Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BROWNELL, Thomas Church, P. E. bishop, born in Westport, Massachusetts, 19 October. 1779; died in Hartford, Conn, 13 January, 1865. His early education was in a common school, in which he himself served as teacher at the age of fifteen. Preparing for College at Bristol academy, Taunton, he entered Brown just before attaining his majority. At the close of his sophomore year he followed President Maxcy to Union, where he was graduated with the honors of the valedictory in 1804. In the following year he was appointed tutor in Greek and Latin, and in 1806 professor of logic and belles-lettres" then, after three years, having spent a year in Great Britain and Ireland in the study of chemistry and kindred sciences and in pedestrian excursions, he entered upon new duties as lecturer on chemistry, and in 1814 was elected professor of rhetoric and chemistry, having become convinced of the historical and scriptural grounds of Episcopacy, as opposed to the Calvinistic Congregationalism in which he had been educated and to the ministry of which he had meant to devote himself, he was baptized and confirmed in 1813, and, after pursuing the study of theology in connection with his academic duties, was ordained deacon by Bishop Hobart in New York, 11 April, 1816. In 1818 he was elected assistant minister of Trinity church, New York, and in the following June the convention of the diocese of Connecticut chose him to the episcopate, which had been vacant for six years. Bishops White, Hobart, and Griswold consecrated him, 27 October, 1819, in Trinity church New Haven. Bishop Brownell entered upon his duties in Connecticut at a very important time. The adoption of a state constitution in 1818 had caused the overthrow of the Congregational "Standing Order," and affected a revolution, political, social, and religious. The new bishop made good use of his learning and his quiet, practical wisdom, and laid hold of his opportunities. The efforts to establish a church College in Connecticut were renewed, and in 1823 the charter of Washington College (now Trinity), Hartford, was granted by the legislature, and Bishop Brownell was elected its first president. In the winter of 1829-'30, at the request of the general missionary society of the church, he visited the south, traveling down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. He officiated as bishop in Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, and assisted in organizing the church in the two last-named states. A second visit to the church in the south was paid in 1834. In 1831, at the request of the convention of the diocese, Bishop Brownell withdrew from the presidency of the College, and was given the honorary office of chancellor, the active duties of the episcopate demanding all his time. These duties called for no little amount of literary labor, and his publications were of much use to his people. In 1851, on account of growing infirmities, Bishop Brownell asked for an assistant, and the Rev. John Williams, D. D., president of Trinity College, was chosen. The senior bishop officiated from time to time as he was able, his last public service being in 1860. During the forty-five years of his episcopate, for the last twelve of which he had been, by seniority, presiding bishop of the Episcopal church in the United States, he had seen the number of the clergy of his diocese increase fivefold, and he himself had ordained 179 deacons and confirmed over 15,000 persons; and the small number of parishes that he found in 1819, of which but seven could support full services, had increased to 129. A colossal statue of him, the girt of his son-in-law, Gordon W. Burnham, stands on the campus of Trinity College. Bishop Brownell was for many years president of the corporation of the retreat for the insane at Hartford. Among his ambitions, which included sermons, charges, and addresses, are "The Family Prayer-Book," an edition of the Book of Common Prayer, with ample explanatory and devotional notes, chiefly from English authors (New York, 1823); " Selections on the Religion of the heart and Life" (Hartford, 1840); "The Christian's Walk and Consolation," and an abridgment of an English commentary on the New Testament. His charge to his clergy, in 1843, on the " Errors of the Times," called forth an animated discussion on the contrasted doctrines and usages of Episcopalianism and Puritanism.
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