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Letter from John MacDowell to Philip Bearcroft
MacDowell, John, 1717-1763
April 16, 1761
Volume 06, Pages 552-558

[From North Carolina Letter Book. S. P. G.]
Mr. MacDowell to the Secretary

Brunswick Apr 16 1761

Rev Sir

I wrote to the Venble Society pr Captn Heron about this time last year, but have not as yet, had the pleasure of receiving any ansr or

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of hearing from them, only by a Letter from Captn Heron, dated at London the 20th July, wherein he informed me that he was told by Mr. Smith, who went home with him last Spring, That the Venble Society had been pleased to grant me, a mission & a salary of £50 Sterling per ann. But so bad an use, made my vestry of that piece of intelligence, that they thought proper when they met at Easter this year, to impose harder duty on me, which already was more than 1 man in a thousand could go thro' & to take away £10 this currency from my Poor pittance of allowance, which at most was not better, nor so good as a journeyman Tailors wages; for one of them here have £60 a year this currency & board, washing & Lodging found him, whereas I had but 130 in all & out of that was obliged to find myself in all the above mentioned articles. I pay for board & Lodging when I attend in Town, at the rate of 20s a week & moreover must keep horses to carry me about constantly.

It was particularly cruel of them, to use me so at this time, as in last novr it pleased Divine Providence to afflict me with the heavy loss of my most amiable wife, who died in childbed; the child also dying at the same time; I have just now no less than £21.9s to pay to Doctors bills, besides all other concomitants of that disastrous & melancholy occasion. And am left a poor distress'd widower, with a child, which was but a twelve month old, at my late Dear wife's decease.

But as I would not for any consideration in the world do anything to disoblige the venble Society & the Step I have now taken may be represented in a different light; I will lay the whole before them in the fairest & most upright manner as the truth is in Christ, and will leave it to them to judge the whole matter & by their judgment I am willing to abide.

The Gentlemen of the vestries here, meet and hold their vestries without the minister & take upon them to do everything themselves without his presence, nay if he goes in among them, I have known them to desire him to withdraw, that they may have the more liberty of arguing among themselves & Settling his Salary, and appointing him his service, whereupon when I had anything to lay before them, I did it by a message, & as I found a great deal of inconvenience, in being obliged to ride 30 or 40 miles to a Chapel. & of that, to ride 15 or 20 miles without seeing a house to flee to, in case of a thunder shower, or other bad weather; as I wrote to the venerable Society last year, & having these difficulties to go thro' every month of the year, hot & cold. I sent a message to the vestry,

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laying before them the inconveniences of my being obliged to attend the out Chapels, in the 2 hottest months in Summer & the 2 Coldest months in winter, at which time the people who have many of them far to come cannot bear the inconvenience of the weather, and at that time do not attend, and as the vestry of St James never required me to attend the Chapels, in the most remote parts of the Parish in these months, therefore I begged my vestry would lessen that Part of my fatigue. But instead of that, they thought proper to lessen my Salary, & increase my fatigue severely; by obliging me to attend, besides what I did last year, once in every 2 months, at a part of the Parish, ten times worse for the disagreeableness of the roads & accomodations, than the other part, I was obliged to attend before; & where they have nothing like a Chapel among them, nor are any of their houses fit to meet in Whereupon I acquainted the vestry, that I could not think of undertaking such heavy duty.

They then proposed another meeting among themselves to determine what they should do, And I seeing what I was to expect, if I should purchase or build myself a house (which I purposed doing) & fix myself, so that I could not easily remove from among them: I wrote to them that if they would get an act of assembly passed this session, the assembly now sitting, as the People at Newbern had done for Mr. Reed, allowing me £100 Sterling a year & not obliging me to ride above 8 months in the year, I would continue, and whereas at Newbern, besides £100 Sterling a year, Mr. Reed has a Parsonage house & all conveniences found him. I proposed to my People to ease them of that article I would purchase a lot in Brunswick & build myself a house, but if they did not do that I could not think of continuing any longer in this unsettled unprovided state.—whereupon they, 5 of them however, wrote me the inclosed letter & the next morning I sent them the inclosed answer,—to which they have not made any reply, nor indeed can they, for they all know there is not a word but strictest truth in it. Et magna est veritas et prevalebit.

On the whole I am determined to leave them, which I am obliged to, unless I submit myself to the usage here laid down, which I cannot do, nor would the venble Society I am convinced desire that I should.

But to give the venble Society a fuller Idea of the dispositions of the people here & of my state among them & the opinion of People of sense & merit, which is of more consequence than anything I can

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say for myself; & will set this whole matter in a fair light: I beg leave to lay before them a transcript from 2 letters now in my Possession & which Mrs. Dry & many others here know to be genuine & I dare say, so does Mrs. Frankland the Admirals Lady, for they were wrote in her house in Old Bond St London, by her aunt Mrs. Allen, while she was at London, where she went from this to reside for sometime; at the very time I was obliged to leave St James' Parish, on account of just such usage as I am now meeting with here.

In the 1st she says “I hope Sir, you are blessed with a continuance of your usual health, to which your singular temperance, constant exercise (in the duties of your function) andhappy disposition, must greatly contribute; and I wish I could add to it, the satisfaction of being a Pastor to a set of People more worthy of you, than the majority of the Parish: & more inclined to fix your appointment, & establishment among them independent of the vulgar herd, who last year behaved so unbecomingly as almost to drive you from among them. It would give me great pleasure to hear, you were made quite easy in that regard & had laid aside all thoughts of removing out of the Parish, whose loss of so valuable a guide, would not soon be made up; nor would they deserve it; if thro' their want of zeal for religion, or ill treatment of you, they oblige you to such a conduct.

“In the 2d when I had acquainted her, I was obliged to leave them & had thought of removing into So Carolina, She says To hear of your health and that you support a proper & worthy character, in the duty of your function gives me the highest satisfaction, on the other hand, am affected in a very different manner, to find you so determined to leave the province and your extended cure, at the same time can see no reason to blame you for such a procedure, which their luke warmness (say no worse of it) in religious matters, & neglect of you in so essential a point, has drawn upon them. From this time forth, let them no more affect an uneasiness or complain for want of a minister of God's word & the comfort of the Holy ordinances, tis too plain they think neither necessary, & if Success attends their temporal concerns, no matter for the spiritual—Since this is the case (even to a demonstration) I must own Sir you judge right, very right to leave them to their own devices, and you owe it to yourself, to seek a place & people, more worthy of you & you of them & where I doubt not. you will meet a kind & christian reception from every body of merit, & hope (as soon as may be) a good benefice upon a certain foundation, & be no longer

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liable to the caprices & inconstancy of the Low minded penurious herd—be they the great, vulgar, or the small,—You may depend Sir upon letters from me, to what friends death & removals have left me there: they are not many, but such as you'll be pleased to be known to: & who I am assured from the innate goodness and benificence of mind are always friends & ready to assist the deserving: upon which foundation, I may venture to say you are entitled to all their good offices, & from whence promise myself very happy effects in your favor—The gentlemen I shall write to (and inclose to you) are Mr. Gabriel Manigault, Doctor Bull speaker of the assembly (son to the late Lieut. Govr Mr. Peter Taylor, & Mr. Geo. Austin, all men of worth & consideration.”

These were the sentiments of one who was an inhabitant of this place & understood well the circumstances of the place & the disposition of the people, & were it not that It might seem I were more influenced by Pique & hatred, than a true Christian lenity, I could give such an account of some of the Present Vestrymen here that after knowing the men and their communications no body would be surprised that I am obliged to leave them one of them declared that the money he is obliged to give to the maintaining a minister, he would rather give to a kind girl. Another is a person who committed incest, with his own uncles widow & has a child by her which he owns publicly—another believes there is neither Hell nor Devil, and there is here one gentleman of fortune in particular he is not of the vestry, but strives to influence them as much as he can, whom I heard myself declare he could not believe in Jesus Christ & he despised the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper. To him with 2 other gentlemen in St. James' Parish, a Young Phisician who was reputed to be an Atheist & who died since I came here, left the Lord Bolingbrokes works What can a Minister of God's word expect from these?

These are some of the men who are intrusted with the management of affairs in Church & State. I am sorry there should be any in a Christian country But true it is too true there are many such, not only here but in all other parts of America, and what can we expect here, where ev'ry one can do that which is good in his own eyes: when in our mother countries, too, too many of these daily appear, where the Laws Human & Divine are inculcated & observed in far greater perfection.

May the Almighty God of his infinite goodness & mercy pardon all the Failings & imperfections of all his creatures O! may he

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who is of Purer eyes than to behold iniquity but with abhorrence & Detestation, bring about in his good time the means of reclaiming a stubborn & depraved world, may he who is the Father of lights, open the eyes of a careless & unthinking world, that they may see & know in this their day the things that belong unto their peace. Amen, Amen.

Now if upon the whole. The venerable society think me culpable in what I have done, I am willing to submit to any penalty or censure they will please, to inflict upon me, except the sending me back to No Carolina, If they approve of what I have done, I am happy, for I esteem their favor & approbation, above all things on earth, next to that of my own conscience, and even in that, would not be willing to confide too much, as self love or self interest might strive to swerve me from my duty, but in what I have done, I really think I am right, It is our Saviours own order, that if they receive us not in one place we are to go to another.

I have some thoughts of returning home, for I could live happier there on a little farm, than to be governor here, but I am not willing to leave America, without the consent of the venerable society. Wherefore I shall take a ride into So. Carolina & do what good I can there, till I have the pleasure of hearing from the Society, which I am in hopes will be by the latter end of the summer A letter directed for me, sent to any of the clergy in Charleston I will readily get.

The roof of the New Church at Brunswick is all fallen down again, it was struck with lightning, last July, & afterwards a prodigious & immoderate quantity of rain falling on it, made it all tumble down: & there it lies just as it fell; the Chapel is a most miserable old house, only 24 feet by 16, & ev'ry shower of Rain or blast of wind, blows quite thro' it If I had continued, I intended to have purchased it, & to have fitted it up in a decent manner & to have made it comfortable for the performance of divine service, both in Summer & Winter, till the church might be finished. But the Vestry here will give no encouragement to a minister but from year to year, & strive to keep him in the greatest state of subjection & dependence. But they will repent, their obliging me to leave them; for I have done & would have done, more for them than any they have ever had or I dare say ever will have. They think themselves wiser than any other people in the world who give their minister a certainty of continuing at least while he behaves well, and I should desire or expect no more than that. But none of these things move

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me neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course, with joy & ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the Gospel of the Grace of God.

I beg my sincerest duty to the Venble Society & hearty acknowledgments & thanks for all their kindness and goodness to me.

I am revd Sir your most obliged & most obt Humble servant
JOHN McDOWELL.