Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Fall 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3 - Page 18

Ruminations tressed, and defenseless female, I shall so far brake over the authority of your vote, and all your rules of order, in conducting the present business, as, a fellow creature, to call upon you, as in the presence of the all-seeing eye of Good, that is upon us, to exercise a degree of the clemency, indul- gence, and compassion towards that ag- onizing woman, which you yourselves will one day stand in need of, from your Heav- enly father and judge; if not sooner, at least in the hour of death, and the day of judg- ment. She now falls upon you in the most expressive and distressing language of tears for pity and compassion. “I must beg you to consider the nature of the charge you brought against her; and that it is merely a difference of sentiment between you, which in a rational and can- did view you cannot think criminal in her; and should you condemn her for that, re- member, that should your final judge thus deal harshly with you, no two of you would probably be so perfectly agreed in senti- ment, that you could rational pronounce yourselves upon that score, were you in- stantly to be called into his immediate pres- ence, that you find a cordial reception.” Judge Hall was eloquent that evening, and during the course of his remarks many members of the congregation broke down in tears. The judge himself appeared more emotional than many had ever known him to be. But he was not persuasive enough. Three weeks later the church voted to “withdraw their watch” from Mrs. Holton. 32 After her husband died, Bethiah Holton married John White and they were par- ents of Pliny Holton White, who grew up to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, state representative, abolitionist, President of the Vermont Historical Society, an impor- tant Vermont historian and, surprisingly, a Congregational minister. Lot Hall’s grand- son was Benjamin H. Hall, who wrote the History of Eastern Vermont, published in 1858, which includes the story of Azariah Wright and Rev. Bullen, and a reference to the Holton trial and his grandfather’s advo- cacy on behalf of Bethiah. Alexander Bullions The sanction of excommunication was applied to ministers, as well as to church members whose actions disqualified them from full participation in the ceremonies of the church. Ministers were often excommu- nicated at the same time as they were re- moved. The removal, voted by the congre- gation, was called dismission. Sometimes the parting was mutual or at the request of the pastor; at others, it was adversarial and distracting for the congregation as well as the minister. Ryegate and Barnet were settled by Presbyterian Scottish immigrants, and the 18 settlers, who emigrated to Vermont and purchased most of the town as a land com- pany through agents sent from Scotland, remained a cohesive community for many years. The settlers were so attached to their church that they brought their minis- ter with them when they began their lives in the new world. The church was estab- lished in 1790, and continued until 1837 in harmony. The Associate Church had settled Alex- ander Bullions as their minister in 1830. The church was a member of the Cam- bridge Presbytery, which made all the prin- cipal decisions affecting the church and the ministry. Unlike Congregational churches, the congregation ceded its authority to the presbytery. Seven years later, four ministers who had participated in another ecclesiastical trial accused Rev. Bullions of slandering them. They joined others to have Bullions dis- missed from the church and excommuni- cated. They also participated in the remov- al decision of the presbytery, which gave rise to questions of conflict of interest, and the effectiveness of the vote, as the meet- ing was evenly split. As with the case of the Rupert Fornicator, the order started with censure and an invitation for Bullions to re- cant his words, which he refused, followed by a vote of the presbytery. Vermont had two representatives on the tribunal. One was Bullions’ brother-in-law, the other his son-in-law, and because of this they were not allowed to participate in the hearing. The presbytery took away Bullions’ power to preach or continue as a member of the church. The local church then split in two congre- gations, one remaining part of the presby- tery, and the other forming its own more localized version. The latter group restored Dr. Bullions to the church and the pulpit. Then money made the situation worse. A man died and left a large sum to the church, but which church, given the schism? On appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court, the money was awarded to the congrega- tion that remained loyal to the presbytery. Chief Judge Charles K. Williams wrote the opinion for the court, and expressed his discomfort with attempting to apply con- stitutional protections to a private organi- zation, particularly when it is a church. 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