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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Thomas Sherlock to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Sherlock, Thomas, 1678-1761
February 19, 1759
Volume 06, Pages 10-13

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 13. D. 38.]
Letter from Thos Lord Bishop of London, dated 19th February 1759.

My Lords, [of the Board of Trade.]

I have in obedience to your Lps Commands considered the Act of North Carolina which you are pleased to refer to me.

The two points referred to me to be considered are, how far the Provisions of this Act may affect and interfere with the Bishops ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in the Colonies, and Secondly, how they affect the right of the Crown to the Patronage and Presentation to ecclesiastical Benefices.


The Act having made Provisions for constituting a Vestry, and directed in what manner they shall be elected and qualified, goes on to ascertaining the powers of the Vestry, and in the first place

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gives them a presentation to every Church in the Colony, Tho' the whole right of Patronage is undoubtedly in the Crown, and the King's Governor in Chief has a right, to exercise that right, in virtue of the Kings Patent granted to him, But to keep up some appearance of conformity with the Law of England, the Act gives the King or his Governor, a right to present upon a lapse, if the Vestry neglects to fill up within twelve months after the Vacancy; And the person who comes in by the Crown, has a right to enjoy the whole Salary, which in the former part of the Act is settled at fifty pounds a year, but even this small gratuity bestowed upon the Crown, is withdrawn again by the following Provision, Provided nevertheless that in case the Vestry of any Parish that shall be vacant one year shall procure some neighbouring or other minister to serve in the cure of such vacant Parish by performing divine service once in three months, they shall thereby save to themselves and retain the right of Presentation for so long time as such minister shall so serve in the cure of such vacant Parish. It is observable that no salary is appointed for the hired Preacher, who perhaps may be had at a cheap rate, and below fifty pounds a year, which would be a temptation to the Vestrymen to take this method to provide for the Churches. And not contented with having thus appropriated the Patronage to themselves of all Livings in the Province (to the manifest injury of the crown) they go on to set up a new Jurisdiction which is quite inconsistent with the Government of the Church of England, and excludes any Bishop from examining or correcting any misbehaviours of the Church; and takes from the Crown the right of appeal. And in the next Paragraph it is enacted, That the minister of such respective Parish shall be obliged to officiate in such parts of the Parish, and at such times as the Vestry, or a majority of them shall direct, And it is observable that tho' one of the clauses of the Act takes notice of the Bishop of London, and impowers him to certify that every minister to be elected to serve in any Parish, hath been duly ordained conformable to the Doctrine and discipline of the Church of England and is of a good life and conversation. Yet in the next Clause all authority is taken away from him, and a new Court is erected to judge and to punish any minister who shall be guilty of any notorious immorality.

After all these Provisions, what becomes of the King's supremacy? or the Bishop's Jurisdiction It seems to me to be all transferred to the Vestry of the several Parishes; And so far are they from copying after the Church of England that I rather suspect that they borrowed the model of their Government from the Presbyterians and Independents

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of New England, who at an Assembly begun May the 28th 1718. did enact that the Inhabitants of the Towns therein mentioned should have, full power to chuse a Committee for the regulation and management of all affairs relating to the support of the Public Worship of God And for the chusing all necessary and proper Officers in and for the said Precinct, Parish or District; and further to have all such powers and Privileges as by any of the Laws of this Province are given or annexed to any District or Precinct, any Law, usage or Custom to the contrary notwithstanding.

I wonder not to see this form of ecclesiastical Government in a statute from New England, for it is agreable to their principles, but how it should get into a statute of North Carolina, where Conformity is so strongly insisted on, that in the very Act, now under your Lp's consideration, it is enacted, that every Vestryman chosen, as in the Act directed, shall make the following declaration.

I. A. B. do declare that I will conform to the Liturgy of the Church of England as it is by Law established—Which is the very declaration which the Clergy of the Church of England (whose peculiar business it is to officiate in all parts of the Liturgy) are obliged to make.

As to the other matter referred to me Vizt:

How far this act may interfere with the Bishops ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in the Provinces, I am not so well prepared to answer, for it will be necessary in the first place, to determine whether the Bishop has any power, and what. As I had considered that point at large upon my first coming to the see of London, and had laid before the King and Council what appeared to me to be most material, give me leave to lay before you a Copy of that Address to which I shall only add a short account of what pass'd upon the Occasion.

Soon after I was made Bishop of London, I went to wait upon the King, and laid before him the state of religion in the Plantations, & the necessity there was of having a Bishop settled in those parts; His Majesty heard me very graciously, upon which I asked him whether I might apply to his ministers, he consented to it, but I never cou'd have an opportunity of meeting with the ministers, After frequent delays, and no hopes of success, I waited upon the King again, and had his leave to acquaint the Ministers that it was His Majesty's pleasure they should take this affair into their consideration, this produced a meeting at Newcastle House. The meeting produced nothing—The last effort I made was by desiring the King's consent, that I might lay what I had to propose, To His

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Majesty in Council, which accordingly was done six or seven years ago, and I have heard nothing of it since.

It may be asked perhaps, why the present Bishop of London could not go on with the Jurisdiction abroad, as his Predecessors had done, ever since the settling of the Colonies.

My answer is, that if the Jurisdiction had come to me upon the foot of customary usage, as it had done to my Predecessors, till Bishop Gibson's time, I should have made no difficulty of acting upon that foot, and I doubt not but those who come after me would have gone on in the same way, but when Bishop Gibson, for reasons best known to himself, applyed for a Patent, and the consideration thereof was referred to the Attorney and Solicitor General, and they reported that the Jurisdiction was in the Crown, and that the Bishop of London had no right to meddle, it was time for me to consider the danger that attends the invasion of the Prerogative of the Crown, which could not be avoided but by accepting a Patent of like form with that which was granted before, which I judged not proper for me to do, I am, My Lords, &c.,


Fulham the 19th Feb: 1759.