This letter was written by Rev. Jehu Curtis Clay (1792-1863), a native of Upper Merrion, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, and the son of Slator Clay (1754-1821) and Hannah Holtein (1748-1832). He was married (1814) first to Margaret Annan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His second marriage (1828) was to Simmons Edey. In 1816, Jehu Clay became the proprietor of the Norristown Academy. In 1832, he became the Rector of a Protestant Episcopal Church known as “Old Swedes” Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he served for almost thirty-two years.
Rev. Clay wrote the letter to Rev. Samuel Bowman (1800-1861), Rt. Rev., D. D. of Philadelphia. He was the son of Captain Samuel Bowman — an officer in the Revolutionary army who took an active part in the battle of Lexington and at the close of the war settled at Wilkesbarre, Wyoming Valley, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He received his education at the Academy of Wilkes-Barre, after which he pursued the study of law for a time under Charles Chauncy, Esq., of Philadelphia.
Soon after commencing the practice of the law, Samuel felt a desire to enter the ministry so he applied for holy orders, and was admitted to the Diaconate in 1823 and to the Priesthood in 1824. He began his ministry at St. John’s Church, Pequea, Lancaster County, in 1823, where he remained about two years. After a brief residence at Easton, Pa., where he had charge of Trinity Church, he returned to his first charge, which he held until 1827, when he was invited to take charge of St. James’, Lancaster. After the death of Rev. Mr. Clarkson, the Rector with whom he was associated, he was elected in his place and filled that position until his death; for on his elevation to the Episcopate, his parishioners, dreading to sever the relations so long and so happily sustained, prevailed upon him to continue them. In 1845, the clergy elected him Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, but the Laity refusing to concur, he cordially supported the nomination of Rev. Dr. A. Potter, who was eventually chosen. In 1848 he was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Indiana, but his strong attachment to Lancaster controlled his decision to decline. In May 1858, he was chosen, and in August of the same year, consecrated Assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania.
Addressed to Rev. Samuel Bowman, D.D., Lancaster, Pennsylvania
January 6, 1844
Rev. & dear Bro:
Your favor of the 3d was received on Saturday. Reciprocating the compliments of the season, I hasten to answer as far as I can its inquiries, & to express my own views in relation to the important question ‘ere long to be decided — who shall be the Bishop of our Diocese! It is true, as you have heard, that certain of our brethren here have already fixed upon their candidate, & have formally selected Dr. Tyng as the individual to be supported by them for the Episcopate of this Diocese. They are also, it is said, very sanguine as to their ability to elect him to that Holy Office. Why they should be so sanguine, I am at a loss to say as I know they count among the Dr.’s friends some who will not vote for him. That is, who will not do so if the opposing candidate should be such as one as they can conscientiously vote for, or who should not be a man of extravagant or ultra views. For instance, Mr. Stem will not support the Dr. unless his opponent should be Mr. [Thomas] Atkinson, whom he cannot vote for, he says, because he is a slaveholder.
As to the opinion of our friends here in regard to the best & most available candidate, but few of them seem to have come to any definite conclusion. There has been no meeting on the subject, & nothing in any way done to elicit from one another an expression of opinion in relation to this interesting matter. I have conversed with several of them on the subject, by at once directing their attention to it, & in this way have endeavored to ascertain the views of Coleman, Dorr, [William Henry] Odenheimer, Boyd, [Henry William] Ducachet & [Frederick] Ogilby. Except Ducachet, none of these brethren seem to have come to any fixed conclusion concerning the individual to whom they would be willing to give their support. Odenheimer, indeed, says he has fixed upon his candidate, but does not say who he is, & supposed his brethren will not unite with him in his support. Coleman says he has no particular candidate, but will go for none but a firm & uncompromising churchman. Dr. Dorr does not know what is best to be done, but thinks Dr. [Henry C.] Potter of Albany would be a suitable man. Ogilby does not say who will be the best candidate, but will be willing to vote for Dr. H. Potter. Ducachet has had two or three candidates, but seems now to prefer yourself to any of the others spoken of. What, indeed, he thinks of Dr. Potter, I do not yet know. I am to see him this afternoon. None of the brethren whose names I have mentioned seem to incline to Atkinson. They are, generally, in favor of someone of great weight of character, sound learning & decided churchmanship.
The truth is, there is a good deal of apathy among some of our brethren here in the city on this subject. The reason seems to be that their friends in the country recommend names not altogether acceptable to them. Your name, my dear Brother, has been & still is often spoke of in connection with this high office. You have many warm friends, & of all those whose names are before us, there seems to be no one — at least within the diocese — so prominent & well thought of as yourself. Since I have received your letter, I have mentioned to several of the brethren the question of having a meeting of our friends on this subject. I shall see others of them this evening at the anniversary of our Advt. Society. I will leave this letter open until then that I may be able to say whether a day will be fixed upon for consultation in relation to this matter. I have said I would give you my humble views. But, they are not very definite. I suppose I shall have no vote. If I have, I would say I was ready to support any candidate that the majority of my friends, or those with whom I am in the habit of acting, should fix upon. I have expressed my willingness to see you Bishop. If my brethren should fix on some other candidate, either within or without the diocese, I should be ready to go with them.
I have seen Ducachet. He thinks a causes had better be avoided, at least at present. I have read to him my letter. He says he goes for you, & no one else for the office of Bishop of this diocese. I have not time to add more.
Very sincerely & affectionately &c., — J. C. Clay