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BAILEY, JACOB, Church of England clergyman and author; b. 16 April 1731 in Rowley, Mass., second child of David Bailey and Mary Hodgkins; m. August 1761 Sally Weeks of Hampton, N.H., and they had at least six children; d. 26 July 1808 in Annapolis Royal, N.S.

Jacob Bailey was born into a humble farming family but received a sound education through the interest of Jedediah Jewett, Congregational minister at Rowley, who prepared him for Harvard College. After receiving his ab from Harvard in 1755, he taught school in a few New England towns and then returned to Harvard in 1758 to take his am. Subsequently, he served briefly as a Congregational preacher in New Hampshire before his growing admiration for the doctrines and episcopal government of the Church of England led him to convert to that denomination in 1759. He was ordained an Anglican clergyman in London on 16 March 1760, and upon returning to America in the summer of the following year he immediately took up his clerical duties at Pownalborough, a sprawling parish on the northeastern frontier of Massachusetts (in the vicinity of West Dresden, Maine).

Bailey’s appointment to Pownalborough was supported by Dr Sylvester Gardiner, a prominent Boston Anglican and one of the leading promoters of the Plymouth Company, which was developing this new frontier. But the Congregationalists in the Plymouth Company were opposed to Church of England domination of the area, and there was a group in Pownalborough who worked vigorously to undermine its presence. As colonial America drifted towards open rebellion, this religious friction took on political overtones and rapidly intensified. Bailey, appalled by “the obstinacy, the madness, the folly, the perfidy” of the rebels, was determined to remain loyal to his church and king. As a result, from 1774 on he was at various times mobbed, assaulted, shot at, and forced to flee for his life; and on two separate occasions in 1776 he was called before the local committee of correspondence, once for not reading proclamations issued by the Continental and Provincial congresses, and once for preaching a seditious sermon, praying for the king, and refusing to read the Declaration of Independence in his parish church. Angered by this constant harassment, and complaining bitterly that he was “reduced to such Poverty and Distress as frequently and for a Considerable Time to be destitute of even the Necessaries as well as the comforts of Life,” Bailey chose to leave Pownalborough for Nova Scotia in June 1779 so that he would not have to do “great Violence to . . . his Conscience.”

Upon arrival in Halifax, Bailey and his family were warmly received and given material assistance [see John Breynton*]. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel soon appointed him to Cornwallis in the Annapolis valley, and in October 1779 he left Halifax for his first Nova Scotia mission. At Cornwallis he found himself surrounded by “Whigs, independents, Anabaptists, new lights, and beltgurded Connecticut saints,” and his own congregation was so small and weak that he often preached to more non-Anglicans than Anglicans. Moreover, as loyalist refugees the Baileys encountered resentment and hostility from the established inhabitants. Declaring that “the number of King Killers are in proportion ten times greater here than in the dominions of Congress,” Bailey wrote wistfully that “my warmest wishes are to return to the remainder of my poor parishioners [at Pownalborough] . . . Could I have tarried among them without promoting both my own and their destruction no temptation would have induced me to leave them.”

In the summer of 1782 Bailey left Cornwallis for a new parish, Annapolis Royal; his successor in Cornwallis, John Wiswall, arrived the following year. At Annapolis, where he remained until his death in 1808, Bailey found sharp and serious divisions within the community, and as parish clergyman he spent much of his time attempting to lessen hostility between pre-loyalist “Bluenoses” and loyalist refugees. He also proved to be a fairly energetic missionary. The parish of Annapolis, like that of Pownalborough, extended far beyond the outskirts of the town, and Bailey paid regular visits to the outlying areas of Granville, Clements, and Digby, travelling in all kinds of weather to perform baptisms, marriages, and burials at the homes of his parishioners. In addition, he performed the duties of deputy chaplain to the local garrison even though the stipend attached to this position remained in the hands of his brother-in-law, Joshua Wingate Weeks. Only in 1794 was Bailey awarded the appointment by his former friend and Harvard classmate, Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth.

Bailey’s literary accomplishments mark him as one of the first important figures in Canadian literature. Although only a few of his works were published, many of his writings circulated fairly widely in manuscript form among friends and acquaintances, before and after his death. His most significant achievement was his poetry. As a young man he had written light lyrical poetry; but in Nova Scotia, in the wake of the persecution and injustice he had suffered at rebel hands, he discovered a talent for verse satire in the style of the English poet Samuel Butler. Between 1779 and 1784 he wrote some outstanding anti-rebel satires, including a long work entitled “America,” in which he pointed out the causes of the revolution from a loyalist perspective. After the conclusion of the war Bailey dropped “America” and began work on his longest poem, “Jack Ramble, the Methodist Preacher,” a religious satire which put forward the view that the growing influence of non-conformist religion in Nova Scotia threatened not only the interests of the Church of England but also the social and political stability of the province. He worked for more than ten years on this poem, leaving it incomplete in 31 books.

Bailey also produced a considerable number of prose works, including substantial pieces on theology, morality (designed especially for children and young ladies), American history, and the geography of Maine and Nova Scotia. In addition, there are three incomplete epistolary novels and fragments of three plays among Bailey’s papers. The most interesting play is “Majesty of the mob,” a dramatization of a trial before a committee of correspondence. Of the novels, “Serena,” the story of a loyalist girl caught up in the cruel machinations of the rebellion, is the best written and the most interesting.

Bailey died at age 77 and was survived by his wife, three daughters, and three sons. He had been a man of many parts, all of which reflected his profound commitment to his church and king.

Julie Ross and Thomas Vincent

Jacob Bailey was the author of “Behold the vaunting hero,” Royal Gazette and the Nova-Scotia Advertiser (Halifax), 11 Dec. 1798, and “Observations and conjectures on the antiquities of America,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Coll. (Boston), 1st ser., 4 (1795): 100–5. Three of Bailey’s poems are printed and discussed in Narrative verse satire in Maritime Canada, 1779–1814, ed. T. B. Vincent (Ottawa, 1978).

Lincoln County Cultural and Hist. Assoc. (Wiscasset, Maine), Pownalborough courthouse coll., Jacob Bailey papers. PANS, MG 1, 91–104. The frontier missionary: a memoir of the life of the Rev. Jacob Bailey, A.M., missionary at Pownalborough, Maine; Cornwallis and Annapolis, N.S., ed. W. S. Bartlet (Boston, 1853). J. M. Ross, “Jacob Bailey, loyalist: Anglican clergyman in New England and Nova Scotia” (ma thesis, Univ. of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1975). R. P. Baker, “The poetry of Jacob Bailey, loyalist,” New England Quarterly ([Cambridge, Mass.]), 2 (1929): 58–92. T. B. Vincent, “Alline and Bailey,” Canadian Literature (Vancouver), no.68–69 (spring–summer 1976): 124–33; “Keeping the faith: the poetic development of Jacob Bailey,” Early American Literature (Amherst, Mass.), 14 (1979–80): 3–14; “Some examples of narrative verse satire in the early literature of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” Humanities Assoc. Rev. (Kingston, Ont.), 27 (1976): 161–75.

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Cite This Article

Julie Ross and Thomas Vincent, “BAILEY, JACOB,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bailey_jacob_5E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bailey_jacob_5E.html
Author of Article:   Julie Ross and Thomas Vincent
Title of Article:   BAILEY, JACOB
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   February 22, 2024