Dr. Francis Lister Hawks (10
June 1798 – 26 September 1866) was an American priest of the Episcopal
Church, and a politician in North Carolina.
practicing law with some distinction he entered
the Episcopalian ministry in 1827 and proved a brilliant and
impressive preacher, holding livings in New Haven, Philadelphia, New York
City and New
Orleans, and declining several bishoprics. Scandals
Photograph of Francis Lister
in the 1830s and 40s led him to posts on
the American frontier, although he eventually returned to New York
Hawks's work on church history remains important today. On his
appointment as historiographer of his church in 1835, he went to
England and collected the abundant materials afterwards utilized in
his Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of U.S.A.
(New York, 1836-1839). These two volumes dealt with Maryland and Virginia, while two
later ones (1863 1864) were devoted to Connecticut.
Early life and career
born in New Bern,
North Carolina. He graduated from the state university in 1815 and entered the practice of law.
He represented New Bern in the North Carolina House of
in 1821. Hawks also became active in the Episcopal
, where he took the post of lay
of his parish. Hawks felt drawn to the ministry
and entered the tutelage of
Bishop John Stark
quickly climbed the church ranks, becoming deacon in 1827 and assistant minister of Trinity parish in
Connecticut, a short while later.
was widely praised, and in short order,
he was ordained
. His next post was as assistant to Bishop
White of St. James' Church in Philadelphia. He next took a position as Professor of Divinity at
College (now Trinity College) in Hartford, Connecticut.
Hawks took his first church appointment, as rector of St. Stephen's Church on the corner of
Broome and Chrystie streets in New York City.
There his sermons attracted a large
congregation. On 4 October
, a mere nine
months since he had moved to St. Stephens', the congregation of
nearby St. Thomas Church called upon him to take over as their
rector. The position offered $1,500 in annual salary with an
additional $500 for other expenses. Hawks turned the offer down.
St. Thomas did not give up, and Hawks eventually accepted their
offer on 17 December
, becoming the third
rector for St. Thomas Church.
Hawks's new church experienced a boom in membership after his
arrival. Much of the congregation of St. Stephen's followed him to
the new post, and many more congregants began attending as Hawks's
fame for oratory
spread. Eventually, the
church had to be expanded with a gallery to contain the overflow.
Hawks's Bible classes had an average attendance of 100 students.
, ex-mayor of New York City,
spoke for many when he wrote, "I went yesterday morning to St.
Thomas' where I heard from Dr. Hawks a glorious sermon." Praise
came from other clergymen, as well. Bishop Thomas March Clark of Rhode Island wrote:
To hear him preach was like listening to the harmonies
of a grand organ with its various stops and solemn sub-bass and
tremulous pathetic reeds.
The rector of one of the Washington churches, where
Daniel Webster was an attendant, told me that after Dr. Hawks had
preached for him on a Sunday morning, Mr. Webster said that it was
the greatest sermon he had ever heard.
In 1833, Hawks's salary rose to $3000 with an additional $500
allowed for other expenditures; this made him the highest paid
clergyman in the United States. He also received an assistant
rector for St. Thomas. He was elected bishop
of the Southwestern region in 1835, but he declined the post,
citing a lack of support for his family in what was then the
Hawks continued to participate in other church affairs, as well. In
1832, he was appointed assistant secretary to the House of Deputies
of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. In 1833, he took a
part-time post as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Pulpit
Eloquence at the General Theological Seminary.
The following year, Hawks was named
secretary of the New York diocesan convention in New York
was another of Hawks's
interests, and his writings are an important source on the early
American church. In 1835, the General Convention named Hawks
"Conservator of all books, pamphlets and manuscripts of this
interest in history led him to London in
1835. There he copied important historical
documents, which he used as material for a two-volume work on the
church history of Maryland and Virginia.
He also wrote some nine titles under the
"Uncle Philip" for the publishers
Harper & Brothers
appeared in their Harper's Boy's and Girl's Library imprint
While in London Hawks met the American traveller John Lloyd Stephens
, later to be
renowned for his exploratory work and investigations of a number of
mostly-unknown ancient ruins of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization
in Central America
. Stephens had just
completed a nine-month tour of Egypt and the
Levant, and several letters describing his
travels had been published in an American periodical.
acquaintance with Hawks encouraged Stephens to write a book on his
Middle Eastern adventures, which was a popular success.
Sixteen years later upon Stephens' early death (aged 47) from a
liver illness, Hawks wrote his obituary which appeared in the first
issue of Putnam's Monthly
. Hawks noted how "[i]n repeated conversations
with the present writer, the attention of Mr. Stephens was [first]
called to the ruins of Guatemala and Yucatan"; the two books
Stephens had later written on his explorations of that region are
regarded as foundational works in the then-young science of
In 1851, Hawks accepted the post of Historiographer of the
Protestant Episcopal Church, which he held until 1866.
Finally, Hawks wrote and published material on general church
affairs. In 1837, he partnered with Reverend Caleb S. Henry
to put out a magazine called the
New York Review
publication, a response to the Unitarian North American Review
, lasted for
a few years. Afterward, Hawks helped start The Church Record
, a journal of
Christian education, in 1843. This was followed in 1853 by
Scandal and later life
In late 1838, Hawks became one of many targets of a trend among the
American penny press
to expose the
alleged vices of holy men. The accuser was George Washington Dixon
, a man best
known for his blackface
music act, who
claimed that Hawks was engaging in sexual affairs
. Hawks charged Dixon with libel
on 31 December 1838. After a heated trial, Dixon
pled guilty on 10 and 11 May 1839. The reasons for this remain a
mystery, though Dale Cockrell surmises that Hawks likely did not
want to face further defamation
in trial and may have paid Dixon off; Dixon
himself claimed as much in 1841. Even mainstream newspaper had
begun to turn on him at this point; the New York Weekly Herald
that "[he] may explain and explain till doomsday—but these facts
and their inferences [will] adhere."
Another scandal erupted closer to home. Hawks had opened a boys'
school in 1839 in Flushing, Long
. The school had financial difficulties and was failing
within three years, and Hawks was accused of mismanaging the funds.
This proved one scandal too many. Hawks resigned from St. Thomas
Church on 21 October 1843.
Over the next decade, Hawks bounced from church to church.
moved to a church in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on the American frontier and far from the disgrace
of New York.
There he went to work starting another school.
At the Mississippi Diocesan Convention of 1844, Hawks took center
stage due primarily to his endeavors to create a Diocesan school.
When the Convention called for the election of the Diocese's first
bishop, Hawks was tapped. His episcopal confirmation at the General
Convention was protested, with James Quarterman, a painter from
Flushing, NY, alleging that Hawks had over $100,000 in outstanding
debt due to financial mismanagement at St. Thomas. Though Hawks
successfully defended himself and the General Convention expressed
their support for him, they discharged his consent back to the
Diocese of Mississippi. In the end, Hawks turned the post down.
instead moved to Christ Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1847, he was named the first president of
the University of Louisiana, known today as Tulane
Then in 1849, he returned to New York City
to pastor Calvary Church. He stayed there until 1862. Hawks declined most
non-clerical appointments during his time at Calvary, including an
election to the Rhode Island episcopate in 1852 and a professorship
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill in 1859.
He continued to write, and in 1855
and 1856 he co-authored the
Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China
Seas and Japan
with Commodore Matthew Perry
the American Civil War, Hawks
moved to Calvary parish in Baltimore, Maryland.
By 1861 he was editing again, this time
with William Stevens Perry
the Journal of
the General Conventions
. He began as editor of
Documentary History of the Protestant Episcopal Church
1863 and held the post until 1864. He later gave the endowment
for St. Mark's
Church-in-the-Bowery Chair of Ecclesiastical History at the General
Seminary. He returned once more to New York City in 1865, where he
helped to start the Chapel of the Holy Saviour on 25th Street.
Another project was a Spanish-speaking church called Iglesia de
Santiago, where Hawks preached on occasion. Hawks died in 26
September 1866. He is buried at Christ Church in Greenwich,
- North Carolina Manual of 1913
- Wright 37.
- Wright 36.
- Hone, Philip (1936). Diary entry for 26 August 1836. The
Diary of Philip Hone: 1828-1851. Allan Nevins, ed. New York: Dodd, Mead and
Co., p. 418. Quoted in Wright 37-8.
- Clark, Thomas March (1895). Reminiscences, 2nd ed. New
York: Thomas Whittaker, p. 36. Quoted in Wright 38.
- Wright 40.
- Garnet 200.
- Wright 39.
- Quoted in Wright 39.
- Harris 2.
- Harris 2, 4. It sold by one account 21,000 copies in two
- "The Late John L. Stephens" (1853).
Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and
Art. 1(1):pp.64–68. In keeping with a general
fashion of the time Hawks's name does not appear in the publication
itself; his identification as author is in Harris 2.
- "The Late John L. Stephens", p.67.
- Cockrell 116.
- 18 December 1841 The New York Flash. Quoted in
- 27 April 1839 New York Weekly Herald. Quoted in
- Cockrell 127.
- "Journal of the Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Convention
of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Mississippi."
- Quarterman, James. "A Narrative of Facts, upon which is based a
Protest Against the Consecration of the Rev. Dr. Hawks."
Philadelphia: Isaac Moss, 1844.
- General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church,
1832-1844, Journals and Canons
- Beasley, W. G. (2002). "Introduction", The Perry Mission to
Japan, 1853-1854. Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library.
- Cockrell, Dale (1997). Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface
Minstrels and Their World. Cambridge University Press.
- Garnet, Henry Highland (1848). "The Past and the Present
Condition, and the Destiny of the Colored Race."
African-American Social & Political Thought 1850-1920.
New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.
- Wright, J. Robert (2001). Saint Thomas Church Fifth
Avenue. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing