Makemie, Francis (DNB00)
|←Major, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 35
MAKEMIE, FRANCIS (1668–1708), Irish divine, was born near the town of Ramelton, co. Donegal, in 1668. At the age of fifteen he came under deep religious impressions through the influence of his school-master, and shortly afterwards went to Glasgow University to study for the ministry. In February 1675-6 he was a student in the third class. He placed himself under the care of the presbytery of Laggan, Ireland, and the presbytery's manuscript minutes, preserved in Magee College, Londonderry, supply several notices of the progress of his studies. In 1681 they licensed him to preach, and in 1682 ordained him as a missionary to America. He gives an account of his ordination in his 'Answer to George Keith's Libel,' Boston, 1694, pp. 72. He probably went first to Maryland, and itinerated there and in Virginia and Barbados, trading as well as preaching. In 1690 his name figures in the records of Accomac County, Virginia, where he was engaged in the West India trade, and where in 1692 450 acres of land were granted to him. Here he married Naomi, daughter of William Anderson, a wealthy merchant. In 1691 he published a 'Catechism,' in which he attacked some of the tenets of the Society of Friends. This brought him into controversy with George Keith [q. v.], who published a reply to it. Makemie responded in the 'Answer' already mentioned, which is characterised by Increase Mather as the work of 'a reverent and judicious minister.' In August 1692 he went to Philadelphia, and soon after to Barbados, where he held a church for several years, continuing to trade at the same time. While living in Barbados he wrote 'Truths in a True Light, or a Pastoral Letter to the Reformed Protestants in Barbadoes, vindicating the Nonconformists from the Misrepresentations commonly made of them in that Island and in other places, and Demonstrating that they are indeed the Truest and Soundest Part of the Church of England.' This work is dated 28 Dec. 1696, and was published at Edinburgh in 1699. Two letters which he wrote from Barbados to Increase Mather are extant (vide Briggs's American Presbyteranism, Appendix x. pp. xlviii, xlix). In 1698 he returned to Accomac, where, 15 Aug. 1699, he produced certificates from Barbados of his qualification to preach, and was licensed to officiate 'in his own dwelling-house in Pocomoke, near the Maryland line, and at Onancock, five miles from Drummondton, or the house next to Jonathan Livesey's' (Webster, History of the Presbyterian Church in America, p. 301). Soon after a congregation was organised at Snow Hill, Maryland, and to that and four other congregations in the vicinity Makemie ministered for several years. In 1704 he went to London to endeavour to obtain assistance against episcopacy, which was pressing hardly on the presbyterians in America. He was successful, bringing back with him to America two missionaries, John Hampton and George McNish, a Scotsman who with Makemie himself and four other ministers—viz. Jedediah Andrews, John Wilson, Nathaniel Taylor, and Samuel Davis—formed at Philadelphia in the spring of 1706 the first presbytery organised in America. Makemie is accordingly regarded as the father of presbyterianism in that country. He was made moderator of the presbytery. During his stay in England he published a 'Plain and Friendly Persuasive to the Inhabitants of Virginia and Maryland for Promoting Towns and Cohabitation, by a Wellwisher to both Governments,' London, 1705. In January 1707 he was arrested at Newtown, Long Island, on a warrant issued by Governor Cornbury, for preaching on the 19th of that month without permission in a private house in New York. The sermon for the preaching of which he was indicted was printed under the title 'A Good Conversation: a Sermon preached at the City of New York, January 19, 1706-7, by Francis Makemie, minister of the Gospel' (Boston, 1707, reprinted in Collection of the New York Historical Society, iii. 411). He was detained in prison till 1 March, when he was released on bail. In the following June he was tried at New York and was acquitted of the charge of transgressing the Toleration Act, on his producing the license to preach which be had received in Barbados. He was, however, forced to pay the heavy costs both of the prosecution and defence (vide A Narrative of a New and Unusual American Imprisonment of the Presbyterian Ministers, and the Prosecution of Mr. Francis Makemie, one of them, for Preaching one Sermon at the City of New York, by a Learner of Law and Lover of Liberty, 1707; republished by William Hill in Appendix to History of the Rise, Progress, Genius, and Character of American Presbyterianism, Washington, 1839). The opposition of Governor Cornbury to Makemie continued after the trial, the governor writing of him as 'a preacher, a doctor of physic, a merchant, an attorney, a counsellor-at-law, and, which is worst of all, a disturber of governments.' In 1708 Makemie wrote a letter, by order of the presbytery of Philadelphia, inviting a minister in Scotland to settle in America. In the same year he died at his residence in Accomac, Virginia.
Besides Makemie's letters to Mather, referred to above, three others are known, two addressed to Increase Mather and one to Benjamin Gilman (vide Briggs, American Presbyterianism, Appendix, p. ilv).
[Briggs's American Presbyterianism; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, vol. iv.; Reid's History of the Irish Presbyterian Church; Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, vol. iii.; Webster's History of the Presbyterian Church in America.]