1. The Colonial Period.—The earliest Presbyterian emigration consisted of French Huguenots under the auspices of Admiral Coligny, led to Port Royal, South Carolina, by Jean Ribaut in 1562, and to Florida (near the present St Augustine) by René de Laudonnière in 1564, and by Ribaut in 1565. The former enterprise was soon abandoned, and the colonists of the latter were massacred by the Spaniards. Under Pierre de Guast, sieur de Monts, Huguenots settled in Nova Scotia in 1604 but did not remain after 1607. Huguenot churches were formed on Staten Island, New York, in 1665; in New York City in 1683; at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1686; at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1687; at New Rochelle, New York, in 1688; and at other places. The Charleston church alone of these early churches maintains its independence of any American denomination.
English Puritans emigrated under the auspices of the Virginia Company to the Bermudas in 1612; and in 1617 a Presbyterian Church, governed by ministers and four elders, was established there by Lewis Hughes, who used the liturgy of the isles of Guernsey and Jersey. Beginning with 1620, New England was colonized by English Presbyterians of the two types which developed from the discussions of the Westminster Assembly (1643-1648) into Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. The Plymouth colony was rather of the Congregational type, and the Massachusetts Bay colony rather of the Presbyterian. These types co-operated as in Old England in the county associations; and a mixed system was produced, called by Henry M. Dexter “a Congregationalized Presbyterianism or a Presbyterianized Congregationalism.” Presbyterianism was stronger in Connecticut than in Massachusetts. Thence it crossed into the Dutch settlements on the Hudson and the Delaware, and mingled with other elements in Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas. Nine of these Puritan Presbyterian churches were established on Long Island between 1640 and 1670—one at Southampton and one at Southold (originally of the Congregational type) in 1640, one at Hempstead about 1644, one at Jamaica in 1662, and churches at Newtown and Setauket in the next half century; and three Puritan Presbyterian churches were established in Westchester county, New York, between 1677 and 1685. In New York City, Francis Doughty preached to Puritan Presbyterians in 1643; in 1650 he was succeeded by Richard Denton (1586-1662). Doughty preached in Virginia and Maryland in 1650-1659, and was the father of British Presbyterianism in the Middle Colonies. His work in Virginia and Maryland was carried on twenty-five years later by Francis Makemie (d. 1708).
Irish Presbyterianism was carried to America by an unknown Irish minister in 1668. Its foremost representative was Francis Makemie, already mentioned, who, in 1683, as an ordained minister of the presbytery of Laggan, was invited to minister to the Maryland and Virginia Presbyterians. In 1684 he acted as pastor of an Irish church at Elizabeth River, Virginia; in 1699 received permission from the colonial authorities to preach at Pocomoke and Onancock on the eastern shore of Virginia, and about 1700 organized a church at Snow Hill in Worcester county, Maryland; in 1704 he returned to America from a trip to Great Britain in which he had interested the Presbyterians of London, Dublin and Glasgow in the American churches, and brought back with him two ordained missionaries, John Hampton (d. c. 1721) and George McNish (1660-1723); in 1707 was imprisoned in New York City for preaching without licence, but was acquitted in 1708.
To the banks of the Delaware the clergy of New England sent missionaries: Benjamin Woodbridge went to Philadelphia in 1698 and was followed almost immediately by jedediah Andrews (1674-1746), who was ordained in 1701, and under whom the first Presbyterian church in Philadelphia was organized; in 1698 John Wilson (d. 1712) became pastor of a Presbyterian Church at New Castle, Delaware; Samuel Davis (d. 1725) seems to have preached as early as 1692 at Lewes, Delaware, and Nathaniel Taylor (d. 1710) was another of the New England missionaries along the Delaware river and bay. About 1695 Thomas Bridge, with Presbyterians from Fairfield county, Connecticut, settled at Cohansey, in West Jersey. These New England ministers in the Delaware valley, with Francis Makemie as moderator, organized in 1706 the first American presbytery, the presbytery of Philadelphia. In 1716 this presbytery became a synod by dividing itself into four “subordinate meetings or presbyteries,” after the Irish model. The synod increased the number of its churches by a large accession from New York and from New Jersey, where there had been large Presbyterian settlements. The synod seems to have remained without a constitution and without subscription until 1729, when it adopted the Westminster standards. In 1732 the presbytery of “Dunagall” (Donegal) was established in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.
Two parties had developed with the growth of the Church. The stricter party urged the adoption of the Westminster standards and conformity thereto; the broader party were unwilling to sacrifice their liberty. The former followed the model of the Church of Scotland; the liberal party sympathized with the London and Dublin Presbyterians. The two parties united under the act of 1729, which adopted the Westminster symbols “as being, in all the essential and necessary articles, good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine.” This adopting act allowed scruples as to “articles not essential and necessary in doctrine, worship or government”—the presbytery being judge in the case and not the subscriber. In 1730-1732 the stricter party in the presbyteries of New Castle and Donegal insisted on full subscription, and in 1736, in a minority synod, interpreted the adopting act according to their own views. The liberals put themselves on guard against the plotting of the other side. Friction was increased by a contest between Gilbert Tennent and his friends, who favoured Whitefield and his revival measures, and Robert Cross (1689-1766), pastor at Jamaica in 1723-1758, and his friends. The Tennents erected the Log College (on the Neshaminy, about 20 m. north of Philadelphia) to educate candidates for the ministry; and the synod in 1738 passed an act, aimed at the Log College, providing that all students not educated in the colleges of New England or Great Britain should be examined by a committee of synod, thus depriving the presbyteries of the right of determining in the case. The presbytery of New Brunswick declined to yield (1739). The Cross party charged the Tennents with heresy and disorder; the Tennents charged their opponents with ungodliness and tyranny. When the synod met in 1741 the moderate men remained away; and thus the synod broke in two. The New York presbytery declined at first to unite with either party, worked in vain for reconciliation, and finally joined with the Tennents in establishing the synod of New York (1745) which was called the New Side, in contradistinction to the synod of Philadelphia, the Old Side.
During the separation the New Side established the college of New Jersey at Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) in 1747, and the Log College of the Tennents was merged into it. It was removed to Princeton in 1755, funds for its aid being received from England, Ireland and Scotland. The Old Side adopted the academy at New London, Chester county, Pennsylvania, which had been organized by Francis Alison in 1741, as their own; but the New London school broke up when Alison became a professor in the Philadelphia Academy (afterwards the university of Pennsylvania). During the separation the synod of Philadelphia decreased from twenty-six to twenty-two ministers, but the synod of New York grew from twenty to seventy-two ministers, and the New Side reaped all the fruits of the Great Awakening under Whitefield and his successors. Different views on subscription and discipline, and the arbitrary act of excision were the barriers to union, but these were removed; in 1758 the adopting act was re-established in its original breadth, the “Synod of New York and Philadelphia” was formed, and the reunion was signalized by the formation of the presbytery of Hanover in Virginia. Under John Witherspoon the college of New Jersey was the favoured school of the reunited church. The union was not perfect; the presbytery of Donegal was for three years in revolt against the synod; and in 1762 a second presbytery of Philadelphia was formed; but the strength of the synod increased rapidly and at the outbreak of the War of Independence it had 11 presbyteries and 132 ministers.
Presbyterianism had an independent development in the Carolinas, whither there was a considerable Scotch migration in 1684-1687. William Dunlop (c. 1650-1700) ministered to them until 1688, when he became principal of the university of Glasgow. At Charleston a mixed congregation of Scotch Presbyterians and English Puritans was organized in 1690. What is now Dorchester county, South Carolina, was settled in 1695 by members of a church established in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In 1710 there were five churches in the Carolinas; in 1722-1723 they formed the presbytery of James Island, which (after 1727) went through the same struggle as the synod of Philadelphia in reference to subscription; and in 1731 the parties separated into subscribers and non-subscribers.
From New England, as has been seen, Puritan settlers established Presbyterian churches (or churches which immediately became Presbyterian) in Long Island, on New Jersey, and in South Carolina; but the Puritans who remained in New England usually established Congregational churches. But there were exceptions: Irish Presbyterians from Ulster formed a church at Londonderry, New Hampshire, which, about 1729, grew into a presbytery; the Boston presbytery, organized in 1745, became in 1774 the synod of New England with three presbyteries and sixteen ministers; and there were two independent presbyteries, that of “the Eastward” organized at Boothbay, Maine, in 1771, and that of Grafton, in New Hampshire, founded by Eleazar Wheelock and other ministers interested in Dartmouth College.
The Presbyterians from the Scotch Established Church combined with the American Presbyterian Church, but the separating churches of Scotland organized independent bodies. The Reformed Presbyterian Church (Covenanters) sentdjohn Cuthbertson in 1751; he was joined in 1773 by Matthew Lin and Alexander Dobbin from the Reformed Presbytery of Ireland, and they organized in March 1774 the Reformed Presbytery of America. The Anti-Burgher Synod sent Alexander Gellatly and Andrew Arnot in 1752, and two years later they organized the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania; they were joined in 1757 by the Scotch Church in New York City, which had split off because of objections to the growing use of Watts's Psalms; they had grown to two presbyteries and thirteen