From Religion and Identity: The Experience of Irish and Scottish Catholics in Atlantic Canada, edited by Terrence Murphy and Cyril J. Byrne, 1987, pp. 34-52. Published by Jesperson Press, St. John's, NF. Reprinted by permission.

Religious Enfranchisement and Roman Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland

Hans Rollmann
Department of Religious Studies
Memorial University of Newfoundland

On 28 October 1784 Governor John Campbell{1} issued to the magistrates of Newfoundland the following order:

Newfoundland's earliest historians John Reeves{3} and Lewis Amadeus Anspach{4} did not consider the instruction even worthy of mention. But with an historiographical tradition in which the historians became "dispensers of moral judgment" and which Herbert Butterfield in our time has called the "Whig Interpretation of History,"{5} Campbell's order achieved the status of an individual's heroic moral act.{6} Judge Prowse, for whom the political edict stood "in pleasing contrast to the proclamation of his [Campbell's] predecessor," saw expressed in it the mind of "an able and enlightened ruler."{7}

No doubt Campbell's proclamation can still be considered a milestone in Newfoundland's religious, social, and political history, but the alleged moral motivation of the Georgian "hero as governor" has prevented almost all subsequent historians from looking for a more complex historical causation of the 1784 order. Only most recently, Raymond J. Lahey has suggested that in 1779 the "except Papists" clause was removed from the instructions to governors of Newfoundland in response to changes in the penal laws of England and Ireland.{8} With this new instruction to Governor Richard Edwards in 1779, "Newfoundland now had no legal restrictions whatsoever preventing the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion."{9} Thus, even heroism seems to have operated within a larger historical context. The proclamation of religious liberty in 1784 cannot be reduced, as it is by Prowse and many subsequent historians, to the act of one enlightened individual. The time has come to render more precise the specific context within which Governor Edwards' new instruction on religious liberty was drafted, and to find plausible reasons why he chose to ignore the change during his governorship and why his successor, John Campbell, finally made religious liberty a matter of public record and policy.

One point to consider is the dependence of the Church of England in Newfoundland on the erratic support of successive governors. Except for the short and troublesome stay of Erasmus Stourton{10} in Calvert's Avalon and the occasional naval chaplaincy in Newfoundland,{11} the beginning of a continuing Anglican presence on the island dates from the arrival of the Rev. John Jackson{12} in 1701, following a private subscription by local residents. Jackson's support in 1703 through the newly-founded Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts initiated an enduring relationship between Newfoundland Anglicans and the S.P.G., which, for better or worse, made the missionaries on the island dependent upon an agency far removed from their field of activity.{13} The establishment of a colonial episcopate in Nova Scotia in 1789,{14} the bishop of which had to oversee a territory that extended from Detroit in the West to St. John's in the East, did not in the least affect the work of Anglican priests in St. John's or Conception Bay. Even later administrative experiments, such as the institution of an Ecclesiastical Commissariat{15} and an Archdiaconate,{16} which had proven successful in Canada and America, were ill suited to the geographical realities of Newfoundland and did little to alleviate the organizational and pastoral problems facing Newfoundland Anglicans prior to the establishment of a separate bishopric in the nineteenth century.{17}

The Anglican missionaries of Newfoundland found themselves especially hampered by a colonial policy that exhibited ambivalent and often hostile attitudes toward settlement. This policy prevented the establishment of a glebe and vestry system prevalent in other colonies and so important for a successful ecclesiastical presence in the Americas.{18} And the absence of a local legislature robbed Anglicans of the constitutional entrenchment of preferences characteristic of the "Established Church" elsewhere{19} and made the local ministers precariously dependent upon the favours or disfavours of the many and often changing governors.

The instructions to governors of Newfoundland reflect the unique societal and ecclesiastical situation. Although there had been a legislative provision to enforce Sabbath observance as early as 1698,{20} explicit clauses on religion appear for the first time on 14 May 1729 in the instructions prepared for Governor Henry Osborne.{21} These provisions - designed to grant religious liberty to Protestant Dissenters, prevent vice and encourage religion, regulate and place priests under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, and enjoin the posting of marriage tables in every church or chapel of the island - had their analogues in similar colonial instructions elsewhere{22} but were also phrased in such a way as to fit the specific Newfoundland situation.{23} With one exception they remained fairly constant throughout the eighteenth century. Their paucity corresponds to the ambivalent or hostile attitudes toward settlement, and yet their existence reflects de facto settlement and the need for at least minimal ecclesiastical regulation in the absence of local legislative statutes. Furthermore, they placed priest and flock under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of London (even after the formation of a Canadian colonial episcopate){24} and established the governor as the ultimate religious administrator on the island.{25}

There exists to my knowledge no thorough form-historical study of the religious liberty provision in the instructions to English colonial governors.{26} The provision, however, dates back to the 1680s, when it occurs first without{27} and then, after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1689, with an "except Papists" clause{28} in nearly all colonial instructions. This brief discussion cannot take the place of a detailed examination of the history of the instruction, but it seems that the language of the religious liberty provision presupposes earlier colonial charters and acts, such as the Maryland Act of Lord Baltimore,{29} as well as Caroline legislative enactments during the 1660s and 1670s, James II's ill-fated declaration of 1687, and, finally, the Toleration Act of 1689.{30} The latter was especially important for granting religious rights to Protestant Dissenters and, in the judgement of one eminent historian of English Dissent, "gave orthodox Dissenters statutory freedom to worship in their own way, but... did not give them civil equality."{31}

The common colonial formula that granted religious freedom to Protestant Dissenters was introduced into the instructions of Newfoundland's first governor Henry Osborne in 1729 not in order to meet a particular religious need or to respond to a specific situation of ecclesiastical pluralism on the island, but because it had become a standard formula in instructions to British colonial governors. Thus from 1729 until 1776 governors of Newfoundland were instructed:

The formula, which follows expressis verbis the colonial instructions of governors elsewhere, never changed during the fifty years of its existence. But on 27 April 1779, instructions prepared for Governor Richard Edwards contained the following revised provision on religious liberty:

This text differs from the previous instruction on religious liberty more significantly than by merely omitting the "except Papists" clause. The older provision minus its anti-Catholic language is retained in the second part of the new instruction, but the prefatory comments with their language of "full liberty of conscience" and "free exercise of all such modes of religious worship as are not prohibited by law" underscore the fundamental character of the newly enacted freedoms. The key historical question that arises is why the original instruction on religious liberty, extant for fifty years, changed so fundamentally in 1779.

It is of note that the 1779 change in Governor Edwards' instructions was not an isolated case. From 1779 to 1782, the new instructions issued to the governors of the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands, for example, also contained modified religious liberty provisions and likewise omitted the "except Papists" clause. Thus we are witnessing a general change in colonial policy regarding the legal position of Roman Catholics.{34}

The documents that detail the drafting of the instructions for Governor Richard Edwards as well as the other colonial instructions contained in the Public Records Office series C.O. 5/207 give us no clue as to motivation. In Edwards' case there is the customary draft of a commission by the Colonial Office, which took place on 12 March 1779.{35} On 27 April 1779, the preface to the draft of the instructions themselves points out changes in twelve articles and the insertion of two new ones (No. 71: prohibiting trade with the American colonies during their rebellion and No. 72: taxation of metals and minerals), but neither the changes nor the insertions that are noted concern the four instructions on religious matters.{36} After detailing the changes worthy of note to the Colonial Office, the draft clearly states: "These are the only material alterations in the present Drought [sic] from the Instructions given to your Majesty's late Governor."{37} Since the text of the religious liberty provision differs significantly, however, from all the previous ones, we have to adduce historical probabilities responsible for the tacit introduction of change. The most obvious reason is that we see expressed here the result of a new legal situation for Catholics in England.

Catholic emancipation in England occurred in three stages. The first Relief Act of 1778 permitted basic rights of inheritance and property and the freedom from prosecution for the clergy.{38} The second Relief Act of 1791 more fundamentally allowed English Catholics freedom of religious worship.{39} And the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 removed the remaining civil disabilities for Catholics.{40} Here we shall be concerned with the first stage of Roman Catholic enfranchisement, the Relief Act of 1778.

There had been isolated attempts during the 1770s to remedy the anomalous situation in which Catholic soldiers had to fight for a country that did not even grant them their basic rights as citizens. But these attempts at change remained unsuccessful. The 1778 legislation, aimed at modifying the penal code, was initiated by the British government for tactical and political reasons. England, after several serious defeats at the hands of the Americans, including the disastrous surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, and threatened by a war with France and Spain, felt the need to recruit Scottish Catholics from the Highlands and could do so more successfully if these soldiers were given fundamental rights as citizens. A further reason was the general fear of a depopulation of Ireland and the migration of Irish Catholics to America, where they had been promised full toleration in addition to land grants. Furthermore, rumours had it that the French were to invade Ireland and receive Irish support against the English. Although the latter two were perceived rather than real threats, they helped speed up legislation once it had been introduced and helped to lobby for similar legislation in Ireland. Finally, there were Whig politicians like Edmund Burke, Sir George Savile, and Lord Rockingham for whom toleration was of intrinsic humanitarian value.{41}

Introduced into Parliament on 14 May 1778 by Sir George Savile, who stressed that the act was merely affirming the Protestant principle of aversion toward all persecution, the bill which by now had become an entirely English matter quickly passed committee stage, where the various specific clauses on the rights of Catholics were introduced. After being passed by both houses, it received royal assent on 3 June 1778.

The results of the act were felt at once. Catholics could now again legally inherit and purchase land and were no longer subject to the previous oppressive inheritance legislation. Bishops and priests were freed from the threat of prosecution and imprisonment. More important yet, as Butler points out,{42} was the attitudinal change this legislation wrought in the public at large and which prepared the ground for further relief, but not before the terrible upheavels of 1779 - the Gordon Riots{43} - reminded Catholics of the precariousness of their newfound liberties. A significant document of the change that this legislation introduced overseas was the newly drafted instruction on religious liberty for Governor Richard Edwards.

It is our contention that the change of the religious liberty provision in Governor Edwards' instructions was the direct result of the change in penal laws in England. The modification of the instruction makes sense in the Newfoundland situation and is especially plausible in view of the change of instructions for colonial governors elsewhere and the serious attempts of the British government to effect legislation in Scotland{44} and Ireland{45} similar to the act passed in England in 1778. The perceived and real threats of American and French intervention in Newfoundland could have led to two kinds of action: 1) a liberalization of the penal code in order to insure the loyalty of the large number of Irish Catholics on the island or 2) increased vigilance and repression of the Irish Catholic population similar to that exhibited by Governor Dorrill (1719-1762) shortly before and during the Seven Years' Wars so as to prevent any solidarity with the enemies of Britain.{46} The American War of Independence (1775-1783) and the related hostilities with France and Spain (1779-1782) dictated these alternatives. The government of Lord North under its Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord George Germain (1716-1785),{47} decided upon the first course of action, as the change in the instruction on religious liberty in favour of Roman Catholics evidences. This recommended itself all the more since England was able to look back upon a successful experiment in toleration of Catholics in Quebec.{48} On the other hand, Richard Edwards,{49} the new governor of Newfoundland, although he no longer could enter upon a course of outright religious persecution without severely violating his own instructions, could do his best to retard the implementation of change. This would also succeed better in Newfoundland than in any other colonial situation in North America because the governor was responsible to no legislature. The following reasons may explain why Edwards ignored the instruction on religious liberty given to him in 1779.

Edwards' outlook on Newfoundland was determined by the context in which he served there. Twice he was the governor of the island, and in both instances he served during times of war when he had to fear an invasion by the enemy. First he was the successor of the notorious Richard Dorrill during the Seven Years' War (1752-1759), when he tried to build an effective defence against the possibility of a French attack. The second time (1779-1781), Edwards faced two threats at once: American privateers, active in Newfoundland waters since 1776, and a possible French attack. Fears were heightened in 1780 when a large French fleet that had left Brest was said to be heading for Newfoundland. Later it turned out that the French had actually sailed for the United States.{50}

The situation was compounded by the trade boycott with America,{51} which caused widespread scarcity of goods and, in the winter of 1779-80, a severe famine. Given the economic, military, and political realities, it is not difficult to imagine why a governor, in such a climate of suspicion, would have been reluctant to extend religious liberty to Irish Catholics, who were believed to support the Americans and the French whenever a suitable situation presented itself. The apparent contradiction suggested by Edwards' support of a legalization of settlement was in reality only another protective measure. Edwards hoped that the English resident landowners would see to it that only their immediate dependents and servants remained in Newfoundland during the winter and that they would be vigilant not to permit any illegal Irish or British subjects to remain behind in residence.{52}

The tendency to assume Irish support of the French surfaced even when Catholics received religious liberty in 1784. James Louis O'Donel, Superior of the Missions in Newfoundland, was suspected of French loyalties despite his pronounced allegiance to England. Both the Anglican priest Walter Price and Dr. Gardner allege him, contrary to all fact, to have been "a chaplain in the French service during the late rebellion."{53} And the English merchant Benjamin Lester went so far as to predict that in case of war

If such fears existed in peacetime, they were heightened during periods of war and economic hardship.

Governor Edwards was able to prevent the proclamation of religious liberty in Newfoundland because, in the absence of effective political representation and a legislature, he was responsible only to himself and to the distant authorities in England. If Governor Carleton of New Brunswick, who had to face a legislature, was able to oppose successfully the emancipation of Catholics until 1810 at a time when Nova Scotia and Lower and Upper Canada had already granted to Catholics the right to vote,{55} one can well imagine how, in a colonial situation without legislature and with a strongly Anglican mercantile lobby, Edwards was able to favour the "Established Church" and curb the rights of Protestant and Catholic Dissenters. Technically, Edwards was able to keep knowledge of the religious liberty provision from the population because his instructions were secret. Instructions indicated what the Crown wished to be done in Newfoundland, but in the absence of a governing or consultative council they were, in the words of Labaree, truly "for the eyes of the Governor only."{56}

Beyond these procedural and political realities, Edwards' own religious preference was decidedly Anglican. He not only showed a disdain for Roman Catholics, but also actively sought to restrain Protestant Dissenters. Edwards' commitment to the "Established Church" is well illustrated by an action he took during his first tenure as governor. In order to complete a new Anglican church building, the governor in 1759 forced St. John's non-Anglican residents either to contribute toward the building or face imprisonment.{57} Also, during his second stay, Edwards showed his favour by presenting to the garrison church of St. John's a "handsome clock."{58} Furthermore, he took an active role in finding a new clergyman when he felt that Parson Langman, on account of his age, was no longer able to carry out the duties of an Anglican priest.{59}

Edwards' support of the Anglican cause becomes especially obvious through his involvement in the dispute with Methodists and Congregationalists. In the case of Conception Bay Methodists who in 1779 claimed several chapels for themselves and desired to perform their own baptisms, marriages, and burials, he strictly forbade the use of the chapels in question and ordered them to refrain from any liturgical actions that were deemed the legitimate prerogative of the Anglican minister.{60}

The Congregationalists of St. John's fared even worse. In 1779, when John Jones, a former paymaster in the garrison and now a bona fide minister of the Congregational Church, applied for a ministerial licence, he was not only refused but also ordered by the Rev. Langman, one of the local Justices of the Peace, to refrain from public worship.{61} When Jones and the congregation approached the new governor, they found little sympathy for their cause and were ordered to desist from any public religious act,{62} in spite of the facts that religious liberty had been granted to the Dissenters of St. John's for over fifty years and that Edwards' new instructions and a supplementary Relief Act for Dissenters in England had reconfirmed and extended their previous rights.{63} When Jones in a second memorial pointed out to the governor that he was a duly ordained Dissenting minister with a call to serve the St. John's congregation, he was ordered into the governor's cabin where "he received much abusive language and [was] accused of `wanting to take people's bread of their Trenchers'... and of drawing people from their vocations."{64} Finally the governor allowed him to conduct worship in private. Only when the Congregationalists of St. John's sought support from England and when the Rev. John Stafford, who had connections to the King and Mr. Pitt, approached Edwards in London, did the governor grudgingly concede the legitimacy of Jones' request, claiming that the previous prohibition "was the fault of the Rev. Langman."{65} Finally, in the spring of 1780, and supported by Colonel Pringle, Jones received permission to reopen the meeting house for public worship.{66} Thus fifty years after religious liberty had been granted de jure to the Dissenters in Newfoundland, it became a de facto reality for St. John's Congregationalists. And while religious liberty already existed de jure for Roman Catholics, they had to wait for a new governor to make their legal right a political and societal reality.

John Campbell's term as governor (1782-1786), although plagued with internal and external problems of its own, took place in a considerably improved political climate.{67} In the year he took office the American-British hostilities tentatively ceased, and in the following year Britain in the Peace of Paris recognized American independence. As far as the French were concerned, the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783 reconfirmed the French possession of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and regulated French fishing along the "treaty coast" from Cape St. John to Cape Ray. Newfoundland was still beset with dire economic and human hardships, especially among the lower classes. After Pitt's proposed American Intercourse Bill had been soundly defeated, English merchants did their best to maintain a trade monopoly and oppose any overtures toward a resumption of trade with the American colonies. Governor Campbell and the naval officer Archibald Buchanan opposed this boycott. Seeing the great distress that an absolute boycott with its concomitant exorbitant prices had wrought in the local population, they advocated instead the free importation of bread and flour.{68} Eventually very limited trade was permitted.

Internally, Campbell also faced several challenges. Especially the judicial system with its surrogate courts and Justices of the Peace had assumed powers in legal matters granted neither to the governor nor to his inferior judges.{69} Governor Edwards, having no hesitation to administer the law in Newfoundland, had been challenged in England in 1780 by dissatisfied merchants, the result of which was an arbitration settlement but also a recognition on the part of the judge that the governor's actions had been illegal.{70} When Governor Campbell entered upon the scene, he "realized," in the words of the historian A.H. McLintock, "his legal limitations and proceeded to act with caution, confining himself in his judicial activities solely to the settling of fishing disputes as authorized by the Act of King William."{71} He also instructed the local magistrates to stay clearly within the field of their legitimate authorization, and when Nicholas Gill challenged the governor on this point, his name was struck from the roll of justices.{72}

On the whole, Campbell's tenure in Newfoundland was characterized by circumspect action. The character portrait that does emerge through his decisions and several anecdotes{73} shows him to be a fair-minded and independent administrator who was neither willing to favour merchant interest at any cost over the needs of the resident population, nor, like Edwards, prone to come down in every case on the side of the "Established Church" on the island. In fact, the opposite was the case.

Perhaps a clue to his independence in church matters in his own Presbyterian background. While Campbell's predecessor Richard Edwards had been a staunch Anglican from Kent, Campbell had grown up in the radical Presbyterian environment of Dumfries. His father, John Campbell (d. 1733), had been a Presbyterian minister in Kirkbean, Scotland, since 1714, and his mother, Mary Mitchelson, was the daughter of a Dumfries merchant.{74} Kirkbean and the Presbytery of Dumfries to which the church of his father belonged had been a hotbed of anti-Episcopalianism in the second half of the 17th century. The fact that his father had received an M.A. from Edinburgh University and had been presented to the congregation by the Presbytery of Dumfries seems to indicate that his loyalties must have been decidedly those of the Covenanting tradition.{75} One of his predecessors in Kirkbean, Anthony Murray, had in 1662 been deprived of his ministerial charge by an Act of Parliament and was formally charged with sedition.{76} Another one, Hugh Clanny, had more recently left the Presbyterian ministry altogether and had joined the radical sect of the Galloway Levellers as their secretary.{77} It is safe to assume that Governor John Campbell grew up in a home of strict Presbyterian tendencies. Whether there is even a closer, personal connection with radical Dumfries anti-Episcopalianism, as the two deprived Dumfries ministers of 1662 with the name of Campbell suggest,{78} has to await further research. Suffice it to say that Governor Campbell's own Dissenting background may have contributed toward his treating more fairly than his predecessor had the Congregationalists, Methodists, and Roman Catholics of Newfoundland.

The record on ecclesiastical matters demonstrates Campbell's independence beyond any shadow of a doubt. Whereas Governors Montagu and Edwards had strongly favoured Conception Bay Anglicans over their Methodist challengers, Campbell took a more cautious attitude in the dispute over church property. Where Edwards had "laid open" without hesitation "the three chapels in the Bay for the service of the Church of England,"{79} Campbell kept them shut to the Anglican minister, considering the buildings in dispute a matter of private property. The Rev. Balfour consequently complained bitterly to the S.P.G. that "Governor Campbell omitted to give me any redress" and hoped "the Society will give proper Instructions to the ensuing Governor."{80}

Also the Rev. Walter Price, who had replaced Langman as Anglican minister of St. John's, "received but little encouragement as to the maintenance of St. John's."{81} He had found what he considered to be appalling circumstances on his arrival: unburied corpses in the graveyard in St. John's with the dogs gnawing at their bones,{82} an active congregation of Dissenters attracting not a few disaffected Anglicans,{83} and news that Governor John Campbell, in the summer of 1783, had given Irish merchants permission to build a Catholic chapel at St. John's, and to invite a priest to the island.{84}

All Anglican fears came true when on 4 July 1784 the Rev. James Louis O'Donel arrived in St. John's and brought with him Patrick Phelan, a fellow Franciscan whom he dispatched to Harbour Grace, as well as a school teacher.{85} In addition, when the Rev. Price upon his arrival demanded of the Congregationalist John Jones "he must not proceed any further without permission in writing from the Bishop of London," Jones, aware of the new legislation of 1779 extending the rights of Dissenters, "produced the late Act of Parliament with every requirement therein aledging [sic] he thought that sufficient, otherwise the Law would have expressed further."{86} On top of this, Governor Campbell, before leaving for England, legitimized the Roman Catholic and Dissenting presence in Newfoundland by publicly announcing the instruction on religious liberty that had been on the books since 1779. The governor even seems to have allowed O'Donel "to marry... and to act discretionary without any Restrictions whatever."{87} The frustration of the ministers of the "Established Church" that there existed in Newfoundland a situation of religious liberty more tolerant than in England is expressed over and over again in the gloomy letters sent home. The Rev. Balfour wrote in 1784 from Harbour Grace:

And a year later he reported: "Roman Catholics are now nearly one half of the Bay: and they yearly increase, by means of intermarrying with native women."{89}

On the Avalon peninsula the situation was perceived by Anglicans as being even more critical. Placentia, St. Mary's, and Trepassey had not seen an Anglican missionary in thirty years, and children reportedly were being baptized by a French Catholic priest in St. Pierre.{90} St. John's in 1784-85 had a resident winter population of two to three thousand, which Price estimated as being "three fourth Roman Catholic and one half of the remainder Methodists [i.e., Congregationalists]."{91} The merchants and "principal inhabitants" who frequented Anglican church services indignantly experienced the lack of any special status as the "Established Church." Thus, Price wrote with a note of disenchantment: "They [St. John's Anglicans] beg to be on the same footing there as at home."{92}

The situation had economic implications as well. Lieutenant Governor Elford and the British merchants feared that the presence of resident Catholic priests would legitimize and encourage settlement to the detriment of the England-based fisheries.{93} But a more immediate threat to English fishing interests in Newfoundland - an island whose population had been warned as early as 1698 to observe Sunday "strictly and decently"{94} - was the very observance of the Lord's Day. In December of 1784, the English merchant Benjamin Lester informed Francis Baring, M.P., that Governor Campbell's policy of religious liberty for Roman Catholics was

These thoughts were reiterated before a Lords' Committee on the Newfoundland Fisheries in 1785-86. In a submission to the committee, Richard Routh, Collector of Customs and later Chief Justice of the island, felt that it was "necessary for the Fishery to be attended to on Sunday, as well as other days." And yet he "heard of complaints that the Irish servants had some refused and others reluctantly complied with that part of their duty."{96}

Governor Campbell's order on religious liberty - announced in part to put the King's instructions on an adequate legal footing ("Pursuant to the King's instructions to me...") in the face of attacks from the Anglican ministers and British merchants and, perhaps, to bring Newfoundland into line with a colonial practice that had seen a comprehensive relief act passed for the Roman Catholics in neighbouring Nova Scotia the year before{97} - was to stand the test of time. Campbell steadfastly and consistently maintained his more liberal attitude toward Protestant Dissenters and Catholics throughout his tenure as governor. In 1784, fearing that this was the last year of Campbell's governorship, the Congregationalists of St. John's presented an address to the governor in which they noted that under his reign "we have possessed a peaceable and free enjoyment of our rights and libertys [sic] and above all the greatest of all priviledges [sic] the free liberty of conscience in the use of our Religion." Governor Campbell in turn expressed his own thoughts on the matter by stating that he had "done no more than his duty" and "that if we [Congregationalists] had not the same treatment from others we had not justice done to us."{98} Catholics had experienced similar treatment. Despite a concentrated effort by the Rev. Price to discredit O'Donel by alleging he had French loyalties, O'Donel was able to write to Cardinal Antonelli in his first report to Rome in 1785 that the governor, upon his return from England in the spring of 1785, "not only privately but publicly gave thanks to me for the uncommon peace and concord of the inhabitants, even declaring, in the presence of the magistrate that the presence of a priest had been a greater benefit to the deserted state of this place in only one winter than that of any governor in the whole of three years."{99} The ease with which Campbell related to Catholics is also demonstrated by the fact that the governor and O'Donel visited each other frequently on a social basis.{100}

Even if the relationship between the governor and non-Anglicans was not to continue in as cordial a fashion under subsequent administrations, religious liberty, granted de jure to the island's Dissenters in 1729 and to Roman Catholics in 1779, had become a de facto situation under Campbell's governorship which no longer could be radically altered. Temporary tensions developed under subsequent administrations but never touched the basic rights of Catholics, Methodists, and Congregationalists to worship freely in Newfoundland, even if certain privileges of the "Established Church" continued until the 1830s. The upper middle class values and loyalties of the first three Roman Catholic bishops did much to cement the acceptance of a legal situation of religious pluralism on the island, as did the political conservatism of Protestant Dissenters in Newfoundland. The denominational factionalism of the nineteenth century that pitted Tractarian Tories against Ultramontane Liberals [sic]{101}belonged to another generation and occurred in a religio-political arena quite different from the one in which John Campbell, James O'Donel, Walter Price, and John Jones had been the players.


1. "John Campbell," The Dictionary of National Biography [hereafter DNB], III, pp. 829-30.

2. Public Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador [hereafter PANL], GN 2/1A, Vol. 10, p. 138.

3. John Reeves, History of the Government of the Island of Newfoundland (London: J. Sewell, 1793).

4. Lewis Amadeus Anspach, A History of the Island of Newfoundland (London: Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper, 1827).

5. Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (Harmondsword: Penguin Books, 1973 [=1931]).

6. Cf. Charles Pedley, The History of Newfoundland (London: Longmans, Roberts & Green, 1863), p. 137.

7. D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland from the English, Colonial, and Foreign Records (London & New York: Macmillan, 1895), pp. 362-63.

8. Raymond J. Lahey, "Religion and Politics in Newfoundland: The Antecedents of the General Election of 1832," Unpublished lecture, St. John's, Newfoundland Historical Society, 15 March 1979.

9. Raymond J. Lahey, James Louis O'Donel in Newfoundland 1784-1807: The Establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, Newfoundland Historical Society Pamphlet, No. 8, ed. by Shannon Ryan & G.M. Story (St. John's: Harry Cuff Publications, 1984), p. 6.

10. "Erasmus Stourton," Dictionary of Canadian Biography [hereafter DCB], I, p. 614; Raymond J. Lahey, "The Role of Religion in Lord Baltimore's Colonial Enterprise," Maryland Historical Magazine LXXII, 4, (1977), pp. 506-508; Gillian T. Cell, ed., Newfoundland Discovered: English Attempts at Colonisation, 1610-1630, Hakluyt Society, Second Series, Vol. 160 (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1982), pp. 284-85.

11. Cf. the rather sketchy treatment "The Navy as Moral Guardian: Newfoundland," in Waldo E.L. Smith, The Navy and Its Chaplains in the Days of Sail (Toronto: Ryerson [1961]), pp. 160-89.

12. Michael Godfrey, "John Jackson [d. 1717]," DCB, II, pp. 293-94.

13. Ruth M. Christensen, "The Establishment of S.P.G. Missions in Newfoundland, 1703-1783," Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 20 (1951), pp. 207-29.

14. Judith Fingard, The Anglican Design in Loyalist Nova Scotia: 1783-1816 (London: S.P.C.K., 1972).

15. Society for the Propagation of the Gospel [hereafter SPG] Journal (18 March 1820; 17 November 1820; 20 July 1821), transcribed in Garry Penner, "Newfoundland Material Contained in the Journal of the Monthly Meetings of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts 1820-1824," Unpublished paper, Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1981, p. 6, p. 10, p. 23.

16. Edward Wix, Six Months of a Newfoundland Missionary's Journal (London: Smith, Elder, 1836).

17. Frederick Jones, "Bishop Feild: A Study in Politics and Religion in 19th Century Newfoundland," Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1972. Thomas R. Millman & A.R. Kelley, Atlantic Canada to 1900: A History of the Anglican Church (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1983), pp. 83-98.

18. A.L. Cross, The Anglican Episcopate and the American Colonies (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1964 [=1924]); Elizabeth H. Davidson, The Establishment of the English Church in Continental American Colonies (New York: AMS press, 1970 [=1936]).

19. For documentation see William Stevens Perry, ed., Historical Collections Relating to the American Colonial Church, (5 vols.; New York: AMS Press, 1969 [=1870-1878]).

20. 10 and 11 William III, cap. 25; cf. also Public Record Office [hereafter PRO], Colonial Office [hereafter CO], 195/6, p. 236.

21. Instructions to Governor Henry Osborne, 24 May 1729, PRO, CO 195/7, pp. 199-202.

22. Leonard Woods Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions to British Governors 1670-1776, (2 vols.; New York: Octagon Books, 1967 [=1935]), II, p. 494 (#714), pp. 504-505 (#729), pp. 483-84 (#696), pp. 299-300 (#429), pp. 486-87 (#701), p. 47 (#702).

23. See my forthcoming edition of these instructions.

24. For documentation of this struggle see Fulham Papers, Lambeth Palace Library, Section C, Vol. 36, #1-112. See also Cross, Anglican Episcopate, pp. 15-87.

25. Leonard Woods Labaree, Royal Government in America: A Study of the British Colonial System Before 1783 (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1958 [=1930]), p. 115.

26. Some of the raw materials for such a study can be found in Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions, II, p. 493 (#713)-502 (#726). See also the useful indices in Charles M. Andrews, "List of Commissions, Instructions, and Additional Instructions Issued to the Royal Governors and Others in America," Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911, (2 vols.; Washington: House of Representatives, 1913), I, pp. 393-528.

27. Bermuda (1686-1690), Maryland (1691-1703), Nova Scotia (1749ff.), Virginia (1685-1690), Jamaica (1685-1689), Leeward Islands (1686-1689), New England (1686-1688). See Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions, II, p. 494 (#714).

28. Bahamas (1729ff.), Bermuda (1690ff.), Georgia (1754- American Revolution [hereafter: Am.Rev.]), Maryland (1703-1715), Massachusetts (1701-Am.Rev.), New Hampshire (1692-Am.Rev.), New Jersey (1702-Am.Rev.), North Carolina (1730-Am.Rev.), Island of St. John (1769ff.), Virginia (1682-1685, 1690-Am.Rev.), Barbados (1680-1707, 1710ff.), Jamaica (1681-1685), Leeward Islands (1689ff.), New York (1690-Am.Rev.), South Carolina (1720-Am.Rev.). See Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions, II, p. 494 (#714).

29. W. Keith Kavenagh, ed., Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History, (2 vols.; New York & London: Chelsea House, 1973), II, pp. 1322-24.

30. See Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters, (2 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), I, pp. 221-62.

31. Ibid., p. 260.

32. PRO, CO 195/7, p. 199 (Henry Osborne) to CO 195/10, p. 351 (Montagu); the latter indicates that Montagu's instructions were identical to those of Governor Robert Duff (CO 195/10, p. 300).

33. Instructions to Governor Richard Edwards; 27 April 1779, PRO, CO 195/10, pp. 383-84; cf. CO 5/207, #2.

34. Cf. PRO, CO 5/207. I am grateful to Prof. Phillip McCann, Dept. of Educational Foundations, Memorial University of Newfoundland, for this information.

35. Commission of Governor Richard Edwards, 12 March 1779, PRO, CO 195/10, pp. 357-69.

36. Instructions to Governor Richard Edwards, 27 April 1779, PRO, CO 195/10, p. 371.

37. Ibid., p. 372.

38. 18 George III, cap. 60.

39. 31 George III, cap. 32.

40. 10 George IV, cap. 7.

41. For the preceding and the following see Edwin H. Burton, The Life and Times of Bishop Challoner (1691-1781), (2 vols.; London: Longmans, Green, 1909), II, pp. 181-214. The following article, dealing with the military origins of the liberalization in penal laws, has come to my attention after completing the manuscript: Robert Kent Donovan, "The Military Origins of the Roman Catholic Relief Programme of 1778," The Historical Journal, XXVIII, 1 (1985), pp. 79-102.

42. Charles Butler, Historical Memoirs of the English, Irish and Scottish Catholics Since the Reformation, (2 vols.; London: J. Murray, 1882), II, p. 83; see also Burton, Life and Times of Bishop Challoner, II, pp. 206-207.

43. Ibid., II, pp. 233-64.

44. For a concise sketch of the Scottish situation, see P.R. Glazebrook, "Penal Laws: 2. In Scotland," New Catholic Encyclopedia, XI, pp. 65-66.

45. The first three stages of Catholic emancipation in Ireland - the Gardiner Relief Act of 1778, the second Gardiner Relief Act of 1782, and the Catholic Relief Act of 1793 - are conveniently summarized by P.S. McGarry in the article "Penal Laws: 3. In Ireland," ibid., p. 68.

46. Michael Godfrey, "Richard Dorrill," DCB, III, p. 189.

47. "George Sackville Germain," DNB, VII, pp. 1110-14.

48. John S. Moir, Church and State in Canada 1627-1867, The Carleton Library, Vol. 33, ed. by Robert L. McDougall (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1967), esp. pp. 92-110.

49. "Richard Edwards," DCB, IV, pp. 259-60.

50. On the episode see Prowse, A History of Newfoundland, p. 350.

51. On the economic situation see C. Grant Head, Eighteenth Century Newfoundland: A Geographer's Perspective, The Carleton Library, Vol. 99, ed. by Michael Gnarowski et al. (Toronto: McCllleand & Stewart, 1976), pp. 196-202.

52. PRO, CO 194/34, pp. 96-97.

53. Price to Secretary, 25 October 1784, SPG, C/Can I, #69 [68], fol. 1; cf. SPG Journal (17 December 1784), p. 422; "Some Facts Collected, and observations made on the Fisheries, and Government of Newfoundland [etc.]," British Museum, ADD. MS. 15493, typescript in Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

54. Memorandum of Benjamin Lester to Francis Baring, 27 December 1784, PANL, Misc. Box 2021/9. I am grateful to Prof. John Mannion for directing my attention to this manuscript.

55. John Garner, "The Enfranchisement of Roman Catholics in the Maritimes," The Canadian Historical Review XXXIV, 3 (1953), pp. 208-209.

56. Labaree, Royal Government in America, p. 95.

57. Cf. the documentation in Prowse, A History of Newfoundland, pp. 295-96.

58. Langman to Secretary of the SPG, 12 November 1781, SPG, C/Can I, 54; SPG Journal, Vol. 22 (21 December 1781), p. 347.

59. Governor Edwards to William Knox, 14 March 1781, SPG, C/Can I, #53. Edwards reports that the Rev. Langman is "very old, infirm and incapable of doing his duty" and recommends that "a sober and discreet [sic] person should be appointed not only to attend their morals but to assist the Commission of the Peace."

60. Order of Governor Edwards to the Magistrates of Conception Bay, 31 August 1779; the document is edited as "Appendix B" in Jacob Parsons, "The Origin and Growth of Newfoundland Methodism 1765-1855," Unpublished M.A. thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1964, pp. 150-51.

61. MS: "Congregational Church/Saint John's/Newfoundland/Instituted/1775/John Jones/Pastor," St. David's Presbyterian Church, St. John's, p. 7.

62. Ibid., pp. 7-8.

63. See above, fn. 46.

64. MS: "Congregational Church," p. 11; cf. also Langman to SPG, 2 November 1779, SPG, Series B6, #214, p. 1: "I showed the memorial to the Governor, Richard Edwards, Esqur., who reprimanded him for his Impudence and bold assurances, and ord[e]r[e]d him to desist from all such proceedings."

65. MS: "Congregational Church," pp. 13-14.

66. Ibid., p. 14.

67. Cf. A.H. McLintock, The Establishment of Constitutional Government in Newfoundland, 1783-1832: A Study of Retarded Colonisation, Imperial Studies, No. 17, ed. by A.P. Newton (London: Longmans, Green, 1941), pp. 26-51. For the economic situation consult Keith Matthews, "A History of the West of England - Newfoundland Fishery," Unpublished D.phil. dissertation, Oxford University, 1968, pp. 456-93.

68. McLintock, The Establishment of Constitutional Government, p. 33; cf. Keith Matthews, "A History," pp. 484-87.

69. On the whole "Struggle for Legal Reform" see McLintock, The Establishment of Constitutional Government, pp. 52-77.

70. Ibid., p. 61.

71. Ibid., p. 62.

72. Routh to Lords Committee on the Newfoundland Judicature, 19 January 1786, PRO, Board of Trade [hereafter BT] 6/89, pp. 82-83.

73. On the anecdotes see Gentleman's Magazine 61/1 (February 1791), pp. 100-101.

74. Hew Scott, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, (8 vols.; Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1915-50), II, p. 278.

75. Ibid. On the formula "[tanquam] jure devoluto" see J.H.S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), pp. 277-88.

76. Scott, Fasti, p. 277.

77. Ibid., pp. 277-78.

78. William McDowall, History of the Burgh of Dumfries (London: EP Publishing, 1972 [=1906]), p. 428.

79. See above, fn. 67; cf. also Balfour to SPG, 2 December 1779, Series B6, #215; and SPG Journal, Vol. 22 (17 March 1780), p. 78.

80. Balfour to SPG, 26 October 1785, Series B6, #231.

81. Balfour to SPG, 22 November 1784, C/Can I, #47; cf. SPG Journal, Vol. 24 (18 February 1785), p. 41.

82. Price to SPG, 4 June 1784, SPG, Series C/Can I, #66.

83. They soon decided to enlarge their meeting house in St. John's. On its construction see MS: "Congregational Church," pp. 35ff., and The Dissenting Church of Christ at St. John's 1775-1975: A History of St. David's Presbyterian Church, St. John's, Newfoundland [St. John's]: [1975]), pp. 19-23.

84. Memorandum of Benjamin Lester to Francis Baring, 27 December 1784, PANL, Misc. Box 2021/9 is the only document to date the permission of Campbell as having occurred in the summer of 1783. For the further course of events, see Lahey, James Louis O'Donel in Newfoundland, pp. 6-9.

85. Ibid., p. 9.

86. MS: "Congregational Church," p. 17.

87. Price to SPG, 25 October 1784, Series C/Can I, #69 [68].

88. Balfour to SPG, 22 November 1784, C/Can I, #47; SPG Journal, Vol. 24 (18 February 1785), p. 41.

89. Balfour to SPG, 26 October 1785, Series B6, #230; cf. SPG Journal, Vol. 24 (20 January 1786), p. 214.

90. Price to SPG, 30 November 1784, C/Can I, #68 [69]; cf. SPG Journal, Vol. 24 (18 February 1785), p. 83.

91. Ibid.

92. Ibid.

93. Lahey, James Louis O'Donel in Newfoundland, p. 10.

94. 10 and 11 William III, cap. 25; cf. PRO, CO 195/6, p. 230.

95. Memorandum of Benjamin Lester to Francis Baring, 27 December 1784, PANL, Misc. Box 2021/9.

96. Routh to Lords Committee on the Newfoundland Judicature, 19 January 1786, PRO, BT 6/89, pp. 81-82.

97. Angus Anthony Johnston, A History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia, (2 vols.; Antigonish: St. Francis Xavier University Press 1960-1971), I, pp. 101-105. On the large context of the emergence of Maritime Catholicism see Terrence Murphy, "The Emergence of Maritime Catholicism, 1781-1830," Acadiensis, XIII, 2(1984), pp. 29-49.

98. MS: "Congregational Church," p. 34.

99. Cyril J. Byrne, ed., Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction Fighters: The Letters of Bishops O'Donel, Lambert, Scallan and Other Missionaries (St. John's: Jesperson Press, 1984), p. 53.

100. Ibid.

101. Besides the study of Lahey mentioned in fn. 8 above, see also Frederick Jones, "Bishops in Politics: Roman Catholic versus Protestant in Newfoundland 1860-1862," Canadian Historical Review, LV, 4 (1974), pp. 408-21; Frederick Jones, "The Church in Nineteenth-Century Newfoundland," Bulletin of Canadian Studies, V, 1 (1981), pp. 25-40.

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