Orthodoxy in Colonial
Posted by: Nicholas Chapman<http://orthodoxhistory.org/category/early-converts/
*A note from Matthew Namee: What follows is a first glimpse of what is, I am
confident, the most exciting research currently being done on the subject of
American Orthodox history. As I�ve been telling others, my own research is
pretty interesting stuff, but Nicholas Chapman�s work blows mine out of the
water. Nicholas is a native of England, but he now lives in New York, where
he works for the presses of both St. Vladimir�s and Holy Trinity
(Jordanville) seminaries. I hope to interview Nicholas for my American
Orthodox History <http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/history
> podcast in the
near future, and his article below is only the first of many.*
It will come as a surprise to many, if not all Orthodox Christians in
America, to learn that the story of their Church here begins not in 1794 but
in 1738. Not in Russian Alaska, but rather British Virginia. Furthermore,
what began in 1738 was not a mere blip on the radar, a passing moment of no
historical import. Otherwise, how could it be that the daughter of a man
described as �renowned in early Virginia history �*(Annette Gordon-Reed: The
Hemingses of Monticello)* would write to President Thomas Jefferson early in
his second term of office (Aug 27, 1805) �With the blessing of God I am now
in good health, and with my priest�s blessing and command who is the Rev.
Where does this story begin and who are its principal characters? Where are
there descendants today and what became of their heritage of Orthodox faith
and life that lasted for at least sixty/seventy years? My early research is
only beginning to answer some of these questions, whilst posing many more.
Let�s begin with Colonel Philip Ludwell III, a third generation Virginian.
He was the man who in 1753 gave George Washington his commission in the army
and they exchanged frequent correspondence. Ludwell was a cousin of
Washington�s wife, Martha. He was also a relative of Confederate General
Robert E Lee and Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison,
amongst many other distinguished figures of American history. His
grandfather, Philip Ludwell I was the first British Governor of the
Carolinas and his father, Philip Ludwell II a member of the Virginia House
of Burgesses and Rector of the College of William and Mary. (The second
oldest college in the USA and its first University.) Ludwell�s English
manservant, John Wayles, was the father in law of Thomas Jefferson and the
father of Jefferson�s African American mistress, Sally Hemings!
When, where and why did Colonel Philip Ludwell become Orthodox? He was
received in the Russian Orthodox Church in London, on December 31, 1738 (Old
style) by Fr. Bartholomew Cassano, a half French, Alexandrian Greek whose
wife Elizabeth (nee Burton) is one of the first recorded English converts to
Orthodoxy. Ludwell would have been twenty-two years old at the time. His
reception was authorised at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of
Russia, who blessed him to take the Holy Gifts back to Virginia and which
approved of his translation into English of the �Orthodox Confession�
written by Peter Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev, one hundred years earlier.
They also granted him a dispensation to continue attending the Anglican
church in Virginia, taking into account his position as �an important Royal
official� and recognising that �apart from the Province of Pennsylvania, all
religions but Protestantism are banned.�
His extensive business interests seem to have led him to travel frequently
between Virginia and London. The London parish register documents his
participation in the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion on twelve
occasions between August 5 1760 and his death on March 14, 1767. (This is
very frequent by the standards of the time when once a year communion was
the norm.) On April 3, 1762 (Holy Wednesday) he brought his three daughters
to be chrismated and somewhat unusually also stood as their sponsor.
His health began to fail him during 1766 and the register records that on
Sunday, September 17, 1766, �The sick Philip Ludwell received Holy Communion
in his house during the day.� On February 22, 1767 it states �the sick Mr.
Philip Ludwell confessed and received Holy Communion, and was anointed with
oil at his home.� Shortly thereafter on March 14, 1767 �Philip Ludwell died
at five o�clock in the afternoon� and that the following day the �Canon
after the departure of the soul from the body� was read at the church. On
March 19, 1767 (the fourth day of Great Lent) his funeral took place. On
March 22,1767 he was buried in the crypt of the church of St. Mary Bow. (A
small Anglican Church to the east of the City of London, which at that time
was a distinct village apart from the city.)
Another hint of the intensity of Ludwell�s commitment to the Church is found
in Edward L Bond�s 2004 work *Spreading the Gospel in Colonial Virginia*.
Writing in the context of what Bond describes as �Private devotional
exercise common among some of Virginia�s elite gentleman� he states that
�Philip Ludwell III transcribed from the Greek his own translation of the
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom �The Divine and Holy Liturgy of St. John
Chrysostom as it is performed without a Deacon.� � Did Ludwell�s so called
�private devotion� set him on a path to Orthodoxy? Perhaps it is so.
For now, I have only one clear statement, which is found in a letter written
in 1791 by the Russian Ambassador in London, Count Vorontsov to his brother
Alexander in St. Petersburg. The relevant passage is actually focusing on
John Paradise (of whom there is much more to say.) Vorontsov writes �By a
strange coincidence an Englishman, a friend of his *(i.e.
Paradise�s)*father�s, who had some property in Virginia, took it into
his head to read
in the original all the Fathers of the Church and become convinced that our
religion was the only true one; he forsook his own to study it and brought
up his only daughter who afterwards married my friend Mr. Paradise.�
As mentioned previously, Ludwell in fact had three daughters, but only one
was alive in 1791 and known to Count Vorontsov. All three daughters had been
baptized as Orthodox Christians and at least one (Lucy who wrote to
Jefferson in 1805) was married in the Church. In my next articles I will
turn to their stories and those of the men they married.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, Nov 11, 2009
Orthodoxy in Colonial Virginia (Part
*On the latest episode<http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/history/orthodoxy_in_colonial_virginia
Orthodox History podcast <http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/history
Nicholas Chapman recounts the almost incredible story of Orthodox
Christianity in colonial Virginia. Last month, we published Nicholas� first
the subject. Below, he continues his series.
On July 4, 1789, after nearly five years of service, Thomas Jefferson was
coming to the end of his time as US minister plenipotentiary to France. It
was the eve of what would come to be known as the French revolution, but
this did not prevent Jefferson from hosting a celebration to mark the
recently won independence of the United States. The party was attended by
many of Jefferson�s closest friends in Paris, including John Paradise, the
son in law of Philip Ludwell III.
John Paradise was by any account a remarkable man: an extraordinarily gifted
linguist with a talent for friendship which brought him into contact with
almost all the great men of his day. English was probably only his seventh
language and by all accounts he never spoke it well! He was, however, able
to converse freely in Greek, Italian, Turkish and Arabic amongst others and
almost certainly knew Russian. He used his gifts to teach Thomas Jefferson
classical Greek whilst visiting him in Paris.
John Paradise was also an Orthodox Christian. His father, Peter Paradise,
had been the British Consul in Salonika (Thessalonica) and his mother was
half Greek. It is possible that his paternal grandfather was also both
English and Orthodox, making John Paradise a third generation English
Orthodox at the time of his birth at Salonika in April 1743. His father,
Peter, had contacts with monks from Mt. Athos during his years in Salonika
and it is not known whether it was these, or his marriage, that had brought
him to the Church.
After his early years in Greece, John was sent to the University of Padua
(modern day Italy) and ultimately to Oxford to complete his education. At
some point in the 1760�s it seems that the Paradises met Philip Ludwell and
his three daughters in London. On April 20, 1766 they are all recorded as
partaking of the sacrament of Holy Communion at the Russian Orthodox Church
in London. When Philip Ludwell III died less than a year later, Peter
Paradise became one of the legal guardians of Ludwell�s three daughters.
When Frances died less than a year after her father and Hannah (the eldest
daughter) married in March 1769, Lucy Ludwell went to live at Peter
Paradise�s London home. Barely two months later Lucy married Peter�s son
Philip Ludwell III�s London house was also a home for an extended Virginian
family including three of his sister Hannah�s children: Alice, Arthur and
William Lee. It was William who was to marry the eldest Ludwell daughter in
March 1769. She was also his first cousin. Close to the Ludwell house in
Cecil St. was the London home of Benjamin Franklin, who at that time was on
his second extended visit to England. Franklin was one of the early members
of the Royal Society, to which John Paradise would subsequently be elected.
Philip Ludwell III was very proud of the inventive achievements of his
fellow countryman and in 1762 commissioned a portrait of Franklin. This
became Franklin�s preferred painting of himself.
Franklin was an intimate of the Ludwell household and on his return to
America he sent his �best wishes to Miss Ludwell and the other ladies.�
This familial contact with Franklin was to prove vital for John Paradise and
Lucy Ludwell Paradise. The division of the Virginian estates of Philip
Ludwell III after his death was to prove complex and made even more so by
the outbreak of war between the American colonies and the British Empire. By
that time Franklin was the first US minister plenipotentiary to France. In
this capacity John and Lucy Ludwell Paradise visited him in Paris in 1779.
Through his office John Paradise was to be granted US citizenship in October
1780, whilst the War of Independence was still raging. It can be said
therefore that one of the first (and perhaps the first) naturalized American
citizen was an Orthodox Christian, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church
of mixed English and Greek ethnicity!
It was not until September of 1787 that John and Lucy Ludwell Paradise were
finally able to travel to their estates in Virginia. During their time in
America they were able to spend four days at Mt. Vernon with General George
and Martha Washington. Washington�s diary for Sunday, December 30, 1787
records that at around eleven o�clock that day �Mr. Paradise and his Lady,
lately from England but now of Williamsburgh , came in on a visit.� Sadly,
we have no detail of the conversation that was exchanged during their stay,
although it is known that Washington suspended the normal conduct of his
affairs during their visit, which was not his normal practice. As John
Paradise was on intimate terms with the two most important representatives
of the United States overseas (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) and
personally acquainted with so many other persons of note, it is not
difficult to think that Washington would have found his visit of immense
Barely two months after their visit to Mt. Vernon, the Paradises were to
receive the shocking news of the death of their daughter Philippa, aged only
thirteen, in London. So it was, that shortly afterward, they were to return
to London. Here it was that they met the newly appointed Russian priest, the
Rev. Yakov Smirnov, who was to become Lucy�s cherished spiritual father.
John Paradise was to work very closely with Fr. Smirnov is 1791 in a
concerted public campaign to persuade British public opinion against war
with Russia. For his service in this respect Paradise was awarded a pension
of �150 p.a. by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, a substantial sum
for its time.
It also seems likely that Paradise recruited the assistance of Frederick
North, the future Earl Guildford, whose father Lord North was British Prime
Minister during the American War of Independence. The young North was
secretly baptized as an Orthodox Christian in Corfu in 1791 and at the same
time was composing and publishing sonnets in praise of Catherine the Great!
When John Paradise died in 1795 he left Frederick North some of his most
precious possessions, thereby indicating the closeness of the relationship
they must have enjoyed during his lifetime.
I have only briefly skimmed the facts of John Paradise�s life and adventures
here. There is more to be written. But it must be of considerable interest
that a man who was clearly an active Orthodox Christians was on intimate
terms with the first three Presidents of the United States. James Boswell in
his famous �Life of Johnson� penned the best obituary of him. He wrote:
�John Paradise (1743 1795). Son of the British Consul at Salonica and a
native woman of that country. He was distinguished by his learning and a
very general acquaintance with accomplished persons of almost all nations� (
*Boswell�s Life of Johnson, vol. IV, p. 364, note 2*).
Nicholas Chapman, Yonkers, NY, December 14, 2009
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