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Mixing Religion and Politics: The Bishop of Maryland Instructs Clergy to Pray for the President and for America
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At the outset of the Civil War, and after Baltimore Riots on April 19, 1861, Maryland’s Legislature and Governor reaffirm allegiance to the United States. On May 13th – just two days prior to this letter – Federal troops occupied Baltimore and martial law was declared. The dual crises prompted the bishop to insist that his brethren pray for the president and nation.

[CIVIL WAR]. BISHOP WILLIAM R. WHITTINGHAM. Printed Circular Letter Signed, Baltimore, May 15, 1861, to the Clergy of the Diocese of Maryland. 1 p. With: transmittal Autograph Letter Signed and envelope addressed in his hand, bearing bishop’s seal in black wax on verso, addressed to Rev. Charles H. Hall of the Epiphany Church, Washington, D.C. 2 p.

Inventory #20966.99       Price: $750

Circular letter, in part:

To The Clergy Of The Diocese Of Maryland.

…I have learned, with extreme regret, that in several instances, the ‘Prayer for the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority’ has been omitted, of late, in the performance of divine service in this diocese.

Such omission, in every case, makes the clergyman liable to presentment for willful violation of ordination vow, by mutilation of the worship of the Church....

I beseech my brethren to remember that current events have settled any question that might have been started concerning citizenship and allegiance. Maryland is admitted and declared by the Legislature and Governor of the State, to be at this time one of the United States of America. As resident in Maryland, the clergy of this diocese are citizens of the United States, and bound to the recognition and discharge of all duties appertaining to that condition. It is clearly such a duty, by the express Word of God, to make supplication and prayer for the Chief Magistrate of the Union, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; and it is clearly my duty, by the same direction, to put those whom God has committed to my charge in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers…

Transmittal letter, in part:

…I have the fullest assurance that the soundest discretion and most sensitive perception of the line between private liberty and official duty will always be found governing your course of ministerial action.

William Rollinson Whittingham (1805-1879), was Fourth Bishop of Maryland.

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