The Daily Telegraph - 1883-11-26

Article Title
The Migration of the Loyalists

Centennial of the Evacuation of New York
Page Number
Article Type
Article Contents
Yesterday being the 100th anniversary of the evacuation of New York, the Rev. Canon Brigstocke signalized the occasion by preaching, at the morning service in Trinity, a sermon upon the Migration of the Loyalists. The usual morning congregation was present. The reverend gentleman took for his text, Hebrews, xi, 8, the latter part of the verse:- He went out, not knowing whither he went. Before treating of the Loyalists, Mr. Brigstocke made a short reference to Abraham and his migration in obedience to divine command. The Patriarch had displayed, in thus breaking off from his old associations, a singular independence of mind, which can scarcely be attributed altogether to the hope of reward to be enjoyed by himself. He could scarcely have been conscious of the greatness of his own mission. After speaking of the interesting field of study afforded by God’s providence in the rise and fall of nations, Mr., Brigstocke said:- To ourselves there is one branch of this wide subject of peculiar interest. I mean that migration which took place from the country beside us, a century ago, to which this city owes its foundation, and which is again brought vividly before us to-day. November 25th is a historical day in the annals of this city, and of the neighboring republic. A century ago it witnessed the last great act of that striking drama which was then being enacted on a portion of this vast continent, namely, the final evacuation of New York by British troops. The articles of peace arrived in New York in March, 1783, from which date large detachments of those who were determined not to abandon the crown of Great Britain, nor to cast in their lot with those whom they regarded as rebels, left as they could, many of whom, as you know, arrived on these shores, on May 18th and founded this city. Others again arrived in the autumn of that year, and by the 25th day of November the work was completed. That day is therefore a memorable one in the history of England, the United States, Canada, and the world. “It said,” to quote the words of an American writer, “the Americans left in full possession of their idol, their phantom, independency.” It closed one of the wars of England, which I will not here characterize and established a peace, the terms of which I now pass over in silence. It was a striking movement, the deep meaning of which we are now perhaps only beginning to understand. That great struggle which cost many so dearly, which inflicted so much pain, and spoliation of property was, we now see, the birth throes of a nation which was to take a high place in the world. The steadfastness of some to British rule was to preserve this vast Dominion to the British Crown, that it might form one of its richest and noblest possessions. I dwell no longer on historical details but pass on, as becometh us, to point out the beneficial results that ensured from the great movement. We are not called on now, so we judge, to discuss the merits or demerits of either side in the great struggle. On both sides there undoubtedly were principles at stake, for which they each contended in their own way and both came off victorious. Those who contended for independency and political rights and freedom gained their cause, and so did the champions of loyalty to the British crown. The great loser was England herself. There is no reason to doubt that she might have retained possession of the whole of this continent, and owned an empire in the East and West. The lessons taught her on this side of the Atlantic will doubtless guide her policy in the East, or I venture to think that another struggle for independence will there arise, and be again victorious. Turning our thoughts, first, to the more distant scenes, we see how great results ensured. They appear in the nation beside us – a nation begotten of independence, and, therefore, necessarily exhibiting here and there defects connected with that spirit, but yet a nation which, for many elements of true greatness, takes a foremost place in the world. The Government, lying wholly in the hands of the people, has developed a spirit of self government such as is not found elsewhere. The American nation, without precedents, or the prestige of antiquity, with only a history of one hundred years of national life, has yet, by her vigor, her undaunted prowess, made such remarkable progress in the development of her resources, in the product of mechanical skill, and in the arts of civilized life, as to win the admiration of all. A century’s work in the United States will certainly compare favorably with a century’s work elsewhere. Composed of all peoples, the American nation has a sympathy for all; she meets them all with open-handed hospitality. She welcomes all, and treats them as friends. This characteristic forms one of her attractive features, and is a source of her growth. With some obvious disadvantages, people continue to pour into the United States, for there they quickly find a home and enjoy without restriction the full exercise of their rights and liberties. If the vigor and power and attractiveness of the American nation have been so great in her infancy and youth, what may they not be in her ripened manhood? As it is, she has quickened the life of the world, and will continue to do so, if she be not left without a rival. But other results have followed. They appear in the history of the church. Like the people, the church struggled for independence. A body of missionary clergy, under the nominal jurisdiction of an archbishop in England, could not do the work of the church on this side of the Atlantic among a rising and growing people. The struggle was hard and severe. Many of the colonists had left the shores of England to avoid what they conceived to be the evils of the Episcopal Church, and hence were strongly opposed to Episcopacy being established among them. The refusal, too, of the church in England to consecrate a bishop and sent him out formed a very formidable obstacle. But the truth prevailed by its own omnipotent force, and the long desired and needed blessing to form a duly constituted church which should have within herself the power of expansion was begun to be granted by the church in Scotland consecrating on November 14, 1784, the Rev. Saml. Seabery, of Connecticut, to be the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. The first stage of the struggle was over, and when two more bishops were consecrated the second stage was passed, and the church from that day forward was as a tree whose seed is in itself. The church thus founded on Apostolic principles, and so forming a branch of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, has a history of great interest and instruction. She affords an example of a branch of the Church of England established on her own resources, independent of the State, and working for the good of the nation. Planted in virgin soil, ever maintaining Apostolic fellowship, primitive practice and evangelical truth, she has grown as the mustard seed, and possess influence like the leaven. Now in her centennial year she shows a record of 48 Dioceses, 15 Missionary jurisdictions, 67 bishops, 3,500 clergy, 3,000 organized parishes, more than 373,000 communicants. Her revenue, which in 1865 was six and a half millions of dollars, was in the current year twenty-three and a quarter millions of dollars. These statistics place the church in the front rank of all religious bodies in the United States. The American Church is fast becoming the church of the nation, and the pillar and ground of the truth to the people in that land. The power and adaptability of a church which adheres to Apostolic order and primitive practice to meet present needs are thus abundantly vindicated, and a striking example is given us to prove that the Church of England has no need of State support and patronage to maintain her position or be a power in the land. These are great results – results which are plainly for the good of mankind and such as may never have been known but for the struggle and victory of independence. But these you know are not all, and if now I dwell on the other side with greater brevity, it is because I conceive they are better known, and therefore need not be so fully treated. The motives and principles and work of the Loyalists have been often set forth, but not oftener than they deserve. In days of laxity of principles, when loyalty to a sovereign is regarded as sentiment only, when self-sacrifice to maintain principle is too early seen, it is important that the devoted hand of men and women who went out in obedience to the call of God, not knowing whither they went and landed on these shores, then so inhospitable and destitute of comfort should be held in remembrance. Their loyalty maintained and preserved to this county a historic past – “a connexion which,” as lately described, “elevates and tempers the spirit of a nation, and at once imparts dignity and inspires wisdom.” Another result of their migration is a city founded on just and upright principles; such as should now govern its life. Let the patriotism they showed be cultivated, and the self-sacrifice they displayed be practiced, and we shall soon see the much needed reformatory built, the public library worth of the city, and other institutions founded for the promotion of arts and sciences. We are surely responsible for the care we take of the inheritance bequeathed to us, and ought to make it our endeavor to watch over its interests, and promote its welfare. Let the voice of the historic past be heard, and its guidance taken. But no result of the migration of the Loyalists has been to us so great as their work for the Church of Christ. In the midst of pressing want of various kinds, they did not neglect to make provision for Divine worship. A building was first erected for that purpose on an adjoining site to the south, and subsequently this noble site was given whereon to erect a permanent church. The foundation stone was laid by the first colonial bishop of the Church of England, the Right Rev. Dr. Inglis, on August 20, 1788, and it was opened for Divine worship on Christmas Day, 1791, and consecrated by the name of Trinity Church. It was the church of this parish until the great fire of June 20, 1877, when it was, as you know, swept away by that besom of destruction. The history of this edifice I need not here record. Many of us were present when its corner stone was laid on Monday, May 19, 1879, by the Bishop of the Diocese. We watched its erection, and joined in the service of its consecration on Thursday, December 9, 1880, and of the dedication of magnificent gifts subsequently made. In determining the character of this building the historic past was not forgotten; and our aim was to perpetuate the memory of the Loyalists by erecting a church in Canada worthy of the posited it had occupied, and commensurate with the growth and wealth of the city. In concluding his interesting discourse Canon Brigstocke said that the lessons of the historic past should impress upon our minds strongly the duties of the present.