Onderdonk, Benjamin Treadwell Dd, Lld
Onderdonk, Benjamin Treadwell D.D., LL.D., an eminent American divine and bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, noted especially because of the severe trials through which he passed, and his consequent deposition from the episcopal office, was born in the city of New York in July, 1791. He was educated at Columbia College, New York, class of 1809, and, after a most critical study of divinity, was ordained priest in 1812, and in the following year was made assistant pastor of Trinity parish, New York. He soon distinguished himself by unusual pulpit talents, and became one of the favorite preachers of the metropolis. In 1826 he was elected professor in the General Theological Seminary of New York, and he held that position until 1830, when he was elevated to the episcopate as successor to the then recently deceased bishop Hobart. of Eastern New York. He was consecrated to this important office Nov. 26.1830. By his eminent qualifications for the episcopal work he soon acquired general trust, and by his untiring industry gained many warm admirers and friends. In 1844, however, and that very unexpectedly, most serious charges were brought against the purity of his moral character, and in December of that year he was therefore tried by the House of Bishops acting as a court. After a long and searching investigation, the court decided (eight voting for deposition and nine for suspension) that he be suspended from the office and functions of the ministry (Jan. 3, 1845). Bishop Onderdonk himself never acknowledged that he was guilty of the offenses imputed to him, but the careful and prolonged trial that had been afforded him revealed that he must have been frequently guilty of very gross immorality, the testimony depending upon parties whose character was unquestionable in every particular, Largely his improper advances to ladies — and these were the principal charges — were prompted by liquor, for he is known to have been an habitual drinker of intoxicating beverages. It is claimed by his friends that he could never have been guilty of gross immorality in any other than an intoxicated state, and that the accusations, having been brought forward only after he had reformed in his habits, should not have been countenanced by the House of Bishops. Even after the suspension of the bishop his friends zealously continued to labor for the removal of his suspension from the episcopate. After much delay, the General Convention of 1850 passed a canon allowing a provisional bishop to be chosen. The Convention of New York adopted a petition to the General Convention of 1859 in favor of bishop Onderdonk's restoration, and the lower house supported it by a large vote, but the bishops rejected it, and he died, unrestored to his diocese, April 30, 1861. He published, Sermon before and for the Domestic and Foreign Mission Society (N.Y. 1829, 8vo): — Sermon at the Funeral of the Right Rev. John H. Hobart (1830, 8vo). See The Proceedings of the Court convened under the third Canon of 1844 in the City of New York, on Dec. 10, 1844, for the Trial of the Right Rev. B. T. Onderdonk, D.D., Bishop of New York, etc. (N. Y. 1845, 8vo).