1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seabury, Samuel

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SEABURY, SAMUEL (1729–1796), American Protestant Episcopal bishop, was born on the 30th of November 1729, in Ledyard, Groton, Connecticut. His father, Samuel Seabury (1706–1764), originally a Congregationalist minister in Groton, was ordained deacon and priest in the Church of England in 1731, and was a rector in New London, Conn., from 1732 to 1743, and in Hempstead, Long Island, from 1743 until his death. The son graduated at Yale in 1748; studied theology with his father; studied medicine at Edinburgh in 1752–1753; was ordained deacon by the bishop of Lincoln and priest by the bishop of Carlisle in 1753; was missionary in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1754–1757, and was rector in Jamaica, New York, in 1757–1766, and of St. Peter’s, Westchester, New York, in 1766–1775. He was one of the signers of the White Plains protest of April 1775 against “all unlawful congresses and committees,” in many other ways proved himself a devoted loyalist, and wrote the Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress (1774) by “A. W. Farmer” (i.e. a Westchester farmer), which was followed by a second “Farmer’s Letter,” The Congress Canvassed (1774), answered by Alexander Hamilton in A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the Calumnies of their Enemies. A third “Farmer’s Letter” replied to Hamilton’s View of the Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, in a broader and abler treatment than in the previous pamphlets. To this third pamphlet Hamilton replied with The Farmer Refuted (1775). These three “Farmer's Letters”—a fourth was advertised but apparently was never published—were forcible presentations of the pro-British claim, written in a plain, hard-headed style; their authorship was long in question, but it is certain that Seabury claimed them in England in 1783 when he was seeking episcopal consecration. At the same time he claimed the authorship of a letter, not signed by the Westchester farmer, which under the title An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New York (1775) discussed the power of this the only legal political body in the colony. He was arrested in November 1775 by a mob of lawless Whigs, and was kept in prison in Connecticut for six weeks; his parochial labours were broken up, and after some time in Long Island he took refuge in New York City, where he was appointed in 1778 chaplain to the king’s American regiment. On the 25th of March 1783 he was chosen their bishop by ten episcopal clergymen of Connecticut, meeting in Woodbury; as he could not take the British oath of allegiance, Seabury was shut out from consecration by the English bishops, and he was consecrated by Scotch bishops at Aberdeen on the 14th of November 1784. He returned to Connecticut in 1785 and made New Haven his home, becoming rector of St James’s Church there. The validity of his consecration was at first questioned by many, but was recognized by the General Convention of his church in 1789, In 1790 he took charge of the diocese of Rhode Island also. In 1792 he joined with Bishops William White and Samuel Provoost, who had received English consecration in 1787, and James Madison (1749–1812), who had received English consecration in 1790, in the consecration of Bishop Thomas J. Claggett of Maryland in 1792, thus uniting the Scotch and the English successions. He died in New London on the 25th of February 1796. He was a great organizer and a strict churchman: it is noteworthy that after his consecration he used the signature “ Samuel Bp. Connect.” Seabury’s “Farrner’s Letters” rank him as the most vigorous American loyalist controversialist and as one of the greatest masters of style of his period.

His son Charles (1770–1844) was rector in various Long Island churches; and Charles’s son Samuel (1801–1872), who graduated at Columbia in 1823, was rector of the Church of the Annunciation in New York in 1838–1868, and from 1862 professor of Biblical learning and the Interpretation of, Scriptures in the General Theological Seminary. William Jones Seabury (b. 1837), son of the last named, was rector of the Church of the Annunciation from 1868 to 1898, professor of ecclesiastical polity and law in the General Theological Seminary from 1873, and published a Manual for Choristers (1878), Lectures on Apostolic Succession (1893) and An Introduction to the Study of Ecclesiastical Polity (1894).

See E. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Correspondence of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury (Boston, 1881).