Galloway's Account of the American Revolt

Henry Jones Ford

The following is extracted from Historical and Political Reflections, by Joseph Galloway; London: 1780:

In the beginning of the year 1764, a convention of the ministers and elders of the Presbyterian congregations in Philadelphia wrote a circular letter to all the Presbyterian congregations in Pennsylvania, and with it enclosed the proposed articles of union. The reasons assigned in them are so novel, so futile, and absurd, and the design, of exciting that very rebellion, of which the congregationalists of New England, and the Presbyterians in all the other Colonies are at this moment the only support, is so clearly demonstrated, that I shall make no apology for giving them to the Reader at full length, without any comment:

The Circular Letter and Articles of "Some Gentlemen of the Presbyterian Denomination," in the Province of Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, March 24, 1764.

SIR, The want of union and harmony among those of the Presbyterian denomination has been long observed, and greatly lamented by every public-spirited person of our society. Notwithstanding we are so numerous in the province of Pennsylvania, we are considered as nobody, or a body of very little strength and consequence, so that any encroachments upon our essential and charter privileges may be made by evil-minded persons who think that they have little fear from any opposition that can be made to their measures by us. Nay, some denominations openly insult us as acting without plan or design, quarreling with one another, and seldom uniting together, even to promote the most salutary purposes: And thus they take occasion to misrepresent and asperse the whole body of Presbyterians, on the account of the indiscreet conduct of individuals belonging to us.

It is greatly to be wished that we could devise some plan that would cut off even the least grounds for such aspersions, that would enable us to prevent the bad conduct of our members, and that would have a tendency to unite us more closely together; so that, when there may be a necessity to act as a body, we may be able to do it whenever we may be called to defend our civil or religious liberties and privileges, which we may enjoy, or to obtain any of which we may be abridged.

"A number of gentlemen in this city, in conjunction with the clergymen of our denomination here, have thought the enclosed plan may be subservient to this desirable purpose, if it be heartily adopted and prosecuted by our brethren in this province, and three lower counties; and in this view we beg leave to recommend it to you. It cannot possibly do any hurt to us, and it will beyond doubt make us a more respectable body. We therefore cannot but promise ourselves your hearty concurrence from your known public spirit, and desire to assist anything that may have a tendency to promote the union and welfare of society, and the general good of the community, to which we belong.

We are yours, &c."

The Plan or Articles

Some gentlemen of the Presbyterian denomination, having seriously considered the necessity of a more close union among ourselves, in order to enable us to act as a body with unanimity and harmony &c. have unanimously adopted the following plan viz.:

1st, That a few gentlemen in the city of Philadelphia with the ministers of the Presbyterian denomination there, be chosen to correspond with their friends in different parts, to give and to receive advices, and to consult what things may have a tendency to promote our union and welfare, either as a body, or as we are connected together in particular congregations, so far as it will consist with our duty to the best of Kings, and our subjection to the laws of Government.

2d, That a number of the most prudent and public-spirited persons in each district in the province, and those lower counties, be chosen with the ministers in said districts, to correspond in like manner with one another, and with the gentlemen appointed for this purpose in Philadelphia; or

3d, That the same be done in each congregation or district where there is no minister; a neighboring minister meeting with them as oft as it is convenient and necessary.

4th, That a person shall be appointed in each committee thus formed who shall sign a letter in the name of the committee, and to whom letters shall be directed, who shall call the committee together, and communicate to them what advice is received, that they may consult together what is best to be done.

5th, That one or more members be sent by the committee in each county or district, yearly or half-yearly, to a general meeting of the whole body, to consult together what is necessary for the advantage of the body, and to give their advice in any affairs that relate to particular congregations; and that on stated meeting of said delegates be on the last Tuesday of August yearly.

6th, That the place of the general meeting be at Philadelphia or Lancaster, on the last Tuesday of August, 1764.

7th, That each committee transmit to the committee in Philadelphia their names and numbers, with what alterations may at any time be made in them.

8th, That the committee in town consist of ministers of the Presbyterian denomination in this city, and Mr. Treat, together with

Mess.Samuel Smith
Alex Huston
George Brian
John Allen
William Allison
H. Williamson
Mess.Thomas Smith
Sam Purviance
John Merse
H. McCullough
P. Chevalier, jun.
Isaac Smith
Charles Petit
William Henry
Mess.T. Montgomery
Andrew Hodge
John Redman
Jed Snowden
Isaac Snowden
Robert Harris
Mess.Wm. Humphreys
John Wallace
T. Macpherson
John Bayard
John Wikoff
William Rust
S. Purviance, jun.

In consequence of this letter, an union of all the Presbyterian congregations immediately took place in Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties. A like confederacy was established in all the Southern Provinces, in pursuance of similar letters wrote by their respective conventions. These letters were long buried in strictest secrecy. Their design was not sufficiently matured, and therefore not proper for publication. Men of sense and foresight, were alarmed at so formidable a confederacy, without knowing the ultimate extent of their views; however, at length, in the year 1769, the letters from the conventions of Philadelphia and New York were obtained and published.

A union of Presbyterian force being thus established in each Province, these projectors then took salutary steps (as they were called in a letter from one of the Committee at Philadelphia to his friend) to get the whole Presbyterian interest on the Continent more firmly united. These steps ended in the establishment of an annual Synod at Philadelphia. Here all the Presbyterian congregations in the Colonies are represented by their respective ministers and elders. In this Synod all their general affairs, political as well as religious, are debated and decided. From hence their orders and decrees are issued throughout America; and to them as ready and implicit obedience is paid as is due to the authority of any sovereign power whatever.

But they did not stop here; the principal matter recommended by the faction in New England, was an union of the congregational and Presbyterian interest throughout the colonies. To effect this, a negotiation took place which ended in the appointment of a standing committee of correspondence with powers to communicate and consult, on all occasions, with a like committee appointed by the congregational churches in New England. Thus the Presbyterians in the Southern Colonies who while unconnected in their several congregations, were of little significance, were raised into weight and consequence, and a dangerous combination of men, whose principles of religion and polity were equally averse to those of the established Church and Government was formed.

United in this manner throughout the Colonies, those republican sectaries were prepared to oppose the Stamp Act, before the time of its commencement, and yet sensible of their own inability without the aid of others, no acts or pains were left unessayed to make converts of the rest of the people; but all their industry was attended with little success. The members of the Church of England, Methodists, Quakers, Lutherans, Calvinists, Moravians, and other dissenters were in general averse to every measure which tended to violence. Some few of them were, by various arts, and partial interests, prevailed on to unite with them! and those were either lawyers or merchants, who thought their professional business would be affected by the act, or bankrupt planters, who were overwhelmed in debt to their British factors. But the republicans, predetermined in their measures, were unanimous. It was these men who excited the mobs, and led them to destroy the stamped paper; who compelled the collectors of the duties to resign their offices, and to pledge their faith that they would not execute them; and it was these men who promoted, and for a time enforced the non-importation agreement and by their personal applications, threats, insults, and inflammatory publications and petitions, led the Assemblies to deny the authority of Parliament to tax the Colonies, in their several remonstrances.