Reformed Churchmen

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

18 January 1805 A.D. John Moore Dies—88th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury; Consecrates American Bishops William White and Samuel Provoost

18 January 1805 A.D.  John Moore Dies—88th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury;  Consecrates American Bishops William White and Samuel Provoost

Ashton, Nigel.  Moore, John (bap. 1730, d. 1805).”  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008).  Accessed 7 June 2014. 

  John Moore (bap. 1730, d. 1805), by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1794

John Moore (bap. 1730, d. 1805), by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1794


Moore, John (bap. 1730, d. 1805), archbishop of Canterbury, son of George (d. 1775) and Jane Moore, formerly Cook (d. 1772), was baptized in St Michael's Church, Gloucester, on 13 January 1730. Like his predecessor Cardinal Wolsey, Moore was the son of a butcher and grazier; his father had a shop in Gloucester and held pasture lands at Sandhurst, close by. Moore was educated at the free grammar school of St Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, and he matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford, with a Townsend closed scholarship on 25 March 1745. He graduated BA in October 1748 and proceeded MA in June 1751.

After his ordination Moore was engaged to work in the household of the third duke of Marlborough as tutor to the duke's younger sons, lords Charles and Robert Spencer. On the duke's death in 1758 he settled £400 per annum on Moore, who also tactfully declined to court the widowed duchess; she was smitten by the family chaplain's handsome features. This early patronage connection with the Blenheim family was the making of Moore's career in the Church of England. Moore travelled with Lord Robert as his tutor in central Europe and Italy during 1766–7, by which date he had already accumulated two important capitular posts: he received the fifth prebendal stall at Durham on 21 September 1761 and a canonry of the first prebend from the king at Christ Church, Oxford, in April 1763. He took the degrees of BD and DD on 1 July 1763 and was appointed rector of Ryton, co. Durham, in 1769.

Moore had a brief first marriage to the sister of Sir James Wright, first baronet, of Ray House, Woodford, Essex, British minister to the republic of Venice from 1766 to 1773. After her death he married for a second time on 23 January 1770. His bride was Catherine, daughter of Sir Robert Eden, third baronet, of West Auckland, co. Durham, and the match brought him into the circle of a highly competent political family. In September 1771 Moore became dean of Canterbury following the direct request to the king of the fourth duke of Marlborough, but he resigned after less than four years to become bishop of Bangor in February 1775. He resided in his see during the summer, conducted visitations at regular intervals, and found that his young family much enjoyed their stays in north Wales. Eight years later he was advanced to the primacy itself, a surprise choice of a relatively junior bishop. Although bishops Hurd and Lowth had both declined the honour they agreed that the king should send for Moore, who was duly translated to the archbishopric of Canterbury on 26 April 1783 and installed and enthroned by proxy on 10 May.

Moore's primacy of twenty-two years was steady and cautious, with the defence of the establishment as its main hallmark. The key role of his brother-in-law, William Eden, first Lord Auckland, in the circle of William Pitt the younger ensured the archbishop was party to state deliberations at the highest level. Moore was opposed to hazarding the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and he convened a gathering of sixteen of the twenty-six bishops in London on 10 February 1787 to test and concert opinion against parliamentary moves for repeal. The archbishop spoke out on 9 June 1789 in the House of Lords against Earl Stanhope's Toleration Bill for its dangerous vagueness that would ‘serve to cover every species of irreligion’ (Ditchfield, ‘Dissent and toleration’, 63). Though Moore cautiously accepted the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791, the outbreak of the French Revolution intensified his conviction that the times were inappropriate to reducing the privileges of the religious establishment, and he was reluctant to take further Pitt's interest in tithe commutation. In late 1800 the archbishop deployed his influence in strengthening the king's dislike of conceding Catholic emancipation. Similarly, although he was initially sympathetic to the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, he withdrew his support in 1792 in a move that was a severe blow to Wilberforce. Though cautious of the evangelicals and the new Church Missionary Society, Moore was in principle sympathetic to the expansion of Anglican missionary activity and he promoted the Sunday school movement. It was during his primacy that the Episcopalian church in the United States was settled. Though it was inexpedient for Moore to consecrate Samuel Seabury from Connecticut as an American bishop in 1784, he privately made clear he had no objection to the nonjuring Scottish bishops—whose orders he considered valid—undertaking that office. In due course, on 4 February 1787 Moore presided at Lambeth Palace over the consecration of William White and Samuel Provoost—elected by the Philadelphia convention of United States Episcopalians—as bishops of New York and Philadelphia respectively. In May 1786 Moore and Bishop Lowth had petitioned the crown for a bishop for Canada. The choice eventually fell on Charles Inglis of Nova Scotia, whom the archbishop consecrated on 12 August 1787. Moore took this step only after extensive soundings of interested parties; equally characteristically, once this was done he gave the infant Canadian church his full support. He allowed other bishops, such as Samuel Horsley, to take the lead in denouncing the politics of republican, regicide France in the 1790s, and was reluctant to allow individual clerics to take up arms during the invasion scare of 1798.

Throughout his primacy Moore's administrative competence, astute patronage, and impeccable orthodoxy made him many friends and few enemies. It was typical that he and Wilberforce remained on affectionate terms despite their differences over the slave trade. His relationship with the royal family was cordial; he married the prince of Wales to Princess Caroline of Brunswick on 8 April 1795. Moore was, as Bishop Porteus observed on 23 January 1805, ‘a very aimiable and worthy man’ (Nichols, Lit. anecdotes, 7. 880), and he was president of both the Society for Propagation of the Gospel and the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy. A man of considerable presence, though not pompous, Moore was conscious that his office gave him an extended pastoral responsibility for the whole kingdom. Accordingly, near the end of the harsh winter of 1799–1800, he proposed a national agreement to be signed voluntarily to relieve want among the poor and destitute. Moore himself enjoyed a net annual income of £11,000 which allowed him to live in some style. He and his second wife had a number of children, and were both distraught when two daughters died of consumption in the last seven years of Moore's life. The two of his four sons who entered the church undoubtedly benefited from their father's scope for patronage. At Lambeth he undertook a minor remodelling of the grounds to open up the views and built a more convenient carriage-approach road. The archbishop died at Lambeth Palace on 18 January 1805 after some months of senility, and he was buried in Lambeth church on 25 January after a ceremonial funeral. Moore was an administrator rather than a scholar, and only three of his sermons were published separately in his lifetime.

Nigel Aston



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