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Title: MacSparran, Rev James to Hon. Col. Henry Cary, Esq., 1752
CollectionIrish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan. Letters and memoirs from colonial and revolutionary America (1675-1815) [K.A. Miller et al.]
SenderMacSparran, Rev James
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationreverend
Sender Religionunknown
OriginNarrangaset, Rhode Island, USA
RecipientHon. Col. Henry Cary, Esq.
Recipient Gendermale
Relationshipnot acquainted
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count4256
Genreaccount of the colonies
TranscriptRev. James MacSparran, Narraganset, Rhode Island, to the Hon. Col. Henry Cary, Esq., Ireland,20 August 1752, in America Dissected... (Dublin, 1753)
Narraganset, in the Colony of Rhode
Island, in New England,
August 20, 1752
BY the Hands of Mr. Robert Hamilton, Son of Ballyfattan, near Strabane, I did myself the Honour, a few Years ago, of writing you a Letter, giving an Account of myself, with a short Sketch of the Country where I have resided so many Years: But, as I am equally at a loss, whether that Letter reached your Honour, or was acceptable, if it did, I have presumed to put my Pen to Paper, to give you as curt an Account as I can of the English American Dominions; which, if it does not minister to your Entertainment, will, nevertheless, from its Intention, entitle me to your Pardon....
Barbadoes is the windermost of all the English Intertropical Sugar-Islands; as Antego, Monserat, St. Christopher’s Nevis, Jamaico, with many other lesser ones, are called the Leeward Islands. Your Irish Trade furnishes you with so distinct a Knowledge of the Religion, Government, Trade, and Commerce, of those Islands, that it would be but holding a Candle to the Sun to interrupt you with a Detail of them...
I will now pass over to the Main-Land, where the first English Province that presents is Georgia.... Its first Inhabitants were, too many of them, the Sweepings of the Streets of London, and other populous Places; and though, as yet, it can boast of no SIR, very profitable Returns to the Mother-Country, it may, however, plume itself on this, that it eased England for that Time of some useless Hands, which doubtless are a dead Weight upon every Country.... As it is a Frontier, ‘twill be always exposed to Spanish Insults in Time of War; and to Indian Incursions, whenever their Spanish Masters have a Mind to incite them to annoy the English...
Northerly of Georgia, lies the flourishing Province of South Carolina.... Ever since [1720, when South Carolina became a royal colony], this Province has throve at a prodigious Rate; so that, besides their Home Consumption, it takes above 200 Sail of Ships, and other Top-sail Vessels, to export their annual Overplus. Their principal Produce is Rice; besides which, they export Indian Corn, (alias Maize) Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, Beef and Pork barrelled, tanned Leather, raw Hides, and other Articles.... The Church of England is established there by Provincial Law.... There are but a few Dissenters, and those of the Independent and Antipaedobaptist Persuations, who are mostly seated in Charles-Town, the Metropolis.... The Inhabitants are gay and expensive in their Furniture, Clothing, Equipage, and Way of Living; an Observation that will but too well apply to all the English Colonies. The Irish, Dutch, Palatines, and other Germans, are as yet the only Exception to this Remark; but I think one may foretel, without a Spirit of prophecy, that, by the Symptoms beginning to shoot out on the Offspring of the Wealthy and Thriving among them, their Posterity will fall into the like destructive Indulgencies.
More North, and North-Easterly, and on the Atlantic Shore, lies North-Carolina, granted also in 1663, by King Charles the Second, to a Company of Proprietors. Their Charter provides, That the Church of England shall be the only established Religion, and entitled to the public Encouragements. This Province does not contain more Inhabitants than from 15,000 to 20,000, who live in Plantations scattered at great Distances. They have but few compact Towns, besides the small ones of Edentown, the Metropolis, and Cape Fear; by which Means Religion has gained but little Ground. Two Clergymen, who are the Society’s itinerant Missionaries here, are all the Advantages they are yet under respecting Religion; and, though their Travel and labours are excessive, it can’t be supposed but the greater Part of the People are necessarily rude and illiterate, irreligious and prophane. There are a very small Number of Presbyterians, with some Quakers; and wherever these are, at least predominate, you shall never fail to find Immoralities and Disorders prevail. Believe me, Sir, wherever Distinction of Persons is decried, as among that People, Confusions will follow: For Levelism is inconsistent with Order, and a certain Inlet to Anarchy; as, when there was no King in Israel, every-one did what was right in his own Eyes. There are, however, sundry well-disposed Gentlemen, who from Time to Time have made laudable Efforts to promote True Religion among their neighbours; but what with their Colony Confusions and an Indian War some Years since, they have been able to make no great Advances. The Climate subjects the Inhabitants, especially NewComers, to vernal and autumnal Agues and Fevers of the mortal Kind. They export Indian Corn, and Pork, fatted in the Woods, with what, by a general Name, is called Mast; that is, Acorns, Walnuts, Chestnuts, other Nuts and wild Fruits; which makes it oily and unpalatable. But their greatest and most profitable Produce is of the Terebinthinate Kind, viz. Pitch, Tar, and Turpentine, which they ship off in great Quantities; as also Whalebone and Oil, some Seasons, from Cape Fear. Upon the whole, this Province may still pass for a pretty wild and uncultivated Country; and excepting a few of the better Sort, its white Inhabitants have degenerated into a State of Ignorance and Barbarism, not much superior to the native Indians.
Along the same Shore, and North-Easterly, lies the old famous Colony of Virginia; so called from the Virgin-Queen Elizabeth, in whose Reign it seems to be first settled. The first Adventurers to those Parts were mostly Gentlemen of Family and Fortune, and firmly attached to the English Church.... This was the last of all the American English Plantations that submitted to Oliver’s Yoke; nor was it without a Struggle and force, at last, that they put on that Usurper’s Chains.... From this Province, and Maryland, its next Neighbour, all Europe is supplied with Tobacco.... There are many Gentlemen of large Demesnes and Fortunes in Virginia, and are as remarkable for their open and free Hospitality, as for their great Numbers of Negro Slaves; several having Hundreds, and some above a Thousand, of such Servants, so that I believe the Blacks do in number equal, if not out-do, the Whites. As Hanging seems to be the worst Use Men can be put to, it were to be wished, that a Period were put even to the Transportation of Convicts from England and Ireland to Virginia and Maryland. Though some of these Felons do reform, yet they are so few, that their Malversation has a bad Effect upon the Morals of the lower Class of Inhabitants: Great Pity, therefore, it is, that some Punishments worse than Death or Transportation could not be contrived for those Vermin.... There has lately been made, upon and behind the Mountains of Virginia, a new Irish Settlement, by a Transmigration of sundry of those that, within these thirty Years past, went from the North of Ireland to Pennsylvania. As the Soil in that new Irish Settlement is natural and friendly to Grass, they will, for many Years to come, raise great Quantities of neat Cattle, as the Climate is benign, and their Outlets on Commonages large....
Along-side of Virginia, and more north-easterly, lies Maryland, through which runs the great river Susquehannah.... This tract, or province, was granted to the great Calvert, Lord Baltimore, an Irish nobleman, by Queen Mary, wife of Philip of Spain; and, in honour of her, called Maryland.... As the late Lord Baltimore was the first Protestant peer of the Calvert family, his predecessors (as it was natural they should) first peopled this province with a colony of Irish Catholicks. These, having the start, in point of time, of the after-settlers, are also, to this day, a-head of them in wealth and substance; by which means, the first and best families are, for the most part, still of the Roman communion. Tho’ this province have a succession of secular clergy sent them, chiefly

from Ireland, who subsist on the free-will offerings of those to whom they administer; yet is the Country cantoned into Parishes and Precincts, over which preside, by legal Establishment, a competent Number of Clergymen of our Church, handsomely provided for.... There are some Quakers here, in Consequence of its bordering on Pennsylvania; and some Irish Presbyterians, owing to the Swarms that, for many Years past, have winged their Way Westward out of the Hibernian Hive. One Mr. Hugh Conn, of Macgilligan, My Senior, but former Acquaintance, when I was a School-boy at Foghan-veil, and Minister to a Presbyterian Congregation in Maryland; as he was preaching, a few Months ago, upon the Subject of a sudden Death, dropped down dead in his Pulpit,—a melancholy and, indeed, remarkable Verification of the Truth he was inculcating on his Audience. He has Relations in the Place of his Nativity; and this, perhaps, may be the only Intimation they may have of his Demise.... As to the Produce, Exportations, and Commerce of this Colony, they are so much the same with Virginia, that they need no Repetition. The Inhabitants are all Tenants to Lord Baltimore, upon a small Quit-rent; and yet so prodigiously have the Planters extended themselves, that his Lordship’s Quit-rents are computed at 8000£ sterling per Annum; and if the Irish go on, but a few years more, to people the upper and inland Parts of the Province, as they have begun, it will soon raise his Rents to double that Sum.
Next to Maryland, and north-easterly of it, lyes Pennsylvania, so called from the famous William Penn, a noted Quaker, of a family of that name in Ireland.... The first English settlers here were Quakers; for above of two thousand of these people went out of England at one embarkation, with William Penn, and began the city of Philadelphia, and the plantations contiguous to it. Since that time, great numbers, of other nations, and of different notions in religion, have chose this province for their habitation; not to avoid any violence to their persons or principles, (as is more commonly, than truly, alledged, in New-England especially) but to improve their fortunes in those parts. Soon after this colony had a little increased, as an English civil government became necessary, and as it could not be safely trusted in, nor its powers agreeably executed by, any but English hands, they were reduced to a sad delemma. A statute of William and Mary, in conformity to their own avowed tenets, had disqualified Quakers from the exercise of any civil authority; and, as there were few fit among them for offices, but persons of that persuasion, they petitioned the crown for a dispensation of the statute; and their prayer was heard. Thus let into the administration, they soon shewed, that Nature is often too powerful for principle: And, tho’ they declaim against dominion, yet, when they are once entrusted with power, they won’t easily let go their hold....
I believe I need not tell you, that Pennsylvania is an absolute stranger to an uniformity in religion; for the different countries, that contributed to the peopling of this province, carried their respective preachers and opinions along with them. The Church of England entered no earlier here than 1700; but God’s blessing upon the few labourers employed as missionaries among them, has given the church a large and promising spread. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts maintain at present eight missionaries among them, to have the care of treble that number of churches, besides where they officiate in private houses. In the city of Philadelphia there is a large church, where the Society maintain Mr. Sturgeon, their catechist; but the incumbent (the worthy and Reverend Dr. Jenny, son of Archdeacon Jenny, in Waney-Town, in the North of Ireland) is maintained at the expence of his own Auditors. There is a public and open Mass-house in this City; which I note, there being none allowed to the Northward of it, in all the English Plantations. The Irish are numerous in this province; who, besides their Interspersions among the English and others, have peopled a whole County by themselves, called the County of Donnegal, with many other new Out-towns and Districts. In one of these Frontiers, on the Forks of Delaware, I assisted my Brother (who left Ireland against my Advice) in purchasing a large Tract of Land, which, by his and his Wife’s Demise, about a Year ago, descends to his Children. This puts me in mind to intercede with your Honour, in Behalf of his eldest Daughter, married to one Gamble, and who, I hear, resolves to return again, to receive them to your Favour, if you find they deserve it, as descended from Ancestors who lived happily under your Father and Grandfather, and Great Grandmother, the Hon. Lady Cork. The Exportations from this Province are principally Wheaten Flour, which they send abroad in great Quantities; and, by the Accessions and Industry of the Irish and Germans, they threaten, in a few Years, to lessen the American Demands for Irish and other European Linens....
Next to Pennsylvania, and on the East Side of the River Delaware, lies the Province which goes by the Name of the East and West Jerseys.... The first Inhabitants were Quakers and Anabaptists, and Sabbatarian Baptists... but, at present, its Inhabitants are generally Dutch and Irish Presbyterians, New-England Independents, Quakers, and Baptists of divers Sorts. The Church of England, however, began to enter here in 1702, and its Success and Progress yields Matter of great Thanksgiving to God....
The next Province we proceed to is that of New-York.... A little Time after [the English] Conquest, great Numbers of English came into this Country, and, by Afteraccessions, it is become a well-cultivated and extensive, and, in consequence, a rich and populous Province.... Several Gentlemen have taken out Patents for large Tracts up in the Country, which they are settling as fast as they can; and, in an Age or two, (if, before that, we should not be drove into the Sea by the French) will be profitable Estates. Sir Peter Warren, the Admiral, and our Countryman, is one of those who own much of these Lands. The Exportations from this Province are principally Furs, Flour, Bread, Wheat, Indian Corn, pickled Beef and Pork, Rye, Buck-Wheat, and other Articles.... The first public Beginning of the Church of England in the Province of New-York, was Anno Domini 1693; but so remarkably has God appeared against Schism and Heresy, and in Behalf of the truly Apostolic Faith and decent Worship of the Church of England, that at this day there are ten Missionaries, who officiate in more Churches....
Next to New-York, in proceeding East and by North, we enter on the Country called New-England.... Connecticut is that Part of New-England next to New-York. The first English Settlers of this Colony were Puritans, who transported themselves hither in 1630. They formed themselves into a Civil Society, by an Instrument of Government of their own making; and, by so doing, became, by strictness of Law, liable to the Penalties of Treason; and into an Ecclesiastical Society, by a Platform partly borrowed from the Brownists of Plymouth, who come nine years before them, and partly by Additions or Inventions of their own, and so became Independents, and, if you please, Schismaticks. When Cromwell began the exercise of Sovereign Power, without the Character and Style of King, these Sectarian Settlements soon submitted to his Yoke; and their fulsome and fawning Addresses, stuffed with the odious Cant peculiar to the Age and People, are at this Day offensive to a loyal and pious Ear.... Independency, by a more creditable Nick-name, called Presbyterianism, is the Religion of the State; but, of late Years, some Quakers, more Anabaptists, and a still greater Number of Churchmen have crowded into, or rather, conformed in, that Colony; and, by present Appearances, one may fortel, that the Members of our Church will, in a Century more, amount to a major Part of the whole.... As to the Character of the Independent Teachers, those who have undertaken to draw their Picture, have represented them as noted for Enthusiasm, and those affected Inspirations, which for the most part begin in Folly, and often (if not always) end in Vice. Some Pens have distinguished them for a grave Hypocrisy, Phlegmatick Stiffness, and Sacerdotal Tyranny; and the Laity, for Formality and Preciseness, and covering over ill Arts and Acts with a Cloak of Religion. But I think this Picture wears too harsh Features; tho’ it must be owned not to be absolutely void of Resemblance.... Connecticut is a Colony remarkable for Industry, and a tolerably good Soil; and no Place this way can boast of larger Exportations, in proportion to its Extent and Inhabitants....
Travelling Eastward, the next Region that rises to View is the little Colony of Rhode-Island, &c. where Providence has fixed me, and where I have resided in Quality of Missionary thirty-one Years last April.... In Connecticut, I observed to you, that Independency was the Religion of the State; but in Rhode-Island no Religion is established. There a Man may, with Impunity, be of any Society, or of none at all; but the Quakers are, for the most part, the People in Power.... [A]s Quakerism prevailed, Learning was decried, Ignorance and Heresy so increased, that neither Epiphanius’s, nor Sir Richard Blakmore’s Catalogues, contain more heterodox and different Opinions in Religion than were to be found in this little Corner.... In 1700, after Quakerism other Heresies had, in their Turns, ruled over and tinged all the Inhabitants for the Space of forty-six Years, the Church of England, that had been lost here through the Neglect of the Crown, entered as it were, unobserved and unseen, and yet not without some Success. A little Church was built in Newport, the Metropolis of the Colony, in , and that in which I officiate in Narraganset, in 1707. There have been two Incumbents before me; but neither of them had resolution enough to grapple with the Difficulties of the Mission above a year a-piece. I entered on this Mission in and found the People not a Tabula rasa, or clean Sheet of Paper, upon which I might make any Impressions I pleased; but a Field full of Briars and Thorns, and noxious weeds, that were all to be eradicated, before I could implant in them the Simplicity of Truth. However, by God’s Blessing, I have brought over to the Church some Hundreds, and, among the Hundreds I have baptized, there are at least 150 who received the Sacrament at my Hands, from twenty Years old, to seventy or eighty. Ex Pede Herculem. By this, you may guess, in how uncultivated a Country my Lot fell.... [W]ould to God I could boast of more Success! but Toil and Travel has put me beyond my Best; and, if I am not rewarded with a little Rest in Europe, where my Desires are, I have strong Hopes of infinitely more desirable Rest from my Labours, in those celestial Mansions prepared by my dear Redeemer.... The Produce of this Colony is principally Butter and Cheese, fat Cattle, Wool, and fine Horses that are exported to all Parts of the English America.... There are above Vessels, such as Sloops, Scooners, Snows, Brigantines, and Ships, from Tons and upwards, that belong to this Colony; but, as they are rather Carriers for other Colonies, than furnished here with their Cargoes, you will go near to conclude that we are lazy and greedy of Gain, since, instead of cultivating the Lands, we improve too many Hands in Trade. This indeed is the Case. There are here, which is no good Symptom, a vast many lawSuits; more in one Year than the County of Derry has in twenty.... The Novanglians in general, the Rhode-Islanders in particular, are perhaps the only People on Earth who have hit on the Art of enriching themselves by running in Debt. This will remain no longer a Mystery, than I have related to your Honour, that we have no Money among us, but a depreciating Paper Currency.... Indeed, a new Act of the British Parliament, ill-penned, passed last Winter, to restrain us: But... we shall go on, I doubt, in our Way of paper Emissions, unless the Lord, in Mercy to us, should dispose the sovereign Power to vacate our Patent, and prevent our Destruction, by taking us out of our own Hands...
The next Province to Rhode-Island is the Province of Massachusets-Bay, whose Metropolis is Boston, a Town containing about 20,000 Inhabitants.... They are obliged to other Colonies for many of the Necessaries of Life, yet they have a great Trade to England with Whalebone, Oil, Pitch, and Tar; and to Portugal, Spain, and Italy, with dried Fish; to the West-Indies, with Cod, Mackarel, Boards, Frames for Houses, and other Sorts of Lumber. They have one College at New Cambridge, and many petty, ill-taught Grammar-Schools; yet, under these mean Advantages, they are a more polite and regular People than some of their Neighbours. This is a very large and populous Province, and has many Irish Settlements in the Out-Towns on the French Frontier; so that our Countrymen, tho’ less esteemed than they ought to be, are yet their Barrier in Time of War.
New-Hampshire Province lyes Eastward of the Massachusets, and is absolutely under the King. ‘Tis from hence the Royal Navy is furnished with Masting, Yards, Spars, and Oars; and whoever is Master of this, and the Provinces Eastward of it, must be Master at Sea in Europe.... [W]ere all the Colonies immediately under the Crown, as this is, the Church would gain Ground faster than She does. In this Province lies that town called London Derry, all Irish, and famed for Industry and Riches. Next you enter on the Province of Main, which in its Civil Government is annexed to the Massachusets, as Sagadahock also is; and both rather by Use than Right.
In these two Eastern Provinces many Irish are settled, and many have been ruined by the French Indians, and drove from their Homes. It is pretty true to observe of the Irish, in general, that those who come here with any Wealth are the worse for their Removal; though, doubtless, the Next Generation will not suffer so much as their Fathers; But those who, when they came, had nothing to lose, have throve greatly by their Labour. He that lies on the Ground can fall no lower; and such are the fittest to encounter the Difficulties attending new Settlers....
As the Jews had their Nazareth, the New-Englanders have their Ireland; but, as what is always due to too national a Spirit, they are as much despised in the other English Plantations, as any Teague is by them. This country might be made greatly serviceable to the Mother-Country by proper Management; but false, I had almost said fatal Policy, has overlooked both the civil and religious Interests of English America. Indeed, the Society for Propagation, &c. has done Wonders; but nothing less than Royal and National Attention is equal to the Thing. If our Accounts from Home may [be] depended upon, Religion runs low, and Ireland is like to regain its ancient Name of Insula Sanctorum, compared with the greater Island. The Revolution, which happened before you or I were born, might be thought a wise and necessary Measure; But, we see, it has been followed with some bad Consequences; to get free from Popery, we have run into Infidelity and Scepticism.... Except the little Revival Religion had in Queen Ann’s Reign, the Church has gained no Ground, but in America, since that Period.... If I should ever be settled in Europe, and have a little Leisure, I would employ my Pen in a small History of the English Plantations; but, if that is not my Fate, I may leave, perhaps, but can’t with safety give, the Public what may be helpful to an abler Hand. The Share of Satisfaction which a Man of my Age can promise himself in this World, is small, and hardly worth Attention; and yet I should be glad, were it God’s will, to end my Days nearer to where I began them than I now am...
In coasting the country, I’ve said nothing of the climate.... In general, the Air is infinitely more clear and serene than in England or Ireland; and our Nearness to the Sun occasions more frequent and loud Claps of Thunder, and sharper Lightning, than you have. It is no unusual Thing for Houses, and Stacks of Hay, and Grain, to be Burnt; and Men and Cattle are often killed by the sharp Lightning. In New England, the Transitions from Heat to Cold are short and sudden, and the extremes of both verysensible: We are sometimes frying, and others freezing; and as Men often die at their Labour in the Field by Heat, so some in Winter are froze to Death with the Cold.... Though I am 900 Miles to the Southward, and you Fifteen Degrees to the Northward of me, yet will it freeze Fifteen Times so much in a Night here as I ever observed it to do in Ulster. But I must not indulge my Inclination to gratify you with Accounts of this New World; but break off with begging Leave to assure you, that I am,
With the most perfect Sincerity,
And profound Veneration,
Your Honour’s Most obedient,
humble Servant,
J. M. S....