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The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts from its foundation in 1701 to the beginning of the American Revolution attempted to minister to non-English white settlers in the North American colonies. The Society sent clergymen to Dutch, to Germans, to Swedes, and to French Huguenots in various provinces, gave financial help to foreign ministers, and distributed books to foreign churches. Anglican religious services were open to foreigners living near the Society's missions. These activities have been chronicled in 1952 in a dissertation by William A. Bultmann, who published two articles from that paper. One is a brief summary of the dissertation and the other concerns the SPG and Huguenots in South Carolina. Some work of the Society among foreign settlers is mentioned in a few histories of specific ethnic or national groups (e.g., William A. Knittle's The Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration or Arthur H. Hirsch's The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina); in some state histories of the Anglican Church (Nelson Rightmyer's The Anglican Church in Delaware and Nelson R. Burr's The Anglican Church in New Jersey); and in writings on other churches such as Frank Klingberg's article on "Colonial Anglo-Lutheran Relations."
This study attempts to analyze the role of the SPG as an agency for assimilating non-English white settlers into the British North American colonies by investigating several questions. Did the Society aid foreign settlers for different reasons from those that motivated its support of Englishmen? Did the aims of the Society extend beyond acquiring converts for the Church of England to include helping to assimilate foreigners into colonial society? Did the aims and activities of colonial Anglicans coincide with the official policy of the Society? Since requests outnumbered instances of aid, how did the following factors affect the Society's decision to assist foreigners: the power or influence of individuals requesting support; the connection between religion and factional political controversy in some colonies; and the nature of the church to which the foreigners belonged, that is, its relationship to Anglican theology, polity, and liturgy. Were the Anglicans willing to allow foreigners.to retain their customary language and ecclesiastical practices? In the process of investigating these questions, this study will attempt to determine if the sources relating to religious affairs provide sufficient information to test some of the following factors of assimilation suggested by modern theorists: the size of the immigrant group in relation to other groups or to the entire community, the relation of the immigrant group to its homeland, the length of time since settlement, the number of personal relationships with members of the English society, and the role of elites -- in this instance the Clergy - in assimilation.
The basic sources are letters and journals of the SPG in the Library of the Society in London and the Fulham Papers of the Bishop of London in the Lambeth Palace Library as well as pamphlets and newspapers. Collections of letters and contemporary accounts of various groups of foreign settlers have been translated into English, for example, records of Swedish parishes in Delaware, correspondence between the Dutch Reformed Church in New York and in Amsterdam, and the journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg concerning the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania.
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