<br /> Lee Letter: n832

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: John Adams

Dear Sir

Having yesterday written a long letter to you, I have now only to request
your attention to the following business, which is of very great
importance to those whom it concerns, and who form a considerable
portion of the Citizens of these States. The representation of those
professing the Church of England system of religion, having been lately
assembled at Philadelphia where Lay & Clerical deputies from seven
States were convened in General Convention for the purpose, among other
things, of preserving and maintaining a succession of divines in their
Church, in a manner which they judge consonant to the gospel, and no
way interfering with the religious or civil rights of others – have sent
an address to the Archbishops and Bishops of England, proposing a plan
for the consecration of American Bishops.1
It is imagined, that before anything is done in this business by the
Bishops of England, that they will consult the King and Ministry; who,
it is apprehended may now, as heretofore, suppose that any step of the
kind being taken in England might be considered here as an officious
intermeddling with our affairs that would give offence on this side the
water. Should this be the case, the Church of England Members in
Congress have the greatest reliance on your liberal regard for the
religious rights of all men, that you will remove mistaken scruples
from the mind of administration, by representing how perfectly
consonant it is with our revolution principles professed thro-out all
the States, that every denomination of Christians has a right to pursue
its own religious modes, interfering not with others. That instead of
giving offence, it must give content, by evidencing a friendly
disposition to accommodate the people here who are members of the
Church in question. In proof of this, Congress did lately shew their
attention to the accommodation of this Class of Christians, by
communicating to the different Executives your information from the
Danish Minister of that Kings willingness to facilitate the business of
ordination for our church2 – And the Assembly
of Virginia hath incorporated this Society – Under which Act of
incorporation the Convention was held in that State that sent both Lay
& Clerical deputies to the General Convention lately held in
Philadelphia.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of the truest esteem and regard,
dear Sir Your most obedient and very humble servant.

Richard Henry Lee

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

1 For the work of the General Convention of the fledgling Episcopal Church
that assembled in Philadelphia from September 27 to October 7, see
William W. Manross, “The Interstate Meetings and General Conventions
of 1784, 1785, 1786 and 1789,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant
Episcopal Church 8 (September 1939): 261 – 70; for the wider
controversy over ecclesiastical authority and conflicting plans of
organization within the church in 1785, see Clara O. Loveland, The
Critical Years; The Reconstitution of the Anglican Church in the
United States of America, 1780 – 1789 (Greenwich, Conn.: Seabury Press,
1956), pp. 118 – 66.

2 See Rufus King’s first letter to Elbridge Gerry, March 31, note 2.