Monday, December 7, 2009

Jacob Bailey - Church and Revolution

Today's post is the second in a three part series on the life of Rev. Jacob Bailey. As with many young graduates, Bailey entered a period of uncertainty after finishing university. To pay his outstanding debts he accepted a teaching position in Kingston, New Hampshire. Unfortunately for Bailey, after the intellectual stimulation of Harvard, life in Kingston seemed very pedestrian. In a letter to his former classmate Stephen Farrar he wrote a poem complaining of his situation “Alas – sir – I mourn and complain / for the absence of Harvard and all their bright train….” It is during this period of unhappiness and instability that Bailey turned to religion.

By June of 1756 Bailey had decided to leave Kingston for a new teaching position in Hampton, New Hampshire. It was in Hampton that Bailey found two things which would become major parts of his life; his future wife Sally Weeks, and the Church of England. To this point in his life Bailey, like most of the people he had associated with, was a member of the Congregationalist Church. In fact, in 1758 Bailey, like many Harvard graduates of the time, had become a Congregationalist preacher. One year later, Bailey found that his admiration for the doctrines of the Church of England was growing sufficiently that he converted to that denomination.

In the Spring of 1860, Bailey embarked on a trip to London, England to be ordained as an Anglican clergyman. After an arduous trip in which their ship was almost lost at sea, Bailey was finally able to experience the life of the British gentry first hand. In addition to attending theatrical performances, perusing book shops and dining with fellow colonial Benjamin Franklin, Bailey was ordained before the Bishop of London. His life of ease would prove to be short lived as, upon his return to America he took up a position for the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in rural Pownalborough, Maine.

At the time of his arrival, Pownalborough was a community in the process of being carved out of the Maine wilderness. In reality, this community could not have been more different than London. “The people were thinly settled along the banks of rivers, in a country which afforded a rugged and disagreeable prospect; were, in general, so poor, not to say idle, that their families almost suffered for necessary food and clothing, and they lived in miserable huts, which scarce afforded them shelter from the inclemency of the weather in a rigorous climate”. Thankfully for Bailey, he received his salary from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel rather than directly from his parishioners. Despite the poverty of the community, Bailey and his young family settled into a period of relative peace and prosperity.

With the onset of the American Revolution in 1776, life began to change for Bailey. To the majority of the colonists, the Church of England was seen as the incarnation of the British monarchy in the new world. With King George III as its official leader, the Church was an obvious target for colonists dissatisfied with British rule. As a Church of England Minister, Bailey became an obvious target for those in his community who leaned toward independence for the American colonies. Despite the sentiments of his neighbours, Bailey upheld the oath of loyalty that he had sworn to the monarchy when he was ordained as a minister in London.

Among the chief complaints of his neighbours was that Bailey steadfastly refused to read the Declaration of Independence from his pulpit and that he did not accept the authority of the Committee of Correspondence. He also had the bad form to continue praying for the well being of King George III. These transgressions were sufficient to incur the wrath of his neighbours. Among the indignities he suffered, Bailey was stripped naked and beaten, had shots fired at his church, had his gardens destroyed and livestock killed and was threatened with tar and feathering. By 1779, Bailey realized that the time had come to leave Pownalborough.

In the final installment of this series we will take a look at Bailey's exile in Nova Scotia and his legacy. The image in today's post is a cropped section of a painting by Lt. Richard Williams in 1776. This image shows the construction of Bailey's St Luke's Church in Annapolis Royal.

All for now,
RGS

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