3. The Ecclesiastical Policy of Bishop Sherlock and Colonial Reaction 83
CHAPTER 3 The Ecclesiastical Policy of Bishop Sherlock and Colonial Reaction 1740–1761 “The Business of the diocese and the Plantations sits heavy upon me.”1 Thomas Sherlock to Edward Weston Bishop Thomas Sherlock’s sustained efforts in the 1740s to persuade the government in London to appoint an American bishop failed because political authorities feared a backlash. The failure of Bishops Sherlock and Thomas Secker to appreciate colonial views on episcopacy proved Horace Walpole and other ministers correct in their predictions of the trouble approaching an American bishop would involve, and hence colonial resistance to it. Through the 1740s the ministers and the Crown favored Dissenters in Britain for their support of the Hanoverian succession and Robert Walpole’s “Whig Supremacy.” The Dissenters were small in comparison to the Anglicans but influential enough to keep the Whigs in power. Also their colonial connections made real the possibility of civil disruption in the colonies. The most assertive and hard-line churchmen were excluded from influence by their Tory connections and remaining high churchmen such as Thomas Sherlock found it difficult to gain the government’s cooperation for colonial bishops. From the 1720s through the 1740s the overriding preoccupation of the government under Robert Walpole was to avoid conflict or public controversy, which saw any agitation as highly dangerous. Government officials expressed concern that the establishment of bishops would infringe on the existing civil rights of the colonists and invite a backlash. In spite of Edmund Gibson’s great efforts, his project to establish episcopacy in...
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