Thursday, May 16, 2013

Abbé Weems?

After the breach with Great Britain, Americans wanting to become Episcopalian clergy were refused orders unless they took an oath of allegiance to the British crown. The famous Parson Weems, author of the children's life of Washington ("I cannot tell a lie"), was frustrated enough as a 25-year-old Episcopalian theological student to be willing to be ordained in the Catholic church. Below is the letter from Weems and his friend and fellow divinity student Edward Gant seeking advice from Benjamin Franklin:
No 170 Strand. July 9th 1784
Not having the honour to be known to your Excellency we should preface this with an Apology, but as it relates to a subject of public and Important Concern, we hope your Excellency will excuse form and Ceremony.
We are Natives of America and Students of Divinity, having no form of Episcopal Ordination in our own Country we Came to England more than a twelvemonth ago for Orders and have been all that time Soliciting the Arch Bishop but in vain. his Grace will not ordain us unless we will consent to take the Oath of Allegiance. Mr. Chase a Friend of ours advised us to write to your Excellency and acquaint you with the Deplorable Condition of our Church. Waving all Pathetic Discription, permit us to assure Your Excellency that of Sixty Churches in our State (Maryland) there are upwards of thirty vacant.
Romish Orders are Good. We shall take it as a great favour done to our selves and state if your Excellency will inform us as soon as possible whether we can take Orders in France.
Be pleased to Let us know very particularly what Oaths we must take and what Tenets we must subscribe. If the ArchBishop of Paris will ordain Us we will come over most Chearfully. Your Excellency will add to the Obligation by giving us a Speedy Reply. Mr. Adams has invited us to go over to Denmark, but the Orders from Denmark are not so Good as we wish them to be. We have the honour to be Your Excellency’s Most Obedient humble Servants
Mason Weems
Edward Gant
Endorsed: Edd. Gant July 9. 1784
Grant Wood, Parson Weems' Fable, 1939.
Oil on canvas, 38 3/8 x 50 1/8 inches. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. 1970.43.



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