Early Modern Archbishops’ Papers Project 2

Dr Richard Palmer reports on further work to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ papers. In recent weeks seven volumes of papers of Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury 1758-68, were catalogued for the first time on an item by item basis. The papers were found to include many papers inherited by Secker from his predecessors, especially Thomas Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury 1747-57.

Secker 1 mainly comprises papers relating to William and Mary College, Virginia, including a long account of the affairs of the College by John Camm following his dismissal as professor of Divinity in 1757. Also included are papers relating to financial provision for the clergy in Virginia in which Camm also played a prominent part. A letter sent in 1760 to Lord Halifax, Commissioner for Trade and Plantations, signed ‘Philanglus Americanus’, with suggestions on the governance of the American colonies and the role of the Church of England, was found to be the work of Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College, New York, one of Secker’s most prominent correspondents in America.

Secker 2 comprises a miscellany of papers, the largest section relating to the project of Benjamin Kennicott to collate all known Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. Also included are papers relating to Ireland. Amongst these, as well as 16 letters to Secker from the Dean of Killaloe, published by the Church of England Record Society in 2010, was found an important letter to Secker from his friend John Bowes, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, giving a vivid first-hand account of the anti-union riots in Dublin in December 1759.

Secker 2 f. 232

Letter to Archbishop Secker from William Henry, Dean of Killaloe, 1764 (Secker 2 f. 232)

Secker 3 comprises Canterbury diocesan papers. These were already arranged and listed by the names of parishes, and it was initially assumed that no additional cataloguing was needed. However the papers proved to be more important for their subject matter than their location, and were so disparate in nature (including a report by the architect Robert Mylne on the fabric of Canterbury Cathedal, a catalogue of the parochial library at Detling, and letters on the baptism of a ‘negro’ and an Anabaptist), that a completely new catalogue was necessary. Also included are visitation papers, including an interesting series of 6 letters to Secker from his chaplain, Charles Hall, providing reports on the progress of the visitation in 1762.

Secker 4 comprises metropolitical papers, including correspondence on Secker’s exercise of the ‘Archbishop’s option’, his right to nominate to a benefice of his choice in the diocese of a newly consecrated bishop on its first becoming vacant. Secker’s choice of St George’s Hanover Square, a plum in the diocese of London, caused a rift with Thomas Sherlock, Bishop of London, which is a major theme of the correspondence.

Secker 5 comprises Latin exercises (short dissertations on theological topics) written by candidates for institution to benefices or, more typically, dispensations to hold benefices in plurality. These were already catalogued by the names of their authors. However various inaccuracies suggested the need for a new catalogue correlating each exercise with the institution or dispensation which resulted.

Secker 6 mainly comprises papers of Secker as Visitor of various institutions (especially All Souls College, Oxford). Included are letters from Stephen Niblett, Warden of All Souls, and the jurist William Blackstone. The new catalogue allows these papers to be studied alongside other papers of the Archbishop as Visitor of All Souls in the manuscripts series and Vicar General records.

Secker 7 is miscellaneous in character and the new item by item catalogue reveals many significant items which were previously inaccessible. Included is Secker’s letter to Archbishop Herring in 1755 responding to Herring’s proposal to nominate him to be Bishop of London; original declarations and oaths taken by converts from Roman Catholicism; a letter from Jacob Duche in 1765 giving an account of his life, spiritual development and ministry in Philadelphia; and legal opinions by Lord Hardwicke and others. Also present are papers relating to foreign Protestants, the Faculty Office, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, and the case of Henry Perfect, a clergyman who failed in every respect to match up to his surname.

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