The collection covers the first 42 volumes of correspondence to the Bishop of London from the British colonies of America (the Thirteen Colonies of the United States), Canada, and the West Indies. Divided into five main sections: General Correspondence, Ordination Papers, 1748-1824, Missionary Bonds, Diocesan Book for the Plantations, Pamphlets, American Papers, (1699-1774, and Alphabetical lists of clergy ordained, licensed, etc. by the Bishop of London, 1723-48. The bishops covered and their time in office include Henry Compton (1675-1713), John Robinson (1713-1723), Edmund Gibson (1723-1748), Thomas Sherlock (1748-1761), Thomas Hayter (1761-1762), Richard Osbaldeston (1753-1764), Richard Terrick (1764-1777), Robert Lowth (1777-1787), Beilby Porteus (1787-1809), and John Randolph (1809-1813). Together these provide insight into colonial ecclesiastical affairs, and subject matter related to the individual colonies and local communities, such as, society (examples - description, education, vital statistics, health, Black people, enslaved/slavery, Indigenous people), politics, economics, and religion, including religious bodies other than the Church of England (examples - Presbyterian, Quaker, Huguenot, Roman Catholic, Methodist).
Volumes 1-20, General Correspondence
Arrangement: General arrangement within each main section: arranged by colony and by date within each colony; the colonies are listed alphabetically within two sections, the continental colonies, and the West Indies. Pages are numbered, use the numbers written in pencil in the upper right-hand corner.
(Volumes 1 to 14) General Correspondence, North America - Arranged by colony and by date within each colony; the colonies are listed alphabetically within two sections, the continental colonies - present-day Canada (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec) and the United States (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia).
(Volumes 15 to 20) General Correspondence, West Indies - Arranged chronologically within each category which consists of the following: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, and Windward Islands.
Volume 15 Bahamas, 1721-1734; 1788-1796; undated. Correspondence mostly to the bishop in England from the governor of the Bahamas and also from ministers, particularly Thomas Curphey at New Providence and Alexander Garden at South Carolina, as well as from Thomas Lyttelton at Wanstead, Thomas Robertson at Harbor Island, and William Gordon at Exuma. Other documents include 2 acts: 1 for establishment of schools in several islands; and 2, for erecting and repairing churches for maintenance of ministers and support of the poor; and a letter by George Chalmers, colonial agent to the Bahamas, voicing opposition to the second act. Also contains baptisms, marriages and burials performed by Thomas Curphey, 1721-1728 and various types of documents pertaining to his being licenced, and charges of his immoral behaviour. Other types of topics include church financing, clergy pay, appointments, and lack of; accounts by ministers of situation in their area; black education (1788-90); and moral and spiritual review of the condition of black persons by William Gordon (1792).
Volume 16 Barbados, 1703-1730. Correspondence mostly to the bishop from the governor and various Anglican ministers, such as William Gordon (also commissary), John Acourt, Arthur Holt, Gilbert Wharton, Patrick Rose, and William Johnson. Much conversation about Commissary William Gordon and charges against him – prevalence of vice due to ill example of clergy and his attempt to set up an ecclesiastical court on the strength of his commission (voided a marriage licence), resulting in a wider discussion pertaining to episcopal jurisdiction. Among the documents on this topic is a printed record of action by Gordon against Governor Lowther, charging governor with slander because of charges against his character in a letter to the bishop. Lowther justified letter as part of a dispute over bishop’s jurisdiction. Appears that island politics underlays this dispute. Also contains the topic of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s college at Codrington plantation by school master to the “slaves,” Thomas Wilkie, as well as Arthur Holt’s reports on the management of the school and the baptisms of black persons; opinion of George Forster, J.P., and Richard Carter, attorney-general for the colony, on the practice whereby persons are charged with illicit relations; comments and complaints about clergy, such as John Acourt (insanity) and Dominick Langton, former friar.
Other types of documents include a list of clergy arrived at Barbados since 1710, dated 1724; list of laws of Barbados relating to church and clergy signed by the governor, 1724 (includes act forbidding Quakers from bringing black persons to their meetings); and answers to queries submitted to every minister (17 questions): how long since missionary at Plantations; previous church; whether licenced by Bishop of London in place now reside; length of time inducted into your living; if resident in parish inducted; extent and number of families in parish; any infidels, bond or free in your parish and means used for conversion; how often service performed and proportion of parishioners attending; amount of time sacrament of the Lord’s Supper administered and usual number of communicants; the times youth are catechised; if all things provided for performance of service; value of your living in sterling money and how does it arise; if have a house and glebe and is glebe in lease or let by year; care taken to preserve house in good repair and at whose expence; if have more cures than one and if so, what are they and how served; any public school and who is master; parochial library and condition of books, and any rules for preserving them. Also contains an Act to regulate the punishment of crimes and vices as are cognizable in ecclesiastical courts and for suppressing vice and profaneness (1722).
Barbados, 1731-1750, 1762-1801, 1819-1827, undated. Correspondence is mostly to the bishop from clergymen in Barbados, such as Arthur Holt, William Johnson, Thomas Barnard, and Francis Fritchatt, as well as from the governor. Topics include the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s Codrington plantation or estate - appointments such as for town agent; “slaves” and taxation; issues surrounding internal politics and administration; complaints about “slaves” and town agent; extracts of minutes of meetings of governors (1824), with mentioning of a plan for “Negro village”; some accounts showing growth last 10 years (1824); clearances of estate 1750-1783 by Forster Clarke, agricultural attorney of the estate; and plan for enlargement and recommendations for improvement (1825).
Various subject matter pertaining to clergy and vestries include appointments, vacancies, recommendations, and requests for licence; politics (electioneering, vestry vs. clergy, party strife – Thomas Warren vs. Arthur Holt and William Johnson); reports of church affairs; Thomas Barnard and issue of his living in England even though he is commissary to Barbados for church; religious conversion of black persons, including record of a meeting of those concerned in the management of “slaves” who formed a society to promote religious instruction to “slaves” (1823), and services of the “Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves”; immorality in society but more particularly with clergy – examples include documents pertaining to charges against Richard Foster Clarke (1796), and issues surrounding Thomas Harris who was charged with ravishing his sister-in-law (1765); also contains mention of baptism of “Indian slave” of George Graeme. List of clergy in Barbados, 1747; and list of parishes and rectors in Barbados, 1772, with a map showing locations also included. Undated documents are for example, notes on the Barbados establishment and the origin of the colonial jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, probably written by Bishop Edmund Gibson (in office 1723 to 1748).
Volume 17 Bermuda 1695-1703, 1725-1733, 1766-1775, 1788-1797, 1806, undated. Mostly communication to the Bishop of London from the governors and clergymen in Bermuda, including William Nairn, Alexander Richardson, John Pitt and Marischal Keith. Topics cover intelligence from St. Thomas on international dimension playing out on the high seas (1703); documents pertaining to the issue between the governor and Rev. William Nairn, who claims he is being persecuted by the governor (1726); possibility of a college as centre for evangelism (1730-31); information on Bermuda – religious (1732-3), and schooling, clerical salaries and treatment of “slaves” (1791); issue of one clergyman encroaching into domain of another – marriages (1772); disagreement over pew law (1775); situation and character of clergy, for example, Alexander Richardson (1788-90), who highlights the issue of being forbidden by chief justice to baptise black people, and provides his opinion on the matter as well as on instruction for black persons; state of black literacy and occupations mentioned; growing concerns surrounding instruction of black persons for fear of insurrection (1792); issue of giving licences to dissenting ministers – Presbyterians, and allowing them to issue marriage licences; and the need for more clerics and “spiritual destitution” of the island. The first document is from the Board of Trade – proposals relating to Bermuda – land, fees for public officials and support for the clergy (1695).
Jamaica, 1661-1739 Contains mostly correspondence to the bishop from members of the clergy, such as William Johnstone, R. Tabor, William May, Calvin Galpine, James White, and Joseph Blumfield, as well as from the governor. Topics dealing with clergy are as follows: individual experiences, for example, John Mitchell, native of Ireland, taken by French privateer enroute to Virginia (1709), now in Jamaica, and his falsehoods including pretending to be clergy; immoralities, and the concern these go unpunished, as colony has law excluding ecclesiastical penalties (1720); various letters pertaining to William Johnstone’s attempt to repossess parish glebe leased by persons of influence (1716); career situations (recommendations, promotions, appointments and requests for, deaths, and reasons declining positions); character and parish situations; complaints by, for example, James White, espousing conditions on the island and the persecutions to which he is subject, and includes the following complaints - widespread profaning, activities on Sundays (mill work, markets, and leisure activities for gentry), no religious test for schoolmasters, most lawyers Roman Catholic Irish, clergy underpaid so unable to send children to university or dower daughters properly, “slaves” often required to clear land on Sundays and after cultivated for a year or two for their own needs this becomes plantation land, number of Jews in colony, and adds he doubts wisdom of baptizing black persons (1720-24); suggestions for improvements in the ecclesiastical situation – convenient and properly furnished church infrastructure, higher salary not dependent on whim of vestries, clergy to be able to instruct “slaves” and need for public school (1724); attempts and obstruction to instructing “slaves”; housing issues and need for alternative methods to enforce prompt payment of salary. The governor defends charge by bishop of his departing from ecclesiastical instruction and states always records licences for fear of infiltration of Jesuits (1710); many show concern about immorality of clergy; inability to fill clergy vacancies, many clergy unworthy – mentions Reinolds, rector of St. Thomas in the Vale as notoriously immoral, and one of the reasons required proroguing assembly as it thrust a power on governor not granted by the Queen (1713/14); general situation on island; charge against Lewis de Bomeval of preaching sedition by telling his black converts to keep holy the Lord’s Day (1739).
On the matter of black people, the following topics also covered: request of mulatto to secure release of mulattos who are often treated as “slaves” (1723); Rev. White -role in obstructing conversion of black persons and opinion against their being baptised (1726); G (Marquis) Duquesne’s comments on the bishop’s pastoral letter on the instruction of “slaves” – states some difficulties not noted by bishop, such as, general decline of morals, cruelty to “slaves,” frequency of “slave” concubinage, and band of fugitive “slaves” in hill country to whom others can flee so that “slaves” who attempt to run away are usually sold to other islands, but offers his own plan for converting black persons – clergy be allowed to hold only baptized and instructed “slaves” and an allowance to secure such, school for instruction of black persons in every town, and law passed requiring all “masters” to have their “slaves” instructed (1728); and an opinion on possible law against “slave” concubinage.
Other types of documents: 1. Answers to queries addressed to commissaries, by William May, which includes an ecclesiastical survey of the situation in the island – laws establishments are based on, salaries, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, unlicenced clergy, impact of hurricane, cost of living high, and ways to encourage clergy to come to the plantations; 2. Answers to queries to clergy (see volume 16 above for the questions that are answered). Clergy who replied include the following: John Dickson, Westmoreland; Calvin Galpine, Port Royal; Thomas Fulton, St. Dorothy’s; John Kelly, St. Elizabeth’s; Nicholas McCalman, St. Thomas’s in the East; Richard Marsden, St. John’s; William May, Kingston; Roger Price, St. Ann’s; Edward Reading, St. Thomas in the Vale; John Scott, St. Catharine’s, Spanish Town; James Spenie, St. Mary’s; and James White, Vere; 3. Extracts from instructions to governors (1661/2, 1681, 1685); 4. Act for regulating ministers concerning governor’s power to deprive clergy guilty of serious moral offences (1713); 5. List of parishes and ministers in Jamaica (1715); 6. Catalogue of books brought to Jamaica by Barrett (1724); and 7. The Weekly Jamaica Courant, June 7, 1738, describing visit of governor and includes an address to him by clergy.
Volume 18 Jamaica, 1740-1752, 1762, 1769, 1787-1809, 1819, 1821, undated. Correspondence mostly to the bishop from members of the clergy, such as William May, John Barton, Colin Donaldson (as well as personal letters), and James White, as well as from the governor and W. Scott (chancellor of the Diocese of London). Some correspondence from Bishop Porteus pertaining to filling vacancies and procedures to work more efficiently with governor (1801). Pertaining to clergy, correspondence concerns the following topics: character and immorality, example of Rector Cosgreve from North America, who is a drunkard at Portland Parish (1769); changes in positions, deaths and illnesses; individual experiences and observations, example, W. Stanford of Westmorland, previously chaplain to forces on the Mosquito Shore, in relation to black persons – conversion, Moravians, emancipation, and militia companies (1788); salaries, amounts and as an issue; conditions of curacy (1808); conflicts with parishioners – Colin Donaldson tried to recover glebe lands in possession of influential parishioners, suit for damages brought against him for accusing planter of cruelty, and how he was told had no business interfering with rights of private property when presented bishop’s tract on “slave” instruction (1808-9); and James White’s unfavourable picture of society and politics (undated, c. 1720s).
Other major topics of discussion include ecclesiastical jurisdiction – with governor or bishop of London? and solution; complaint by Methodists’ Committee pertaining to local act requiring licensing of itinerant preachers, and problem that justices will not license; protocol for recommended candidates; general information and comments on the island, as by John Venn, touching on various topics, including slavery and the enslaved, with a list of parishes with ministers and salaries (1751); issue of black religious conversion. On religious instruction of “slaves,” there is the argument for and the case of Daniel Campbell, arrested for preaching to black persons; and proposed act prepared by Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations, which still requires preachers to black persons to be licensed by magistrates but in language of Toleration Act (1803-4).
Other types of documents: Acts – 1. Regulating and settling livings of clergy and giving Bishop of London ecclesiastical jurisdiction over them (1748); 2. Supplement to Cornwall Chronicle, handwritten extract, Dec. 29, 1787, giving amendments to “Negro Bill” which includes - penalties for inhumane treatment of “slaves”, not to be buried without being seen by plantation doctor, and overseers to make annual report of increase and decrease of “slaves”; 3. Regulate the ecclesiastical regimen of and jurisdiction over clergy of the island (1801) which repeals jurisdiction granted to bishop in 1748 and confers on king with addition of commissioners to exercise it; 4. For Better establishment of clergy (1797), pertaining to building of churches, and instruction of free persons of colour and “slaves” willing to be baptized and penalties for not. Also contains list of living and stipends (1752); and state of the church in Jamaica (undated but c. 1722).
Volume 19 Leeward Islands, 1681-1749. Islands: Antigua, St. Christopher’s, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Eustatius. Correspondents are mostly from clergy to the bishop with some from the governor. Some of the clergy include John Anderson (St. Christopher’s), Henry Pope (Nevis), James Field (commissary), Simon Smith (Antigua), James Knox (Antigua); John Tittle (St. Christopher’s); Francis Byam (Antigua), and Charles Rose (Antigua). Topics pertain to various aspects of clergy life – changes in positions, appointments and requests for appointments; building of churches and controversies, ex. Antigua (1716); requests for financial assistance; salaries; Commissary James Field, complaints of his long absence and his reasons – no support of governor (1718-19); terms of employment for curate; personal situations and dissatisfactions/satisfactions; use of former lands of French clergy; opinion on possible Society for the Propagation of the Gospel college in Bermuda; disagreements with governor, ex John Anderson who was turned out of his parish of Basseterre for excommunicating parishioner who had deserted his wife and living in adultery (1727/8); accusations of encouraging immorality (1728); Commissary Henry Husband’s update of information– churches, clergy scandal, neglect of catechizing, lack of schools and shortage of books; comments on heat and high cost of living as deterrents to clergy (1729), as well as informational summaries from others (1724, 1726, 1728, 1732); James Knox personal tragedy and lunacy (1733); issue of non-residence, ex. John Tittle, St. Christophers; opinion on Roman Catholicism in islands and other religious groups, and attack on John King as a Deist (1744/49). Other topics include dispute pertaining to the election of wardens – governor or bishop’s jurisdiction? (1717); and opposition to pluralities of appointments.
Other document are subscription for erection of a church in Antigua (1712/13); agreement of vestry, Antigua, to build church on land donated by John King (1713); list of parishes and ministers in Leeward Islands (1722); copy of records of baptisms, marriages, and burials from register of St. George’s, Nevis (1716-23); Act for regulating vestries in St. Christophers, providing for annual elections of vestrymen and wardens with power to levy ecclesiastical taxes, etc. (1722/23); 2 licences to marry, St. Christophers (1723/4); answers to Bishop Gibson’s queries which includes responses from Thomas Allen, Montserrat; James Cruikshank, Montserrat; Henry Pope, Nevis; and Simon Smith, Antigua (1720s); list of parishes in Leeward Islands, with salaries and names of incumbents (1728); extracts from vestry minutes of St. Paul’s, Cabecca Terre and St. Thomas’, Middle Island (1730) by John Merae, including his accusation Thomas Butler is making moves against him; will of John Anderson (1735); and a list of all clergy in islands (included in letter of the governor (1742).
Volume 20 Leeward Islands, 1750-53, 1764-73, 1788-1806, 1818, undated. Islands are Saint/St. Croix, Tortola, Virgin Islands, Nevis, Barbados, and St. Christophers/St. Kitts. Some of the correspondents include Charles Rose (Antigua); Francis Byam (Antigua), Edwin Thomas (St. Christophers), and James Ramsay (St. Christophers and England). Topics pertaining to clergy include the following: opinions on different matters such as bishops instead of governor receiving fees for marriage licences and probate of wills; argument for need of a bishop or some supervising clergyman; observations – Saint/St. Croix in Danish West Indies, and Quakers; position changes – recommendations, appointments and protests; discussion of the powers of the commissary; personal disputes and discourse, for example, Edwin Thomas, St. Christophers, pertaining to “abuse” at Court of King’s Bench because of his accusations of unethical appointment to the bench, as well as, his publications dealing with island politics signed ‘Eusebius’ and ‘Publicola’ in the local newspaper, which are included (1769-71); inappropriate behaviour during elections and political ramifications (1770-71); outline of plan for education and gradual emancipation of “slaves” by James Ramsay (1788); simony or exchanging money for clergy presentations (1788); plea for support for orphanage (St. Christophers) and bishop’s response that if it provides for instructing black children, may support (1806); cruel treatment of “slaves” by Henry Rawlins; James Field’s request for pension supported by stated service (after 1725/6).
Undated documents include notes by Bishop Gibson made in preparation for a memorial concerning French lands in St. Christophers; memorial on the appointment of clergymen in the sugar colonies, attributed to James Ramsay; and list of clergy in Leeward Island with notes on their character. Other documents are Proceedings before Court of King’s Bench, Nevis, May 1 and 15, 1764 on indictment for a riot invading rector of St. Paul’s; and list of clergy in Leeward Islands with record of ordination and dates of induction extending through 1773.
Virgin Islands, 1788. T. Lyttleton to Bishop Porteus, possible appointment to instruct black persons in the Virgin Islands, and a statement by William Twinbull, acting governor, recommending sending ministers to instruct enslaved persons (1788).
Windward Islands, 1785-1806, undated. Islands are Grenada and the Grenadines, Dominica, and St. Vincent. Correspondents include Francis Margaret (Dominica); Walter Carew (Grenada); and Samuel Dent (Grenada). Topics covered include the following: difficulties of the only protestant minister in Dominica – assembly denies him salary, intends to leave if not given post by governor as promised, and need of support to repair church damaged by hurricane, also notes success in working with “slaves,” and a school for black children by mulatto woman; clergy of Grenada’s obstacles to instruction of black persons – influence of Roman Catholic clergy (most of poor character), influence of older “slaves” over new arrivals, prevalence of French, and licentiousness of planters, also notes disappointment on no action to transfer Catholic churches and glebes to Protestant clergy; effect of new law requiring baptisms of black persons – no protestant ministers in most parts so will become Roman Catholics; issue of transferral of Catholic glebe lands to clergy of the Church of England in Grenada and specific example of attempt to take a French priest’s parsonage; state of the clergy and churches in Grenada, 1796, with data on the following parishes – St. George’s, United parishes of St. John and St. Mark, St. Patrick’s, and United parishes of St. Andrew and St. David (notes Island of Carriacou is vacant); John Guildng, only minister on island of St. Vincents and his situation; complaint about rector in Dominica – preached against slavery and criticized discipline of army and navy (1800); bishop’s request if receptive in Grenada for a missionary of the Society for the Religious Instruction, Conversion and Education of Negro Slaves in the British West India Islands, missionaries presently only in St. Christophers and Antigua (1801); and an account of all parishes of Grenada and the Grenadines, including Carriacou (1802).
West Indies, General, 1788-89, 1795, 1797, 1816-24, undated. Topics covered include bishop’s ordaining of candidates from other callings; bishop’s and foreign jurisdiction; partial list of clergy in the West Indies (probably around 1795); and lists of agents representing West Indian colonies in London (undated).
Volumes 21-32, Ordination Papers - Beginning in 1748, grouped under the names of the candidates, arranged alphabetically within each year within the colony. Contain testimonials and other documents presented to the Bishop of London by candidates for ordinations, or by ordained clergymen seeking licences for the colonies; ordained clergymen seeking licences for the colonies were required to present formal testimonials and evidence of title.
Volumes 33-37, Missionary Bonds - Bonds posted by ministers receiving the King’s bounty for emigration to the colonies from 1748 to 1811. These are arranged by year within each colony and alphabetically by the names of the ministers, within each year. (Sometimes the place is indicated as a group of colonies, such as the West Indies or New England.) (Volume 36) Correspondence relating to the colonies generally and a few letters applying to specific colonies not bound in the appropriate volumes.
Volume 37, Diocesan Book for the Plantations - List of parishes and incumbents, with descriptive notes compiled during Bishop Gibson’s episcopate.
Volumes 38-39, Lists of clergy for the plantations - Lists of ordinands and licensees for the plantations during the episcopates of Bishops Sherlock, Terrick, and Lowth, with a few from the times of Bishops Gibson and Porteus.
Volume 40, Pamphlets - Written and printed pamphlets which were found with the letters; also lists of clergy and public officials, petitions, memorials and other document; nos. 1-357.
(Volume 41) American Papers, (1699-1774) - Correspondence and papers relating to the American colonies (strays from the papers of the Bishops of London originally at Fulham Palace), arranged in this order: Connecticut (1735), Maryland (1750,1754), New England (1735), New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island (NJ, NY, Penn., RI 1699-1700), New York (1718-1774), South Carolina (1729), Virginia (1770-1772), and papers concerning the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (1707-c.1770); nos. 1-380. Correspondents for New York include: Thomas Brigden Atwood, Jonathan Arnold, Samuel Auchmuty, Henry and Thomas Barclay, John Bartow, John Beach, Daniel Bondet, Alexander Campbell, Richard Charlton, Thomas Colgan, Myles Cooper, William Cosby, John James Ehl, Alexander Farquharson, William Harrison, Charles Inglis, Robert Jenney, Samuel Johnson, Harry Munro, John Ogilvie, Benjamin Page, Thomas Poyer, Samuel Seabury, Thomas Standard, Peter Stoupe, John Talbot, John Thomas, William Tryon, Edward Vaughan, William Vesey, James Wetmore and Robert Weyman.
Volume 42, Orders, Licenses, Institutions and Collations in the Time of the Rt. Rev. Edmund Gibson, Lord Bishop of London, (1723 - 1748) - Lists within these main categories - Ordinations (1723-1747), Licences (1723-1748) (1. for curates, lecturers, preachers, schoolmasters; 2. to officiate in the colonies), and institutions and collations, compiled from the London diocesan subscription books, by William Dickes, secretary to Richard Terrick, bishop of London, 1764-77. The volume follows the same alphabetical format as volumes 38 (xxxviii) and 39 (xxxix). Licences to officiate in the colonies include the following places: Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, North and South Carolina, Connecticut, East Indies, Georgia, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montserrat, Nevis, New England, New Jersey, New York, Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, Providence, St. Christophers (St. Kitts), Spanish Town, and Virginia.