus Christ that that religion was most dishonored. The fifteenth century was the era of the infamous popes. By another coincidence which arrests the attention of the reader of history, that same year of the discovery by Columbus witnessed the accession of the most infamous of the series, the Borgia, Alexander VI., to his short and shameful pontificate.

Let it not be thought, as some of us might be prone to think, that the timeliness of the discovery of the western hemisphere, in its relation to church history, is summed up in this, that it coincided with the Protestant Reformation, so that the New World might be planted with a Protestant Christianity. For a hundred years the colonization and evangelization of America were, in the narrowest sense of that large word, Catholic, not Protestant. But the Catholicism brought hither was that of the sixteenth century, not of the fifteenth. It is a most one-sided reading of the history of that illustrious age which fails to recognize that the great Reformation was a reformation of the church as well as a reformation from the church. It was in Spain itself, in which the corruption of the church had been foulest, but from which all symptoms of "heretical pravity" were purged away with the fiercest zeal as fast as they appeared,—in Spain under the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic,—that the demand for a Catholic reformation made itself earliest and most effectually felt. The highest ecclesiastical dignitary of the realm, Ximenes, confessor to the queen, Archbishop of Toledo, and cardinal, was himself the leader of reform. No changes in the rest of Christendom were destined for many years to have so great an influence on the course of evangelization in North America as those which affected the church of Spain; and of these by far the most important in their bearing on the early course of Christianity in America were, first, the purifying and quickening of the miserably decayed and corrupted mendicant orders,—ever the most effective arm in the missionary service of the Latin Church,—and, a little later, the founding of the Society of Jesus, with its immense potency for good and for evil. At the same time the court of Rome, sobered in some measure, by the perilous crisis that confronted it, from its long orgy of simony, nepotism, and sensuality, began to find time and thought for spiritual duties. The establishment of the "congregations" or administrative boards, and especially of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, or board of missions, dates chiefly from the sixteenth century. The revived interest in theological study incident to the general spiritual quickening gave the church, as the result of the labors of the Council of Trent, a well-defined body of doctrine, which nevertheless was not so narrowly defined as to preclude differences and debates among the diverse sects of the clergy, by whose competitions and antagonisms the progress of missions both in Christian and in heathen lands was destined to be so seriously affected.

An incident of the Catholic Reformation of the sixteenth century—inevitable incident, doubtless, in that age, but none the less deplorable—was the engendering or intensifying of that cruel and ferocious form of fanaticism which is defined as the combination of religious emotion with the malignant passions. The tendency to fanaticism is one of the perils attendant on the deep stirring of religious feeling at any time; it was especially attendant on the religious agitations of that period; but most of all it was in Spain, where, of all the Catholic nations, corruption had gone deepest and spiritual revival was most earnest and sincere, that the manifestations of fanaticism were most shocking. Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic were distinguished alike by their piety and their part in the promotion of civilization, and by the horrors of bloody cruelty perpetrated by their authority and that of the church, at the instigation of the sincere and devout reformer Ximenes. In the memorable year 1492 was inaugurated the fiercest work of the Spanish Inquisition, concerning which, speaking of her own part in it, the pious Isabella was able afterward to say, "For the love of Christ and of his virgin mother I have caused great misery, and have depopulated towns and districts, provinces and kingdoms."

The earlier pages of American church history will not be intelligently read unless it is well understood that the Christianity first to be transplanted to the soil of the New World was the Christianity of Spain—the Spain of Isabella and Ximenes, of Loyola and Francis Xavier and St. Theresa, the Spain also of Torquemada and St. Peter Arbues and the zealous and orthodox Duke of Alva.


[2:1] See the account of the Greenland church and its missions in Professor O'Gorman's "History of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States" (vol. ix. of the American Church History Series), pp. 3-12.



It is a striking fact that the earliest monuments of colonial and ecclesiastical antiquity within the present domain of the United States, after the early Spanish remains in Florida, are to be found in those remotely interior and inaccessible highlands of New Mexico, which have only now begun to be reached in the westward progress of migration. Before the beginnings of permanent English colonization at Plymouth and at Jamestown, before the French beginnings on the St. Lawrence, before the close of the sixteenth century, there had been laid by Spanish soldiers, adventurers, and missionaries, in those far recesses of the continent, the foundations of Christian towns and churches, the stately walls and towers of which still invite the admiration of the traveler.

The fact is not more impressive than it is instructive. It illustrates the prodigious impetuosity of that tide of conquest which within so few years from the discovery of the American continents not only swept over the regions of South and Central America and the great plateau of Mexico, but actually occupied with military posts, with extensive and successful missions, and with a colonization which seemed to show every sign of stability and future expansion, by far the greater part of the present domain of the United States exclusive of Alaska—an ecclesiastico-military empire stretching its vast diameter from the southernmost cape of Florida across twenty-five parallels of latitude and forty-five meridians of longitude to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lessons taught by this amazingly swift extension of the empire and the church, and its arrest and almost extinction, are legible on the surface of the history. It is a strange, but not unparalleled, story of attempted cooeperation in the common service of God and Mammon and Moloch—of endeavors after concord between Christ and Belial.

There is no reason to question the sincerity with which the rulers of Spain believed themselves to be actuated by the highest motives of Christian charity in their terrible and fatal American policy. "The conversion of the Indians is the principal foundation of the conquest—that which ought principally to be attended to." So wrote the king in a correspondence in which a most cold-blooded authorization is given for the enslaving of the Indians.[7:1] After the very first voyage of Columbus every expedition of discovery or invasion was equipped with its contingent of clergy—secular priests as chaplains to the Spaniards, and friars of the regular orders for mission work among the Indians—at cost of the royal treasury or as a charge upon the new conquests.

This subsidizing of the church was the least serious of the injuries inflicted on the cause of the gospel by the piety of the Spanish government. That such subsidizing is in the long run an injury is a lesson illustrated not only in this case, but in many parallel cases in the course of this history. A far more dreadful wrong was the identifying of the religion of Jesus Christ with a system of war and slavery, well-nigh the most atrocious in recorded history. For such a policy the Spanish nation had just received a peculiar training. It is one of the commonplaces of history to remark that the barbarian invaders of the Roman empire were themselves vanquished by their own victims, being converted by them to the Christian faith. In like manner the Spanish nation, triumphing over its Moslem subjects in the expulsion of the Moors, seemed in its American conquests to have been converted to the worst of the tenets of Islam. The propagation of the gospel in the western hemisphere, under the Spanish rule, illustrated in its public and official aspects far more the principles of Mohammed than those of Jesus. The triple alternative offered by the Saracen or the Turk—conversion or tribute or the sword—was renewed with aggravations by the Christian conquerors of America. In a form deliberately drawn up and prescribed by the civil and ecclesiastical counselors at Madrid, the invader of a new province was to summon the rulers and people to acknowledge the church and the pope and the king of Spain; and in case of refusal or delay to comply with this summons, the invader was to notify them of the consequences in these terms: "If you refuse, by the help of God we shall enter with force into your land, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and subject you to the yoke and obedience of the church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children and make slaves of them, and sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord; and we protest that the deaths and losses that shall accrue from this are your own fault."[8:1]

While the church was thus implicated in crimes against humanity which history shudders to record, it is a grateful duty to remember that it was from the church also and in the name of Christ that bold protests and strenuous efforts were put forth in behalf of the oppressed and wronged. Such names as Las Casas and Montesinos shine with a beautiful luster in the darkness of that age; and the Dominican order, identified on the other side of the sea with the fiercest cruelties of the Spanish Inquisition, is honorable in American church history for its fearless championship of liberty and justice.

The first entrance of Spanish Christianity upon the soil of the United States was wholly characteristic. In quest of the Fountain of Youth, Ponce de Leon sailed for the coast of Florida equipped with forces both for the carnal and for the spiritual warfare. Besides his colonists and his men-at-arms, he brought his secular priests as chaplains and his monks as missionaries; and his instructions from the crown required him to summon the natives, as in the famous "Requerimiento," to submit themselves to the Catholic faith and to the king of Spain, under threat of the sword and slavery. The invaders found a different temper in the natives from what was encountered in Mexico and Peru, where the populations were miserably subjugated, or in the islands, where they were first enslaved and presently completely exterminated. The insolent invasion was met, as it deserved, by effective volleys of arrows, and its chivalrous leader was driven back to Cuba, to die there of his wounds.

It is needless to recount the successive failures of Spanish civilization and Christianity to get foothold on the domain now included in the United States. Not until more than forty years after the attempt of Ponce de Leon did the expedition of the ferocious Menendez effect a permanent establishment on the coast of Florida. In September, 1565, the foundations of the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, were laid with solemn religious rites by the toil of the first negro slaves; and the event was signalized by one of the most horrible massacres in recorded history, the cold-blooded and perfidious extermination, almost to the last man, woman, and child, of a colony of French Protestants that had been planted a few months before at the mouth of the St. John's River.

The colony thus inaugurated seemed to give every promise of permanent success as a center of religious influence. The spiritual work was naturally and wisely divided into the pastoral care of the Spanish garrisons and settlements, which was taken in charge by "secular" priests, and the mission work among the Indians, committed to friars of those "regular" orders whose solid organization and independence of the episcopal hierarchy, and whose keen emulation in enterprises of self-denial, toil, and peril, have been so large an element of strength, and sometimes of weakness, in the Roman system. In turn, the mission field of the Floridas was occupied by the Dominicans, the Jesuits, and the Franciscans. Before the end of seventy years from the founding of St. Augustine the number of Christian Indians was reckoned at twenty-five or thirty thousand, distributed among forty-four missions, under the direction of thirty-five Franciscan missionaries, while the city of St. Augustine was fully equipped with religious institutions and organizations. Grave complaints are on record, which indicate that the great number of the Indian converts was out of all proportion to their meager advancement in Christian grace and knowledge; but with these indications of shortcoming in the missionaries there are honorable proofs of diligent devotion to duty in the creating of a literature of instruction in the barbarous languages of the peninsula.

For one hundred and fifteen years Spain and the Spanish missionaries had exclusive possession in Florida, and it was during this period that these imposing results were achieved. In 1680 a settlement of Scotch Presbyterians at Port Royal in South Carolina seemed like a menace to the Spanish domination. It was wholly characteristic of the Spanish colony to seize the sword at once and destroy its nearest Christian neighbor. It took the sword, and perished by the sword. The war of races and sects thus inaugurated went on, with intervals of quiet, until the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, transferred Florida to the British crown. No longer sustained by the terror of the Spanish arms and by subsidies from the Spanish treasury, the whole fabric of Spanish civilization and Christianization, at the end of a history of almost two centuries, tumbled at once to complete ruin and extinction.

The story of the planting of Christian institutions in New Mexico runs parallel with the early history of Florida. Omitting from this brief summary the first discovery of these regions by fugitives from one of the disastrous early attempts to effect a settlement on the Florida coast, omitting (what we would fain narrate) the stories of heroic adventure and apostolic zeal and martyrdom which antedate the permanent occupation of the country, we note the arrival, in 1598, of a strong, numerous, and splendidly equipped colony, and the founding of a Christian city in the heart of the American continent. As usual in such Spanish enterprises, the missionary work was undertaken by a body of Franciscan friars. After the first months of hardship and discouragement, the work of the Christian colony, and especially the work of evangelization among the Indians, went forward at a marvelous rate. Reinforcements both of priests and of soldiers were received from Mexico; by the end of ten years baptisms were reported to the number of eight thousand; the entire population of the province was reckoned as being within the pale of the church; not less than sixty Franciscan friars at once were engaged in the double service of pastors and missionaries. The triumph of the gospel and of Spanish arms seemed complete and permanent.

Fourscore years after the founding of the colony and mission the sudden explosion of a conspiracy, which for a long time had been secretly preparing, revealed the true value of the allegiance of the Indians to the Spanish government and of their conversion to Christ. Confounding in a common hatred the missionaries and the tyrannous conquerors, who had been associated in a common policy, the Christian Indians turned upon their rulers and their pastors alike with undiscriminating warfare. "In a few weeks no Spaniard was in New Mexico north of El Paso. Christianity and civilization were swept away at one blow." The successful rebels bettered the instruction that they had received from their rejected pastors. The measures of compulsion that had been used to stamp out every vestige of the old religion were put into use against the new.

The cause of Catholic Christianity in New Mexico never recovered from this stunning blow. After twenty years the Spanish power, taking advantage of the anarchy and depopulation of the province, had reoccupied its former posts by military force, the missionaries were brought back under armed protection, the practice of the ancient religion was suppressed by the strong hand, and efforts, too often unsuccessful, were made to win back the apostate tribes to something more than a sullen submission to the government and the religion of their conquerors. The later history of Spanish Christianity in New Mexico is a history of decline and decay, enlivened by the usual contentions between the "regular" clergy and the episcopal government. The white population increased, the Indian population dwindled. Religion as set forth by an exotic clergy became an object of indifference when it was not an object of hatred. In 1845 the Bishop of Durango, visiting the province, found an Indian population of twenty thousand in a total of eighty thousand. The clergy numbered only seventeen priests. Three years later the province became part of the United States.

To complete the story of the planting of Spanish Christianity within the present boundaries of the United States, it is necessary to depart from the merely chronological order of American church history; for, although the immense adventurousness of Spanish explorers by sea and land had, early in the sixteenth century, made known to Christendom the coasts and harbors of the Californias, the beginnings of settlement and missions on that Pacific coast date from so late as 1769. At this period the method of such work had become settled into a system. The organization was threefold, including (1) the garrison town, (2) the Spanish settlement, and (3) the mission, at which the Indian neophytes were gathered under the tutelage and strict government of the convent of Franciscan friars. The whole system was sustained by the authority and the lavish subventions of the Spanish government, and herein lay its strength and, as the event speedily proved, its fatal weakness. The inert and feeble character of the Indians of that region offered little excuse for the atrocious cruelties that had elsewhere marked the Spanish occupation; but the paternal kindness of the stronger race was hardly less hurtful. The natives were easily persuaded to become by thousands the dependents and servants of the missions. Conversion went on apace. At the end of sixty-five years from the founding of the missions their twenty-one stations numbered a Christian native population of more than thirty thousand, and were possessed of magnificent wealth, agricultural and commercial. In that very year (1834) the long-intended purpose of the government to release the Indians from their almost slavery under the missions, and to distribute the vast property in severalty, was put in force. In eight years the more than thirty thousand Catholic Indians had dwindled to less than five thousand; the enormous estates of the missions were dissipated; the converts lapsed into savagery and paganism.

Meanwhile the Spanish population had gone on slowly increasing. In the year 1840, seventy years from the Spanish occupancy, it had risen to nearly six thousand; but it was a population the spiritual character of which gave little occasion of boasting to the Spanish church. Tardy and feeble efforts had been instituted to provide it with an organized parish ministry, when the supreme and exclusive control of that country ceased from the hands that so long had held it. "The vineyard was taken away, and given to other husbandmen." In the year 1848 California was annexed to the United States.

This condensed story of Spanish Christianity within the present boundaries of the United States is absurdly brief compared with the vast extent of space, the three centuries of time, and what seemed at one time the grandeur of results involved in it. But in truth it has strangely little connection with the extant Christianity of our country. It is almost as completely severed from historical relation with the church of the present day as the missions of the Greenlanders in the centuries before Columbus. If we distinguish justly between the Christian work and its unchristian and almost satanic admixtures, we can join without reserve both in the eulogy and in the lament with which the Catholic historian sums up his review: "It was a glorious work, and the recital of it impresses us by the vastness and success of the toil. Yet, as we look around to-day, we can find nothing of it that remains. Names of saints in melodious Spanish stand out from maps in all that section where the Spanish monk trod, toiled, and died. A few thousand Christian Indians, descendants of those they converted and civilized, still survive in New Mexico and Arizona, and that is all."[15:1]


[7:1] Helps, "Spanish Conquest in America," vol. i., p. 234, American edition.

[8:1] Helps, "Spanish Conquest in America," vol. i., p. 235; also p. 355, where the grotesquely horrible document is given in full.

In the practical prosecution of this scheme of evangelization, it was found necessary to the due training of the Indians in the holy faith that they should be enslaved, whether or no. It was on this religious consideration, clearly laid down in a report of the king's chaplains, that the atrocious system of encomiendas was founded.

[15:1] "The Roman Catholic Church in the United States," by Professor Thomas O'Gorman (vol. ix., American Church History Series), p. 112.



For a full century, from the discovery of the New World until the first effective effort at occupation by any other European people, the Spanish church and nation had held exclusive occupancy of the North American continent. The Spanish enterprises of conquest and colonization had been carried forward with enormous and unscrupulous energy, and alongside of them and involved with them had been borne the Spanish chaplaincies and missions, sustained from the same treasury, in some honorable instances bravely protesting against the atrocities they were compelled to witness, in other instances implicated in them and sharing the bloody profits of them. But, unquestionable as was the martial prowess of the Spanish soldier and adventurer, and the fearless devotion of the Spanish missionary, there appears nothing like systematic planning in all these immense operations. The tide of conquest flowed in capricious courses, according as it was invited by hopes of gold or of a passage to China, or of some phantom of a Fountain of Youth or a city of Quivira or a Gilded Man; and it seemed in general to the missionary that he could not do else than follow in the course of conquest.

It is wholly characteristic of the French people that its entering at last upon enterprises of colonization and missions should be with large forecasting of the future and with the methods of a grand strategy.

We can easily believe that the famous "Bull of Partition" of Pope Alexander VI. was not one of the hindrances that so long delayed the beginnings of a New France in the West. Incessant dynastic wars with near neighbors, the final throes of the long struggle between the crown and the great vassals, and finally the religious wars that culminated in the awful slaughter of St. Bartholomew's, and ended at the close of the century with the politic conversion and the coronation of Henry IV.—these were among the causes that had held back the great nation from distant undertakings. But thoughts of great things to be achieved in the New World had never for long at a time been absent from the minds of Frenchmen. The annual visits of the Breton fishing-fleets to the banks of Newfoundland kept in mind such rights of discovery as were alleged by France, and kept attention fixed in the direction of the great gulf and river of St. Lawrence. Long before the middle of the sixteenth century Jacques Cartier had explored the St. Lawrence beyond the commanding position which he named Montreal, and a royal commission had issued, under which he was to undertake an enterprise of "discovery, settlement, and the conversion of the Indians." But it was not till the year 1608 that the first permanent French settlement was effected. With the coup d'oeil of a general or the foresight of a prophet, Champlain, the illustrious first founder of French empire in America, in 1608 fixed the starting-point of it at the natural fortress of Quebec. How early the great project had begun to take shape in the leading minds of the nation it may not be easy to determine. It was only after the adventurous explorations of the French pioneers, traders, and friars—men of like boundless enthusiasm and courage—had been crowned by the achievement of La Salle, who first of men traversed the two great waterways of the continent from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, that the amazing possibilities of it were fully revealed. But, whosesoever scheme it was, a more magnificent project of empire, secular and spiritual, has never entered into the heart of man. It seems to have been native to the American soil, springing up in the hearts of the French pioneer explorers themselves;[18:1] but by its grandeur, and at the same time its unity, it was of a sort to delight the souls of Sully and Richelieu and of their masters. Under thin and dubious claims by right of discovery, through the immense energy and daring of her explorers, the heroic zeal of her missionaries, and not so much by the prowess of her soldiers as by her craft in diplomacy with savage tribes, France was to assert and make good her title to the basin of the St. Lawrence and the lakes, and the basin of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. From the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi, through the core of the continent, was to be drawn a cordon of posts, military, commercial, and religious, with other outlying stations at strategic points both eastward and westward. The only external interference with this scheme that could be apprehended at its inception was from the Spanish colonies, already decaying and shrinking within their boundaries to the west and to the southeast, and from a puny little English settlement started only a year before, with a doubtful hold on life, on the bank of the James River. A dozen years later a pitiably feeble company of Pilgrims shall make their landing at Plymouth to try the not hopeful experiment of living in the wilderness, and a settlement of Swedes in Delaware and of Hollanders on the Hudson shall be added to the incongruous, unconcerted, mutually jealous plantations that begin to take root along the Atlantic seaboard. Not only grandeur and sagacity of conception, but success in achievement, is illustrated by the comparative area occupied by the three great European powers on the continent of North America at the end of a century and a half from the founding of Quebec in 1608. Dividing the continent into twenty-five equal parts, the French claimed and seemed to hold firmly in possession twenty parts, the Spanish four parts, and the English one part.[19:1]

The comparison between the Spanish and the French methods of colonization and missions in America is at almost every point honorable to the French. Instead of a greedy scramble after other men's property in gold and silver, the business basis of the French enterprises was to consist in a widely organized and laboriously prosecuted traffic in furs. Instead of a series of desultory and savage campaigns of conquest, the ferocity of which was aggravated by the show of zeal for the kingdom of righteousness and peace, was a large-minded and far-sighted scheme of empire, under which remote and hostile tribes were to be combined by ties of mutual interest and common advantage. And the missions, instead of following servilely in the track of bloody conquest to assume the tutelage of subjugated and enslaved races, were to share with the soldier and the trader the perilous adventures of exploration, and not so much to be supported and defended as to be themselves the support and protection of the settlements, through the influence of Christian love and self-sacrifice over the savage heart. Such elements of moral dignity, as well as of imperial grandeur, marked the plans for the French occupation of North America.

To a wonderful extent those charged with this enterprise were worthy of the task. Among the military and civil leaders of it, from Champlain to Montcalm, were men that would have honored the best days of French chivalry. The energy and daring of the French explorers, whether traders or missionaries, have not been equaled in the pioneer work of other races. And the annals of Christian martyrdom may be searched in vain for more heroic examples of devotion to the work of the gospel than those which adorn the history of the French missions in North America. What magnificent results might not be expected from such an enterprise, in the hands of such men, sustained by the resources of the most powerful nation and national church in Christendom!

From the founding of Quebec, in 1608, the expansion of the French enterprise was swift and vast. By the end of fifty years Quebec had been equipped with hospital, nunnery, seminary for the education of priests, all affluently endowed from the wealth of zealous courtiers, and served in a noble spirit of self-devotion by the choicest men and women that the French church could furnish; besides these institutions, the admirable plan of a training colony, at which converted Indians should be trained to civilized life, was realized at Sillery, in the neighborhood. The sacred city of Montreal had been established as a base for missions to the remoter west. Long in advance of the settlement at Plymouth, French Christianity was actively and beneficently busy among the savages of eastern Maine, among the so-called "neutral nations" by the Niagara, among the fiercely hostile Iroquois of northern New York, by Lake Huron and Lake Nipissing, and, with wonderful tokens of success, by the Falls of St. Mary. "Thus did the religious zeal of the French bear the cross to the banks of the St. Mary and the confines of Lake Superior, and look wistfully toward the homes of the Sioux in the valley of the Mississippi, five years before the New England Eliot had addressed the tribe of Indians that dwelt within six miles of Boston harbor."[21:1]

Thirty years more passed, bringing the story down to the memorable year 1688. The French posts, military, commercial, and religious, had been pushed westward to the head of Lake Superior. The Mississippi had been discovered and explored, and the colonies planted from Canada along its banks and the banks of its tributaries had been met by the expeditions proceeding direct from France through the Gulf of Mexico. The claims of France in America included not only the vast domain of Canada, but a half of Maine, a half of Vermont, more than a half of New York, the entire valley of the Mississippi, and Texas as far as the Rio Bravo del Norte.[21:2] And these claims were asserted by actual and almost undisputed occupancy.

The seventy years that followed were years of "storm and stress" for the French colonies and missions. The widening areas occupied by the French and by the English settlers brought the rival establishments into nearer neighborhood, into sharper competition, and into bloody collision. Successive European wars—King William's War, Queen Anne's War (of the Spanish succession), King George's War (of the Austrian succession)—involved the dependencies of France and those of England in the conflicts of their sovereigns. These were the years of terror along the exposed northern frontier of English settlements in New England and New York, when massacre and burning by bands of savages, under French instigation and leadership, made the names of Haverhill and Deerfield and Schenectady memorable in American history, and when, in desperate campaigns against the Canadian strongholds, the colonists vainly sought to protect themselves from the savages by attacking the centers from which the murderous forays were directed. But each successive treaty of peace between England and France confirmed and reconfirmed the French claims to the main part of her American domain. The advances of French missions and settlements continued southward and westward, in spite of jealousy in European cabinets as the imposing magnitude of the plans of French empire became more distinctly disclosed, and in spite of the struggles of the English colonies both North and South. When, on the 4th of July, 1754, Colonel George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity, near the fork of the Ohio, to the French, "in the whole valley of the Mississippi, to its headsprings in the Alleghanies, no standard floated but that of France."[22:1]

There seemed little reason to doubt that the French empire in America, which for a century and a half had gone on expanding and strengthening, would continue to expand and strengthen for centuries to come. Sudden as lightning, in August, 1756, the Seven Years' War broke out on the other side of the globe. The treaty with which it ended, in February, 1763, transferred to Great Britain, together with the Spanish territory of Florida, all the French possessions in America, from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. "As a dream when one awaketh," the magnificent vision of empire, spiritual and secular, which for so many generations had occupied the imagination of French statesmen and churchmen, was rudely and forever dispelled. Of the princely wealth, the brilliant talents, the unsurpassed audacity of adventure, the unequaled heroism of toil and martyrdom expended on the great project, how strangely meager and evanescent the results! In the districts of Lower Canada there remain, indeed, the institutions of a French Catholic population; and the aspect of those districts, in which the pledge of full liberty to the dominant church has been scrupulously fulfilled by the British government, may reasonably be regarded as an indication of what France would have done for the continent in general. But within the present domain of the United States the entire results of a century and a half of French Catholic colonization and evangelization may be summed up as follows: In Maine, a thousand Catholic Indians still remain, to remind one of the time when, as it is boldly claimed, the whole Indian population of that province were either converted or under Jesuit training.[23:1] In like manner, a scanty score of thousands of Catholic Indians on various reservations in the remote West represent the time when, at the end of the French domination, "all the North American Indians were more or less extensively converted" to Catholic Christianity, "all had the gospel preached to them."[23:2] The splendid fruits of the missions among the Iroquois, from soil watered by the blood of martyrs, were wasted to nothing in savage intertribal wars. Among the Choctaws and Chickasaws of the South and Southwest, among whom the gospel was by and by to win some of its fairest trophies, the French missionaries achieved no great success.[23:3] The French colonies from Canada, planted so prosperously along the Western rivers, dispersed, leaving behind them some straggling families. The abundant later growth of the Catholic Church in that region was to be from other seed and stock. The region of Louisiana alone, destined a generation later to be included within the boundaries of the great republic, retained organized communities of French descent and language; but, living as they were in utter unbelief and contempt of religion and morality, it would be an unjust reproach on Catholicism to call them Catholic. The work of the gospel had got to be begun from the foundation. Nevertheless it is not to be doubted that remote memories or lingering traditions of a better age survived to aid the work of those who by and by should enter in to rebuild the waste places.[24:1]

There are not a few of us, wise after the event, who recognize a final cause of this surprising and almost dramatic failure, in the manifest intent of divine Providence that the field of the next great empire in the world's history should not become the exclusive domain of an old-world monarchy and hierarchy; but the immediate efficient causes of it are not so obvious. This, however, may justly be said: some of the seeming elements of strength in the French colonization proved to be fatal elements of weakness.

1. The French colonies had the advantage of royal patronage, endowment,[24:2] and protection, and of unity of counsel and direction. They were all parts of one system, under one control. And their centers of vitality, head and heart, were on the other side of the sea. Subsisting upon the strength of the great monarchy, they must needs share its fortunes, evil as well as good. When, after the reverses of France in the Seven Years' War, it became necessary to accept hard terms of peace, the superb framework of empire in the West fell to the disposal of the victors. "America," said Pitt, "was conquered in Germany."

2. The business basis of the French colonies, being that of trade with the Indians rather than a self-supporting agriculture, favored the swift expansion of these colonies and their wide influence among the Indians. Scattered companies of fur-traders would be found here and there, wherever were favorable points for traffic, penetrating deeply into the wilderness and establishing friendly business relations with the savages. It has been observed that the Romanic races show an alacrity for intermarriage with barbarous tribes that is not to be found in the Teutonic. The result of such relations is ordinarily less the elevating of the lower race than the dragging down of the higher; but it tends for the time to give great advantage in maintaining a powerful political influence over the barbarians. Thus it was that the French, few in number, covered almost the breadth of the continent with their formidable alliances; and these alliances were the offensive and defensive armor in which they trusted, but they were also their peril. Close alliance with one savage clan involved war with its enemies. It was an early misfortune of the French settlers that their close friendly relations with their Huron neighbors embattled against them the fiercest, bravest, and ablest of the Indian tribes, the confederacy of the Six Nations, which held, with full appreciation of its strategic importance, the command of the exits southward from the valley of the St. Lawrence. The fierce jealousy of the Iroquois toward the allies of their hereditary antagonists, rather than any good will toward white settlers of other races, made them an effectual check upon French encroachments upon the slender line of English, Dutch, and Swedish settlements that stretched southward from Maine along the Atlantic coast.

3. In one aspect it was doubtless an advantage to the French missions in America that the sharp sectarian competitions between the different clerical orders resulted finally in the missions coming almost exclusively under the control of the Jesuit society. This result insured to the missions the highest ability in administration and direction, ample resources of various sorts, and a force of missionaries whose personal virtues have won for them unstinted eulogy even from unfriendly sources—men the ardor of whose zeal was rigorously controlled by a more than martial severity of religious discipline. But it would be uncandid in us to refuse attention to those grave charges against the society brought by Catholic authorities and Catholic orders, and so enforced as, after long and acrimonious controversy, to result in the expulsion of the society from almost every nation of Catholic Europe, in its being stigmatized by Pope Benedict XIV., in 1741, as made up of "disobedient, contumacious, captious, and reprobate persons," and at last in its being suppressed and abolished by Pope Clement XIV., in 1773, as a nuisance to Christendom. We need, indeed, to make allowance for the intense animosity of sectarian strife among the various Catholic orders in which the charges against the society were engendered and unrelentingly prosecuted; but after all deductions it is not credible that the almost universal odium in which it was held was provoked solely by its virtues. Among the accusations against the society which seem most clearly substantiated these two are likely to be concerned in that "brand of ultimate failure which has invariably been stamped on all its most promising schemes and efforts":[26:1] first, a disposition to compromise the essential principles of Christianity by politic concessions to heathenism, so that the successes of the Jesuit missions are magnified by reports of alleged conversions that are conversions only in name and outward form; second, a constantly besetting propensity to political intrigue.[27:1] It is hardly to be doubted that both had their part in the prodigious failure of the French Catholic missions and settlements within the present boundaries of the United States.

4. The conditions which favored the swift and magnificent expansion of the French occupation were unfavorable to the healthy natural growth of permanent settlements. A post of soldiers, a group of cabins of trappers and fur-traders, and a mission of nuns and celibate priests, all together give small promise of rapid increase of population. It is rather to the fact that the French settlements, except at the seaboard, were constituted so largely of these elements, than to any alleged sterility of the French stock, that the fatal weakness of the French occupation is to be ascribed. The lack of French America was men. The population of Canada in 1759, according to census, was about eighty-two thousand;[27:2] that of New England in 1754 is estimated at four hundred and twenty-five thousand. "The white population 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 fourteenfold."[27:3] The same sign of weakness is recognized at the other extremity of the cordon of French settlements. The vast region of Louisiana is estimated, at fifty years from its colonization, at one tenth of the strength of the coeval province of Pennsylvania.[27:4]

Under these hopeless conditions the French colonies had not even the alternative of keeping the peace. The state of war was forced by the mother countries. There was no recourse for Canada except to her savage allies, won for her through the influence of the missionaries.

It is justly claimed that in the mind of such early leaders as Champlain the dominant motive of the French colonization was religious; but in the cruel position into which the colony was forced it was almost inevitable that the missions should become political. It was boasted in their behalf that they had taught the Indians "to mingle Jesus Christ and France together in their affections."[28:1] The cross and the lilies were blazoned together as the sign of French dominion. The missionary became frequently, and sometimes quite undisguisedly, a political agent. It was from the missions that the horrible murderous forays upon defenseless villages proceeded, which so often marked the frontier line of New England and New York with fire and blood. It is one of the most unhappy of the results of that savage warfare that in the minds of the communities that suffered from it the Jesuit missionary came to be looked upon as accessory to these abhorrent crimes. Deeply is it to be lamented that men with such eminent claims on our admiration and reverence should not be triumphantly clear of all suspicion of such complicity. We gladly concede the claim[28:2] that the proof of the complicity is not complete; we could welcome some clear evidence in disproof of it—some sign of a bold and indignant protest against these crimes; we could wish that the Jesuit historian had not boasted of these atrocities as proceeding from the fine work of his brethren,[29:1] and that the antecedents of the Jesuits as a body, and their declared principles of "moral theology," were such as raise no presumption against them even in unfriendly minds. But we must be content with thankfully acknowledging that divine change which has made it impossible longer to boast of or even justify such deeds, and which leaves no ground among neighbor Christians of the present day for harboring mutual suspicions which, to the Christian ministers of French and English America of two hundred years ago and less, it was impossible to repress.

I have spoken of the complete extinction within the present domain of the United States of the magnificent beginnings of the projected French Catholic Church and empire. It is only in the most recent years, since the Civil War, that the results of the work inaugurated in America by Champlain begin to reappear in the field of the ecclesiastical history of the United States. The immigration of Canadian French Catholics into the northern tier of States has already grown to considerable volume, and is still growing in numbers and in stability and strength, and adds a new and interesting element to the many factors that go to make up the American church.


[18:1] So Parkman.

[19:1] Bancroft's "United States," vol. iv., p. 267.

[21:1] Bancroft's "United States," vol. iii., p. 131.

[21:2] Ibid., p. 175.

[22:1] Bancroft, vol. iii., p. 121.

[23:1] Bishop O'Gorman, "The Roman Catholic Church in the United States," p. 136.

[23:2] Ibid., pp. 191-193.

[23:3] Ibid., p. 211.

[24:1] See O'Gorman, chaps. ix.-xiv., xx.

[24:2] Mr. Bancroft, describing the "sad condition" of La Salle's colony at Matagorda after the wreck of his richly laden store-ship, adds that "even now this colony possessed, from the bounty of Louis XIV., more than was contributed by all the English monarchs together for the twelve English colonies on the Atlantic. Its number still exceeded that of the colony of Smith in Virginia, or of those who embarked in the 'Mayflower'" (vol. iii., p. 171).

[26:1] Dr. R. F. Littledale, in "Encyclopaedia Britannica," vol. xiii., pp. 649-652.

[27:1] Both these charges are solemnly affirmed by the pope in the bull of suppression of the society (Dr. R. F. Littledale, in "Encyclopaedia Britannica," vol. xiii., p. 655).

[27:2] Bancroft, vol. iii., p. 320.

[27:3] Ibid., pp. 128, 129.

[27:4] The contrast is vigorously emphasized by Mr. Bancroft: "Such was Louisiana more than a half-century after the first attempt at colonization by La Salle. Its population may have been five thousand whites and half that number of blacks. Louis XIV. had fostered it with pride and liberal expenditures; an opulent merchant, famed for his successful enterprise, assumed its direction; the Company of the Mississippi, aided by boundless but transient credit, had made it the foundation of their hopes; and, again, Fleury and Louis XV. had sought to advance its fortunes. Priests and friars, dispersed through nations from Biloxi to the Dahcotas, propitiated the favor of the savages; but still the valley of the Mississippi was nearly a wilderness. All its patrons—though among them it counted kings and ministers of state—had not accomplished for it in half a century a tithe of the prosperity which within the same period sprang naturally from the benevolence of William Penn to the peaceful settlers on the Delaware" (vol. iii., p. 369).

[28:1] "Encyclopaedia Britannica," vol. xiii., p. 654.

[28:2] Bishop O'Gorman, pp. 137-142.

[29:1] Bancroft, vol. iii., pp. 187, 188.



We have briefly reviewed the history of two magnificent schemes of secular and spiritual empire, which, conceived in the minds of great statesmen and churchmen, sustained by the resources of the mightiest kingdoms of that age, inaugurated by soldiers of admirable prowess, explorers of unsurpassed boldness and persistence, and missionaries whose heroic faith has canonized them in the veneration of Christendom, have nevertheless come to naught.

We turn now to observe the beginnings, coinciding in time with those of the French enterprise, of a series of disconnected plantations along the Atlantic seaboard, established as if at haphazard, without plan or mutual preconcert, of different languages and widely diverse Christian creeds, depending on scanty private resources, unsustained by governmental arms or treasuries, but destined, in a course of events which no human foresight could have calculated, to come under the plastic influence of a single European power, to be molded according to the general type of English polity, and to become heir to English traditions, literature, and language. These mutually alien and even antagonistic communities were to be constrained, by forces superior to human control, first into confederation and then into union, and to occupy the breadth of the new continent as a solid and independent nation. The history reads like a fulfillment of the apocalyptic imagery of a rock hewn from the mountain without hands, moving on to fill the earth.

Looking back after the event, we find it easy to trace the providential preparations for this great result. There were few important events in the course of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that did not have to do with it; but the most obvious of these antecedents are to be found in controversies and persecutions.

The protest of northern Europe against the abuses and corruptions prevailing in the Roman Church was articulated in the Augsburg Confession. Over against it were framed the decrees of the Council of Trent. Thus the lines were distinctly drawn and the warfare between contending principles was joined. Those who fondly dreamed of a permanently united and solid Protestantism to withstand its powerful antagonist were destined to speedy and inevitable disappointment. There have been many to deplore that so soon after the protest of Augsburg was set forth as embodying the common belief of Protestants new parties should have arisen protesting against the protest. The ordinance of the Lord's Supper, instituted as a sacrament of universal Christian fellowship, became (as so often before and since) the center of contention and the badge of mutual alienation. It was on this point that Zwingli and the Swiss parted from Luther and the Lutherans; on the same point, in the next generation of Reformers, John Calvin, attempting to mediate between the two contending parties, became the founder of still a third party, strong not only in the lucid and logical doctrinal statements in which it delighted, but also in the possession of a definite scheme of republican church government which became as distinctive of the Calvinistic or "Reformed" churches as their doctrine of the Supper. It was at a later epoch still that those insoluble questions which press most inexorably for consideration when theological thought and study are most serious and earnest—the questions that concern the divine sovereignty in its relation to human freedom and responsibility—arose in the Catholic Church to divide Jesuit from Dominican and Franciscan, and in the Reformed churches to divide the Arminians from the disciples of Gomar and Turretin. All these divisions among the European Christians of the seventeenth century were to have their important bearing on the planting of the Christian church in America.

In view of the destined predominance of English influence in the seaboard colonies of America, the history of the divisions of the Christian people of England is of preeminent importance to the beginnings of the American church. The curiously diverse elements that entered into the English Reformation, and the violent vicissitudes that marked the course of it, were all represented in the parties existing among English Christians at the period of the planting of the colonies.

The political and dynastic character of the movements that detached the English hierarchy from the Roman see had for one inevitable result to leaven the English church as a lump with the leaven of Herod. That considerable part of the clergy and people that moved to and fro, without so much as the resistance of any very formidable vis inertiae, with the change of the monarch or of the monarch's caprice, might leave the student of the history of those times in doubt as to whether they belonged to the kingdom of heaven or to the kingdom of this world. But, however severe the judgment that any may pass upon the character and motives of Henry VIII. and of the councilors of Edward, there will hardly be any seriously to question that the movements directed by these men soon came to be infused with more serious and spiritual influences. The Lollardy of Wycliffe and his fellows in the fourteenth century had been severely repressed and driven into "occult conventicles," but had not been extinguished; the Bible in English, many times retouched after Wycliffe's days, and perfected by the refugees at Geneva from the Marian persecutions, had become a common household book; and those exiles themselves, returning from the various centers of fervid religious thought and feeling in Holland and Germany and Switzerland, had brought with them an augmented spiritual faith, as well as intensified and sharply defined convictions on the questions of theology and church order that were debated by the scholars of the Continent. It was impossible that the diverse and antagonist elements thus assembled should not work on one another with violent reactions. By the beginning of the seventeenth century not less than four categories would suffice to classify the people of England according to their religious differences. First, there were those who still continued to adhere to the Roman see. Secondly, those who, either from conviction or from expediency or from indifference, were content with the state church of England in the shape in which Elizabeth and her parliaments had left it; this class naturally included the general multitude of Englishmen, religious, irreligious, and non-religious. Thirdly, there were those who, not refusing their adhesion to the national church as by law established, nevertheless earnestly desired to see it more completely purified from doctrinal errors and practical corruptions, and who qualified their conformity to it accordingly. Fourthly, there were the few who distinctly repudiated the national church as a false church, coming out from her as from Babylon, determined upon "reformation without tarrying for any." Finally, following upon these, more radical, not to say more logical, than the rest, came a fifth party, the followers of George Fox. Not one of these five parties but has valid claims, both in its principles and in its membership, on the respect of history; not one but can point to its saints and martyrs; not one but was destined to play a quite separate and distinct and highly important part in the planting of the church of Christ in America. They are designated, for convenience' sake, as the Catholics, the Conformists, the Puritans or Reformists, the Separatists (of whom were the Pilgrims), and the Quakers.

Such a Christendom was it, so disorganized, divided, and subdivided into parties and sects, which was to furnish the materials for the peopling of the new continent with a Christian population. It would seem that the same "somewhat not ourselves," which had defeated in succession the plans of two mighty nations to subject the New World to a single hierarchy, had also provided that no one form or organization of Christianity should be exclusive or even dominant in the occupation of the American soil. From one point of view the American colonies will present a sorry aspect. Schism, mutual alienation, antagonism, competition, are uncongenial to the spirit of the gospel, which seeks "that they all may be one." And yet the history of the church has demonstrated by many a sad example that this offense "must needs come." No widely extended organization of church discipline in exclusive occupation of any country has ever long avoided the intolerable mischiefs attendant on spiritual despotism. It was a shock to the hopes and the generous sentiments of those who had looked to see one undivided body of a reformed church erected over against the medieval church, from the corruptions of which they had revolted, when they saw Protestantism go asunder into the several churches of the Lutheran and the Reformed confessions; there are many even now to deplore it as a disastrous set-back to the progress of the kingdom of Christ. But in the calmness of our long retrospect it is easy for us to recognize that whatever jurisdiction should have been established over an undivided Protestant church would inevitably have proved itself, in no long time, just such a yoke as neither the men of that time nor their fathers had been able to bear. Fifteen centuries of church history have not been wasted if thereby the Christian people have learned that the pursuit of Christian unity through administrative or corporate or diplomatic union is following the wrong road, and that the one Holy Catholic Church is not the corporation of saints, but their communion.

The new experiment of church life that was initiated in the colonization of America is still in progress. The new States were to be planted not only with diverse companies from the Old World, but with all the definitely organized sects by which the map of Christendom was at that time variegated, to which should be added others of native origin. Notwithstanding successive "booms" now of one and then of another, it was soon to become obvious to all that no one of these mutually jealous sects was to have any exclusive predominance, even over narrow precincts of territory. The old-world state churches, which under the rule, cujus regio ejus religio, had been supreme and exclusive each in its jurisdiction, were to find themselves side by side and mingled through the community on equal terms with those over whom in the old country they had domineered as dissenters, or whom perhaps they had even persecuted as heretics or as Antichrist. Thus placed, they were to be trained by the discipline of divine Providence and by the grace of the Holy Spirit from persecution to toleration, from toleration to mutual respect, and to cooeperation in matters of common concern in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. What further remains to be tried is the question whether, if not the sects, then the Christian hearts in each sect, can be brought to take the final step from mutual respect to mutual love, "that we henceforth, speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, which is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, shall make the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love." Unless we must submit to those philosophers who forbid us to find in history the evidences of final cause and providential design, we may surely look upon this as a worthy possible solution of the mystery of Providence in the planting of the church in America in almost its ultimate stage of schism—that it is the purpose of its Head, out of the mutual attrition of the sects, their disintegration and comminution, to bring forth such a demonstration of the unity and liberty of the children of God as the past ages of church history have failed to show.

That mutual intolerance of differences in religious belief which, in the seventeenth century, was, throughout Christendom, coextensive with religious earnestness had its important part to play in the colonization of America. Of the persecutions and oppressions which gave direct impulse to the earliest colonization of America, the most notable are the following: (1) the persecution of the English Puritans in the reigns of James I. and Charles I., ending with the outbreak of the civil war in 1642; (2) the persecution of the English Roman Catholics during the same period; (3) the persecution of the English Quakers during the twenty-five years of Charles II. (1660-85); (4) the persecution of the French Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685); (5) the disabilities suffered by the Presbyterians of the north of Ireland after the English Revolution (1688); (6) the ferocious ravaging of the region of the Rhenish Palatinate by the armies of Louis XIV. in the early years of the seventeenth century; (7) the cruel expulsion of the Protestants of the archiepiscopal duchy of Salzburg (1731).

Beyond dispute, the best and most potent elements in the settlement of the seaboard colonies were the companies of earnestly religious people who from time to time, under severe compulsion for conscience' sake, came forth from the Old World as involuntary emigrants. Cruel wars and persecutions accomplished a result in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ which the authors of them never intended. But not these agencies alone promoted the great work. Peace, prosperity, wealth, and the hope of wealth had their part in it. The earliest successful enterprises of colonization were indeed marked with the badge of Christianity, and among their promoters were men whose language and deeds nobly evince the Christian spirit; but the enterprises were impelled and directed by commercial or patriotic considerations. The immense advantages that were to accrue from them to the world through the wider propagation of the gospel of Christ were not lost sight of in the projecting and organizing of the expeditions, nor were provisions for church and ministry omitted; but these were incidental, not primary.

This story of the divine preparations carried forward through unconscious human agencies in different lands and ages for the founding of the American church is a necessary preamble to our history. The scene of the story is now to be shifted to the other side of the sea.



There is sufficient evidence that the three little vessels which on the 13th of May, 1607, were moored to the trees on the bank of the James River brought to the soil of America the germ of a Christian church. We may feel constrained to accept only at a large discount the pious official professions of King James I., and critically to scrutinize many of the statements of that brilliant and fascinating adventurer, Captain John Smith, whether concerning his friends or concerning his enemies or concerning himself. But the beauty and dignity of the Christian character shine unmistakable in the life of the chaplain to the expedition, the Rev. Robert Hunt, and all the more radiantly for the dark and discouraging surroundings in which his ministry was to be exercised.

For the company which Captain Smith and that famous mariner, Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, had by many months of labor and "many a forgotten pound" of expense succeeded in recruiting for the enterprise was made up of most unhopeful material for the founding of a Christian colony. Those were the years of ignoble peace with which the reign of James began; and the glittering hopes of gold might well attract some of the brave men who had served by sea or land in the wars of Elizabeth. But the last thirty years had furnished no instance of success, and many of disastrous and sometimes tragical failure, in like attempts—the enterprises of Humphrey Gilbert, of Raleigh, of John White, of Gosnold himself, and of Popham and Gorges. Even brave men might hesitate to volunteer for the forlorn hope of another experiment at colonizing.

The little squadron had hardly set sail when the unfitness of the emigrants for their work began to discover itself. Lying weather-bound within sight of home, "some few, little better than atheists, of the greatest rank among them," were busying themselves with scandalous imputations upon the chaplain, then lying dangerously ill in his berth. All through the four months' passage by way of the Canaries and the West India Islands discontents and dissensions prevailed. Wingfield, who had been named president of the colony, had Smith in irons, and at the island of Nevis had the gallows set up for his execution on a charge of conspiracy, when milder counsels prevailed, and he was brought to Virginia, where he was tried and acquitted and his adversary mulcted in damages.

Arrived at the place of settlement, the colonists set about the work of building their houses, but found that their total number of one hundred and five was made up in the proportion of four carpenters to forty-eight "gentlemen." Not inadequately provisioned for their work, they came repeatedly almost to perishing through their sheer incapacity and unthrift, and their needless quarrels with one another and with the Indians. In five months one half of the company were dead. In January, 1608, eight months from the landing, when the second expedition arrived with reinforcements and supplies, only thirty-eight were surviving out of the one hundred and five, and of these the strongest were conspiring to seize the pinnace and desert the settlement.

The newcomers were no better than the first. They were chiefly "gentlemen" again, and goldsmiths, whose duty was to discover and refine the quantities of gold that the stockholders in the enterprise were resolved should be found in Virginia, whether it was there or not. The ship took back on her return trip a full cargo of worthless dirt.

Reinforcements continued to arrive every few months, the quality of which it might be unfair to judge simply from the disgusted complaints of Captain Smith. He begs the Company to send but thirty honest laborers and artisans, "rather than a thousand such as we have," and reports the next ship-load as "fitter to breed a riot than to found a colony." The wretched settlement became an object of derision to the wits of London, and of sympathetic interest to serious minds. The Company, reorganized under a new charter, was strengthened by the accession of some of the foremost men in England, including four bishops, the Earl of Southampton, and Sir Francis Bacon. Appeals were made to the Christian public in behalf of an enterprise so full of promise of the furtherance of the gospel. A fleet of nine ships was fitted out, carrying more than five hundred emigrants, with ample supplies. Captain Smith, representing what there was of civil authority in the colony, had a brief struggle with their turbulence, and recognized them as of the same sort with the former companies, for the most part "poor gentlemen, tradesmen, serving-men, libertines, and such like, ten times more fit to spoil a commonwealth than either begin one or help to maintain one." When only part of this expedition had arrived, Captain Smith departed for England, disabled by an accidental wound, leaving a settlement of nearly five hundred men, abundantly provisioned. "It was not the will of God that the new state should be formed of these materials."[41:1] In six months the number of the colonists was reduced to sixty, and when relief arrived it was reckoned that in ten days' longer delay they would have perished to the last man. With one accord the wretched remnant of the colony, together with the latest comers, deserted, without a tear of regret, the scene of their misery. But their retreating vessels were met and turned back from the mouth of the river by the approaching ships of Lord de la Warr with emigrants and supplies. Such were the first three unhappy and unhonored years of the first Christian colony on the soil of the United States.

One almost shrinks from being assured that this worthless crew, through all these years of suicidal crime and folly, had been assiduous in religious duties. First under an awning made of an old sail, seated upon logs, with a rail nailed to two trees for a pulpit, afterward in a poor shanty of a church, "that could neither well defend wind nor rain," they "had daily common prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons, and every three months the holy communion, till their minister died"; and after that "prayers daily, with an homily on Sundays, two or three years, till more preachers came." The sturdy and terrible resolution of Captain Smith, who in his marches through the wilderness was wont to begin the day with prayer and psalm, and was not unequal to the duty, when it was laid on him, of giving Christian exhortation as well as righteous punishment, and the gentle Christian influence of the Rev. Robert Hunt, were the salt that saved the colony from utterly perishing of its vices. It was not many months before the frail body of the chaplain sank under the hardships of pioneer life; he is commemorated by his comrade, the captain, as "an honest, religious, and courageous divine, during whose life our factions were oft qualified, our wants and greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison of what we endured after his memorable death." When, in 1609, in a nobler spirit than that of mere commercial enterprise, the reorganized Company, under the new charter, was preparing the great reinforcement of five hundred to go out under Lord de la Warr as governor of the colony, counsel was taken with Abbot, the Puritan Bishop of London, himself a member of the Virginia Company, and Richard Buck was selected as a worthy successor to Robert Hunt in the office of chaplain. Such he proved himself. Sailing in advance of the governor, in the ship with Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers, and wrecked with them off the Bermudas, he did not forget his duty in the "plenty, peace, and ease" of that paradise. The ship's bell was rescued from the wreck to ring for morning and evening prayer, and for the two sermons every Sunday. There were births and funerals and a marriage in the shipwrecked company, and at length, when their makeshift vessel was ready, they embarked for their desired haven, there to find only the starving threescore survivors of the colony. They gathered together, a pitiable remnant, in the church, where Master Buck "made a zealous and sorrowful prayer"; and at once, without losing a day, they embarked for a last departure from Virginia, but were met at the mouth of the river by the tardy ships of Lord de la Warr. The next morning, Sunday, June 10, 1610, Lord de la Warr landed at the fort, where Gates had drawn up his forlorn platoon of starving men to receive him. The governor fell on his knees in prayer, then led the way to the church, and, after service and a sermon from the chaplain, made an address, assuming command of the colony.

Armed, under the new charter, with adequate authority, the new governor was not slow in putting on the state of a viceroy. Among his first cares was to provide for the external dignity of worship. The church, a building sixty feet by twenty-four, built long enough before to be now in need of repairs, was put into good condition, and a brave sight it was on Sundays to see the Governor, with the Privy Council and the Lieutenant-General and the Admiral and the Vice-Admiral and the Master of the Horse, together with the body-guard of fifty halberdiers in fair red cloaks, commanded by Captain Edward Brewster, assembled for worship, the governor seated in the choir in a green velvet chair, with a velvet cushion on a table before him. Few things could have been better adapted to convince the peculiar public of Jamestown that divine worship was indeed a serious matter. There was something more than the parade of government manifested by his lordship in the few months of his reign; but the inauguration of strong and effective control over the lazy, disorderly, and seditious crowd to be dealt with at Jamestown was reserved for his successor, Sir Thomas Dale, who arrived in May, 1611, in company with the Rev. Alexander Whitaker, the "apostle of Virginia."

It will not be possible for any to understand the relations of this colony to the state of parties in England without distinctly recognizing that the Puritans were not a party against the Church of England, but a party in the Church of England. The Puritan party was the party of reform, and was strong in a deep fervor of religious conviction widely diffused among people and clergy, and extending to the highest places of the nobility and the episcopate. The anti-Puritan party was the conservative or reactionary party, strong in the vis inertiae, and in the king's pig-headed prejudices and his monstrous conceit of theological ability and supremacy in the church; strong also in a considerable adhesion and zealous cooeperation from among his nominees, the bishops. The religious division was also a political one, the Puritans being known as the party of the people, their antagonists as the court party. The struggle of the Puritans (as distinguished from the inconsiderable number of the Separatists) was for the maintenance of their rights within the church; the effort of their adversaries, with the aid of the king's prerogative, was to drive or harry them out of the church. It is not to be understood that the two parties were as yet organized as such and distinctly bounded; but the two tendencies were plainly recognized, and the sympathies of leading men in church or state were no secret.

The Virginia Company was a Puritan corporation.[44:1] As such, its meetings and debates were the object of popular interest and of the royal jealousy. Among its corporators were the brothers Sandys, sons of the Puritan Archbishop of York, one of whom held the manor of Scrooby. Others of the corporation were William Brewster, of Scrooby, and his son Edward. In the fleet of Sir Thomas Gates, May, 1609, were noted Puritans, one of whom, Stephen Hopkins, "who had much knowledge in the Scriptures and could reason well therein," was clerk to that "painful preacher," but not strict conformist, Master Richard Buck. The intimate and sometimes official relations of the Virginia Company not only with leading representatives of the Puritan party, but with the Pilgrims of Leyden, whom they would gladly have received into their own colony, are matter of history and of record. It admits of proof that there was a steady purpose in the Company, so far as it was not thwarted by the king and the bishops of the court party, to hold their unruly and ill-assorted colony under Puritan influences both of church and government.[45:1] The fact throws light on the remoter as well as the nearer history of Virginia. Especially it throws light on the memorable administration of Sir Thomas Dale, which followed hard upon the departure of Lord de la Warr and his body-guard in red cloaks.

The Company had picked their man with care—"a man of good conscience and knowledge in divinity," and a soldier and disciplinarian proved in the wars of the Low Countries—a very prototype of the great Cromwell. He understood what manner of task he had undertaken, and executed it without flinching. As a matter of course—it was the way in that colony—there was a conspiracy against his authority. There was no second conspiracy under him. Punishment was inflicted on the ringleaders so swift, so terrible, as to paralyze all future sedition. He put in force, in the name of the Company, a code of "Laws, Divine, Moral, and Martial," to which no parallel can be found in the severest legislation of New England. An invaluable service to the colony was the abolition of that demoralizing socialism that had been enforced on the colonists, by which all their labor was to be devoted to the common stock. He gave out land in severalty, and the laborer enjoyed the fruits of his own industry and thrift, or suffered the consequences of his laziness. The culture of tobacco gave the colony a currency and a staple of export.

With Dale was associated as chaplain Alexander Whitaker, son of the author of the Calvinistic Lambeth Articles, and brother of a Separatist preacher of London. What was his position in relation to church parties is shown by his letter to his cousin, the "arch-Puritan," William Gouge, written after three years' residence in Virginia, urging that nonconformist clergymen should come over to Virginia, where no question would be raised on the subject of subscription or the surplice. What manner of man and minister he was is proved by a noble record of faithful work. He found a true workfellow in Dale. When this statesmanlike and soldierly governor founded his new city of Henrico up the river, and laid out across the stream the suburb of Hope-in-Faith, defended by Fort Charity and Fort Patience, he built there in sight from his official residence the parsonage of the "apostle of Virginia." The course of Whitaker's ministry is described by himself in a letter to a friend: "Every Sabbath day we preach in the forenoon and catechise in the afternoon. Every Saturday, at night, I exercise in Sir Thomas Dale's house." But he and his fellow-clergymen did not labor without aid, even in word and doctrine. When Mr. John Rolfe was perplexed with questions of duty touching his love for Pocahontas, it was to the old soldier, Dale, that he brought his burden, seeking spiritual counsel. And it was this "religious and valiant governor," as Whitaker calls him, this "man of great knowledge in divinity, and of a good conscience in all things," that "labored long to ground the faith of Jesus Christ" in the Indian maiden, and wrote concerning her, "Were it but for the gaining of this one soul, I will think my time, toils, and present stay well spent."

The progress of the gospel in reclaiming the unhappy colony to Christian civilization varies with the varying fortunes of contending parties in England. Energetic efforts were made by the Company under Sandys, the friend of Brewster, to send out worthy colonists; and the delicate task of finding young women of good character to be shipped as wives to the settlers was undertaken conscientiously and successfully. Generous gifts of money and land were contributed (although little came from them) for the endowment of schools and a college for the promotion of Christ's work among the white people and the red. But the course of events on both sides of the sea may be best illustrated by a narrative of personal incidents.

In the year 1621, an East India Company's chaplain, the Rev. Patrick Copland, who perhaps deserves the title of the first English missionary in India, on his way back from India met, probably at the Canaries, with ships bound for Virginia with emigrants. Learning from these something of the needs of the plantation, he stirred up his fellow-passengers on the "Royal James," and raised the sum of seventy pounds, which was paid to the treasurer of the Virginia Company; and, being increased by other gifts to one hundred and twenty-five pounds, was, in consultation with Mr. Copland, appropriated for a free school to be called the "East India School."

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