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chapter 110: The Churches and the Clergy - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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The Churches and the Clergy
In examining the national government and the state governments, we have never once had occasion to advert to any ecclesiastical body or question, because with such matters government has in the United States absolutely nothing to do. Of all the differences between the Old World and the New this is perhaps the most salient. Half the wars of Europe, half the internal troubles that have vexed European states, from the Monophysite controversies in the Roman Empire of the fifth century down to the Kulturkampf in the German Empire of the nineteenth, have arisen from theological differences or from the rival claims of church and state. This whole vast chapter of debate and strife has remained virtually unopened in the United States. There is no established church. All religious bodies are absolutely equal before the law, and unrecognized by the law, except as voluntary associations of private citizens.
The federal Constitution contains the following prohibitions:
Art. VI. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
No attempt has ever been made to alter or infringe upon these provisions. They affect the national government only, placing no inhibition on the states, and leaving the whole subject to their uncontrolled discretion, though subject to the general guarantees against oppression.
Every state constitution contains provisions generally similar to the above. Most declare that every man may worship God according to his own conscience, or that the free enjoyment of all religious sentiments and forms of worship shall be held sacred;1 most also provide that no man shall be compelled to support or attend any church; some forbid the creation of an established church, and many the showing of a preference to any particular sect; while many provide that no money shall ever be drawn from the state treasury, or from the funds of any municipal body, to be applied for the benefit of any church or sectarian institution or denominational school. Thirty-three constitutions, including those of the six most recently admitted states, forbid any religious test to be required as a qualification for office; some declare that this principle extends to all civil rights; some specify that religious belief is not to affect a man’s competence as a witness. But in several states there still exist qualifications worth noting. Vermont and Delaware declare that every sect ought to maintain some form of religious worship, and Vermont adds that it ought to observe the Lord’s Day. Six Southern states exclude from office anyone who denies the existence of a Supreme Being. Besides these six, Pennsylvania and Tennessee pronounce a man ineligible for office who does not believe in God and in a future state of rewards and punishments. Maryland and Arkansas even make such a person incompetent as a juror or witness.2 Religious freedom has been generally thought of in America in the form of freedom and equality as between different sorts of Christians, or at any rate different sorts of theists; persons opposed to religion altogether have till recently been extremely few everywhere and practically unknown in the South. The neutrality of the state cannot therefore be said to be theoretically complete.3
In earlier days the states were very far from being neutral. Rhode Island indeed, whose earliest settlers were seceders from Massachusetts, stood from the first for the principle of complete religious freedom and the detachment of Christian communities from all secular power or secular control. Roger Williams, the illustrious founder of this little state, was one of those few to whom this principle was revealed when the great mass of Christians were still in bondage to the ideas of the Middle Ages. But the other two states of old New England began with a sort of Puritan theocracy, and excluded from some civil rights persons who stood outside the religious community. Congregationalism was the ruling faith, and Roman Catholics, Quakers, and Baptists were treated with great severity. The early constitutions of several states recognized what was virtually a state church, requiring each locality to provide for and support the public worship of God. It was not till 1818 that Connecticut in adopting her new constitution placed all religious bodies on a level, and left the maintenance of churches to the voluntary action of the faithful. In Massachusetts a tax for the support of the Congregationalist churches was imposed on all citizens not belonging to some other incorporated religious body until 1811, and religious equality was first fully recognized by a constitutional amendment of 1833. In Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Maryland, Protestant Episcopacy was the established form of religion till the Revolution, when under the impulse of the democratic spirit, and all the more heartily because the Anglican clergy were prone to Toryism (as attachment to the British connection was called), and because, at least in Virginia, there had been some persecution of Nonconformists, all religious distinctions were abolished and special ecclesiastical privileges withdrawn. In Pennsylvania no church was ever legally established. In New York, however, first the Dutch Reformed, and afterwards the Anglican Church, had in colonial days enjoyed a measure of state favour. What is remarkable is that in all these cases the disestablishment, if one may call it by that name, of the privileged church was accomplished with no great effort, and left very little rancour behind. In the South it seemed a natural outcome of the Revolution. In New England it came more gradually, as the necessary result of the political development of each commonwealth. The ecclesiastical arrangements of the states were not inwoven with the pecuniary interests of any wealthy or socially dominant class; and it was felt that equality and democratic doctrine generally were too palpably opposed to the maintenance of any privileges in religious matters to be defensible in argument. However, both in Connecticut and Massachusetts there was a political struggle over the process of disestablishment, and the Congregationalist ministers predicted evils from a change which they afterwards admitted to have turned out a blessing to their own churches. No voice has ever since been raised in favour of reverting—I will not say to a state establishment of religion—but even to any state endowment or state regulation of ecclesiastical bodies. It is accepted as an axiom by all Americans that the civil power ought to be not only neutral and impartial as between different forms of faith, but ought to leave these matters entirely on one side, regarding them no more than it regards the artistic or literary pursuits of the citizens.4 There seem to be no two opinions on this subject in the United States. Even the Protestant Episcopalian clergy, who are in many ways disposed to admire and envy their brethren in England; even the Roman Catholic bishops, whose creed justifies the enforcement of the true faith by the secular arm, assure the European visitor that if state establishment were offered them they would decline it, preferring the freedom they enjoy to any advantages the state could confer. Every religious community can now organize itself in whatever way it pleases, lay down its own rules of faith and discipline, create and administer its own system of judicature, raise and apply its funds at its uncontrolled discretion. A church established by the state would not be able to do all these things, because it would also be controlled by the state, and it would be exposed to the envy and jealousy of other sects.
The only controversies that have arisen regarding state action in religious matters have turned upon the appropriation of public funds to charitable institutions managed by some particular denomination. Such appropriations are expressly prohibited in the constitutions of some states. But it may happen that the readiest way of promoting some benevolent public purpose is to make a grant of money to an institution already at work, and successfully serving that purpose. As this reason may sometimes be truly given, so it is also sometimes advanced where the real motive is to purchase the political support of the denomination to which the institution belongs, or at least of its clergy. In some states, and particularly in New York, state or city legislatures are often charged with giving money to Roman Catholic institutions for the sake of securing the Catholic vote.5 In these cases, however, the money always purports to be voted not for a religious but for a philanthropic or educational purpose. No ecclesiastical body would be strong enough to obtain any grant to its general funds, or any special immunity for its ministers. The passion for equality in religious as well as secular matters is everywhere in America far too strong to be braved, and nothing excites more general disapprobation than any attempt by an ecclesiastical organization to interfere in politics. The suspicion that the Roman Catholic church uses its power over its members to guide their votes for its purposes has more than once given rise to strong anti-Catholic or (as they would be called in Canada) Orange movements, such as that which at the end of the nineteenth century figured largely in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois under the name of the American Protective Association. So the hostility to Mormonism was due not merely to the practice of polygamy, but also to the notion that the hierarchy of the Latter Day Saints constitutes a secret and tyrannical imperium in imperio opposed to the genius of democratic institutions.
The refusal of the civil power to protect or endow any form of religion is commonly represented in Europe as equivalent to a declaration of contemptuous indifference on the part of the state to the spiritual interests of its people. A state recognizing no church is called a godless state; the disestablishment of a church is described as an act of national impiety. Nothing can be farther from the American view, to an explanation of which it may be well to devote a few lines.
The abstention of the state from interference in matters of faith and worship may be advocated on two principles, which may be called the political and the religious. The former sets out from the principles of liberty and equality. It holds any attempt at compulsion by the civil power to be an infringement on liberty of thought, as well as on liberty of action, which could be justified only when a practice claiming to be religious is so obviously antisocial or immoral as to threaten the well-being of the community. Religious persecution, even in its milder forms, such as disqualifying the members of a particular sect for public office, is, it conceives, inconsistent with the conception of individual freedom and the respect due to the primordial rights of the citizen which modern thought has embraced. Even if state action stops short of the imposition of disabilities, and confines itself to favouring a particular church, whether by grants of money or by giving special immunities to its clergy, this is an infringement on equality, putting one man at a disadvantage compared with others in respect of matters which are not fit subjects for state cognizance.
The second principle, embodying the more purely religious view of the question, starts from the conception of the church as a spiritual body existing for spiritual purposes, and moving along spiritual paths. It is an assemblage of men who are united by their devotion to an unseen Being, their memory of a past divine life, their belief in the possibility of imitating that life, so far as human frailty allows, their hopes for an illimitable future. Compulsion of any kind is contrary to the nature of such a body, which lives by love and reverence, not by law. It desires no state help, feeling that its strength comes from above, and that its kingdom is not of this world. It does not seek for exclusive privileges, conceiving that these would not only create bitterness between itself and other religious bodies, but might attract persons who did not really share its sentiments, while corrupting the simplicity of those who are already its members. Least of all can it submit to be controlled by the state, for the state, in such a world as the present, means persons many or most of whom are alien to its beliefs and cold to its emotions. The conclusion follows that the church as a spiritual entity will be happiest and strongest when it is left absolutely to itself, not patronized by the civil power, not restrained by law except when and in so far as it may attempt to quit its proper sphere and intermeddle in secular affairs.
Of these two views it is the former much more than the latter that has moved the American mind. The latter would doubtless be now generally accepted by religious people. But when the question arose in a practical shape in the earlier days of the Republic, arguments of the former or political order were found amply sufficient to settle it, and no practical purpose has since then compelled men either to examine the spiritual basis of the church, or to inquire by the light of history how far state action has during sixteen centuries helped or marred her usefulness. There has, however, been another cause at work, I mean the comparatively limited conception of the state itself which Americans have formed. The state is not to them, as to Germans or Frenchmen, and even to some English thinkers, an ideal moral power, charged with the duty of forming the characters and guiding the lives of its subjects. It is more like a commercial company, or perhaps a huge municipality created for the management of certain business in which all who reside within its bounds are interested, levying contributions and expending them on this business of common interest, but for the most part leaving the shareholders or burgesses to themselves. That an organization of this kind should trouble itself, otherwise than as matter of police, with the opinions or conduct of its members would be as unnatural as for a railway company to inquire how many of the shareholders were Wesleyans or total abstainers. Accordingly it never occurs to the average American that there is any reason why state churches should exist, and he stands amazed at the warmth of European feeling on the matter.
Just because these questions have been long since disposed of, and excite no present passion, and perhaps also because the Americans are more practically easygoing than pedantically exact, the national government and the state governments do give to Christianity a species of recognition inconsistent with the view that civil government should be absolutely neutral in religious matters. Each house of Congress has a chaplain, and opens its proceedings each day with prayers. The president annually after the end of harvest issues a proclamation ordering a general thanksgiving, and occasionally appoints a day of fasting and humiliation. So prayers are offered in the state legislatures,6 and state governors issue proclamations for days of religious observance. Congress in the crisis of the Civil War (July 1863) requested the president to appoint a day for humiliation and prayer. In the army and navy provision is made for religious services, conducted by chaplains of various denominations, and no difficulty seems to have been found in reconciling their claims. In most states there exist laws punishing blasphemy or profane swearing by the name of God (laws which, however, are in some places openly transgressed and in few or none enforced), laws restricting or forbidding trade or labour on the Sabbath, as well as laws protecting assemblages for religious purposes, such as camp meetings or religious processions, from being disturbed. The Bible is (in most states) read in the public state-supported schools, and though controversies have arisen on this head, the practice is evidently in accord with the general sentiment of the people.
The matter may be summed up by saying that Christianity is in fact understood to be, though not the legally established religion, yet the national religion.7 So far from thinking their commonwealth godless, the Americans conceive that the religious character of a government consists in nothing but the religious belief of the individual citizens, and the conformity of their conduct to that belief. They deem the general acceptance of Christianity to be one of the main sources of their national prosperity, and their nation a special object of the Divine favour.
The legal position of a Christian church is in the United States simply that of a voluntary association, or group of associations, corporate or unincorporate, under the ordinary law. There is no such thing as a special ecclesiastical law; all questions, not only of property but of church discipline and jurisdiction, are, if brought before the courts of the land, dealt with as questions of contract;8 and the court, where it is obliged to examine a question of theology, as for instance whether a clergyman has advanced opinions inconsistent with any creed or formula to which he has bound himself—for it will prefer, if possible, to leave such matters to the proper ecclesiastical authority—will treat the point as one of pure legal interpretation, neither assuming to itself theological knowledge, nor suffering considerations of policy to intervene.9 Questions relating to the union of two religious bodies are similarly dealt with on a basis merely legal.
As a rule, every religious body can organize itself in any way it pleases. The state does not require its leave to be asked, but permits any form of church government, any ecclesiastical order, to be created and endowed, any method to be adopted of vesting church property, either simply in trustees or in corporate bodies formed either under the general law of the state or under some special statute. Sometimes a limit is imposed on the amount of property, or of real estate, which an ecclesiastical corporation can hold; but, on the whole, it may be said that the civil power manifests no jealousy of the spiritual, but allows the latter a perfectly free field for expansion. Of course if any ecclesiastical authority were to become formidable either by its wealth or by its control over the members of its body, this easy tolerance would disappear; all I observe is that the difficulties often experienced, and still more often feared, in Europe, from the growth of organizations exercising tremendous spiritual powers, have in America never proved serious.10 No church has anywhere a power approaching that of the Roman Catholic church in Lower Canada. Religious bodies are in so far the objects of special favour that their property is in most states exempt from taxation; and this is reconciled to theory by the argument that they are serviceable as moral agencies, and diminish the expenses incurred in respect of police administration.11 Two or three states impose restrictions on the creation of religious corporations, and one, Maryland, requires the sanction of the legislature to dispositions of property to religious uses. But speaking generally, religious bodies are the objects of legislative favour.12
I pass on to say a few words as to the religious bodies of the country.13
In 1906 an attempt was made to obtain from each of these bodies full statistics regarding its numbers and the value of its property. The results, which I take from the bulletins and abstracts of that census, were, as respects the denominations whose membership exceeds 500,000 persons, as follows:
Besides these eight bodies the Jews are returned as having 143,000 members (only heads of families, however, being reckoned), the Friends 118,752, the Spiritualists 295,000, and eight communistic societies (including the so-called Shakers) only 3,084. The total number of persons returned as communicants or members of all the churches is 32,936,445.
Of the above-mentioned denominations, or rather groups, for most of them include numerous minor denominations, the Methodists and Baptists are numerous everywhere, but the Methodists especially numerous in the South, where they have been the chief evangelizers of the Negroes, and in the Middle states, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. Of the Congregationalists nearly one-half are to be found in New England, the rest in such parts of the Middle and Western states as have been peopled from New England. The Presbyterians are strongest in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, and in the older Southern states,16 especially Virginia and North Carolina, states where many Scoto-Irish emigrants settled, but are well represented over the West also. Of the Lutherans nearly one-half are Germans and one-quarter Scandinavians, including Icelanders and Finns. The Protestant Episcopalians are strongest in New York (which supplies one-fourth of their total number), Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. There are 65 dioceses and 94 bishops, but no archbishop, the supreme authority being vested in a convention which meets triennially. The Unitarians (in all 70,542 with 541 ministers) are few outside New England and the regions settled from New England, but have exercised an influence far beyond that of their numbers owing to the eminence of some of their divines, such as Channing, Emerson, and Theodore Parker, and to the fact that they include a large number of highly cultivated men. The Roman Catholics are, except in Maryland and Louisiana, nearly all either of Irish, German, Italian, Slavonic, or French-Canadian extraction. They abound everywhere, except in the South and some parts of the Northwest, and are perhaps, owing to the influx of Irish and French-Canadians, most relatively numerous in New England. The great development of the Lutheran bodies is of course due to German and Scandinavian immigration. Of all denominations the Jews have increased most rapidly, viz., at the rate of 160 per cent or the ten years 1880–90. The Jewish population of the U.S. was estimated to be in 1880, 230,257; in 1897, 937,800; and in 1907, 1,777,185. Of the Orthodox Jews (for there is also a large “Reformed” section), half are in New York.
All these phenomena find an easy historical explanation. The churches of the United States are the churches of the British Isles, modified by recent Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish immigration from the European continent. Each race has, as a rule, adhered to the form of religion it held in Europe; and where denominations comparatively small in England have, like the Methodists and Baptists, swelled to vast proportions here, it is because the social conditions under which they throve in England were here reproduced on a far larger scale. In other words, the causes which have given their relative importance and their local distribution to American denominations have been racial and social rather than ecclesiastical. No new religious forces have sprung up on American soil to give a new turn to her religious history. The breaking up of large denominations into smaller religious bodies seems to be due, partly to immigration, which has introduced slightly diverse elements, partly to the tendency to relax the old dogmatic stringency, a tendency which has been found to operate as a fissile force.
It need hardly be said that there exist no such social distinctions between different denominations as those of England. No clergyman, no layman, either looks down upon or looks up to any other clergyman or layman in respect of his worshipping God in another way. The Roman Catholic church of course stands aloof from the Protestant Christians, whom she considers schismatic; and although what is popularly called the doctrine of apostolic succession is less generally deemed vital by Protestant Episcopalians in America than it has come to be by them of late years in England, the clergy of that church did not often admit to their pulpits pastors of other bodies (though they sometimes appear in the pulpits of those churches) until in 1908 a canon was passed expressly legalizing the admission of ministers of other Christian communions. Such exchanges of pulpit are common among Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and other orthodox Protestant bodies. In many parts of the North and West the Protestant Episcopal church has long been slightly more fashionable than its sister churches; and people who have no particular “religious preferences,” but wish to stand well socially, will sometimes add themselves to it.17 In the South, however, Presbyterianism (and in some places Methodism) is equally well regarded from a worldly point of view; while everywhere the strength of Methodists and Baptists and Roman Catholics resides in the masses of the people.18
Of late years proposals for union between some of the leading Protestant churches, and especially between the Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Lutherans, have been freely canvassed. They witness to a growing good feeling among the clergy, and a growing indifference to minor points of doctrine and church government. The vested interests of the existing clergy create some difficulties serious in small towns and country districts; but it seems possible that before many years more than one such union will be carried through.
The social standing of the clergy of each church corresponds pretty closely to the character of the church itself—that is to say, the pastors of the Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, and Unitarian bodies come generally, at least in the Northern states, from a higher social stratum than those of other more numerous denominations. The former are usually graduates of some university or college. As in Great Britain, comparatively few are the sons of the wealthy; and not very many come from the working classes. The position of a minister of the Gospel always carries with it some dignity—that is to say, it gives a man a certain advantage in the society, whatever it may be, to which he naturally belongs in respect of his family connections, his means, and his education. In the great cities the leading ministers of the chief denominations, including the Roman Catholic and Protestant Episcopal bishops, whether they be eminent as preachers, or as active philanthropists, or in respect of their learning, are among the first citizens, and exercise an influence often wider and more powerful than that of any layman. Possibly no man in the United States, since President Lincoln, has been so warmly admired and so widely mourned as the late Dr. Phillips Brooks. Some of the Roman Catholic prelates are known and admired far beyond the limits of their dioceses. In cities of the second order, the clergymen of these denominations, supposing them (as is usually the case) to be men of good breeding and personally acceptable, move in the best society of the place. Similarly in country places the pastor is better educated and more enlightened than the average members of his flock, and becomes a leader in works of beneficence. The level of education and learning is rising among the clergy with the steady improvement of the universities. This advance is perhaps most marked among those denominations which, like the Methodists and Baptists, have heretofore lagged behind, because their adherents were mostly among the poor. So far as I could learn, the incomes of the clergy are also increasing, though not so fast as the cost of living, which, especially in cities, bears heavily upon members of a profession from which the maintenance of “a certain style” is expected. The highest salaries are those received by the Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors in the great cities, which run from $8,000 up to $15,000, and by the Protestant Episcopal bishops ($3,300 up to $12,500). Roman Catholic bishops, being celibate and with poorer flocks, have from $3,000 to $5,000; Methodist bishops usually $5,000, with travelling expenses. In the wealthier denominations there are many city ministers whose incomes exceed $3,000, while in small towns and rural districts few fall below $1,000; in the less wealthy $1,500 for a city and $700 for a rural charge may be a fair average as regards the North and West. The average income of a Roman Catholic priest is given at $800. To the sums regularly paid must be added in many cases a residence, and in nearly all various gifts and fees which the minister receives.
These figures, which, however, must be a little reduced for the Southern states, compare favourably with the average incomes received by the clergy of all denominations in England or Scotland, and are above the salaries paid to priests in France or to Protestant pastors in Germany. Reckoning in the clergy of all denominations in Great Britain and in the United States, both the pecuniary and the social position of the American clergy may, so far as it is possible to strike an average, be pronounced slightly higher.
Although the influence of the clergy is still great it has changed its nature, yielding to the universal current which makes for equality. At the beginning of the century the New England ministers enjoyed a local authority not unlike that of the bishops in Western Europe in the sixth century or of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland in the seventeenth. They were, especially in country places, the leaders as well as instructors of their congregations, and were a power in politics scarcely less than in spiritual affairs.19 That order of things has quite passed away. His profession and his education still secure respect for a clergyman,20 but he must not now interfere in politics; he must not speak on any secular subject ex cathedra; his influence, whatever it may be, is no longer official but can only be that of a citizen distinguished by his talents or character, whose office gives him no greater advantage than that of an eminence where shining gifts may be more widely visible. Now and then this rule of abstention from politics is broken through. Mr. Henry Ward Beecher took the field as a Mugwump in the presidential campaign of 1884, and was deemed the more courageous in doing so because the congregation of Plymouth Church were mostly “straight out” Republicans. The Roman Catholic bishops have sometimes been accused of lending secret aid to the political party which will procure subventions for their schools and charities, and do no doubt, as indeed their doctrines require, press warmly the claims of denominational education. But otherwise they also abstain from politics. Such action as is constantly taken in England by ministers of the Established Church on the one side of politics, by Nonconformist ministers on the other, would in America excite disapproval. It is only on platforms or in conventions where some moral cause is to be advocated, such as Abolitionism was before the war years or temperance is now, that clergymen can with impunity appear.
Considering that the absence of state interference in matters of religion is one of the most striking differences between all the European countries on the one hand and the United States on the other, the European reader may naturally expect some further remarks on the practical results of this divergence. “There are,” he will say, “two evil consequences with which the European defenders of established churches seek to terrify us when disestablishment and disendowment are mentioned, one that the authority and influence of religion will wane if state recognition is withdrawn, the other that the incomes of the clergy and their social status will sink, that they will in fact become plebeians, and that the centres of light which now exist in every country parish will be extinguished. There are also two benefits which the advocates of the ‘Free Church in a Free State’ promise us, one that social jealousies and bitternesses between different sects will melt away, and the other that the church will herself become more spiritual in her temper and ideas, more earnest in her proper work of moral reform and the nurture of the soul. What has American experience to say on these four points?”
These are questions so pertinent to a right conception of the ecclesiastical side of American life that I cannot decline the duty of trying to answer them, though reluctant to tread on ground to which European conflicts give a controversial character.
I. To estimate the influence and authority of religion is not easy. Suppose, however, that we take either the habit of attending church or the sale of religious books as evidences of its influence among the multitude; suppose that as regards the more cultivated classes we look at the amount of respect paid to Christian precepts and ministers, the interest taken in theological questions, the connection of philanthropic reforms with religion. Adding these various data together, we may get some sort of notion of the influence of religion on the American people as a whole.
Purposing to touch on these points in the chapter next following, I will here only say by way of anticipation that in all these respects the influence of Christianity seems to be, if we look not merely to the numbers but also to the intelligence of the persons influenced, greater and more widespread in the United States than in any part of western continental Europe, and I think greater than in England. In parts of France, Italy, Spain, and the Catholic parts of Germany, as well as in German Austria, the authority of religion over the masses is of course great. Its influence on the best educated classes—one must include all parts of society in order to form a fair judgment—is apparently smaller in France and Italy than in Great Britain, and apparently smaller than in the United States. The country which most resembles America in this respect is Scotland, where the mass of the people enjoy large rights in the management of their church affairs, and where the interest of all classes has, ever since the Reformation, tended to run in ecclesiastical channels. So far from suffering from the want of state support, religion seems in the United States to stand all the firmer because, standing alone, she is seen to stand by her own strength. No political party, no class in the community, has any hostility either to Christianity or to any particular Christian body. The churches are as thoroughly popular, in the best sense of the word, as any of the other institutions of the country.
II. The social and economic position of the clergy in the United States is above that of the priesthood, taken as a whole, in Roman Catholic countries, and equal to that of all denominations taken together; Anglican and Nonconformist, in England. No American pastors enjoy such revenues as the prelates of England and Hungary; but the average income attached to the pastoral office is in America larger. The peculiar conditions of England, where one church looks down socially on the others, make a comparison in other respects difficult. The education of the American ministers, their manners, their capacity for spreading light among the people, seem superior to those of the seminarist priesthood of France and Italy (who are of course far more of a distinct caste) and equal to those of the Protestant pastors of Germany and Scotland.
III. Social jealousies connected with religion scarcely exist in America, and one notes a kindlier feeling between all denominations, Roman Catholics included, a greater readiness to work together for common charitable aims, than between Catholics and Protestants in France or Germany, or between Anglicans and Nonconformists in England. There is a rivalry between the leading denominations to extend their bounds, to erect and fill new churches, to raise great sums for church purposes. Viewed from the side of the New Testament, it may appear a foolish rivalry; but it is not unfriendly, and does not provoke bad blood, because the state stands neutral, and all churches have a free field. There is less mutual exclusiveness than in any other country, except perhaps Scotland. An instance may be found in the habit of exchanging pulpits, another in the comparative frequency with which persons pass from one denomination to another, if a particular clergyman attracts them, or if they settle in a place distant from a church of their own body. One often finds members of the same family belonging to different denominations. Some of the leading bodies, and especially the Presbyterians and Congregationalists, between whose doctrines there exists practically no difference, have been wont, especially in the West, to cooperate for the sake of efficiency and economy in agreeing not to plant two rival churches in a place where one will suffice, but to arrange that one denomination shall set up its church, and the other advise its adherents to join and support that church.
IV. To give an opinion on the three foregoing questions is incomparably easier than to say whether and how much Christianity has gained in spiritual purity and dignity by her severance from the secular power.
There is a spiritual gain in that diminution of envy, malice, and uncharitableness between the clergy of various sects which has resulted from their being all on the same legal level; and the absence both of these faults and of the habit of bringing ecclesiastical questions into secular politics, gives the enemy less occasion to blaspheme than he is apt to have in Europe. Church assemblies—synods, conferences, and conventions—seem on the whole to be conducted with better temper and more good sense than these bodies have shown in the Old World, from the Council of Ephesus down to our own day. But in America as elsewhere some young men enter the clerical profession from temporal motives; some laymen join a church to improve their social or even their business position; some country pastors look out for city cures, and justify their leaving a poorer flock for a richer by talking of a wider sphere of usefulness. One hears that in some bodies there is much intriguing to secure a post of eminence, and that men of great wealth exert undue influence, as they did in the days when the Epistle of St. James was written. The desire to push the progress of the particular church or of the denomination often mingles with the desire to preach the gospel more widely; and the gospel is sometimes preached, if not with “respect of persons” yet with less faithful insistence on unpalatable truths than the moral health of the community requires.
So far as I could ascertain, the dependence of the minister for his support on his congregation does not lower him in their eyes, nor make him more apt to flatter the leading members than he is in established churches. If he is personally dignified and unselfish, his independence will be in no danger. But whether the voluntary system, which no doubt makes men more liberal in giving for the support of religious ordinances among themselves and of missions elsewhere, tends to quicken spiritual life, and to keep the church pure and undefiled, free from the corrupting influences of the world, is another matter, on which a stranger may well hesitate to speak. Those Americans whose opinion I have inquired are unanimous in holding that in this respect also the fruits of freedom have been good.
 Four states provide that this declaration is not to be taken to excuse breaches of the public peace, many that it shall not excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state, and three that no person shall disturb others in their religious worship.
 Full details on these points will be found in Mr. Stimson’s valuable collection entitled American Statute Law.
 Idaho disfranchises all polygamists or advocates of polygamy; but Mormonism is attacked not so much as a religion as in respect of its social features and hierarchical character.
 There was however, for some time, a movement led I think by some Baptist and Methodist ministers, for obtaining the insertion of the name of God in the federal Constitution. Those who desired this appear to hold that the instrument would be thereby in a manner sanctified, and a distinct national recognition of theism expressed.
 In 1910 the Roman Catholic schools and charities of New York received more than $1,500,000; very few other denominational institutions received money, but those of some Hebrew, German, French, and similar societies received smaller amounts, of which the largest, $235,000, went to Hebrew charities.
 Though Michigan and Oregon forbid any appropriation of state funds for religious services.
 It has often been said that Christianity is a part of the common law of the states, as it has been said to be of the common law of England; but on this point there have been discrepant judicial opinions, nor can it be said to find any specific practical application. A discussion of it may be found in Justice Story’s opinion in the famous Girard will case.
 Or otherwise as questions of private civil law. Actions for damages are sometimes brought against ecclesiastical authorities by persons deeming themselves to have been improperly accused or disciplined or deprived of the enjoyment of property.
 The emperor Aurelian decided in a like neutral spirit a question that had arisen between two Christian churches.
 Occasionally a candidate belonging to a particular denomination receives some sympathetic support from its members. Once in a state election in Arkansas, as one candidate for the governorship had been a Baptist minister and the other a Methodist presiding elder, and four-fifths of the voters belonged to one or other denomination, each received a good deal of denominational adhesion.
 In his message of 1881 the governor of Washington Territory recommends the legislature to exempt church property from taxation, not only on the ground that “churches and schoolhouses are the temples of education, and alike conduce to the cultivation of peace, happiness, and prosperity,” but also because “churches enhance the value of contiguous property, which, were they abolished, would be of less value and return less revenue.”
 New Hampshire has lately taxed churches on the value of their real estate exceeding $10,000.
 An interesting and impartial summary view of the history of the chief denominations in the United States may be found in Dr. George P. Fisher’s History of the Christian Church, pp. 559–82.
 The strength of Presbyterianism in the South is probably due in part to the immigration into those states of Ulstermen in the middle of last century, and of settlers from Holland at a still earlier date.
 The proposal which has been more than once made in the annual convention of the Protestant Episcopal church, that it should call itself “The National Church of America,” has been always rejected by the good sense of the majority, who perceive that an assumption of this kind would provoke much displeasure from other bodies of Christians.
 The Methodists and Baptists are said to make more use of social means in the work of evangelizing the masses, and to adapt themselves more perfectly to democratic ideas than do the other Protestant bodies.
 In a few states clergymen are still declared ineligible, by the constitution, as members of a state legislature. They do not seem to have in the early days sat in these bodies; and they very rarely sit in Congress, but one finds them in conventions. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and president of Princeton College, who had come recently from Scotland. Some of the best speeches in the Massachusetts convention of 1788 which ratified the federal Constitution were made by ministers. In New England, they were nearly all advocates of the Constitution, and passed into the Federalist party.
 The clergy are the objects of a good deal of favour in various small ways; for instance, they used to receive free passes on railroads, and the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, while forbidding the system of granting free passes, which had been much abused, specially exempted clergymen from the prohibition. Their children are usually educated at lower fees, or even gratis, in colleges, and storekeepers often allow them a discount.