Saturday, September 1, 2012
SCANDAL: Miss Mary Moore alleged to have sex with Rev. Francis Phillips of Christ Church
Editor’s Note: This biographical reference is copied verbatim from Pennsylvania, The Colonial Years, 1681-1776 by Joseph J. Kelly, Jr., published by Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, pp. 140-141.
As 1714 drew to a close, Philadelphia had a first-class scandal which triggered a “great tumult.” Rev. Francis Phillips, temporary pastor of Christ Church, was said to be boasting of having sex with some of the leading ladies of the congregation. Most of the parishioners, including Gookin, thought Phillips was being maligned, but a sizable minority believed the tales were true. Writs were obtained against him by Collector John Moore, father of one, and Councilor Trent, husband of another. Peter Evans, brother of the former Governor, was the Sheriff, and an ardent suitor of Miss Moore. Incensed, he arrested the cleric as he was going to bed, presumably alone, on Saturday, February 12, 1715, dragging him, sans stockings, through the cold night to the jail a half mile away, and there refusing to let him send for bail. The next day, Sunday, some three hundred young men and boys, admirers of the beleaguered pastor, mobbed the prison and threatened to pull it down if he was not released. They extorted a promise he would be returned home that night, and in retiring, tried to attack the home of the chief informer, but Gookin dispersed them.
On Monday, even though Phillips had been set at liberty, the mob, smashed the windows in the Trent and Moore homes. Evans, anxious to prove himself a worthy champion of the supposedly victimized Miss Moore, challenged the minister to a duel with swords, and was indicted for sending a challenge. The trial jury returned an alternative verdict, leaving the judges to decide whether a demand to come cinctus gladio was a challenge or an invitation. The puzzled court took it under advisement and no further record of the case appears. Phillips, who ignored Evans’ note on March 10, faced more trouble on March 17 when other clergymen petitioned the Bishop of London to remove him, after having failed to persuade him to leave the Province. In the meantime he drew large crowds to Christ Church while the Moore and Trent families attended services in the courthouse.
For Quaker politicians, always happy at the discomfiture of the “steeple-church” people, the episode had too much potential to let die. They brought the minister before a Quaker-dominated court on charges they claimed he already admitted. Gookin accompanied him, immediately dismissed at least three counts, and when a twenty-pound fine was levied on another, said: “Mr. Phillips, you may go home if you please, I’ll forgive you your fine.”
At the next term of court, the Constable and then the Sheriff were sent to bring him in, but Gookin battled them with his cane, went to court, and absolved Phillips with a proclamation.
On June 10 the Assembly expressed disappointment that “some of those who occasioned those Tumults, in order to annoy their opposite Party, are now leveling their Malignity against the Magistrates of this City and County, and endeavoring to prevail with the Governor . . . that there is no Power to bring to Trial a certain Clergyman, who is charged by Indictment at the King’s suit, for committing Fornication. . . . We desire the Governor to consider, that Fornication, and such like Offences which in other Places may be of ecclesiastical Connusance, are by the Laws of this Province made triable in the Quarter-Sessions. . . .” Tongue in cheek, Gookin answered: “The Tumults that have hitherto happened, I have immediately endeavored to quell, and, I hope, with good Effect; the Courts are now Opened; the Administration of Justice is restored; and if any should appear so audacious as to oppose the Magistrates, they shall not want my Countenance and Assistance to suppress the Attempt. . . . I shall exert all the Authority with which I am vested, to support . . . the Magistrates, in the Execution of the Laws, and full Discharge of their Duty . . .”
The amorous Phillips, “the parson who has so long tormented this place,” in Logan’s words, was ordered by the Bishop of London to vacate Christ Church and sailed home; Peter Evans married Miss Moore without her father’s permission; Gookin had an argument with Joseph Wood, a Quaker justice of the Supreme Court for the Lower Counties, and kicked him, and in September 1715, leading citizens there appealed to the Councilors to relieve them from the Governor’s harassment. The letter was forward to Hannah Penn stating a change was imperative.
Editor’s Note: The “. . .” deletions are in the book, and are not inserted by your editor.
More to come in a future post about Charles Gookin, and John Evans (cousin of Peter Evans) who was married to Rebecca Moore (daughter of Hon. John Moore and sister of Mary Moore).