Thomas John Clagett
|Thomas John Claggett|
Thomas John Claggett
|Born||October 2, 1743
|Died||August 2, 1816
Upper Marlboro, Maryland
|Known for||First Episcopal Bishop consecrated on American soil|
Thomas John Claggett (October 2, 1743 – August 2, 1816) was the first bishop of the newly formed American Episcopal Church to be consecrated on American soil and the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Early family life
Thomas Claggett, born October 2, 1743, was the son of the Reverend Samuel Clagett of Charles Co., Maryland, and Elizabeth Gantt. He was the great grandson of Captain Thomas Clagett who emigrated from England and settled on St. Leonard's Creek, Calvert County, Maryland, in 1671. (Captain Clagett at one time owned more than 3,700 acres (15 km2) in Calvert, Prince George's, Baltimore and Kent Counties. He was a Justice and Coroner of Calvert County and an opponent of John Coode's second rebellion of 1689.) Thomas John Claggett was the first to use the double "g" in spelling his family's name.
After Claggett's father died in 1756, when he was 14, he was placed in the care of his uncle, the Rev. Dr. John Eversfield, the rector of St. Paul's, St. George's County. Three years later he began public school and attended the Lower Marlboro Academy.
In 1762, at age 17, he entered the College of New Jersey, Princeton University. On 25 September 1764, he graduated and for three years he received theological training from his maternal uncle, the Rev. Dr. John Eversfield. In recognition of his studies, in 1787 his alma mater Princeton conferred on him an M.A. degree, and in 1792 he received the degree of doctor in divinity from Washington College.
On 20 September 1767, he was made a deacon in the chapel of Fulham Palace, by the bishop of London, Dr. Richard Terrick, Lord Bishop of Peterborough. Less than a month later, at the same place and by the same prelate, Thomas was made a priest on 11 October 1767. He remained in England for about three more months, studying and visiting family. In the spring of 1768, he returned home, and was appointed as the Rector of All Saints' Church, Calvert County, Maryland.
The American Revolutionary War created tremendous conflicts within the Episcopal Church in the colonies. The clergy, who had been ordained in England, had taken an oath of allegiance to the king. Soon after the Declaration of Independence, the clergy were required to sign an Oath of Fidelity, which none felt they could sign without violating their ordination vows.:30 Nine of the clergy gave up their congregations and returned to England, six moved to Virginia, one to Pennsylvania, one to Delaware, five retired to their estates, and two or three others took up teaching. Claggett avoided the conflict, retiring as rector and living on his estate of Croom in Prince George's County for two years. In 1778, he officiated in his local parish at St. Paul's, where he became rector on August 7, 1780. He remained there until 1786.:30 In 1786 he moved to the parish at St. James in Anne Arundel County.
Consecration as bishop
Following the war, the Rev. William Smith was elected bishop of the Maryland diocese, but the Bishop of London refused to consecrate Smith. Unable to obtain consecration of their clergy from the Church of England, representatives from nine dioceses met in Philadelphia in 1789 to form an independent Episcopal church in America and ratify a constitution. The Anglican congregations in nine states adopted The Protestant Episcopal Church as their name in 1783 and was formally separated from the Church of England. The church was incorporated as “the first Anglican Province outside the British Isles.”
In 1792 at Trinity Church in New York City, Claggett was consecrated by the American congregation as the bishop of Maryland, making him the first bishop of the Episcopal Church consecrated in America. "Being a man of excellent fitness for the office, as well as possessed of large private means, he was elected the first bishop of Maryland, and was consecrated" at the triennial convention of the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church in New York City on 17 September 1792, "Bishop Seabury joining in the consecration." Thomas J. Claggett was the fifth bishop consecrated for the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Claggett was consecrated by four men who had been the presiding bishops consecrated by the Bishop of London. They were:
- William White, first and fourth presiding bishop and first bishop of Pennsylvania
- Samuel Seabury, second presiding bishop and first bishop of Connecticut
- Samuel Provoost, third Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and first bishop of New York
- Bishop James Madison of Virginia also assisted with the consecration. Traditionally only three bishops are required, but Provoost objected to Seabury's consecration by Scottish non-jurors, so no consecrations took place in the United States until Madison went to England and was consecrated by the Church of England as a bishop.
United States Senate Chaplain
At the first session of the United States Congress held in the new Capital, Washington, D.C. on 27 November 1800, Bishop Claggett was appointed the third Chaplain of the United States Senate and gave the opening prayer.
Trinity Episcopal Church
In 1810, members of the Anglican church in the town of Upper Marlboro, Maryland founded Trinity Episcopal Church so they could worship near their homes. The nearest existing Anglican churches were St. Thomas and St. Barnabas in Leeland, a long carriage ride in that day away over rough and often impassible roads. On August 13, 1810, the newly formed vestry elected the Right Rev. Thomas John Claggett as the first rector of Trinity Church. He organized the congregation in an abandoned wooden Presbyterian building built 106 years earlier in 1704. During the War of 1812, notes from the vestry minutes of May 1814, describe British troops camping in the church and preventing the vestry from meeting. Rev. Clagget served as rector of the congregation until his death on August 3, 1816.
The Rev. Claggett was the second rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Guilford, Maryland (1781–1782). On October 16, 1811, he consecrated the replacement structure at Christ Church, also known as Old Brick Church, in Queen Caroline Parish, Anne Arundel (now Columbia in Howard County), Maryland. On January 9, 1814, he consecrated Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia. An assistant bishop was appointed in 1814. He published a few sermons, pastoral letters, and addresses to his convention.
He was among the first to envision the need for an Episcopal Church in the nation's new capital Washington D.C., in 1793. While presiding over his Diocesan convention that year, he appointed a committee to study the idea. He had an ally in Joseph Nourse, the country's First Registrar of the Treasury. However, Nourse did not want the cathedral in downtown Washington, but on Mt. Alban overlooking the city. After years of controversy about its location, construction of the Washington National Cathedral on Mt. Alban was begun in 1897.
Death and burial
Claggett died August 4, 1816, at Croome, his family home, which burned on December 25 of 1856 or 1858. Originally interred in the family plot on the property, his remains were moved in 1898 to Washington National Cathedral, where a wood carving of his consecration was added to the bishop's stall. There is a marker and memorial bell tower at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Croom, Prince George's County, Maryland. Many of his papers are housed at the Diocese of Maryland's archives.
- Succession of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States
- Utley, George B[urwell]. (1876–1946). The Life and Times of Thomas John Claggett, First Bishop of Maryland and the First Bishop Consecrated in America (Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1913)
- Utley, George Burwell. The Life and Times of Thomas John Claggett: First Bishop of Maryland and the First Bishop Consecrated in America. R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1913. Original from the New York Public Library
- Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske (1901). Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography 6 Volumes (hardcover). New York: D. Appleton and Company.
- William Stevens Perry (1895). The Episcopate in America: Sketches, Biographical and Bibliographical, of the Bishops of the American Church, with a Preliminary Essay on the Historic Episcopate and Documentary Annals of the Introduction of the Anglican Line of Succession Into America. Published by The Christian Literature Co.,. Original from Harvard University.
- Epitaph, Thomas John Claggett
- Utley, George Burwell. The life and times of Thomas John Claggett: first bishop of Maryland and the first bishop consecrated in America. Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-112-51973-4.
- "A history of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington". History of the Diocese. Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
- "Trinity Episcopal Church History Page". Trinity Episcopal Church. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "National Register of Historic Places -- Application". United States Department of the Interior. December 1, 1976. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- "A Brief History of Christ Church". Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- Prince George's County: Over 300 years of History
- Library of Congress Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia
|Episcopal Church (USA) titles|
|1st Bishop of Maryland
1792 – 1816
|3rd US Senate Chaplain
November 27, 1800 – December 8, 1801