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1800.

THE

THE General Conference for the year 1800 met in Baltimore

on Tuesday, May 6th. It had been ordered by the preceding General Conference that this one should convene on the 20th day of October; but as in that month of the year for two or three seasons past the yellow fever had prevailed in Baltimore and other sea-port towns, it was doubtful whether many of the preachers would venture to come together. For this reason Mr. Asbury, by the advice of certain judicious friends, laid the matter before the yearly conferences of 1799, and they decided that it was highly necessary to change the date for meeting, and accordingly fixed it for May 6th.

When the Conference assembled, therefore, the members present at once passed the following resolution, reciting the action just named:

Resolved, That this General Conference, now met according to the above alteration and appointment, do unanimously approve of the said alteration, and ratify it accordingly.”

The Conference elected Nicholas Snethen secretary, and passed rules of order for its government. Dr. Coke read an address from the British Conference, and explained the portions of it that related to himself, respecting his return to Europe. He said the address was not his own, and that he was not even consulted in its preparation; he would now leave the decision of the case entirely with the Conference, as he viewed himself only their servant for Jesus' sake.

The request of the British Conference to allow Dr. Coke to return to Europe, after being debated two or three days, was, by a large majority, granted; upon condition that he come back to America as soon as his business would allow, but certainly by the next General Conference.

It appears from the record that Mr. Asbury—the title of Bishop in the earlier days of our Church history was seldom given to the general superintendents in speaking of or addressing them; but only "Mr." or "Bro.”—desired to vacate his office, fearing that the General Conference was not satisfied with his former services. He said that his affliction since the last General Conference had been uch that he was under the necessity of having a colleague to travel with him; that his great debility had obliged him to locate several times, and that he could travel only in a carriage; and he did not know whether this General Conference, as a body, were satisfied with such parts of his conduct. Whereupon, on motion of Ezekiel Cooper, it was unanimously

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Resolved, 1. That this General Conference consider themselves under many and great obligations to Mr. Asbury for the many and great services he has rendered to this connexion.

Resolved, 2. That this General Conference do earnestly entreat a continuation of Mr. Asbury's services as one of the general superintendents of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as far as his strength will permit."

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The question of electing an additional bishop came up on motion of William Burke, who advocated the election of two more bishops; but the matter was deferred until it could be ascertained whether Bishop Asbury needed any help, and, if any, what that help should be.

The trustees of the Chartered Fund at Philadelphia presented a report of their doings, together with the accounts of the fund; and Lemuel Green and Henry Foxall were elected trustees in the place of Cornelius Comegys, resigned, and John Dickins, deceased.

A rule of the Discipline, requiring preachers to count the value of presents made to them personally, as a part of their allowance, was by a two-thirds vote stricken out.

From the fact that much time was consumed by the preachers in going to and returning from the General Conference, and in attending its sessions, thus necessitating their absence from their charges from four to six weeks, a motion was made to substitute a delegated Conference instead of a mass General Conference. This motion was promptly negatived.

The motion for assistance to be granted to Mr. Asbury was called up, and divided into two parts for consideration: 1. Shall any assistance be given? and 2. What shall that assistance be? The answer to the first question was in the affirmative; but in

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answer to the second question, a very great majority appeared in favor of “one bishop to be elected and ordained.”

On motion of Ezekiel Cooper, the election of bishop was ordered to be taken as follows: It was to be by written ballots which were to be deposited by the electors in a box or drawer. The person receiving the greatest number of votes, provided that was a majority of the whole, was the one to be elected. But if there was not a majority of the whole Conference for any one, then the Conference should vote again, and choose by ballot from the four highest on the list. If no one should then have a majority the vote was to be again taken, the ballots being limited to the three highest; and if none of the three was elected, the Conference should vote for the two highest of the three until one should have the majority.

Bishop Asbury was authorized to take with him an elder as a traveling companion and helper, through any part, or all, of his travels. There was a discussion on the authority to belong to the new bishop, and various propositions on the subject were made. Dr. Coke suggested that when Bishop Asbury was absent, the additional bishop should bring into the Conference the list of appointments to be made, and read it, so that he might hear what the preachers had to say, and revise it accordingly. Mr. McClaskey wanted the Conference to determine whether he should be the equal or the subordinate of Bishop Asbury; and Mr. Wells thought he should be aided in making the appointments by a committee of three or four preachers. These various propositions concerning the new bishop were withdrawn by consent, and certain others, such as the length of time required for an elder to travel before he should be eligible to the episcopacy, the requirement that all the bishops should be present at every Conference, and that they shall mutually determine and agree upon their several different routes to the ensuing conference, were voted down. The Conference then proceeded to the election.

Upon the first ballot there was found to be a tie vote, and it was therefore supposed to be defective; but upon the second ballot, Richard Whatcoat received 59 votes and Jesse Lee 55, and there was one vote blank; so, the former having received a clear majority of all the ballots, was declared elected. From this vote it appears that there were at least one hundred and fifteen members of the Conference present.

The salary of the preachers was raised from sixty-four to eighty dollars a year. This amount was exclusive of the sums estimated for the living expenses (travel, house-rent, food, clothing, horse-feed, etc.) of the preacher and his family-always little enough at the best.

The matter of slavery and the condition of the slaves was brought before the Conference; but after due deliberation no new rule was enacted upon the subject; but a committee was appointed to prepare an affectionate address to the Methodist societies in the United States, setting forth the evils of the spirit and practice of slavery, and the importance of doing away the evil, so far as the laws of the respective states would allow;the said address to be laid before the Conference for their consideration, and, if agreed to by the Conference, to be signed in their behalf by the bishops. A committee was also ordered to be appointed by each of the several annual conferences, to draw up and present to the state legislatures from year to year petitions asking for the gradual abolition of slavery.

Methodist preachers, being often called upon to officiate at marriages, naturally received fees or complimentary presents for their services. The rule in the Discipline respecting “money received by our traveling ministers for marriage fees" was this: "In all circuits where the preachers do not receive their full quarterage, let all such money be given into the hands of the stewards, to be equally divided between the traveling preachers of the circuit. In all other cases the money shall be disposed of at the discretion of the district conference.”

This rule was continued, and placed in the section "Of raising Annual Supplies for the Propagation of the Gospel, and for making up the Preachers' Allowance, and to assist in the Support of the Widows and Orphans of Preachers."

It was moved to establish the relation of baptized children to the Church, by admitting them to all the privileges of the same, except the Lord's Supper, until their conduct was such as to be sufficient to exclude them from the society according to the rules. The motion was voted down; but it shows that the religious welfare of children has ever been a subject of consideration among Methodists.

The method of appointing presiding elders was brought up and discussed. A motion was made that they be elected by the several annual conferences as the bishops were by the General Conference, and this mode of constituting them has always been a moot question; but the motion was negatived. The majority of the earlier preachers thought it wise to leave the appointment in the hands of the bishops. Though in nearly every General Conference since, the election of presiding elders by the conferences has been proposed, it has never been made a rule of our ecclesiastical economy.

The annual allowance for the support of the children of preachers was fixed at sixteen dollars while under the age of seven years, and at twenty-four dollars between seven and fourteen-provided that this rule should not apply to those preachers whose families were cared for by other means in their respective circuits.

The preachers were directed, by a vote of the Conference, to advise the brethren of each circuit to purchase ground and erect thereon a parsonage, furnish it, at least with heavy furniture, and entrust the same to trustees to be appointed by the official members of the quarterly meeting conference, according to the deed of settlement as printed in the Discipline. If not able to build, it was recommended that they at least rent a house for the accommodation of the married preacher and his family.

On motion of Dr. Coke, it was ordered that the same salary that is paid to the effective traveling preachers be paid to the superannuated, worn-out, and supernumerary preachers, and to their wives; and that the widows of those who have died in the work be allowed the same amount.

When a member is tried for any crime or misdemeanor before the society to which he belongs, if the preacher or minister differ in judgment from those who try him, he shall refer the case to the next quarterly meeting conference for final determination.

The number of annual conferences was fixed at seven. A

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