Sunday, September 30, 2012

Benjamin Church, Sr - IV

  In 1762, Deacon Church was one of the incorporators of the "Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge Among the Indians of North America." The incorporators, some of whom were members of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company along with the Deacon, collected a substantial endowment, obtained a charter from the Provincial Government, and began proselytizing. When the act of incorporation was forwarded to England for approval, the Archbishop of Canterbury, fearing that this new society would interfere with one already established for that purpose by the Church of England, or, perhaps more relevantly, concerned that a society of this type independent of the Church of England could obtain substantial influence and power convinced the King to oppose the incorporating act in Parliament, and thus killed the Society. This killed the Society until after the Revolution. There is little doubt that the Deacon was a very pious man who took his religion seriously and to whom this would have been a severe blow.

   In 1769, the Deacon agreed not to handle any goods at his auctions which were imported in contravention of the Non-Importation Agreements.

   In 1771, Samuel Southwick, a printer and publisher in Newport, R.I. decided to reissue a reprint of the 1716 edition of the Deacon's grandfather's history of King Philip's War, titled "The History of King Philip's War", and enlisted the services of Dr. Ezra Stiles, then pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport, R.I.. (Dr Stiles has been mentioned a number of times in this blog and I invite the readers to read the posts concerning him.) Dr Stiles enlisted the then 67 year old Deacon, who some may recall lived with his grandfather for a number of years as a young boy, to contribute to a Life of Col Church that was to be appended to the the new edition. We do not know precisely what information Deacon Church provided to Dr. Stiles concerning the life of his grandfather, but it appears from the Stiles papers that Stiles just used whatever he received without specific attribution. The Deacon also furnished a 30 line poem, an "Ode Heroica, " in Latin, to be included in the book as a tribute to Col Church; it was duly incorporated. I will spare the modern reader a translation of the poem, but will state that the author took as his inspiration the Roman biographer, Cornelius Nepos, and the work is filled with classical Roman and biblical references. The Deacon's other inspiration appears to have been Publius Ovidus Naso (Ovid).

Paul Revere's engraving of Col Church from the 1772 edition. There is no known portrait of Col Church and it is believed that Revere took an engraving of an English poet named Church and added the powder horn and the coat. Deacon Church is alleged to have looked on the engraving and agreed to it since it allegedly resembled a number of Churches. I cannot corroborate the Deacon ever so advised Revere.


   On 27 March 1773, the selectman of the town of Boston met to implement an act of the General Court from the previous session to limit the number of individuals authorized to sell goods at "public-vendue" to four and to provide licenses for them. Deacon Church (and he was so referenced in the official record) and three other individuals were "chose into the Office of Vendue-Master for the Town of Boston for the term of one year...whereupon they voluntarily agreed and declared to the Selectman that they would not sell any British or European goods at private sale but at auction or Public Vendue only."

A December 1768 issue of the Boston Chronicle advertising items for sale at "public vendue."

  Thus, at the eve of the outbreak of the Revolution in April 1775,  seventy year old Benjamin Church, Sr had been resident in Boston for some thirty-three years, had risen to be one of its most respected citizens, and had become prosperous enough to be considered a gentleman. He had eight children and two of his sons were active Patriots. One was of such prominence in the Whig movement that there were few who stood higher. Benjamin Sr was a scholar and respected Deacon living in a substantial brick home with an extensive library with books in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French. The revolution, however, would bring his world crashing down upon him.

To be continued in the final chapter - The Destitute Deacon


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