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The problems of church and state: dissenting politics and the London Missionary Society in 1830s Britain.

During the 1830s, calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England were increasingly common, and hotly debated within Protestant Dissent. This article examines the controversy within the predominantly Congregationalist London Missionary Society over the decision of the British government to give financial support to missionary societies to aid the education of emancipated slaves in British colonies. The government grants sparked discussion of both the propriety of a dissenting organization accepting government funds, and the broader issue of the proper relationship between church and state. In exploring the connection between the missionary movement and politics of disestablishment, this essay suggests how dissenting organizations, ministers, and laymen could use empire as a means to advance arguments about the reform of metropolitan society and politics.


The constitutional sea change of the Reform Era produced a dramatic shift in the scope and character of evangelical dissenting politics in Britain during the 1830s. The repeal of the Test Acts, Parliamentary Reform, and the reconstruction of municipal governments made participation in the political life of the nation accessible to Dissenters in unprecedented numbers. (1) Celebrating the passing of the Reform Bill the Nonconformist weekly, The Patriot, noted that Dissenters would no longer be forced to select between candidates "whose political sentiments were dramatically opposed to their own," the Tories, and the Whigs, who although allies in the fight for religious liberty held religious beliefs of which "the could not approve." In the future, Dissenters could elect "whom they please" to represent them in Parliament. (2)

All the same, the revolution in Britain's constitution between 1828 and 1835 created concerns for numerous evangelical Dissenters who were reluctant to take on the label "political." Dissenting publications, institutions, and prominent ministers all expressed concerns, lest the increase in "political spirit" should injure "the vitality of Christian ministration." (3) In the years following the agitation over Lord Sidmouth's bill to restrict evangelization, Dissenters had conducted their political activity primarily on the basis of defending religious liberty and advancing civil equality through parliamentary petitions and organizations like the Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty. Scripture provided evidence to justify these positions in both domestic and colonial politics, as the missionary leader John Philip noted in the preface to his 1827 Researches in South Africa:

If it is the duty of Englishmen to claim the protection of the laws of their country; if the Apostle Paul was in the exercise of his duty when he claimed the privileges of a Roman citizen, and appealed from the judgment of Festus to the tribunal of Caesar,--it is to be hoped that the friends of humanity and of religion in England, will see it to be their duty to petition the British throne and the British parliament, that the natives of South Africa may have those rights secured to them, which have become necessary to the preservation and extension among them. (4)

The robust political activity of evangelical Dissenters in the 1810s and 1820s was concentrated upon the principled assertion and defense of their, and others, rights against infringements by the established church or the state, and thus somewhat defensive in character.

The changed landscape of post-reform British polities necessitated some reconfiguration of the political dissenting ideology, partly in response to increased accusations from Anglicans of the Dissenters' worldly political interests and their failure to respect "the powers ... ordained of God." (5) Two clear trends emerge upon examining the political language and ideology of evangelical Dissenters during this period. The first is a steady sacrilizing of political activity through the reinterpretation of the apostle Paul and his identity as a Roman citizen. The second is an increase in the intensity of dissenting attacks upon the established church.

By the middle of the decade, leading ministers, such as Congregationalist John D. Harris, had recast Paul from the apostle who had admonished his followers to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority," (6) into an active Christian citizen These ideas expanded beyond the conception of Paul as a citizen defending his rights--as in the example of John Philip s assertion above--formulating a new model of the apostle used to justify more earnest participation in politics. Paul, according to Harris, was a Roman citizen who gloried in the distinction and whose patriotism informed his life as an active Christian. From this, Harris encouraged Dissenters to become "Christian Citizens" themselves, witch a concern for the social and spiritual improvement of the nation. "The golden law of love commands us, by legitimate means, he asserted, to break the fetters of the slave, to watch over the interests of the social body, and to act as the anointed guardians of truth and freedom. True Christianity, Harris concluded, accompanies the tradesman to the place of business, takes its seat by the judge, and to the Christian patriot it says daily, 'Be the citizen, in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.'" (7) These sentiments, combined with the increased access of Dissenters to political office, reflected the birth of a new and more militant style of dissenting politics particularly evident in a growing interest in the issue of disestablishment. (8)

In 1830, John Wilkes, secretary of the Protestant Society, encouraged, Nonconformists to take up the struggle against the remaining "grievances" that continued to mark their unequal status relative to the established church. These included: the frequent denial of the right of burial in parish graveyards, the refusal of courts to recognize dissenting baptismal records and marriages conducted outside of the established church, the collection of poor rates from dissenting chapels, and the requirement of Dissenters to pay church rates for the maintenance of the local parish church. (9) Wilkes s demand for parliamentary action against the hardships faced by Dissenters d to the formation, in 1833, of a United Committee made up of delegates from the Protestant Society, the Dissenting Deputies, and the General Body of Dissenting Ministers to press the Nonconformists ease in the public and political arenas. The United Committee set itself the task of securing for all Protestant Nonconformists full equality with the members of the church.

The political goals of the United Committee were to receive a sharper edge, however, from the appearance of explicit calls, by dissenting ministers and layman, for the disestablishment of the Anglican, Church. Most famously, the Rev. Thomas Binney of the King s Weigh House chapel made a stinging criticism of the unwarranted moral and spiritual authority exercised by the church in a sermon before his congregation in 1833. (10) In the appendix to a published edition of the address Binney raised the stakes even further. "It is with me," he wrote,

a matter of deep, serious, religious conviction, that the Established Church is a great national evil; that it is an obstacle to the progress of truth and godliness in the land; that it destroys more souls than it saves; and that, therefore, its end is most devoutly to be wished by every lover of God and man. (11)

Provocative as his words were, Binney was hardly a lone voice crying in the wilderness. His views represented a more militant and public expression of the voluntarism that had long provided the fundamental basis for dissent from the established church. During the 1830s, Nonconformists, in growing numbers, vocally upheld their commitment to this doctrine and the implicit criticism of the state church that it entailed. The participants at an 1834 meeting of the Protestant Society, for example, decisively resolved to proclaim their conviction that "religion will most beneficially flourish where it receives only voluntary support; and that all compulsory and extorted contributions rather stint its growth, deform its loveliness, and embitter its fruit, than assist a blessing essential to social happiness." Their denominations, the resolution continued, had no design or desire to obtain for themselves the exclusive privileges or state revenues of existing establishments," and "if proffered," they would reject [them] with disdain. (12) The United Committee itself, designed to advance the collective interests of dissenting denominations, was not immune to the intensifying polities of disestablishment either. In 1834, two Unitarian members of the committee resigned following a dispute over their involvement in the distribution of the Regium Donum, an annual government rant of funds to support impoverished dissenting ministers.

Dissenters in Scotland also took up the call for disestablishment, mounting a challenge to the established Presbyterian Kirk. Andrew Marshall, a minister of the secessionist church, denounced the corruptive influences of state interference in religion and praised the purity of voluntary Christianity as early as 1829. During the 1830s, voluntary church associations surfaced in cities and towns throughout Scotland, agitating for disestablishment. Dissenters in Edinburgh coordinated a successful movement to refuse payment of church rates, "which created serious financial difficulties for the established Church." (13)

The sentiments of Binney, the Protestant Society, and other Nonconformist advocates of disestablishment outraged Anglicans, and not a few evangelical Dissenters, for their candid expression of an outright desire "to have the Church separated from the state." (14) Moderating voices among the Dissenters, such as the editor of The Patriot, Josiah Conder, and Edward Baines of the Leeds Mercury, expressed fears that calling for disestablishment might delay the accomplishment of more practical gains on issues like the church rates. Whig politicians, such as Lord Durham, also cautioned that "the very agitation of the question" would raise fears, prejudices, and such a bitter hostility" as to prevent the regress of those acknowledged grievances of which nothing but your own willful impudence can prevent the settlement." (15)

In the heat of the controversy over the relationship between church and state, some evangelical ministers continued to warn Dissenters away from political activity altogether. John Clayton, a former director of the London Missionary Society (L.M.S.), publicly disapproved, of "the adoption of all violent measures" to challenge Dissenters grievances. Speaking on behalf of what he claimed were "a considerable number" of dissenting ministers, Clayton rejected the employment of "vituperation, invective, and biting sarcasm as the means of effecting the most legitimate ends," and censured the "noisy boasters, who are fond of telling us how little we have done for the Dissenting interest." The reform of the established church must be the gradual work of time," Clayton concluded, and it was well for "ministers of the gospel of peace to abstain from political intermeddlings." (16) However, if the submissions to dissenting publications and the numerous memorials to government advocating separation of church and state are any indication of nonconformist sentiment, ministers such as Clayton seemed to be swimming against the tide.

The Protestant Society, nevertheless, vowed not to let agitation over the Establishment "engross, their exclusive attention." They encouraged "all members" to "exert their parliamentary influence on a variety of prominent issues. Among those singled out by the committee in 1834 included the provision of the blessings of education and ... religious Knowledge" for "the hundreds of thousands of emancipated negroes" in Britain's colonies. (17) The British government's determination, however, to incorporate foreign missionary societies into its scheme to assist the education and improvement of the emancipated slaves interjected the debate over state sponsorship of religion into the colonial arena.


The Emancipation Act of 1833 had directed the government to take up the task of "aiding ... local legislatures in proceeding upon liberal and comprehensive principles for the religious and moral education of the negro population to be emancipated." (18) To meet this responsibility the government made provisions for 30,000 [pounds sterling] annual grant to assist the establishment of elementary education for the emancipated slaves and their children. Since the missionary societies had been supplying educational opportunities for slaves for decades, the government approached the religious institutions to include them in plans for developing the educational system. Sir George Grey, Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, invited representatives from the various missionary organizations to a conference in 1835 where he presented the government s proposal. Grey had decided "to aid the Societies at present engaged in the religious instruction of the Negroes, rather than originate a new and distinct system of Education." (19)

Basing government plans on mission participation was bound to create controversy within the colonial society, and among supporters of the West Indian interest. Aberdeen, the colonial secretary, recognized the intense animosity the former slave owners had for the educational work of t missions, but he determined that supporting the existing mission schools would be the most efficient use of government funds. The colonial secretary admitted to members of the House of Lords "that a prejudice existed against the Missionaries in the colonies, but he looked for their most useful and active cooperation in effecting that which he considered indispensable." If the government did not "exert vigorous efforts" to educate the ex-slaves, he argued, "instead of a blessing their freedom would be a curse. The missionaries had a crucial role to play in the effort, and "he should be most happy" to give the Lords "such an assurance as would tranquilize all doubts" on the propriety of their conduct. (20)

The Colonial Office designed me plan upon the model of Henry Brougham's 1833 bill that provided government support for the national, British, and foreign school societies at home. Under this system, the state provided funds to assist the construction of school buildings rather than provide direct aid for religious education itself. Aberdeen offered to give the missionary societies two-thirds of the cost of constructing new schools for emancipated slaves, leaving it to the societies to provide the remaining one-third from their own funds. Many friends of the missionary endeavor celebrated the state s support for what the Methodist Missionary Society called "communicating to the Negro the instruction necessary to prepare them for the new state of things ... [and] ... to make the boon of civil freedom a real and everlasting blessing." (21) Beyond the support for the construction of school buildings, the plan stressed that the schools should provide a "liberal and comprehensive" education founded upon reading, writing, and non-sectarian religious instruction. The government further stipulated that a system of state inspectors would supervise the schools during the first five years of the plan. (22)

The reactions of the denominations to the government grants were mixed. The 1836 report of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society praised the government's role in assisting the construction of "19 school-houses" during the first year. (23) More conservative elements within the established church, however, expressed reservations about the participation of nonconformist and evangelical Anglican missionaries in the scheme. These protests indicated the establishment's fear of the potentially destabilizing, influences of such "schismatical and enthusiastic proceedings" among the emancipated slaves. (24) The most vocal controversy over the government grants, however, broke out within the ranks of the supporters and missionaries of the predominantly Congregationalist LMS. This debate over the propriety of a dissenting institution accepting a government subsidy reflected the important changes taking place within the society and the denominational and political identity of congregational dissent itself.

The L.M.S. was born during an age of pan-evangelical zeal embodied by the society's "Fundamental principle," which emphasized Christian unity and the promotion of the gospel without reference to specific sects or denomination. However, in reality, the institution had always relied primarily upon the growing body of evangelical Congregationalists for its support and personnel. By the 1830s, this congregational identity took on a new prominence, and was nowhere more evident than in the response of many of its supporters and missionaries to the government's decision to grant funds to the society to support the education of the emancipated slaves. (25) As was the case in the United Committee s debates over disestablishment, the most intense feelings on matters of dissenting principle came from outside of London.

In the practical manner that governed most of their decisions with regard to budgetary and financial concerns, several of the society's directors welcomed the idea of the government grants. Given that the money would be used exclusively for school buildings, they saw nothing in the plan that fatally compromised the Society's voluntary, principles. (26) Yet, for many Society supporters, swaged by the increasingly vocal Congregationalist concern over the relationship between church and state, the directors' actions seemed to be an unmistakable violation of voluntarism, one of the most fundamental tenets of their religious tradition. Throughout 1835 and 1836, John Arundel, the society s secretary, received a flood of letters from auxiliaries and concerned supporters warning against the dangerous, not to say ruinous effect of receiving the support of government funds." (27)

Ministers and lay-supporters of the society protested against the government grants on a variety of grounds. The prominent Birmingham minister, John Agnell James, wrote of his concerns that the society would open itself to critics' charges of "inconsistency ... as advocates of the dissenting principle" should it accept state money "for, the spread off religion." (28) William Gregory of Clifton called the plan "subversive of the voluntary nature of the society," and feared that receiving the funds would be "followed by the most deplorable consequences to the society itself." (29) One of the most forceful objections came from the committee of the Bristol Auxiliary Society. Having "heard that it [was] the intention of the Directors ... to accept a grant of money from the government," the Bristol auxiliary submitted a formal admonition against "the propriety" of accepting the grants on the grounds that it was "inconsistent with the principle of a voluntary society to promote its objects by means received from compulsory exactions levied on the country at large." (30) In mite of the ecumenical pretensions of the Society's origin, it is clear that it had fully assumed the character of a dissenting institution by the 1830s.

The "Bristol Remonstrance," as it came to be known, galvanized considerable opposition to the grants among auxiliary societies across the country. Gregory noted that throughout "the north of England and Wales ... the almost unanimous opinion" of friends of the society was that "the grant ought to be rejected." (31) Quite common was the concern of Robert Ashton of Warminster that taking government grants would adversely affect the society s support among the nonconformist public:

The Bristol "Remonstrance" is making an impact in this quarter. I hope no injury to the Soc'y will ensue. Better far that the Soc'y should sacrifice a few hundred pounds from government, than that suspicions, jealousies and separaters [sic] should be felt and follow; when your losses should be far greater to the general cause, than the Parliamentary grant and besides might involve a principle whose influence on religion at home might be of the most pernicious character. (32)

Dissenters, such as Ashton, caught up in domestic debates over the relations between church, state, and education, rightly feared the potentially "pernicious" influence at home of a decision to accept government grants to mission schools in the colonies.

In early nineteenth-century Britain, education was "inextricably mixed" with issues of religion and politics. Rapid and sustained population growth had illustrated the insufficiency of the educational provisions available to British children, and magnified calls for significant reforms. Religious divisions, however, routinely complicated the creation of a new educational system. In 1807, the House of Lords rejected Samuel Whitbread's proposal to use the poor rates to furnish education for indigent children on the grounds that the schools were not to be under the authority of the established church. The objections of Dissenters brought about the defeat of Henry Brougham s education bill in 1820, which stipulated that schoolmasters be Anglican communicants. Nonconformists' protests against the bill reckoned it, along with Sidmouth's bill, as one of the most harmful assaults upon religious liberty in more than a century. Brougham's 1833 bill granting 20,000 [pounds sterling] of government funds to support the construction of school buildings also drew the criticism of many Dissenters as more than halt of its funds went to support schools of the Anglican controlled National Society. Given this background, the government s decision to provide state support for mission schools was bound to be controversial. (33)

Fearing both the domestic and colonial implications of the Society's accepting government funds, many Dissenters threatened to pull their support from the L.M.S. should it recognize "the principle of taxing the public for the support of our missions in the West India Colonies." (34) William Gregory related the objection of a gentleman who had "subscribed ... for many years 50 [pounds sterling] a year," who had "withdrawn his support, with the declaration that, if the grant is received he will never subscribe another farthing." (35) Should the directors "receive any, part of the money levied on the Nation in the form of taxes," wrote David Derry of the Plymouth Auxiliary, "it will tend to paralize [sic] the efforts of the subscribers--produce disunion ... and thus very seriously prejudice its true interests." (36) To many, the recourse to government aid not only contradicted the voluntary, principle of the society, it reflected the director's lack of confidence in the generosity of the religious public. S.S. Wilson of Frome related to Arundel the conviction of his auxiliary that if the directors had wanted to rinse "2,000 [pounds sterling] or 5,000 ... for the education of the guardian slaves," they needed "only. to make it known" to their committed supporters who would surely respond with favor. (37) In the minds of many, government grants were not only objectionable on principle, but in light of the generosity of the society's supporters they were wholly unnecessary.

Many of the protests, in fact, revealed a strong dissatisfaction with the directors' apparent decision to act upon the government grant without first consulting, ... the auxiliary societies, or "making an very public or explicit declaration of the precise object to which any sum, if received, ... would be applied." (38) H.T. Roper of the Devon Congregational Union deemed it especially "improper ... for the Directors to contemplate such an alteration in the principle of this society without consulting the country constituency." Moreover, Roper emphasized, "the present ignorance of the country friends leaves them open to all the uncomfortable uncertainty which floating, and ... incorrect, reports are calculated to produce." (39) In an effort to quell the controversy, the directors sent the Society s Foreign Secretary, William Ellis, to make a tour of the country in order to clearly communicate their intentions and the nature of the government grants. Ellis met with auxiliary societies and concerned ministers to explain that state funds would be used exclusively, for building schools, and would in no way be connected to the direct support of religious instruction. By clearing up this confusion over the intended use of the state aid Ellis did much to calm the "troubled waters" of the government grant controversy. (40)


The debate nonetheless continued, as the Colonial Office considered expanding the scope of the grant to assist the payment of teachers' salaries as well. Missionaries in the field now joined the dispute over the government grants, and among the most vocal opponents was Charles Rattray of Demerara. Declaring himself a conscientious Dissenter, he expressed his "great aversion to anything Begium-Donum like," as he perceived the grants to be. "I wish you could explain," he wrote to Ellis, "whether the prospective aid from Government does not come under that (as I would say) unscriptural mode of promoting and supporting Christianity." Rattray further expressed his concerns over the system of government inspections and the connection the grants established between the mission and the state. "In what relation will the Missionaries stand to these schools?" he asked. "Will not the Government support and inspection render them bona fide Government and not Mission schools? if not--What is the nature and what the real subject of the inspection?" Elaborating on his anxiety over the potential interference of government inspectors, "of whose principles and character we know nothing," he wrote that he objected "to the principle of such inspectors. I do so not on my own account solely, for the stipendiary magistrate in this District appears to be more friendly than many of them.... It is uncertain, however, how soon we might be placed under the inspection of another." The potential use of arbitrary government authority to interfere with the progress of evangelization was a constant concern of missionaries in the colonies.

All the same, Rattray's opposition ultimately hinged upon his own commitment to the principles of dissent. "I am one of those who seriously believe that Government, as such, should have no connection with the extension and establishment of Christ's kingdom," he declared; "I am from principle a Dissenter, and I repudiate the idea of being taken under the wing, and pensioned from the bounty of the state." As a missionary of the L.M.S. he assured the directors that they should always "have a right to demand an account of his stewardship." But as to the government, "or any other official inspectors" he could yield "no respect. He could not serve two masters." (41)

The missionaries' anxiety over the potential appointment of state inspectors was well founded, given the intense hostility of the colonists for the missions. The editor of a memoir of the "Demerara Martyr," John Smith, observed that "the Missionaries will always be obnoxious to the ... higher classes of their fellow Colonists, because of their efforts to protect the emancipated people from gross injustice." Long after the emancipation of the slaves, the colonial press continued to pour "vile abuse" upon the missionaries. (42) James Scott, another Demerara missionary, objected, on principle, to state support that would make mission teachers salaried by, the government "nothing more than mere government agents." However, Scott also came to the practical point in protesting against inspectors "on the grounds that ... persons appointed by government ... living among our enemies, would view us with prejudice." Relying upon local taxes to provide the government assistance, he noted, "would expose us to a greater share of odium than ever." (43)

Having learned their lesson, the directors of, the L.M.S. declined to take any further action on the grants, "without first appealing to the Auxiliaries of the society generally." (44) The auxiliary at Darwen expressed its "apprehensions" over the society "accepting another grant of money from the national treasury." They questioned whether the society would "be found guilty of not a temporary swerving from its established course but of a determined and evident departure from it," and whether the L.M.S. intended to forsake the "principle ... [for] which our spiritual forefathers suffered the loss of all things and many of ourselves have endured the sacrifice of much." (45) The directors responded to the protests against, the grants, by appealing .... to the moral responsibility of the society to provide education for the emancipated slaves, and "the strong anal imperative claims of the youthful generation." (46) They argued that the limited acceptance of government support for such an important, and one might add expensive, undertaking did not compromise the society's principles.


In spite of the society's decision to accept the grants, members of the dissenting public continued to express their opposition to the directors' logic. In early 1837, the Evangelical Magazine, having received a "mass of communications ... for some months, on-the subject of the L.M.S. receiving government grants," solicited contributions for a "free and full discussion" of the issue. The first contribution, from a pair of "highly respected gentlemen ... warmly attached to the L.M.S.," made a detailed and principled refutation of the policy. The authors raised numerous objections to the initial grant and the pending "sums towards defraying the salaries of teachers." They "utterly repudiate[d]" the use of public money for the support of religious instruction, or any recognition of the notion that it was "the duty of government to provide RELIGIOUS instruction for the destitute." This argument not only renounced the provision of government grants for mission schools, it responded directly to the persistent claims of Whig politicians that they could not concede to dissenters' sweeping demands for disestablishment because of the state's obligation to provide religious instruction for the poor. "The spread of religious truth," the authors maintained, was "the exclusive prerogative of the church," an explicit claim to the independence of the church from any and all ties to the state. "We cannot sanction," they asserted, "the taxation of the community in aid EVEN of evangelical truth." (47)

The continued, or increased, reliance upon state funds to support the work of the society threatened to "destroy the independence of the institution." Not surprisingly, for a society so closely associated with the Congregationalist denomination, this theme of independence resonated throughout the protests against the government grants. Thomas Jackson of Bristol had written to Arundel of "how long the Society, [had] prospered without any kind of patronage from persons in high places." The "simplicity of its principles, and perfect freedom from any connection with state policy," was "one reason why the Great Head of the Church ha[d] so signally owned its labors." The society s simplicity, Jackson asserted, was its "greatest glory." (48) Such sentiments provided a subtle, yet powerful, contrast to the corruptive influence of the state upon what many Dissenters were ever more loudly calling an illegitimate established church. (49)

The government grants controversy underscored the difficulties faced by the L.M.S., an institution founded on pan-evangelical and non-political principles, as its primary sup porters became some of the most active and vocal participants in British political life. The growth of the missionary movement, as well as the emergence of evangelical dissenting politics during the early nineteen century, helped to effect important changes in the character of Protestant Dissent, and Congregationalism in particular. Institutions established to carry out the task of evangelization, at home or abroad, and societies founded to defend the religious liberties of dissenters, increased the organization and centralization of the loosely affiliated congregations of nineteenth-century dissent. The result was "a subtle change in the meaning and usage of the word denomination itself," which did not merely identify a set of principles or beliefs but assumed the existence of an "organized entity" called the Baptist, or Congregationalist, or Methodist denomination. (50) This change proved-especially significant among Congregationalists, whose principles and traditions were most closely tied to the concept of the independent congregation.

Throughout the 1830s, contributors to Congregationalist publications repeatedly called for greater unity in advancing the interests of the denomination and the spread of "true Christianity" throughout Britain. The progress of Congregationalist unity was, in fact, almost always closely connected to the extension of home missionary efforts. "The reason why more is not done in this way by our respected Christian brethren, of the same faith and order," explained the Home Missionary Magazine in 1831, "is ... because we have not yet an efficient principle of adhesion in our ecclesiastical relations." The magazine went on to praise the formation of the new General Congregational Union, calling it a great step on the path towards "the entire and effectual demolition of Satan's kingdom in our land." (51)

The appeal for greater unity among Congregationalists also explicitly challenged the rising numbers of middle-class, or prosperous, members of the denomination to do more for the cause. "It is, therefore, in my humble opinion," asserted one such article, "high time that [Congregationalists] acted as a united body to do something to benefit and bless our country."

How is it, asked Charles Hyatt in the Home Missionary Magazine, "that all other denominations have their denominational societies for Home Missionary efforts, while the Independents have not theirs?" Hyatt argued that British Congregationalists had both the resources and "the zeal for this good work." He celebrated what he saw as the growing interest within his denomination for joining together to promote evangelization.

I take courage for the future, in the signs of the times in a denomination to which I have the honour to belong, and whose principles I conscientiously believe to be Scriptural; and which, of all others, appears best adopted for Home Missionary efforts. Brethren, union is the order of the day in the Congregational body; and God forbid you should not unite for the most glorious object ... for the extension of "pure and undefiled religion" in our own beloved country. (52)

Congregationalists had, of course, since the 1790s been among the most active participants in this cause. The changes taking place during the 1830s, however, meant that greater numbers of them now did so openly, claiming to represent the Congregational interest

Typical of this transition was the alliance of the Home Missionary Society with the Congregational Union in 1840-41. The society had Been founded in 1819 in order to "strengthen District and County Associations and Sunday. School Unions," and to promote evangelization. (53) The founders espoused the same kind of pan-evangelical principles that inspired the formation of the L.M.S., but Congregationalist influences on the society were strong from the beginning. By the later 1830s, ministers like John Agnell James, who had been instrumental in the creation of the Congregational Union, argued strongly for the incorporation of the Home Missionary Society (H.M.S) into the Congregational Union. "The Society is now not only of the Congregational Body, but for it. Not that I mean to say. Congregationalism is the ultimate object, but it is the spread of the kingdom ... by means of the Congregational Churches, and in connection with their system of ecclesiastical polity." The joining of the H.M.S. with the Congregational Union, James argued, would only strengthen the churches' sense of obligation to support the cause. "The churches of our order would have the Institution as their own, he wrote, and they are now bound in justice, in honor, and in truth to support it." (54) Denominational institutions had come fully to the fore in leading the cause of evangelization.

The identity of the L.M.S. was also developing, in the eyes of many of its supporters, a more open and direct connection to the Congregational denomination. Greater numbers of protests against the observed Congregationalist predominance in the L.M.S. emerged during the 1830s. When, in 1835, the society turned down the application of a young Welshman named O.J. Rowlands, the decision provoked a minor crisis among its Welsh Calvinist Methodist supporters. William Griffith, a Congregationalist minister in Holyhead, wrote to the directors entreating for an explanation to "conciliate" those who felt "extremely sore on account of the young man's rejection." The Welsh Methodists were "already prone to be a little jealous of us Independents," he cautioned, and on the present occasion think they have been unjustly treated. (55) According to David Davies of Cardigan, the Welsh Methodist "Ministers and Elders" believed that Rowlands had been "treated in very undeserving and improper manner," and protested that it was "not the first time a young man belonging to their Connexion has been refused on equally inadequate grounds." (56)

The numerous complaints of the Welsh Methodists all revealed a concern that the L.M.S. was being taken over by the Congregationalists. "We are afraid that the Society is departing from its fundamental principle," wrote John Elias, "and that no candidate is very acceptable but from the Independents." He continued, in a decidedly pessimistic tone: "Our friends Dr. Haweis, Dr. Waugh, Rev. R. Hill are no more ... and we do not know whether there are many partakers of their excellent spirit among the present directors." (57) Thomas Haweis and Roland Hill are perhaps best described as "irregular" evangelical clergymen. Although they were ordained Anglican priests, both frequented with evangelical Dissenters and supported pan-evangelical causes. Haweis served for many years as a chief trustee of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, and Hill as minister to several independent evangelical congregations. Both were also actively involved in the formation of the L.M.S., and served as directors in the early years. They likely, would have shared Elias's dismay at the growing Congregational character of the society and the decline of the "excellent spirit" of pan-evangelicalism that marked its formation. (58)

Representatives of the L.M.S. also came up against the hostility of the members of rival denominations, who resented or objected to the political views professed by many of its Congregationalist advocates. "I am in the North of Ireland," George Gogerly reported to the directors in 1837, "and never did I meet with such coldness and even direct opposition in my life." Episcopalian and Presbyterian ministers in Ulster refused their pulpits to the "Deputation of the L.M.S.,'" on account of Irish Congregationalists' attacks "upon [those] two Bodies ... in a manner that was never attempted before." Gogerly "endeavoured" with considerable difficulty to reaffirm the Society's nondenominational credentials in Ulster, and to disavow any, direct connection to Congregationalism. "In a few eases I have succeeded ... but in many eases I have not," he lamented. Dissenting politics, in this instance, worked decidedly against the interests of the Society's cause. "The strong political feeling which prevails has helped to produce this opposition to the Independents," Gogerly judged, "but particularly the Petition presented to the Government against the Regium Donum as all the Presbyterians in Ireland receive it." He reluctantly concluded that, "my stay in Ireland ... will not be so long as I expected." (59)

In other instances, the growth of dissenting political participation made it more difficult for the Society to maintain it's profession of political neutrality or to escape from political controversy. This is nicely, illustrated in the following response to the events surrounding the involvement of John Pye Smith, a distinguished Congregationalist divine and director of the Homerton Academy, in the Middlesex election of 1837. In the days before the 31 July ballot, Smith gave a speech in favor of the leading radical Joseph Hume and against the conservative candidate Henry Pownall. Following a lengthy remonstrance against Pownall and the conservative cause, Smith offered the following praise for the radical Hume:

Suppose that I see a man whom I have the pain of apprehending to fall short of what I deem important views in religion, but a man of honourable character, in domestic life exemplary, a firm supporter of the rights of conscience--the greatest Protestant principle that a man must judge for himself in matters of religion--who during a long course of life has shown himself the friend of civil and religious freedom; and of justice and economy in the administration of affairs ... I find myself bound on every ground of reason and religion to do all that I can by fair and candid argument to promote his return to Parliament. Such a man I believe Mr. Hume to be. (60)

The publication of the speech prompted a strong letter to the directors pub the L.M.S. from John Campbell. Campbell was an Anglican who had "always taken, a lively and somewhat, active interest" in the Society's success, "notwithstanding the difficulties which the present unhappy warfare with the Dissenters raises up to embarrass ... members of the Establishment." Noting that several applicants for missionary work with the L.M.S. studied at Homerton Academy under Smith s tutelage, Campbell wrote to the Society to inquire whether Smith s unmistakably provocative political comments had been "approved or reprobated" by the directors, or "any steps taken to place the students under a Tutor of more scriptural views than Dr. Smith seems now to entertain and promulgate."

Campbell did not "quarrel" with the right of Smith, or any. minister, to participate in electoral politics, although he did question the appropriateness of making a speech at apolitical rally. He indicated his great alarm at Smith s rather indifferent attitude towards Hume s rationalist and heterodox theological opinions, noting his disapproval that a tutor of the society s missionaries should see "Mr. Hume's infidelity and profanity as merely a few rash expressions." The correspondent also took issue with the political tone of the speech, and Smiths vituperative attack upon the Conservative candidate Pownall:

[Smith's] concentrated influence was used to persuade the population of Middlesex that Mr. Pownall ... must be lamentably destitute of the knowledge and principles requisite for legislation and the conduct of national affairs, "because he is a Conservative," a term which the Rev. Doctor regards as meaning "conservative of evil"--as indicating principles which would make "injustice rampant"--would poison the land with intolerance and exclusion"--would "weaken Great Britain" and throw Ireland into rebellion."

A Conservative himself, Campbell condemned the "heavy charges so recklessly put forth" By Smith against Pownall and "the sound doctrine [of] all who would maintain inviolate our glorious Constitution in Church and State." Campbell concluded the letter expressing "unfeigned sorrow" that "from what I have observed lately among some of my dissenting friends here I am not confident that Dr. Smith's sentiments may not be sanctioned." (61)

Such responses illustrate the difficulties presented to the L.M.S. by the changing character of dissenting polities and denominational identity during the Reform era. The transformed political landscape of the 1830s gave a sharper focus to dissenting politics and especially its criticisms of the established church. The growing militancy of nonconformist attitudes towards the Establishment, coupled with the strengthening sense of denominational identity among Congregationalists, posed new and complex challenges to the society s traditional apolitical and nondenominational positions. The controversy over the use of government funds to support mission schools for the emancipated slaves, however, represented more than just a dispute over education or mission policy. The debate over the government grants gave Dissenters, especially those outside of London, another means to further their objections to the religious establishment. Protecting the missions in the colonies from the interference of the state, and upholding the principle of voluntary religion abroad, also worked to strengthen demands for the separation of church and state at home. The intersection of domestic and colonial politics gave to Dissenters a new avenue to, advance their claims of "the dangerous ... effect" upon religion "of receiving the support of government funds."

(1.) Prior to their repeal in 1828, the Corporation Act of 1661 and the Test Act of 1673 excluded Protestant Dissenters and Roman Catholics from municipal government and national offices. The so-called Catholic Emancipation bill of 1829 further allowed for Catholics to sit in the British Parliament. The Parliamentary reform bill of 1832 and the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 expanded political participation for the emerging middle class many of whom were Protestant Dissenters. The net effect of these reforms was to decrease the hegemony of the Anglican landowning class over British politics.

(2.) The Patriot, 13 June 1832, 168.

(3.) The Congregationsal Magazine (hereinafter cited as CM), July, 1831, 408, 406.

(4.) J. Philip, Researches in South Africa (London: J. Duncan, 1828), vol. I, xxix.

(5.) Rom. xiii. 1,3.

(6.) Cited in CM, January 1835, 58.

(7.) J. D. Harris, The Christian Citizen: A Sermon Preached in Aid of the London City Mission, at the Poultry Chapel, 6 December 1836, London, 1837, 6, 8.

(8.) For this explanation of the sacrilisation of dissenting politics, I am indebted to Christopher Pepus, who examined the subject in great detail during the research for his doctoral dissertation Dissent and Reform: Political Cultures of Protestant Nonconformity, 1828-1848. For an opposing view, which claims this was a period of the de-sacrilizing of dissenting politics, see J. P. Ellens, Religious Routes to Gladstonian Liberalism: The Church Rate Conflict in England and Wales, 1832-1868 (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994).

(9.) CM, 1830, 437-43.

(10.) T. Binney, An address delivered on laying the first stone of the New King's Weigh House, London, 1834.

(11.) Ibid., 34.

(12.) The Baptist Magazine (hereinafter cited as BM), June 1834, 244.

(13.) Stewart J. Brown and Michael Fry, Scotland in the Age of Disruption (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993), ch. 1. A tradition of secession from the Scottish church on the grounds of opposition to state interference and patronage dated to the 1730s. See J. R. McIntosh, Church and Theology in Enlightenment Scotland: The Popular Party, 17401800 (East Lothian, Scotland: Tuckwell Press, 1998).

(14.) J. Pratt, Memoir of Josiah Pratt, London 1849, cited in R. H. Martin, Evangelicals United (Metuchin, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1983), 197-98.

(15.) BM, June 1834, 247.

(16.) The Times, 20 February 1835.

(17.) BM, June 1834, 245.

(18.) Parliamentary Debates (hereinafter cited as Parl. Deb.), vol. 17, 14 May 1833.

(19.) Minutes of the Board of Directors, 13 July 1835, School of Oriental and African Studies, Council for World Mission/London Missionary Society Archives(hereinafter cited as SOAS, CWM/LMS).

(20.) Parl. Deb., vol. 26, 27 February 1835, cols. 417-23.

(21.) Report of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, London, 1836, 55-56.

(22.) Public Record Office, CO 318:122, 80-82, cited in P. T. Rooke, "A Scramble for Souls: The Impact of the Negro Education Grant on Evangelical Missionaries in the British West Indies," History of Education Quarterly (Winter 1981): 431.

(23.) Report of the WMMS, 55.

(24.) Sir Lionel Smith to Lord Glenelg, 8 August 1835, CO 318:122, 109, also cited in Rooke, "A Scramble for Souls."

(25.) For the development of the Congregational identity of the L.M.S. during the early 1800s, see: Irene Fletcher, "The Fundamental Principle of the London Missionary Society," Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society, XIX, 1963.

(26.) The decision was not made, however without some controversy among the Board of Directors. The board minutes for 13 April 1835 make note of "three hours" of deliberation "during which several members of the board expressed their views" on the matter. Although there is no indication of how individual members voted, Thomas Golding's letter (23 October 1835) to John Arundel, secretary of the L.M.S., suggests that the resolution to accept the grant passed by a majority of only two.

(27.) David Derry to John Arundel, 20 November 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(28.) J.A. James to Arundel, 10 April 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(29.) William Gregory to Arundel, 30 September 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(30.) John Davies to Arundel, 8 September 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(31.) Gregory to Arundel, 30 September 1835.

(32.) Robert Ashton to Arundel, 15 October 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(33.) Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters, vol. 2: The Expansion of Nonconformity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 535-57.

(34.) Thomas Golding to Arundel, 23 October 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(35.) Gregory to Arundel, 30 September 1835.

(36.) Derry to Arundel, 20 November 1835.

(37.) S.S. Wilson to Arundel, 11 November 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(38.) Derry to Arundel, 20 November 1835.

(39.) H.T. Roper to Arundel, 11 July 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/6/A.

(40.) Wilson to Arundel, 11 November 1835.

(41.) Charles Rattray to William Ellis, 14 March 1836, SOAS, CWM/LMS, British Guiana: 5.

(42.) E.A. Wallbridge, Demerara Martyr (London: C. Gilpin, 1848), 418.

(43.) James Scott to Ellis, 1 April 1836, SOAS, CWM/LMS, British Guiana: 5. The missionary societies only succeeded in overcoming their missionaries' fears of the inspectors by prevailing upon the government to allow inspectors to be appointed by the societies themselves.

(44.) Minutes of the Board of Directors, SOAS, CWM/LMS.

(45.) S.T. Porter to Arundel, 27 January 1837, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 7/1/A.

(46.) Ellis to Robert Taylor, 31 October 1836, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Outgoing: 1835-37.

(47.) The Evangelical Magazine (hereinafter cited as EM), January 1837, 23-26.

(48.) Thomas Jackson to Arundel, 9 Oct. 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Of/ice: 6/6/A.

(49.) Questions of patronage and the independence of church institutions from state interference were a prevailing concern of religions and political debates throughout the 1830s and 1840s. The Anglican clergymen behind the Oxford movement claimed that the only means of defending the church lay in preserving its independence from state interference, and controversies over the relationship between church and state in Scotland ultimately split the established Presbyterian Church. During the early nineteenth century, an Evangelical party, led by the famous social reformer Thomas Chalmers, revitalized the movement to end the system by which church patrons (including the Crown, landowners, and corporations) appointed clergy to church livings in Scotland without the consent of the congregation. As a series of civil court decisions in the late 1830s defended the rights of patrons, the Evangelical party intensified its claims for and defense of the "'independence of the church in matters of doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline." The controversy came to a head in the Great Disruption of 1843, when the Evangelicals, protesting "attacks made on the traditional liberties of the Scottish Church by the civil authorities in the British parliamentary state," walked out of the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Kirk. More than one-third of the clergy of the Church of Scotland left to constitute new congregations of the "Free Church," based upon the principles of voluntaryism and the right of the congregation to choose its own minister. See Brown and Fry, Scotland in the Age of Disruption, p. i and eh. 1.

(50.) D.M. Thompson, Denominationalism and Dissent, 1795-1835: A Question of Identity (London: Dr. William's Trust, 1985), 22-23.

(51.) The Home Missionary Magazine, January 1831, 29.

(52.) Ibid., March 1840, 33-35.

(53.) Andrew Mearns, England for Christ: A Record of the Congregational Church and Home Missionary Society (London: J. Clark and Co., 1886), 22-24.

(54.) Ibid., September 1840, 157-58.

(55.) William Griffith to Arundel, 8 June 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/4/A.

(56.) David Davies to Arundel, 15 August 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/4/A.

(57.) John Elias to Arundel, 12 September 1835, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 6/4/A.

(58.) See Martin, Evangelicals. United, oh. 3.

(59.) George Gogerly to Arundel, 21 August 1837, SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 7/2/A.

(60.) John Campbell to Arundel, 12 and 28 August 1837, Quoted in SOAS, CWM/LMS, Home Office: 7/2/A.

(61.) Ibid.

* MICHAEL A. RUTZ (B.A., M.A., University of Michigan; M.A., Ph.D., Washington University, St. Louis) is assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He is author of an article which appeared in Parliamentary History. Special interests include religion and polities, history of Christian missions, and cross-cultural exchange in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century British Empire.
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Author:Rutz, Michael A.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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