Monday, March 13, 2017

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: The Part He Took in National and State Affairs

Continued from the Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Last Years of His Life.

This is from Chapter XV of the memoirs of Rev. David Rice, which were included in An Outline of the History of the Church in the State of Kentucky, During a Period of Forty Years by Robert Hamilton Bishop and published in 1824.

Mr. Rice was naturally of a modest and retiring disposition, yet when duty evidently called, he could come forth, from the humble walk of a country parson, and take a part in the public concerns of the nation. At the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle he took a decided stand, and let slip no opportunity of warning the people among whom he labored, or the danger to which their civil rights were exposed. He indeed, like many others at first supposed that the grievances of which the colonies complained might have been redressed, and complete security given for the enjoyment of all these privileges, without a dismemberment of the British Empire. But when the attainment of the object in this way was found to be utterly hopeless, he was prepared to make every sacrifice, and to exhort his countrymen to make every sacrifice, rather than submit to arbitrary power, in any form or in any degree. He knew the force and the spirit of the apostolic injunction -- "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well." See Sec 1 Pet. ii 13 & 14. But he knew also that he who had made of one blood all the nations of the earth, never authorized any one class of men, or any one nation, to exercise authority over another class, or over another nation, any farther than it was consistent with the general good. He knew also, that in the case of British subjects there were a solemn compact between the rulers and the ruled, and thus obedience was only a duty when protection and justice were afforded.

An illustration of these remarks, the following extracts are given from a discourse when appears to have been delivered at a county meeting, at an early period of the Revolution. Having given a brief statement of the grievances complained of, he proceeded thus:

"These high proceedings could not fail of giving a general alarm. Every sensible man saw, that the same power that seized private property in one colony might do it in another: that the same power that altered one charter might alter or take away another: that the by jury in one colony, might take it from the subject the right of trial by every colony: that the same power that established popery and tyranny in one place might establish it in another. Which weighty and important considerations excited every colony from New Hampshire to Georgia to oppose these unrightious proceedings. They evidently saw that it was a common cause, in which every American was deeply interested, and were sensible of the necessity of being united to a man. The mode of opposition they adopted was the best, the most pacific, their circumstances would admit of. It was calculated to bring about an accommodation without the effusion of human blood.

Should our king attempt to extend the royal prerogative beyond its proper limits, and thereby deprive us of our liberties, we should not even in that case be bound by the oaths we have taken to submit. The compact between the king and the people would then be broken; he would cease to be our king; resistance would not only be lawful, but an indispensable duty; it would be resisting a tyrant, not a king. And he who maintains the opposite doctrine, except through ignorance, is a traitor at heart; he is a Jacobite in principle, unfriendly to the English constitution, an enemy to his king and his country. Should the Pretender again attempt the throne of Britain, this doctrine would be universally received by every loyal subject: the doctrine is as sound now as it would be in that case: it is upon this principle of the lawfulness of resistance that king George III sits upon the British throne.

But this is not the case. His Majesty, as I know of, has made no attempt to extend the prerogative, but has rather suffered a diminution of it. The dispute is not between us and the parliament. The king has the same authority here he has in Great Britain: the Americans never denied it, they always submitted to it; and have, particularly in the late war with France, and are still willing to hazard fortunes in its support.

The question is this: Has the parliament of Great Britain authority to make laws to bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever? or in other words, have they a right to take our money out of our pockets without our consent, and apply it to what purposes they please? They assert they have; we maintain they have not."

And again,

"All the rights of free born British subjects have been made over to us, ratified and confirmed by royal charter, and can never be taken from us but by a flagrant breach of faith. And what we are not contending for is an undoubted, and indisputable right of a British subject. We have then as good a patent for this as we have on our lands; and if this can be taken from us,  by the same authority and with equal justice may our lands and all we possess be taken. This assumed right of taxation is contrary to every idea of liberty, and to the spirit of the English constitution of government, according to which no man can be bound by any law but those of his own making; he cannot be obliged to pay any tax but by his own consent. It is a blow at the root of the English constitution, it saps the foundation of English government.

The house of Stewart attempted to destroy these constitutional rights of the people; for which one lost his head and another his crown. The Revolution succeeded, and the present royal family were placed on the throne on the principles of liberty; in the principles of liberty their title is founded: destroy these, and you destroy the claim of the house of Hanover to the crown."

The closing paragraph is in these words:

"I do not, gentlemen, exhort you to rebellion: rebellion is opposition to lawful authority and our rightful sovereign. The king and not the parliament is our sovereign; the power we resist is not lawful but usurped; it is an attempt of part of his Majesty's subjects to tyrannize over the rest, in violation of the most sacred rights. I acknowledge the power of Great Britain: she has fleets and armies at her command, she has skillful generals; but she has not justice on her side. Her forces cannot act against us without an expensive voyage of near three thousand miles: when here, they are in a strange land. We are at home, in our own land, a woodland country, with which we are well acquainted, and of which we knew how to make an advantage. We have provisions in our own houses, and we have justice on our side. We contend for our estates, for our liberties, for our lives, for our posterity, for the rights of our king and our country; they to gratify the ambition and avarice of a few. They are destroying their country; we are endeavoring to save it from ruin. This some in Great Britain already see; and I hope a vigorous and manly opposition on our part will soon open the eyes of ethers, rouse up the ancient generous spirit of Britain, bring just vengeance on the authors of these wicked counsels, and restore the chartered rights of America: should not this be the case, I fear the glory and prosperity of Britain is at an end, which may God of his great goodness forbid."

These were Mr. Rice's political principles from the beginning, and to the close of his life he acted upon them. Hence, when the Declaration of Independence was made, it met with his hearty approbation and support, and though he never was, so far as it it is known, in the field of battle, yet the services which he rendered in his sphere of action were by no means without their influence on the final results.

He was, in 1792, a member of the convention which formed the first constitution for the state of Kentucky, and from the same principles which made him a decided friend to the political independence of his country, he exerted himself on that occasion, both before that meeting of the convention in his place as a member, that an article in the constitution should have provided for the gradual abolition of slavery. He was born and raised in a slave state. He lived, and labored, and died, in a slave state. Yet he never was reconciled to slavery. He uniformly considered it as a great moral and political evil, and he was also decidedly of opinion that a remedy for this evil might have been obtained at the formation of the different state constitution.

Pamphlet printed of speech given by Rev. David
Rice at the Kentucky Constitutional Convention;
Mr. Rice was very active, and succeeded against considerable opposition in obtaining the establishment of Hampden and Sidney college, Virginia, and was the means of bring the two first distinguished Presidents, Rev. Samuel S. Smith, and his brother John Blair Smith, who succeeded on his removal to the college of New Jersey.

The late Hon. Caleb Wallace was the year before Mr. Rice's removal to Kentucky, but after his determination to remove, the representative from Lincoln county in the legislature of Virginia. On his application he obtained the grant of certain escheated lands within the district of Kentucky for the purpose of establishing a public school, and a charter for the establishment of a college to be called The Transylvania Seminary. Mr. Rice was one of the first appointed Trustees, and upon the organization of the Board, was appointed chairman. The first meeting of the Board was a Lincoln, Nov. 10, 1783. Mr. Rice continued chairman till July 1787, when he begged leave to resign, and Harry Innis, who was afterwards judge of the federal court for the district of Kentucky, was appointed in his place.

The first Grammar School in Kentucky was opened and taught at the house of Mr. Rice, in Lincoln county. The order for the opening of it was passed by the Board, Nov. 4th, 1784. It was opened the February following; and this was the beginning of Transylvania University. The school continued there, and the Board continued to meet there, or in the neighborhood, till Oct. 13th, 1788, when they met for the first time in Lexington.

The Kentucky Academy was incorporated by the legislature of Kentucky in 1784. The Board of Trustees had their first meeting for business in Lexington, March 11th, 1795. The Board having, at several subsequent meetings, received proposals from Paris, Harrodsburg, and Pisgah in Woodford county, for the location of the academy at these places, and having also by subscriptions and donations obtained a fund of upwards of one thousand pounds, finally determined to locate the institution at Pisgah, and entered into engagements for the erection of the necessary buildings.

Mr. Rice continued an active member of this Board from March 11th, 1795, until Oct. 11th, 1796, when he resigned; the infirmities of age, and the distance of his residence, rendering it inconvenient for him to attend. Among other services which he rendered during the period of his membership, he, in company with another member of the Board, visited several parts of Virginia, Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc., etc., for the purpose of soliciting donations to the institution. While on this tour, his friends connected with New Jersey college proposed obtaining for him the degree of D.D. This he rejected with a considerable degree of determination, and said that there was professional standing implied in that honorary degree to which he had not attained, and that consequently he would be ashamed to wear the title.

The last meeting of the Trustees of the Kentucky Academy was in Oct. 1798, when they passed a resolution to unite with the Transylvania Seminary. The two Boards were accordingly, at the subsequent meeting of the Assembly, united, and styled, The Trustees of Transylvania University. The history of the transactions of these two institutions, which were at that period legally united, would make a volume of itself, and the subject is worthy the attention of all who wish well to the honor and prosperity of the state.

To be continued...

I am publishing a chapter of Rev. David Rice's memoirs every Monday.

Rev. David Rice (1733-1816) was my fifth great grandfather.

Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Last Years of His Life
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Resigns His Pastoral Charge and Retires
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: A Little Reviving in the Midst of Bondage
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Secret Exercises
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Character of Some of the First Preachers in Kentucky
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: State of Religion in Kentucky
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: He Moves to Kentucky
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: His Comfort and Success among the Peaks of Otter
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Scene of His First Labors
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Devotes of Himself to the Ministry
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Introduction of the Gospel into Virginia
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Relief Obtained
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Further Convictions
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: Birth, Parentage, and First Convictions 
Preparing for the Revolutionary War
Pray Together, Stay Together
Apostle of Kentucky

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