The Origin and Progress of the American Revolution

Peter Oliver
(1781)



"The Black Regiment"

It may now be amiss, now, to reconnoitre Mr. Otis's Black Regiment, the dissenting Clergy, who took so active a Part in the Rebellion. The congregational perswasion of Religion might be properly termed the established Religion of the Massachusetts, as well as of some other of the New England Colonies; as the Laws were peculiarly adapted to secure ye Rights of this Sect; although all other Religions were tolerated, except the Romish. This Sect inherited from the Ancestors an Aversion to Episcopacy; & I much question, had it not been for the Supremacy of the British Government over them, which they dared not openly deny, whether Episcopacy itself would have been tolerated; at least it would have been more discountenanced than it was & here I cannot but remark a great Mistake of the Governors of the Church of England, in proposing to the Colonies to have their consent to a Bishops residing among them for ye purpose of Ordination.  It was the direct Step to a Refusal for all such Proposals from the Parent State, whether of a civil or a Religious Nature, were construed into Timidity by the Colonists & were sure of meeting with a Repulse.

The Clergy of this Province were, in general, a Set of very weak Men; & it could not be expected that they should be otherwise as many of them were just relieved, some from the Burthen of the Satchel; & others from hard Labor; & by a Transition from Occupations to mounting a Desk, from whence they could look the principal Part of the Congregations, they, by that acquired a supreme Self Importance; which was too apparent in their Manners.  Some of them were Men of Sense, and would have done Honor to a Country which shone in Literature; but there few of these; & among these, but very few who were not strongly tinctured with Republicanism. The Town of Boston being a Metropolis, it was also the Metropolis of Sedition; and hence it was that their Clergy being dependent on the People for their daily Bread; by having frequent Intercourse with the People, imbibed their Principles. In this Town was an annual Convention of Clergy of the Province, the Day after the Election of his Majestys Charter Council; and at those Meetings were settled the religious Affairs of the Province; & as the Boston Clergy were esteemed the others an Order of Deities, so they were greatly influenced by them.  There was also another annual Meeting of the Clergy at Cambridge, on the Commencement for graduating the Scholars of Harvard College; at these two Conventions, if much Good was effectuated, so there was much Evil.  And some of the Boston Clergy, as they were capable of the Latter, so they missed no Opportunities of accomplishing their Purposes.  Among those who were most distinguished of the Boston Clergy were Dr. Charles Chauncy, Dr. Jonathan Mayhew & Dr. Samuel Cooper; & they distinguished theirselves in encouraging seditions & Riots, untiI those lesser Offences were absorbed in Rebellion.

Dr. Chauncy was advanced in Life; he was a Man of Sense, but of exorbitant Passions.  He would utter Things in Conversation that bordered too near upon Blasphemy; & when such wild Expressions were noticed to him, by observing that his Sermons were free from such Ex tavagances, he would reply, that "in making his Sermons he always kept a Blotter by him." He was of a very resentfull, unforgiving Temper; & when he was in the Excess of his Passion, a Bystander would naturally judge that he had been educated in the Purlieus of Bedlam; but he was open in all his Actions.  His hoary Head had great Respect paid to it by the factious & seditious, & it would really have been a Crown of Glory to him had it been found in the Way of Righteousness.

Dr.  Mayhew was also a Man of Sense, but he was very slow in arranging & consolidating his Ideas. In Conversation he was an awkard Disputant, as well in his extempore Pulpit Effusions.  Both were more like to the Water of a River dashing over the Rocks that impeded its Course, than to the smooth flowing Current.  Both were so unharmonious and discordant, that they always grated upon the Ears of his Auditors; but his polemick, publick Performances, although elaborate & inelegant, showed Strength of Reason.  He had too great a Share of Pride for an humble Disciple of so divine a Master, & looked with too contemptuous an Eye on all around him.

The late chief Justice Sewall was one of his Parishioners, & a Patron to him; & during his Life, his Behaviour was as decent as could be expected from a Man of his Temper; but when that very worthy Magistrate died, he gave a loose to his Passions & commenced a partizan in Politicks.  And it was remarked, that on the day preceeding the Destruction of Mr. Hutchinson's House, he preached so seditious a Sermon, that some of his Auditors, who were of the Mob, declared, whilst the Doctor was delivering it they could scarce contain themselves from going out of the Assembly & beginning their Work. However, when the Villainy was perpetrated, he felt some severe Girds of what is vulgarly called Conscience; but he found, too late, that his Words were too hard of Digestion to be ate. Happy had it been for him, if the Doctrine of the Inefficacy of a Death Bed Repentance had had a proper Effect upon his own Mind.

The last of the sacerdotal Triumvirate, whom I shall mention, is Dr.  Cooper. There were others of the Order, who were of the Faction, but they were Understrappers & Lacquies. Dr. Cooper was a young Man--very polite in his Manners--of a general Knowledge not deep in his Profession, but very deep in the black Art.  His behavior in Company was very insinuating especially among the fair Sex; & many of them, of his Acquaintance, had their Adams.  No Man could, with a better Grace, utter the Word of God from his Mouth, & at the same Time keep a two edged Dagger concealed in his Hand.  His Tongue was Butter & Oil, but under it was the Poison of Asps.  Never was a Scholar of St. Omers, who was a more thorough Proficient in jesuitism.  He could not only prevaricate with Man, but with God also; for when he, once, had invited a young Clergyman, who was not in Orders, to preach an afternoon Sermon for him, the factious Conspirators had received some disagreeable News, in the Intervals of divine Service, & sent for Dr. Cooper, upon a Consultation. The Doctor was detained 'til the Hour for administring a Baptism approached, & he was sent for.  He came, but pretended Sickness for his Absence; when it was known that he had been among the Leaders of the Faction. The Fluency of his Tongue & the Ease of his Manners atoned with some for all Dissimulation; for his Manners were such, that he was always agreeable to the politest Company, who were unacquainted with his real Character; & he could descend from them to mix privately with the Rabble, in their nightly seditious Associations.

I have done Sir! for the present, with my Portraits. If you like them, & think them ornamental for your Parlour, pray hang them up in it; for I assure You, that most demerit a Suspension.
 
 

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