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V. A statistical account of Beaufort,
The first settlers of South-Carolina were of differcnt religious persuasions. None had any particular connexion with government; nor had any sect legal pre-eminence over another*.
This state of things continued for twenty-eight years. In that early period of the province divine service was seldom publicly performed beyond the limits of Charlestown, with the exception of an in
* The New-England plan of co-extending settlements and religious instruction by making a meeting house, and a minister, appendages to every new town was far from being common in Carolina; but was substantially adopted in some cases. The new-englanders near Dorchester, the irish at Williamsburg, the swiss at Purysburgh, the french at New-Bourdeaux all brought their ministers with them, and each of these groupes had the benefits of religious instruction from the time they became carolinians.
dependent church formed near Dorchester in 1696.
The inhabitants of the province were nevertheless kept in a state of social order; for they generally believed in a God, a future state of rewards and punishments, the moral obligation of the decalogue, and in the divine authority of the Old and New Testaments. The two first acts of the legislature which have been found in the records of the secretary's office “ enjoined the observance of the Lord's day, commonly called sunday ;” and prohibited sundry gross immoralities, particularly “idleness, drunkenness, and swearing.” Thus far the government aided religion in the infant colony. In the year 1698, one step further was taken by an act "to settle a maintenance on a minister of the church of England in Charlestown.” This excited neither suspicion nor alarm among the dissenters, for the minister in whose favor the law operated was a worthy good man; and the small sum allowed him was inadequate to his services. The precedent thus set by the legislature being acquiesced in by the people, paved the way for an ecclesiastical establishment. In the year 1704, when the white population of South-Carolina was between 5 and 6000, when the episcopalians had only one church in the province and the dissenters three in Charlestown and one in the country, the former were so far favored as to obtain a legal establishment. Most of the proprietors and public officers of the province, and particularly the governor sir Nathaniel Johnson, were zealously attached to the church of England. Believing in the current creed of the times that an established religion was essen
tial to the support of civil government, they concerted measures for endowing the church of the mother country and advancing it in South-Carolina to a legal pre-eminence. Preparatory thereto they promoted the election of members of that church to a seat in the provincial legislature, and succeeded by surprise so far as to obtain a majority. The recently elected members soon after they entered on their legislative functions took measures for perpetuating the power they had thus obtained ; for they enacted a law " which made it necessary for all persons thercafter chosen members of the commons, house of assembly, to conform to the religious worship of the church of England and to receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper according to the rights and usages of that church.” This act passed the lower house by a majority of only one vote. It virtually excluded from a seat in the legislature all who were dissenters, erected an aristocracy, and gave a monopoly of power to one sect though far from being a majority of the inhabitants. The usual consequences followed. Animosities took place and spread in every direction. Moderate men of the favored church considered the law as impolitic and hostile to the prosperity of the province. Dissenters of all denominations made a common cause in endeavoring to obtain its repeal. The inhabitants of Colleton county, who were mostly dissenters, drew up a statement of their grievances which they transmitted by John Ash to the proprietors praying their lordships to repeal the oppressive act. Ash b. ing coldly received, and despairing of relief from those
to whom he was sent, determined to address hiinself to the english nation through the medium of the press; but death prevented the execution of his design. The dissenters, in two years after, made another effort to obtain a repeal of the obnoxious law. They drew up a petition and sent it by Joseph Boone to be presented to the house of lords in England. In this they severely animadverted on the law, its authors and abettors. In consequence of their application a vote was passed “that the act complained of was founded on falsity in matter of fact-was repugnant to the laws of England-contrary to the charter of the proprietors--was an encouragement to atheism and irreligion--destructive to trade, and tended to the depopulation and ruin of the province.” The lords also addressed queen Anne, beseeching her “to use the most effectual methods to deliver the province from the arbitrary oppression under which it lay and to order the authors thereof to be prosecuted according to law.” To which her majesty replied, “ that she would do all in her power to relieve her subjects in Carolina and protect them in their just rights."
Though the infant establishment of thc church of England was thus frowned upon by the ruling pow- . ers in England, and was disagreeable to a majority of the inhabitants of Carolina, yet no further steps were taken for restoring to dissenters their equal rights. The episcopal party continued to maintain their ascendency in the assembly, and inade legislative provision for extending and maintaining their mode of worship. In two years the colony was di