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connected with your case.
I can therefore only express
to you my sincere hope, that truth and justice may prevail. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, OLIVER WOLCOTT. To His Excellency Oliver Wolcott, Esq. Governor of Connecticut, in Litchfield.
Norwich Jail, Feb. 20th, 1822.
On the 15th instant I had the honor of receiving your favor of the 11th, in answer to my application dated the 25th ultimo, and now pray you not to consider me obtrusive in this reply. My petition contains a plain, unadorned narrative of the facts on which it is founded, and I knew no other expedient more respectful, or by which I could so well lay my case before your excellency and the General Assembly, and obtain my request. Had I laid my case open in the form of a remonstrance, or of a complaint, or of an impeachment of individuals, still the facts must have been narrated, or they could not have been known. God and my own conscience bear me witness, that my narrative contains a just and true representation of my case. I have no pleasure in reproaching the court or its officers, and God Almighty forbid that I should do it any farther forth, than a religious regard to truth and justice compel me. Your exhortation to a repentance of crimes which I never have committed, may be kind in the intention, but certainly is afflictive and grievous in its application. No punishment can be mild which is inflicted on the innocent; and in this case, if the charges were true, to be confined in Norwich Jail, a living spectacle of reproach and disgrace, in the very face and eyes of all my friends and acquaintance, is worse than death or Newgate for life. I can truly say with the Roman orator, 66 quam publicam odium nullum supplicium est gravius:" i. e. than public hatred no pun. ishment can be greater. Had your Excellency been pleased to give advice on a different but true view of the subject, it would have been a great favor. It is a solemn and very interesting truth, that I have been 'falsely accused, partially and unfairly tried, and unjustly condemned to irretrievable disgrace and ruin, with the
undeniable evidence of my innocence, excluded by the court, and cruelly and corruptly withheld and concealed by the State's Attorney, and perjury! the most Heaven daring perjury! a confession of which was then proved and acknowledged in court, was tolerated and allowed! I mean, that after it was proved in court, on trial, and Maria A. Smith then acknowledged, that she had frequently and seriously confessed, to different persons and at different times that she had taken a false oath against me before the Justice when I was bound over, and that she had been overpersuaded and hired to do it, the court admitted her testimony, and evidently charged the jury, not on the information then against me, but on her story, which was utterly false by her own repeated acknowledgements, and by other circumstances. It is painful for me to say these things of the judiciary of my native state and where I was educated; but my rights are dear to me, to my children, and to my friends, as Judge Chapman's or Mr. Lanman's, or the State's can be to them; and I should be under everlasting obligations to the Governor for his advice on this view of the subject.
I am suffering imprisonment, disgrace, and the loss of all worldly comforts, not for committing crimes with Asenath C. Smith-No, Sir, this is not the cause for which I am imprisoned, persecuted, and suffer the loss of all things, but my real crimes, my most henious sins, are that I have dared to be a Protestant Episcopalian; that I have dared to oppose a union of Church and State; that I have dared to oppose any person's being by law taxed, and by law compelled to attend and pay money, to support that as God's truth which they did not believe to be true; that I have dared to call in question the Federal Presbyterian politics of Connecticut, and to be a republican that I had questioned the morality and infallibility of Bishop Jarvis; that I had fully espoused the doctrine, that although Bishops were the true and awful governors of Christ's church, yet if they did not govern Christ's church according to Christ's laws, and the established order of that church, their government was not binding: that no discipline, no sentence, no ad
ministration of Bishop Jarvis, or of all the Bishops in the United States, is of any force or validity, unless it be founded on the previous steps required by the authority of God's word and the constitution and canons of his church.
Another dreadful sin and crime in me is, that I have not any, even the least, confidence in the Leather Mitten Ordination, under a string of which Mr. Lanman had then recently enrolled himself, or in any other ordination which is derived of human authority.* It was then, and now is, my decided opinion, that there is no ecclesiastical authority which is not derived from God, and that there is no civil authority which is not derived from the people. That no one can lawfully baptize, or administer the sacrament, or hold forth to a guilty world the terms of life and salvation in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, without authority from God; and that this authority can be derived only two ways, viz. immediately from Heaven, in an extra
*When our forefathers first came to reside in that part of Connecticut where I was born, a settlement was formed at the mouth of Stratford river. On Sundays they used to meet for public worship, and sometimes one would pray and exhort, and sometimes another, as they felt disposed.
They drew up a writing among themselves which they called a Church Covenant-they then thought it necessary to have a minister, and what made a minister was the people's choosing him, and his accepting the choice. If they could make a minister they could or dain him, for it was more to make him than it was to ordain him. Accordingly they met and chose one Mr. Chauncy out of their number, who seemed to be the most gifted, and chose three of their brethren, viz. Mr. Prindle, Mr. Brimsmaid and Mr. Groves to ordain him. On the day appointed, they came from their labor with their leather-aprons and their leather-mittens on, which was a common dress at that time, and assembled in a log barn at the south end of the point of land which had been cultivated. Each of the three made a prayer over Mr. Chauncy, put their hands upon his head and told him to take authority to be a minister in the vineyard of Jesus Christ. Mr. Brimsmaid put on his hand first, with his leather-mitten on, and the other two followed his example, hence the Congregational Presbyterian ordination in Conn. has always been termed the "Leather Mitten Ordination," and it is a fact that most of the Presbyterian ordinations in Conn. have been derived from the common people. Mr. Buckingham was ordained by the brethren of his church, in Saybrook, in presence of the Council of Ministers, (as they called themselves,) and his ordination was acknowledged and received by them as valid-Mr. Prudden, of Milford, and others, were ordained in the same way, and their ordinations were acknowledged and they ordained others. (See Trumbull's History of Connecticut, vol. 1, pages 236, 264, &c. edition of 1818.)
ordinary manner, and then we must produce immediate and extraordinary works to prove it, such works as no others can produce for God never requires his creatures o believe that which he has given them no reason to beieve; or it must be derived from God, from him who had all power in Heaven and on earth, by a direct, uninterrupted line of succession. No one can lawfully act by authority of the State of Connecticut, or of the United States, without authority from them, and this can be derived only two ways, viz. immediately from the people, and then it requires immediate evidence from them to prove it; or it must be derived by a succession from the regular constituted authority. Because a man or a body of men have the statute law of the State, they have not power to make a Justice of the Peace and because a man or body of men have the Bible, they have not power to make a priest. It requires as much authority to make a justice as it does to make a law; and it requires as much authority to make a minister of God as it does to make a Bible.
The civil and ecclesiastical authorities are derived from different sources, and ought to be kept perfectly separate and distinct; and a union of these two authorities has caused more distress, more devastation and more blood-shed, than all the wars, than all the plagues, than all the famines with which the earth has ever been visited. I am also in the opinion, that the separation of our forefathers, not from the civil, but from the ecclesiastical authority of England, and the church of England, was at first very unnecessary and unreasonable, and that it is now the imperative duty of all, to return to the Episcopal church. It is dishonorable to God and dangerous to the souls of men, to depart from the authority, the_doctrine, and the worship of the universal church. Those things in which they all agree must be derived from the
In regard to experimental religion, I think it essen. tial that the natural disposition of the human heart should be changed from ungodliness and worldly lusts, to the love and practice of a sober, righteous and godly life and conversation: but in this case, as in all others,
I think that no man or woman ever acts wisely except when they act reasonably. In short, I have opposed enthusiasm, bigotry and superstition, on one side; and I have opposed infidelity, immorality, and licentiousness, on the other. And these, Sir, are my crimes :-these principles and this practice have raised upon me a host of enemies, and have brought me to this jail, this place of disgraceful punishment and were the truth of it avowed, for it I could willingly burn at the stake, I could suffer any punishment, here or in Newgate, or in any other place, and never should relinquish till my soul should cease to exist. But to suffer as I do, under the false and feigned charge of crimes which never entered my heart, and which for their foulness, would blacken hell, is the sorest, the heaviest, and the most grievous affliction, that could be laid upon me. Sir, I am a persecuted man. I am not guilty of what is laid to my charge, neither did it ever come into my mind. I am wholly ignorant and innocent of these or of any other crimes or misconduct with Asenath C. Smith, and I have no idea that my persccutors ever thought I was guilty.
That the governor should feel it necessary to put a construction on the constitution of Connecticut wholly different from what I had apprehended, is to me, a source of disappointment and sorrow. That instrument was, in my view, a supreme law of the state, contrary to which any other law, if made, would cease to be law : it would ipso facto, be null and void in itself. By that instrument the governor has power to reprieve after conviction in all cases except those of impeachment, but here is a case which is not by impeachment, ergo, the gov ernor has no power to reprieve in any other than capital cases. This is a kind of logic which was not taught in Yale College when I had the honor of being a member of that institution.
If I may not be permitted to collect my witnesses and to prove the facts and representations contained and set forth in my petition, nor to disprove any thing which may be said against it, an investigation, would be unequal, unfair and dangerous, as the character of falsehood might be fixed upon that which was strictly true. Though