South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
CHURCHMEN VERSUS DISSENTERS, 16942-1706

Antecedents of Religious Strife. --It is hard to avoid reading into earlier events a phase of religious controversy because of our knowledge of contemporaneous animosities in England, and of what they became in South Carolina early in the eighteenth century. At one extreme is Dr. Hirsch saying that "the undertone of that struggle [between Dissenters and Churchmen] is heard in nearly every important political issue for twenty years" before 1700. At the other is Professor Rivers, who says that "the tranquil administration of Blake ( 1696-1700) had been succeeded by a period of disturbance and by the domination of a faction, the first that rose to power in the province that truly deserves the name"; and, further, "I find no evidence that religious differences had yet [in 1700] entered into the politics of the colony." General McCrady speaks of the religious factionalism of England existing in the colony from the first, but offers little proof of it before the conflict following 1700.

It seems to me that the religious antagonisms brought from England were obscured and mollified in the first thirty years of the colony by common difficulties and by common grievances against the Proprietors. The fact that for over ten years there was no organized congregation submerged religious issues. We find the Dissenter Governor Sayle requesting that an Episcopal minister by whose preaching he had been edified in Bermuda be sent to Carolina, and other early leaders urging the need of ministers without denominational discrimination. If religious factionalism had been running strongly before 1700, it is hardly conceivable that the Proprietors would have allowed Dissenters to act as governors for eighteen out of thirty years, or that a jealous Anglican faction in the colony would have failed to fill their correspondence with sectarian complaints, as both factions did so plentifully from 1703. If there had been decided sectarian politics before 1700, the Dissenters would not have been found in 1698 joining in voting a salary to the generally beloved Episcopal minister of St. Philip's; nor Dissenter Lady Blake contributing liberally to decorate the building; nor the various Dissenter governors, and especially Blake from 1696 to 1700, treating the Anglican church and people with such liberality. Governor Archdale testified that "religious differences did not yet peculiarly distinguish the parties" until

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