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Early Religious Leaders 
of Newport 

Eight Addresses delivered before the 

Newport Historical Society 




Newport, Rhode Island 

Published by 

The Newport Historical Society 





The religious element in the history of Newport can never be 
neglected by one who seeks to obtain a fair impression of the purposes 
and acts of its first settlers and the events which naturally followed. 

Driven from the colony of Massachusetts Bay by inability to accept 
the narrow religious conditions there imposed upon them, the founders 
of Portsmouth and Newport made welcome to their settlements people 
of every faith and form of worship ; thereby giving what is perhaps 
the first instance in the history of the world of a free and independent 
community separating absolutely civil rights from religious opinions. 

As might be imagined it was but a few years before this invitation 
was known and accepted ; and the little city of Newport soon found 
among its citizens not only the Baptists and the Congregationalists, the 
first settlers of the city, but also Friends, Hebrews, Moravian Brethren, 
the Church of England, and the followers of George Whitefleld, who 
soon organized a Methodist Church. 

The history of Newport proves that this broad and liberal policy 
was wise as well as just. TTiese men of different faiths, some of them 
subject to constant persecution in other colonies, proved themselves most 
useful, and patriotic, many bringing to the city wealth and a love of 
literature and of the arts. 


(Note — The following papers are arrnnged in the order, approximately, of thr estaliHsh- 
ment in Newport of the different religious bodies represented.) 



Pastor Second Baptist Church, Newport 
Paper read before the Society May S, IQI7 



Professor of History, Swarthmore College 
Paper read before the Society August 14, 1917 



Pastor United Congregational Church, Newport 
Paper read before the Society, February 6, 1917 



Rector Trinity Church, Newport 
Paper read before the Society, Marc|i 6, 1917 



Pastor Synagogue Shearith Israel, New York 

Paper read before the Society, June 12, 1917 



Pastor First Methodist Church, Newport 

Paper read before the Society-, January 2, 1917 



Pastor Channing Memorial Church, Newport 
Paper read before the Society, April t,, 1917 



Vice President of the Society 
Paper read before the Society, July lo, 1917 


A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
May 8th, 1917 

Rev. franklin G. McKEEVER, D.D. 


Biography is the recounting of the facts of a human Hfe 
in their historical relation. Rightly to weigh these facts and 
trace their consequences, one must acquaint himself with 
their antecedent inspiration, as well as with the history of 
events in the midst of which they found expression. In this 
task the biographer wdll be influenced and guided by the 
known character, inherited or acquired, of the person of 
w^hom he writes. 

John Clarke was born in Westhorp, Suffolk, England, 
October 8, 1609. From his ancestors, through many genera- 
tions, he must have inherited a love of liberty : for the spirit 
of liberty had been long on the wing, seeking for noble souls 
of such ample mold as to be able to receive his afflatus. For 
more than a century and a half, the thoughtful of Europe 
had been awakening from the sleep of ages, until at the be- 
ginning of the seventeenth century, tyranny over body or 
mind, tenaciously exercised by the strong arm of secular and 
ecclesiastical power, w^as intolerable longer, to men who 
claimed the God-given right to think. Such was John 
Wycliffe, who on finishing his translation of the Scriptures 
into the English tongue, exultantly offered to the plowman 
an equal opportunity with the Priest to know the w ill of God. 
Never before had the English people felt such thrills of self- 
conscious power and holy ambition to free themselves from 
the chains that bound the soul, as w^hen they became ac- 
quainted with the dealings of God with ancient nations, and 
the incomparable moral ideals of Jesus and his apostles. The 
multiplication of printed Bibles following the invention of 
movable types by a far-seeing German genius had made this 
possible, and set astir not only England but the whole west- 
ern world like an awakened giant conscious of his powers. 
The sixteenth century was still young when the Monk of 
Wittenberg defied the Holy See, set an example of independ- 
ence in speech and thought, and proclaimed to all the civil- 

ized world a message of personal responsibility to 
God, and therefore personal freedom from all who inter- 
pose themselves between God and the soul : thus laying the 
corner-stone of a new civilization. The Renaissance whetted 
ambition to a fine edge, and the domination of scholasticism 
and feudalism, and of the church in secular matters, was 
over-powered by the onrush of nationalism and humanism. 
Discovery and adventure became a passion. A new heavens 
and a new earth invited the emancipated spirit of mankind 
to new prowess. The artist, the philosopher, the scientist, the 
statesman, the scholar, had his first inspiration to move in 
the realm of liberty. The great universities became the Mecca 
of favored sons of fortune, but humbler spirits also claimed 
the right to think; especially in those spheres which con- 
cerned their temporal and eternal well-being^religion and 
government. Encouraged by the benign and brilliant Eliza- 
beth, freedom unfurled a flag never again to be folded while 
there should be men on earth willing to sacrifice comfort and 
even life to realize the heaven-born principle of liberty in 
state and church. 

But it must not be supposed that the spirit of freedom 
had smothered forever the fires of tyranny and persecution. 
James I, succeeded Elizabeth to the throne in 1603. Puritan- 
ism had appeared as early as the reign of Edward VI. Eliza- 
beth, a Protestant at heart, pursued for state policy, a tem- 
porizing course toward the Papacy and disappointed the 
hopes of her Puritan subjects, extreme Protestants that they 
were, who boldly taught that the church and state were en- 
dowed with separate and distinct functions which were 
never intended to be united, and that "conscience and not the 
power of man will drive men to seek the Lord's Kingdom." 
James I, an extreme reactionist and pronounced bigot, em- 
ployed his great power to compel all his subjects to respect 
the Roman doctrine and liturgy, saying of the Puritans: "I 
will make them conform, or I will harry them out of my 
kingdom." The record of persecutions and martyrdoms in 
that reign is a dark blot on the pages of Christian history. 
The most painful sufferers in that period of madness were 
the Puritans, of whom Macaulay says : "The hardy sect grew 
up and flourished in spite of every thing that seemed likely 


to stunt it, struck its roots into a barren soil, and spread its 
branches wide to an inclement sky." 

Into this environment came John Clarke. Of his pro- 
genitors we know little. But it is not ditFicult for the imagina- 
tion to summon them back to our company from the long 
past. That they did not lack material possessions; that they 
prized intellectual and spiritual riches higher than the ma- 
terial, we may justly infer from the record of their illustrious 
son: "a man of liberal education and of bland and courtly 
manners." "One of the ablest men of the seventeenth cen- 
tury." "A scholar bred." Unhappily, we have no reliable rec- 
ord as to where John Clarke received his education but facts 
\v» 11 substantiated, prove him to have been a man of learning 
far above the average of his time. He is described as a jnan 
of high repute for ability and scholarship in languages, in- 
cluding Latin, Greek and Hebrew, law, medicine and theol- 
ogy. In his will he bequeathed to a friend, "my Concordance 
and Lexicon to it belonging, written by myself, being the 
fruit of several years study; my Hebrew Bibles, Buxtorf's 
and Pastor's Lexicon, Cotton's Concordance, and all the rest 
of my books." The Lexicon written by himself, to which ref- 
erence is here made, is believed to be the one now preserved 
in the library of Harvard University. These, and other liter- 
ary works assure us that Clarke was a man of learned tastes 
and attainments. Up to the time of his leaving England he 
was doubtless in sympathy with Puritan views: for with 
them the contemptuously styled Anabaptists of the time held 
natural afTmity, drinking together at the fountain of soul 

John Clarke came to Massachusetts in September, 1637, 
when that colony was but seven years from its birth. The re- 
ligious controversy which he found on landing in Boston, 
seems in the main, trivial to us now. But it was such as to 
induce bitterest strife and kindle the fires of torture and 
exile, which the state-church was not slow to employ. Anne 
Hutchinson, keen minded, brave spirited, was the fearless 
advocate of a free church in a free state. Her followers, 
among whom were William Coddington, John Clarke, and 
many other well-to-do and intelligent citizens, were being 
first disarmed and bereft of protection against the savages. 


and then banished from the colony. It is not germain to our 
subject to enter at length into this not too proud chapter in 
our colonial history. It has been facetiously said, that the 
Puritans on landing in the new world, "first fell on their 
knees, and then on the aborigines." Certain it is that the 
leaders among the Puritans of John Clarke's day, intro- 
duced, or rather imported from the old world, a galling 
tyranny, practiced in New England upon others the abuses 
that they had come far to escape, and refused to others the 
right to differ from them in religious faith and practice. It 
was a long time ago. Listening to its recital seems like hear- 
ing a lingering echo of the Dark Ages. 

With the sentence of banishment and torture iinpend- 
ing, the liberty party of Boston resolved to find and found a 
new home in the yet untried wilderness, and endeavor to 
win the friendship of savage chiefs. To the heart of at least 
one man of that party, peace was a boon worthy to be cov- 
eted and secured even at the cost of protracted hardship 
and privation. This man was John Clarke. He was chosen to 
seek out an eligible place for settlement. Chilled by the rigors 
of a New England winter, and having previously essayed a 
more northerly latitude, his party set sail from Boston in the 
spring of 1638, with their eyes either on Long Island or the 
coast of Delaw are. But while their vessel was rounding Cape 
Cod, Clarke with soine companions determined to journey 
overland, "to a town called Providence .... which was be- 
gun by one M. Roger Williams, who for matter of conscience 
had not long before been exiled from the former jurisdic- 
tion." Williams received the explorers hospitably, and of- 
fered valuable suggestions as to two tracts of territory near at 
hand: Sowames, now Warwick, and Aquidneck, now Rhode 
Island. Ascertaining with Williams' aid that the former 
lay within the Patent of Plymouth, and resolving, "through 
the help of Christ, to get rid of all and be by ourselves," they 
investigated the prospect of the latter. And finding that 
Island unencumbered by English settlers, they, still with the 
aid of Mr. Williams, set about procuring its possession. In 
a fair and friendly way they, in no long time, succeeded in 
purchasing Aquidneck on the following terms: the payment 
of forty fathoms of white beads, to be equally divided be- 


tween the two chiefs, Canonicus and Miantonomoh; to- 
gether with ten coats and twenty hose, to be distributed 
among the natives on condition that they remove from the 
Ishmd before the next winter. The wily Coddington, of whom 
we shall have more to say further on, succeeded in having 
the deed made to him, personally. But this action he was 
later compelled to retract. 

We may now accompany the adventurers to their new- 
ly acquired possession, and see what manner of life they 
devised for themselves in the new world. Here we become 
acquainted with the invaluable services of John Clarke as 
a citizen. He is now twenty-nine years of age, strong in body, 
cultivated in mind, and possessed of a well-developed moral 
sense, to which the liberty of the soul of every man in things 
pertaining to God, made strong appeal. 

Before setting out from Boston, eighteen dissenters from 
the Established Church there — eighteen of the seventy-six 
who had been disarmed because of suspicion that they might 
use their weapons in defense against the decrees of the 
court — formed a compact, which they would use in their new 
home, as yet "not knowing whither they went." This agree- 
ment reads as follows : "We whose names are underwritten, 
do here solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate 
ourselves into a Bodie Politick, and as He shall help, will 
submit ourselves, lives and estates, unto our Lord Jesus 
Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and to all those 
proper and most absolute laws of His given in His holy word 
of truth, to be guided and judged thereby." 

John Clarke's name is the second signature to this com- 
pact. Passages of Scripture affixed to it turn our thoughts to 
Clarke as its probable author. These passages are: Exodus 
24:3; II Chronicles 11:3,4; II Kings 11:17. The first of these 
passages bases civil government on divine law. The second 
teaches that religious difl'erences shall not disturb the har- 
mony of the state. The third affirms principles long before 
held by Baptists, that while rendering obedience to the state 
in civil matters, Christians must be subject, in matters of 
religion and conscience, only to Christ who is their King and 

It is not without reason conjectured that the author of 


this first compact was John Clarice. He was the principal re- 
ligious teacher of the company. By his advice they were re- 
moving from the Massachusetts jurisdiction to enjoy free- 
dom of their consciences, and repeatedly thereafter he 
taught: "the servant of the Lord must not strive." 

When all material affairs relating to the purchase and 
settlement of Aquidneck had been legally and amicably ar- 
ranged with the natives, the immigrants from Massachusetts 
proceeded to establish themselves first on the northern end 
of the Island, at Pocassett. Evidences of their industry in 
that locality still exist in wells, etc., there preserved. The 
company proceeded in orderly way to distribute the lands, 
provide military defence, open highways, collect revenues, 
hold assemblies, and elect civil officers. Breaches of the law 
of God that tend to civil disturbance came under the juris- 
diction of the civil authorities. No religious tests appear in 
any laws then or thereafter enacted. Liberty in the matter 
of conscience was accorded to all comers. This broad plat- 
form attracted large numbers to the Island, and as was to 
be expected, these additions varied in character as in all 
new settlements. True however to Puritan instincts, the 
leaders set up as one of their very first acts, a place of 
worship. The settlement consisted of people of various theo- 
logical and ecclesiastical persuasions, but all united in wor- 
ship under John Clarke, a Baptist Elder, (as ministers of 
that denomination were then called,) as preacher and relig- 
ious teacher. For, as one remarks, "the mind of John Clarke, 
balanced, constructive, persuasive, was in the front rank at 
least, if not foremost of the leaders." It was inevitable that 
many would follow his teaching and become 'Baptists. Yet 
great as was his influence, inherent in the office of the re- 
ligious minister of that period, rigorous discipline had to 
be maintained, and the customary penal institutions of the 
day were found necessary. Breaches of the law were not in- 
frequent, and side by side with the church were set up a 
prison, a pair of stocks and a whipping post; while fines 
for offenses that now seem to us puerile were imposed by the 
magistrate. These, however, were but eddies, incident to 
the coming of some vicious and troublesome elements into 
the settlement. The larger part were orderly and valuable 


But the whole Island of Aquidneck invited the exploring 
impulses of the settlers at Pocassett. Before a twelvemonth, 
John Clarke, along with a few companions, had traversed all 
the shores of the Island, and conceiving its southern end 
more inviting to permanent plans of a colony, they founded 
here, in the spring of 1639, a settlement which they called 
Newport, having first rechristened their whole purchase, 
"the Isle of Bhodes," from the Island of that name in the 
Mediterranean Sea. Before another year had passed there 
were found to be about two hundred families in the New- 
port settlement. John Clarke, wdth tw^o assistants, had been 
commissioned to survey and apportion the lands to a dis- 
tance of five miles, and all the arrangements of an orderly 
government had been instituted. Not the least of these was 
the provision for religious worship. Religious toleration pre- 
vailed, spite of denominational differences. There were, 
amongst tlie settlers. Baptists from England, members of 
John Cotton's church in Boston who had adopted Baptist 
sentiments, and others in a state of transition. To the whole 
of this heterogeneous population Dr. Clarke ministered in 
religious things. We do not read of serious disagreement 
as to their beliefs for many years, and there appears to have 
been no neglect of social worship. A despised and persecu- 
ted sect both in England and in the Massachusetts Bay Col- 
ony, the Baptists of Rhode Island exhibited a tolerant and 
catholic spirit in their new home, and the settlers showed 
their appreciation of it by accepting John Clarke both as 
civil and religious leader. Amongst his hearers on the Sab- 
bath were, without doubt, William Coddington, first elected 
judge, Anne Hutchinson, the reformer, two brothers of the 
minister, and not a few others whose names are perpetuated 
in the honored families of the Island to this day. 

At exactly what date a church was instituted, avowing 
the principles and using the practice of Baptists, we do not 
know, for the early records are not preserved. "But," as an 
historian of the First Baptist Church of Newport remarks, 
"while the date of its origin is veiled in obscurity, there is 
no uncertainty as to its first minister, "^ a position which Dr. 
Clarke adorned to the close of his life. 

While thus engaged, and also practicing his profession 


as a physician, this Christian minister was the inspirer and 
organizer of most if not all the advance movements in civic 
affairs. He not only occupied at different times, responsible 
offices under the government, but he is with good reason sup- 
posed to be the potential author of the government itself. 
The first aggressive move for a charter for the Island of 
Aquidneck and adjacent Islands and lands was made in 
1642, when a committee of whom John Clarke was a mem- 
ber was appointed to draw up a petition to Parliament, and 
at the same time to seek the assistance of Sir Henry Vane, 
then influential at court. Previous to this, endeavors to the 
same end had been made by Clarke himself, almost unaided. 
When five years later, 1647, Rhode Island became a State 
under a charter accredited by many to the efforts of Roger 
Williams, its provisions and code of laws are declared by 
Williams himself, to be modeled after those in force in 
Newport. It is supposed, and for good reasons,' that John 
Clarke was the author of the government framed: both of 
the code of laws and of the means of enforcing it. That code 
concludes with these words : "And otherwise than thus what 
is herein forbidden, all men may walk as their consciences 
persuade them, every one in the name of his God. And let 
the saints of the Most High walk in this colony without mo- 
lestation, in the name of Jehovah their God, forever and 

While Dr. Clarke was thus busy with weighty affairs of 
state, we find him engaged in tasks which he must have re- 
garded as of quite equal moment. Now he is in Providence, 
endeavoring to resusitate churches otherwise uncared for; 
and again, making fatiguing journeys to minister to small 
groups of believers, who, not finding churches of their faith 
within easy reach had continued their membership with the 
church at Newport. Such was one William Witter, aged, 
blind and infirm, living near the then village of Lynn, Mas- 
sachusetts. In July, 1651, he entreated his pastor to visit him 
and administer spiritual consolation. Taking with him Obe- 
diah Holmes and John Crandall, elders connected with the 
church in Newport, Dr. Clarke essayed the no inconsidera- 
ble journey. The three reached Witter's home in the evening 
of Saturday, and while engaged in administering the duties 


of their office on tlie Sabbatli, they were arrested on a war- 
rant issued by the magistrate, and later presented before the 
court in Boston. The charges preferred against the strangers 
were concerned with teacliings contrary to those of the 
standing, ecclesiastical order. Clarke proposed to discuss 
publicly their differences, but he was summarily and rudely 
denied that privilege. "Without producing either accuser, 
witness, jury, law of God or man," Governor John Endicott 
pronounced sentence as follows: that John Clarke should 
pay a fine of twenty pounds or else be well whipped; that 
Obediah Holmes should pay a fine of thirty pounds or else 
be well whipped; and John Crandall should pay a fine of 
twenty pounds or else be well whipped. Holmes refused to 
acknowledge himself a criminal by either paying his fine or 
permitting any one to pay it for him. "I durst not accept de- 
liverence in such way," he said. The record of how he was 
"unmercifully whipped" on a September day in Boston, two 
magistrates being present to see it done severely; how, for 
taking Holmes by the hand after his punishment, two spec- 
tators were apprehended, imprisoned, and sentenced to pay 
a fine of forty shillings or be whipped, is one of the shame- 
spots in Puritan colonial history. Kind friends paid the fines 
of Clarke and Crandall without their consent, and the latter 
was at once released, but Clarke was held in custody for 
some time afterward when he also was released "to be gone 
out of the colony." 

On his return to Newport, Dr. Clarke found the colony in 
peril, and its government in jeopardy. William Coddington 
was president of the four united towns in 1648, and contin- 
ued in that office until the execution of Charles I, in 1649. In 
the midst of the confusion incident to the accession of the 
Commonwealth, this astute politician sailed secretly to Eng- 
land, and succeeded in obtaining a commission as governor 
for life, of the Islands of Aquidneck and Conanicut, thus nul- 
lifying the charter of 1643. The whole colony was moved to 
a high degree of indignation, and in 1651, the two men most 
able and most representative of the people, John Clarke for 
the Rhode Island towns, and Roger Williams for the towns 
of Warwick and Providence Plantations, were despatched 
to England to secure the withdrawal of Coddington's com- 


mission. Their mission accomplished, Williams returned to 
Providence in 1654, and Clarke remained at court as guar- 
dian of the interests of the reunited Commonwealth at home. 

And then began an epoch in this great man's life, which, 
for diplomatic efiiciency and self-sacrificing devotion, has 
seldom been equaled in the annals of public service. Dr. 
Clarke remained in England twelve years, nearly the whole 
of the time at his own charges; for the meager appropriation 
of two hundred pounds, voted by the colony, was not col- 
lected till long after, and then only when a further vote pro- 
hibited the payment of any bills until this debt, increased 
to three hundred and forty-three pounds seventeen shillings, 
was paid. Meantime Clarke was obliged to mortgage his 
property at home. During the whole period he was engaged 
in literary and ministerial labors to eke out his living, while 
employed specifically, in service for the state. Yet his life at 
this time could not have been wholly without compensation, 
since two of his intimate friends and helpers of his plans 
were Sir Henry Vane and John Milton. 

The year after reaching England, or in 1652, Dr. Clarke 
published a book entitled: "111 Newes from New England or 
a Narrative of New England's Persecutions." In this volume 
it is declared that "while old England is becoming new, New 
England is becoming old." And in this volume he incorpora- 
ted the substance of a tract previously written, entitled : "A 
Brief Discourse Touching New England, and Particularly 
Rhode Island, as also a Eaithful Relation of the Prosecution 
of Obediah Holmes, John Crandall and John Clarke, merely 
for Conscience Toward God, by the Principle Members of 
the Church or Commonwealth of Massachus(?tts, in New 
England, which Rules Over that Part of the World." 

The years passed on and Clarke successfully parried the 
determined efforts of the agents of the other colonies to 
thwart the far reaching purposes of Rhode Island to foster 
and maintain a government hospitable to religious liberty. 
On the death of Cromwell, and the accession of Charles II, 
in 1660, the labor of years would probably have come to 
naught but for the able diplomacy of John Clarke. A new 
charter was an imperative necessity, if Rhode Island's rights 
and liberties were to be preserved. To this task Dr. Clarke 


unreservedly addressed himself. He appealed by letters to 
the King, in which he professed the loyalty of the colony 
to the Crown, and argued for the granting of a charter of 
civil corporation. His constituents would establish a corpo- 
rate government duly protected by English law, so far forth 
as the nature and constitution of the place and the professed 
cause of their consciences would permit. "Your petitioners 
have it much on their hearts," he says, "to hold forth a live- 
ly experiment that a flourishing Civil State may stand, yea, 
and best be maintained, and that among English spirits, 
with a full liberty in religious concernments, and that true 
piety, rightly grounded upon Gospel principles, will give the 
best and greatest security to true sovereignty, and will lay 
in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to truer loy- 

It is no small tribute to the greatness of Dr. Clarke's 
diplomatic skill that, spite of the determined opposition in 
Parliament, and the no less determined opposition from 
Massachusetts and Connecticut, he, on the eighth day of July 
1663, obtained the signature and seal of that astute Monarch, 
Charles H. It is noteworthy that freedom of worship and of 
conscience was made the basis of individual rights. And con- 
sidering the times, it is amazing that such a provision as the 
following could emanate from the English throne : "Our 
royal will and pleasure is, that no person within the said 
colony, at any time hereafter, shall be anywise molested, 
punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differ- 
ences of opinion in matters of religion." Not without reason 
is Dr. Clarke believed by many, including Thomas Jefferson, 
to have been the author of this epoch-making docinnent, 
which became the constitutional law of Rhode Island and 
Providence Plantations from the time of its enactment until 
the American revolution, and whose provisions Jefferson in- 
corporated into the constitution of the new republic. 

His arduous task accomplished Dr. Clarke turned his 
face again toward Newport and his family, from whom he 
had been separated twelve years, and was received with 
marked demonstrations of honor and gratitude. At a public 
meeting of the citizens, November 24, 1663, the charter was 
read, the stamp and seal of his Majesty, Charles II, were duly 


displayed, and thanks were voted to the King, to the Earl 
of Clarendon, who had been the friend and helper of the 
enterprise, and to John Clarke. It was Newport's day. 

Dr. Clarke had now given twenty-five years to public 
service for the colony which he founded. He had fostered re- 
ligion and education, having at the very beginning of the 
settlement instituted a public school, the first in America if 
not in the world, and a Church, which, after two hundred 
and seventy-eight years is still in existence and at the pres- 
ent time bears his name. One would expect to find him, at 
the age of fifty-five, wishing to devote his remaining years 
to those beloved interests, along with the practice of his 
profession as a physician. But the colony was not yet ready 
to dispense with his services and counsel. He was elected to 
various public offices, was appointed by the first Assembly 
under the charter, to revise atnd codify the laws, and was for 
three successive years elected Deputy Governor, two of those 
years serving in that office. 

But time, for this man of many parts, was hastening, 
and dear to him as life was the Kingdom of God. As he en- 
tered upon what was to be the last decade of human ex- 
istence, his mind turned affectionately toward that object, 
and his remaining energies and matured judgment were 
placed more fully at its service. Five years before his death 
he retired from all public office; but that did not exempt 
him, only sixteen days before the final summons from the 
Ruler of All, from a summons from the General Assembly: 
"the Assembly desiring to have the advice and concurrence 
of the most judicious inhabitants in the troublous times and 
straits into which the colony has been brought." 'Seven days 
later he was put in charge of the Island's defenses. 

Dr. Clarke died suddenly April 20, 1676. His ashes lie in 
an unkempt cemetery, the land of which was once owned by 
himself, on West Broadway, in Newport, His grave is a per- 
petual reminder of the ingratitude of republics. He be- 
queathed his estate to a self-perpetuating body of trustees, to 
be forever devoted to the causes of religion and education, 
in the Church and city which he founded, the poor being 
the special objects of his beneficence. Thus "he being dead 
yet speaketh." 


The theological beliefs of Dr. Clarke were those held 
throughout their history by the body of Baptists, and his 
doctrinal writings, the fruit of his profound studies of 
later years, are in accord with Baptist Confessions of Faith. 
From the same fountain he also drank in those principles 
concerning magistracy and religious liberty, so dominant in 
his life, and which became the warp and woof of the charter 
of 1663. It was the guiding hand of John Clarke that steered 
the ship of our state clear of the rocks that split both Eng- 
land and Massachusetts asunder. "His is the glory of first 
showing in an actual government, that the best safeguard 
of personal rights is Christian law, that church and state 
inay safely be separated, and that absolute license of thought 
and utterance not issuing in crime against persons and es- 
tates, may be most rightly and wisely placed far above tol- 
eration, on the secure basis of personal statute." 

History bears undivided testimony to John Clarke's 
claim to the veneration and gratitude, not alone of Rhode 
Island, but of all mankind. A successor of his in the pastor- 
ate. Rev. John Callender, who lived among men who knew 
Dr. Clarke, wrote: "To no man is Rhode Island more in- 
debted than to him. No character in New England is of purer 
fame than is John Clarke." Isaac Backus, the Baj^tist his- 
torian of the eighteenth century, said of him: "Mr. Clarke 
left as spotless a character as any man I know of that ever 

acted in any public station in this country I have not 

met with a single reflection cast upon him by any one." Gov- 
ernor Arnold's opinion was: "His character and talents ap- 
pear more exalted the more closely they are examined." 
.... "One of the ablest men of the seventeenth century. He 
was a ripe scholar, learned in the practice of two profes- 
sions, besides having large experience in diplomatic and 
political life. With all these public pursuits, he continued 
the practice of his original profession as a physician, and 
also retained the pastoral charge of his church. His life was 
devoted to the good of others. He was a patriot, a scholar, 
and a Christian. The purity of his character is conspicuous 
in many trying scenes, and his blameless, self-sacrificing life 
disarmed detraction, and left him without an enemy." 
Let one more testimonial from history suffice : George Ban- 


crofl says: "Never did a young Commonwealth possess a 
more faithful friend. The modest and virtuous Clarke, the 
persevering and disinterested envoy, .... whose whole life 
was a continual exercise of benevolence. Others have sought 
otiice to advance their fortunes. He parted with his little 
means for the public good. He had powerful enemies in Mas- 
sachusetts, and left a name without a spot." 

The last act of this scholar, physician, minister, states- 
man, patriot, was worthy of his pious and philanthropic 
spirit. His will, signed on the day of his death, "willingly 
and readily" commits his soul into the hands of his "merci- 
ful Redeemer;" provides that his body be "decently interred, 
without any vain ostentation;" and that his estate be admin- 
istered for "the bringing up of children unto learning," civil 
and religious, and for the relief of the poor. 

Efforts more or less spasmodic and inadequate have 
been made in recent years to honor the name and perpetuate 
the memory of Dr. Clarke, but as has been before pointed 
out, the duty belongs not alone to Newport, nor to Rhode 
Island, but to our whole nation, which bears the honor 
through him, of possessing the first government on earth 
which gave to all equal civil and religious liberty. 

The Early History of the Friends 
in Newport 

A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
August 14th, 1917 


Professor of History in Swarthmore College 

The Religious Society of Friends 

I fear that it may seem very much Uke "carrying coal to 
Newcastle" for me, a Baltimorean by birth and a Pennsyh a- 
nian by adoption, to present to an audience of Newport his- 
torical students a discourse on what must be to them so 
familiar a theme as the one assigned me. But perhaps a lack 
of new information may be atoned for by a sympathetic ap- 
preciation of the opportunity afforded to the Friends in 
Rhode Island to practise without interference or molestation 
the faith and ideals which inspired them. It may well be that 
a Maryland and Pennsylvania Quaker, familiar with the re- 
ligious toleration granted in their respective colonics by Lord 
Baltimore and William Penn, can doubly appreciate the re- 
ligious liberty established by Roger Williams, William Cod- 
dington, and their compeers in Rhode Island. 

It may be permitted me to plead, also, that my interest 
in the early Friends of Newport has a personal as well as a 
religious origin. For, coming to the neighboring island of 
Conanicut a score of years ago for the first of a series of 
summer sojourns, I was pleased to find here one link in my 
own family chain which has stretched from Massachusetts 
and Maine, through Rhode Island, Connecticut and New 
York, down to Maryland. Captain John Hull of Newport and 
Conanicut was the third link in that chain and my children 
are the tenth. Across the gulf of two centuries and a half, he 
speaks to his descendants; and as one of the early Friends of 
Newport, and a type, doubtless, of many, he may engage our 
attention for a few moments. The grandson of Rev. Joseph 
Hull, who settled a colony of 106 persons in Weymouth, Mas- 
sachusetts, in 1636, and the son of Tristram, the first of the 
family to embrace Quakerism, John was born in Barnstable 
and adopted his father's religious faith and his occupation of 
captain in the merchant marine. Many of the Quaker emi- 
grants to Pennsylvania were brought over in John Hull's 


ships, during the great exodus in the Eighties under WilUam 
Penn; but he sailed for the most part between Newport and 
London. In the lattter city he became acquainted with and 
married a young Quakeress, Ahce Tiddeman, by name, and 
three years afterwards, in 1681, came with his wafe and in- 
fant daughter Mary to Newport. Thirty years before this, 
Wilham Coddington, Benedict Arnold and three associates 
had purchased the Island of Conanicut, and here John Hull 
bought a farm of 370 acres and in 1690 built a house upon 
it and settled his family in it. His fifth child and second son, 
John, who was also my ancestor, was born in this house and 
is said by your local historians to have been the first white 
child born upon the island. 

With Indian neighbors and other Friends' families who 
settled gradually upon the island, John lived in the intervals 
of his sea-faring life, and to his Conanicut home he retired 
in old age, dying there an octogenarian about the year 1732. 
His house was burned by the British during the Revolution, 
but his farm is still called the "Old Hull Place;" and near- 
by is a thicket called "Hull's Swamp," where the patriots 
concealed themselves and their valuables during the Revolu- 
tion and thus incited the British to cut down the fine old 
trees and burn the bushes. 

John. Hull's farm evidently made quite a landsman of 
him, for w^e learn from the records that he served James' 
town for a score of years as asssessor, town-clerk, head-war- 
den, town councillor, and representative for a half-dozen 
terms in the colonial legislature. But the chroniclers of New- 
port have been chiefly interested in his career as a sea-cap- 
tain and especially his connection with Admiral Sir Charles 
Wager, afterwards first Lord of the British Admiralty, and 
appointed Privy Councillor by Queen Anne. Wager's mater- 
nal grandfather w^as Admiral William Goodson, and his 
father was Admiral Charles Wager, while he was closely re- 
lated to Admiral Sir Thomas Tiddeman.* Of his father, the 
diarist Pepys records: "There was never any man that be- 
haved himself in the Straits [of Gibralter] like poor Charles 
Wager, whom the very Moors do mention with tears some- 

*The names Wager and Tiddeman have been borne by sundry members 
of the Hull family. 


times." Of Wager himself, the historian Walpole says : "Old 
Charles Wager is dead at last and has left the fairest char- 
acter." The younger Charles died in 1743, aged seventj^-nine, 
and was buried in Westminster Abbey. 

"He lies where the minister's groined 
arches curve down 
To the tomb-crowded transept of 
England's renown." 

The remains of his preceptor lie in an unmarked grave, 
— is it in the Coddington Grave-yard in Newport, or in soine 
over-grown and forgotten God's acre on Conanicut? The 
story of his life is recorded in England's naval history and 
the lovers of lighter literature may find some of its incidents, 
in considerably distorted form, in Colonel Joseph C. Hart's 
novel, "Miriam Coffm."* Here it is mentioned simply for the 
sake of associating him with the early Friends of Newport^ 
and it may not be inappropriate to rehearse its best known 
incident which illustrates both his own character and that of 
John Hull, from whom his seamanship was learned. His 
father died when Charles was an infant, and his mother 
married a London merchant and Friend, Alexander Parker. 
The call of the sea was loud in the London boy's heart, and 
he was apprenticed in youth to Captain John Hull, his par- 
ents' friend. John, who was about a dozen years his senior, 
is said to have remarked to him when he appeared at his 
ship: "Step on board, Charles: perhaps thou may get to be 
a captain one of these days." And the youth, with his father's 
example in mind, replied: "I shall be disappointed if I do 
not get to be an admiral." An English merchant ship was 
often attacked by French and Spanish privateersmen in 
those days of Louis XIV's aggressive warfare, and John 
Hull's Quaker ship was not immune from such attacks. On 
one of these occasions, the story goes, a French armed 
schooner bore down upon him in the British Channel, and 
at Wager's urgent request John retired to the cabin and 
Wager was left in charge of the ship to deal with the priva- 
teersman. It appears, however, that Wager's manoeuvers did 

*The first edition of this story was published in San Francisco, m 1834 ; 
the 2nd. edition, in the same city, in 1872. 


not commend themselves to Captain Hull, who called out to 
him from the companion-way: "Charles, if thou intend to 
run over that schooner, thou must put the helm a little more 
to the starboard." Charles followed the advice and sank the 
schooner with all on board. Captain Hull, we are glad to be 
informed, after this lapse from his Quaker principles, got his 
ship about as soon as possible to rescue the privateersman's 
crew : but a stiff" breeze and heavy sea prevented the finding 
or rescue of a single victim.* When the ship arrived in Lon- 
don and the story was told, the Admiralty warmly com- 
mended Hull and offered him a captaincy in the royal navy. 
In moments free from excitement and professional pride, 
however, John was too much of a Quaker to accept such an 
offer; but he yielded to his apprentice's desire and recom- 
mended him to the Admiralty, from whom came an ap- 
pointment as midshipman. Wager rose to the admiral's rank 
in the British navy, and never became a Friend; but he seems 
to have cherished always an admiration and gratitude for 
his Quaker instructor, "my honored master," as he called 
him, sending him yearly a pipe of wine, and visiting him 
often in Newport and Conamcut. f 

Long before John Hull settled in Newport, however, the 
Friends had made it their, home. In fact, before the first 
Quakers from England found their way thither, it was the 
home of a group of people who appear to have been Quakers 
in all but name. The followers of Anne Hutchinson and of 
Samuel Gorton, who found a refuge in Rhode Island from 
their Massachusetts persecutors, had some striking points 
of resemblance with their later contemporaries, the Quak- 
ers, and some of them joined the Society of Fjriends when it 
established its meetings among them a score of years later. 

*Connected with this, or another similar occasion, there is another story 
(which was told me by your late distinguished townsman. Honorable Wm. 
P. Sheffield, but which it may be permitted a descendant to hope is apocry- 
phal), that when John Hull, looking out of a porthole saw a Frenchman lay 
hold of a rope with the intent of climbing on board, he quietly cut the rope, 
saying to him : "Friend, if thee wants that rope, thee may have it." 

tOne branch of the family of Hull still remains on Conanicut Island, and 
for many years after John's death his descendants retained membership in 
the Society of Friends and were prominent in the religious and political life 
of the island and of Newport. 


But there was another group of the founders of Rhode Island 
who still more closely resembled the Friends in doctrine and 
practice, and who also later joined the society. These were 
among the founders of Portsmouth and Newport, with Wil- 
liam Coddington and Nicholas Easton at their head. They 
were "antinomians," like the Hutchinsonians and Gortoni- 
ans, and like them were driven from Massachusetts to their 
refuge on Aquidneck, or Rhode Island proper. Here, relig- 
ious difierences caused them to separate fi'om their fellow- 
exiles in Portsmouth, in 1638, and the next year to leave 
Portsmouth and found Newport. Their leader in Massachu- 
setts, Portsmouth and Newport was William Coddington, 
who was elected the first "judge" in Portsmouth and New- 
port as well. When the two settlements united, in 1640, 
Coddington was elected the new colony's first governor, and 
under his leadership the people in popular assembly de- 
clared, in May, 1641, for the two great American and Quaker 
principles of self government and religious liberty. "It is 
ordered," runs one of the famous resolutions, "that none bee 
accounted a delinquent for doctrine."* 

Where there is liberty, there is always diversity, and in 
Newport there developed as early as 1641 two main groups 
of religious thinkers, one, under the leadership of John 
Clarke, which united with the Baptists, and one, under Cod- 
dington's leadership, which formed a kind of Quaker meet- 
ing. Thus, nearly a score of years before the real Quakers 
came to Newport, and a half-dozen years before the Founder 
of Quakerism began his public mission in England, Newport 
saw the rise of what might be called a Pre-Foxian, Quaker 
people. They looked askance upon a separate, exclusive 
clergy; laid great stress on spirituality in ministry and wor- 
ship; sought for this spirituality in the Divinity that doth 
dwell within man himself; and were adverse to relying upon 
"carnal" as opposed to "spiritual weapons." As illustrative 
of this last principle, they cooperated with Roger Williams 
the Baptist and set an example for William Penn the Quaker 

*The author desires to acknowledge here his indebtedness for many 
details in this paper to Professor Rufus M. Jones's very readable book, " The 
Quakers in the American Colonies, "N. Y., 1911, and also to your Society's 
admirable collection of books and manuscripts. 


in a just and peaceful dealing with their Indian neighbors, 
and at least one of their number, Nicholas Easton, was fined 
five shillings in 1639 for refusing to carry weapons to meet- 

New England, like Old England, was seething during 
these years with many varieties of extreme Puritans, and 
Rhode Island had more than its share, thanks to its religious 
tolerance,- of these varied seekers after God. Massachusetts 
did its best to curb or expel them, and regarded Rhode Island 
as a horrible example of the folly of toleration. Cotton 
Mather called it "the Gerizzim of New England" and wrote : 
"I believe there never was held such a variety of religions 
together on as small a spot of ground as have been in that 
colony." If a man should lose his religion, he suggests, he 
might find it there "at the general muster of the opinionists." 

It is small wonder, then, that the Quakers should have 
found congenial soil, with seed already sown, in Newport, 
and that the town should have become both a nursery of 
Quakerism and a place whence it was transplanted to other 
parts of New England. 

The chief reasons why the Quakers were persecuted by 
the Puritans of Boston were precisely the reasons why they 
found toleration and prosperity in Newport. These were, 
first, the Puritans' fear of the Dutch, the French, and the 
Indians, and it is notorious that fear hath no ears; but the 
Rhode Islanders placed all their dealings with these possible 
foes on a basis of justice and friendship, hence feared them 
not, and were not obliged to seek strength abroad through 
suppression and enforced uniformity at home. Again, the 
Puritan clergy were chiefly responsible for persecution in 
New England, while the democratic laity were opposed to it, 
— as was shown especially in the case of the Gortonites and 
the Quakers; but in Rhode Island there was no established 
clergy to act as guardians over the state or to inflame the 
persecution of dissenters. Again, the Puritans feared and de- 
tested the doctrine of private inspiration and denounced its 
exponents, like Anne Hutchinson and Samuel Gorton, as 
"proud and pestilent seducers;" but in Rhode Island this 
doctrine was like a native element and seemed to its popu- 

"Rhode Island Colonial Records, I. 95. 


lation of "Seekers" as natural as the sunshine. Finally, the 
Puritan union of church and state, the separation of the 
clergy from the laity, the primacy of the clergy in secular 
affairs, the collection of tithes, were all threatened by the 
Quakers' denial of their right to exist : but Rhode Island had 
acted from the beginning on the American principle of en- 
tire separation between church and state, and hence charged 
not this against the Quakers as a heresy and a mence to the 
public weal or safety. 

While it is easy to explain the reasons for religious per- 
secution elsewhere in New England and its absence in Rhode 
Island, the fact remains as the corner-stone of Rhode Island's 
history, and the student of its history in full appreciation of 
this fact might almost wish that the emblem upon its shield 
should be not even Hope or Faith, but Charity, which is 
greatest of the things that endure. Newport not only ac- 
corded toleration to the Quakers, but, as has been stated, it 
paved the way for them by developing a home-made Quak- 
erism of its own. The leader of this group of Quaker aborig- 
ines was the pioneer and founder of the settlement as well, 
William Coddington, Our friends the Baptists lay just claim 
to Roger Williams, the founder of Providence; but as "there 
is glory enough to go round" they may well yield first place 
in Rhode Island proper to William Coddington. John Clarke, 
it is true, was in the front rank of Rhode Island's founders, 
and he appears to have founded the first Baptist church in 
America. It would be unseemly to repeat, in behalf of the 
two leaders and the two rival communities in the early 
settlement, the slogan of "Coding's your friend, not Short!"; 
but in the interest of historic truth it may be recalled that 
Coddington was one of the founders of Massachusetts; that 
he was active in the affairs of that colony even before Bos- 
ton was named; that he built Boston's first house, which be- 
came the Governor's house for many years, — including those 
during which the governors persecuted Coddington's fel- 
low-Quakers; that he secured in 1637 the deed from Canoni- 
cus and Miantonomo, the two chief sachems of the Narra- 
gansetts, which conveyed the Island of Aquidneck, or Rhode 
Island, to "William Coddington and his friends;" that he 
held the island in his own name for fifteen years and then 


transferred all rights which he might claim under the deed 
to the company of which he was the leader; that in 1638, 
when Portsmouth was settled and a compact for civil gov- 
ernment was signed by the settlers, Coddington's name was 
first among the signatures and Clarke's came second; 
that in 1639, when it was agreed to settle Newport, Codding- 
ton was the first of the nine pioneers who signed the agree- 
ment; that he was the first "judge" in Portsmouth and the 
first in Newport, the first governor of the two settlements 
united (1640-1647), the President of the united colony of 
Rhode Island and Providence in 1648, and commissioned 
proprietor of the Narragansett Islands and governor for life 
of both Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1651. This last 
position was resented by his fellow-Rhode Islanders and he 
was alienated froin them for a time;* but he manfully with- 
drew his claims within a year and was at once elected by 
Newport to the General Court. When in 1663 a charter was 
granted to the united colony of Providence and Rhode 
Island, its four leading citizens, Arnold, Brenton, Codding- 
ton, and Easton, were mentioned in alphabetical order, and 
the other incorporators regardless of order. 

At the age of seventy-four, Coddington was elected gov- 
ernor for two terms (1674-6) and in that office presided over 
Rhode Island's destiny during King Philip's terrible war. 
While governor of Aquidneck in 1640, he had made a 
treaty of friendship with the Narragansett Indians, and 
thus set an example for his great Quaker successor in 
Pennsylvania forty-two years later. But unlike Penn, he 
lived to see his colony ravaged by Indian foes. He and his 
fellow-Quakers did their best to prevent the' war, and then 
to shield the mainland of Rhode Island from its horrors. 
Pessicus, the chief of the Narragansetts, was very kindly 
disposed towards the colony and its Quaker rulers, but told 
them that he could restrain his chieftains on the island 
alone, but not on the mainland. Thus, while the mainland 
was devastated, the island became, in the words of the old 
chronicler, Drake, "the common Zoar, or place of refuge for 

*The trouble came to a head in 1648, and seems to have been due in the 
first place to Coddington's determination that Rhode Island should not 
enter the New England Confederation. 


the distressed." As Holland has been to the Belgian refugees 
of our day, so Newport and her sister towns on the island 
became the hosts and guardians of the many fugitives who 
fled from the Indian tomahawk and fire-brand. The assem- 
bly appointed a committee of six, including three Quakers 
(Walter Clarke, Joshua Coggeshall and Caleb Carr), to urge 
the mainland inhabitants to come to the island, to supply 
each fugitive family with land, or with a cow to be pastured 
on the commons, and to distribute £800 for their support. 

At this time, too, the Quakers of Newport had a golden 
opportunity of heaping coals of fire upon the heads of their 
Massachusetts persecutors. In the winter of 1675-76, after the 
battle atSouthKingstown, the wounded New England soldiers 
were brought to Newport by the Quakers and cared for in 
their homes. The Massachusetts and Confederation authori- 
ties expressed their thanks for this kindness; but when they 
made the further request that Rhode Island should send 100 
or 200 soldiers to the trenches, as well as provide Red Cross 
aid. Governor Coddington replied with a Quaker refusal to 
fight, and reminded the Massachusetts petitioners that at that 
very time the Massachusetts clergy were lamenting, as one of 
the sins which had caused the war, "the recent neglect to 
suppress the Quakers and their meetings," and the Massa- 
chusetts authorities were enforcing a fine of £5 and impris- 
onment at hard labor on bread and water for any person 
who should attend a Quaker meeting! 

At the time of the Revolution, also, Massachusetts was 
feign to accept the charity of the Rhode Island Quakers. A 
committee of them took £1968 to distribute among the vic- 
tims of the siege of Boston, and in company wath the select- 
men they went from house to house distributing food, cloth- 
ing and fuel. These activities were pursued in sixteen Massa- 
chusetts towns, through many of which the Quakers had 
been whipped at the cart-tail a century before. Salem, and 
probably other towns, made an amende honorable by pass- 
ing votes of thanks to the Quaker philanthropists in 1775 and 

After King Philip's war, Massachusetts denounced the 
Quaker war-policy of Rhode Island as "scarcely showing 
English spirit;" and within the colony itself there was a 


strong militant opposition, which succeeded in replacing the 
Quaker governor, Walter Clarke, by the chief Quaker rival 
and twelve-times governor, Benedict Arnold. But Arnold 
died before his term was ended, and Coddington was again 
elected to the governor's chair. By this time, however, he 
was in his seventy-eighth year and worn out by the many 
heavy labors and strange vicissitudes of his life, and he too 
died before his term of otFice expir.ed. 

The verdict of two of Rhode Island's historians upon 
this pioneer Rhode Islander and pioneer Quaker in New- 
port gives some idea of his strength and his weakness. Cal- 
lender says of him : "A good man, full of days, he died pro- 
moting the welfare and the prosperity of the little common- 
wealth which he had in a manner founded." And Judge 
Durfee hands down as his opinion that "he had in him a 
little too much of the future for Massachusetts and a little 
too much of the past for Rhode Island," — which opinion em- 
phasizes, perhaps, the defects of Massachusetts and the mer- 
its of Rhode Island, rather than those of Coddington. A 
student of physiognomy as well as of history may be able 
to strike the balance between these, and other conflicting 
opinions of him by a study of his portrait which hangs in 
Newport's city hall.* 

The citizens of Newport erected a monument in his 
memory on the two hundredth anniversary of the town's 
settlement, and inscribed upon it this tribute : 

That illustrious man, who first purchased this Island from 
the Narragansett Sachems Conanicus and Miantonomo for, and 
on account of himself and Seventeen others his associates in the 
purchase and Settlement. 

He presided many years as chief Magistrate of the Island 
and Colony of Rhode Island and Died much respected and lamented 
on the 1st. day of November, 1678 Aged 77 years. 

He was buried, the old records say, on the "6 day of ye 
9 mo. 1678;" and around him in death as in life, in the Cod- 
dington Burial-ground which is located appropriately on 

*A copy of this portrait is in the Redwood Library ; but there are good 
reasons for believing that this portrait is not authentic. Gf the Bulletin of 
the Newport Historical Society, No. 9 (October, 1913): "On the So-called 
Portrait of Governor 'William Coddington in the City Hall at Newport, 
by Hamilton B. Tompkins. 


Farewell St., there lie the remains of a number of hts as- 
sociates and their descendants. His own son, William Cod- 
dington, Jr., who was governor from 1683 to 1685, and died 
at the age of tliiriy-scven; sundry members of the Thurston, 
Martin, James and Wanton families; and doubtless many 
another "rude forefather of the hamlet sleeps, Each in his 
narrow cell forever laid," but left in Quaker oblivion and 
not marked by visible sign. 

One of the village Hampdens whose graves are marked 
is Nicholas Easton, who died August 15, 1675, at the age of 
eighty-three. He was a pioneer in Newbury, Massachusetts, 
and built the first Englishman's house in Hampton. Coming 
to Rhode Island for religion's sake, he was one of the nine- 
teen signers of the Portsmouth "contract," and the second 
signer of the Newport "Agreement." With his two sons, Peter 
and John, he rowed down from Pocasset (Portsmouth) to an 
island in Newport's harbor, which he called Coaster's Har- 
bor, now the site of the Naval War College and Training 
School, and which may be regarded as being, historically, 
to Newport w^hat Cape Cod is to Plymouth. The Eastons 
built the first house and the first wind-mill in Newport, on 
Marlborough St.; but the house was destroyed by fire in 
1641, and a modern jail stands on or near the site of the 

Easton became a Friend, with Coddington and most of 
his other associates, about 1657, but remained one of the 
pillars of the state as well as of the Quaker church. He was 
a member of the governor's council, a member and modera- 
tor of the assembly, president of the first united colony, and 
deputy-governor and governor of the second. When George 
P'ox spent two months in Rhode Island in 1672, Easton was 
governor of the colony, but accompanied Fox almost con- 
stantly on his missionary tour. His sons, Peter and John, 
emulated their father's civic activities, the former serving 
as member of the assembly and of the governor's council, 
attorney-general and treasurer; the latter as attorney-gen- 
eral for fourteen years, member of the assembly and coun- 
cil, deputy-governor, and governor from 1690-95. In this last 
position, he successfully resisted Sir William Phipps's claim 
to command the Rhode Island militia. 


Another leading Newport Quaker was Walter Clarke, 
who served as member of the assembly and council, twenty- 
three terms as deputy-governor (fifteen of them successive- 
ly: from 1700-1714), and four terms as governor. In this last 
position, he successfully withstood Governor Andros's de- 
mand for Rhode Island's precious charter, although he was 
at the time a member of Andros's Council for New England. 
Not a Charter Oak, as in Hartford, but a Quaker house and 
Quaker diplomacy concealed and secured Rhode Island's 
charter. When ordered by Andros to send the charter. Gov- 
ernor Clarke declined to do so "because of the tediousness 
of the bad weather;" and when Andros came in person to 
fetch the charter, Nov. 7, 1687, Clarke sent it from his own 
house to his brother's, and then for Andros's benefit, caused 
a great search to be made for it through his own house! 
Following this defense of Rhode Island's fundamental con- 
stitution on parchment, Governor Clarke refused to permit 
the establishment or recognition of an English court of admi- 
ralty in the colony. Thus he asserted, three-quarters of a 
century before 1776, the American right of self-government, 
and based that right upon the bed-rock of charter privileges. 

Among other early Quaker governors were Caleb Carr, 
who was treasurer as well, and Henry Bull, a follower of 
Anne Hutchinson, a founder of Portsmouth and Newport, 
and builder of what was for many years Rhode Island's old- 
est extant house, where his wife Ann, the widow of Nicholas 
Easton, presided, and where many Quaker meetings were 

Time does not suffice to tell of such early colonial Quak- 
ers of Newport as John and Joshua Coggeshall, George Law- 
ton, Walter Newberry, Edward Thurston, Daniel and John 
Gould (after whom one of Narragansett's familiar islands 
is named) ; or of the later, pre-Revolutionary Quakers, whose 
annals are made picturesque or impressive by the beauty of 
Polly Lawton,** the preaching of Mary Callender, the varied 

*This house was destroyed by fire in 1912. 

**Her portrait is in the Redwood Library, and a glowing description of 
her beauty in the Comte de Segur's "Memoirs." Her home is now a fruit- 
store, on the corner of Spring and Touro Streets. 


activities of the Wanton and Robinson families, the philan- 
thropy of Abraham Redwood, and the statesmanship of 
Stephen Hopkins. 

But a short time at least should be devoted to the com- 
ing of the English Quakers to Newport, their union with the 
pre-Quakers of the town, and ^'the things that are more ex- 
cellent" for which the Newport Quakers stand in the his- 
tory of the city, the state and the nation. 

The first Quakers to set foot on American soil were Mary 
Fisher and Ann Austin, who had some very trying experi- 
ences in Boston in the summer of 1656. They were de- 
spatched straight back to Barbadoes, after five weeks' im- 
prisonment and an examination for witchcraft, and had no 
chance to get to Rhode Island; but the first Quaker convert 
in New England, Nicholas Upsall of Boston, came to Rhode 
Island, after he had been fined and banished for supplying 
the two Quakeresses with food while in prison, for offering 
to buy the one hundred "heretical books" which they brought 
with them, and which the Boston hangman burned in the 
market-place, and for making a public protest against the 
first penal law which Massachusetts launched against the 
Quaker. The eight Quakers who arrived in Boston two days 
after Mary Fisher and Anna Austin were expelled were also 
immediately placed in close confinement for eleven weeks 
and then sent back to England: but New England heard 
much of them, Samuel Gorton of Warwick invited them to 
settle in that town, and some of them returned as speedily 
as possible the next year in the Quaker Mayflower, "The 

This ship, so famous in Quaker annals, was regarded 
by its Quaker captain and passengers as a second Noah's Ark 
which God led, in Robert Fowler's, the courageous and pious 
skipper's, quaint words, "as a man leads a horse by the 
head;" and when, after leaving five missionaries in New 
Amsterdam, the remaining eleven arrived, on the 3rd. of 
August, 1657, in Newport, they were convinced that God 
had led them to a second Ararat, whence they should re- 
plenish the New World, submerged by barbarism of various 
kinds, with a Quaker civilization. In Newport, at least, they 
found congenial soil among the community of Coddington 


and Easton; and not only did this community convert itself 
into the first Quaker meeting of Newport, but the town be- 
came a base of operations for both native and English 
Quakers in their invasion of the rest of New England. 

The familiar procedure was for a company of English 
Friends to come to Newport, then to go with Newport 
Friends to Massachusetts, where they protested against the 
penal laws, and were imprisoned and whipped, and then to 
return to Rhode Island, "the habitation of the hunted- 
Christ," as they call it, "where we ever found a place of rest 
when weary we have been." 

One such party, including two women, Sarah Gibbons 
and Dorothy Waugh, travelled on foot from Newport all the 
way to Salem, through the wilderness and through what 
appears from their description to have been a March bliz- 
zard; after a fortnight of inissionary endeavor, they were 
whipped in Boston and sent back to Newport, Among the 
Salem converts on this journey, were Lawrence and Cassan- 
dra Southwick*, who fled to Shelter Island, and Joshua 
Buflum, who came to Rhode Island. 

Another English Quakeress who made Newport a base of 
operations was Elizabeth Hooton, the first woman convinced 
by George Fox, and the first woman Friend to appear in the 
ministry. She suffered bitter persecution in England; 
sailed to Virginia and thence to Newport; gave her "testi- 
mony" in Boston; was imprisoned and then banished to 
Rhode Island; returned to Boston; was whipped through 
Cambridge, Watertown and Dedham; left in the woods 
during a cold night, she arrived torn and bleeding in 
Newport; returning to Cambridge, she was again whipped 
through three towns, to Rhode Island; to Boston once 
more, she was whipped at the cart tail through Boston, 
Roxbury, Dedham and Medfield, and left in the woods; 
travelling seventy miles on foot back to Newport, she was 
again refreshed, and again went to Boston! 

Such were the stories that were told at Rhode Island 
firesides and that turned many families to join the perse- 

•^Cf. Whittier's "Cassandra Southwick, 1658." 


cuted * ; and in such incidents the Newport Quakers were 
often participators. The most famihar and most tragic of 
them all was associated with Mary Dyer, Daniel Gould, and 
other Friends of Newport, who went to Boston in Septem- 
ber, 1659, with William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephen- 
son of England, Hope Clifton, Mary and Patience Scott of 
Providence (the latter an eleven years' old niece of Ann 
Hutchinson) and other Rhode Island Friends, "being moved 
of the Lord," as they told the Massachusetts authorities, "to 
look your bloody laws in the face and to accompany those 
who should suffer by them." Mary Dyer, who went repeat- 
edly to protest against the unrighteous laws of Massachusetts, 
was the wife of William Dyer, (or Dyre) of Newport, who 
spent his life in upholding Rhode Island's righteous laws, 
having been the first clerk of the settlement in Portsmouth, 
the first secretary of united Portsmouth and Newport, the 
first recorder of Providence Plantations, and attorney-gen- 
eral of the colony. After imprisonments and whippings, sen- 
tence of death, reprieve on the gallows, and banishment on 
pain of death in case of return, Mary Dyer was at last hung 
on Boston Common. Her death was doubtless more impres- 
sive to the American colonists than was that of her three 
fellow martyrs, men and Englishmen as they were, and we 
can well appreciate the shock which it sent through the 
Quaker circles of Newport. The blood of martyrs became 
the seed of the church, on this as on so many occasions; and 
Edward Wanton, a citizen of Boston, who stood within the 
shadow of Mary Dyer's gallows, marveling at her heroic 
constancy, was converted to her faith, removed to Rhode 
Island, and became the ancestor of a line of Quaker worth- 
ies, among whom were at least three governors of the Island 
commonwealth. The other Rhode Islanders who accompa- 
nied Mary Dyer to Boston were imprisoned for two months 

*Cf. Whittier's "Snow-Bound." 

Then, haply, with a look more grave, 
And soberer tone, some tale she gave 
From painful Sewell's ancient tome, 
Beloved in every Quaker home, 
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom." 


and then whipped, Daniel Gould receiving thirty lashes.* 
John Rous, an English Quaker missionary, writing to 
Margaret Fell on the 3rd of September, 1658, from what he 
described as "the Lion's den called Boston prison," gives the 
following enthusiastic report : "Truth is spread here above 
200 miles, and many in the land are in fine conditions, and 
very sensible of the power of God, and walk honestly in 
their measures. And some of the inhabitants of the land, 
who are Friends, have been forth in the service and they do 
more grieve the enemy than we, for they have hope to be rid 
of us, but they have no hope to be rid of them. We keep 
the burden of the service off from ithem at present, for no 
sooner is there need in a place, but straightway some or 
other of us step to it, but, when it is the will of the Father 
to clear us of this land, then will the burden fall on them." 
After speaking of the condition of "the Seed" in Boston, 
Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, Rous reports: "We 
have two strong places in this land, the one at Newport in 
Rhode Island, and the other at Sandwich, which the enemy 
will never get dominion over. " The Massachusetts "enemy" 
tried for a score of years, especially by enforcing the notori- 
ous "Cart and Whip Act," to get dominion over the Friends, 
but Rous's prophecy proved true. 

The first meeting-place of the Friends of Newport was 
the large living-room in the house of Wm. Coddington, 
which stood for many years on Marlborough St., opposite 
Duke St. The lot on which it stood was six acres in size, 
and bounded by Marlborough, Farewell, North Baptist and 
Thames Streets. In this were held the Yearly Meetings, at 
least until Coddington's death, and many another meeting 
which was too large for the house. The first Meeting House 
proper was built near the corner of Marlborough and Fare- 
well Streets in 1672, and is believed to have been the first 
house built distinctly as a house of worship in Rhode Island. 

*This punishment, Gould says, was inflicted upon him while he was"tyed 
to the carriage of a great Earn." Two other men received fifteen stripes, 
and the women ten stripes, each ; after which, Gould records, "we were all 
lead back to prison where our lodgings were with our sore backs upon the 

boards, where we remained until after the Execution. And this is my 

comfort to this day, and I bless God for it, that my sufferings were in great 


Its successor, on the same site, was built in 1699-1700.* The 
women's section was added in 1808, since which time it has 
retained its present form and dimensions. 

The following items relating to the building of the Meet- 
ing House I culled from the minutes of the Newport Monthly 
Meeting, Vol. 1 (1676-1707-8), which are preserved in the 
vaults of the Newport Historical Society: 

P. 60 (98) : At a monthly mens meeting at newport in 
Rhoad Island at our meeting house ye 7th. Day of ye 12th 
moth 1698 : ffriends have proposed to have a meeting house 
Built at Portsmouth and alsoe to have a Large meeting 
house built at new porte and ffriends are Desired to sub- 
scribe what theye are willing: ffor ye performing of of 
Boath (mathew Borden Gidion ffreborne John Borden and 
Abraham Anthony (are appynted to carey one the meeting 
house at Portsmouth and to Receive ye colections tfor that 
purpose and that theye doe agree wheare to Erect it and 
make Report to our next Monthly meeting. 

Walter Clarke Ebinezer Slocum Jacob mott John Bor- 
den: are aded to Execators of Wm Edwards to maneg and 
take ceare of ye land bought of Ann Bull and all other con- 
sarnes Relating to the Estate of Wm Edwards wch is Left to 
this meeting." 

P. 64 (102) : At a monthly mens meeting at newport at 
our monthly meeting house ye 27 4th mo. 1699 . . . This 
meeting hath thought convenient to choose some ffriends & 
appoynte ym to erect and Build a meeting house and theye 
consult aboute the mater how and wheare & ye Demensions 
and make Returne to our next mens meeting. 

John Easton : Senr Walter Clarke Edward Thurstone : 
John Easton Junr Danl: Gould John: StantonTho: Cornell 
Lathum: Clark John: Gould Wm Barker Wm Alen ffor 
newporte ffor cononicutt : Joseph : mody & Eb- 
inezer Slocum 
ffor portsmoth: Jacob mott: & ma- 
thew borden 

*This is the middle part of the present house, 45 x 46 ft., with two rows 
of galleries, one above the other, a hipped roof, and a tower, 10 ft. square 
and 10 ft. high. It cost £261 18s. 9d. 


and that They doe meete togeather at our meeting house ye 
10th daye of ye 5th: moth: 1699: being one 2d daye of ye 

7-19 1699 flfriends have appoynted to Laye out ye 
place wheare ye meeting house shal : stand & to doe it after 
ye meeting 

8-17-1699 ffriends have Layed oute and appoynted ye 
place wheare ye meeting house shall stand and have brought 
Great Stones & other stones to Laye ye ffoundation 

Quarterly Meeting at Newport,4-4-1700: Rhoad Island 
monthly meeting being called one (to know what Buisiness 
theye have Refered to this meeting) Thomas Cornell & Jacob 
mot : acquainted this meeting yt some ffriends were not Sat- 
tisfied aboute ye Lanthorne, and ye new meeting house [at 
Portsmouth] ; ffriends having had much Debate in Love and 
condisending one to another have Left ye mater [sold Ports- 
mouth's old meeting house to Joseph mory 3-28-1700; for 
11:14; towards new house (see Minute for 5-23-1700; Books 
and papers of Mtg. placed in care of John Easton Jr.] 

8-25-1700 Thomas Cornell desires yt ffriends would ap- 
poynt some to : account with him aboute ye charge in build- 
ing ye new meeting house in Newport ffriends have 
chosen [4] 

9-12-1700 Thomas Cornell's charge presented — 

£ s d 

ye whole charge is 261 : - 18 - 9 

colected by subscription 168 - 05 - 

oute of: ffriends stock 100 '- 00 - 

268 - 5-0 

£ s d 

The overplusse is 6 : 6 : 3 : wch is 
given to Thomas Cornell's wife 

Thomas Cornell is ordered to ffite ye old meeting house 
ffor this winter season. 

10-10-1700 Two Friends desired to "Build a shedd in 
ffriends yarde at new porte to sett horses under". 


6-19-1701 "It is proposed to Build a meeting house at 
providence wch is Liked & Refered to our next mens meet- 

The records of the births, deaths and marriages of the 
Newport Friends begin in 1672, probably as a result of the 
advice of George Fox, who visited them that year. On the 
inside cover of the book for recording marriages is the fol- 
lowing memorandum : "Friends two books bought at Bos- 
ton cost 20 shillings, the biggest for births and Deaths, and 
the lesser book for marriages only. So ordered at the mans 
meeting of friends at the House of William Coddington in 
the town of New Port in Road Island in the yeare 1672, the 
22th day of ye 8-m 1672." The first death recorded is that of 
Mary Coddington, the wife of William, in 1647, and the 
record is accompanied b}'^ the statement that she "was buried 
in the burying place of Friends that was given to the Friends 
by William Coddington, her husband." 

The Newport Monthly Meeting was established in 1658, 
eighteen years before its records began; and this was soon 
followed by the Rhode Island Quarterly Meeting, which con- 
stituted with those of Salem and Sandwich the only three 
Quarterly Meetings which New England possessed before 
1784. The Rhode Island Quarterly Meeting was held once in 
three months at Smithfield, Dartmouth, Swansea, and Green- 
wich, respectively, while Newport was the seat of the Yearly 
Meeting. This last meeting was the most important meeting in 
New England*, for while it was at first a large "General 
Meeting" for worship and fellowship only, it soon came to 
exercise disciplinary powers and to be the focus of all the 
monthly and quarterly meetings of New England. Its first 
session was held in Newport in 1661 at the suggestion of 
George Rofe, an F^nglish Friend, and was so largely attended 
that the Boston officials are said by a contemporary** to 
have "made an alarm that the Quakers were gathering to 
kill the people and fire the town of Boston." Until 1695, the 
Friends of Long Island, as well as of New England, came to 
Newport to attend the Yearly Meeting and we may almost 
say of it what Whittier said of the Quaker Alumni of the 

*Its records date from 1683. 
**Bishop's "New England Judged." 


Providence School: "From the well-springs of Hudson, the 
sea-cliffs of Maine, Grave men, sober matrons, you gather 
again"; and we can well understand how it became for all 
northern Quakerism in those isolated and seemingly hum- 
drum days the great social and educational as well as relig- 
ious event of the year. The meeting's size may be estimated 
from the fact that by 1700 one-half of Rhode Island's popula- 
tion and one-third of its places of worship belonged to the 
Quakers. Indeed, they and the Baptists had practically 
preempted the colony between them, much to the disgust of 
the clergymen of the Church of England, one of whom 
complained that the Quakers turned their backs on every- 
body's reading of the Scriptures except their own, and were 
unapproachable and unyielding in matters of faith. 

The Newport Yearly Meeting grew steadily until the 
middle of the Eighteenth century, and was especially large 
when some distinguished visitor was expected to be present. 
George Fox and six other eminent ministers attended it in 
1672, and so many people flocked to it from all sides that 
they required two days after it was over, to take leave of all 
the friends they had made during its sessions*. The name of 
Farew^ell Street was again appropriate to the scene. When 
such men as Thomas Chalkley, John Richardson, Thomas 
Story, John and Samuel Fothergill, visited the meeting in 
later years, its attendants numbered, in 1722, 2000, and 5000 
in 1743, when it was probably the largest in the world. About 
the end of the century, 1798, the system of definite represen- 
tation in it of monthly and quarterly meetings was estab- 
lished, and, with a similar system in the Yearly Meetings of 
the South, and the pure democracy of the many monthly 
meetings, it rivalled the Puritan town meeting, the Cavalier 
county court, and the colonial assemblies, as a nursery of 
that government of the people, by the people, and for the 
people which blossomed forth nearly a century later. 

*George Fox's "Journal", II, 160: "The glorious power of the Lord 
which was over all, and His blessed truth and life flowing amongst them, 
had so knit and united them together that they spent two days in taking 
leave of one another and of the Friends of the Island, and then, being 
mightily filled with the presence and power of the Lord, they went away 
with joyful hearts to their various habitations." 


Roger ^Yilliams attended the Newport Yearly Meeting 
in 1671, and was moved to make some comment on the 
doctrine he had heard; bnt he was "stopt", he says, "by the 
sudden praying of the Governor's wife [Ann, the wife of 
Nicholas Easton]". He stood up again, and again he was 
"stopt by John Burnett's [Burnyeat's] sudden falling to 
prayer and dismissing the assembly".* He did not come to 
the meeting the next year when George Fox and his compan- 
ions were there; but they went to Providence and held two 
large meetings, one of them in "a greate barne", says Fox, 
"which was soe full of people, yt I was extremely soaked 
with sweat, but all was well". All was wrong, Roger Williams 
thought, and he challenged Fox to debate fourteen proposi- 
tions, or accusations against the Quakers, with him. This 
challenge was not received by Fox until he had left Newport 
on his way south; but it was accepted by some of his associ- 
ates whom Williams calls "His Holiness, George Fox's Jour- 
neymen and Chaplains." 

The debate was arranged in a visit which the Friends 
made to Williams's home in Providence, and the day before 
it was to be held in Newport the sturdy septuagenarian 
rowed thirty miles down the Bay to engage in it. "God 
graciously helped me", he says, "in rowing all day with my 
old bones so that I got to Newport toward the midnight 
before the morning appointed." He had engaged to debate 
his propositions with all comers, and encountered three 
Quaker champions, and, before great crowds of listeners, 
with Governor Easton presiding and maintaining "the civil 
peace",the theological, ecclesiastical and at times personal 
debate waxed and waned throughout three long summer 
days. It must have been a strange scene to any eyes, and 
doubly so to ours accustomed in Newport to contests of such 
different kinds, — tennis, yachting, polo, dog-shows, etc., — 
which was enacted down on Marlborough Street in those 
quaint old colonial times. Providence was jealous of New- 
port's good fortune, and it was accordingly arranged that 
half of the debate should be held in that town. The audience, 
or a large part of it, appears to have accompanied the 

* "George Fox Digged out of his Burrowes. " 


debaters to Providence, but a single day was sufTicient then 
to end it. Leave to print was given to the respective contest- 
ants, and Roger WilUams issued his "George Fox Digged out 
of his Burrowes", while the Friends replied in "A New Eng- 
land Firebrand Quenched".* John Burnyeat says in his 
"Journal"**: "It would be tedious here to insert the Dis- 
course [that is, an account of the debate in Newport], if I 
were able; but I cannot remember it. There is a Book in 
Manuscript, of what was taken in Short-hand of the Dis- 
course at that present." 

It is probably fortunate that the Ms. Book is not well 
known; for judging from expressions in the printed books, 
the debate was probably at times bitter and undignified. 
Roger Williams, for example, characterizes William Ed- 
mondson, one of the Quaker champions, as having "A flash 
of wit, a face of Brass, and a Tongue set on fire from the Hell 
of Lyes and Fury"; while Edmondson calls Williams "an 

old Priest and an enemy of Truth, a bitter old man 

full of Weakness, Folly and Envy against the Truth and the 

More pleasing is it for us to recall the meeting at New- 
port in more kindly years between Channing and Whittier 
and the English Friend, Joseph Sturge, when — 

"No bars of sect or clime were felt, — 

The Babel strife of tongues had ceased,— 
And at one common altar knelt 
The Quaker and the Priest. " *** 

Theological controversy, however, was like the breath 
of life in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Gentiiries; and 
the Newport Friends showed their recognition of its import- 
ance by engaging James Franklin, Benjamin's brother, who 
became the first printer in Newport in 1729, to issue as one of 
his first books Robert Barclay's "Apology for the True 

*Staples believes that this was written chiefly by Richard Scott, ''the 
first Friend in Providence." 

**P. 53. 

***Whittier's "Channing." 


Christian Divinity, as the same is set forth and preached by 
the people called in scorn Quakers."* 

But the Quakers of the olden times, — as they "walked 
with noiseless feet the round of uneventful years, and o'er 
and o'er they sowed the spring and reaped the autumn 
ears", — realized in every successive day's experience that 

"From scheme and creed the light goes out, 
The saintly fact survives : 
The blessed Master none can doubt 
Revealed in Holy lives." 

And we believe that the early Friends of Newport strove, 
in spite of human weakness and defects, so to live that when 
they left this island home they should leave it in some slight 
measure "hallowed by pure lives and tranquil deaths." Like 
their fellows elsewhere, they were Puritans of an advanced 
type, and set up in their "advices," "queries," "family visits," 
and meetings for discipline and worship, a standard of mor- 
ality which gave first place to honesty, sobriety and simplic- 
ity. This led them to insist on the strict keeping of promises 
in business, and to punish such business practices as "the 
salting up unmerchantable beef and exposing it for sale;" 
also to denounce lotteries, at a time when even churches and 
colleges depended upon this, now admittedly, dishonest 
source of revenue; to deprecate "fiddling, dancing and card- 
playing," at a time when these were almost the sole and the 
universal diversion of youth and age alike, but when they so 
often led to evil habits; and to moderate the strong, natural 
desire to "follow the fashion." Wigs, — or "Perry Wiggs," as 
they spelled and called them, — gave them an inordinate 
amount of trouble. One meeting, for example, expressed its 
sentiments on this, at that time, capital article of apparel as 
follows: "All Friends who suppose that they have need of 
wiggs ought to take the advice and approbation of the vis- 
itors [that is, the overseers] of their respective [monthly] 
meetings before they proceed to get one. And it is the tender 
advice and brotherly request of this Meeting that all be care- 

*This is the 6th Edition in English ; a copy of it is in the Redwood 
Library, and a copy is in the Historical Society. Franklin also printed, in 
Newport in 1752, Barclay's "Catechism." 


fill to observe the same, and not in a careless or overly- 
minded cutt of their hair (which is given them for a cover- 
ing) to put on a wigg or indecent capp which has been ob- 
served of late years to be a growing practice among too 
many of the young men in several parts, to the trouble of 
many honest Friends, it plainly appearing (in some) for a 
imitation and joyning with the spirit and fashion of the 

As early as 1673, the monthly, quarterly, and yearly 
ineetings of Rhode Island began to oppose the use, manufac- 
ture, sale or gift of alcoholic liquors, except for medicinal 
purposes, and thus gave an early impulse to the prohibition 
wave which is running high in our time, both in peace and 
in war. It was not only for their own members that they 
were thus concerned. The Yearly Meeting of 1784, for ex- 
ample, passed the following minute : "We entreat that they 
[the members of the Society in New England] forbear the 
said practices that a line may in due time be draw^n, and the 
standard be raised and spread to the nation." 

The Quaker testimony against the taking of oaths, 
whether as an expletive in private conversation or in judicial 
procedure, received recognition in Rhode Island from the 
very beginning, and affirmation was permitted in their stead. 
In this too, the nation has followed the Quaker lead, to which 
Rhode Island's Quaker Government gave such early prestige. 

The great curse of the slave-trade, domestic and foreign, 
and of slave ownership, was a truly formidable one for the 
Quakers to grapple with, especially perhaps in Newport, 
which was of such commercial importance, and in Rhode 
Island, where slavery existed on a relatively large scale. 

From the beginnings of the Society, the meetings dealt 
fseverely with their members for any case of cruel treatment 
of their slaves, and insisted on a treatment of them consistent 
with humanity and religion. 

Rhode Island's Quaker governor, Walter Clarke, refused 
to permit his colony to participate in New England's sale of 
Indian prisoners into slavery, after King Philip's War, in 
1676, and procured the passage of a law providing that "no 
Jndian in this colony be a slave." 

As early as 1717, the Yearly Meeting in Newport began 


to oppose both the trade in and ownership of negro slaves. 
After the painful efforts of two generations of such Quaker 
opponents of slavery as "College Tom" Hazard of South 
Kingstown, and the saintly John Woolman, of New Jersey, 
and as a result of the even more painful "dealings" of the va- 
rious New England monthly meetings with their slave-owning 
members (such as Stephen Hopkins, for example, and 
Joshua Rathbun), the Newport Yearly Meeting in 1773 was 
able at last to wipe the stain of the iniquitous system entire- 
ly from its skirts. The next year, 1774, the Yearly Meeting 
appointed a committee to work for abolition in Rhode 
Island, and had the satisfaction in the same year of seeing 
one of its former members, Stephen Hopkins, draft Rhode 
Island's act against the further enslavement of negroes with- 
in its borders. The Yearly Meeting's gratification at this event 
was probably increased by the reflection that its distin- 
guished member, who was nine times governor of the colony, 
had been "disowned" by Smithfield Monthly Meeting be- 
cause he would not yield to Friends in the freeing of his one 
slave woman. 

Thus the Newport and Rhode Island Friends bore an 
honorable part in that colonial movement for abolition 
which was to become, through a long course of moral, polit- 
ical and industrial education, a great national reality. 

The Quaker "testimony" which appears to be of most 
public interest in the present day is the rejection of war 
as a means of settling disputes between and among nations 
and the substitution for it of a more civilized and effective 
means. Newport Quaker history sheds much instructive light 
upon this great world-problem, and a bare glimpse of it 
must be given here in concluding this over-long address. 

The use of "carnal" weapons the Quakers have rejected 
from the beginning of their history, both as wrong in itself 
and as fatal to the success of those "spiritual" weapons 
which alone they regard as right and effective. In their ef- 
forts to keep their members up to this standard, the meet- 
ings have "labored with" or "disowned" many a "fighting 
Quaker," like the favorite general of Washington in the Rev- 
olution, Nathaniel Greene of Warwick, Rhode Island, and 
Jacob Browne of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who held high 


command in the War of 1812. In spite of such distinguished 
dehnquents, the Society as a whole has kept its ancient testi- 
mony bright and untarnished, and accepts with due appre- 
ciation our national government's recognition of it during 
the present great war. It is a cause of gratification to many 
Friends today that the Society has strenuously endeavored 
to persuade the government to place this exemption, not 
upon corporate membership, but solely upon individual 
conscience, and that it has in some small measure succeeded 
in its endeavor. While the Quakers in the colonies suffered 
much by fine and imprisonment for refusing to "train" and 
to bear arms in Queen Anne's, King George's, and the French 
and Indian wars, Rhode Island set a better example under 
its Quaker governor, Nicholas Easton, by passing, on the 13th 
of August, 1673, an act exempting from military service those 
who were opposed to it for conscience' sake. "The inhabit- 
ants of this colony," declares this deservedly famous act, 
"have a conscience against exacting an oath, .... how 
much more ought such men forbear to compel their ecjual 
neighbors against their conscience to trayne to fight and 
to kill Bee it therefore enacted by his Majesty's au- 
thority, that noe person (within this Colony), that is or here- 
after shall be persuaded in his conscience that he cannot or 
ought not to trayne, to learne to fight, nor to war, nor kill 
any person or persons, shall at any time be compelled against 
his judgment and conscience to trayne, arm, or fight, to kill 
any person or persons by reason of or at the command of 
any officer of this Collony, civil or military, nor by reason 
(of any by-law here past or formerly enacted; nor shall any 
suffer any punishment, fine, distraint, penalty, nor imprison- 
ment, who cannot in conscience traine, fight, nor kill any 
person nor persons for the aforesaid reasons." 

This sweeping exemption for conscience' sake was 
passed just before King Philip's War, and when that war 
became imminent the Quakers of Newport endeavored their 
utmost to prevent it and to settle the respective grievances 
of the Indians and the English by means of arbitration. 
William Coddington was governor at the time, and doubt- 
less at his suggestion a committee of five members of the 
flhode Island assembly, with John Easton, Junior, the" 


Quaker deputy-governor at their head, rowed up to King 
Philip's headquarters at Mount Hope and argued and plead 
an entire day with him and his chieftains in behalf of arbi- 
tration. "We told them," Easton records in his "Narrative," 
"that our desire was that the quarrel might be rightly de- 
cided in the best way, not as dogs decide their quarrels." 
The Indians frankly "owned that fighting was the worst way; 
but they inquired how right might take place without fight- 
ing. We said by arbitration. They said that by arbitration 
the English agreed against them, and so by arbitration they 
had much wrong.. . . We said they might chuse a Indian 
King and the English might chuse the Governor of New 
Yorke, that neither had case [should have cause] to say 
that either wear parties to the difference. They said they 
had not heard of this way." 

The Quaker pleader doubtless also reminded the .'ndi- 
r\- t of the mutual justice and friendship which had existed 
for so long in Rhode Island between them and the English, 
and of the fact that his father. Governor Nicholas Easton, 
had recently provided that one-half of the jury in i rials 
where Indians were involved should be Indians, and that 
the evidence of Indians should be accepted as equal with 
that of an Englishman. But the Indians remembered the 
Pequot War and many another sad and sorry incident in the 
relations between the Indians and the English outside of 
Rhode Island, and feared to entrust their case to arbitra- 
tion. "We were persuaded," Easton concludes, "that if this 
way had been tendered [by the other colonies] they would 
have accepted."* 

A half-dozen years later, another Quaker inaugurated 
in Pennsylvania his Holy Experiment, which included among 
other illustrious American principles and practices the 
great method of arbitration and judicial settlement in place 
of war. It is of much interest to the student of Rhode 
Island's history to find thus early the statesmanlike policy 
which, adopted by Penn in Pennsylvania in 1682, and ad- 

*For a more detailed account of this episode, Cf. an article in the 
Friends Intelligence?', for Eleventh Month 3, 1917, entitled "The Peace 
Programme of Rhode Island Friends, 1675," by Wm. I. Hull. 


vocated by him in his great "Essay" of 1693 for applicat'on 
to the war-worn Europe of his time, became the corner-stone 
of our A merican repubhc, and under the auspices of Ihe 
Hague Conference is destined to become the accepted and 
habitual practice of the nations. 

In view of these and other still waters of life which 
flowed through the Quaker centers of colonial Newport and 
Rhode Island, some small part of which has been but faint- 
ly reflected in this address, I trust that it is not too much 
to claim with the modest Whittier: 

"No honors of war to our worthies belong ; 
Their plain stem of life never flowered into song : 
But the fountains they opened still gush by the way, 
And the world for their healing is better to-day." 


A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
February 6th, 1917 



In one of his earliest and most fascinating books. Fried- 
rich Nietzsche, the enfant terrible of German philosophy, 
wrote: "Every man and nation needs a certain knowledge 
of the past, whether it be through monumental, antiquarian, 
or critical history, according to his objects, powers and 

necessities." "History is necessary to the man of 

action and power who fights a great fight and needs exam- 
ples, teachers and comforters .... It ... . shows us how 
to bear steadfastly the reverses of fortune, by reminding us 
of what others have suffered." This is its monumental 
function. Next, Nietzsche says, "history is necessary to the 
man of conservative and reverent nature who looks back to 
the origins of his existence with love and trust; through it, 
he gives thanks for life. The possession of his ancestor's 
furniture changes its meaning in his soul; for his soul is 
rather possessed by it. All that is small and limited, mouldy 
and obsolete, gains a worth and inviolability of its own from 
the .... soul of the antiquary migrating into it, and 
building a secret nest there. The history of the town 
becomes the history of himself; he looks on the walls, the 
turreted gates, the town council, the fair, as an illustrated 
diary of his youth, and sees himself in it all ... . He greets 
the soul of his people from afar as his own, across the dim 
and troubled centuries; his gifts and his virtues lie in such 
power of feeling and divination, his scent of a half -vanished 
trail, his instinctive correctness in reading the scribbled 
past." Such is the antiquarian use of history. And finally, 
says Nietzsche, is the scholar's, or critical, use of history. 
Here the past is brought to the bar of judgment, is interro- 
gated remorselessly, and finaily condemned. "Every past," 
said the philosopher, "is worth condemning." 


Now, our attitude tonight in considering the Hfe and 
work of Samuel Hopkins, is three-fold in its nature. We 
shall approach him with the love of the antiquary, because 
Hopkins was an important figure in the history of this town 
at its most interesting period, viz., from 1770 to the first 
years of the nineteenth century. We shall also look to him 
for inspiration, for he is an inspiring figure, heroic, harmo- 
nizing in himself the moral severity of the Puritan with a 
Christ-like passion for the souls and well-being of men. And 
we shall try to be critical, not only of the man, but also of 
the age, praising what is worthy of praise and modestly cen- 
suring that which deserves criticism. 

For the benefit of such as may not be conversant with 
the outstanding facts in the life of Hopkins, it may be said 
that he was not a native of Newport, but came here in 1770 
and until the day of his death in December, 1803, was 
minister of the First Congregational Church in this city. 
Thus for thirty-three years he was associated with the his- 
tory of this town, preaching in the old church now used as 
an auction room on Mill street, and living in the house almost 
directly opposite the Union Congregational Church on Divi- 
sion street. After the Revolutionary war, when his own 
church was too badly damaged to be used for Divine 
worship, and until sufficient funds had been collected to 
repair it, his congregation met in this meeting-house* which 
was large enough for his diminished and impoverished 
people. In Newport he wrote his System of Divinity which 
was published in 1792 and created a great stir not only in 
Newport but even in England and Scotland and won for its 
many distinguishing views the name "Hopkinsian" or "Hop- 
kintonian." These views were in reality a modification of 
the Calvinistic position and were considered heretical and 
worthy of classification under St. Paul's "philosophy and 
vain deceit" by a large number of ministers and theologians, 
Hopkins died and was buried here; and when the First and 
Second Congregational Churches united and built their place 
of worship on the present site of the United Congregational 
Church, his bones were reverently disinterred and re-buried 

*The Seventh Day Baptist, in which this address was delivered. 


to the south of the church, where those interested may still 
see and decipher tlie following inscription: 



Pastor of the 

First Congregational Church 

in Newport; 

Who departed this life 

Dec. 20th, A. D. 1803; 

In the 83rd year of his age; 

Whose faithful attention to the duties 

of his pastoral office, and 

whose valuable writings, 

will recommend his character 

when this monument, 

erected by his bereaved flock, 

shall, with the precious dust it covers, 

cease to be distinguished. 

For the benefit of those who may desire to pursue their 
studies of Hopkins further, it is perhaps well to mention the 
following books : 


Memoir of the Life and Character of the 
Rev'd Samuel Hopkins, D. D. — John Ferguson, 

Life of Samuel Hopkins, by William Patten. 

Memoir of the Life and Character of Hopkins, 
by Edwards A. Park (1854). 

Essay on Hopkins in "Old Portraits" by John 
Greenleaf Whittier (1847). 

The Works of Samuel Hopkins, edited by 
Park, 1854. (Three volumes) . 

There are many other references to his theology, but 
these are the books of greatest general interest. 

Samuel Hopkins, the object of this sketch, was the son of 
Timothy Hopkins and Mary Judd, of Waterbury, Conn., 
where he was born, the eldest of a family of 5 sons and 4 


daughters, on September 17, 1721. He was born on the Sab- 
bath Day and baptized soon after his birth. When his father 
was assured that his son would live, he promised that he 
should be given a college training and fitted to be a sabbath- 
day man, or minister. We know little of his youth, beyond 
what he tells us in his Autobiography. He did not recall 
ever hearing a profane word until he had reached the 
fifteenth year of his age, which is a sure testimony to the 
Christian environment in which his early years were spent. 
Hopkins says: 

"I from my youth was not volatile and wild, 
but rather of a sober and steady make, and was 
not guilty of external irregularities, such as 
disobedience to parents, profanation of the 
sabbath, lying, foolish jesting, quarrelling, pas- 
sion and anger, or rash and profane words; and 
was disposed to be diligent and faithful in 
whatever business I was employed." 

He admits, however, that he was generally careless 
"about invisible things . . . , and sometimes, though rarely, 
had some serious thoughts of God." Once he had a dream 
in which he and his brother two years his junior were driven 
down to hell with the rest of the wicked, and sentenced to 
everlasting misery, "This greatly impressed my mind," says 
Hopkins, "for a long time after," 

It is unfortunate that Hopkins in his autobiography did 
not tell us more about his youth, but he was interested in 
little beyojid his religious experience. It seems inconceiv- 
able that a theologian must always be a theologian from his 
cradle, and it would be reassuring to know that Hopkins 
occasionally played games with his brothers and sisters and 
shook with laughter, perchance, upon the occasion of their 
discomfort. But he lived in days which are hard to recon- 
struct, in which the children of pious households were early 
made to realize the terror of the Lord, and w^here the only 
happiness recorded seems to have been that of contem- 
plating the goodness of God and the beauties of heaven. 

In his Life of President Jonathan Edwards, Hopkins 
tells a story which is certainly characteristic of the time. 


When Jonathan Edwards was a boy, he with some other 
lads, built a hut in the sw^amp where they were wont to 
gather together. Surely this savours of perennial boyhood. 
Some of the gentlemen here may, in their youth, have had 
some favorite resort, a hut or a cave, to which they resorted 
with their playmates. But it is very doubtful if the purpose 
of their juvenile assembly was identical with that of the 
companions of Jonathan Edwards. He and his 'pals' went 
out to this swamp-hut to pray. When we are estimating the 
influences that made the religious revival of the early half 
of the eighteenth century possible, let us not forget this hut 
in the swamp and its purpose. Samuel Hopkins may not 
have had experiences identical with his friend, Jonathan, 
but he was brought up in a very pious home where he had 
ample reason to reflect upon the possibilities of his own 

In 1737, when he was sixteen years of age, he was 
admitted to Yale College, then under the presidency of Elisha 
Williams. The dominant studies, non-elective, were logic, 
physics, mathematics, ethics, rhetoric and theology. Such 
studies were inclined to develop originality of thought rather 
than felicity of expression,* and the intellectual discipline to 
which Yale submitted Hopkins must have contributed 
largely to his fondness for abstract thinking, but we must 
not forget that theologians are born, and not made. They 
are probably pre-destined before the foundation of the 

Hopkins tells us that while a member of the college he 
"had the character of a sober, studious youth, and of a better 
scholar than the bigger half of the members of that society; 
and had the approbation of the governors of the college." 
He adds: "I avoided the intimacy and the company of the 
openly vicious; and indeed kept but little company, being 

*President Woolsey of Yale said in an address delivered August 14, 1850: 
"The effect of the modern system of education, or of society, or of both, is 
to repress originality of thinking, to destroy individual peculiarities, and to 
produce in general sameness among those whom it educates." (Quoted by 
Professor Park in the Memoir of Hopkins). Thus we perceive that the 
fallacy of the current educational theory endureth from generation to 
generation. It could not be said of the curriculum to which Hopkins was 
submitted that it repressed originality of thinking. 


attentive to my studies." He desired to be known as a pious 
youth, and sometime before 1740 he joined the church at 
Waterbury, although he afterwards feared that he had no 
positive experience of saving grace at the time. Of course, 
we inust remember that conversion was at that time consid- 
ered to be something catastrophic and revokitionary, as it is 
still considered by some, although modern thought lays 
more emphasis upon the culture of religion than upon con- 
viction of sin. In 1740 George Whitefield visited Yale and 
preached to the people of New Haven. He made a great im- 
pression, people travelling twenty miles to hear him. Most 
of his hearers approved of him. Hopkins, too, heard and 
approved, although like so many hearers, he seemed to apply 
the judgments of the great evangelist to others rather than 
to himself. "He preached against mixed dancing and frolic- 
ing of males and females together; which practice was then 
very common in New England. This offended some, espe- 
cially young people. But I remember I justified him in this 
in my own mind; and in conversation with those w^ho were 
disposed to condemn him." 

Early in the next year, Gilbert Tennant came to New 
Haven from Boston, and preached there wdth a "remarkable 
and mighty power. Thousands were awakened, and many 
cried out with distress and horror of mind, under a con- 
viction of God's anger, and their constant exposedness to 
endless destruction." The students who were professing 
Christians before they came to college, such as young David 
Brainerd, busied themselves in personal work among the 
other students, canvassing them in their rooms and asking 
them to accept Christ and His salvation. Brainerd came to 
visit Hopkins, although Hopkins was a senior and Brainerd 
only a sophomore; but Hopkins purposely refused to com- 
mit himself. Nevertheless, he was not untouched. In such 
a great revival of religious interest, men naturally take sides. 
It is a case of being "for" or "against", just as we have 
observed in the recent Billy Sunday phenomenon in New 
England. The thoughts of Hopkins at this time were long, 
long thoughts. 

But if Hopkins had been impressed wdth Mr. Tennant 
and considered his sermons to be "apples of gold in pictures 


of silver," he was more impressed with the preaching of Jon- 
athan Edwards who came to Yale in September of 1741 and 
spoke on "The Trial of Spirits." He concluded that if he 
were to study for the ministry he would do so with Mr. 
Edwards. The character of this great preacher and his style 
is, perhaps, too well known to deserve quotation; never- 
theless, as it has been said that he is the only American 
worthy of comparison with Dante*, two paragraphs are not 
amiss; one from his private journal describes his happiness 
in the contemplation of God : 

"After this, my sense of divine things grad- 
ually increased, and became more and more 
lively, and had more than inward sweetness. 
The appearance of everything was altered; there 
seem'd to be as it were a calm, sweet Cast, or 
appearance of divine Glory, in almost every- 
thing. God's excellency, His wisdom, his purity 
and love, seemed to appear in everything; in 
the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and 
blue sky; in the grass, flowers and trees; in 
the water and in all nature; which used greatly 
to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the 
moon for a long time; and so in the daytime 
spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, 
to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; 
in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice 
my contemplations of the Creator and Re- 
deemer; And scarce anything, among all the 
works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder 
and lightning; Formerly nothing had been so 
terrible to me. I used to be a person uncom- 
monly terrified with thunder, and it used to 
strike me with terror, when I saw a thunder 
storm rising. But now, on the contrary, it re- 
joyced me. I felt God at the first appearance of 
a thunder-storm. And used to take the oppor- 
tunity at such times, to fix myself and view the 
clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the 

*A statement recently made in Newport by Prof. Bliss Perry. 


majestick and awful voice of God's thunder; 
which oftentimes was exceeding entertaining, 
leading me to sweet contemplation of my great 
and glorious God. And while I viewed, used to 
spend my time, as it always seem'd natural to 
me, to sing or chant forth my meditations; to 
speak my thoughts in soliloquies and speak 
with a singing voice." 

The other quotation reveals the preacher's power in de- 
scribing the terrors of eternal punishment. It is the con- 
cluding paragraph of the famous sermon on "Sinners in tlie 
Hand of an Angry God," and when this was preached in 
Enfield, it is said that some of the hearers w^ere so frightened 
that they jumped out of the window. Need one wonder? 
Listen : 

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell 
— much as one holds a spider or some loath- 
some insect over the fire — abhors you, and is 
dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you 
burns like fire; He looks upon you as being 
worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the 
fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear to have 
you in his sight; you are ten thousand times 
more abominable in his eyes than the most 
hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have 
offended Him infinitely more than ever a stub- 
born rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing 
but his hand that holds you from falling into 
the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to 
nothing else that you did not go to hell the last 
night; that you was suffered to wake again in 
this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. 
And there is no other reason to be given why 
you have not dropped into hell since you arose 
in the morning, but that God's hand has held 
you up. There is no other reason to be given 
why you have not gone to hell since you have 
sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure 
eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending 


his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else 
to be given as a reason why you do not at this 
very moment drop into hell." 

Here, surely, is powerful preaching. Here is the per- 
sonal application; here the divine urgency. And when 
Hopkins had received his diploma from Yale and had spent 
a short time at home resting, he went to Northampton and 
for four months studied theology and the duties of the 
pastoral oliice with this mighty New England divine. Later, 
Hopkins edited the works of Edwards and wrote a memoir 
of him. He was licensed to preach on April 29, 1742. 

He then received invitations to preach as a candi- 
date for many "comfortable" pulpits, but the first that he 
considered seriously was the parish at Great Barrington, or, 
as it was known in the days of Hopkins, Housatonick. 
Housatonick was then on the verge of the wilderness, and 
consisted of more sinners than saints. It was a heterogene- 
ous community, partly Puritan, partly Dutch, on the very 
frontiers of the New England settlement, encircled by In- 
dians not always friendly and settled by pioneers of the dare- 
devil type. It was probably the last place under God's 
heaven for a man like Samuel Hopkins, fundamentally a 
t^tudent and a thinker, to go. He himself hesitated a long 
time. In his journal he wrote: "The circumstances of this 
place appear more and more dreadful to me. There seems 
to be no rehgion here. If I did not think I had a call here, I 
should be quite discouraged." 

Though he received an invitation to found a church 
there and be its pastor and teacher, he was offered only 60 
pounds for settlement, and 35 pounds a year with the in- 
crease of 20 shillings a year until the maximum of 45 pounds 
a year had been reached. He did not see how he could live 
on it and he told them so, but he felt that this community 
needed the Gospel. It seemed that it was his duty to accept 
the call and so he expressed his willingness to remain there 
on November 25, 1743. He was ordained on the 28th of the 
following month, and there he remained and labored, "on 
the edge of cultivation" until January 18, 1769, or for 25 
years and 21 days. 


He had his own troubles,for there were few tangible 
evidences of the results of his ministry. He did succeed in 
getting five men to be the charter members of the church, 
but he saw no signs of any genuine conversion for seven 
years when a certain H.D, showed symptoms of real religion, 
and straightway died. But we must remember that our the- 
ologian was very slow to acknowledge the genuineness of 
any professed conversion as the following episode will 
testify. The minister had been summoned to the bedside of 
a dying woman who was "full of joy and comfort," sup- 
posing she had saving discoveries of Christ. "She admired 
the goodness of God, and called upon all to praise Him. Upon 
examining her, I was satisfied she was deceived; that it was 
only the workings of her imagination. She was confident; 
but I told her my fears! How exposed to the delusions of 
the devil are ignorant persons!" 

In the light of this passage, we may fairly assume that 
Hopkins would have had more converts had he lowered his 
standards. But his rigor, and sincerity — in his later years 
he was nicknamed "Old Sincerity" — made him relentless; 
an opponent of the "Half-way Covenant," so common at the 
time, he refused to baptize the children of all but the regen- 
erate; consequently, a number of the "unregenerate" 
clubbed together and invited an Episcopal clergyman to 
come to Great Barrington and baptize their infants, which 
he did. Henceforth, Hopkins found himself confronted not 
only by his theological opponents outside of Housatonick, 
for his views on the half-way covenant had aroused much 
resentment, but also by many in his own parish, especially 
the Dutchmen whom he could not understand, the Tories 
whom he knew too well, and the Episcopalians whom he 
loathed. He fought a good fight, but it was too much for 
him. Many of his parishioners turned Churchmen, appar- 
ently, as Hopkins said, "to get rid of paying anything for the 
support of the gospel." In spite of their efforts, his church 
could not raise his salary. The Tories got control of the 
town meeting, and threatened to withhold part of his 
salary, if not all. "If they prevail," said Hopkins, "it seems 
I am done here. 'The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice.' " 

Hopkins hesitated between staying on and preaching 


the true and "lively" word gratuitously, earning his living 
by farming; and leaving them for some other parish, where 
he could secure the leisure required for his studies. Even- 
tually, he felt forced to resign, and on January 18, 1769, the 
pastoral relationship was terminated. 

Four years after his settlement in Great Harrington, he 
had married a wife, a Miss Joanna Ingersol, a member of his 
parish who, in spite of consumptive tendencies, was spared 
to live with him until her death in August, 1793. He had 
been twice engaged before; but both engagements had been 
broken by the ladies in question, one of them upon the 
occasion of the return to town of a former suitor, when she 
informed him that "however much she respected him, she 
could not fulfill her engagement to him from the heart." 
Let us hope that even this affliction was overruled both 
for the good of the lady and of Dr. Hopkins. Dr. Hopkins 
had eight children, three daughters and five sons. Upon 
the death of his wife in 1793, he married a Newport woman* 
who survived him. 

During his twenty-five years in Housatonick he had not 
only admitted to his church 116 members, 71 from the 
world and 45 from other churches, but he had also done 
extensive preaching among the Indians, through an inter- 
preter, and one of his sermons to them which has been 
preserved was as simple and free from metaphysics as most 
of his published discourses are abstract. His experience 
with the Indians made him realize the tragedy of the juxta- 
position of a superior and inferior race, and probably influ- 
enced him when he proposed the transportation of blacks to 
Africa and the establishment of colonies for them on the 
Guinea coast. But to that we must refer later. 

Mr. Hopkins was now without a church; he was sug- 
gested for Old South in Boston, also for Topham, Me., and 
finally, for the First Church in Newport, then vacant. He 
came to Newport to preach in July of 1769, and was heard 
for five Sabbaths. At a meeting of the church held in 
August, a call was extended to him, seven voting in favor of 
his coming, three against, and two refrained. Straightway 

"Miss Elizabeth West. 


his theological enemies stirred up trouble against him. A 
pamphlet against him was circulated very widely. Letters 
were sent to Dr. Ezra Stiles, then minister of the Second 
Church, evidently inviting his intervention to j)revent the 
First Church from consummating the call. Two of these 
letters deserve quotation : the first is from Dr. Chauncy 
Whittelsey of New Haven: 

"New Haven, Septeinber 17, 1769. 
Reverend and Dear Sir: 

Mr. Hopkins, I think, expects to settle 
among you. I esteem him a man of good 
sense, but I don't at all like the cast of his divin- 
ity. I have read most of his published writ- 
ings, and heretofore heard him converse some- 
what. His divinity does not seem to be adapted 
to the capacities of the vulgar, nor does it 
appear to me to give the most honorable char- 
acter of that Being to whom all honor is due. 
His notions of baptism, if he insisted upon them, 
would increase the Church of England, or your 
congregation, perhaps both." 

The other letter is from Charles Chauncy, dated Boston, 
November 14, 1769: 

"I am sorry with my whole soul that Mr. 
Hopkins is like to settle in Newport. I have a 
much worse opinion of his principles than of 
Sandeman's. He is a troublesome, conceited, 
obstinate man. He preached away almost his 
whole congregation at Barrington, and was the 
occasion of setting up the Church of England 
there. He will preach away all his congre- 
gation at Newport, or make them tenfold worse 
than they are at present. I wish his instalment 
could be prevented. I can add no more but 
that I am your good friend and brother, 


*Letters quoted in the Literary Diary of Dr. Stiles. 


Whether or not Dr. Stiles surreptitiously endeavored 
to prevent his coming to Newport, the fact remains that on 
March 12, 1770, the church reconsidered its call; thirty-three 
voted for a call to him, and 36 against. When Mr. Hopkins 
was apprised of their decision, he took it with Christian forti- 
tude and charity; and stated that if they were unable to 
secure a supply for the following Sunday, he would be glad 
to preach for them before leaving the city permanently. As 
no supply had been obtained, his offer was accepted; in the 
course of his sermon he greatly moved his people by his 
defence of his theological opinions; many were seen to 
weep, and the church again changed its mind and asked him 
to be their minister. He accepted and was duly installed. 
Dr. Ezra Stiles preaching the ordination sermon on "Saving 
Knowledge,"* in which the learned divine quoted Greek and 
Hebrew and Latin with ease, probably with considerable 
edification to himself, if to no one else. 

The second church instructed their representatives at 
the installing council to ask Mr. Hopkins this question: 
"Whether he considered it a sin for the unregenerate to use 
the means of grace." When Mr. Hopkins said that he 
believed the unregenerate ought to go to church and read 
the Bible and engage in prayer, they were quite contented 
and did not stand longer in the way of his installation. But 
apparently his attitude on the matter of infant baptism had 
been interpreted by many as equivalent to a denial of the 
right of all but the elect to the means of grace. 

The change from the yeomanry of the Berkshires to the 
seafaring folk of Rhode Island was great, for Newport was 
at this time not only a centre of wealth and commerce, but 
also of culture. The census of 1774 gave the population of 
the town at 9,209, but this is considered an underestimation. 
The population has been estimated at 11,000. The popula- 
tion of Boston at this time was probably about 16,000,t and 
that of New York somewhat over 21,000. Thus it will be 
seen that Newport ranked with the first towns on the conti- 

*This sermon was afterward published, and remains a dreadful warning 
to those who persist in carrying their lexicons into the pulpit. 

tin a Mss. in the possession of the United Congregational Church, Dr. 
Stiles gives the population of Boston in 1752 as 15,684, 


nent. It was noted not only for its scenery, "but also for 
the beauty of its private residences, for its fashionable and 
luxurious, as well as its intelligent and enterprising society, 
its culture of the fine arts, its scientific clubs, its refinement 
of taste and manners." There was much variety of religious 
opinion. Dr. McSparran having said in 1752 that "neither 
Epiphanius's nor Sir Richard Blackmore's catalogues con- 
tain more heterodox and different opinions in religion than 
are to be found in this little corner." And Professor Park, 
commenting on the settlement of Dr. Hopkins, asks: "He 
could not harmonize with the Dutch farmers; what will he 
do with the French fashions? He was too severe for the 
moderate Calvinists of Connecticut and Massachusetts; will 
he not be a foreign element among the formalists and 
dilettanti of Newport?" 

Nevertheless, he did manage to get along very well. The 
church grew. He gave it a new impulse in many directions, 
including new rules of ecclesiastical order and a new creed, 
new arrangements for the care of the poor and the ordering 
of the church music. His Thursday night lectures were well 
attended. He would speak to the young men one week and 
to the young women the next. The average attendance of 
the young men was 40; that of the young women was 70, 
and this endeavor to apprise the junior members of his 
parish of the fundamentals of the Christian faith was suc- 
cessful, as there were many applicants for church member- 
ship. It is not impossible that there was wisdom in his 
dividing the sexes; those who came to these lectures did so 
from a sense of religious duty rather than of social oppor- 

He soon was able to establish friendly relations with Dr. 
Stiles of the Second Church of whom Dr. Channing said : 
"This country has perhaps not produced a more learned 
man." In his diary, Dr. Stiles wrote : "As the providence of 
God has brought us into a connection, I determined to learn 
and gather all the good I could from him, treat him with re- 
spect and. benevolence, and endeavor as far as we agreed to 
co-operate with him in building up the Redeemer's kingdom, 
and we lived together in peace and love." Indeed, when Dr. 
Hopkins was absent, Dr. Stiles occasionally held union 


services and preached to both congregations. He was, fur- 
ther, a regular attendant at the mid-week lectures. On one 
occasion. Dr. Hopkins suffered from a severe nosebleed in 
the course of his address, and as it could not be stopped, he 
asked Dr. Stiles to continue the lecture. And it is recorded 
that "furnished to all good works, he took the same text and 
preached extemporaneously." 

But the day of trouble was at hand. Both Dr.Stiles and 
Dr. Hopkins were Whigs and in 1776 it became advisable to 
leave Newport. Dr. Stiles left in March and later became 
President of Yale. Dr. Hopkins remained until December, 
the month the British troops arrived in Newport, and only 
then'did he depart. During the next four years, he preached 
in Newburyport, Mass., Stamford, Conn., and other places 
as opportunity offered, and returned to Newport in the 
spring of 1780. He found his parsonage destroyed, his 
church in a frightful condition, having been used as a bar- 
racks and hospital. Pulpit and pews were gone, together 
with its bell, which the British had taken away with them 
when they evacuated the town. The windows were smashed 
or lost, and the money was not available to make the neces- 
sary repairs. Only Trinity Church escaped the ruthless 
behavior of the soldiery. Dr. Hopkins further found all 
his wealthy families scattered or impoverished, and the situ- 
ation was dark for a man sixty years of age. But he did not 
waver. He first gathered the remnant of his parishioners 
around him in a private house, and then the Seventh-Day 
Baptist Meeting-HouseAvas used for his services. For a time 
members of the Second Church attended his services, but as 
soon as they could they secured a pastor of their own. 

Dr. Hopkins wrote to Boston and Newburyport, seeking 
funds to rehabilitate his church, and to some extent he was 
successful. But receiving no salary, he was forced to live 
simply on what found its way to the collection plate, and the 
frightful prices of the day compelled him, much against his 
will, to use some of the money he had collected for repairing 
the church to meet his own needs, the church justifying him 
in his course. It was a trying time for him, but his brave, 
courageous spirit kept him up and he stood by his duty even 
at great personal sacrifice and suffering. The next years 


saw the writing and publication (in 1794) of his "System of 
Divinity," which is his one monumental work and for which 
he received the sum of $900. He straightway gave $100 to a 
missionary society which he had lately organized. 

But the ijeople were poor and, like Martha, anxious over 
many things; and the sojourn of the French troops had 
leavened Newport society with the scepticism of the days of 
the great encyclopaedists. Dr. Hopkins might give himself 
to his theology and to great social reforms, but his church 
existed at only a poor dying rate. 

It has been said that Hopkins's preaching diminished 
the congregation. But the fundamental factor in this unfor- 
tunate diminution was the Revolutionary war. True, he 
was not as distinguished an orator as he was a theologian. 
He had a fine presence, standing six feet in height, and was 
the personification of dignity. In fact, it is said that when 
Washington visited Newport, and Hopkins acted as Chaplain 
for the daj the figure of the theologian as he walked beside 
the great general was no less imposing than that of the dis- 
tinguished visitor. But Dr. Hopkins was not graceful, and 
had curious and awkward gestures. Dr. Channing has said 
that his voice was like a cracked bell, but probably Chan- 
ning remembered the Hopkins of his later years when he was 
feeble or after he had suffered from a stroke. The children 
seemed to have been afraid of him, and one of them, a little 
girl who cried because she feared to go into the church, ex- 
plained her distress thus : "When I look up into the pulpit, I 
think I see God there." But in spite of his dignified de- 
meanor, Hopkins had one of the warmest hearts that ever 

The real curse in his speaking was his literary style; he 
knew his own weaknesses and regretted them, but ventured 
the explanation that since youth he had been more intent 
upon the discovery of truth than upon its expression. And his 
explanation is probably true. Few men who are felicitous 
in their utterances know what they are talking about; those 
who know what they are talking about seldom can express 
themselves. Moses had insight enough to draw up a code of 
laws for Israel, but when he wanted to communicate with his 
people, he had to use the voice of Aaron. When Moses left 


Aaron in charge of affairs, the people of Israel were persuad- 
ed by him to build a golden calf. Herein is the tragedy of 
the thinker who cannot speak, and the speaker who cannot 

It has been wrongly claimed that all Hopkins's sermons 
were metaphysical and abstract. Some of them undoubtedly 
were. But not all. He w^as practical, and if he alienated 
many of his congregation from the church, it was not on 
account of his heretical theology but rather because of his 
attacks on the slave trade, to which we shall refer later. He 
took his preaching office most seriously. His sermon was 
always completed by nine o'clock Friday night. He spent 
Saturday in prayer and communion with God, and he went 
into the pulpit on Sundaj'^ directly from his private devo- 
tions. Many of his sermons have been printed, and that 
which w^ould most appeal to his audience is his "Farewell to 
the World," delivered in 1801, and being his last sermon in 
Newport. After considering the state of the world in general 
including the Mohammedans and the Jews, he turned to the 
church and its several branches, Greek, Roman and Prot- 
estant, and assured his hearers that only such as believed in 
the doctrines of John Calvin should be saved! Then he 
turned to the state of religion in New England, Rhode Island 
and Newport, and finally his own church : and here again I 
crave your indulgence with a quotation : 

"This town has long been noted for the 
many religious sects and denominations into 
which the inhabitants are divided, while the 
body of the people have been considered, I 
believe justly, to have very little true religion, 
if any; and they have appeared more disso- 
lute, vicious, erroneous and ignorant, than 
people in general are in other parts of New Eng- 
land. And there has been no general revival 
of religion, or reformation, to this day; and the 
state and character of the inhabitants in general 
has not, become better, but the contrary .... 
A great part of them (Newporters) are so inat- 
tentive to religion, and so ignorant, that they 


have really no religious principles; others have 
imbibed, and are strongly fixed in, religious 
maxims and notions, as contrary to the Bible 
as darkness is to the light. Of those who con- 
stantly attend public worship, including the 
professors of religion, very few of them main- 
tain any family worship or religion and by far 
the greater part are so immoral in their con- 
duct, or ignorant and erroneous in their notions 
of religion, as to fall vastly short of the Scrip- 
ture character of true Christians .... In this 
dark, unpleasant and melancholy view of the 
state and character of the body of the inhabi- 
tants of this town, I must take my leave, with a 
painful prospect of the evil which is coming 
upon them and their posterity; which they 
would not believe were they told. To most of 
them I cannot speak, and if I could, and they 
should know what 1 think and say of them, it 
would only serve to excite the resentinent and 
indignation of the most." 

To say the least, this is direct preaching, but it is not of a 
kind disposed to increase one's popularity! 

But his great work was that of a theologian, and most of 
his writings were concerned with the justification of the 
strange ways of God with men. Into these writings we could 
not go if we would. But they furnished the material for the 
great theological arguments of the last half of the eigh- 
teenth century and the first half of the nineteenth. Hopkins- 
ianism was a mighty system, a mixture of Calvinism and 
Arminianism. It would not interest many of us today except 
those who study it for the history of theological thought. 
Nevertheless it once was vital and generally discussed. 
Among the names of the original subscribers to his System of 
Divinity are those of certain colored folk, to wit, Congo 
Jenkins and Zingo Stevens and Nimble Nightingale! 
Whether they read the books or not, is another matter. 
The doctrines which distinguished this system from 


orthodox Calvinism were those concerning the nature of 
holiness, and the reward of holiness. Hopkins' idea was 
summed up in the phrase "disinterested benevolence." Sin, 
said Hopkins, is selfishness and to acquire holiness one must 
absolutely forget self; and think only in terms of the great- 
est good to Being in general. We should live benevolently 
for God and for our fellow-men, with absolutely no anxiety 
concerning what joy or happiness our conduct would bring 
us in this life, or in the life to come. The true believer must 
do his duty and act for the glory of God. He must be willing 
to do so, even if he be damned for it. His benevolence must 
be absolutely disinterested. A certain divine* has summed 
up the attitude of various theologies towards this matter as 
follows : 

Calvinism. "Love to God does not require in any one, 
under any circumstances, a willingness to be damned but the 

Hopkinsianism. "No man truly loves God or his neigh- 
bor, who is not willing to be damned for a greater good than 
his personal salvation." 

Universalism. "No man will be damned, and therefore 
no man should be willing to be damned." 

Arminianism. "No man ever was willing, while in the 
exercise of love of God, to be accursed from him, for any 

Arianism. "No man who loves God can be willing to 
be damned for any cause." 

Sabellianism. "Some say one thing and some another." 

Socinianism. "Love to God never can imply a willing- 
ness to be damned." 

Deist. "The Deists are so scriptural as to believe that 
no man ever hated his own flesh, and much less his soul, 
if he has a soul." 

All of which is very interesting. We shall dismiss the 
theological system with these words, that his was a robust 
and heroic faith, and he himself was the incarnation of the 
theory of disinterested benevolence. Much that is said 

*Ezra Stiles Ely. 


against his theology is without any foundation, and he has 
been condemned for saying and holding theories he never 
held. But his doctrine of disinterested benevolence not only 
aroused the admiration of men like Channing and Whittier, 
but many liberal theologians declare today that his position 
was one of the most valuable contributions to theology ever 
made. It became common to put to all candidates for the 
Congregational ministry the query: "Are you willing to be 
damned for the glory of God?" until one of them in the 
middle of the last century broke the spell by answering: 
"No, I'm not, but I'm quite willing that the questioner be 
damned if it will serve God's glory." 

I have purposely reserved what may be the most sig- 
nificant contribution of Samuel Hopkins until the last; and 
that is, his activity on behalf of the slave. In Great Barring- 
ton, as we have pointed out, Hopkins had observed the influ- 
ence of the whites upon the Indians. But he had thought 
but little about the condition of the negroes. He owned a 
slave himself, who had been sold before he came to Newport. 
But he had not been in Newport long until he was forced to 
confront the slave trade in all its heinousness. Newport was 
one of the foremost slave markets, then and for many sub- 
sequent years. For instance, between the years 1804 and 
1808, when Newport had declined, Rhode Island owned 59 of 
the slavers carrying negroes into Charleston, South Caro- 
lina. In that time, 17,048 slaves were brought into the port. 
Of these 6,238 came in boats owned in Rhode Island and 
3,488, or more than one-fifth, in boats owned in Newport.* 
These figures will make the local situation very vivid. 
Hopkins saw the slaves in the slave market here, and he felt 
the inhumanity of this bargaining in human flesh. He de- 
cided to speak against the whole business, although practi- 
cally no one had ever before lifted up his voice from a 
Christian pulpit with such a plea. He knew that he might 
arouse the antagonism of his parish, but with disinterested 
benevolence, he made his decision, and one Sunday 
morning he spoke his mind. As Whittier said:"It well may 
be doubted, whether, on the Sabbath day, the angels of God, 
in their wide survey of his universe, looked upon a nobler 

'Quoted in Park's Memoir. 


spectacle than that of the minister of Newport, rising up 
before his slave-holding congregation, and demanding, in the 
name of the Highest, the 'deliverance of the captive, and the 
opening of prison doors to them that were bound.' " 
Whether his discourse was responsible for the measure or 
not, in June, 1774, the State of Rhode Island prohibited the 
further importation of slaves into this State. 

But he did not stop with a sermon. He wrote a dialogue 
which was published in 1776, the year of the war. He felt 
that at a time when these colonies were struggling for their 
own liberty, they would hearken more readily to an appeal 
for liberty on the part of those whom they themselves were 
oppressing. While many were at the time opposed to the 
slave-trade and slave-holding, no "other man had prior to 
1776 written on the theme so forcibly and fundamentally." 
This dialogue was afterward reprinted in 1785 by the New 
York Manumission Society of which John Jay was president 
and Alexander Hamilton a member, and was widely and 
powerfully used by the various abolition societies' which 
were rapidly springing up. Hopkins was made an honorary 
member of this society, and also of the society of which 
Benjamin Franklin was president. Not only did he preach 
against the slave-trade, but he succeeded in 1784 in having 
his church vote as follows: "That the slave trade and the 
slavery of the Africans as it has taken place among us is a 
gross violation of the righteousness and benevolence which 
are so much inculcated in the gospel, and therefore we will 
not tolerate it in this church." True the Quakers had 
adopted similar views before, but the action of the First 
Congregational Church is a most significant item in the 
progress of the anti-slavery movement. He also used the 
press freely, furnishing anti-slavery items to the editor of 
the Newport Mercury who, with fear and trembling and in 
face of the threats of his slave-holding subscribers, put as 
many as he dared into his paper. He wrote to Moses Brown, 
to the English abolitionists, and tirelessly and wisely he 
labored for this great cause. He is one of the great pioneers 
in the abolition movement, and Newport should be proud of 

But he was no mere sentimentalist. He realized just 


what the continuance of the traffick would mean.He feared 
that it might lead some time to Civil war, and he says so in a 
letter dated 1788. He also recognized the fact that the task 
of assimilating the blacks would be a great one, and conse- 
quently he proposed the formation of colonies on the Guinea 
coast where blacks who had been cruelly torn from their 
native land by the traders might be returned after having 
enjoyed some of the civilizing influences of this country. 
The scheme was partly missionary, and on that score 
aroused the fear of his theological opponents who thought 
it might be better to leave the Africans in their paganism, 
rather than convert them to the Hopkinsian theology, but 
it was far more than missionary in its nature. It was put 
forth with a statesmanlike understanding of the situation: 
as the following paragraph from one of his statements will 
make clear: 

"This appears to be the best and only plan 
to make the blacks among us in the most agree- 
able situation for themselves and to render 
them most useful to their brethren in Africa, by 
civilizing them and teaching them how to culti- 
vate their lands and spreading the knowledge 
of the Christian religion among them. The 
whites are so habituated by education and cus- 
tom to look upon and treat the blacks as an 
inferior class of beings, and they are so low by 
their situation and the treatment they receive 
from us that they never can be raised to an 
equality with the whites and enjoy' all the 
liberty and rights to which they have a just 
claim, or have all the encouragements and mo- 
tives to make improvements of every kind, 
which are desirable. But if they were removed 
to Africa this evil would cease and they would 
enjoy all desirable equality and liberty; and 
live in a climate which is peculiarly suitable to 
their constitution. And they would be under 
advantages to set an example of industry and 
the best manner of cultivating the land, of 


civil life, of morality and religion, which 
would tend to gain the attention of the inhabi- 
tants of that country and persuade them to 
receive instruction and embrace the gospel. 
. . . .These United States are able to be at 
the expense of prosecuting such a plan, at which 
these hints are some of the outlines. And is not 
this the best way that can be taken to compen- 
sate the blacks both in America and in Africa 
for the injuries they have received by the slave 
trade and slavery; and that which righteous- 
ness and benevolence must dictate? And even 
selfishness will be pleased with such a plan as 
this, and excite to exertion to carry it into 
effect, when the advantages of it to the public 
and to individuals are well considered and 
realized. This will gradually draw otT all the 
blacks in New England, and even in the Middle 
and Southern states as fast as they can be set 
free, by which this nation shall be delivered 
from that which, in the view of every discerning 
man, is a great calamity and inconsistent with 
the good of society; and is now really a great in- 
jury to most of the white inhabitants, especially 
in the southern states." (1793). 

Hopkins did not have good luck with his ventures, 
although he did raise funds to train two colored men for 
work in Africa. They, were old men when they sailed and 
they both died within six months of their arrival in Sierra 
Leone. Though his scheme came to naught, must we not 
say that Dr. Hopkins was far ahead of his day, and had his 
advice been taken, America might have been saved the 
horror of the civil war, and the unsolved negro problem of 

It should also be added that in forming the society to 
raise funds for the education of colored men intending to go 
to Africa as missionaries, Samuel Hopkins founded what is 
probably the first foreign missionary society in America, an- 
tedating the American Board by 43 years, as Rev. T. C. Mc- 


Clellan some years ago pointed out. This, surely, is addi- 
tional reason for attaching significance to the work of Sam- 
uel Hopkins. 

Such a man was Samuel Hopkins, preacher, theologian 
and reformer, who for more than thirty-three years claimed 
Newport as his home. He may have lacked a sense of 
humour, and some portions of his theology may make 
impossible reading, but history has few more radiant exam- 
ples of disinterested benevolence. Systematic in his thought, 
he was systematic in his life. He rose at four every 
inorning and studied until breakfast; then, after making 
the necessary purchases, retired to his study, where he spent 
most of the day and evening until nine o'clock, when he had 
family prayers; and at ten he went to bed. Modest con- 
cerning himself and his own powers, almost despondent in 
his humility, nevertheless he was as a defenced city against 
those who tried to make breaches in his theology or cham- 
pioned unrighteousness. His life is a glorious example of 
the consecration and endurance of which the Puritan spirit 
was capable, and of which this nation may ever be proud 
and shall ever stand in need. As Newporters, we should 
know more of him, seek to preserve the edifices associated 
with his name, and above all retain in our devotion to high 
ideals of piety and service, something of his incomparable 
spirit. As the gentle-souled Whittier once wrote: 

" We need, methinks, the prophet-hero still 
Saints true of life, and martyrs strong of will, 
To tread the land, even now, as Xavier trod 
The streets of Goa, barefoot, with his bell 
Proclaiming freedom in the name of God, 
And startling tyrants with the fear of hell. 
Soft words, smooth prophecies, are doubtless well 
But to rebuke the age's popular crime. 
We need the souls of fire, the hearts of that 
old time."* 

"'Men of Old." 

Very Rev. 
Dean George Berkeley, D.D. 

A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
March 6th, 1917 



Among the eminent divines who elevated and enriched 
greater influence on his friends and contemporaries, or 
posesses greater charm for the reader of today, than George 
Berkeley; Doctor in Divinity, Dignitary of the English 
Church, Wit, Philosopher, Poet and Missionary. He landed 
on our shores in January, 1729, covered with laurels won in 
the old world and burning with enthusiasm for a high enter- 
prise to be carried forward in the new. He departed, sailing 
from Boston in the autumn of 1731, a disappointed and a 
broken man, his plans thwarted and his hopes dashed to the 

Of the man himself, the figure he made in the world, 
the philanthropic enterprise he cherished and which led him 
to come to America, his life in Newport and the causes of 
his failure and retirement to his native land, I will try to tell 
you in a few paragraphs, necessarily somewhat fragmentary. 
For those who care to know more, an ample supply of 
information coupled with entertainment and edification will 
be found in the four volumes of his life and works by Alex- 
ander Campbell Frazer, one of the best of biographers. 

George Berkeley, son of William, an English royalist, 
was born in Ireland at Kilcrin, near Thomastown on March 
12th, 1684. He was sent first to the famous Kilkenny School, 
founded by His Grace the Duke of Ormonde, where also 
Dean Swift and Thomas Prior were pupils, and then to 
Trinity College, Dublin. The troubled reigns of the Stuarts 
were drawing to a close. England was full of turmoil. 
Many cavalier families, like those of Swift and Berkeley, had 
taken refuge in Ireland; and academic instruction was per- 
haps never on a higher plane than in those days. Though an 
Irish school, I fancy, is never a poor place for the sharpening 
of the wits. An Irish friend of mine was classmate in such a 
school of the late Father Tyrrell, author of "Christianity at 
the Cross Roads." He tells how they were one day constru- 
ing Latin. Tyrrell came to the word "penna;" he translated 


it "wings." "Wrong," said the master. "The word is singu- 
lar number, a wing." "Oh!" said Tyrrell, "that is merely a 
difference of a pinion." 

The Provost of Trinity College when Berkeley matricu- 
lated in 1700 was Dr. Peter Browne, a prominent writer on 
Philosophic themes. His tutor was Dr. John Hall, a learned 
and diligent teacher. Twenty miles away lived Swift, at 
Laracor, whence he was transferred to be Dean of St. Pat- 
rick's in 1713. In 1705 Berkeley and a group of his friends 
formed a Society to study the philosophy of Boyle, Newton 
and Locke. Among its rules was one that the conference 
begin at three in the afternoon on Friday and continue till 
eight. Another ran: Whoever leaves the assembly before 
it's broken up, pay threepence. Evidently these young 
philosophers were bound to get at the bottom of things. 

In 1709 Berkeley was ordained Deacon and published 
his first philosophic work. A second work appeared in 1710. 
In 1712, aged 28, he went to London; where he was presented 
at Court by his friend. Dean Swift, the following year and 
instantly won popularity and distinction both by his conver- 
sation and his published works. It is said that he was so 
greatly in demand for week-end parties at country houses 
that he was once entrapped and compelled by main force to 
stay over Sunday. He was a friend of Steele and a frequent 
contributor to the Guardian; and on the first night of Addi- 
son's Cato he was with the author in his box. Pope's 
friendly description of him was: "To Berkeley every virtue 
under heaven." Rarely, I suppose, has there lived a man 
before whom the paths of worldly success and ecclesiastical 
promotion stood more widely open. What was it, then, that 
proved so attractive in this American Cathay as to draw him 
away from his assured fifty years of Europe at its best? 
"What did he promise himself as the reward of so much 
sacrifice? It was the hope of founding a college in the 
Summer or Bermuda Islands for the education of the youth 
of the various American colonies; a Christian college in 
which priests and prophets of the Church might be raised up 
who should in turn go out into the wilderness and promul- 
gate the Christian faith among the savages of the Continent. 
Berkeley was not blind to the vices of his age. He saw 


through the veneer of fashionable society and was appalled 
by the corruption that lay underneath. He knew the Court 
well and was often sent for to hold theological debates with 
Dr. Clarke for the edification of the Queen. He had travelled 
over the Continent and in Rome also. His deliberate con- 
viction was that Europe was utterly debased and the only 
hope for a pure and upright society lay in the unspoiled 
people of the new world. It was this sentiment which 
inspired his familiar verse : 

The muse disgusted at our age and clime 

Barren of every glorious theme. 
In distant lands now waits a better time 

Producing subjects worthy fame. 

In happy climes, the seat of innocence, 

Where nature guides and virtue rules 
Where men shall not impose for truth and sense 

The pedantry of courts and schools; 

Not such as Europe breeds in her decay : 

Such as she bred when fresh and young. 

When heavenly flame did animate her clay, 
By future poets shall be sung. 

Westward the course of empire takes its way, 

The four first acts already past. 
A fifth shall close the drama with the day; 
Time's noblest offspring is the last. 

The thought of reforming education for the good of 
mankind has always charmed and fascinated men of great 
character and intellect. Berkeley was obsessed by it for 
years before he came to America. In 1723 he wrote: "It is 
now about ten months since I have determined to spend the 
residue of my days in Bermuda, where, I trust in Providence, 
I may be the mean instrument of doing great good to man- 
kind." How quickly the fire of his enthusiasm caught in 
other breasts may be judged from a letter of Dean Swift to 
Lord Cartaret September 3, 1724: "There is a gentleman of 
this kingdom just gone for England. It is Dr. George Berke- 
ley, Dean of Derry, the best preferment among us 

he is an absolute philosopher in regard to money, titles and 
power; and for three years past has been struck with the 
notion of founding a university at Bermudas, by a charter 


from the Crown. He has seduced several of the hopefullest 
young clergymen and others here . . all in the fairest way 
of preferment, but in England his conquests are greater and 
I doubt will spread very far this winter . . . . His heart 
will break if his Deanery be not taken from him and left to 
your excellency's disposal." Cartaret was Lord Lieutenant 
of Ireland. 

Armed with this letter of introduction to the Lord Lieu- 
tenant and with many powerful friends already enlisted in 
his favor, Berkeley set out for London to launch his project. 

A few sentences may be quoted from his printed Pro- 
posal by way of making clear the design he had at heart. 
"Although there are several excellent persons of the Church 
of England whose good intentions have not been wanting to 
propagate the Gospel in foreign parts, who have even com- 
bined into societies for that very purpose . . . . it is never- 
theless acknowledged that there is at this day but little 
sense of religion and a most notorious corruption of manners 
in the English Colonies settled on the Continent of America, 
and the Islands. It is also acknowledged that the Gospel 
hath hitherto made but a very inconsiderable progress 
among the neighboring Americans who still continue in 
much the same ignorance and barbarism in which we found 

them above a hundred years ago for the remedy of 

these evils it should seem the proper method to provide, in 
the first place, a constant supply of worthy clergymen for 
the English churches; and, in the second place, a like con- 
stant supply of zealous missionaries well fitted for propa- 
gating Christianity among the savages. . . Now the clergy 
sent over to America have proved, too many of them, very 
meanly qualified, both in learning and morals for the 
discharge of their office. . . . These considerations make 
it evident that a College or Seminary in those parts is very 
much wanted; and . . . the providing such a Seminary is 
earnestly proposed and recommended to all those who have 
it in their power to contribute to so good a work." 

The Proposal goes on to discuss the proper situation for 
the College and fixes on the Island of Bermuda for a number 
of reasons. First : for its excellent climate. Second : because 
it is remote from the mainland with its temptations and 


distractions. Third: for the reason that it is readily acces- 
sible from all parts of America, and can thus draw both 
whites and savages from the various colonies. 

To us, today, Bermuda may seem too remote. But we 
must remember that when Berkeley gave his mind to the 
study of the situation, America was a strip of colonies lying 
along the Atlantic seaboard. There was nothing back of it. 
All commerce and intercourse was necessarily by water. It 
was not till 1776, the year in which Adam Smith's Wealth 
of Nations appeared, that James Watts constructed the first 
steam engine at Birmingham. Our continent is now cov- 
ered with railways, then as undreamed of as automobiles 
or aeroplanes. Had the College been built and endowed, 
supplied with food from the farm lands of Newport which 
Berkeley purchased for that purpose, and had steam locomo- 
tion not been discovered, there is no good reason why it 
might not have proved, if not all that its originator dreamed, 
yet one of the most beneficent Christian enterprises ever 
established in the Colonies. With twentieth century 
America stretching over the continent we feel the Bermuda 
scheme impracticable. So, no doubt, did a great many in 
Berkeley's own day. But such w^as the young Irishman's 
earnestness and eloquence, such his complete absorption in 
his generous and philanthropic enterprise, that he bore down 
all opposition and won the moral and financial support even 
of the indifferent and hostile. 

He had come by a small private fortune in a most extra- 
ordinary fashion. On one occasion Dean Swift took him to 
dine with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, whose daughter Esther was the 
Vanessa referred to in Swift's Journal to Stella. It seems 
probable that the lady never saw him again. But when she 
died, in the year 1723, it was found that she had left him the 
sum of £4000 in her will. With this assured capital in hand, 
sent, it seemed, by Providence, he felt himself ready to enter 
on his great work and began to solicit subscriptions and to 
beseige the Court for a charter for the College of St. Paul in 
Bermuda. An incident in his campaign is related by War- 
ton. Lord Bathurst told him that all the members of the 
Scriblers' Club being met at his house at dinner, they 
agreed to rally Berkeley, who was also his guest, on his 


scheme at Bermudas. Berkeley having listened to all the 
lively things they had to say, begged to be heard in his turn; 
and displayed his plan with such astonishing and animating 
force of eloquence and enthusiasm, that they were struck 
dumb and after some pause rose up all together with ear- 
nestness exclaiming — "Let us all set out with him immedi- 
ately." Not was the zest transient. He persuaded many to 
help him. More than five thousand pounds was raised — a 
large sum for those days — which might have been largely 
increased if the author of the Proposal had continued to rely 
on the good will of private persons. 

By some means he won the ear of George I and the 
consent, if not the approval, of Sir Robert Walpole, the 
Prime Minister, then all powerful, whose name appears in 
the list of subscribers opposite the sum of £200. A royal 
charter was soon forthcoming, and with it a grant of £20,000 
from the sale of lands in the newly ceded island of St. Chris- 
tophers, approved by the House of Commons. 

When one remembers the low estate of religion in Eng- 
land in the 18th Centurjs such a conquest of the Court and 
Court circles can be regarded as little less than miraculous. 
These were the days when favorites were promoted to high 
places in the Church as in the State; when Rectors, Deans, 
Prebendaries and even Bishops drew their salaries while 
never or rarely visiting their sees or parishs; when earnest 
men like Whitfield and Wesley and Fox were driven to find 
spiritual nourishment outside the Church, not willingly, but 
reluctantly, in very desperation. Even the most sincere and 
religious seem to have looked on the set services of the 
Church as rather cold formalities. The EarJ of Egmont, for 
example, a stout supporter of the Church and a warm friend 
of Berkeley, has this to tell of a religious service, in his 
memoirs. "Sunday, Feb. 27, 1732. After dinner I went to 
the Kings' Chapel where I expected to meet the Bishop of 
Salisbury, brother to the Archbishop of Dublin, and resolved 
to show my resentment at the usage given Dean Berkeley. 
Dean Berkeley went to the chapel and sat over against us. 
I said to the Bishop : 'Yonder is one of the worthiest, most 
learned men in the three kingdoms who has met with the 
wretchedest usage ever was heard of.' " Then follows a 


long debate and a rather warm one between the Earl and 
the Bishop. "This discourse between us," he adds, "was 
while the lessons were reading." Even the King's custom 
of sleeping through the services was not much worse than 

Thackeray has pictured the depraved court of George II 
in imperishable prose. "Show me some good person about 
that Court; find me among these selfish courtiers, these 
dissolute, gay people some one being that I can love and 
regard. There is that strutting little Sultan, George II; 
there is that humpbacked, beetle-browed Lord Chesterfield; 
there is John Hervey with his deadly smile and ghastly 
painted face — I hate them. There is Hoadley, cringing from 
one bishopric to another; yonder comes little Mr. Pope from 
Twickenham, with his friend the Irish Dean, in his new 
cassock, bowing, too, but with rage flashing from under his 
bushy eyebrows and scorn and hate quivering in his smile. 

I read that Lady Yarmouth sold a bishopric to a clergy- 
man for £5000. Was he the only prelate of his time led up by 
such hands for consecration? As I peep into George IPs St. 
James I see crowds of cassocks rustling up the back stairs of 
the ladies of the Court; stealthy clergy slipping purses into 
their laps; that Godless old King yawning under his canopy 
in the Chapel Royal as the Chaplain before him is discours- 
ing. Discoursing about what? About righteousness and 
judgment. Whilst the Chaplain is preaching, the King is 
chattering in German almost as loud as the preacher. . . No 
wonder the clergy were corrupt and indifferent amongst 
this indifference and corruption. No wonder that skeptics 
multiplied and morals degenerated — I say I am scared as I 
look round at this society — at this king, at these courtiers, at 
these politicians, at these Bishops." 

Surely it is an amazing and a cheering spectacle to turn 
from this picture to the mild and gentle priest in his seclu- 
sion on the Island of Peace, praying and studying and 
spending his fortune in good works and waiting so patiently 
for the promised grant that never came to erect his college 
for the instruction of American youth in the word of God 
and the training of priests who should go forth to convert 
the native tribes to the Christian religion. 


And while we are quoting Thackeray it may not be 
amiss to add a few Unes of his about Walpole, the accom- 
plished, cynical Prime Minister, who presided over this 
corrupt Court and ruled England; the man to whom poor 
Berkeley must look for the payment of his grant. "In 
religion," says Thackeray, "he was little less than a heathen; 
cracked ribald jokes at big-wigs and bishops and laughed at 
High Church and Low. In private life the old pagan rev- 
elled in the lowest pleasures. He passed his Sundays tip- 
pling at Richmond; and his holidays bawling after dogs or 
boozing at Houghton with boors over beef and punch. He 
cared for letters no more than his master did." 

Such was the group from which the zeal and devotion of 
Berkeley wrested a reluctant but substantial support for his 
enthusiastic scheme for the conversion of the blacks and 
savages of the New World; such the life on which he turned 
his back, rejecting its rewards and favors for the arduous 
toil of the missionary and the pioneer, not unlike Moses who 
esteemed the reproaches of Christ greater riches than 
the treasures of Egypt. 

In 1727, June 14, King George I died. Strangely 
enough this scarcely halted the plan of St. Paul's College. 
On July 6 Berkeley writes to his friend Prior: "Dear Tom. 
This is to inform you that I have obtained a new warrant for 
a grant, signed by His present Majesty, contrary to the 
expectations of my friends, who thought nothing could be 
expected of that kind in this great hurry of business." 

All went well and on September 5th, 1728, the Dean sent 
his farewells to the same correspondent. 

"Dear Tom : Tomorrow, with God's bressing, I set sail 
for Rhode Island with my wife and a friend of hers, my Lady 
Handcock's daughter, who bears us company. I am married 
since I saw you to Miss Forster, daughter of the late Chief 
Justice, whose humor and turn of mind pleases me beyond 
anything I know in her whole sex. Mr. James, Mr. Dalton 
and Mr. Smibert go with us on this voyage. We are now all 
together at Gravesend." 

The voyage must have occupied more than four months. 
Our next information is derived from the invaluable Memoir 


of Heiiiy Bull as published in the Newport, R. I., Republican 
Jan. 3, 1832-Dec. 26, 1838 and Newport Mercury Jan. 14, 
1854— Nov. 23, 1861, Vol. II p. 119. 

Dean Berkeley's Arrival in Newport.* 

This year, 1729, Dean Berkeley arrived in Newport, a 
notice of which we extract from the New England Weekly 
Journal, printed in Boston on Monday, Feb. 3rd, 1729. 

"Yesterday arrived here Dean Berkeley of Londery in a 
pretty large ship. He is a gentleman of middle stature, of an 
agreeable, pleasant and erect aspect. He was ushered into 
the town with a great number of gentlemen, to whom he 
behaved himself after a very complaisant manner. It is said 
he proposes to tarry here with his family about three 

What follows seems to be added by Henry Bull. 

Having undertaken the wild scheme of establishing a 
College in the Bermuda Islands for the conversion of the 
American savages to Christianity, aided by the proinised 
patronage of the King and many of the influential clergy of 
the nation, he, with some others who followed his fortunes, 
sailed from England for the Island of Bermuda. After a 
tedious passage they found themselves, as they supposed, in 
the latitude of the Islands but were not able to discover 
them; and after cruising about for some time in the neigh- 
borhood gave over the pursuit; they then concluded to 
return to England, and steering a northern course, tradition 
says they made land and hove out a signal, uncertain what 
land it was, but supposing themselves on the coast of 
America, and some part inhabited by Indans only. A boat 
came alongside of the ship in which was two of the Islanders, 
who informed them that the land in view was Block Island, 
They then inquired if they were in any of the English colo- 
nies of New England, and being answ^ered in the affirmative 
they further inquired if there was any harbor and seaport 
town near, and were answered that a town called New'port 

^Letter from Newport dated Jan. 24, 1729. 


lay about thirty miles distant, where was an Episcopal 
church, the Rector of which was the Rev, James Honeyman. 
They then started for Newport, accompanied by the two 
Block Islanders who carried the ship into the west passage, 
the wind being adverse for entering the harbor of Newport. 
The ship cast anchor between the Island of Conanicut and 
Narragansett. The two men from Block Island landed on 
Conanicut and called upon a Mr. Gardner and Mr. Martin, 
both of whom were members of Mr. Honeyman's church, and 
informed them that a great dignitary of the church from 
England — called Dean! was on board the ship, together 
with other passengers. They also produced a letter from the 
Dean directed to the Rev. Mr. Honeyman, on the receipt of 
which Gardner and Martin came to Newport in a small boat 
to bring the intelligence and also to bring the letter — when 
on their arrival they found that Mr. Honeyman was at the 
church, it being the day on which Divine service was held 
there; they then sent the letter by a servant, who delivered 
it to Mr. Honeyinan in his pulpit; he opened the letter and 
read it to the congregation, from the contents of which it 
appeared that the Dean might be expected to arrive every 
moment. The church was then dismissed with the blessing 
and the Rev. Mr. Honeyman, together with Wardens, Vestry, 
church and congregation, male and female, repaired imme- 
diately to the Ferry Wharf, where they arrived a little 
before the ferry boat which contained the Dean, his family 
and friends. The Dean was received on his landing by the 
gentlemen of the church and others of the town, who had 
collected thus hastily on the occasion, with the most respect- 
ful and hearty welcome; and the people, forming themselves 
in procession, escorted the Dean and his suite to the house of 
Mr. Honeyman. 

"The Dean continued about two years in Newport and 
often performed Divine service at Trinity Church. He pur- 
chased a farm about three miles from the compact part of 
the town, and built a house there, which he named White 
Hall and after his return to England in 1733 he presented the 
church with a fine organ. 

"What is contained in the preceding quotations was 
related to the writer by an elderly intelligent gentleman who 


states that it is according to his recollection of frequent 
conversations held at his father's house when he was about 
14 or 15 years of age,by his father and Messrs. Wickham, 
Malbone, Pease, Rev. Dr. Eyers, Bisset and Gardner Thurs- 

This entertaining and circumstantial account, the only 
one we have of the Dean's arrival, seems to err in one or two 
particulars. In the first place, as we have seen, the ship set 
sail for Newport and was by no means lost when she sighted 
Block Island, but close to her desired haven. In the second 
place, the picturesque detail of the Rev. Dr. Honeyman, 
wardens, vestry, church and congregation repairing to Ferry 
Wharf cannot be taken at its face value. The day was 
Thursday, January 23, not a holy day in the church calendar 
and not the day on which Divine service was held. That day 
was Sunday; and the distinguished visitor, as was quite 
proper, preached at the service on the Sunday following, 
from the text: The Law and the Prophets were until John; 
since then the King of God is preached. St. L. 16:16. What 
probably happened was that the Rector was at church for a 
baptism or a wedding or some special servdce, got word of 
the ship's arrival, and informed some of his neighbors who 
went with him to the waterside. 

However this may be the hospitable rector received the 
visitor and his wife into his home and entertained them for 
some months or until land had been bought and the Dean's 
house, his first home, for he had lived in college rooms, 
lodgings and the like all his life, w^as built. Like a loyal 
cavalier he called it White Hall; and with every evidence of 
comfort and satisfaction he set up his lares and penates 
and enjoyed quiet domestic life; giving himself to study; 
and receiving, though rarely paying, visits. 

Berkeley's accounts of Newport, written home to Eng- 
land, were, as is well known, most enthusiastic. He says 
he was never more agreeably surprised than at the sight of 
the town and harbour of Newport. Again he described it 
as exhibiting "some of the softest rural and grandest ocean 
scenery in the world." He purposely set his house in a 
valley out of sight of the sea so that he might daily renew 
the fresh surprise of catching sight of the lovely shore. 


"To enjoy what is to be seen from the hill," he said, "I must 
visit it only occasionally. If the prospect were constantly in 
view it would lose its charm." 

It was in July or August, 1729, that he removed from 
Newport to his farm and took up his residence. His three 
friends James, Dalton and Smibert removed at the same 
time from Newport to Boston. Here he lived the life of a 
studious recluse. He never visited Boston till the day he 
sailed thence for England; and made no figure in the social 
life of Newport. Now and then he paid visits to the Indians 
of the mainland in whose conversion he was deeply inter- 
ested. It is thus impossible to extract very much local color 
from his correspondence. The passage from the memoirs of 
his grandson, Monck Berkeley, is well known. As it was 
written by the Dean's daughter-in-law it may be regarded as 
authentic, in a sense, but it lacked the ring of versimilitude, 
"In one thing the various sectaries at Newport, both men 
and women, all agreed — in a rage for finery, to the great 
amusement of Berkeley; two learned, elegant friends. Sir 
John James and Richard Dalton, Esq., the men in flam- 
ing scarlet coats and waistcoats, laced and fringed with 
brightest glaring yellow. The sly Quakers, not venturing 
on these charming coats and waistcoats, yet loving finery, 
figured away Mdth plate on their sideboards. One, to the no 
small diversion of Berkeley, sent to England and had made 
on purpose, a noble large tea-pot of solid gold, and inquired 
of the Dean, when drinking tea witli him whether Friend 
Berkeley had ever seen such a curious thing. On being told 
that silver ones were much in use in England but that he 
had never seen a gold one, Ebeiiezer replied, "Aye, that was 
the thing: I was resolved to have something finer than any- 
body else. They say that the Queen has not got one." The 
Dean delighted his ridiculous host by assuring him that this 
was an unique; and very happy it made him." 

But if he did not mingle very much with the gay fash- 
ionable red and yellow-coated society of the day, the Dean 
managed to draw round himself two circles not less inter- 
esting to his mind: a conference of clergymen which occa- 
sionally met at his house; and the famous Philosophical So- 
ciety out of which sprung the Redwood Library. "The mis- 


sionaries from the English Society, who resided within a 
hundred miles of Newport," writes Mrs. Berkeley, the Dean's 
wife, "agreed among themselves to hold a sort of Synod 
there twice in a year, in order to enjoy the advantages of 
his advice and exhortation. Four of these meetings were 
accordingly held. One of the principal points which he then 
pressed upon his fellow laborers was the absolute necessity 
of conciliating by all innocent means the afi'ection of their 
hearers, and also of their dissenting neighbors." No record 
of the meetings of this conference has been kept. But the 
letters that passed between Berkeley and the most distin- 
guished of the American participants in the discussions, 
Samuel Johnson, are deeply interesting and form an im- 
portant link in the chain of American Philosophic thought. 
"Johnson was born at Guildford, Conn., of a family 
prominent in the Congregational Church. He graduated 
from Yale College in 1714 and was tutor there fro ml716- 
1719. By reading the w^orks of eminent Anglican divines — 
I quote Prof. Frazer — and after many conferences among 
themselves, Cutler, then Rector of Yale College, Johnson and 
some other ministers, were led, about 1722 to doubt the va- 
lidity of Presbyterian ordination and the expediency of ex- 
tempore common-prayer. They soon announced their new 
convictions and cast in their lot with the Church of Hoo'ier, 

Cudworth and Barrow Cutler, Johnson and Brown 

now resigned their pastoral charges in the neighborhood in 
order to connect themselves with this communion. In 1722 
they crossed the ocean to obtain Episcopal ordination in 
England. Johnson is said to have visited Pope at his villa, 
who gave him cuttings from his Twickenham willow. These 
he carried from the banks of the Thames and planted on 
the banks of his own beautiful river at Stratford, in Con- 
necticut, when he was settled there in 1723." It seems that 
Johnson, a very scholarly and thoughtful man, had fallen in 
with Berkeley's earlier works and had been by them con- 
verted to his Ideahstic Philosophy. Upon Berkeley's settling 
in his vicinity he naturally sought the opportunity for fre- 
quent conference. A warm acquaintance sprung up and a 
copious correspondence ensued on various philosophic sub- 
jects. The reader who is curious to understand Berkeley's 


philosophy, and it is one of the the world's great systems, 
cannot do better than read Alciphron, that charming Dia- 
logue almost as clear and limpid in style as one of Plato's 
own, written here at Newport while its author sat in his 
chair near the Second Beach, gazing out over the ocean; and 
then turn to the letters between Berkeley and Johnson in 
which minute points are gone over at length. Take this 
sentence, for example, pitched upon almost by chance : — 
"You say you agree with me that there is nothing within your 
mind but God and other spirits, with the attributes or prop- 
erties belonging to them and the ideas contained in them." 
Berkeley to Johnson, The master is setting his pupil's feet 
on the assured ground of a common agreement. To know 
anything is to perform an intellectual or mental process. 
To be knowable, then, all things must be, in a degree, of the 
same texture as the mind. As we study Nature and learn 
her ways we follow an intellectual path always. And the 
one great mind that holds all things in its grasp, and has 
made them knowable by us is God. When Berkeley looked 
on the scenery of this perfect pearl of an island he thrilled 
with a sense of pleasure almost beyond words to express 
because, I suppose, its beauty seemed to him to reflect visibly 
the grace of God. That connection is the key thai unlocks 
the secret of the loveliness of Nature. Wordsworth came 
upon it as a little lad when he thrashed the hazel coppice for 
nuts and then, having gotten his hazelnuts, stood aghast to 
see how the shattered trees seemed to utter a mute protest 
to Heaven. 

And unless I now " 

Confound my present feelings with the past 
Ere from the mutilated bower I turned, 
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings, 
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld 
The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky- 
Then dearest Maiden, move along these shades 
In gentleness of heart, with gentle hand 
Touch — for there is a spirit in the woods. 

Johnson learned this great truth, the secret of the high- 
est poetry and the highest philosophy, from Berkeley. He 
himself later published a book "Elementa Philosophica," 


printed by Benjamin F'ranklin at Philadelphia in 1752. He 
was the founder of King's College, now Columbia University, 
in New York. 

Members of the Philosophic Society were Col. Updike, 
Judge Scott — a grand-uncle of Sir Walter Scott — Nathaniel 
Kay, Henry Collins, Nathan Townsend, the Reverend James 
Honeyman and the Reverend Jeremiah Condy. Johnson of 
Stratford and McSparran, Church of England Missionary in 
the Narragansett country, occasionally attended the meeet- 

Two children were born to the Berkeleys in Newport. 
The first was a boy, Henry by name. The Church Register 
gives the record of his baptism "1729 September 1st, Henry 
Berkeley, son of Dean Berkeley, baptized by his father and 
received into the Church." The second was a daughter who 
died in infancy, and whose grave is near that of Nathaniel 
Kay in the church yard. 

Two strains of sadness and anxiety run through the 
Newport letters. His friends had begun to wonder at his 
delay in departing for Bermuda. It seemed to betoken un- 
certainty; and subscriptions were no longer forthcoming. 
As a matter of fact there was no sort of use in leaving New- 
port till the royal grant should be paid, for he had spent 
his private fortune in buying the White Hall farm and had 
nothing to go on with. But this was the second trouble, the 
money from the Exchequer was not forthcoming. The 
royal and noble personages who had favored it and the pol- 
iticians who had voted it had not the slightest interest, 
naturally, in the savages or their religion. They had been 
interested in and won over by the towering genius and en- 
thusiasm of Berkeley. He being gone their interest died. 
From the moment he sailed away from England there had 
ceased to be any likelihood whatever that a penny of the 
St. Christopher money would every follow him. So here in 
Newport he waited and worried and ate his heart out and 
wrote letters to all his friends begging them to intercede 
with the Government for him. The incident furnishes an 
excellent commentary on the text: Put not your trust in 
Princes. December 23rd, 1730, Lord Percival wrote to say 
that Walpole had finally confessed that the money would 


never be paid; one of those statements politicians can 
make in private but must resist and repel the accusation of 
in public. Already the unhappy truth had forced itself 
home on poor Berkeley's mind. Hope deferred had made 
his heart sick. He wrote from Newport : "As for the rail- 
lery of European wits I should not mind it if I saw my col- 
lege go on and prosper; But I must own the disappointments 
I have met with in this particular have nearly touched me, 
not without affecting my health and spirits." This, with an- 
other in the same tenour were the last letters he wrote from 
America. In the Autumn of 1731 he sadly set sail from 
Boston. On Friday, February 18th we find him preaching 
the annual sermon before the Society for the Propagation 
of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in the Church of St. Mary- 

"Rhode Island," he tells his hearers, "is inhabited by 
an English Colony consisting chiefly of sectaries of many dif- 
ferent denominations who seem to have worn off part of 
that prejudice which they inherited from their ancestors 
against the National Church . . . ., though it must be 
acknowledged at the same time that too many have worn off 
a serious sense of all religion, .... being equally careless 
of outward worship and of inward principles. The native 
Indians have been debauched by the whites with strong 
drink," adding, "it would seem that the likeliest step towards 
converting the heathen would be to begin with the English 

planters To conclude : if we proportioned our zeal 

to the importance of things; if we would love men whose 
opinions we do not approve; if we knew the yorld more and 
liked it less; if we had a due sense of the Divine perfections 
and our own defects; and if, in order and all this that 
were done in places of education which cannot be done so 
well out of them — I say, if these steps were taken at home 
while proper measures are carrying on abroad the one would 
very much facilitate the other." 

From which it appears that, while he had given over his 
hope of elevating the education of the Colonies he had not 
in the least changed his mind as to the propriety or neces- 
sity of doing it. 

It is to be regretted that we have no extended notice of 


the Dean's preaching in Newport nor one of his sermons en- 
tire, only the rough notes of twelve of the discourses. It 
would be interesting to know what the colonists thought of 
the preaching of one who was regarded as a model of elo- 
quence in his own land. Personally they liked him and were 
delighted to have so distinguisiied a neighbor and flocked to 
the church to hear him. But whether they approved his 
rhetoric or contrasted it unfavorably with that of their native 
preachers, as seems not unlikely, does not appear. 

As for the sermons themselves they are notable in two 
respects. In the first place the earlier sermons are very gen- 
eral in their nature and very conciliatory in tone. One for 
example, evidently fitted to the minds of dissenters, begins 
thus: Divisions into essentials and circumstantials in Re- 
ligion. Circumstantials of less value (1) from the nature 
of things; (2) from their being left undefined; (3) from the 
concession of our Church which is foully misrepresented. 
Sad that religion which requires us to love, should become 
the cause of our hating one another." 

But, second, as time wore on and the preacher became 
better acquainted with his environment, studied the society 
about him and formed a definite inpression of its deepest re- 
ligious needs the tone changes. Very frankly, as a good 
physician of the soul, he puts his finger on the sore spot in 
the community. One can scarcely believe these later ser- 
mons were as popular as the first. I quote the account of 
them given by Moses Coit Tyler in his volume. Three Men 
of Letters: p. 41, "Two of the most notable of his Ameri- 
can sermons are significant of his penetrating study into the 
characteristic vices of a community neither sensual or friv- 
olous, — vices born of the ungenerous activity of a legion 
of unbridled tongues. These sermons furnish us with ex- 
amples of his aptitude for social criticism — criticism so fine- 
ly edged as to culminate into something like satire. "Vices, 
like weeds, different in different countries; national vice 
familiar; intemperate lust in Italy; drinking in Germany; 
tares wherever there is good seed; though not sensual, not 
less deadly, e. g. detraction; would not steal sixpence, but 
rob a man of his reputation; they who have no relish for 
wine have itching ears for scandal; this vice often observed 


in sober people; praise and blame natural justice; where we 
know a man lives in habitual sin unrepented, we may pre- 
vent hypocrites from doing evil; but to judge without in- 
quiry to show a facility in believing and a readiness to re- 
port evil of one's neighbor; frequency, little horror great 

Satan "tempts men to sensuality, but he is in his own na- 
ture malicious and malignant; pride and ill-nature, two 
vices most severely rebuked by our Saviour. All deviations 
sinful, but those upon dry purpose more so; malignity of 
spirit like an ulcer in the nobler parts; age cures sensual 
vices, this grows with age; imposing on others and even on 
themselves as religion and a zeal for God's service, when 
it really proceeds only from ill-will to man and is no part 
of our duty to God, but directly contrary to it." These ex- 
tracts while not indicating the literary style of the Dean's 
preaching at least show us something of his way of think- 
ing. They show also that he agreed with St. James as 
to the relative value of sins of the tongue. 

Whitehall and his library he conveyed to Yale College, 
a very generous gift. Later he sent an organ and a bell to 
Trinity Church where he was long remembered. 

He kissed hands for the Diocese of Cloyne, January 17th 
1734, a position which he held till 1752 when he retired to 
Oxford, residing on Holywell Street. Here, on the evening 
of Sunday, January 14th, he passed away, surrounded 
by his family. His wife had been reading aloud to the 
little family party the lesson in the Burial Service taken 
from the 15th Chapter of the I Ep. to the Corinthians, and 
he had been making remarks on that sublime passage. His 
daughter soon after went to offer him some tea. She found 
him, as it seemed, asleep, but his body was already cold; for 
it was the last sleep — the mystery of death; and the world of 
the senses had suddenly ceased to be a medium of inter- 
course between his spirit and those who remained. 

The Sephardic Jews of Newport 

A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
June 12th, 1917 


Ministers of the Earlier or Sephardic Jews 
of Newport 

Wliat is the meaning of the word "Sephardic"? 

Who were, and who are, the Sephardic Jews? 

In what way are they different from any other Jews? 

And above all, what have they accomplished in human 
history for humanity's uplift? 

History is written by the finger of God. 

Sometimes man attempts to write a chapter for his ow^n 
gain or glory. Then paragraphs are written with blood, or 
pages are blurred with tears, or deceit can be read between 
the lines. But just as the battlefield, scarred, stained and 
burnt, becomes in time by the magic of God, covered by 
growths which hide and beautify, so the aftermath of human 
sin is the mercy and pardon of God, evidencing that "God 
has passed by."t The contests and sufferings which history 
records, the sorrows and horrors born of man's inhumanity 
to man, are by the chemistry of God made to lead to better 
conditions which hide and beautify the unsightly past. By 
some Divine alchemy they are made to produce a re-creation. 
By some Divine miracle they are transmuted into what 
stands for Human Happiness and makes for Human Pro- 

In this magic and mercy of God, in this chemistry, al- 
chemy, miracle of God for Human Happiness, Progress and 
Uplift, the Sephardic Jews, like all other Jews, have been 
humble instruments of the Divine Will. Their special work 
in human history I shall presently indicate. 

To show how^ human history as written by man is over- 
written by the finger or hand of God, let me illustrate by cit- 
ing but one or two striking instances from ancient, medieval 
and modern history. 

tThis expression means Divine forgiveness of human sin. It is used in 
Exodus, XXXIV : 6, in the passage describing how some of the Hebrew^s were 
seduced to worship Apis, the calf, one of the gods of Egypt, by the Egyp- 
tians who left Egypt with them. Their disloyalty brought due punishment, 
but "He passed by" and mercifully and graciously forgave. 


Babylon wrote her conquest of Jerusalem and the 
"Seventy Years' Captivity" to proclaim the triumph of 
Babylon. But the hand of God overwrote or re-wrote it to 
declare the triumph of God, for it tells of the purification of 
our nation, its preparation for its world-task of spreading 
the kingdom of God westward in and beyond Judea. And 
was it mere coincidence or was it the finger of God, that just 
in that very era, when Jewish thought was felt in Babylon, 
the then metropolis of the world where those great Jewish 
schools of learning were origincd, the three greatest thought- 
leaders, Zoroaster, Gotama Buddha and Confucius carried 
Eastward lofty thoughts of Hebrew tinge?* Four centuries 
later Syria meant her conquest of Palestine to write Syria's 
glory. But the finger of God re-wrote it, to mean the victory 
of Monotheism, achieved by Judas Maccabeus, over Polythe- 
ism, a victory which alone made possible the births of the 
daughter-faiths, Christianity and Islam which have done so 
much to lift mankind from classic mists and desert myths to 
a clearer conception of the One "God Universal," to whom 
Abraham, first of the Hebrews, built his early altarf and of 
whom Malachi, last of the prophets, spake. $ 

Xerxes wrote history to proclaim Persia's ambition to 
orientalize Europe. But the finger of God rewrote it to 
mean the rescue of Europe forever from Orientalism, thus 
to make possible Human Progress and Civilization upon 
which Human Happiness rests. 

In what we may call medieval history. Pope Hilde- 
brand and William the Conqueror wrote the Conquest of 
England to spell subjugation of peoples' rights and the in- 
crease of Papal power. The Pope even ga,ve the Norman 
a ring as if to mean the marriage of Church and State. But 
the finger of God re-wrote that chapter of English history 
to spell Runnymede, or the triumph of the peoples' rights; 
to mean Wyclif, and presently Cranmer and Henry, through 

*The victory of good over evil, an era of world-peace, filial reverence 
are Hebrew concepts adopted by Zoroastriaism, Buddhism, Confucianism 

tGenesis xxi. 33. 

JHave we not all one father — hath not one God created us ? Malachi 
II : 10. 


whom England was divorced from the Papacy, not married 
to it, to mean the eternal divorce of Church and State, and 
freedom of the people, freedom of conscience, "now and 

And who doubts but that the history of today now 
being written with blood and blurred with tears, will, by 
God's magic or alchemy, by the finger or hand of God, be re- 
written to mean man's democratization, to mean human in- 
stitutions and conditions that shall mean human betterment 
and uplift, secured by a peace with honor for all nations, 
that shall be a Peace Permanent. The Sephardic Jews have 
been elements in this chemistry or alchemy of God. The 
history of the Sephardic Jews has been written by man, but 
it has been, time and time again, re-written by the hand of 

When Rome conquered Jerusalem and long lines of cap- 
tives left Palestine for the galleys, the mines and amphi- 
theatres of their Roman masters, Rome wrote a page of her 
history designed to tell of Roman glory. But the hand of 
God rewrote that page, to mean the salvation of mankind 
from the coming dark and middle ages, eras of which no 
Roman even dreamed or could dream. 

The Sephardic Jews are those who settled in Spain, 
called Sepharad, and on the Mediterranean coast. The 
term "Sephardic Jews" is now applied to their descendants. 

Hebrews had for ages before the destruction of Jeru- 
salem, * or the Christian era, been settling in many a city 
of the Roman world. The prophet Joel tells of Hebrews 
sold as slaves to Greece, f The historic books speak of the 
trade of Tarshish, identified with ancient Tartessus. Rojas 
states that five hundred years before the Christian era, He- 
brews built Toledo or Toledoth, Escaluna, Magueda, Cada- 
liolsa, Guardia, Romeria, Almoroz, Noves, Nombleca and the 
present Tembleque in Spain. Marianna connects the ad- 
vent of the Jews in Spain with the era of Nebuchadnezzar. 
De Leon remarks in his preface to the history of the Jews 
of Bayonne that it is said that a synagogue existed at Toledo 

*The year 70 of the common era. 
tJoel IV : 6. 


before the destruction of the Second Temple. De Leon also 
speaks of a number of Jews carried with their families to 
Spain after the destruction of the First Temple. 

Some of these families assumed to be descended from 
the royal house of David, and alleged that their ancestors 
had been established from time immemorial in and around 
Lucena, Toledo and Seville. Graetz mentions these tradi- 
tions and the derivation of the names of several Spanish 
towns from Hebrew words, such as, Toledo from Toledoth, 
Escaluna from Ascalon, etc. That Hebrews were in Spain 
long before the Christian era is also indicated by a letter 
written by the Jews in Spain declaring that they had no part 
in the Crucifixion as they were then in Spain. Some may 
say these are mere traditions. But tradition is the echo of 
history hovering over the hills of time. 

Certainly the numbers of the Hebrews in Spain were 
vastly swollen by the advent of their unfortunate brethren 
driven forth by the legions of Titus and later by those of 
Hadrian after the Bar-Cochba rebellion was crushed. They 
were known as Sephardim, because Sepharad, mentioned by 
the prophet Obadiah is identified with Spain. 

Certain it is that the term Sephardim is taken to mean 
the Hebrews around the whole Mediterranean coast, easterly 
up to Babylon and the Euphrates, overspreading westerly 
into south France, and after the expulsion from Spain in 
1492 in all directions, — into Holland, the Turkish Empire, 
North, Central and South America, the West Indies, Kings- 
ton, Ja., and Surinam; Newport and New Amsterdam being 
among the chief settlements in the Northern part of this 
Hemisphere. , 

The history of the Sephardim, thanks to the hand of 
man, shows tear-stains and blood-marks to mankind's eter- 
nal shame. 

But thanks to the hand of God as He re-wrote it, we find 
that the historic work of the Sephardic Jews has been won- 
derfully blessed, for it has meant the blessing of humanity, 
in as much as it helped to preserve science, to cooperate with 
the Arabs for the presentation of much of the learning of the 
classic world, and to prepare men's minds for the tremen- 
dous event in human history, the Reformation. In other 


words, the Sephardic Jews helped to uphold the banner of 
learning, to proclaim liberty of conscience, to promote the 
consciousness of man's personal accountability to God and 
thus to forward mankind's centuried march toward true 
civilization and happiness. 

How this came about may now be briefly told. 

When Goths and Vandals conquered Spain, on the Fall 
of the Roman Empire, they found Jews already settled in the 

At the end of the Sixth century, when the Roman Cath- 
olic form of Christianity became the recognized religion of 
Gothic Spain, persecution of the Jews began, driving many 
to the neighboring shores of North Africa. 

There they came in contact with the Moors, who in 711, 
under Tarik, invaded Spain to avenge the outrage of his 
daughter by a Spanish potentate. 

In five years the Moors conquered Spain, and the glori- 
ous era of the Jews in Spain began. 

In the year, 750, Abd-er-Rahman ruled; he founded the 
University of Cordova, the schools of Seville, Lucena, Gra- 
nada, encouraged Jewish and Arab scholarship whose ex- 
ponents and professors received students from all parts of 
the world. Numerous Jews attained high honor and lasting 
fame as poets, philosophers, astronomers, physicians, math- 
ematicians, grammarians, lexicographers, financiers and 
merchants. Through their linguistic skill, they translated 
classic authors from Latin or Greek into Arabic, while at 
the same time they gave Eastern lore to the Western world. 
Withal, they united the study of the Scriptures and tradition- 
al learning, combining intense mental activity with social 
and domestic culture. 

The Arabs had sedulously collected and translated the 
Greek philosophers, but not the Greek poets because they 
abominated the lewdness of the gods of Olympus and 
abhorred the idea that any God could be guilty of such 
licentiousness as displayed in an Iliad or Odyssey. To 
every mosque was attached a school, education of the young 
being considered essential. It was the dawn of a wonder- 
ful revival of learning in that most remote corner of Europe, 
in the very era of European history known as the dark and 
middle ages. 


Was it chance, or was it the hand of God, that while 
in those sad days of darkness, ignorance, bloodshed, crime, 
priestly incompetence and immorality throughout Europe 
the lamps of learning, idealism, morality were lit in far-off 
Spain by the Arabs and those Sephardic Jews? 

Note the hand of God preparing things from far-off 
times, and then see the part in the Divine plan for man- 
kind's weal performed by those Sephardic Jews in Spain. 

The story can be rapidly outlined. 

Alexander the Great carried Greek language, Greek 
philosophy, Greek art, Greek science into the East, about 

Justinian closed the schools in Athens in 529. But the 
hand of God nevertheless continued and fostered their work 
in Syria. For the teachings of those schools or what we 
term "Greek learning" lived on. And before those teach- 
ings could die out, the Abassid dynasty of Mohammedan 
came into power (750) and encouraged the translation of 
Greek learning into Syriac and Arabic. That meant their 
perpetuation of those teachings. Hippocrates aild Galen in 
medicine; Euclid, Archimedes and Ptolemy in mathematics 
and astronomy; Aristotle, Theophrastus and Alexander of 
Aphrodisias in philosophy, were so translated and carried 
by the Arabs into Spain. There they and the Sephardic 
Jews introduced this learning into Christian Europe through 
the famous universities and schools of the Arab and Sephar- 
dic-Jewish professors in Spain, and presently in South 
France, Italy and Sicily and even Egypt, for those seats 
of learning were thronged by students from all parts of 
Europe who carried back to their distant homes, the thought- 
seeds there planted in their minds. 

The philosophical renaissance in Latin Europe was due 
to the introduction of translations of Aristotle's works. 

The learned fathers of the Christian Church, the scho- 
lastics, imbibed much of their wisdom from distinctly Jewish 
writers. Albertus Magnus, Vincent of Beauvais, Thomas 
Aquinas used Afer's translation of the philosophy of Isaac 
ben Solomon Israeli, the Arab-Jew of Egypt, (born c.855.) 

William of Auvergne, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aqui- 
nas, Duns Scotus, Siger of Brabant studied the Mekor Hayim 


or Fons Vitae of Solomon, son of Yehudah Ibn Gabirol 
(1021-1070). The Spanish Jew, better known as Avicebron; 
Ibn Sina, more generally known as Avicenna; Ibn Roshd, 
better known as Averroes; Abraham ben Hiya better known 
as Savasorda, (a corruption of the Arabic title Sahib al Shor- 
ta), attest the influence of Sephardic Jewish thought on the 
Christian "intellectuals" of their day. 

And deeply did Albertus Magnus, Alexander of Hales, 
William of Auvergne, (the Bishop of Paris) and Thomas 
Aquinas, study the monumental work known to us as the 
More Nebuchim or "Guide to the Perplexed," of the great 
Spanish-Jewish philosopher, Maimonides. And who has 
not heard the familiar distich— "Si Lyrus non lyrasset, Lu- 
therus non saltasset"— "If de Lyra had not played, Luther 
would not have danced." — indicating Sephardic "Jewish 
thought-influence on the Reformation-movement, — a move- 
ment which their brethren, the Ashkenazic" or German Jews, 
promoted in no slight degree. 

We are told of writers on chronology, numismatics, 
oratory, agriculture, irrigation, botany, zoology, pharmacy, 
medicine, surgery, mathematics, both arithmetic and alge- 
bra, even quadratics, trigonometry, astronomy, in that re- 
markable era of the Arabs and Sephardic Jews in Spain. 
I repeat they were, under the hand of God, the preservers of 
the torch of learning in that remote corner of Europe just 
when Europe itself was in the dark and medieval ages. 

Is it any wonder that when presently some of the de- 
scendants of these Jews of Spain found their way to New- 
port, they brought with them culture, enterprise, commerce? 

Is it any wonder that all the world over, traces of this 
era of wonderful mentality are evident? Witness in our or- 
dinary every-day language the many Arabic words intro- 
duced and commonly used, such as syrup, julep, elixir, ad- 
miral, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, chemise, cotton, cipher, 
carat, zenith, the names of stars on astronomical charts, all 
are Arabic. Their pupils and co-workers, the Sephardim, 
carried them wherever they went, even as they carried cul- 
ture, enterprise and commerce. 

Those Arabs and Jews taught geography from globes! 
They used the pendulum, the astrolabe, the mariner's com- 
pass. They made maritime discovery easier. 


From Barcelona and other ports, an immense trade was 
carried on, mainly by Jewish energy. In the days of this 
prosperity a thousand ships, we are told, carried trade to 
far-off Constantinople and the Black Sea. What wonder 
then, that they brought commerce to Newport when they 
came — what wonder that that Newport prince-merchant, 
Aaron Lopez, had such a fleet of shipping, as I shall presently 
illustrate ! 

In those days of the Sephardic golden age, the streets 
of Cordova were paved and lighted with lamps, though Paris 
and London had only mud-paths, with an occasional lantern, 
or no light at all. Learned professors threaded the streets 
of Toledo and Seville while footpads made London streets 
dangerous in those tenth, eleventh and twelfth and even 
later centuries. 

Houses or homes in England and France were cheerless; 
often a hole in the roof was the chimney and rushes or 
grass served for carj^et — or there were worse conditions, a 
cranny for chimney, bare earth for carpet ! 

In Moorish Spain, houses stood in wonderful courtyards, 
hot and cold water pipes were introduced, and even pipes 
to convey perfume from flower-beds into boudoirs or ban- 
quet rooms combined refinement with pleasure and conveni- 

Music and poetry were cultivated. Some of the music 
we have. It is plaintive, sweet, moving. 

The type of Hebrew poetry of the age bespeaks nobility 
of mind, lofty thought, independence of reason, reverence 
for God. 

As the Christian power gained and the 'Moorish power 
waned, the condition of the Jews changed for the worse. 
The very prosperity of the Jews begot extravagance and 

But, as always in Jewish history, Jewish disloyalty 
meant Jewish suffering. 

Persecutions began. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican Fri- 
ar, Marcus Rodrigues, Halorqui of Lerea, an apostate, were 
storm-petrels, who by their preachings presaged the temp- 

In 1473 all Andalusia or South Spain, was deluged with 
Jewish blood. 


In 1481 the Inquisition was established under Torque- 
mada. In his eighteen years of office, 10,220 Jews were 
burnt aUve; 6,860 were burnt in effigy, 97,321 were con- 
demned to perpetual imprisonment, confiscation, etc. 

On March 31, 1492 the full fury of the tempest burst. 
The decree was published that all the Jews were to be ex- 
pelled from Spain. 

On August 30, the law was enforced and Spain expelled 
her best brains. 

Thus man wrote the record. 
But the finger of God wrote something else. 
For on that same April 30, Columbus was ordered to 
equip his fleet to sail Westward. 

On August 2nd, the Jewish exiles left Spain. 
On August 3rd, Columbus sailed, with him at least five 
Jews, de Torres as interpreter, and four mariners, to dis- 
cover a land destined to mean the aggrandizement of hu- 
manity by American Ideals, American Energy and American 
Enterprise and Invention. 

In all of these, the Sephardim Jews have played a wor- 
thy part in the history of America. But the finger of God 
has written more, as we have now discovered. 

For as Prof. Adams remarks, "Not jewels, but Jews, 
were the real financial basis of the first expedition of Colum- 
bus." That is, it is not true that Queen Isabella sold her 
jewels to finance Columbus. He was financed by two Jews, 
Luis de Santangel, Comptroller at one time of the State of 
Arragon, and Sanchez of Saragossa. 

Of these Sephardim exiles many went to Portugal, only 
to be driven out in a few years; to South France, to Hol- 
land where they helped "Brave Little Holland" to free her- 
self from Spain's domination and the Duke of Alva's cruelty, 
and to Turkey where Sultan Bajazet received them remark- 
ing how strange he thought it that a King should expel such 
desirable subjects! 

Many of the French refugees migrated to the West In- 
dies, and some to Newport and New Amsterdam. 

Many from Portugal went to Brazil, and when Brazil 
was captured by the Portuguese from the Dutch, they also 
came to Newport and New Amsterdam. 


Many from Holland went to New Amsterdam, that being 
a Dutch settlement. Now Turkish refugees have begun to 
come here, but only in the last score of years. There are 
probably 25,000 in America. Ten years ago there were not 
500. Many speak the old Spanish of 1492; some speak Greek 
and some speak Arabic as their home language. They are 
descendants of those Sephardic or Spanish Jews who, when 
expelled from Spain in 1492, found refuge in Turkey, as I 
stated a moinent ago. 

In the spring of 1658, says Peterson in his history of 
Rhode Island, "Mordecai Campanal and Moses Packeckoe 
(or Pacheco) arrived in Newport with fifteen others. It 
is said they introduced Free Masonry, (three degrees). 

The spirit of Roger Williams assured them welcome, for 
he had said "I desire not that liberty to myself which I would 
not freely and impartially -weigh out to all the consciences of 
the world besides. All these Consciences, yea, the very Con- 
sciences of the Papists, Jews, etc. . . . ought freely and im- 
partially to be permitted their several respective worships 
and what of maintaining them, they freely choose." 

They increased in numbers, and in prosperity soon made 
headway because of their culture, strict integrity and respect 
for their religion. 

Governor Cozzens on 20 May, 1863, in a public speech, 
said "Retween 1750-1760 some hundreds of wealthy Israel- 
ites, a most distinguished class of merchants, removed here 
from Spain, Portugal, Jamaica and other places, and en- 
tered largely into business. One of them, Mr. Aaron Lopez, 
owned a large fleet of vessels, rising 30 at one time in the 
foreign trade and many more in the coasting trade.* The 
order-boxes or pigeon-holes, as we sometimes call them, with 
the names of his vessels upon them, are still to be seen in one 
of the old stores on the Lopez (now Finch and Engs) 
wharf." t 

The manufacture of sperm-oil and candles t was intro- 
duced into Newport by Jews from Lisbon 1745-50. 

*A strange chance placed a quantity of Aaron Lopez's papers in my 
hands the day after this lecture. For "the largest fleet of vessels" see 
Note at end of this essay. 

tSee Note. 
jSee Note. 


In 1760, they had in Newport, seventeen factories for 
these ; twenty-two distilleries, four sugar refineries, five rope- 
walks, many furniture factories supplying New York, West 
Indies, Surinam, etc. 

They certainly meant Energy, Enterprise and Invention 
in Newport, then a most important city, commercially. 

In 1770, eighteen vessels arrived in one day from the 
West Indies. It is on record that on one occasion, the good 
citizens were awakened to further progressiveness, by being 
warned that New York might outstrip them! 

The Lisbon earthquake in 1755 brought some accessions 
to the Jewish community. 

In that year, Ezra Stiles, well known today as a notable 
President of Yale, wrote to a friend in Birmingham, Eng- 
land, "There are fifteen Jewish families in Newport. They 
have no minister." He must have been wrong about the num- 
ber, for we know the names of many more. (See note in 

Three years later, the Rev, Isaac Touro arrived from 
Jamaica to be the minister. He speedily quickened the spir- 
itual life; for on the first of August, 1759, only one year after 
his arrival, the foundation of the synagogue was laid in 
Griftin Street, now Touro Street, and on Friday, the Second 
of December, 1763 it was dedicated. Many members of the 
sister-congregation in New York, of which I have the honor 
of being minister, journeyed from New York for the Conse- 
cration, some of them and the Congregation itself having 
contributed towards the cost of erection. 

The Rev. Isaac Touro proved himself a faithful shep- 
herd during his all too short pastorate. He was a learned 
Hebrew scholar. It was through him and later, through 
Rabbi Haim Isaac Carigal of Jerusalem, that the above-men- 
tioned Rev. Ezra Stiles, then Presbyterian Minister residing 
in Newport, derived his own Hebrew knowledge. A close 
friendship existed between these three, and Dr. Stiles in his 
diary, frequently alludes to them, to his friendly relations 
with them, to visits to the synagogue, etc. 

In 1775 he left for a visit to his native land. Probably 
the outbreak of the great war with England prevented an 
early return as intended. Death intervened and prevented it 


forever. His two sons, Abraham and Judah, had been left 
in Newport, but on the outbreak of the war, were taken to 
Boston by their uncle, Moses Michael Hays. His piety, 
learning and modesty, his realization of his responsibilities 
as minister, his zeal in the promotion of the spiritual life of 
his flock, his close friendship with Christians of the stand- 
ing of Dr. Stiles, combined with inherent culture which re- 
flects the conditions of that Golden Age, the era of the 
Jews under Arabic auspices, gained for him general re- 

It was by holding up these conditions of true citizenship, 
that the SejDhardic Jews brought to this country, into its na- 
tional as well as its commercial and social life, the elements 
which best secure a nation's prosperity and well-being. For 
with energy, enterprise, invention, industry and commer- 
cial ability, those early Sephardic Jews of Newport preached 
by life and example the three great, the three greatest, R's, 
"Reverence, Righteousness and Resi3onsibility." Without 
these three "greatest" R's, no nation lives! 

When the Revolutionary War broke out, to quote the 
Rev. Frederick Dennison who lectured on the Jews of New- 
port before the R. I. Veterans Association, (Dec. 7, 1885), 
"The Jews were friends of the Colonies in the Revolutionary 
struggle. They gave liberally of their means to sustain the 
patriot cause. In soine cases they served in the continental 

One of the Lopez family is said to have exclaimed to 
the American recruiting sergeant who had rejected him be- 
cause he was too old, "I am not too old to stop a British 

A member of my congregation in New York still has 
the original autograph letter of George Washington to the 
Jews of Newport, and I have a photographed copy in my 
study, acknowledging the loyalty of the Jews of Newport in 
the highest terms. And other Jewish communities in other 
lowns received similar acknowledgement. 

Newport's commercial supremacy was ruined by the 
war. Aaron Lopez, the most prominent Jewish citizen, lost 
many a ship by British privateers. The family of Lopez, 
Riviera (cousin) A. Pereira Mendes, (son-in-law) went to 


Leicester: the Hays family to Boston: the Seixas family to 
New York. Their names are identified with the establish- 
ment of Free-Masonry in Rhode Island, the founding of the 
Redwood Library and the Leicester Academy; they contrib- 
uted to Trinity chimes, they were honored with trusteeship 
of Long Whar.f Their record is a proud one. Not once 
did they figure in any court in any civic dispute. (Sec Ap- 
pendix *). Not one indictment appears against them in 
court records. 

The Jewish community dwindled away gradually. In 
1818 but three were left and I have their pathetic letter to 
my congregation asking us to take charge of their sacred 
scrolls, thus making us the guardians of their affairs, as in 
deed we naturally would be, by common ancestry, history 
and traditions, besides kinship. 

A few years later the Newport civic authorities wrote to 
our congregation in New York, as the Guardians, to repair 
the wall or fence of the Synagogue plot, which was done. I 
have the minutes of our congregational action recording this. 

The Synagogue remained closed for many years, the 
building and the burial ground sustained by munificent be- 
quests of the brothers , Abraham and Judah Touro, sons of 
the former minister, the Rev. Isaac Touro. (See Appendix 

On the 20th December, 1882, the Trustees of the Syna- 
gogue in New York extended a call to my honored father, the 
Rev. A. Pereira Mendes, Head of a Collegiate Institution in 
London and acting Ecclesiastical Chief of the Sephardic 
Jews of that city, to take the spiritual charge of a few Jews 
w^ho had recently settled in Newport. Their action was- 
taken in response to the City Council's referring those new 
settlers who wished to use the old building, to the New York 

The new minister duly arrived, and maintained the high 
ideals of the old settlers. He established the traditional 
Ritual which he rendered with all its dignity and charm, 
winning to it the new settlers, whose ritual, Hebrew pronun- 
ciation, melodies and customs were different, being Ashkens- 
zic not Sephardic. 

Of naturally scholarly instincts, he became known to 

112 - , 

Newport leaders of scholarly culture. He lectured for the 
general Newport public on Jewish subjects, such as "The 
Talmud"; for the Rhode Island Historical Society on "The 
Old Jewish Cemetery," transcribing and translating the old 
inscriptions from the Hebrew or Spanish or Portuguese or 
Latin into English; and he gave Hebrew instruction to any 
members of the Christian clergy who would go to him. 

The new community grew but slowly. 

He passed away to his eternal sleep in 1893. 

His name, inscribed on a mural tablet in the Synagogue, 
attests the love and respect of the little community, but his 
name lives yet in the hearts of all who today remember his 
ministrations, his quiet geniality, his courtliness, his loyalty 
to the highest ideals of Jewish and civic culture, his life expo- 
sition of all that adorned the traditions of the Sephardic 
Jews of Newport and of the world. 

This is the story of the Sephardic Jews. Summed up, it 
is a story of effort to carry out the ideals of God, to promote 
culture, to energize industry, but all on the lines of the three 
greatest R's, "Reverence, Righteousness and Responsibility." 

And the two Sephardic Jewish ministers of the old New- 
port Synagogue, the Rev. Isaac Touro and the Rev. Abraham 
Pereira Mendes were true exemplars of the best Sephardic 
Jewish traditions. 

Note— Aaron Lopez's ships. In one bill alone of Aaron Lopez, dated 
1765, rendered to him by Geo. H. Peckham, I find mentioned the Betty 
(sloop) ; Three Sallys (Sloop) ; Charlotte (brigantine) ; America (ship) ; 
Guineman (ship) ; in my papers, I have twenty-nine names on one slip, and 
several other lists in other memos. 

Note— Finch and Engs Wharf. I was fortunate enough to obtain a bit 
of an old Lopez-desk some years ago when in Newport. 

Note— The manufacture of candles. The beautiful candelabra in the 
Newport synagogue attest the number of candles used to illumine even 
one edifice. 

Appendix. The will of Judah Touro is a marvel. He left large sums 
of money to Christian as well as Jewish charitable institutions. 


A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
January 2, 1917 


George Whitefield in Newport 

Within a comparatively recent period of time the at- 
tention of the American people has been freshly called to 
the English clergyman, George Whitefield, who, by reason 
of his evangelistic impulse, impassioned eloquence and un- 
remitting zeal, was, a century and a half ago, at the zenith 
of a remarkable career as a Christian preacher. Just a few 
years ago Charles Silvester Home, a justly famed preacher 
of London, delivered at Yale University, on the Lyman 
Beecher foundation, an illuminating course of lectures to 
which he gave the title, "The Romance of Preaching." In 
one of the lectures he spoke at length of Mr. Whitefield as 
a notable exemplar of the passion of evangelism and said of 
him that it is he "who as pointedly raises, for the student 
of oratory and its permanent effect, the problem of emo- 
tional preaching." To the large number of Americans who 
heard these lectures, and to the larger number who have 
read them, Mr. Home described Mr. Whitefield as a preach- 
er "facing the multitudes under God's sky, wdth the heavens 
for a sounding board, the hillside for a meeting house, and 
some rude boulder for a pulpit"; and as having a "splendid 
energy expressing itself in the fold and sweep of his robes, 
and a passion for souls in his kindled countenance, his flash- 
ing eye, and the tender solemn tones of his voice." 

Shortly after these lectures had been delivered and pub- 
lished the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of George 
Whitefield occurred. This was in December, 1914. At dif- 
ferent places in our country, and in various ways, the an- 
niversary was observed and attention called to the fact that, 
during a period of thirty years, he was an active factor in 
the religious history of America as well as of England. He 
visited all the American colonies, from New Hampshire to 
Georgia. Twice he came to Newport. This fact is our jus- 
tification for making extended reference to him under the 
auspices of this Historical Society. 


Because of his great religious fervor, his intense mis- 
sonary zeal, his extraordinary powers of oratory and his 
marked evangelistic ardor Mr. Whitefield became conspicu- 
ous among the illustrious Christian preachers of the world. 
As a result of his distinguished devotion to his calling and 
of his prodigious labors in his native land and also in this 
new world, to which he opened his heart widely, the people 
of our tongue on both sides of the Atlantic gave him earnest 
and responsive hearing. He was an ordained minister of 
the Church of England. With the Wesleys and several 
others he shared membership in the Holy Club of Oxford, 
and he was thoroughly sympathetic with its spirit of warm 
personal devotion and eager religious activity. Thus he 
helped earn the derisive title "Methodist" and was justly 
classed with those who first bore the title. We may as well 
add that he helped, not a little, to win honor for the title. 
He did not, however, accept the Arminian type of theology. 
Holding in this respect with the Calvinists he had distinct 
affiliation with that body of dissenters who believed and 
taught the tenets of the Genevan scholar. Thus it is seen 
that he had belongings with several bodies of religious lead- 
ers; and so it may be argued that he was too large a per- 
sonality to be bound to any one of such bodies or, on the 
other hand, that he was too indefinite in his thinking to ally 
himself with either one of them. Certainly the facts prove 
that no one of them can lay exclusive claim to him. 

George Whitefield was born in the English city of Glou- 
cester, at the Bell Inn, in Southgate street, in the month of 
December, 1714. His father, who was the keeper of the tavern, 
died about two. years later. His mother, who continued to 
keep the inn, was careful about his education and sought 
to keep him from too close contact with the tavern business. 
Nevertheless he gave her, for a year or two, after he had 
passed his fifteenth year, considerable assistance in the care 
of the house. Already he had spent three years in the 
grammar school conducted by a church in the city. Here 
he had developed a thirst for knowledge and so much in- 
terest in dramatic studies, as well as talent in this direction, 
that the master of the school chose him to make the annual 
speech before the corporation of the city. A little later he 


entered Pembroke College, Oxford, earning his way for a 
part of the time by working as a servant in the College. 
While he was there his most intimate fellowships were with 
the more religious members of the university. When he 
w^as but twenty-one years of age, two years earlier than was 
customarily allowed by the church, he was ordained a dea- 
son, in his native city of Gloucester, by Bishop Benson who, 
two years or more later, ordained him to the priesthood at 
Oxford. It is said that the Bishop, becoming displeased be- 
cause of some of Whitefield's activities, expressed regret 
that he had ordained him; but that he subsequently took a 
different view of the matter and, "when upon his death bed, 
sent for Whitefield, besought him to remember him in his 
prayers and gave him money for the support of his work." 

Through the influence of the Wesleys Mr. Whitefield 
became interested in the colony of Georgia. He collected 
funds for the support of the colony and he made his 
first voyage across the Atlantic to visit it. Noticing many 
needy orphans in Georgia he established an asylum for them 
and carried their cause very close to his heart until the end 
of his life. This trip to America was repeated six times and 
as often as he came he zealously endeavored to do good. 
Since he was primarily an evangelist his chief work was to 
quicken, by his earnest and persuasive preaching, the re- 
ligious and spiritual life of the people. 

But there are other abiding marks of his helpful influ- 
ence in this country. He gave assistance to Harvard Col- 
lege, aiding in replenishing its library after it was burned in 
1764. He gave encouragement to the Indian school at Leba- 
non, New Hampshire, which afterward became Dartmouth 
College, raised money for it and interested his friend, Lord 
Dartmouth in it. He secured funds in Scotland with which 
to help establish Princeton College and he gave help to the 
University of Pennsylvania in its early stages. 

From his seventh and last trip to America he did not re- 
turn. The days of this visit were destined to be his clos- 
ing days upon earth and he was soon to find, here in New 
England, the resting place for his body. 

It was during his second visit to America that Mr. 
Whitefield was invited to come to New^ England. Respond- 


ing to the invitation he seems to have made Newport his 
port of entry. He arrived here in September, 1710, passing, 
after a brief stay, to Boston and to other points farther north, 
thence westward to Northampton, Massachusetts, and then 
to New^ Haven, Connecticut. 

Newport became aware of the approach of the stirring 
evangehstic preacher. News preceded him as to the criti- 
cisms w hich were made upon his pubhc ministrations, criti- 
cisms such as no preacher of his type has ever escaped. 
One of the churches of the town, the Second Congregation- 
alist, whose location was that of the present place of wor- 
ship of the Second Baptist Church, thought it wise to declare 
itself in advance of his coming. It therefore passed a for- 
mal vote saying "that as Reverend George Whitefield is ex- 
pected in town speedily, and as his preaching in many other 
places has caused great contentions and divisions in many 
churches, this meeting house be shut against said Whitefield, 
and he be not suffered to preach in it." This was not, how- 
ever, the unanimous or the prevailing sentiment with refer- 
ence to the distinguishd visitor. The pastor of the First 
Congregational Church, the Reverend Nathaniel Clapp, 
greeted him cordially and went with him to call upon the 
Reverend James Honeyman, rector of Trinity Church. Mr. 
Honeyman granted the use of this church for a two days' 
meeting. Twice on each of these days, morning and after- 
noon, the people crowded into the church to listen; and 
after the close of the last service a thousand persons fol- 
lowed the preacher to his lodgings where he stood at the 
door and preached to them on "hungering and thirsting after 

It seems very likely that Mr. Whitefield was readily admit- 
ted to the pulpit of Trinity Church by reason of the fact that 
he had been fully ordained in the Church of England. And 
when we remeinber that the Second Congregational Church 
had been organized because of strong dissatisfaction with 
Mr. Clapp's administration as pastor of the First Church, it 
seems not impossible that Mr. Clapp's courtesy to Mr. White- 
field may have been stimulated, to some extent, by the ac- 
tion of the Second Church. Certainly the large audience 
w^hich gathered to hear the preacher showed that the people 


of Newport were fully as responsive to his eloquent oratory 
as those in other places. 

It was thirty years later when the famous preacher was 
in Newport for the second time. Dr. Samuel Hopkins, who 
became pastor of the F'irst Congregational Church in 1770, 
having heard him preach in New Haven, was pleased with 
him and approved him. On the third day of August, four 
months after his installation, he received Mr. Whitefield as 
guest in his home, the parsonage on Division Street. At 
five o'clock in the afternoon of the next day the noted evan- 
gelist preached in Dr. Hopkins' meeting house on Mill 
Street to an audience which crowded the building, using 
the text "Take not thy holy spirit from me." It is reported 
that a young Jewess who heard him at this time greatly ad- 
mired his preaching of the gospel of Christ. The following 
day was Sunday. In the morning he preached for Dr. Ezra 
Stiles, in the church whose doors had been closed against 
him at the time of his earlier visit. His text at this time was 
"Acquaint now thyself with God and be at peace." At six 
o'clock in the evening he preached in the field close by Dr. 
Hopkins' meeting house using as a text "Other foundation 
can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ." A 
company of from one thousand to fifteen hundred persons 
listened to this sermon. Dr. Edwards A. Park, from whose 
"Memoir of Samuel Hopkins," we glean many of the facts 
here recited, says, referring to this occasion, "He stood 
while preaching on a table which is still reverently pre- 
served." Two days later he preached at five o'clock in the 
afternoon in the Baptist meeting house where Mr. Thurston 
was minister. Thirteen hundred people were said to have 
been within the building to listen while four or five hundred 
more stood outside. On the next morning, at six o'clock, he 
preached once more in the First Congregational Church 
taking the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis as 
his text. 

Dr. William Patten, who was at a later period, pastor 
of the Second Congregational Church and who wrote a 
little book on the life of Dr. Hopkins, gives an account of 
Mr. Whitefield's second visit in Newport, which varies slight- 
ly from the one found in the larger book written by Dr. Park. 


He states that the preaching in the field occurred on the 
morning of the Sabbath instead of in the late afternoon. 
Since Dr. Park gives the story of the whole day and writes, 
upon the whole, with greater fulness of circumstances, it 
seems probable that his statement is the correct one. But 
some of Dr. Patten's comments are very interesting. Speak- 
ing of the preacher he says "A gentleman present informed 
the writer that he exceeded any man he had ever heard in 
oratory and in representing to the life everything of which 
he spoke. Though he stood upon a table he appeared by 
his movements and gestures to be in no want of room. 
When he read the psalm appeared new to him and he 
could scarcely believe he had ever read or seen it. When he 
prayed it was in accents so earnest and winning that he 
looked up to see if the Holy Spirit, whose presence he in- 
voked, were not visible in the form of a dove." Evidently 
New England, proverbially cold and critical, was not un- 
moved by this fervent messenger of the gospel. But this 
further comment is made: "Except in cheering and excit- 
ing the saints there was little apparent spiritual benefit from 
these labors. Many admired his oratory, his manner and his 
conversation; but only a few, if any, were brought under 
conviction of sin and to repentance." In the spirit of fair- 
ness the writer further remarks that it was characteristic 
of Newport to be slow in responding to any definite religious 

Dr. Patten further records that Dr. Hopkins said he was 
persuaded of Mr. Whitefield's piety and eminent success in 
awakening sinners and bringing many to Christ; but that 
his early education and his itinerant manne-r of life as a 
preacher limited his opportunities for thorough investigation 
as to subjects of doctrinal and experimental religion. Con- 
sequently he was not as consistent and instructive as he 
might otherwise have been; and, in his early ministry, he 
was sometimes rash in his censures, especially with refer- 
ence to ministers who did not agree with him. This fault in 
Mr. Whitefield, which Dr. Hopkins pointed out so definitely 
is by no means uncommon. Eager evangelists, even to our 
own day, have often exhibited this weakness. 

It is quite evident that Mr. Whitefield did not lack for 


open hospitality when he made his second visit to our city. 
How general was the cordial feeling toward him was, per- 
haps, indicated by a social event which occurred on the last 
day of his stay in Newport. He dined that day at the home 
of John Wanton, a member of the Society of Friends; and 
with him were Drs. Hopkins and Stiles, the Congregation- 
alist minsters, Mr. Thurston, the Baptist preacher, and Mr. 
Rusmeyer, the pastor of the Moravian congregation in New- 

We have noticed no reference to the Episcopal Church 
or its rector in connection with Mr. Whitefield's second visit. 
If it be true, as might seem to be implied, that this church, 
whose doors were promptly opened to him thirty years be- 
fore, did not now publicly recognize him, it should be re- 
i?iembered that he had doubtless become during this period 
of time, quite separated, in his public activities, from the 
church in which he had received his early training and or- 
dination lo UiC Christian ministry. Much of his public work 
had been done in connection with the dissenting bodies. 
During the early part of the period he had been in close 
sympatliy with the Weslcys out of whose work grew the 
largest of the non-conformist bodies; and he never ceased, 
no matter how much he differed from them in some matters, 
to agree with them as to their reasons for undertaking re- 
ligious work independently of the Established Church of 
England. He had been one of the leaders in the doctrinal 
controversy which resulted in the organization of one of 
the smaller denominational churches in England and Wales, 
He had also become the head of an independent church in 
London which, to this day, bears his name and is one of the 
strongholds of English Congregationalism. In view of the 
intense feeling which was characteristic of doctrinal and ec- 
clesiastical controversies at that period it is not strange if 
the Church of England and her American daughter suffered 
him to come and go unnoticed. 

There is reason to believe that Mr. Whitefield's ministry 
in Newport was not without some permanent influence. 
Some evidence to this effect is associated with the memory 
of a woman who was, for many years, a notable person in 
the religious life of the place, Mrs. Sarah Osborne. She 


was a young woman when he made his first appearance 
here. In the pubUshed account of the earher portion of 
her Ufe, which was written by herself, she refers to him say- 
ing "In September, 1740, God in His mercy sent His dear 
servant Whitefield here," and it is recorded that his preach- 
ing greatly impressed her and led her to a deeper religious 
consecration. Not long afterward she formed some of the 
women of the church into an organized body, which was 
later known as the "Osborne Society," for the cultivation of 
the religious life. A weekly devotional meeting was held; 
and one of its members was said to be so gifted in prayer 
that "she could pray for an hour and a half without in any 
way repeating herself and without anyone being weary." 

When Mr. Whitefield was in Newport for the second 
time the American colonists were growing restless under 
what they held to be the oppression of the mother country 
and the time of revolt was drawing near. It is interesting 
to know that Mr. Whitefield sympathized with the colonists 
and expressed his sympathy warmly although the movement 
which culminated in the war for American independence 
was but begun when he died. When the storm of conflict 
broke Newport suffered greatly, indeed was almost ruined. 
Nearly five hundred private dwelling houses were destroyed, 
Church buildings, with some well known exceptions, were 
torn down or seized for use by the English army. Drs. 
Hopkins and Stiles, pastors of the two Congregational 
Churches, both of whom spoke boldly and strongly in favor 
of independence, were virtually driven out of town. Neither 
of their congregations could hold public worship or carry 
forward the usual activities of a Christian Church. But Mrs. 
Osborne was still living and full of good works. She had the 
respect of the British soldiers who spoke of her as "the good 
woman." Her home was among those which was spared 
destruction, and in that home was held the weekly prayer 
meeting of the society which she had organized, the only 
visible thread of life in the Congregational body during sev- 
eral troubled years. Thus the influence of Mr. Whitefield's 
preaching may have had much to do with saving an im- 
portant Christian organization from destruction at a very 
critical period in the life of our city. 


Allusion has been made to the fact that Mr. Whitefield 
stood upon a table- when he preached in the field near the 
First Congregational Church. Of this table we may say 
now, as Dr. Park said many years ago, it "is still reverently 
preserved." It is now the property of the United Congrega- 
tional Church to whom it was given by Dr. Thatcher Thayer 
some forty years after he came to Newport to become pastor 
of the Church. It is circular in form and is about three feet 
in diameter. The top is solid mahogany and is made in 
three sections. Two of these sections are attached by hinges 
to the third and central part and they form leaves which 
may be turned down on the sides. The top is supported by 
four curved legs two of which are so connected with the 
frame that they may be swung outwardly, one on either side, 
as supports for the leaves when they are extended. The 
upper surface of the table has been smoothed and polished, 
but the under side is still somewhat rough. A sheet of paper 
is attached to the under side of the table top, covered with 
glass which is framed with narrow moulding. On the paper 
is the following inscription : 

This table was given to me by Miss Philadelphia 
Eilery, toward the end of her life. It was given to 
her by her father, William Ellery, one of the 
signers of the Declaration oi" Independence, who 
stated to her that Whitefield preached standing 
upon it. 


To Dr. Thomas Wood. 
July, 1883. 

Dr. Wood, to whom this note was addressed, was the 
clerk of the United Congregational Church at the time when 
the gift was made. William Ellery, one of whose descend- 
ants is now a resident of Newport, was a worshipper at the 
Second Church. 

The table is not the only visible memorial in the city, 
of Mr. Whitefield. At least four buildings in which he spent 
.some time are still standing. These are Trinity Church, tlie 


Second Baptist Church, which was originally the Second 
Congregational Church, the building on Mill Street which 
was erected as a house of worship of the First Congregation- 
al Church but is now used for business purposes, and the 
house on Division Street, numbered forty-six, where Mr. 
Whitefield was the guest of Dr. Hopkins. 

Rev. Dr. William Ellery Ghanning 

A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
April 3rd, 1917 



" And this green, favored island, so fresh and sea-blown. 
When she counts up the worthies her annals have known. 
Never waits for the pitiful gaugers of sect 
To measure her love, and mete out her respect. 

" Three shades at this moment seem walking her strand, 
Each with head halo-crowned, and with palms in his hand,— 
Wise Berkeley, grave Hopkins, and, smiling serene 
On prelate and puritan, Channing is seen. 

"One holy name bearing, no longer they need 
Credentials of party, and pass-words of creed : 
The new song they sing hath a threefold accord. 
And they own one baptism, one faith, and one Lord ! " 

Thus Whittier, in his poem on "The Quaker Alumni", 
links together in one apostolic order of the spirit these three 
lights of the world in their several generations, Berkeley, 
Hopkins, and Channing, all of whom in one way or another 
touched and moulded Newport life and thought. But Berke- 
ley, though he profoundly impressed the community with 
his philosophic acumen and spiritual consecration, was after 
all more or less of a bird of passage; and Hopkins, though 
for so many years "a son of thunder" in an easy-going, self- 
satisfied community, was not born here and did not come 
here till he was well on in middle age. Channing, however, 
was a son of Newport, and the blood of several generations 
of Rhode Islanders flowed in his veins. Then, too, he never 
lost connection with this fair isle. Even though his name 
and fame are indissolubly bound up with the life and spirit 
of Boston, we must remember that year after year for many 
summers he returned with delight to this island of Aquid- 
neck. Channing often fervently thanked God that he was 
born on Rhode Island. In his correspondence with Miss 
Lucy Aiken, the niece of Mrs. Barbauld, he calls this the 
most beautiful island in this country. 


And Channing was grateful for birth in a State which 
treasured the "soul liberty" of Roger Williams and his ideal 
of "a free church in a free state". And the spiritual atmos- 
phere into which he was born had been impregnated by the 
ideas of come-outers like Samuel Gorton and Anne Hutchin- 
son and John Clarke. No wonder that Channing could say 
at the age of fifty that he was "always young for liberty". 

Before the Revolution Newport was a more important 
seaport than New York. Its mail-bags were bigger. South- 
ern planters came here to spend the summer, and though 
on pleasure bent were not averse to buying slaves from 
Africa, who were sold frequently on the wharves for rum 
or cash. These poor slaves while they were being auctioned 
off were crowded into cages. Then there were three hun- 
dred Jewish families in Newport, furnishing merchants and 
ship-owners in goodly numbers. Lopez, a Portuguese Jew, 
was the owner of eighty-eight square riggers, all in the for- 
eign trade. In 1774 Newport boasted a population of nine 
thousand. It was larger than Providence. But the next 
year there were only five thousand in Newport. The Rev- 
olution hit it hard. Its foreign commerce was ruined. Its 
Golden Age was over. The British occupation was a terrible 
thing for the island. Hundreds of houses were burned. All 
the woods and trees on the island were cut down. The win- 
ter before Channing's birth, 1779-1780, was a time of bitter 
distress for the Newporters who opposed King George and 
supported the cause of the Colonies. 

We gain a vivid idea of the Newport of that day 
by dipping into the journal of the Baron du Bourg and the 
letters of Comte de Rochambeau and the diary of Ezra Stiles, 
Dr. Stiles, who had been elected President of Yale College 
but had not yet formally severed his connection with the 
Second Congregational Church, came back to Newport on a 
pastoral visit in the spring of 1780. He describes his dese- 
crated church and the well-nigh ruined community. While 
here he preached two Sundays, May 21st and 28th. He re- 
cords in his Diary, Vol. II, page 426 : "1780, May 28th. Lord's 
Day. I preached to my flock A. M. Cant. II. 2-4, and ad- 
ministered the Lord's Supper to thirty-two communicants. 
P. M. I preached again, and baptized William Ellery Chan- 


ning, son of the Hon. William Channing, Esq., Attorney 
General of the State of Rhode Island." This child, destined 
to be so famous, had been born on April 7th, in the house 
which is now fittingly enough, the Children's Home. When 
Channing came into the world Lafayette was on the high 
seas, coming from France with the glorious news that a 
French fleet and army would soon be on the way to help 
secure the independence of the Colonies. 

In his sermon delivered in Newport in 1836 at the 
dedication of Dr. Hopkins's church as a Unitarian Congrega- 
tional house of worship, Channing paid this tribute to Presi- 
dent Stiles, who baptized him: "Another noble friend of 
reUgious liberty [he had just spoken of the Rev. Mr. Cal- 
lender] threw a luster on this island immediately before the 
Revolution. I mean the Rev. Dr. Stiles, pastor of the Sec- 
ond Congregational Church, and afterwards President of 
Yale College. This country has not perhaps produced a 

more learned man In his faith he was what was 

called a moderate Calvinist, but his heart was of no sect. 
He carried into his religion the spirit of liberty which 
then stirred the whole country .... He respected the right 
of private judgment, where others would have thought 
themselves authorized to restrain it. . . . He desired to 
heal the wounds of the divided Church of Christ, not by a 
common creed, but by the spirit of love. He wished to 
break every yoke, civil and ecclesiastical, from men's necks. 
To the influence of this distinguished man, in the circle in 
which I was brought up, I may owe in part the indignation 
which I feel towards every invasion of human rights. In 
my earliest years I regarded no human being with equal rev- 
erence. I have his form before me at this moment alinost 
as distinctly as if I had seen him yesterday. So strong is 
the impression made on the child through the moral affec- 

W^hen Dr. Samuel Hopkins came back to Newport the 
very spring of Channing's birth, after the British occupation 
of three years, he found the rich people mostly gone, many 
houses burned (including his own), and his church, the 
First Congregational, so badly burned that it was unfit for 
use. But what troubled the good old man most of all was 


the moral and spiritual condition of the town. He found 
much immorality and indifference. And the religious com- 
munity was split up into little groups of Quakers, Baptists, 
Free-Will Baptists, Seventh-Day Baptists, Episcopahans, 
Moravians, Methodists, Universalists, Individualists of every 
peculiar kind. But there was no union of these religious 
forces against scepticism, intemperance, and sensuality. 
When, however, Hopkins entered the pulpit to denounce 
these evils and kindred iniquities like the traffic in African 
slaves and rum, it was said that "sinners trembled and 
good men rejoiced". 

Channing always confessed a great debt of gratitude 
to Dr. Hopkins. He revered Dr. Stiles, as we have seen; 
he also looked upon Dr. Hopkins as a father in Israel. 
When Dr. Stiles went to Yale his congregation worshipped 
with Dr. Hopkins's for the first six years of Channing's life. 
From Dr. Hopkins, therefore, the boy Channing must have 
received his first instruction in the catechism, and that 
meant the Westminster. As the Rev. Charles T. Brooks 
has said in his valuable "Centennial Memory of Channing" : 
"Grace was given the child to reject the indigestible shell of 
Calvinistic irrationalities and inconsistencies, and take only 
(what indeed, after all, the noble-souled old warrior valued 
more than all) the kernel of reverence for truth and honest 

"The more important of Channing's recollections of Dr. 
Samuel Hopkins", says John White Chadwick, in his noble 
biography of Channing, "are those touching the relations of 
the two men in the younger's early manhood. Those touch- 
ing his first impressions were much less favorable. But the 
slightest contact between two religious leaders who, differ- 
ing widely, had still much in common, is too precious to be 
overlooked. After Jonathan Edwards, with whom Hopkins 
enjoyed an affectionate intimacy, no one brought to New 
England Calvinism a more intellectual and spiritual inter- 
pretation. Some forty years ago Mrs. Stowe's 'Minister's 
Wooing' renewed this popular interest in his character and 
thought, with some violence to the facts affecting his domes- 
tic life. It has been his too exclusively known opinion that 
'we should be willing to be damned for the glory of God'. 


The fact that he was actually and very practically willing 
to be, and was, damned by many Newport gentlemen and 
traders, for his interference with their business of slave- 
catching and owning, has had scanter recognition." 

When I think of Hopkins and Channing, I always think 
of that early winter morning when the boy looked from his 
window across the gardens between his home and the gam- 
brel-roofed parsonage, and saw the grand old man working 
away by candle-light on some kindling thought that prevent- 
ed sulmber. 

William Ellery Channing was the third of ten children, 
only one of whom died in infancy. Three of the nine made 
a name for themselves in the world. He came from the 
best stock, what Dr. Holmes would have called "the Brahmin 
caste of New England", being related to the Ellery, Gibbs, 
Dana, Allston, Cabot, Lee, Jackson, and Lowell families. 
The first American Channing was John Channing, who came 
from Dorsetshire, England, in 171L Soon after his arrival 
in Boston he married Mary Antram, who had come over on 
the same ship with hiin. Their son John was a Newport 
merchant who lost the fortune he had made. He married 
the widow Bobinson, born Mary Chaloner. After her hus- 
band's death she kept a little shop for the support of her 
family. Between customers she knitted vigorously, we are 
told. Everyone respected her. John Channing was the 
father of William Channing and the grandfather of William 
Ellery Channing. William Channing, the father, was born 
in Newport, June 11, 1751. He was a graduate of Princeton 
in the class of 1769. He read law in Providence, began to 
practice here in 1771, and in 1773 married Lucy Ellery. He 
was a lawyer of marked ability, but rather too fond of 
politics for the good of his family. He was at the same time 
attorney-general of the State and United States district-at- 
torney. He was a loyal son of Princeton and came near 
sending his boy, William Ellery, there. As Princeton theol- 
ogy has always been of a very different stamp from that of 
Harvard, we naturally speculate as to what might have hap- 
pened if Channing had gone to Princeton instead of to Har- 
vard. Would he have changed the spiritual atmosphere of 
Princeton or would it have changed him? 


The elder Channing was deeply religious, and a strong 
supporter of the Congregational Church. He took an active 
part in the restoration of Dr. Hopkins's meeting-house. His 
intercourse with Dr. Stiles, his former minister, had broad- 
ened his mind. This liberality of opinion he passed on to 
his children. In a time and society much given to profanity 
he was entirely free from it. "I recollect with gratitude", 
says William, "the impression he made on my own mind. I 
owed it to him, that, though living in the atmosphere of this 
vice, no profane word ever passed my lips." A genial man, 
occasionally his pent-up wrath would explode vigorously, 
as it did on one occasion when William was hearing his 
father plead a case in court. The boy was so frightened 
that he rushed from the court-house. When Rhode Island 
adopted the Federal Constitution of 1787, at the late date of 
May 29, 1790 — she was the last of the original thirteen to 
come into the Union — young Channing was present at the 
convention with his father. It was a joyous day for both. 
The elder Channing hailed the French Revolution with en- 
thusiasm, but the putting to death of Louis XVI was too 
much for his faith and hope. Young William's grandfather, 
John Channing, the merchant, had owned slaves, but soon 
after the Revolution they were all freed. In their "bewilder- 
ing freedom" the elder William was very considerate in his 
treatment of them. The boy was admitted to his father's 
office at choir practice every week, — a keen pleasure for 
him. The elder was a famous gardener, and not content 
with one garden must have two, to supply his friends' tables 
a^ well as his own. Rut though attached to his children, he 
was never intimate with them. The custom of the time 
made for a certan austerity and dignity, even in the family 

Channing's mother, Lucy Ellery, whom he resembled in 
feature, though not in expression, hers being hard and cold 
while his was mild and luminous, was the daughter of Wil- 
liam Ellery, the signer of the Declaration of Independence. 
She was short in stature, as was her famous son. Rut what 
was said of her could have been said of him: "She made 
th' most of her inches by her erect carriage and elastic 
rtiotion." William Henry Channing, the nephew of William 


Ellery Channing and his biographer, speaks of her "rough 
nobleness", which I take to mean that she was in the habit 
of speaking her mind plainly, if not always calmly. We are 
told that a familiar household note was: "Don't trouble 
yourself, Lucy; I will make all smooth." Thus her husband 
poured oil upon the angry waters. But her son William 
idolized her, as we see from the following tribute: "The 
inost remarkable trait in my mother's character was the 
rectitude and simplicity of her mind. Perhaps I have never 
known her equal in this respect. She was true in thought, 
word, and life. She had the firmness to see the truth, to 
speak it, to act upon it. She was direct in judgment and 
conversation, and in my long intercourse with her [she lived 
till he was past fifty] I cannot recall one word or action be- 
traying the slightest insincerity. She had keen insight into 
character. She was not to be imposed upon by others, and, 
what is rarer, she practiced no imposition upon her own 
mind. She saw things, persons, events, as they were, and 
spoke of them by their right names. Her partialities did 
not blind her, even to her children. Her love was without 
illusion. She recognized, unerringly and with delight, fair- 
ness, honesty, genuine uprightness, and shrank as by in- 
stinct from everything specious, the fictitious in character, 
and plausible in manners." What a good description of 
'. Jianning's own character! 

But, says his biographer, Chadwdck, "he was not a happy 
Doy because his parents, doing their duty by him in the 
most conscientious manner, were not affable and friendly 
wiih him, gave him a stony formalism when he craved spon- 
taneous affection, were of the opinion that he should be seen 
and not heard, and that he should know his place. Then, 
too, there was the burden of the inherited theology and the 
cheerless piety of the New England Puritan early to solem- 
nize his tremulous heart." But let it not be inferred from this 
that he did not take part with the other boys in all their 
sports and games. He was very fond of roaming about on 
the wharves and climbing to the tops of the tallest masts. 
His longing for a lofty outlook began early, you see. After 
attending four different dame-schools he went to the school 


kept by the famous Master Rogers, who trained the intellects 
and moulded the characters of many who afterwards be- 
came distinguished. Washington Allston, who was after- 
wards related to him by marriage, and Malbone, were among 
his school-fellows. Ruth Gibbs, his cousin, destined to be 
his wife, was then a lovely little girl in the school. 

Channing was not a brilliant pupil. His teachers and 
schoolmates thought him a dunce. He was very slow at his 
Latin. One day an assistant in his father's office said to him : 
"Come, Bill, they say you are a fool, but I'll soon teach you 
Latin." Soon the boy was enjoying Vergil, and he began to 
make great strides in mathematics. But from the first he 
was a thorough, not a superficial student. That was char- 
acteristic of him all his days. 

It must have been a wonderful day for the boy when 
Washington came and dined with his father, about August 
17, 1790. When Washington had made his eastern tour the 
year before he could not enter Rhode Island, for it was for- 
eign territory, it not having adopted the Constitution. In 
recognition of its entrance into the compact Washington 
made a special trip to this State in 1790. Under the same 
roof John Jay and other noted Federalists were entertained. 

I have spoken of the influence upon young Channing of 
his father and mother and of Dr. Stiles and Dr. Hopkins. 
At least one other helped to mould his youthful character, 
his grandfather, William Ellery. 

William Ellery, born in 1727, married early in life Ann 
Remington, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. She looked well 
to the w^ays of her household, and he w^as a devoted husband. 
British trade restrictions ruined his business prospects, and 
in 1770 he began to practise law. He was one of the leading 
spirits in the Sons of Liberty, who were so eager for separa- 
tion froin the Mother Country and Independence. Rhode 
Island sent him with the venerable Stephen Hopkins to the 
Continental Congress. Thus he became one of the signers 
of the Declaration of Independence. He was honest, fair- 
minded, and high-minded. Channing, who reverenced his 
character, and who corresponded with him till his death 
in 1820 at the age of ninety-two, might have said of him as 
Marcus Aurelius said of his grandfather in the introduction 


to his "Meditations" : "From my grandfather I learned good 
morals and the government of my temper." 

One other influence played an important part in Chan- 
ning's early life, communion with Nature. He loved solitary 
walks and musings. Especially did he love to pace up and 
down Newport Beach. The roar of the surf was "part of his 
life's unalterable good". "No spot on earth", he said, "has 
helped to form me so much as that beach. There I lifted up 
my voice in praise amidst the tempest. There, softened by 
beauty, I poured my thanksgiving and contrite confessions. 
There, in reverential sympathy with the mighty power 
around me, I became conscious of power within. There 
struggling thoughts and emotions broke forth, as if moved to 
utterance by nature's eloquence of the winds and waves. 
There began a happiness surpassing all worldly pleasures, 
all gifts of fortune, the happiness of communing with the 
works of God." 

One anecdote of Channing's childhood illustrates the 
serious impression made upon his heart and mind by what 
has been called "oratorical piety", by the preaching of dog- 
ma which is not taken in logical and literal reality. His 
father, wishing to give him a drive, took him with him one 
day to hear a famous preacher who was holding forth in the 
neighborhood. Young William listened earnestly to the dis- 
course. With fervent utterance and glowing imagery the 
preacher described man's total depravity, his love of evil, his 
w^eakness, his need of divine grace, and the necessity of un- 
ceasing prayer. The world was painted in dark colors, a 
curse rested upon all. The boy felt sure that if this were 
true, everyone would give up his business and pleasure and 
start out to convert the unregenerate. As they left the 
church, his father said with emphasis to someone who had 
accosted him, — "Sound doctrine. Sir". "It is all true", — 
the boy thought. A cloud came over him. He was so de- 
pressed that he dared not speak to his father. On the way 
his father began to whistle! Instead of calling the family 
together and telling them the awful news of man's doom, his 
father pulled off his boots, put his feet on the fender, and 
started to read his newspaper. Everything went on as usual. 
The lad was shocked at such apparent callousness. "Could 


what he had heard he true? No! his father did not beheve 
it; people did not beheve it! It was not true!" 

This was a rude shock to the boy's conscience. Hence- 
forth he looked with distrust upon such theatrical preaching. 
He learned to measure the exact meaning of words and 
phrases. He detested public speaking that did not ring 
true. Sincerity he demanded above all things. 

At the age of twelve Channing went to New London, 
Connecticut, to study with his uncle, the Rev. Henry 
Channing. That community was in the midst of one of New 
England's periodic revivals, and the young Channing seems 
to have been affected by it. His religious nature was awak- 
ened. During his visit he spent much time on a hill at 
Old Lyme, overlooking the sea. When on the one hun- 
dredth anniversary of his birth the church was built in New- 
port in his memory, the stone for it was brought from a 
quarry on that hill. From his New London studies he was 
suddenly called home by his father's death on September 21, 
1792. After the funeral he went back to his uncle for a year, 
but he knew that on him and his elder brother would come in 
the future grave responsibilities. There was only a little 
property left by his father. But he left a good name, if not 
great riches, to his wife and children. 

Channing entered Harvard College in the fall of 1794. 
Fourteen was then no uncommon entrance age. He did not 
live in the College Yard, but with his uncle. Chief Justice 
Dana, who had married his mother's sister. "He did not 
associate much with his classmates generally", we are told, 
but "drew about him a circle of choice and select friends". 
His intimate friends were Story, afterwards t)ie great Judge 
and expounder of the Constitution; Joseph Tuckerman, 
whose name will always be associated with the ministry to 
the poor in Boston; and Jonathan Phillips, destined to be 
one of Boston's great citizens. In Channing's day there were 
one hundred and seventy-three students in the College. 
"What a contrast to the Harvard of today, which has more 
than that number on the teaching staff! 

In his recollections Channing's college life took on a 
gloomy tinge. "College", he says "was never in a worse state 
than when I entered it. Society was passing through a most 


critical stage. The French Revolution had diseased the 
imagination and unsettled the understanding of men every- 
where The tone of books and conversation was 

presumptuous and daring. The tendency of all classes was 
to scepticism. At such a moment the dilFiculties of educa- 
tion were necessarily multiplied. . . . The state of morals 
among the students was anything but good; but poverty, a 
dread of debt, and an almost instinctive shrinking from 
gross vice, to which natural timidity and religious principle 
contributed not a little, proved effectual safeguards." 

Channing's college life covered the last two years of 
Washington's second administration and the first two of 
Adams's term. The Federalists, who were English in their 
sympathies, were ahvays in bitter controversy with the Jef- 
fersonian-Republicans, who were friends of France. The over- 
whelming majority at Harvard was Federalist. In 1798 
Channing called his fellow-students together to protest 
against French aggression on the high seas and to offer to 
President Adams "the unwasted ardor and unimpaired 
energies of our youth to the service of our country". All but 
three in the college signed it. On his graduation in 1798 he 
was forbidden by the faculty to introduce current politics 
into his Commencement oration on "The Present Age". He 
got around it by pausing in his oration and saying: "But 
that I am forbid, I could a tale unfold that would harrow up 
your souls." Tremendous applause! 

At Harvard he was a member of the Speaking Club, 
later called the Institute; the Phi Beta Kappa; the Adelphi, 
for those largely ministerially inclined; the Hasty Pudding, 
started by his own class in 1795; the Porcellian, which was 
too "epicurean and convivial for his taste". 

It was while Channing was reading Hutcheson, the 
English moralist, one day under the Cambridge willows, 
that there flashed into his mind that great idea which was to 
be "the fountain light of all his day, the master light of all his 
seeing", — the idea of the dignity of human nature. It was 
his Damascus vision. "He longed to die; as if heaven 
alone could give rooin for the exercise of such emotion." 
The book awakened him spiritually. He was also stirred by 
Adam Ferguson's "Essay on Civil Society". Enthusiasm for 


social progress and the conception of moral perfection were 
awakened in his mind by Ferguson. Channing also dipped 
into Locke, Berkeley, Reid, Hume, and Priestley; Richard 
Price, also, loved by Benjamin Franklin, hated by Edmund 
Burke. Channing happened to be in college during a Shake- 
spearean revival, and felt its influence keenly. When he 
came to choose his profession he first inclined towards the 
law. But "the prevalence of infidelity" led him to examine 
the evidences for Christianity, "and then", he says, "I found 
for what I was made". 

But he could not at once enter the ministry. He must 
work and earn some money, he must also make special 
preparation for his chosen profession. Remember that 
this was before theological instruction had been differenti- 
ated from other college teaching. The Divinity School of 
Harvard University did not come into being as a separate 
department until 1816. The custom then was for every 
college graduate who intended to enter the ministry to study 
with some older clergyman or to study by himself. Chan- 
ning, however, being without money, had to take up teaching 
for a while. He went to Richmond as a tutor in the family 
of Mr. David Meade Randolph, who had known him in 
Newport. He taught Mr. Randolph's children and some 
others, a dozen in all. At his employer's table he met John 
Marshall and other great lights in Virginia social and polit- 
ical life. The open-handed hospitality of the South he com- 
pared favorably with what he called "the selfish prudence of 
a Yankee". But he said: "Could I only take from the 
Virginians their sensuality and their slaves, I should think 
them the greatest people in the world. As it is, with a few 
great virtues they have innumerable vices." 

As in New London, so in Richmond, the youth passed 
through a great spiritual awakening. The trouble was that 
it made him so morbidly introspective for the time that he 
strove to keep his body under by abusing it, eating insufti- 
cient food, sleeping on the floor in a cold room, wearing 
clothes that did not keep him warm. He went to Richmond 
a vigorous youth, he left it a physical and nervous wreck. 
And all his life long he suffered from fearful headaches and 
nervous indigestion as a result of this unwise asceticism. 


No monk of old ever tried any harder than he to exalt the 
spirit by punishing the body. In after life he realized the 
folly of this procedure. But it was too late to remedy the 
ills he had brought upon himself. 

After nearly two years in Richmond he came back to 
Newport in July, 1800, the voyage being an exciting one, in 
a leaky coaling sloop with a drunken captain and crew. 
Then his theological studies began in earnest. In a little 
office near the house his Hght, like Dr. Hopkins's burned far 
into the night. He spent much time at the Redwood Library, 
much at the Beach he loved. In 1802 he returned to Harvard 
as regent of the college, a sort of general proctor. He kept 
on his studies under the guidance of President Willard and 
Professor Tappan. In Cambridge he united with the First 
Church, over which was settled a moderate Calvinist, Dr. 
Abiel Holmes, father of Oliver Wendell Holmes. His first 
sermon from the text, "Silver and gold have I none, but such 
as I have give I unto thee", delivered in several pulpits in and 
about Boston and in Hopkins's pulpit in Newport, attracted 

He was called by two Boston parishes, the Brattle 
Street Church, where Dr. Thacher needed a colleague, and 
the Federal Street, a weaker and poorer church. He accepted 
the Federal Street call on February 12, 1803, and was or- 
dained and installed June 1, 1803. His uncle, Henry Chan- 
ning of New London, gave the charge to the minister; his 
classmate, Joseph Tuckerman, gave him the right hand of 
fellowship; Dr. Tappan preached the sermon. The Federal 
Street Church was made up of the descendants of Scotch- 
Irish Presbyterians, who had founded it in 1729. In 1788 the 
Massachusetts State Convention met in it to ratify the Fed- 
eral Constitution. Hence the name of the street. Federal. 

Boston then had fewer inhabitants than Newport has 
now. It was more like an old English market town than 
anything else. "The social aspect," says Chadwick, "was 
that of the eighteenth century, and conservative at that. 
Gentlemen of means wore colored coats and figured waist- 
coats, with knee-breeches and long white-topped boots, ruf- 
fled shirt-fronts and wristbands and stuffed white cravats, 
cocked hats (the more elderly) and wigs The 


stately minuet was still the evening dance. In the summer 
season Boston rivalled Newport as a place of Southern 
resort, its anti-slavery atmosphere not yet sharpening its 
east wind. The big English dinner was the king-pin about 
which the best society revolved. This society was as exclu- 
sive of Jeffersonian Republicans as freezing water of animal 
germs. A lady of the period said, T should as soon have 
expected to see a cow in a drawing-room as a Jacobin'. 

"Boston had, in 1803, little to show of that intellectual 
life of which eventually it had so much. In fact, Channing, 
Buckminster, and Norton were the prime movers of the new 
regime. Few could speak French or read it. Madame de 
Stael's 'L'Allemagne' (1814) was the first seed of German 
studies, and its growth was slow. The Queen Anne men 
reigned in literary taste. If Burns had been discovered, it 
was probably by some miserable Jeffersonian. Words- 
worth's first American reprint Avas in Philadelphia in 1802. 
Of creative ability there was none, except as Nathaniel 
Bowditch's 'Practical Navigator' had set sail in 1800, and 
Jedidiah Morse.. had published his geography. The best 
promise of Prescott and Bancroft and Motley and Parkman 
and Fiske and Rhodes was the local work of Jeremy Bel- 
knap, founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society, who 
died in 1798. There were good lawyers like Dexter and Par- 
sons; and Fisher Ames was magnified in the local atmos- 
phere to the proportions of a Burke or a Bossuet. The sure 
thing about Ames was that he was a political pessimist of 
such sombre hue that his temper overhung the common con- 
sciousness of Boston like a leaden pall. In 1795 he feared 
that he might outlive the government and the Constitution of 
his country, and naturally his gloom had deepened wdth the 
triumph of democratic principles. He complained that 
even the Federalists did not appreciate as they should 'the 
progress of licentiousness', a euphemism for the spread of 
Jeffersonian opinions. There were perhaps five hundred 
who did so, and perhaps not. 

"Fisher Ames's five hundred thorough-going pessimists 
included, Mr. Henry Adams thinks, nearly all the Massachu- 
setts clergy. In Boston and vicinity these clergymen were 
nearly all Unitarians, the doctrines of the Trinity and the 


more distinctive doctrines of Calvinism having for them no 
longer any attraction. Had Jefterson been aware of this, his 
fear and hate of the New England clergy would have been 
qualified in no slight degree, for his enthusiasm for religious 
liberality was even greater than for political. But he 
formed his ideas of them upon the clergy against whom he 
had contended in Virginia, men impervious to ideas, 'beasts 
at Ephesus', whose fangs had left their memories in his 
shrinking flesh. But what we are bound to consider is the 
effect which the political temper of the clergy had upon the 
expression of their theological opinions. Within a week of 
Channing's ordination, the Rev. Jedidiah Morse, of Charles- 
town, preached the Election Sermon, and he said, 'Let us 
guard against the insidious encroachments of innovation — 
that evil and beguiling spirit which is now stalking to and fro 
in the earth, seeking whom it may destroy'. Morse was Cal- 
vinistic, but his temper, a more important matter than his 
opinions, was that of the whole body of clergy of which 
Channing had now become a conscious part. Dr. Hedge has 
characterized the period immediately preceding Channing's 
settlement as 'the dryest in the history of the American pul- 
pit'. The impression made by Channing's early preaching 
was enhanced immensely by its vivid contrast with the 
prevailing tone." 

Channing began his ministry as a kind of combination of 
Calvinist and Hopkinsinian, but after a few years his latent 
liberalism began to show itself. For a century the Congre- 
gational churches of New England, more especially Massa- 
chusetts, had been, theologically, in a state of evolution. 
Rigid Calvinism, with its iron decrees, in many parishes 
gave way to milder Arminianism,with its emphasis on Divine 
Love and Grace. Many Arians, who read in their New 
Testaments that the Son was subordinate to the Father, 
began to doubt the co-equality of the Three Persons in the 
Godhead. Later humanitarian conceptions of Jesus as the 
first-born of many brethren and not as absolute Deity, crept 
into the preaching of many pulpits. The process was so 
gradual and so quiet that not until 1815 did the Orthodox 
party awake to what was going on. Then came the Unita- 
rian-Trinitarian controversy which split the Congregational 


churches wide open. As a result, the great majority of the 
ancient jjarishes of Massachusetts espoused the Unitarian 
side, preserving their historic continuity and corporate Ufe 
without change of name or covenant. The First Church of 
the Pilgrims in Plymouth and the First Churches of the Puri- 
tans in Salem and Boston, adhered to the Liberal cause. In 
many cases the Trinitarians felt obliged to go out and form 
new parishes, in order to retain the old doctrinal standards. 
In some cases the Unitarians were forced out. The im- 
portant point is that Channing and the Liberals in the Con- 
gregational churches had no intention of starting another 
sect. They desired to be known merely as Christians or 
Congregationalists. The opprobrious name Unitarian was 
fastened on them by their opponents, the Calvinists, who 
gave no quarter and asked for none. But when it became a 
badge of reproach they wore it as a badge of honor, as the 
Wesleys did when at Oxford they were derisively called 

In his "Literary History of America" Professor Barrett 
Wendell says: "The Unitarianism of New England, of 
course, was not unique either theologically or philosophi- 
cally. In its isolated home, however, it chanced to develop 
one feature which distinguishes its early career from similar 
phases of religious history elsewhere. The astonishing 
personal purity and moral beauty of its leaders combined 
with their engaging theology to effect the rapid social con- 
quest of the whole region about Boston. . .King's Chapel and 
Harvard College passed into Unitarian hands. The same 
was true of nearly all the old Puritan churches 

"The general conquest of ecclesiastical strongholds by 
the Unitarians deeply affected the w^hole structure of Massa- 
chusetts society. Elsewhere in America, perhaps, and 
surely in England, Unitarianism has generally presented 
itself as dissenting dissent, and has consequently been ex- 
posed to the kind of social disfavor which aggressive radi- 
calism is apt anywhere to involve. In the isolated capital of 
isolated New England, on the other hand, where two 
centuries had established such a rigid social system, the cap- 
ture of the old churches meant the capture, too, of almost 
every social stronghold. In addition to its inherent charm,the 


pristine Unitarianism of Massachusetts was strengthened by 
all the force of fashion in a community where somewhat 
eccentric fashion has always had great weight. Whoever 
clung to the old faith did so at his social peril." 

It is not my intention to go deeply into the controversy 
which made a divided fold of the Congregational commun- 
ion. But I must call attention to some of the high-water 
marks in that raging storm. These were Channing's 
1815 article on "The System of Exclusion and Denun- 
ciation in Religion", when he said, "Could the thun- 
ders and lightnings of excommunication have corrected 
the atmosphere of the church, not one pestilential 
vapor would have loaded it for ages"; and the arti- 
cles of 1819 and 1820 on "Objections to Unitarian Chris- 
tianity Considered" and "The Moral Argument against Cal- 
vinism", in which he maintained that "Christianity contained 
no such doctrines [as those of Calvinism]. Christianity 
was designed to manifest God in a character of perfect 
benevolence." He laid stress on "inward purity, heavenly- 
mindedness, love of Jesus Christ and God". In his Balti- 
more sermon of 1819, at the ordination of Jared Sparks, 
Channing dwelt on "the moral perfection of God, the oneness 
of his justice and mercy, his parental character, his freedom 
from those traits which constituted him a being whom we 
cannot love if we would, and whom we ought not to if we 
could". He rejected the idea that "Christ's suffering was a 
price to God to buy his mercy to mankind". In 1821 at the 
dedication of the Second Unitarian Church in New York he 
preached on "Unitarian Christianity most favorable to 
Piety", giving nine reasons why it is. "(1). It presents one 
object of supreme homage, and does not distract the mind 
with three persons having distinct qualities and relations. 
(2) It holds inviolate the spirituality of God, not giving him 
a material human frame. (3) Its object of devotion is as 
simple as it is sublime. (4) It asserts the absolute and 
unbounded perfection of God's character. (5) It accords 
with nature, with the world around and within us. (6) It 
introduces us to new and ever larger views of God. (7) It 
assigns to Jesus his highest proper place — that of the greatest 
of the sons of God. (8) It meets the wants of sinful men. (9) 
It is a rational religion." 


In his Election Sermon of 1830 Channing said: "I call 
that mind free which jealously guards its intellectual rights 
and powers, which calls no man master, which does not 
content itself with a passive or hereditary faith, which opens 
itself to light whencesoever it may come, which receives new 
truth as an angel from heaven, which, whilst consulting 
others, inquires still more of the oracle within itself and uses 
instructions from abroad, not to supersede but to exalt and 
quicken its own energies." 

Channing strongly opposed the War of 1812, considering 
it an unnecessary and iniquitous war. But in 1814, when it 
was expected that the British would land on our shores, he 
preached on the duty of manly self-defence. And at the 
"solemn festival" of thanksgiving for the downfall of Napo- 
leon he cried out in his sermon, "The oppressor is fallen and 
the world is free"; whereupon the congregation in King's 
Chapel burst into cheers. In 1816 his sermon on "War", 
before the Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Min- 
isters, caused the formation of the Massachusetts Peace So- 
ciety; but driving with a brother clergyman on this island 
one summer day he doubled up his tiny fist and cried, "There 
are times when a man must fight". 

In 1822 Channing, who had then been happily married 
to his cousin, Ruth Gibbs, for eight years, went abroad with 
her for his health. In Rome he received word that his older 
boy had died, — a terrible grief to him. In England he met 
Coleridge, who saw in him "a philosopher in the double 
sense of the word", saying, "He has the love of wisdom and 
the wisdom of love". Of his visit to Wordsworth, when the 
two rode together in a cart, which must havejDeen like Emer- 
son's wagon hitched to a star, Channing wrote : "We talked so 
eagerly as often to interrupt one another, and as I descended 
into Grasmere near sunset, with the placid lake before me, 
and Wordsworth talking and reciting poetry with a poet's 
spirit by my side, I felt that the combination of circum- 
stances was such as my highest hopes could never have 
anticipated." After a score of years Wordsworth remem- 
bered that Channing's one great evidence of the divine 
origin of Christianity was "that it contained nothing which 
rendered it unadapted to a progressive state of society, that 


it put no checks on the activity of the human mind, and did 
not compel it to tread always in a beaten path." 

In 1823 Channing returned from Europe, and the next 
year Ezra Stiles Gannett, grandson of Ezra Stiles, was or- 
dained as his colleague. This gave him more time for public 
work outside the pulpit, lectures and addresses and articles. 
For the next eighteen years he was constantly speaking and 
writing on such topics as Slavery, War, Self -Culture, Eleva- 
tion of the Laboring Classes, Temperance, Annexation of 
Texas (which he opposed, as he did slavery), the Duty of the 
Free States, West India Emancipation, Milton, Fenelon, and 
Napoleon — a wide range of subjects, to all of which he 
brought his clear spiritual vision and kindling moral ear- 
nestness. All his essays are sermons, as Emerson's essays 
are. They could not be anything else. 

In his attitude toward the slavery question, Channing was 
between two fires. The radical abolitionists like Garrison 
thought him timid and time-serving because he did not 
endorse all their methods of propaganda. On the other 
hand, the gentlemen of property and standing in his own 
church were so incensed at his anti-slavery views that some 
of them refused to speak to him on the street, and some only 
coldly bowed. There is no justification for the scathing 
attack on Channing as a moral reformer which you will find 
in Maria Weston Chapman's appendix to the Autobiography 
of Harriet Martineau. Lydia Maria Child has done him 
full justice. Channing had to bear much, first from the fol- 
lowers of Garrison who could not understand why he was 
not in sympathy with everything they said and did, and 
secondly from the standing committee of his parish which 
refused the use of the vestry of the church for a memorial 
meeting to his friend. Dr. Charles Follen, an Abolitionist. 

Channing happened to be in Newport when the Broad- 
cloth Mob hauled Garrison through the streets of Boston, 
but the outrage inspired his pen. In his pamphlet on "Slav- 
ery" he said : "A man cannot be property in the sight of God 
and justice because he is a rational, immortal, moral being; 
because created in God's image, and therefore in the highest 
sense his child; because created to unfold Godlike facul- 
ties and to govern himself by a Divine law written on his 


heart and republished in God's Word." Here speaks the 
spirit of the man who, as a cliiki, was strongly impressed by 
the faithfulness of the blacks he saw in his own household 
and in neighboring households. Among them was "Duchess" 
Quamino, a free black of royal appearance, the epitaph for 
whose tombstone was written by him. 

In his application of Christ's teachings to social prob- 
lems Channing was far in advance of his day, even of our 
day. In a period when dancing and the theatre were banned 
by the pious-minded he could conceive of a rational place 
for such recreations. He watched with interest such experi- 
ments as Brook Farm and the Hopedale Community. In his 
own time he was the centre of inspiration for such social re- 
formers as Dorothea Dix and Joseph Tuckerman and Bron- 
son Alcott. We are amazed in reading Channing to note how 
he anticipated in thought if not in act modern methods of 
dealing with poverty, intemperance, child labor, the stagnant 
life of the poor, industrial injustice. So great was his rever- 
ence for man that he cried out when told of the custom of 
flogging then in vogue in the navy: "What! strike a man!" 

It was this awe in the presence of the Divine upspringing 
in the human that made Channing sympathize in spirit, 
though not in doctrine, with Theodore Parker, the gift of 
God to slave-ridden America, and that caused him to view 
without alarm the radical trend of the theology of the Tran- 
scendentalists, with whose vagaries, however, he had no 

Practically every year of his Boston ministry he went to 
Newport, or, rather, to Oakland Farm at Portsmouth, for a 
long summer holiday. Here, with his wife and children and 
relatives and congenial friends about hira, he felt that his 
happiness, in spite of ill health and the attacks of his oppo- 
nents, was perfect. He loved trees and flowers, the dawn 
and sunset. He said : "I sometimes think that I have a pecu- 
liar enjoyment of a fine atmosphere. It is to me a spiritual 
pleasure rather than physical, and seems to be not unworthy 
of our future existence." Again he wrote : "What a blessing 
such day as this is! So much a creature of the senses am I 
still, that I can find on such a morning that it is easier to hope 
in God, and to anticipate a boundless good for my race." 

From his long retreats", says Chadwick, "he went back to 


the city with a dewy freshness on his mind and with the salt 
air reminiscent in the tang of many a bracing thought." 

It was his custom every summer to preach to the farm- 
ers and fishermen in the Portsmouth Christian Church. 
Fashionable folk drove out to hear him on such occasions, 
but he resented their coming. One day he began his sermon 
in his low, thrilling voice, without preface or text, "This is a 
beautiful world". You remember how the aged St. John 
used to be brought, so runs tradition, into the Christian 
assembly at Ephesus, that he might merely say to them all, 
"Little children, love one another". That was Channing's 
basic thought, "This is a beautiful world". 

Sometimes he went into Newport and preached for Mr. 
Brooks, whom he ordained in 1837, and at whose marriage he 
officiated. He took part with joy in the year 1836 in the 
dedication as a Unitarian Congregational Church of the old 
meeting-house on Mill Street, in which he had sat as a child 
and listened to Dr. Hopkins and in which he had preached 
his first sermon in Newport. 

"One Sunday afternoon", Mr. Brooks tells us, "when the 
impatient horses of the fashionable hearers were pawing and 
stamping in the street. Dr. Channing, insisting upon the exist- 
ence and nearness of evil from which we, too, needed deliv- 
erance, and of people's insensibility to it, exclaimed, 'They 
are as indifferent to it as the very animals that stand waiting 
for them at the church door!' " 

It was at Mr. Brooks's ordination that Dr. Channing, 
giving him the charge, said in thrilling tones, "My brother, 
help men to see!" And that was what Charles Timothy 
Brooks did in his long ministry of thirty-seven years in this 
community. He took the torch of truth from Channing's 
hand and passed it on to us. Fragrant be his memory! 
Like Channing and their common Master, he was an Apostle 
of Light. 

On April 7, 1842, his sixty-second birthday, Channing 
preached his last sermon in Federal Street Church. On August 
1st, he delivered his great address at Lenox on the eighth an- 
niversary of West India Emancipation, closing with these 
words: "O come, thou kingdom of heaven, for which we daily 
pray! Come Friend and Saviour of the race, who didst shed 
thy blood on the cross to reconcile man to man and earth to 


heaven! Come, Father Ahnighty, and crown with thine 
omnipotence the humble strivings of thy children, to sub- 
vert oppression and wrong, to spread light and freedom and 
peace and joy, the truth and spirit of Thy Son, through the 
whole earth!" 

On the 2d of October, 1842, he lay dying in an inn at 
Bennington, Vermont, and as he looked out on the lovely 
Green Mountains his last words were: "I have received 
many messages from the spirit." He passed onward and 
upward looking eastward, waiting for the dawn of another 

When the sacred dust was carried, to Boston, the bells 
of the Roman Catholic Cathedral were tolled with all the 
rest in the city, for when the saintly Bishop Cheverus died 
had not Channing honored his memory? And when Dean 
Stanley visited Boston he asked Phillips Brooks to take him 
first of all to Channing's grave in Mount Auburn. 

In his great work, "God in History", the learned and 
devout Baron Bunsen called Channing a "grand Christian 
saint and man of God — a prophet of the Christian conscious- 
ness regarding the future and destined to exert an increasing 
influence. If such a man be not a prophet of God's presence 
in humanity, I know of none such." 

In France, M. Laboulaye, of the Institute, translator of 
Channing's works into French (and into how many lan- 
guages they have been translated!) has said: "If Channing 
were but one sectary more in the religious Babel, I should 
not have called attention to him, but he was a good man who, 
all his life, consumed by one sentiment and idea, sought 
truth and justice with all the forces of his intellect and loved 
God and man with all the strength of his heart." 

M. Lavolee, a Roman Catholic scholar, whose book, 
"Channing: Sa Vie et Sa Doctrine", was crowned by the 
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, compares him with 
Fenelon, saying: "Both have vowed to Jesus a love equally 
lively and profound; but, while the one adores and prays, 
the other contemplates and reveres." 

And the Quaker poet, Whittier, cries : — 

"In vain shall Rome her portals bar, 

And shut from him her saintly prize, 
Whom in the world's great calendar 
All men shall canonize." 


A Paper read before the Newport Historical Society 
July 10th, 1917 



It was the golden age of Newport's history, when the 
afterglow of the briUiant light shed upon its literary life by 
the presence of Bishop Berkeley culminated in the Philo- 
sophical Association, whose weekly meetings furnished the 
thought which brought about the existence of the Redwood 
Library. At this time Newport was among the leading 
cities of the colonies in intellectual activities, and seems to 
have deserved that name which was given to it, "The Athens 
of America." At that period of our history we ranked among 
the first mercantile centers; the sails of Newport ships 
whitening every known sea; while successful merchants 
built their beautiful houses and still more beautiful gardens 
which became noted throughout the world. The hearts of 
men were then thrilled with the thought of possible freedom 
from the persecutions and enthralment of England, and 
Newport took its place also in the forefront of this patriotic 

During these golden years, our city drew to itself many 
men of renown — statesmen, soldiers, scholars and artists — 
but none who brought to its life richer gifts of learning and 
piety than did Ezra Stiles. He stands prominently forth as 
a leader in the intellectual life of the city, as one 
of the most influential among its religious teachers, 
and as a patriot whose clarion voice called out for freedom, 
and roused the willing minds of his neighbors to serious 
thinking of liberty, and to overt acts of so-called rebellion. 

Ezra Stiles was born in North Haven, Connecticut, De- 
cember 10, 1727, his father being the pastor of the Congrega- 
tional Church of that village. The Stiles ancestry, both in 

The references in this paper are taken from "The Life of Ezra Stiles", 
by his son-in-law Abiel Holmes, printed in Boston 1798 ; and "The Literary 
Diary of Ezra Stiles", three volumes. New York, 1901; and "Itineraries and 
Correspondence of Ezra Stiles", New Haven, 1916. These last two works 
are edited by Francis Bowditch Dexter, Litt, D., who has kindly given per- 
mission for the use of these quotations. 


this country and in England, were of the strong Puritan 
Dissenter type, all being Congregationalists of that sturdy 
and intellectual quality which belonged to so many of the 
earlier residents of New England. 

His mother was Keziah Taylor, whose father, the Rev. 
Edward Taylor of Westfield, Massachusetts, had fled from 
the persecutions which his family and friends had suffered 
through being Dissenters, and had come to America in 1668. 
He was of the same intellectual and religious stuff as were 
the Stiles. There was, however, in the mother's ancestry a 
strain of nobility and of attachment to the Church of Eng- 
land, which came froin her great-grandmother, Mabel Har- 
leykendon, who, a descendant of kings and of the English 
nobility, had come to this country and had married a gover- 
nor of Connecticut. With a knowledge of this commingling 
of the staunch blood of the Dissenter with the more gentle 
blood of the nobility of England, we are able to understand 
some of the characteristics which will later appear in Ezra 

We are told that in Dr. Stiles' infancy his constitution 
was so feeble that it was long doubted whether he would 
survive the age of childhood, and only by exercising the 
greatest care by regulation of his diet and daily exercise in 
the open air, was he able not only to survive that period, 
but to perform during all the years of his life constant and 
unwearied labors. 

His intellectual activity was noticeable even from his 
youth. At the age of twelve he was prepared to enter 
college, but delayed matriculating until his fifteenth year, 
when in 1742 he became an undergraduate? at Yale. For 
thirteen years he lived in that University town, remaining 
there after his graduation pursuing independent studies, 
and acting as a tutor in the college. 

During these years he passed through curious and inter- 
esting phases in his religious experience, and not until the 
end of this period was he thoroughly confirmed in his belief. 
A man of keen intellectual discernment, and ever seeking for 
new light upon all matters scientific, literary and theological, 
it was imi)ossible for him to separate his intellectual pro- 
cesses from his religious belief, and with the utmost delib- 


eration and the broadest examinationof all facts bearing on 
each particular question, he decided in regard to his faith, 
not according to that he had imbibed in his youth, nor 
according to that which was held by his fellow religionists, 
but every problem was thoroughly studied and his conclu- 
sions were firmly established. In no case was the instruction 
of the apostle more fully carried out in regard to these 
matters of belief, "let every man be fully persuaded in his 
own mind." 

We are all well aware of the character of the faith of 
the Congregational churches throughout New England at 
the time of his birth. Like so many of his contemporaries 
he grew up in that belief which we know as Orthodox Cal- 
vinism, and probably had little more idea of criticising the 
prevailing faith than had any of his neighbors; but it must 
have been pretty early in his life that he began to be troubled 
in regard to his theological views, for he declares that when 
he reached the age of nineteen imagining himself to have 
experienced and ended the period of doubt, he united with 
the Congregational Church of which his father was the 
Pastor. But this period of doubt was not ended, and his 
mind soon again became troubled. He came into contact 
with the Deists, a set of thinkers at that time of very consid- 
erable influence in New England, who, while they professed 
faith in God, were yet uncertain regarding any authority to 
be placed upon the sacred Scriptures. It was a phase of the 
never-ending conflict between reason and childlike faith; 
and naturally a man with such a mind as Dr. Stiles at first 
desired to place his whole confidence in reason, attempting to 
support himself in his inherited beliefs by the study of the 
recommended theologians. At length he thought himself 
satisfied in his own mind, and in 1749 was licensed to preach 
the Gospel. But he exercised the right very sparingly, and 
indeed soon gave up preaching altogether, until his faith 
should have been more firmly established. As he himself 
expresses it: 

* "My doubt increasing until 1752, I deter- 
mined to lay aside preaching, and actually 
adopted the study of the law, and took the 
*Holmes, p. 36 


attorney's oath in 1753. But at the same time I 
most assiduously appUed to the study of the 
evidences of Revelation, read through the Bible 
with the greatest criticism and examination, 
compared its several parts with each other, and 
the whole with profane history, and so far em- 
phasized and felt the prevalence of evidence in 
its favor that by 1754 I had acquired a strong 
and prevailing preponderency to the belief of 

Revelation I could not see anything 

against the fulfillment of prophesy and the 
Christian miracle, but what would equally over- 
turn the credit of all history. I made these 
researches only for the sake of my personal 
religion, and that I might be at peace with God. 
.... Having acquired this satisfaction con- 
cerning Revelation, I next in 1754 availed my- 
self of journeys to Boston, New York and 
Philadelphia, and determined by history to in- 
form myself of all the sects in the Christian 
world. This summer at Newport I went to the 
Quakers' Meeting, at Boston to the Congrega- 
tional and Episcopal Churches, at New York 
the Episcopal and Dutch Calvinist, at Phila- 
delphia to the Quakers, the Roman Catholics 
and others, with a fair and unprejudiced mind, 
and I was soon confirmed in that form of wor- 
ship in which I had been educated, and which I 
was convinced was the nearest the apostolic 
form and Scriptural model. / 

"In 1755, my doubts having given way, I 
could honestly devote myself to the service of 
the Great Immanucl. Just as I had emerged 
from Deism, or' rather the darkness of skepti- 
cism, it pleased the Head of the Church to open 
the door at Newport." 

How thoroughly this religious experience is in sympathy 
with his strong intellectual mind! which was always look- 
ing for information, never satisfied until he had learned all 
that could be learned, and from it made his clear deductions. 


Yet was he no worshipper of his own intellect; he had 
respect for higher authority. 

"I begin to be confirmed in this," he writes, 
"that there is not a single doctrine or point of 
pure revelation whose rationale is revealed and 
explained so clearly that taking away the sup- 
port of certain revelation, it would stand on the 
internal e vidence, or be supported of itself 
alone upon the reasonings adduced. We can go 
but little further than to show that a doctrine is 
not inconsistent with reason. I would rather 
deduce the reasonableness of a doctrine from 
its being revealed by God than infer its being 
revealed from the supposed reason we may per- 
ceive in it. My wish, therefore, is that the truths 
of our holy religion be no longer mutilated and 
dishonored by human reasonings upon them, 
but be thought and delivered more didactically 
and directly from the Bible, with a 'Thus saith 
the Lord.' " 

As we might expect, his faith, built upon such a foun- 
dation, was firm and unchangeable during the remainder of 
his life. No longer influenced by inherited ideas, by no 
means of that class of indolent mentalities who take the 
easiest course, he was one who fulfilled the Biblical instruc- 
tion to "Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." 

It is not to be wondered at, however, that such a course 
of theological education should have brought down upon 
him the criticism and misunderstanding of his neighbors. 
The mere fact that, as he said, he visited all the diflerent 
churches with an open mind to their good points, that if he 
found any that seemed to him preferable to the one in which 
he had been educated he might unite himself with it, natu- 
rally resulted in misunderstanding upon the part of his 
f ellow-Congregationalists, as well as those of other faiths. 

* "I have differed," he writes, "from most 
of my brethren in New England in a too great 

* Literary Diary, January 19, 1777 


extent of charity, judged more of different com- 
munions true children of God than they did. 
And when I first set out in hfe I had a much 
better opinion of mankind and the different 
sects as to sincerity and virtue than I now have. 
I never was particular and exclusive enough for 
cordial and close union with any sect, even my 

own my soul unites most sincerely 

with the whole body of the Mystical Church, 
with all that in every nation fear God and love 
our Lord Jesus Christ There is a pref- 
erence of systems, but no perfect one on earth. 
I expect no great felicity from fellowship and 
open communication with mankind. But intend 
to become more and more the recluse, waiting 
for the rest of Paradise, where I foresee my soul 
will unite with affection and acquiescence in 
eternal universal harmony." 

These are very startling phrases for a New England 
Congregationalist in the eighteenth century, and proved that 
had Dr. Stiles lived at a later period, he would have shared, 
indeed probably, have led in the broadening views which 
have distinguished the Protestant Church in the last fifty 

Naturally perhaps some of the other denominations 
misunderstood this breadth of feeling and desire to see the 
good in everything, and from the fact that he attended their 
services, were led to believe that he might become one of 
them ,for Dr. Stiles writes, 

*'Tn January of the year 1755 I had a 
formal invitation from the Episcopal Church in 
Stratford, Connecticut, to conform and succeed 
(as rector) Dr. Johnson, lately appointed Pres- 
ident of Kings College, now Columbia College, . 
New York, and before that, in October, 1752, I 
sustained a vigorous application to take orders 
and become a minister in the Episcopal Church 

*Holmes, p. 40 


in Newport, then offering a living of two hun- 
dred pounds sterling. I thank God that I was not 
disposed to profess a mode of religion which I 
did not believe for the sake of the living." 

Through Dr. Stiles' mature years he remained satisfied 
with the faith of his youth. As he himself often said, the 
more he investigated other religions, the more satisfied he 
was that the doctrines of his church were the nearest to 
those prompted by the Scriptures. He never regretted that 
his religious home was in the Congregational Churcli. 

This incomplete picture of his religious thinking may 
well come to an end by these words regarding his personal 
character, written by his son-in-law. 

* "Piety like a golden chain has served at 
once to give a connection and ornament to the 
work, which the assemblage of genius, learn- 
ing, and the most refined morality could never 
have furnished. Were any one of his Christian 
graces to be discriminated, it should, perhaps, 
be his humility, a virtue seldom attached to 
great intellectual talent and to high stations, 
but which confer the truest dignity on both." 
"How absolutely contemptible," writes Stiles 
in his Diary, "is a man glorying in some little 
eminency among his fellow worms." 

Not less striking than his theological liberality, and 
perhaps more noticeable, was his intellectual acquisitive- 
ness. His mind, like a great sponge, absorbed every item 
of knowledge which came within its reach; into the natural 
sciences, into linguistic studies, into the law, he plunged 
deeply and continuously, almost to the same extent that he 
buried himself in theological thought. 

In scientific studies he was ever thirsting after know- 
ledge. When Benjamin Franklin in 1749 sent to Yale 
College the first electrical machine to come into New Eng- 
land, Ezra Stiles was the one of all the people studying in 
New Haven to apply himself to an examination and mastery 

*Holmes, p. 377 


of this new phenomenon of nature and thus to make the first 
electrical experiments in New England. A correspondence 
with Franklin began at that time, which continued during 
the rest of his life. 

He was ever seeking for knowledge from every possible 
source. He writes to Mr. Bruce, a celebrated traveler of 
England, to solicit more explicit information on parts of 
Abyssinian geography and history; to Sir William Jones, 
President of the Asiatic Society, expressing great inclination 
to see a copy of the Patriarchal Ages and Chronology, as 
found in the Pentateuchs of Cochin. Indeed from that 
study of his on Clarke street there went out questions to all 
parts of the world, to England, France, Greece, the Holy 
Land and Astrachan. 

His name was known so favorably abroad that the 
University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the degree of 
LL. D., and naturally the colleges of his own country, 
Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale, and many learned societies 
continually honored him. 

His deep interest in scientific studies was keen. In 
regard to astronomy his Diary is replete with notes refer- 
ring to the movements of the Heavenly bodies. His de- 
scription and notes upon the transit of Venus in 1765, and 
the transit of Mercury, compose a quarto volume. He w^as 
interested in geography, and for a long time puzzled in 
regard to the question as to whether Asia and America 
made one continent, but in 1769 he writes to his satisfac- 

* "It is now known that Asia is separated 
from America by water, as certainly appears 
from the Baron Dulfeldt's voyage around the 
north of Europe into the Pacific Ocean." 

But not alone in the matter of science was his eagerness 
for information noticeable. He had a thorough knowledge, 
we are told, of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, and 
very few if any on this side of the Atlantic had made so great 
progress in a knowledge of Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac 
and Arabic. On the Persian and Coptic he bestowed some 
*Holmes, p. 76 


attention. The French he wrote with faciUty. At the age of 
twenty-three he pronounced in honor of Governor Law the 
first of a large number of Latin orations, wliich were called 
forth upon every occasion of importance, and in the giving 
of which he w^as an adept. One in which we may be partic- 
ularly interested was at the Commencement of Yale College 
in 1753, when he pronounced a Latin oration in memory of 
Bishop Berkeley, who died in January of that year. 

It is a satisfaction for some of us to find that he was a 
strong upholder of the study of the classics, and entered 
into discussion with Rev. Mr. Rousmeyer, the Moravian 
minister at Newport, upon the question of the relative 
merits of the ancient and modern writers, for his friend 
desired to substitute modern Christian for ancient pagan 
authors. Dr. Stiles' judgment on this is as follows: 

* "There can be but one objection, that the 
Greek of Homer, Xenophon and Thucydides, 
and the Latin of the authors of the Augustan 
Age must be purer than the moderns, the He- 
brew of Moses and Isaiah purer than that of the 
later Jews, so that I rather incline to the an- 
cients — banishing Horace, Juvenal and the un- 
chaste tribes, and making choice of the best — 
Cicero, Justin, Tacitus, Virgil for Latin, Homer, 
Xenophon, Plato and Dionysius among the 
Greeks I think cannot be excelled for purity 
of language." 

Professor Meigs writes of him : 

t "He w^as familiarly acquainted with the 
jurisprudence and civil i3olitics both of ancient 
and modern nations, the treasures of ancient 
history were made his owai by diligent investi- 
gation, facilitated by his thorough acquaintance 
with languages, and of modern history he pos- 
sessed an exact know^ledge. His historical in- 
formation has seldom been equalled. Theologj^ 

*Diary, April 2, 1771 
tHolmes, p. 354 


however, was his most favorite study. To per- 
fect himself in this was the idtimate aim and 
object to which his vast and various scientific 
attainments were directed and devoted. I have 
known no man to express so sublime and mag- 
nificent conceptions of the majesty of God as 
exhibited in the works of Christ," 

It appears strange that so few books were pubHshed by 
such a learned man, and we must conclude that in regard 
to each study he considered himself as one always "pressing 
toward the mark" of satisfactory knowledge upon any sub- 
ject, and never as "having attained." He had, however, in 
•mind the issuing of important works, for in 1762 he writes, 

* "This day I first conceived the thoughts 
of writing the history of the world, which has 
never been well written according to the 
genius and dignity of history. True and faith- 
ful narratives are as necessary to history as 
, good books to a library, A roomful of books 
thrown together in a confused, huge heap is no 
library. The same of history, especially of the 
world. There is a purity, grandeur and dig- 
nity and enlargement and comprehension in 
true, genuine history; of an empire, which 
none ever reached but Livy, — of the world, 
which was never yet reached. Voluminous 
writing is not necessary to history. The history 
of the world may be contained completely in 
one quarto volume, especially of sucll a small 
world as this." 

And from a letter written to him by Thomes Hutchinson 
of Boston in 1764, we learn that he had the intention of 
writing a history of this country. Neither of these plans 
came to fruition, and the result of his intellectual labors as 
preserved by the press are a large number of Sermons and 
Addresses, and a few small volumes, — "The History of the 
Judges (Regicides)" in 1796; also it is said an "Account of 
•Itinerary, p. 51 


the Settlement of Bristol, Rhode Island," in 1785, and Ham- 
mett in his "Bibliography of Newport" speaks of a book 
called "The Memoirs of Block Island or Manisses," written 
in 1762. "The above title," he adds, "is taken from the 
collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The 
book itself is not in their library, nor is there any mention of 
it in the manuscripts of Dr. Stiles in Yale College Library." 
It would be interesting to know what authority the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society had for mentioning such a sup- 
posed book. 

The four volumes, three of Selections from Dr. Stiles' 
remarkable Literary Diary, and one from his Itinerary, so 
often referred to in this article, are mines of information 
in regard to the events of his time and his own investiga- 
tions. Nothing escaped him. He records natural phenom- 
ena most minutely. Being one of the few fortunate indi- 
viduals at that time possessed of a thermometer, he records 
patiently day by day its figures. Distinguished strangers 
passing through Newport are mentioned by him. On one 
occasion, as an astonishing fact, a priest of the Church of 
Rome visits the city on his travels, and of course this 
searcher after knowledge must have interviews with him. 
He studies the landscape, the lives of the birds, the actions 
of the tides. In one of his walks he makes an interesting 
discovery, w^hich he thus records in his Itinerary : 

* "June 22, 1767. 
10 IN 

"This is an inscription which I took off a 
rock five and one-half feet long, two and one- 
half feet widest, on the shore at Brenton's 
Point, a little north of the river, and at the 
southwest corner of Rhode Island, five miles 
southwest of Newport. It is supposed to have 
been put on by Rev. Nathaniel Clapp. Two 

'Itinerary, p. 230 


weeks later I viewed a stone at Price's Cove. 
The stone, light grey and hard, the inscription 
KIND' is daily trodden upon by the passing 
fishermen. The letters are done in the same 
manner as those at the point about a mile west- 
ward. I suppose the 10 and 21 under 1728 
denote 21st day of 10th month, or October 21, 
1728. Mr. Clapp died in Newport 1745, having 
labored in the ministry from 1695, or fifty years. 

"On another stone is a number of seeming 
incisions of the Wedge or Runic kind, but evi- 
dently the work of nature only." 

In conjunction with Dr. Samuel Hopkins he issued a 
Manifesto against slavery, in connection with which it is 
interesting to note this item in his Diary, dated February 
26, 1775. 

'T propounded my negro servant Newport to be admit- 
ted into full communion in the church." 

This man was bought for Dr. Stiles at Cape Mount on 
the coast of Guinea in 1757, when supposed to be about 
eleven years of age, in exchange for a hogshead of whiskey. 
We have but little information regarding the appear- 
ence of Dr. Stiles, the following description which was made 
about the time that he came to Newport being all that 
seems to have been preserved. It was given by his son-in- 

* "A man of low stature, of a very delicate 
structure, and of a well proportioned Torm, 
whose ej^es were of a dark grey color, jJnd in a 
moment of concentration singularly penetrat- 
ing; his voice was clear and energetic, his 
countenance, especially in conversation ex- 
pressive of mildness and benignity, but if occa- 
sion required it, becoming the index of majesty 
and authority." 

The first acquaintance Dr. Stiles had with Newport was 
in 1754, in the course of a journey as far east as Boston. It 
*Holmes, p. 349 


is probable that during this visit he preached in one of the 
churches here, and we know that the next year, 1755, he went 
again to Newport in response to an invitation to preach in 
the Second Congregational Church, and in the following 
month, received a unanimous call to become the minister of 
that church. 

From what has been said of his religious experience, 
we may well understand the truth of his statement that this 
call somewhat embarrassed him, as he had determined to 
continue in the practice of the law; and he returned to New 
Haven resolved not to accept the invitation. But he writes, 

* "At length, partly my friends, especially 
my father's inclination, partly an agreeable 
town and the Redwood Library, partly the 
voice of Providence in the unanimity of the 
people, partly my love of preaching and pros- 
pect of more leisure for pursuing study than I 
could expect in the law induced me to yield, 
and I gave an affirmative answer to the church 
and society." 

At the College Commencement in September, he re- 
signed his tutorship, after having filled that office six years 
and a half. 

On October 22 of this year, 1755, he was ordained the 
pastor of the Second Congregational Church, when his 
father, now venerable in years, preached the sermon upon 
the text, "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace 
which is in Christ Jesus." An interesting evidence of his 
power as a preacher and of his parental affection was con- 
tained in this discourse, and the counsel of the father was 
received by the son with filial reverence, and seems to have 
had a considerable influence upon his pastoral character. 

Dr. Stiles' personal feelings in connection with this 
important event in his life he thus describes in a letter to 
the Reverend Mr. Hopkins of Hadley, formerly a fellow- 
tutor at Yale College. 

♦Holmes, p. 29 


* "Last week I was ordained an instructor 
of mankind in the Christian religion, but, alas, 
who knows whether he shall teach men right or 
wrong. Many have labored through life as 
Christian ministers in recommending and in- 
culcating errors, and how know I but I, fond as 
others of my own imaginations, foolishly as 
others apprehending them momentous princi- 
ples, may spend also my life to little purpose 
'Operose nihil agendo' (in laboriously doing 
nothing). But Heaven knows I seek light. I 
would gladly be informed on the genuine inten- 
tions of the Great Creator concerning man. 
Heaven preserve me from mistakes, and lead 
me to a just, rational and thorough under- 
standing of Christian truth." 

It must have struck your notice that the church to 
which Dr. Stiles was called was the Second Congrega- 
tional Church, which naturally gives rise to the thought as 
to why there should have been two. It came about in the 
following manner. 

At the first forming of the town of Newport, the Baptist 
Church was organized, and most, if not all of the settlers, 
having become dissatisfied with the Congregational spirit in 
Boston, allied themselves with the Baptist Church, and 
when the Massachusetts Congregational brethren, con- 
cerned about their religious condition, sent deputations here 
to remonstrate, they generally had to return home disheart- 
ened by failure. Cotton Mather in his "Magjialia" reports 
this ill success thus, 

"All the ministers which the Massachusetts 
Colony sent with admonitions after them could 
reclaim very few of them, and when the minis- 
ters of this province have several times at their 
own united expenses employed certain minis- 
ters of the Gospel to make a chargeless tender 
of preaching the word among them, this chari- 
table offer of the ministers has been refused." 
♦Holmes, p. 64 


But after that generation had passed to their graves, 
another and more successful effort was made by the Congre- 
gationahsts of Boston, who sent one of their number to 
locate in Newport, and provided in large part for his 

Nathaniel Clap was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, 
in 1668, and graduated from Harvard College in 1690. He 
came here in 1695, and remained until his death fifty years 
later, in 1745. To him belongs the credit of having intro- 
duced Congregationalism to Newport. His language re- 
garding this enterprise is as follows: 

"About evangelizing the paganizing and 
perishing plantations bordering upon the Mas- 
sachusetts province there had been anxious 
consultations, with supplications to the Lord. 
Finally in the year 1695, a number of people 
who were at least willing to keep together, 
invited one to come and preach here the follow- 
ing winter, after which they urged him to abide 
from time to time, until more than a score of 
years had rolled away." 

At that time there had already been gathered in New- 
port several congregations of Baptists, companies of 
probably others, so that this plantation could hardly have 
Quakers, Episcopalians, Seekers, as they were called, and 
been called paganizing and perishing. The first services 
were held in the Colony House, which antedated the present 
State House, and is still standing. It is on the west side of 
Prison street, which runs from the Parade to the back of the 
present jail, and is number 12. 

These facts and some of the following I have obtained 
from the "History of Congregationalism in Newport," 
written in 1896 by the Rev. R. W. Wallace, then pastor of 
the United Congregational Church. 

He continues, 

"A law soon afterwards was passed, for- 
bidding the use of the (Colony) building for 
religious purposes, and Mr. Clapp and his little 


congregation were left without a place in which 
to worship. But this was an emergency which 
ithey had the courage and the faith to meet, 
and in 1696, a small church edifice was erected 
on Tanner street, now West Broadway, near 
Green Lane, which is now Tilden Avenue. This 
was then an important residential section. 
Peterson says that the settlement of Newport 
began in what is known as Tanner Street, and 
extended through to Marlboro Street. After 
years of faithful preparatory labor, the time 
for the organizing of a religious body arrived, 
and on the 3rd of November, 1720, an ecclesias- 
tical council was held to form the church, and 
to ordain and install its pastor. The first cele- 
bration of the Lord's Supper was on October 1, 
1721, when fifty-eight persons partook of the 
Sacrament. But Mr. Clapp who, even according 
to George Whitfield 'abounds in good works, 
he gives all he has away, and is wonderfully 
tender of little children,' had certain very pe- 
culiar views with reference to churcli disci- 
pline, and soon surprised everybody by a 
positive refusal to administer the Lord's Supper 
to the church, and also to baptize the child of 
one of his church members. His reasons were, 
so far as we can understand them, that in his 
judgment his church members were not Chris- 
tian enough ito engage in so holy an act as 
breaking bread in remembrance of CliTist, and 
in the case of the brother who was refused 
baptism for his child, the pastor thought he 
was not possessed of a piety deep enough to 
consecrate his child to God." 

Naturally trouble immediaitely began and misunder- 
standings came from this austerity of Mr. Clap, the 
result of his Puritan training. In April, 1728, an ecclesias- 
tical council was convened, which decided unfavorably in 
regard to Mr. Clap's actions. As he refused to recognize the 


authority of the council, about one-half of the congregation 
withdrew, and April 11, 1728, organized the Second Congre- 
gational Church of Newport, selecting as its pastor the Rev. 
John Adams. * 

This Second Church obtained the use of the Tanner 
Street building, and Mr. Clap and his adherents met for 
worship in the parsonage on the northeast corner of Church 
and Division Streets. In 1735 the Second Church erected a 
commodious meeting house on Clarke Street, which was the 
building in which Ezra Stiles preached during all of his 
ministry in Newport, and which is now, after many alter- 
ations, occupied by the Second Baptist congregation. Later, 
the f'irst Church, under Mr. Clap's pastorate, built, in 1729, 
the church on Mill Street above Spring, which has lately 
been used by an auctioneer. 

We may look forward a little in the history of Congre- 
gationalism to express our gratification that these two 
churches eventually became one again, on the 4th of June, 
18.33, under the title of the United Congregational Church of 
Newport, which it still bears. 

For over twenty years the life of Dr. Stiles was closely 
associated with all the activities and interests, intellectual 
and religious, of the city of Newport. It is impossible to 
speak of him simply as a preacher or pastor and not do 
justice also to the influence which he exerted upon the 
history of the town, and to the importance which the coming 
into this city and reinaining here of such an active, intel- 
lectual mind was to the life of the community. 

His work here can be judged both from his own 
record of daily performance of duty, and perhaps with more 
fairness from expressed opinions of others. His un- 
usually extensive knowledge, and eager thirst to 
increase it, made him a marked man not only among the 
thoughtful of his own city, but wherever learning was appre- 
ciated in this country or other lands. 

In a letter to the Rev. Dr. Welles, he expresses his 
feeling with reference to the work he had to do. 

* "I am stationed," he writes,'" in a very diffi- 
cult part of the Lord's vineyard, though I thank 

*Holmes, p. 118 


God with great tranquility and happiness in my 
flock. A prince has not anything to bestow 
which I should esteem of equal value with the 
prayers of my breth»en." 

In his work as a pastor, he was one of the first, if not 
the first, to inaugurate what are now known as prayer meet- 
ings. In 1770, he having, as he himself informs us, 

* "Long had in contemplation to set up a 
monthly meeting of the church by themselves 
to pray and sing together, and to adapt a dis- 
course to believers advancing and improving in * 
the religious life." 

On January 14, 1770, he proposed the design. On the 
evening of the next day, the church met at his house, and 
attended the religious service. This elementary prayer 
meeting was regularly maintained until the dispersion of 
his church in 1775; and in a sermon preached after his 
death by the Rev. Mr. Patten, his successor, it is stated that 
"The memory of those meetings is still imprinted on the 
hearts of a number who were interested in those pleasing 
seasons of Christian communication." 

From the numerous references in his Diary, and in the 
enumeration of his pastoral calls, we may well perceive 
that he made himself a familiar figure in all the households 
of his church. 

t "As a pastor, he went regularly in and 
out among his people. The ease with ^hich he 
adapted himself to persons in different situa- 
tions and of various characters and ages quali- 
fied him very much to promote the interests of 
religion in his visits. To the children and youth 
he was affectionately and assiduously atten- 
tive. His memory will doubtless be extensively 
preserved in the world, and it will long live in 
this place. Scarcely a family nor an individual 

♦Holmes, p. 142 
tPatten Funeral Sermon 


here but has reason from some office of good 
will to remember him. Not a tree nor a brook 
nor a scene around us but has engaged his ob- 

As a preacher, he seems to have been of uncommon 
power. The Rev. Dr. Trumbull says of him, 

* "His early discourses were philosophical 
and moral, and at first he was not so much 
admired as a preacher as he was as a friend, a 
gentleman and scholar. But gradually becom- 
ing less a Newtonian and more a Christian, he 
became a serious, zealous and powerful preach- 
er of the truthes (sic) of the Gospel. . . He who 
is convinced that the religion of the Gospel is 
true, and who has experimentally found it to 
be the power of God to his own salvation, will 
explain its doctrines and inculcate its precepts 
with an energy, not easily imitated and never 
equaled, by one who has no such conviction of 
the truth, and who is a stranger to its sancti- 
fying influence Furnished with a 

rich treasure of learning, he made it auxiliary, 
as the subject required, to the elucidation of 
religious truth, but never displayed it in the 
pulpit with ostentation. Instead of aiming at 
excellence of speech or of philosophical discus- 
sion of religious subjects, he was a plain, prac- 
tical, pungent preacher of the Gospel of the 
grace of God." .... and Dr. Holmes adds 

t "Extensive as was his Catholicism, his 
discourses never countenanced prevailing 
errors, nor sanctioned the opinion that religious 
sentiments are indifferent. Averse to disputa- 
tion and scholastic subtleties in divinity, instead 
of discussing theological subjects controver- 
sially, he chose the easier inethod of refuting 

*Holmes, p. 237 
tHolmes, p. 237 


error by maintaining truth Hence 

his sermons were instructive and pathetic. 
While to the learned they were acceptable and 
improving, to the ignorant they were intelligible 
and practically useful. Such was the attention 
of the lower classes of the communi/ty to his 
discourses, and such the success of his labors 
among them that he judged his talents better 
adapted to promote their improvement than 
that of the wise and great. He delighted, there- 
fore, in preaching the Gospel to the poor." 

His relation to the intellectual life of the community is 
noted in various addresses and Diaries. He himself declares 
that one of the things which induced him to come here was 
the existence of the Redwood Library, one of the very few 
then in the country, and notable among them for its carefully 
selected books. Upon his being called to Newport, he was 
made an honorary member of the Library. But evidently 
his spirit was moved at the indifference with which the 
Library was treated at that time, and he soon became its 
librarian: for years occupying that position, spendng all 
his spare moments among its treasures, and as he himself 
informs us, frequently for days at a time being the only 
visitor to the building. 

His relation with the beginnings of Brown University is 
most interesting. His correspondence shows that as early as 
1761 he was endeavoring to bring about the foundation of a 
college in Rhode Island. His hope was that the two bodies. 
Baptists and Congregation alists, should unite in such an 
effort. But soon he sadly writes: — 

* "The Baptists desert their junction with 
the Congregationalists, and engross all the 
power in the proposed Rhode Island College to 
themselves, after they had agreed tto share the 
balances with us." 

Tn regard to the charter which was published in Ihe 
Providence Gazette for April 28, 1761, he writes, 

"In a Diary belonging to Mrs. Kate Garnett Wells, Sept. 20, 1763. 


"This charter was drafted by Mr. William 
Ellery, Jr., and myself before the Baptists 
deserted the Congregationalists." 

September 7, 1769, speaking of the Commencement of 
the college at Warren, the college which later became Brown 
University, he sends this letter "To the Chancellor, Presi- 
dent, Fellows and Trustees of the College of Rhode Island. 
Gentlemen: You will please to accept my respectful ac- 
knowledgments for the honor you have done me in electing 
me one of the Fellows of the College. I was too sincere a 
friend to literature not to have taken part in the institution 
at first upon my nomination in the charter, had I not been 
prevented by reasons which a subsequent immediate election 
could not remove; which reasons are still of so much weight 
with me that I beg leave to decline the ottice to which you 
have invited me." 

January 3, 1770, he says, "Dr. Eyres visited me this 
morning, to discourse about the place of the Baptist College. 
He tells me that Providence has subscribed 3,090 pounds, of 
which about 2,200 truly is conditional that the college edifice 
be erected there .... Dr. Eyres said that the Newport 
subscription was about nine thousand dollars, but said they 
did not choose to mention the amount exactly, nor how much 

"The case is this, Mr. Redwood and some others have 
said they would give largely, in case it was here, but that 
Providence by artifice and strategem would in event get it 
there, and yet would not subscribe, but will undoubtedly 
give liberally. So there is a real uncertainty." 

"May 3, 1770. The Baptist College was last week, or 
week before, voted to be removed to Providence." 

With his fellow-ministers of Newport he seems to have 
sustained always the pleasantest relations. Even though he 
may have differed from them in his opinions, he never 
opposed them in his feelings, and always looked for the good 
rather than the evil, rejoiced in points of agreement, and 
made as little as possible of those of disagreement between 
himself and others. 

An instance of this is very notable in what he himself 


says of his relation to Mr. Samuel Hopkins, whose coming to 
the city caused a number of their fellow-ministers in the 
Congregational Church considerable anxiety, as witness 
this letter !o l^r. Stiles from Rev. Charles Chauncey. 

* "'Uos+on, November 14, 1769. I am sorry 
with my whole soul that Mr. Hopkins is like to 
settle at Newport. He is a troublesome, con- 
ceited, obstinate man. He preached away 
almost his whole congregation at Barrington, 
and was the occasion of setting up the Church 
of England there. He will preach away all his 
congregation at Newport or make them tenfold 
worse than they are at present. I wish his in- 
stallment could be prevented." 

But Dr. Stiles, recognizing what he believed to be the 
true Christian spirit of Dr. Hopkins, welcomed him cordially 
as a brother minister, preached the sermon at his installa- 
tion; and during all the time that they were together in the 
city, continued on terms of the greatest friendship and sym- 
pathy, although they could easily have found occasions for 
difference had they so desired. 

One of the most interesting of his ministerial relations 
was that with the Jewish Rabbi. With his thirst for 
learning, Dr. Stiles instinctively selected that one among his 
fellow-ministers who could be of the most use in increasing 
his knowledge. He attended the services of the Synagogue, 
and soon entered upon a friendly acquaintance. He became 
the pupil of the Rabbi in the study of Hebrew, and of the 
history of the Jews. 

Nor did he confine his Jewish studies to his relation with 
this resident of Newport, but corresponded in Hebrew with 
learned Jews in different parts of the world, in 1773 forming 
an acquaintance with Haijin Isaac Carigal, a learned Rabbi, 
a native of Hebron in the Holy Land. A long correspon- 
dence was carried on between them. 

In 1772 we find him writing a letter in Latin to the Rev. 
Dr. Busch, a Moravian minister in Astrakhan, near the 

'Itinerary, p. 450 


Caspian Sea, the object of the letter being to make inquiries 
concerning the ten tribes of Jews who he was convinced by 
the prophets would yet be restored to the Holy Land. He 
believed that they must be somewhere existing distinctly 
ainong some nations of the earth. 

* "Modern voyages and travels," he ob- 
serves, "have laid open almost all countries 
and their inhabitants except the interior and 
most remote regions of Asia, which lay between 
the River Volga and the Simensian Empire, or 
from the Caspian Sea toward the east, and from 

India toward the north." That tract he most ardently 
wished might be thoroughly explored, in which he judged 
these tribes had hitherto remained concealed, and would 
hereafter be found; and in connection therewith he goes 
into a long history of the Jewish people and of the lost 
tribes, covering ten quarto pages, and adds, 

"St. Thomas found a Hebrew damsel singing Hebrew 
psalms at the court of an Indian prince at Cranganor, near 

Not only did he attend the services in the Synagogue, but 
the Rabbi came upon at least one occasion to hear a sermon 
from Dr. Stiles on "The dispensations of God toward his 
chosen people, and the glory of the Messiah's Kingdom." It 
was the first sermon which the Jew had ever heard from a 
Christian preacher. 

In December 2, 1763, in his Diary he writes, 
"In the afternoon was the dedication of the new Syna- 
gogue in this town. It began by a handsome procession, in 
which were carried the Books of the Law, to be deposited in 
the ark. Several portions of Scripture and of their service, 
with a prayer for the Royal family were read and finely sung 
by the priest and people. There were present many gentle- 
men and ladies. The order and decorum, the harmony and 
solemnity of the music, together with a handsome assembly 
of people, in an edifice the most perfect of the temple kind, 
perhaps, in America, and splendidly illuminated, could not 

*Holmes, p. 158 


but raise in the mind a faint idea of the majesty and 
grandeur of the ancient Jewisli worship mentioned in 
Scripture. Dr. Isaac de Abraliam Touro performed the 

With his tendency to magnify points of agreement and 
to minimize points of disagreement between the different 
Cliristian bodies, we may well understand that he would fre- 
quently exert himself to bring about a better understanding. 

* "It has been a principle wdth me for 
thirty-five years past to walk and live in a 
decent, civil and respectful communication with 
all, although in some of our sentiments, in 
philosophy, religion and politics of diametri- 
cally opposite opinion; hence I can freely live 
and converse in civil friendship with Jews, 
Romanists, and all the sects of Protestants, and 
even with Deists. I am all along blamed by 
bigots for this liberality, though I think none 
impeach me of hypocrisy. I have my own 
judgment and do not conceal it." 

He was always much interested in any possible union of 
different branches of the church. In 1759, M^hen a young 
man, he brought the idea prominently forward in a letter. 
The next year he delivered before the Convention of Con- 
gregational Ministers of Rhode Island a discourse on Chris- 
tian Union, in closing which he presents a fascinating pic- 
ture of the condition when all the churches of New England 
shall be united into one. 

This discourse, which was printed and becaine famous, 
roused considerable enthusiasm in the minds of a number 
of the Congregationalists of New England, but, alas, it was 
on too high a plane to suit most, and to a great degree 
failed of its object. 

It was but a few years after his settlement in Newport 
that the question of the relation of the colonies to the 
mother country became acute, and no one took a more keen 

♦Holmes, p. 274 


interest in the question, or more freely uttered his opinion 
than did Dr. Stiles. 

Some quotations from his Diary and letters may well be 
made. His first criticisms upon the British policy that I have 
come across were written in the year 1759, in a letter to the 
Rev. Dr. Gumming of Edinburgh. 

* "For us in New England," he writes, "to 
be harassed with even the most moderate 
Episcopacy, at least to have it imposed upon 
us, whose fathers fled hither for exilement, is 

perfectly cruel Free inquiry has made 

such progress as must inevitably pull down all 
ecclesiastical polities not founded in the sacred 
Scriptures. ... It would be more agreeable 
to this country if Presbyterians and Dissenters 
were not precluded from olfices and employ- 
ments in the gift of the Crown or the provincial 

In 1760, in a sermon preached on a day of Thanksgiving 
in consequence of the surrender of Montreal, he said, 

t "It is probable that in time there will be 
formed a provincial confederacy and a common 
council, standing on free provincial suffrage, 
and this may in time terminate in an imperial 
diet, where the imperial dominion will subsist 
as it ought, in election." 

This is probably one of the earliest public statements of 
opinion regarding freedom in this country. 

Liberty Day was celebrated in Newport March 18, 1769, 
the anniversary of the King's signing the repeal of the Stamp 
Act. Of this anniversary celebration. Dr. Stiles writes, 

$ "At dawn of day colors or a large flag 
was hoisted and displayed on the top of the tree 

♦Holmes, p. 76 

tidem, p. 100 

jThis and the following quotations are from the Diary 


of liberty, and another on the mast of Uberty at 
the Point at the same time. My bell began and 
continued ringing till sunrise. About nine 
o'clock A.M. the bell of the First Congregational 
Church began to ring, and rang an hour or two. 
The Episcopal Church bell struck a few strokes 
and then stopped, the Episcopalians being 
averse to the celebration." 

An interesting event occurred in the year 1770. It was 
customary for the clergymen of the Church of England to 
preach a sermon on the 30th of January in commemoration 
of the martyrdom, as they called it, of Charles I. The 
return of this day awakened Dr. Stiles' indignation at the 
operations of the arbitrary king of England, and occasioned 
remarks worthy of an enlightened and ardent friend of 

"This day," he writes, "if observed at all, 
should be celebrated as an anniversary of 
Thanksgiving, or memorial that one nation on 
earth had so much fortitude and public justice 
as to make a royal tyrant bow to the sovereignty 
of the people, to institute a judicial trial of a 
monarch, and sentence him to the punishment 
of the execution which he merited." 

In regard to this sermon, his father-in-law, John Hub- 
bard, of New Haven, wrote to him on the 15th of March, 

"We have a story here that you disobliged 
the Episcopalians of Newport by a thirtieth of 
January sermon, and that you are like to be 
trounced for it, as their phrase is, I hope the 
matter is much magnified. Please to let me 
know the event." . 

He again, however, on the 25th of July, writes, 

"I thank you for your sermon, and am 
better acquainted with King Charles than ever I 


was before, and were I to take my idea of a 
martyr from him, should have as mean an 
opinion of him as I have of some of the clergy." 

Upon the death of George II and the accession of George 
III in 1772, he had still more to say concerning the relation 
of New England to the Crown, and in a letter to a Mrs. Mc- 
Cauley in England, he writes, 

* "Every step she (England) has taken for 
some years past, at least the general system of 
colony administration, has had as direct a ten- 
dency to accelerate events which she should 
keep at a distance as if projected from the 
deep laid policy of the Conclave. It is most 
firmly believed here that Providence intends a 
glorious empire in America." 

And when one year later, 1773, the people of Rhode 
Island burned the "Gaspee", Dr. Stiles writes that he is "glad 
to find that the sons of liberty in other colonies felt the attack 
upon us, which is equally a stroke at universal American 
liberty. I have perfect confidence that the future millions 
of America will emancipate themselves from foreign oppres- 

"June 30, 1774. Day of public fasting and 
prayer through the Colony of Rhode Island, by 
order of Assembly, on account of the threat- 
ening aspect of public affairs, the acts of Par- 
liament respecting America, and particularly 
on account of blocking up the port of Boston. 
I preached P. M. from Esther 4:3, 'There was 
great fasting and weeping and mourning, and 
many lay in sackcloth and in ashes,' to a very 
crowded assembly of all denominations. The 
day was kept in town very universally, not 
above half a dozen shops open in all the town. 
Mr. Bissett, the Church of England clergyman, 
took his text 'Fast not as the hypocrites,' and 
preached a high Tory sermon, inveighing by 
allusions against Boston and New England as a 
turbulent ungoverned people. The other con- 

*Holmes, p. 163 


gregations in town were heartily in the cause 
of Uberty. The Baptists seem to have little 
interest in the fast." 

In 1774, November 5th, he records the parading the 
streets and burning in efhgy of Lord North, Governor Hutch- 
inson and General Gage. Again in November 30th of that 
year, in speaking of the attempt of the French to dissuade 
from war, he adds, 

"Great efforts are made by the ministry and 
their connections in America to detach the 
Baptists and Quakers throughout America from 
the Continental Union, and also the body of 
Episcopalians interspersed through the prov- 
inces north of Maryland, and with too 
much success. A languor prevails through these 
bodies. The defence and conservation of the 
public liberty stands on the union of the south- 
ern Episcopalians and the grand universal body 
of Congregationals and Presbyterians through- 
out the Continent. Perhaps the Baptists may 
open their eyes, but there is no hope of the 

April 25, 1775, he notes, 

"Governor Ward yesterday wrote a letter 
to Messrs. Malbone, received today, advising the 
merchants to get their vessels to sea or out of 
New England with all speed, and recommend- 
ing to the people of Newport to remo-ve them- 
selves and effects speedily, as there was certain 
danger of immediate seizure. This has thrown 
the town into great consternation and panic, 
and many are all day putting up their effects 
and preparing for removal. To lieighten the 
terror, the men of war give out that if Newport 
takes part with Providence and New England, 
they will lay the town in ashes." 

"October 8, 1775. Lord's Day. Preached 
on Lamentations 1:4,5. 'The ways of Zion do 


mourn.' This is a most sorrowful Sabbath. In 
the afternoon there were about sixty-six persons 
below, and thirty-five in the galleries. My usual 
congregation three or four hundred. We had 
a mournful meeting. This morning we heard 
that Capt. Wallace with his fleet fired on the 
town of Bristol last night. An inhuman wretch. 

"October 91h. This day I removed one 
load of my books and furniture. The carting of 
goods and removing of people continued all 
day yesterday, and yet continues. The infernal 
Wallace, with three men of war and other 
vessels, a fleet of perhaps eight sail, is firing 
away to the northward, and spreading, or 
aiming to spread, terror through the bay. It 
is judged that two-thirds of the inhabitants of 
this town are removed up the island. 

"10th and 11th. Spirit of removal nearly 
ceasing, though some continue still removing. 
These removals continued for several days. By 
the nineteenth, three-quarters of the property 
and inhabitants had removed, most of the shops 
shut up, many houses shut, many more with 
only one or two persons to keep them; for the 
fortnight past as much as forty or fifty teams 
being daily employed, besides horse carts and 

"23rd October. This afternoon the rem- 
nant of my society met and judged it expedient 
to discontinue the public worship in my meet- 
ing house for the winter, considering the pres- 
ent evacuated and distressed and tumultuous 
state of the town. They all recommended and 
consented to my removal to Bristol for present 

"November 2nd. Sent off a second load 
of goods, being part of my library and furni- 

"December 11, 1776. The English oflicers 
are taking up houses for barracks, and among 


others have taken my house and meeting house 
which last it is said they intend to make an 
assembly room for balls, etc., after taking down 
the pews. 

"December 26, 1776. I reviewed the town 
of Newport from memory and found the num- 
ber of names of men with families now remain- 
ing in the whole town but 260. This confirms 
my judgment that two-thirds evacuated last 
year, in 1775. In the spring enumeration was 
made, 9200 souls in town. At six to a family, 
this would be fifteen hundred families, but truly 
there were eighteen hundred; now but 260. " 

After the departure of the British he returned for a visit. 

1780, May 21. Lord's Day. I preached to 
my dear flock in the rooms of my meeting 
house. Psalm 36.7 'How excellent is thy mercy, 
oh Lord, etc' We had sixty-six benches, con- 
taining five or six persons each, making a 
congregation of three hundred and fifty persons, 
about two-thirds of which were my flock. I 
judge two-thirds of my congregation are return- 
ing to Newport. The enemy had run up a 
chimney in the middle of the meeting house, 
and demolished all the pews and seats below 
and in the galleries, but they left the pulpit 
standing, though they destroyed the pulpit in 
the Presbyterian meeting house and in two Bap- 
tist meetings. My little zealous flock took down 
the chimney and cleared the meeting house, and 
then procured some benches and tables made 
for the King's troops' entertainments, and left 
behind, so that we attended Divine service very 
conveniently, though with a pleasure inter- 
mixed with tender grief. 

"May 28. I preached and baptized William 
Ellery Channing, son of Hon. William Chan- 
ning, Esq., Attorney General of Rhode Island. 


31 May. I took a melancholy farewell, and 
left Newport on return for New Haven. About 
three hundred dwelling houses I judge have 
been destroyed in Newport. The town is in 
ruins. I rode over the Island, and found the 
the beautiful rows of trees which lined the road, 
with sundry coppices, groves and orchards cut 
down and laid waste, but the natural beauties 
of the place still remain, and I doubt not the 
place will be rebuilt, and exceed its former 

And this is his Valedictory to Newport. 

"February 1, 1781. Very lamentable is the 
state of religion in Newport, and particularly 
that they will not attend public worship. One 
occasion of this negligence is Brother Hopkins' 
new divinity. He has preached his own congre- 
gation almost away, or into an indifference. 
He has fifty or sixty families or more of his own 
congregation in town, and might easily com- 
mand a good assembly, if his preaching were as 
acceptable as his moral character." 

The pastorate of Dr. Stiles in Newport had thus ended 
in 1777, when the English took possession of the city. But 
he was not to be left without a place of labor, for immedi- 
ately a church in Providence sent him a most flattering call 
to become its pastor, also a church in Taunton, and a little 
later a prominent church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 
The latter he finally accepted as a temporary labor. 

But very soon another and far more important position 
was offered to him. The first intimation came in a letter 
from the Rev. Dr. Dana, of Wallingford, written on the 25th 
of August, 1777. 

* "Reverend and Dear Sir : There is reason 
to believe that you may soon be invited to the 
presidency of Yale College. I must entreat you 
not to engage at Porstmouth for any length of 
time; Providence is about to call you to a 
higher trust." 

♦Diary, Sept. 17, 1777 


Another letter from Mr. Whittlesey, Secretary of t\c 
Corporation of the College, September 13th, says, 

"I take the earliest opportunity to inform 
you that the corporation of our Almse Matris 
this week made choice of you president of the 

In regard to this Dr. Stiles writes, September 19, 1777. 

"My election to the presidency of Yale Col- 
lege is an unexpected and wonderful ordering 
of Divine Providence; not but that it has been 
talked of for years past, but I knew such reasons 
in the breasts of the Fellows, and I thought 
such were the sentiments of the assembly and 
the plurality of the pastors regarding my ideas 
in ecclesiastical polities and doctrinal systems 
of Divinity as that it was impossible I should 
be elected." 

After several letters and visits from interested persons, 
he writes the corporation of the College on the 2nd of 

"I have thought it prudent and expedient to 
make a journey into Connecticut, and refer the 
matter to further consideration when I have 
had an interview with the corporation at their 
meeting next month." 

That interview seems to have been satisfactory, and 
although he delayed his answer still again for a short time, 
he finally in August, 1778, wrote to the corporation accepting 
the presidency:* in the meantime having written to his 
Newport congregation and to many of his fellow-ministers 
for their opinion. 

The answer from the Newport congregation was a letter 
written January 30, 1778, by Mr. Benjamin Ellery, brother of 
William Ellery, the Signer. 

"Your little flock, deprived of part of their 
property, and scattered about the country, will 

*Diary, February 12, 1778 


not probably all of them ever collect again, and 
should the major part return to Newport, their 
circumstances will be so reduced that however 
willing they may be, it will not be in their power 
to afford you such a living as you deserve. I 
think, therefore, it will be best for you to accept 
the invitation to the presidency of Yale College, 
and if I could conceive the prayers of such a 
worm of the dust as I am to the Deity would be 
of any service to you, I would add them for your 
health, happiness and prosperity." 

And the ministers to whom he referred the question had 
unanimously expressed their opinion that he should accept 
the position. 

From 1778 to 1795 he held the office of president of Yale 
College, and there is need to say nothing here regarding 
the success of his administration. When he entered upon 
his labors the College was greatly reduced, in fact almost to 
the vanishing point, on account of the Revolution, but when 
he left it, it was a flourishing and influential institution. 

The extent and variety of his scholarship is evidenced 
from the fact that at dift'erent times when it became neces- 
sary, he filled the chairs of the professor in Mathematics, of 
Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, of Mental and Moral 
Philosophy, and of Ecclesiastical History; all, we are told, 
in a most satisfactory manner. 

It may interest us to read in his Diary of March 15, 1781, 

"I received of Mr. Cook five hundred dollars 
in silver and gold, on account of rents of Dean 
Berkeley's Farm at Rhode Island, given to the 

An opinion concerning him which is not without 
interest, however absurd, is expressed in the following 
extract of a letter from a foreigner in New Haven to his 
friend in New York, published in the New York Morning 
Post August 9, 1787. 


' "On Thursday last the remains of Rev. 

Chauncey Whittlesey were interred. I attended 
this funeral, and at the brick meeting house, the 
place of interment, 'a fulsome farrago of non- 
sense, called here a funeral sermon, was 
preached forth by one of the crop-earred breth- 
ren, generally designated among the devout by 
the name of Pious Ezra. This curious eulogium 
consisted of the most perfect adulation to the 
deceased, bordering even on impiety, the whole 
well larded with texts of Scripture, which were 
haled in by the head and shoulders at every 
other sentence, whether applicable or not. The 
sermon was upon the Parable of the Talents." 

On the 8th of May, 1795, Dr. Stiles was seized with a 
bilious fever, and at four in the afternoon on the 12th, as his 
hopes of this world lessened and those of Heaven bright- 
ened, he took an affecting leave of his family, and expired at 
half after eight in the evening, in the sixty-ninth year of his 

The funeral was held in the brick meeting house, which 
was crowded with the ofTicers of the University, clergymen 
and other distinguished neighbors. Dr. Dana preached the 
sermon on the text "In my Father's house are many man- 
sions," in which he declares, 

"The Ministry lament one who was their 
brightest ornament, the Church lament the 
truest friend of their religious order, the State 
and Nation lament the friend of their rights, the 
friends of Science and Liberty, of candor, of 
their country, and mankind, lament the loss to 
the world." 

In a newspaper obituary published at that time, it is 

"Of such an assemblage of varied excel- 
lence in a single person, the world has afforded 
bu. few examples." 

University of Toronto 



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