In the 1740s, Colonial America was in the midst of a religious "Great Awakening". The passion of the Puritan growth of the early-to-mid 17th century had waned by the close of that century. The secularization of society (moving away from religion) combined with the growing materialism of the primary churches and their leaders sparked the Great Awakening. Under the leadership of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and others the colonies in America experienced a revitalization of religion. By 1740 an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the population attended churches. With that reprisal religious leaders were under close scrutiny and were called upon to issue public letters of recantation that would be published in the newspapers, the subject of this letter.
(Pastor/Reverend) "T. Bluett" of North Farnham Parrish, Richmond County, Colony of Virginia, wrote to Daniel Hornby, Esquire with regard to the suggestion/request that Bluett issue of Letter of Recantation as "Mr. Hartswells" had done. (Transcription of each page follows the image.) Bluett presents his argument that he had no need to take such action.
Yesterday I reced yours of the 28th. Instants with your
Gazette N. 313 Inclos'd, in which is Mr. Hartswells Letter of
Recantation as he terms it; and I shall now according to y our Desire
answer your Letter by this first opportunity, and send you my
Thoughts on Mr. Hartswells Advertisements. I shall begin with Mr.
Hartswell firsts, and here I must Acquaint you Sir, that I saw his
Original Letter to Mr. Parks, some time before he Publis'd it, who
told me its was the third he had reced one the same head, and that he
should be obliged to Publish it, that he might be Plagued with no more,
This naturally led me to ask, what amendment such repeated, solemn,
Declarations, had Proove'd, and was Informed that there was not yet
the least symtoms of the fevers abating, the Patient being rather worse
that the Parish where he resides neither has nor will receive him but levy Tobacco in there own hands, and give him more, or less, as his Merits or there Pitty may induce them. This being Premis'd, I shall Examine his Letter, In the preamble he says, he thinks his publick Acknowledgmnt. of his fault, ought to be looked upon, as proceeding from humility and an Ingenious mind, where pray was the humility in confessing a fault, which in his postscript he says was publick offence, and known consequen-tly to every one? To publish a vice and yet continue in it, is so far from Humility that it is presumtious imprudence, He tells you the Wisest, & best of men, have Publickly confessed their former Errors, and freely recanted them. He must sure mean Errors of Doctrine; for sure I am confession of Vices, without (scratch-out) a Visible amendment, is neither to god's glory nor the Benefits of man. In the body of his paper, he says (Immoderate Drinking Excepted) his Character had been unblemish'd. if he has not been guilty of Worse than hard Drinking, he has much injustice done him; and if he has, tis strange, that Thats all powerful grace of god, the many struggles and Conflicts he has had with himself, as he tells us shou'd not have made him make a Larger confession; but perhaps the rest was not so publicklyl known before, and his hard Drink (page)
Drinking was, He begins his Postscript with these words. If any one shou'd arrain my understanding. I profess I do not, I much rather have done with him, I shall only observe, had he in his Confession added after the words confess A(and amend) I should agree with him. as to confess and amend his faults, the world (scratch out) in a Little time would be Prodigiously reclaimed, which I dare say no body will deny. But I am sure tis the amendment, and not the confession that must better the world. And now Sir I come to your Letter, and first I must return you my thanks for your good wishes for my wellfare which I must believe sincere as well as some others, that have proffered the Same, tho I declare it would look to a stranger some what like the Spanish Inquisition where they Damn the body, for the good of the Soul. By your Inclosing the Gazette in your Letter, of some of your Expressions, I find you take me to be parallel to Hartswell. I shall now briefly show you, how we are Diametrically opposite, and first his Vices are publick undeniable and perpetually repeated; whereas what I am charged with, is without proof, founded on nothing but heresay, and Malicious suspicion, and never pretended to be Publick or frequent. 2.Ly he has no parish nor can get one, and therefore meanly and hyppocritically wou'd Cajole himself into one, on the Contrary, I have a Parish, and will not Cringe, Fawn, Flatter, or basely sneak to any man, were I sure he had proven To Deprive me of it, Thusly you see how widely we Differ -
As to the first Clause of your Letter where you advise me to make the like recantation one of the (illegible-go?) has done; I am at some loss to determine fully, what you mean, if I have preached any-false Doctrine at any time, on the least conviction, I shall most willingly recant it. But if you mean (as I rather think you do) that I should send Parke a list of all the sins and folleys of my past life, I must beg to be Excused for the following reasons. And first
I pro- (page)
I profess I cannot recollect the half and therefore am ashame'd to print any thing that is Imperfect. 2Ly. Mr. Lanford (Sanford?) having among other things, told it all the way to and from Williams-burg that my Parrish mind more my examples than preaching, who knows, should I begin the frolick, where it might end, it might prove Epidimicall, should I publish my Catalogue, who can tell but our Gentry in Immitation might publish theirs; and the Common people following them theirs, Nay the Whim might Cross the ferry, and the upper parish follow ou's, and til a Dout but that Westmorland, Northumberland, & Lancaster, Nay the whole Northern Neck, might soon be set on publishing; and as it might Cross the ferry, so mght it also the River, and perhaps in time all Virginia be infected. now this would not Duly prove a Detriment, but might inevitably ruin the whole Colony, for as we have now the News once a week, we could not then expect its offner Than once in five years; no not if we cou'd engage all the American printers to come here. Our grist mills, must be turned into paper mills, our linnen apparell into paper, our wollen Cloth into brown paper for covers, and our hides would hardly make binding, for the more curious. For I can never think what paper C/Parks can have by him, Together with what linnen Raggs he may have bought, wou'd be Sufitient, even for our little parish to begin on. So that probably our Gazetts would in ?) than half a Century swell to Larger Volumes then the English Statutes. Thus Sir you see this Scheme is Impractical. In your last Paragraph you say, If I wished myself as well as you wish me, I should find them. I now deem foes, would be my friends. Surely Sir you have been Misinformed, I deem no man a fox; I have the Vanity to think my Behavior among you have been so inoffensive that I Cannot have an Enemy. I rather think the Differencies among us proceeds from a love of Novilty; for I know our Parish is noted all over Virginia and the Neighboring Colonies for the Delicacy of their taste, and the Extraordinary
Variety of Parsons, they have for many years been and are Continually procurring. Thus Sir, I have Answered your Letter according to your Desire, and without Entring into any Dispute. I conclude with St. Pauls words to Festus, Acts, the 25th Chapter verse, 10 & 11. I stand at Casars Judgment seat where I sought to be Judged, to the Jew's have I done no wrong," as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of Death, I refuse not to die. But if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man can Deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
I am Sir
North farnham Your very obed Servt.
Aug. 30th 1742 T. Bluett
Daniel Hornby Esq.
The(re)(se)... (Cannot read address noted)
"This is the church of North Farnham Parish, built about 1737. In 1814, a skirmish was fought here between the raiders from Admiral Cockburn’s British fleet and Virginia militia; bullet holes are still visible in the walls. The church was used as a stable by Union soldiers, 1863–65. It was restored in 1872, damaged by fire in 1887 and restored again in 1924."
Historical Marker Database
Library of Congress, Religion in Colonial Virginia