Letter from William Tryon to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
Tryon, William, 1729-1788
Volume 07, Pages 102-104
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[From Tryon's Letter Book.]
Letter from Governor Tryon to the Society for the Propagation of
the Gospel in Foreign parts.
Brunswick 31 July 1765
As this province has received considerable advantages from the missionaries your society have sent among the inhabitants, some information of the present state of religion in this colony may not be unacceptable to you. Every sect of religion abounds here except the Roman Catholic and by the best information I can get, Presbytery and a sect who call themselves New Lights, (not of the flock of Mr Whitefield) but Superior Lights from New England, appear in the front. These new Lights live chiefly in the maritime counties, the Presbyterians are settled mostly in the back or westward counties, tho' the Church of England I reckon at present to have the majority of all other sects; and when a sufficient number of clergy as exemplary in their lives, as orthodox in their doctrine; can persuade themselves to come into this Country, I doubt not but the larger number of every sect would come over to the established religion. I can hear of but five clergymen at present in this Province, four of whom have missions from the Society Vidt
The Revd Mr Reed of Newbern in Craven County
Mr Earl near Edenton in Chowan County
Mr Stewart of Bath in Beaufort County
Mr Moir, Itinerant Missionary
I had the opportunity in a tour I made through part of the Province to see the above gentlemen, and must observe, I think the three first are well settled and established, and I believe them regular in the discharge of their duty. I can speak more particularly of Mr Reed, as I saw much of him at the General Assembly held at New Bern. I really esteem him a man of great worth. As this country is now settled more than 200 miles to the westward of Mr Moirs residence, I do not think the province receives any benefit from him as an itinerant missionary; for under that general licence of preaching every where, he seldom preaches any where; this report I have from some gentlemen in his neighbourhood near the Town of Halifax. I do not represent him as an immoral man, but should think it advisable, he might be fixed to some parish agreeable
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to the enclosed Act of Assembly the purport of which is, the great inducement of my troubling the Society with this letter. Many efforts have been made to obtain a good clergy act in this province, but as every trial have been as often clogged with objections incompatible with the rights of the Crown and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, they have proved fruitless. This Act however I flatter myself is free from every material objection, and therefore beg leave to recommend to the consideration of the Society the extreme advantage that will accrue to his Majesty's subjects by a happy establishment of religion here. As I have pledged my endeavours to get decent clergymen to serve in this province, I earnestly hope for a further encouragement from the Society by the increase of the missionaries, if only for a term of years till gentlemen coming over might reimburse themselves the expense of their voyage and first settling here; which is a charge that must be felt by every one, who has only his merit to ballance that account. There is at present 32 parishes in the province, and as five are already provided, twenty seven clergymen are only required, a number so small, that it will be scarce sufficient to perform the marriage and burial services, offices at present performed without the greatest order or decency, by the Magistrates of the Peace, Governor Dobbs was interred by a gentleman of this order, no clergyman living within one hundred miles of Brunswick. The state of the churches in this province beginning at the southward are as follows Vidt
At Brunswick, only outside walls built and roofed
Wilmington, walls only.
Newbern, in good repair.
Bath, wanting considerable repairs.
Edenton, wanting as much.
As no British colony on this continent stands in more, or so much need of regular moral clergymen, as this does, I hope the Society will give all possible assistance to contribute to the happy effects of the present orthodox bill; should I be so happy to meet with a favourable regard to my recommendations, I shall on a proper opportunity communicate to the Society the future state and progress of religion in this colony. Chapels are established in every county which is served by a Reader where no clergy can be procured, they have two, three, or four more or less, in each county according to the number of the inhabitants, or extent of the county. If the Society would send for my distribution or the Governor's for
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the time being as many well-bound bibles and prayer-books for the ministers desks as there are parishes, it would have a better effect than a ship load of small books recommending the duty of a christian. The ignorant would hear their duty delivered out of the former, when they could not instruct themselves in the latter, This incapacity prevails from a want of schools in the province which consideration brings me lastly to solicit the Society's bounty, and encouragement to Mr. Tomlinson, at present seated at Newbern. His memorial I enclose at his request certified by many gentlemen some of whom I am acquainted with, I had a long conversation with Mr Tomlinson and from the sense and decency of his behaviour, and the general good character he maintains, obliges me warmly to solicit the society in his behalf, He is the only person of repute of that profession in the country; He was invited to America by a brother who has a plantation near Newbern. I really think him deserving the favourable attention of the Society and as such I recommend him. I cannot conclude this letter without acquainting the Society the Revd
Mr Whitefield preached a sermon at Wilmington in March last which would have done him honour had he delivered it at St James's allowing some little alteration of circumstances between a discourse adapted for the Royal Chapel and the Court House at Wilmington. As considerable sums of money have been raised by subscription for furnishing the churches of Wilmington and Brunswick I expect they will both be completed in less than twelve months
I am gentlemen with esteem &ca