RepositoryLambeth Palace Library
Alt Ref NoFP I-XL
Extent40 volumes
TitleFulham Papers Colonial
DescriptionThe two main divisions of the documents are General Correspondence (vols. i to xx) and Ordination Papers, subsequent to 1748 (vols. xxi to xxxii). Within the first of these divisions, the papers are arranged by colony and by date within each colony. The colonies are presented alphabetically within two sections, the continental colonies and the West Indies. While perhaps less logical than a geographical or historical order, this arrangement has been adopted because of its greater convenience for reference.
Volumes XXI-XXXII: Ordination Papers
These are testimonials and other documents presented to the Bishop of London by candidates for ordination, or by ordained clergymen seeking licences for the colonies. Their systematic preservation was begun by Bishop Sherlock, so this section starts in 1748. Such scattered testimonials as occur earlier have been filed with the general correspondence. Even in Bishop Sherlock's time the distinction was not always strictly maintained. Letters of testimonial sometimes contained references to other matters. In such cases the decision to file than with the ordination papers or with the general correspondence has depended on which interest seemed to predominate.
The full set of documents required of a candidate for ordination included:
A testimonial from three or more clergymen who had known him personally for some time.
A certificate showing date of birth or baptism.
A certificate of education.
A document known as a si quis which certified that the candidate's intention to seek ordination had been announced in his parish church on three successive Sundays and no objection had been raised.
A firm promise of some ecclesiastical appointment, known technically as a 'Title'.
Bishop Porteus was the first to insist on always receiving the full complement of documents in strict form from colonial candidates, but a trend to formalization is evident under his predecessors. The policy of his successors is not certain, for only a few of the ordination papers presented to them appear in this section of the Fulham Papers.
Other documents sometimes appear besides those formally required. There may be letters or notes from the candidate himself, letters of introduction not explicit enough to be regarded as testimonials, or letters identifying the signers of the testimonials. When the testimonial is from English clergymen, a formal identification by their bishop is usually attached to the document itself. Similar identification is sometimes supplied by the governor or commissary for colonial clergy. In cases of defective title there is sometimes a bond indemnifying the bishop against any claims that might arise as the result of his ordaining the candidate without sufficient title. Some of these are filed with the Missionary Bonds (vols. xxxiii-xxxv). In a few cases there are letters protesting against the candidate's ordination on moral or educational grounds.
Ordained clergymen seeking licences for the colonies were required to present formal testimonials and evidence of title. Since their dates of ordination and the names of the ordaining bishops are usually noted on the margins of one or the other of these documents, it may be inferred that they were required to show their letters of orders to the bishop's secretary.
Because of the formal nature of the documents, it has not been thought necessary to summarize them as fully as the general correspondence. They are grouped under the names of the candidates, arranged alphabetically within each year within the colony to which the certificate of title or other document shows that the ordinand went. Any information supplied concerning birth (indicated by 'b'), education ('ed.'), or initial appointment, as shown by title ('t.'), is noted. The initials 'Society for the Propagation of the Gospel' following the 't' mean that the appointment was from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Notice is also taken of any significant additional information that may be given concerning the candidate, or unrelated matters. The year shown in the margin is that of the last dated document relating to a candidate, even though this particular document is not mentioned in the summary.
Because of the distance that they had to travel, candidates from the colonies were usually ordained deacon and priest within a short period and one set of documents served for both ordinations. There was an increasing tendency in the West Indies, however, during the latter part of the period covered by the documents, for two ordinations to be separated by a year or more. In such cases, a separate set of papers was presented for each ordination. These are filed under the year of the last dated document for each ordination. A note in parenthesis Indicates whether deacon's or priest's ordination is involved.
Volumes XXXIII-XXXVI: Missionary Bonds
These are bonds that were posted by ministers receiving the King's bounty for emigration to the colonies. They begin in 1748, under Bishop Sherlock, and continue until 1811, under Bishop Randolph. In a few cases bonds are included indemnifying the bishop for ordaining a candidate without a sufficient title. These are marked '(indemnity)' in the following list. The bonds are arranged by year within each colony and alphabetically, by the names of the ministers, within each year. In some cases, the bonds indicate that the minister has been licensed for a group of colonies, such as New England, or the West Indies, and in a few instances, the licences extend to all of North America.
Volumes xxxvi contains correspondence relating to the colonies generally and a few letters applying to specific colonies, which were located too late to be bound in the appropriate volume. Volume xxxvii, entitled 'Diocesan Book for the Plantations', is a list of parishes and incumbents, with descriptive notes, compiled during Bishop Gibson's episcopate. Volumes xxxviii and xxxix are lists of ordinands and licensees during the episcopates of Bishops Sherlock, Terrick, and Lowth, with a few from the times of Bishops Gibson and Porteus. Volume x1 contains written and printed pamphlets which were found with the letters.
The papers contain numerous lists of clergy and public officials, petitions, memorials, and other documents containing the names of many individuals, usually, though not always, persons of standing in the colonies. Though, as already noted, regular parochial reports were not sent to the bishop, there were brief periods, in the Bahamas and Nevis when records of baptisms, marriages, and burials were sent home and have been preserved.
At the beginning of his episcopate, in 1723, Bishop Edmund Gibson sent some printed queries to be answered by all the colonial clergy. The replies present an interesting picture of provincial Church life.
To be answer'd by every MINISTER
1. How long is it, since you went over to the Plantations as a Missionary?
2. Have you had any other Church, before you came to that which you now possess; and if you had, what Church was it, and how long have you been remov'd?
3. Have you been duly Licens'd by the Bishop of London to officiate as a Missionary, in the Government where you now are?
4. How long have you been Inducted into your Living?
5. Are you ordinarily Resident in the Parish to which you have been Inducted?
6. Of what Extent is your Parish, and how many Families are there in it?
7. Are there any Infidels, bond or free, within your Parish; and what means are us'd for their Conversion?
8. How oft is divine Service perform'd in your Church? And what Proportion of the Parishioners attend it?
9. How oft is the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper administer'd? And what is the usual Number of Communicants?
10. At what times do you Catechise the Youth of your Parish?
11. Are all things duly dispos'd and provided in the Church, for the decent and orderly Performance of divine Service?
12. Of what Value is your Living in Sterling-Money, and how does it arise?
13. Have you a House and Glebe? Is your Glebe in Lease, or let by the Year? Or is it occupied by your self?
14. Is due Care taken to preserve your House in good Repair? And at whose Expence is it done?
15. Have you more Cures than one? If you have, what are they? And in what Manner serv'd?
16. Have you in your Parish any publick School for the Instruction of Youth? If you have, is it endow'd? And who is the Master?
17. Have you a Parochial Library? If you have, are the Books preserv'd, and kept in good Condition? Have you any particular Rules and Orders for the preserving of them? Are those Rules and Orders duly observ'd?
Though sent out in 1723, the queries were returned during 1724, and are grouped together at the end of that year in each colony.
ArrangementMost of the colonial series was sorted by Professor Manross prior to the completion of his calendar (covering volumes 1-40), and were arranged according to colony (America) and island (West Indies) in three principal series: correspondence, ordination papers and missionary bonds.

Numbers in parentheses are those of leaves in the original documents. Volumes are indicated by roman figures.
I. Canada: Newfoundland, 1711-undated (1-65)
Nova Scotia, 1729-86 (66-105)
Quebec, 1764-undated (106-202)
Connecticut, 1708-undated (203-319)
II. Delaware, 1717-43 (1-15)
Florida, 1699-1777 (16-23)
Georgia, 1735-76 (24-45)
Maryland (i) 1694-1719 (46-267)
III. (ii) 1720-undated (1-248)
IV. Massachusetts (i) 1698-1729 (1-321)
V. (ii) 1730-50 (1-335)
VI. (iii) 1751-undated (1-93)
New Hampshire, 1711/12-71 (94-123)
New Jersey, 1703-67 (124-73)
New York, 1686-1761 (174-205)
North Carolina, 1711/12-undated (206-359)
VII. Pennsylvania (i) 1680-1762 (1-341)
VIII. (ii) 1763-undated (1-96)
Rhode Island, 1705-37 (97-341)
IX. South Carolina (i) 1703-34 (1-314)
X. (ii) 1735-undated (1-259)
XI. Virginia (i) 1626-1723 (1-319)
XII. (ii) 1724-43 (1-309)
XIII. (iii) 1744-60 (1-293)
XIV. (iv) 1761-undated (1-306)
XV. Bahamas, 1721-undated (1-124)
Barbados (i) 1704-30 (125-295)
XVI. (ii) 1731-undated (1-230)
XVII. Bermuda, 1695-undated (1-92)
Jamaica (i) 1661-1739 (93-292)
XVIII. (ii) 1740-undated (1-242)
XIX. Leeward Islands (i) 1681-1749 (1-286)
XX. Leeward Islands (ii) 1750-undated (1-104)
Virgin Islands, 1788 (105-7)
Windward Islands, 1785-undated (108-87)
West Indies, General, 1788-undated (188-212)
XXI. Canada: Newfoundland, 1752-1802 (1-20)
(XXIII) Nova Scotia, 1751-97 (101-62)
XXI. Quebec, 1772-undated (21-25)
Connecticut, 1751-72 (26-98)
Delaware, 1774 (99-109)
Florida, 1764-76 (110-29)
Georgia, 1750-73 (130-63)
Maryland (i) 1748-67 (164-301)
XXII. (ii) 1768-83 (1-135)
Massachusetts, 1754-73 (136-212)
New Hampshire, 1766-72 (213-20)
New Jersey, 1749-73 (221-75)
New York, 1764-82 (276-324)
XXIII. North Carolina, 1753-74 (1-100)
Pennsylvania, 1749-74 (163-225)
Rhode Island, 1754-67 (226-31)
South Carolina, 1750-75 (232-71)
XXIV. Virginia (i) 1747-64 (1-233)
XXV. (ii) 1765-70 (1-261)
XXVI. (iii) 1771-5 (1-254)
XXVII. Bahamas, 1760-1819 (1-38)
Barbados (i) 1750-90 (39-315)
XXVIII. (ii) 1793-1819 (1-269)
Bermuda, 1755-1801 (270-311)
XXIX. Jamaica (i) 1749-93 (1-264)
XXX. (ii) 1795-1822 (1-161)
Leeward Islands (i) 1749-73 (162-268)
XXXI. (ii) 1774-1819 (1-213)
Virgin Islands, 1764-98 (214-56)
XXXII. Windward Islands, 1764-1810 (1-185)
SECTION C. LOCATION UNCERTAIN, 1730-1821-undated (186-284)
XXXIII. Canada: 1766-96 (1-9)
Newfoundland, 1751-1802 (213-33)
Nova Scotia, 1749-97 (285-321)
(XXXIV) Canada: Quebec, 1775-88 (32-34)
XXXIII. Connecticut, 1761-74 (10-20)
Florida, 1764-73 (21-33)
Georgia, 1750-81 (34-48)
Maryland, 1748-76 (49-108)
Massachusetts, 1754-70 (109-16)
New England, 1752-74 (117-62)
New Hampshire, 1767-75 (163-6)
New Jersey, 1749-73 (167-96)
New York, 1756-81 (197-212)
North America, 1764-73 (234-9)
North Carolina, 1748-76 (240-84)
XXXIV. Pennsylvania, 1750-74 (1-31)
Rhode Island, 1754-67 (35-38)
South Carolina, 1749-75 (39-117)
Virginia, 1748-76 (118-305)
XXXV. Antigua, 1748-94 (1-26)
Bahamas, 1749-1802 (27-58)
Barbados, 1750-1810 (59-129)
Bermuda, 1755-1801 (130-43)
Dominica, 1770-1801 (144-56)
Grenada, 1764-1801 (157-65)
Jamaica, 1749-1808 (166-244)
Leeward Islands, 1767-9 (245-8)
Montserrat, 1750-1802 (249-55)
Mosquito Shore, 1768-74 (256-7)
Nevis, 1773-1805 (258-62)
St. Christopher's, 1753-96 (263-81)
St. Vincent, 1777-1811 (282-8)
Tobago, 1764-99 (289-94)
Tortola, 1789-98 (295-8)
XXXVI. West Indies, General, 1761-9 (299-303)
Nova Scotia (242-5)
Connecticut (246-50)
Georgia, (251-8)
Maryland (259-71)
Massachusetts (272-4)
New Hampshire (275)
New York (276-87)
Rhode Island (288-93)
South Carolina (294-8)
Barbados (299-300)
Jamaica (301-7)
Leeward Islands (308)
Windward Islands (309)
XL. Nos. 1-357
FindingAidsDescriptions for the colonial records (volumes 1-40) in calendar by Dr. William Wilson Manross, Professor of Church History at the Philadelphia Divinity School, Research Fellow of General Theological Seminary, 'The Fulham Papers in the Lambeth Palace Library. American colonial section. Calendar and indexes' (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1965).
The word 'dissenters' is used in the summaries only when it occurs in the original documents. Whenever a specific denomination is mentioned, its name is given. Where the eighteenth-century usage differs from the present (e.g. 'Independent' for 'Congregational'), the term actually used is repeated in the summaries. Special mention should perhaps be made of the common practice of referring to the New England churches as 'Presbyterian'. Though confusing, this usage was not as careless as might be supposed. New England Congregationalism, while never abandoning its basic principle entirely, showed a strong Presbyterianizing tendency in the eighteenth century. There is a record in the documents (ix. 133-4) of an instance in which the Congregational ministers of Boston ordained a minister for a Presbyterian church in Charleston.
Notes on the documents made by other than the original hand are mentioned in the summaries only when there is good reason to believe them contemporaneous with the original document. Then they are identified by the word 'notation'. Notes made on the documents by later users have been ignored.
Eighteenth-century spelling was more elastic than that which came to prevail in the nineteenth century, though probably more strict than in previous centuries. Except in direct quotation, no attempt is made to preserve deviations from the standard spelling of common words. Proper names, whether of persons or places, are spelled as given in the document being summarized even when this differs from the spelling in other documents.
As long as the Julian calendar continued in use (until 1754), it was uncertain whether the new year began on January 1 or the feast of the Annunciation (March 25). It was customary to show both possible years in writing first (or last) quarter dates. When this is done in the originals, the date is reproduced in the summaries with a slant between the two digits (e.g. 1727/8). In such cases, of course, the later year is the one that agrees with our present reckoning. When only one year is given, that is reproduced, unless some specific reference or a connexion with other documents proves that the letter belongs to the later year. Then that is shown in parenthesis (e.g. 1727(8)). It is possible, even probable, that the later year is meant in other cases, but it has been thought best not to emend without having a definite reason for doing so. Undated documents are placed at the end of those for each colony, unless their dates can be established by strong internal or external evidence. In giving the day of the month, the descriptions followe the American custom of stating the month first. The documents themselves are about equally divided between the two usages.

Descriptions available on the National Archives Discovery site <> as well as the Library catalogue.

Descriptions for FP 38 augmented by card index at Lambeth Palace Library (also referring to FP 42; MS 2589; FP Hayter 1; FP Terrick 7, 9, 10).

For descriptions of material while it was at Fulham Palace, see Charles M. Andrews and Frances G. Davenport, eds., 'Guide to the manuscript materials for the history of the United States to 1783, in the British Museum, in minor London archives, and the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge' (Washington, D.C., 1908), pp. 302-329, which also refers to arrangements for storing and consulting the documents at that date.
PhysicalDescriptionThese papers were bound in the early 1960s.
CreatorNameDiocese of London: Bishop
AdminHistoryFrom the last quarter of the seventeenth century until the end of the colonial period in the United States and until the appointment of colonial bishops in the remaining British provinces in America, the belief prevailed that the colonial Church was, in some undetermined way, under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. It resulted in an extensive correspondence between the colonial clergy and the bishop.
This correspondence did not include regular reports of parochial activity. It did deal with most of the important problems and issues confronting the colonial Church. The bishop usually had at least one regular correspondent (the commissary, if there was one) in every colony, and he might have several others. Any major controversy, or one which seemed major to the participants, resulted in an increased flow of communication. Candidates for ordination or licensing had to present testimonials and other documents which became more standardized as time went on and which form a separate section of the papers after 1748.
The total correspondence, which forms the American colonial section of the Fulham Papers in the Lambeth Palace Library, gives such an extensive picture of the colonial Church as to form one of the basic collections of sources for its history. While its provenance is primarily ecclesiastical, it contains enough information about colonial society, politics, and economics, and about religious bodies other than the Church of England, to be of great value for colonial history in general.
A commission issued by Charles I to Bishop William Laud when he held the see of London is sometimes cited as a precedent for the Bishop of London's supposed colonial jurisdiction (cf. viii. 311-12), but the evidence of documents in the present collection makes it probable that it began with Bishop Henry Compton (1675-1713). The fact that Charles II issued a commission to Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon to govern the Church in Virginia and other parts of America (xxxvi. 3-10) shows that, at one time, the Restoration government looked to Canterbury rather than London as the proper source of ecclesiastical authority in the provinces. There is no evidence that Selden did anything with the power conferred on him, though a suffragan was tentatively appointed for Virginia.
From copies of records probably collected for Bishop Gibson, it appears that on January 24, 1675(6), the Committee on Trade and Plantations directed that inquiry be made into the Bishop of London's colonial jurisdiction (xxxvi. 11-12). If the year of this action is 1676 by present reckoning, as seems probable, it shows that Bishop Compton instituted an inquiry into his colonial jurisdiction shortly after he came to the see. The wording of the minute implies that the jurisdiction is thought to be in existence, but a little less than ten years later, April 15, 1685, a minute of the same committee records that they received a letter from Bishop Compton proposing that he be granted ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the West Indies probably used for all of the American colonies), except for disposal of parishes, licences for marriage, and probate of wills, matters already controlled by the governors. They voted to take the proposal under further consideration.
A similar contradiction appears in some extracts of letters from Bishop Compton supplied to Bishop Gibson on May 11, 1723, by W. Hall, probably from records in the colonial office, of which he was an official (xxxvi. 48-49). The earliest of these, to Governor Berkeley of Virginia, March 26, 1676, says that the bishop has colonial jurisdiction. The latest, to Governor Lord Effingham of the same colony, September 14, 1685, says that it has recently been granted him by James II.
A printed account of Bishop Gibson's procedure in seeking a commission granting him ecclesiastical authority in the colonies says that he searched the Council Books of Charles II, 'page by page', without finding the Order in Council that was supposed to grant colonial jurisdiction to the Bishop of London (xxxvi. 111-12). From the foregoing references it seems that such an order was more likely to have been issued by James II than by Charles II, but it has never been found in the records of either reign.
Bishop Compton was suspended in 1686 for refusing to inhibit a clergyman who had preached a controversial sermon against Roman Catholics in defiance of a royal order. The administration of the Diocese of London was entrusted to a group of commissioners. In a letter to Bishop Gibson, November 3, 1725 (xv. 227-32), Commissary William Gordon of Barbados cited an Order in Council, dated October 27, 1686, granting colonial jurisdiction to the commissioners. As Gordon had recently been engaged in a legal action in which the bishop's jurisdiction was a crucial issue, it seems probable that the document had been discovered by his counsel.
This evidence suggests a conjectural reconstruction which has some plausibility. The inquiry instituted in 1675, it is supposed, was either not pursued or led to the conclusion that the bishop had no valid colonial jurisdiction. The fact that such authority is applied for as a new thing in 1685 seems to support the second supposition. The gap of nearly a decade between the two actions suggests that Bishop Compton found that Charles II was unwilling to extend his jurisdiction but had reason to expect that James II would be more favourable. In this connexion, some significance may attach to the fact that the clause, which was to become standard in instructions to governors, requiring them to respect the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, except for collating to benefices, issuing marriage licences, and probating wills, makes its first appearance, in 1686, in instructions issued to Governor Dongan of James's proprietary colony of New York.
This instruction, the letter of Bishop Compton to Lord Effingham mentioned above, and the authority issued to the diocesan commissioners all provide evidence that the King approved of the bishop's application. It seems to be a reasonable inference that he had authorized the Catalogueding of an order which would give legal force to his approval, but that it had not been issued before the bishop's suspension. While the authority issued to the commissioners provides evidence of the royal intention, its legal validity if any, ended with the termination of the commission. (In a summary of his actions with regard to the colonies in Lambeth Palace Library, but not with the Fulham Papers, Bishop Compton states that the jurisdiction was granted to him by James II.)
The accession of William III restored Compton to his see and to royal favour. He resumed his colonial jurisdiction at the same time, evidently considering it to have been sufficiently established by whatever happened before his suspension. The continuance in the instructions issued to governors of the direction to respect the bishop's jurisdiction shows that the new régime was willing to accept that jurisdiction as existing de facto, but no new authorization was issued. This situation continued through the episcopates of Bishop Compton and his successor, Bishop John Robinson, but a controversy which developed in Barbados during Bishop Robinson's last years resulted in a basic challenge to his authority.
That dispute had its origin in island politics and in personal tension between Governor Robert Lowther and Commissary William Gordon. Its immediate occasion was the calling of a commissarial court by Gordon to void a licence issued by the governor to authorize a bigamous marriage (xv. 201-2). This was a dubious exercise of commissarial authority, since the issuing of marriage licences was one of the functions of the ordinary that were expressly reserved to the governor in his instructions. It did not, however, provide the governor with a very good position to defend, since the licence in question was clearly illegal. It was natural, therefore, that the issue should be widened. A fear of the laity that they might be disciplined by ecclesiastical courts was exploited to get a law forbidding the issuing of any ecclesiastical citation or process (xxxvi. 61-62). Governor Lowther challenged Bishop Robinson to show on what basis he claimed to have any jurisdiction in the island at all.
When Gordon, replying on the bishop's behalf, appealed to the governor's instructions, Lowther retorted that these did not confer any jurisdiction but either assumed its existence or implied an intention to create it, and that they only required that it be respected so far as might be convenient in local circumstances (xv. 143-8, 217-22). He might have added, had it been politically expedient to do so, that basing the bishop's jurisdiction on the governor's instructions was merely using one uncertainty to support another, for the legal effect of such instructions was never determined.
The governor brought charges against Gordon in England which he had to go home to answer. The court acquitted him of impropriety in exercising his commissarial powers, but refrained from considering the question of the bishop's jurisdiction.
As a result of this dispute and other opposition, Bishop Robinson presented a petition to the Crown. It is not preserved in the documents and its precise nature is not stated, but, under the circumstances, it may be assumed to have sought some confirmation of his authority. It was returned, through Gordon, by a 'Great Man' with the comment that 'they' had no wish to meddle with the bishop's jurisdiction, but would thank him to withdraw his memorial (xv. 227-32).
After Lowther had been recalled, a special meeting of the assembly repealed a previous resolution attacking Gordon (xv. 154), but when he sued the governor for slander because of charges against his character in a letter to Bishop Robinson, he lost the case in the colonial courts (xv. 217-22). Lowther did not attempt to prove his accusations, but justified the letter as part of his controversy with the bishop. It seems reasonable to conclude that, while holding Gordon personally free from blame, the islanders believed the former governor to have been right on the basic issue.
When he received Bishop Gibson's queries, Gordon submitted them to Governor Henry Worsley (xv. 163-4). Though, as other letters in the collection show, Worsley was on friendly personal terms with Bishop Gibson (xv. 159-62, 174-7), he replied that, as the bishop's circular letter showed that he himself was uncertain of his jurisdiction, the queries should be received as private communications to be treated with the respect due to the bishop's personal character (xv. 168-9). In a representation presented to George I shortly after coming to the see, Bishop Gibson, besides referring to the Barbadan dispute, noted that recent instructions to governors had directed them to secure the removal of immoral ministers, thus, by implication, denying the bishop's jurisdiction even over the clergy (xxxvi. 61-62).
Under these circumstances, Bishop Gibson could hardly continue to exercise colonial jurisdiction solely on the ground of general acceptance. He caused a legal search to be made into the basis of his supposed authority. Most of the evidence previously cited was probably uncovered in this search. Since it failed to bring to light any official sanction for his putative jurisdiction, he applied to have such authority conferred on him by a royal commission. Such a commission was issued in the closing years of the reign of George I and reissued, with slight modification, by George II. It granted the bishop jurisdiction over the clergy only. Having been informed of the strong antipathy of the laity in all the provinces to any sort of ecclesiastical discipline, the bishop refrained from asking for any authority over them (xxxvi. 105-12).
In spite of scruples subsequently expressed by Bishop Sherlock, there is no real reason for doubting that the jurisdiction conferred by this commission was canonically valid, but it was conferred on Bishop Gibson personally, not on the Bishop of London ex officio. When Bishop Thomas Sherlock succeeded Bishop Gibson in 1748, he made a strenuous but unsuccessful attempt to secure the appointment of suffragan bishops for the colonies. He declined to seek a commission such as that held by Bishop Gibson on the ground that questions touching the royal prerogative had been raised in connexion with it (vi. 270-5; xxxvi. 136-51).
The effect of his refusal to accept any colonial jurisdiction is shown in the Fulham Papers, for the general correspondence breaks off almost entirely in some, though not all, of the colonies during his episcopate. On the other hand, systematic filing of papers presented by those seeking ordination or licensing for the colonies begins in his time (xxii-xxxiii). Having foregone other authority, he evidently sought to increase the effectiveness of the only power remaining, that of exerting an initial control over the character of the clergy who went to the plantations.
Bishop Sherlock's successor, Thomas Hayter, died within a year of his succession. Bishop Richard Osbaldeston lived only two years after his translation in 1762, but even within that brief period, a noticeable increase in the correspondence reflects a renewed concern for colonial affairs. Bishop Richard Terrick (1764-77) showed a paternal regard for the colonial Church, but he made no serious claim to jurisdiction. Responding to an appeal from the clergy of Barbados in 1771, occasioned by an act of sacrilege committed by a colonial official, he wrote that he was always glad to aid the clergy, 'whether within my diocese at home, or in the more distant parts, which by long usage have been considered, as having a more particular relation to the Bishop of London, than to any other Bishop'. The American Revolution, which began during Bishop Terrick's episcopate, ended even this vague relationship with the Church in the United States. A colonial bishop was appointed for Nova Scotia in 1787 and for Canada in 1793, so that the West Indies became the sole remaining American concern of the Bishop of London. In 1824, they also obtained bishops.
Of the prelates who held the see after Bishop Terrick and before the West Indies were provided for, Bishop Beilby Porteus is shown by the correspondence to have taken most interest in them. This interest was the result of his concern for the religious instruction of the slaves. He made no claim to jurisdiction and declined it on two occasions when it was tendered him (xv. 100-21; xviii. 104-5). Bishop William Howley (1813-28) was the last one under whom the question of colonial authority could arise. In a letter written June 11, 1818, to an unnamed correspondent, evidently connected with the colonial office, he observed that, strictly speaking, the Bishop of London had no foreign jurisdiction, since he had no power to give effect to his decisions, but that, traditionally, whatever jurisdiction was not conferred on someone else belonged to him, and that no one else should ordain clergy for the colonies.
This right to exert an initial control over the selection of clergy for the plantations, through ordination or licensing, was the only constant element in the bishop's supposed authority over the colonies. Even this was occasionally challenged or slighted (iii. 197-8; xviii. 5-6), but such occurrences were exceptional. The evidence just reviewed seems to justify the conclusion that, apart from this power, Bishop Gibson alone had any canonically valid jurisdiction in the American colonies. Bishops Compton and Robinson exercised a certain amount of de facto jurisdiction. Bishop Sherlock and his successors cannot be said to have had even that, since they did not claim it, and made no provision for its exercise.
Those bishops who did attempt to maintain some colonial jurisdiction acted through representatives called 'commissaries'. This odd title may have been adopted by Bishop Compton to indicate that their position did not coincide with any office previously known in the Church, but that is a conjecture. William Gordon, in his account of the bishop's jurisdiction (xv. 227-32), says that Compton named commissaries for Virginia and Barbados before his suspension, but that event prevented their appointments from taking effect. He began the regular appointment of commissaries in 1689 and the practice was continued through Bishop Gibson's time. It was discontinued thereafter in most colonies. In Virginia, where the post was provided for by colonial law, commissaries were appointed but without the formal commission which the title implied. Their function was restricted largely to certifying candidates for ordination from the colony.
The wording of the commissions, when they were issued, varied from time to time. They were seldom, if ever, sufficiently specific in indicating the powers and duties of the official appointed. The commissaries were thus in the difficult position of having an uncertain delegation of an authority that was itself uncertain. Even this limited power might be further restricted or nullified altogether by provincial laws or administrative practices. In Jamaica the exercise of any ecclesiastical jurisdiction was forbidden by a law enacted in 1681 (xvii. 207-8). This was modified in 1748 by a law granting the bishop authority over the clergy only (xviii. 23-26). As this was the year of Bishop Gibson's death, the new law gave recognition to the jurisdiction of a bishop (Sherlock) who did not believe that he had any. Fifty years later, the colonial agent in London expressed the opinion that the power granted had never been used (xviii. 100-1).
The restriction of the bishop's authority to the clergy was effected in all the colonies, by law or custom, long before Bishop Gibson conceded it in applying for his commission. One of the first and best known of the commissaries, James Blair of Virginia, who was appointed in 1689 and served under three bishops, made a brave attempt to establish some discipline among the laity at the beginning of his tenure. He was rebuked by the governor and council and advised by the bishop to desist (xi. 221-2).
Since most moral offences were still dealt with by ecclesiastical courts in England, this had the effect of leaving the colonies with no legal regulation of personal morals except such as might be found in the common law. This provided penalties for the parents of illegitimate children, but they were held to apply only when the child was likely to become a public charge (xv. 153). In most of the continental colonies, but not in the West Indies, the canonical regulation of morals was replaced by statutes of varying extent and strictness.
After he gave up hope of obtaining colonial bishops, at least for the time being, Bishop Sherlock addressed a circular letter to the former commissaries asking how they had functioned (xxxvi. 150-1). The replies received may have convinced him of the impossibility of exercising effective jurisdiction in the colonies, even with a commission.
The commissary in Maryland had been prevented from acting at all because of a dispute between Bishop Gibson and the then Lord Baltimore, who had challenged even the generally accepted view that colonial clergy required the bishop's licence (iii. 197-8). Three Boston clergy gave three different views of the activity of Roger Price, the commissary for New England. Timothy Cutler, the rector of Christ Church, thought that he had started to investigate charges against two clergymen who had terminated proceedings by leaving the colony (vi. 5-6). Henry Caner, rector of King's Chapel, thought that he had never qualified properly by exhibiting his commission to the governor and taking the required oaths (vi. 7-8). Charles Brockwell, assistant in King's Chapel, thought that Price's own canonical irregularities prevented his being very strict with others (vi. 9-10).
Robert Jenney, rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, and commissary for Pennsylvania and Delaware, had been able to do little with his commission, because no one respected it. It was held by many that the Church existed in Pennsylvania only on sufferance from the proprietor and that it had no canonical authority there (vii. 314-15).
Alexander Garden, the South Carolina commissary, was probably the most active. He had started proceedings against four clergymen. Two had resigned rather than face trial. The other two he had suspended. One of them was the most famous person ever to be subject to commissarial action, George Whitefield. His case might have resulted in a clear definition of the commissary's power if it had been pushed to a conclusion, but it was not. Garden prosecuted him for officiating in a dissenting meeting-house. Whitefield appealed to the court provided in Bishop Gibson's commission, but did not press his appeal, merely ignoring Garden's suspension of him (x. 134-5).
From Virginia Commissary William Dawson reported that he had held one court, but had doubts of the procedure. He added that, in his predecessor's (Blair's) time, complaints against the clergy had been heard by the governor and council (xiii. 45-46). This is contrary to earlier statements of Blair's concerning his own procedure (xii. 3-4), but it may have been true in his closing years, the only period of which Dawson would have had personal knowledge. If so, it meant that Blair had surrendered his commissarial power to the civil government.
The commissary in Barbados, Thomas Barnard, reported favourably on conditions on the island, but gave no specific information about his own function (xvi. 81-82). From other documents in the collection we know that earlier commissaries, William Gordon and William Johnson, were prevented from functioning by the refusal of the governors to publish the bishop's commission. In 1735 Bishop Gibson obtained a specific direction from the colonial office that this should be done (xvi. 67-68). The only indication which the papers give as to the effect of this order is a statement made in 1765, on the basis of personal recollection, that Commissary Johnson had proceeded against and censured one clergyman (xvi. 103-8).
William May, the commissary in Jamaica, said that he held annual visitations at which the clergy assembled at his house. After they had attended church he heard complaints, made a short speech, and entertained them at dinner. If there were any complaints, he admonished the offenders (xviii. 53-54). As the act of 1681 was still in force, and the preamble of the act of 1748 clearly states that the Bishop of London has not previously been allowed any jurisdiction in the island, this must have all been done on a voluntary basis, supported by the high personal regard in which May seems to have been held by nearly everyone.
From the Leeward Islands, Commissary Francis Byam reported that he did not believe that he really had any power. His commission gave him authority to suspend, subject to final decision by the bishop, but the colonial laws did not provide for the deprivation of suspended clergymen. To the type of minister who needed disciplining, suspension would merely have provided an opportunity to hold his living without having to officiate, but if he did choose to officiate, there was no way in which the sentence could be enforced. Byam had kept these thoughts to himself and he thought that the general belief that he did have some power had enabled him to maintain a certain degree of discipline (xx. 9-10).
As is shown by the Jamaica act of 1748 and others by which jurisdiction over the clergy is conceded to the Bishop of London, the laity, while unwilling to submit to any ecclesiastical discipline themselves, desired to see the clergy under sufficient control to keep them from at least the more scandalous offences. To this end various acts were passed subjecting ministers to lay officials. These were opposed by the clergy and disallowed at home as contrary to the basic principle of episcopal polity and as impinging on the royal prerogative. The result was that discipline over the clergy, precarious and uncertain when there was a commissary, ceased to exist altogether when there was none.
In the absence of reliable statistics it cannot be categorically stated that this produced a higher incidence of immorality among the colonial clergy than prevailed in England at the time, or in the Church at other periods. What is certain is that clergymen who were guilty of scandalous offences might remain in the ministry and in their cures for many years, simply because no one had the power to remove them. As the scandal created by one or two such men could impair the reputation of the whole body, generalized charges of immorality against the clergy must be received with a certain caution, even when they come from responsible and not notably censorious witnesses. On the other hand, it is certainly a mistake to base an estimate solely on cases in which charges were formally brought and proven, since the opportunity for such a procedure frequently did not exist.
It may not be out of place to consider the relevance of the facts just summarized to a perennial issue in America canon law. In view of the complete rejection of English canon law in some colonies, the rejection of that large part of it applicable to the laity in all, the existence of a canonically valid jurisdiction only from 1729 to 1748, the very limited effectiveness of that at its strongest, and the absence after 1748 of even a de facto authority by which any canon could be enforced or any canonical dispute adjudicated, the doctrine, upheld by many American canonists, that English canon law extended to the colonies and was inherited by the American Episcopal Church, without re-enactment, would seem to be founded on an historical illusion.
CustodialHistoryFor purposes of calendaring and indexing, every leaf of the documents was numbered. These numbers, which are in pencil, appear in the upper right-hand corner on the face of the leaf. As there have been previous attempts of unknown date to number the documents, prior to arrangement, all numbers but those described should be disregarded.
CopiesMicropublication of the Fulham Papers (American and Colonial: vols. 1-42) may be purchased from World Microfilms Publications. Copies of the microfilms may be available in other libraries including a number of American Libraries.

Copies are also available from the British Library Microform Research Collections:

Lambeth Palace Library microfilm: MS Film 752-770.
RelatedMaterialTwo further volumes, FP 41 and FP 42, containing further colonial papers, were added in the 1970s. Included in the additional volumes 41-42 (as noted in Thomas Nelson Rightmyer, 'Fulham Papers Volumes XLI & XLII: An Addition to Manross', in Anglican and Episcopal History, vol. 62, 1993, p. 238) are:
responses of the following New York clergy to Bishop Gibson's questionnaire about the state of the church: John Thomas, Hampstead; Thomas Foyer, Jamaica; Peter Stoupe, New Rochelle; William Vesey, New York; Robert Jenney, Rye; John Bartow, Westchester; and William Harrison, Staten Island;
much of William Vesey's correspondence as Commissary;
questions about application of English canon law to the American situation: baptizing with parents as sponsors, marriage to deceased wife's sister;
biographical information on William Harrison, John Ross, and others;
letters from Alexander Campbell, with as close to a confession of wrongdoing as he was probably able to make;
the proposed New York Presbyterian church's royal charter and letters and papers about its defeat;
copies of the 1770 correspondence between Virginia Council President Nelson and Lord Hillsborough about the power of the Virginia Courts over clergy;
a list with dates of clergy licensed to North America by Bishop Gibson, 1723-48.

Also Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG); MS 1123; MS 1124.
PublnNoteJames B. Bell, "Anglican clergy in colonial America ordained by Bishops of London", 'Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society', April 1973, pp. 103-161 [H5133 1076.20]. Partly based on the Fulham Papers American section.
Gillian Bickley, 'Journeys with a mission: travel journals: the Right Revd George Smith, first bishop of Victoria' (Hong Kong Proverse, Hong Kong, 2018).
Denzil T. Clifton, "Anglicanism and Negro Slavery in Colonial America", 'Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church', Vol. 39, No. 1 (March 1970), pp. 29-70 [Lambeth Palace Library H5800.(P7)], also available via:
Jessica M. Parr, 'Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon' (2015)
Parrish, David, 'Jacobitism and anti-Jacobitism in the British Atlantic World, 1688-1727' (Woodbridge, 2017) [Lambeth Palace Library KA813.P2]
A. W. Rutledge, "The Second St. Philip's, Charleston, 1710-1835", 'Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians', vol. 18, no. 3 (Oct 1959), pp.112-14 [Z664.L2 2.11].

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