George Charles (Bo'sun) Smith 1782-1863

right - mezzotint of 1819 by Abraham Wivell [National Portrait Gallery]

During his long life G.C. Smith, a Baptist minister, was energetically and intimately involved in an astonishingly wide range of missionary and philanthropic projects for seafarers and their families. Here we concentrate only on those in this area - principally in Wellclose Square and around Dock Street. He was a genuine pioneer, knowing seafarers' needs from the inside and responding to them long before others; but his ministry was dogged with controversy, as former collaborators fell out with him and made very public criticisms of his activities - to which he responded in like manner! He was not a committee man, or easy to deal with, and stood on his dignity and his absolute conviction of his calling: at one stage he described himself as 'George Charles Smith BBU' (Burning Bush Unconsumed). The organisations which he and others had founded constantly regrouped - often with confusingly-similar titles, making it difficult to entangle the picture. He himself said that future historians would have to sift and invesitage for truth amidst rubbish of reports, speeches, circulars, and resolutions  - to which he himself made a major contribution!  He was a prolific writer and magazine proprietor, in his earlier years writing with an attractive and salty vigour, but latterly degenerating into rehashing old controversies. ( See here for sources of further detailed information. Note: some of these dates and details are drawn from the 1898 entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (1885-1900, vol 53) by George Clement Boase, others from Roald Kverndal's writings, and others from Smith's own magazine writings.)

Here is a summary of his life and some of the projects and institutions he established, and some of the conflicts that ensued:

Smith was at the height of his powers at this period; always short of funds, he conducted preaching tours around the country with twelve orphans boys (six dressed as sailors, six as soldiers) who sang hymns and patriotic songs. He made great play of the fact that his financial support came from the 'British public'. Although there were premises in Cannon Street Road and elsewhere, Wellclose Square was the centre of his activities: and at one time he had five premises there: 'Bethel House' at 17, a book depository and magazine headquarters; his office (previously the night shelter, and later his home) at 19; a first Sailors' Female Orphan Home at 51 (moving to 37 because the expenses were too high) and the Maritime Penitent Female Refuge at 3. He himself lodged in the Square until (as he put it) his health obliged him to move, when he took a large house on the Commercial Road, below the George, at an annual rent of £50; but he moved back to 19 Wellclose Square when funds got tight - though by the 1840s was again giving Commercial Road as his address.

Leaving this orphan house, the committee passed on to the Maritime Penitent Female Refuge, where they were received by three or four ladies, members of the committee connected with this institution, who kindly answered any enquiries which were proposed, and shortly conducted their visitors to an upper room, in which twenty-seven or twenty-eight inmates were occupied in flowering lace, under the inspection of a respectable-looking female, who was seated in their midst employed in the same way. Their unhealthy appearance and dejected countenances, associated with their dark and melancholy history, together with their present appearance of order and industry occasioned a multitude of thoughts which it was difficult to martial and arrange, a sort of confusion of mind rather than any direct and commanding impression. This was in some measure relieved when the outline of the short but gloomy course of one and another of them was related either by the matron or Mr G.C. Smith; and when the committee ascertained that Sunday scholars and sabbath-school teachers were standing before them, and that in one case they beheld the sister of a clergyman,as well as of a dissenting minister of Wales, and in two or three instances children of only thirteen and fifteen years of age, they were overwhelmed with surprise and sorrow. A Welsh gentleman present interrogated the young person from the principality both in the native and in the English tongues, and satisfied himself of the truth of her pretensions, while others of them were called on to answer questions respecting their parents, their education, and their age. Several of them appeared too ill to admit of much hope of their restoration to society, while two or three of them had been informed by their governors, that they could not possibly recover, that they stood before the committee, with the sentence of death upon them. After a short time Mr. Smith requested them to take their Bibles and turn to the 51st Psalm, and addressing himself to a Scotch woman who appeared the oldest person among them, he desired her to commence by reading the first verse. The poor woman read with a faltering voice, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness, according unto the multitude" — and here the book fell from her hands, while in a tone of most pathetic grief she exclaimed, 'O, there is no mercy for me.' She sobbed aloud, her unfortunate companions joined her, every member of the committee, young or old, stoical or susceptible, was overwhelmed with emotion, and the exercise was suspended for some time. Mr Smith assured the distressed woman that Jesus Christ was able and willing to save her, but she refused to be comforted, only replying, 'You, sir, or any creature on earth, cannot know or think what a wicked sinner I have been.' She made another attempt to proceed, but in vain, when a companion read the first verse, the next took up the second, and so on to the end, till this beautiful psalm was read with unusual precision and pathos, occasionally interrrupted, it is true, by the suffocated feelings of the readers, which rather increased than diminished the effect. These poor girls then sang a hymn, through which the Sunday scholar beamed with most melancholy interest. Prayer was offered, and the members of the committee withdrew. Understanding that there were three or four others in the sick room who were to ill too appear with them, the matron was kind enough to conduct some of us to this scene, when one young person in a dying state attracted rny attention. She was stretched on a plain and clean bed, the victim of loathsomeness and disease, presenting a spectacle, at once distressing and appalling; on asking her if she felt tranquil and happy in the prospect of death, she wept and whispered,'Yes!' On enquiring of her how this could be, since she had lived and rioted in sin, and begging to know on what she raised such hopes, she replied with increasing emotion, 'On the atonement of Jesus Christ.' From her attendants we ascertained that she was ignorant of religion when she was received into the Refuge, and we withdrew, Mr. Chairman, from the chamber of this dying girl and that of her companions, who were weeping on their beds, with a fresh and eloquent testimony to the veracity of the Word of God, and with a living impression that we were quitting a scene towards which, however unattractive to men, "He had directed his chariot, whom the 'heaven of heavens cannot contain'". O that we should lose this refuge.

On the evening of the same day, the committee visited the Sailors' Rest, which presented a picture of equal though of somewhat different interest, and which yielded pleasure equally refined though less deep and intense.Ninety two seamen from various parts of the world, in every stage of life, and with a romantic variety of history, were seated at several berths with the strictest propriety and order. A number of pieces of board attached to the wall at one end by hinges, and suspended to the ceiling at the other by an iron crook, form the tables, along the two sides of which several men are seated, and which when not required are turned up and fastened to the wall by a hasp, so as to leave the area unobstructed and open. In the centre of the room is a stove with the necessary piping, which serves at once to air the room and to contribute to the comfort of these hardy men. Mr. Smith requested the man of the first berth to stand out; several black men and persons of color immediately obeyed, and replied to questions which were proposed in the readiest and kindest manner; among others who were connected with this berth, was a black man sixty-eight years of age, who told us that in early life he served on board a ship which, while coasting in the Persian Gulph, was boarded by the Arabs; that on entering the ship they seized a handsaw, and with this instrument sawed off the head of each white man on board; that during this massacre he contrived to get below and to conceal himself behind the heel of the foremast in the forecastle of the ship; that five of the Arabs who were still on board detected him, and that a dispute ensued, two of them wishing to dispatch him but the remaining three to save him. The altercation being desided in his favor, they took him on shore and sold him to some of their race, who immediately conveyed him five hundred miles from the coast, where he served his master for five years. Ultimately he was selected to convey communications to neighbouring tribes and chiefs, and on one occasion was mounted on a horse, and sent to the distance of 300 miles in the direction of the sea, when, having delivered his message he resolved on riding the remaining distance towards the coast, and attempting his escape from captivity, which he effected, turning his horse adrift, and entering on board a ship which was bound to Bombay, where he became a member of the Scotch Church, and had with him in London a certificate bearing testimony to the truth of his statement, and the excellence and consistency of his character. It would be inexpedient to go on to relate the intensely interesting narrations which were gleaned during this visit to the Sailors' Rest, otherwise sketch may be added to sketch, compared with which the glow of fiction is pale as death, and sickly as the upas shade. It may be desirable, however, just to refer to the testimony of one man, in proof that the reports which reach us from a distance of the system of fraud by which sailors are entrapped, are unexaggerated and correct. Among many others, a valiant weather-beaten man stood out and supplied a rapid and wild relation of his nautical course, each particular of which it was possible to put to the test, but the appearance of the sturdy narrator was enough to seal conviction on every auditor. Having stated the various ships in which he had served, with their respective commanders and stations, and the numerous battles he had seen, he concluded by saying that he was paid off about a fortnight ago, and being asked how it became 'low water with him', he replied, 'I got drunk and was robbed of eighty pounds'.

The conversation ceasing, one of the gentlemen piesent offered thanks to Almighty God for the evening meal, and the respective berths withdrew to a neighbouring room, and returned in order, each man bearing in his hand a bason of soup; a bag of biscuits was then produced, and the steward proceeded to present each sailor with one and a half, but finding there was not sufficient to supply them all with an equal share, some present raised a few shillings to procure more, and the gratitude of these courageous men was both pleasing and affecting. Expressing to a respectable gentleman resident in London who was with us, and who ku taken an early and faithful interest in these scenes, my exceeding pleasure at the spectacle, he said, with flowing tears, 'Oh! sir, my heart has many times been wounded' when through the misrepresentations of enemies, the steward has sent to my house to say that he had not a single biscuit to give to these hungry, loyal, and valiant men.' Leaving this inspiring scene, the committee ascended to the room in which the seamen sleep, consisting of a large airy floor, over which clean strow is spread, and when many a noble-minded man has taken repose, and found that shelter which the more ostentatious forms of British benevolence have hitherto denied him. Just as the Committee were about to retire, a minister arrived with a view to preach to the men whose natural hunger had just been satisfied, and from enquiry at the hands of a gentleman who had occasionally preached there, I was informed that it would be difficult to select a more attentive auditory in any part of the kingdom.

I have Mr. Chairman, nothing more to add beyond pledging my veracity for the correctness of this account, and assuring this committee that so far from having thrown an adventitious coloring over this hasty picture, I have conveyed but a faint idea of the truth, and that the scenes of the last week will ever be placed by me among the most deeply interesting of my life. My personal conviction is, that the British and Foreign Seamen and Soldiers' Friend Society is effecting a great work—laboring where others ether cannot or do not reach—and that its objects deserve the warmest and kindest support.

... Last year [1845] two dissenting lawyers brought an action of ejectment to force me out of the Church, having obtained permission of the only legal surviving elder, a weak, feeble, aged man, at Brussels.The rent was offered the lawyers, but they would have the Church. Last February, Dr. Burder's lawyers arrested me for the costs of their own action, and cast me into this prison, and my greatest enemies of the Jeffery-square Society have taken this Church forcibly, and most unjustly torn it from me, after the public have laid out 4,500l. upon it, in twenty years, and 1 have been deprived of 4000l. salary, in the last thirteen years, by the desertion of the ministers, and suffered inexpressible affliction and imprisonments, through the tender mercies of these dissenting ministers, who made all the tradesmen lose 4000l. debts in 1832. Last year this Society appeared to be sinking, as they were obliged to give up their old warehouse at Bell Wharf; but Hyatt and Haliday, and Hooper, of Shadwell, and Queen-street, Ratcliffe, having a host of East London dissenting Anti State Church Association ministers to join them, are now falsely asserting that the church was offered them by the trustees. There is only one of any consequence at Brussels, and the lawyers act for him. What a story this would be from Rosemary Lane, or Houndsditch, at a Police Office:—"The goods were offered you?"  "Yes, sir."  "Did you not know that they were stolen, and that the person from whom they were stolen was perishing in prison?" Such is the humanity of those who now boast of Wellclose-square!  Well, neighbours and countrymen, there is a righteous God, and he will one day appear to the confusion of such men: I can only pity them, and pray for them, as the Lord Jesus Christ did when he hung upon the Cross of Calvary, for his murderers, and said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."  Still, I wonder that an aged minister like Charles Hyatt, sen., should so lend himself to the follies and extravagances of his son, who seems the prime mover in all this injustice and cruelty, with Halliday, and Gull, and Hooper, of Queen-street Chapel, Ratcliffe, and Swinborn of Limehouse.

Thursday, May 22nd.—I have this day posted letters to the Society for the Discharge and Relief of Debtors imprisoned for small sums. About a fortnight since I was considering after my long affliction and most unjust and cruel imprisonment, how I could possibly obtain a release, and I could see no way whatever open for me as I had not the means of offering a compromise, and wished impossible to avoid passing through the Insolvent Court.  At length the supreme governor of this Queen's Prison most unexpectedly and unsolicited kindly sent me a printed form of the above Society, by which it appeared, that their rule extended to debts of 90l. for compromise or assisting a prisoner through the Insolvent Court. I was much affected with this kind and spontaneous action of Captain Hudson of the Royal Navy, whom we now recognize as our Keeper or Governor here. I have had this printed form duly filled up, and as it is necessary that the governor should sign it, I sent it to the turnkey at the gate to be forwarded to this gentleman. It was shortly returned to me with his signature, and I was directed to seal and post it, addressed to the Secretary, at Craven-street, in the Strand, and with a view to recommend my case in particular, the Governor had kindly written on this letter by way of recommendation, the following lines:—"THIS PERSON IS IN A VERY PRECARIOUS STATE OF HEALTH FROM IMPRISONMENT, WHICH IT WOULD BE AN ACT OF CHARITY TO RELIEVE HIM FROM.  J HUDSON, KEEPER. MAY, 22, 1845."
I was so much affected with this mark of kindness, that I thought how God touched the heart of Paul's jailor, at Phillipi, as it is recorded in Acts xvi.,—And the keeper of the Prison told this to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go; now, therefore, depart, and go in peace. My soul was much melted at this, and I wept for some time over it, and thought of all the dissenting and methodist ministers in London; not one of them has come near this prison, or sent to it, to see whether I was living or dying. Not one of them has manifested the least sympathy, compassion, or brotherly love in appearing to help a poor prisoner who has fallen among thieves, that have cast him into prison and deprived him of his church and taken possession of it, and opened it, and boasted what Jeffery-square can do in wounding a prsisoner's very soul, and leaving him half dead. Oh, no! it is quite in accordance with the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the priests and levites pass by on the other side; but a Samaritan, "THE KEEPER OF THE PRISON", has more bowels of compassion than all the baptist, methodist, and independent ministers in the kingdom, and he pours in the oil of consolation and directs to a society as to an inn, and in effect adopts the very language of the Samaritan, by saying, "Take care of Him." Surely God will repay the Governor for this, and the deputy govenor who called upon me this morning, was equally kind, as he would have signed most cheerfully had the governor been officially absent. O, ye ministers of God, how little compassion you have for prisoners! What millions will hear it said in the last day, "I was sick and in prison and ye visited me not." Well, Jesus Christ takes up the prisoner's cause, and with him I leave it. The Society meets the first Wednesday in June, and if the Lord please they will offer a compromise for me, as The Danish Church Martyr, or assist me through the Insolvent Court; so that next month, if the Lord will, I may be delivered and restored to poor sailors and orphans, and face these unjust and cruel men of Jeffery-square, who now boast, by bills and books that they have succeeded in obtaining possession of Naboth's vineyard; but, if Naboth should not die this year, and God should graciously grant him a release, such Ahabites may yet have to repent the iniquity of listening to money-hunting lawyers; and while I shall merely progress in the cause of God, they may witness such frowns of Providence, and such tailings off from the church, that it may yet prove a burdensome stone both to them and the poor misguided lawyers, so that we have need to pray that God will be pleased to give them all repentance, that they may mourn over their great wickedness that their families be not ruined.

Memorial to His Excellency Count Reventlow, Ambassador from Denmark to the Authorities of Great Britain and Ireland.

Honoured and Respected Sir,—Last Friday, February 13th, 1846, was the painful anniversary of the day, February 13th, 1845, when a reckless English attorney, (in the name of a deceased Dane), and with a gang of desperate sheriffs' officers, suddenly burst into my room, and arrested me for their own law costs, about the church in Wellclose-square; and, then, they went over, and violently broke open that Church, leaving me in custody, (without any offence on my part); and most unjustly and cruelly they forced me away from divine worship with poor destitute sailors and soldiers' orphan children, and hurried me through the streets, as a prisoner, to a most expensive spunging house; from whence I was, in a few days, after paying £4, cast into the Queen's Prison for nearly five months, at the suit of the deceased Dane, Jens Wolff, and a young Dane, Ernst Wolff, of Hull, with whom I never had any transactions whatever. The church in Wellclose-square, formerly occupied as a Danish church, was then violently forced from our British and Foreign Seamen and Soldiers' Friend Society, by two English lawyers, Messrs. Sheffields; and it was taken from our Orphan Society, and our Temperance Society, and transferred to a rival institution of decided adversaries, who have revelled in the fruits of our twenty years' labors, after the British public had expended, through our society, upwards of five thousand pounds in repairs, improvements, and various expenditures upon this church and the ground. Excellent Sir, writhing, as I was, in prison with affliction and agonizing persecutions, I took the liberty of addressing a memorial to your Excellency, and a humble petition to the Danish Government at Copenhagen, and a most respectful petition, as a Christian minister of the church for twenty years, to his Majesty the King of Denmark,—and forwarded the whole to your Excellency, hoping to be honoured with some reply from the city and throne of Copenhagen. The year of our bitter sufferings has, however, been exhausted and we have not been favoured with any reply from your august Sovereign, or his Majesty's government. I am, therefore, constrained, as a steward of the British public, and the founder of Religious and Temperance Instruction Societies, for British and Foreign sailors, to appeal finally to your Excellency, in the fervent hope that you will not fail to communicate and recommend this  memorial to the constituted authorities of Denmark. I pleaded in my appeal last year, the extraordinary condescention and kindness of the then Crown Prince of Denmark, who, by promptly granting a truce of twelve hours on April 2nd, 1801, to Admiral Lord Nelson, mercifully saved the lives of those of us who were forced into the horrors of war, in the ships that were near the three crown batteries, and the batteries on shore, that might have sunk and destroyed our ships and lives, after the DONNE BRIG blew up, at four p.m., had the firing continued all night, and three of our largest ships aground. I pleaded, also, the prompt and noble humanity and generosity of Denmark, when our repaired fleet were on the point of entering Carlscrona, in Sweden, and engaging the Swedish fleet and batteries, where many of us must have perished, and our decks have been covered with blood and slaughter, had it not been for the zeal of your noble father, who was then prime minister at Copenhagen, who dispatched a fast sailing vessel to our fleet, with the account of the death of Paul, the Emperor of Russia, and the head of the Northern Coalition; and as that vessel and those dispatches reached our fleets just in time, our live were saved, and we sailed from Carlscrona, and anchored, by the mercy and goodness of God, safe in Kioge Bay, where we enjoyed tbe blessings of peace with Denmark once more, after all the dreadful and sanguinary conflicts at Copenhagen. I had hoped, after upwards of forty years peace with Denmark, that our society and the British public might have enjoyed a renewal of Christian kindness and charity, in our deliverance from those unchristian lawyers, and their employer at Hull, and the restoration of the church to the accustomed worship of Almighty God for sailors' orphans, and the temperance rescue of the degraded inebriates, of every country, in our fatal drinking port of London. In this hope, however, we are now sadly disappointed.

I may now plead with your Excellency and your Government, that you most naturally and keenly felt the bold measure of the British Government, in the early part of this century, when a fleet was sent over to Copenhagen, and the Danish fleet was forced from your harbour, and taken away, to prevent the enemies of England pre-occupying that fleet, to assist their combined force against this country. Your Government then, Sir, and your nation at large, loudly exclaimed against England; and your remonstrances and appeals were responded to by thousands of Englishmen in this country, who pleaded hard for redress and kindness to the Danes, whose ancestors once occupied and ruled in this nation of Britain. I might, also, plead that the Danish claims of merchants for detained Danish ships, and wasted or captured property, were long pleaded in our British House of Commons; and, at length, met with that justice and equity that was due to the honoured brothers of Englishmen in Denmark, with whom we never ought to war, but to cultivate mutual peace and prosperity. With such sentiments, I must now, Sir, appeal to you and, through you, to the authorities of Copenhagen, and to the British nation at large, and present the following details of our particular case, as it stands connected with the church in Wellclose-square. I must apologize, therefore, for being so prolix and methodical; but the case at present, and the interest of poor Danish families, and the good of posterity in future generations, leave me no alternative but to do my duty faithfully and fearlessly, at a minister of that church, and as the superintendent of our society. Allow me, then, to call the attention of your Excellency to the following particulars.

First. The peace of 1814, and falling off of the congregation, who consisted originally of Danes and Norwegians; but Norway, at that peace, having been ceded to Sweden, the Norwegians, as a matter of course, were transferred to the Swedish Church in Prince's-square, Ratcliffe-highway. The death of some Danes, and removal of others, and intermarriages with English families, drew off the congregation, so that the Danish minister left England, and the church was shut up, and for nearly ten years was wholly deserted.

Second. The forlorn and neglected state of the church during all the years of its desertion. This was most remarkable, as it does not appear by information that I have been able to gain, that any of tbe elders paid the least attention to it, excepting (and that very seldom) when some respectable Dane was to be interred in the vaults. Then the church was for an hour, but immediately afterwards closed for months, until an event occurred. Applications had been made, I understand, by the Church of England, and other to rent the church; but tbe Danes being Lutherans, it was objected that it could not be let to any sect; and those who applied relinquished, from a conviction that the title to it was not sufficently safe. A poor old Dane occasionally entered the vestry, (but I fear for no very good purpose), on dark nights, when sailors and their guilty companions prowled about the outer ground, amidst this gloomy central part of the square, to which the old oil lamps of London afforded so little light, and when the old watchmen of London paid so little attention to dark avenues, before the metropolitan police were established. I examined the state of the square in 1824, a year before we took the church, and I found it most gloomy and forbidding indeed by night. I then applied to the elders about the church, and they said they could not let it to any sect. I assured them that our society were completely unsectarian; for that while it was an union of all orthodox protestant Christians, its grand object was general religious instruction, without reference or prominence to any sect or party whatever. On these grounds the church was originally taken by us in 1825, but it is not so now, as a peculiar sect of dissenters occupy the church.


Third. The entire surrender of all control or right to the church as we understand, about the year 1817, by the King of Denmark, that there might be no claim made hereafter to the Court of Denmark about the church. This was done, as we are told, by a formal surrender of the church to the congregation; but as there was no congregation left, the few surviving elders received the surrender, and let everything remain, considering that all power or right over the church rested alone with them, as I understood from them, and with no one else, at home or abroad. Mr. Alsing, son of one of the elders, informs us that the Danish Government at Copenhagen had a fund belonging to the church in the square, and that this fund they appropriated to government uses; but no doubt they considered they had a right to do this, and it was no business of ours, although he said he had been over to Copenhagen about it, and applied in vain respecting it.
Fourth. The forfeiture of all right of control over the church, honestly by the elders, in consequence of a misappropriation of church funds to a large amount. We have understood, and published it last year, as your Excellency must remember, and it has never been contradicted to us, that there were about £1300 of church funds in some deposit, and that the firm of Messrs.George and Jens Wolff borrowed this money, as elders, by consent of the only other elder, Mr. Alsing, senior; but in consequence of a failure of that house, not above £300 of this money was returned: so that the church having suffered a loss of One Thousand Pounds by the elders, it is natural to conclude their right and control over the church did cease, and ought in common justice to have ceased. WE DEMAND, THEN, WHAT RIGHT had the lawyers to bring an action of ejectment against me, about the church in the name of Jens Wolff, who was then the surviving partner in this firm; and in in the name of Ernst Wolff, who, we understand, never was chosen an elder by the congregation, according to the Danish law, and with whom, as an elder, we never had, to my recollection, any transaction whatever. This action was basely continued in its consequences, by keeping me in prison for their law costs, even after Jens Wolff, the only real surviving elder, was dead; and although an offer was made of compromise to those lawyers, and a medical certificate obtained of my afflicted state in the prison, they actually refused this compromise, in the name of this young man at HULL, Ernst Wolff, as their employer, but with whom never before had any concern about the church.


Fifth. Our annual payment of surplus rent to Jens Wolff, or of late years to those attornies. Soon after we had taken the church, at a rent of £50 per annum, we were requested to relieve the office of Messrs. G. and I. Wolff, John-street, America-square, of all future applications of poor Danes and their families, for monthly payments. This being an act of Christian charity, we immediately complied with this request; and every month all shipwrecked and distressed Danes, and poor Danish families, residing in London, applied to our office, and were regularly paid a month's pension; and as fresh applications were made to us, we made the fullest enquiry that they were real cases of distress, and then entered them as such in our office books;and every half-year we presented an account of monies paid to pensioners: and all this without charging one penny for our labour; although, in many instances, it was attended with much trouble and inconvenience, to find out the real truth of every case that came to our office.  And as Danes, in general, were sent to me as the minister, from all parts of the kingdom, I had, of course, additional duties to perform, in connection with the Church, and all without the slightest remuneration. I had also to visit some poor Danes, and even to clothe some poor orphans of Danes; and I have collected many Danes in the Church, at times, and given them Danish books of religion, and requested them to read aloud from them, and have then commended them and their country to God, in solemn prayer. The surplus rent we always paid over to Mr. Jens Wolff, or, of late years, since he has lived in Brussels, to Messrs. Sheffields, his attornies. 

Sixth. The appropriation of this surplus rent for 20 years; and the reasons why the lawyers refused, for three months, all the applications of distressed Danish pensioners for relief, when the lawyers had cast me into prison, and forced the church away from our society. The British Public cannot imagine, in common honesty, now, what right Jens Wolff, or his attornies, had to this surplus rent, especially after tbe failure of his firm had swallowed up so much of the church funds. We do certainly consider that no person on earth had any right to this surplus rent, (least of all Jens Wolff or his attornies), but the poor Danes; and as this rent has been paid by the British public we cannot, and we dare not, suffer this to rest quiet, until we have a plain, honest, answer to our demand, what right had Jens Wolff to any part of this surplus rent? and to whom did Messrs. Sheffields pay the surplus rent they have received of late from us; and by what right of justice or equity, or common honesty, take this rent, and refuse for months to render any assistance to the poor distressed Danish families whom we sent to them,—after they had taken the church from us? Many of those poor Danes I relieved, from real compassion, who came to me while I was in prison. Our usual surplus rent was offered to the Sheffields when they proceeded with their desperate action of ejectment, but refused, when they declared that they determined to have the church from us.  

Seventh. In addition to all those grievances, we consider the present arrangements of those lawyers, in the name of the only surviving nominal Elder, in Hull, is most insecure and unsafe for the property of the church, and the succeeding generation of poor Danes. The society that has now taken the church, had its origin thus. 1 was directed, in providence, to commence the first Thames Mission, in 1817; from whence arose, the next year, the Port of London Society, and a Floating Chapel. I was compelled to form our present society in 1819, from the opposition of the Port Society to our Bethel meetings afloat. This opposition continued, with dreadful persecutions, until 1832, when the Port Society failed altogether;  and the Floating Chapel, after some thousands of pounds had been sunk in her, was broken up and sold. The present society of Jeffery Square, that now holds the church, was formed after Alderman Sir John Key, and other gentlemen and tradesmen, had been defrauded, and its leading men consist of one peculiar sect of dissenters from the Church of England.

Now it is most notorious, that nothing has proved more uncertain than the property of dissenting chapels. Many have changed their sentiments, and converted them to other doctrines. Trustees have died off, and others not being chosen, the chapels have been sold for houses, or shops, or ware-houses, or even play-houses. The Jeffery Square Society is only held together by voluntary subscriptions, and many such societies have failed. The Children's Friend Society, for instance, with great patronage, and nearly two hundred poor children supported, has sunk entirely; and the Jeffery Square Society, that has the church, has already failed, in a chapel at Bell Wharf, Shadwell, and is chiefly now kept up by one minister who has a chapel in Ratcliffe-highway. This minister has a salary from the Society, as he has succeeded Mr. Ferguson, who left the society as Secretary. G.F. Angus, Esq., also a respectable merchant, retired from it; and should the funds fall off, this society must give up the church, and cease to pay the poor Danish pensioners. Who then is to look after the church and the Danes? Can your Excellency suppose for a moment that a British public would be satisfied to have the church, which has cost them so much money, left in the hands, and at the disposal of those lawyers who have nearly sacrificed my life, about the church, for some view of worldly gain; and left the poor Danes for months, to perish. Who else is there in England to look alter the church? but those two lawyers, and their employer, in Hull, who has no color of right to it! We have applied to your Excellency; and you have told us you cannot move, about the church, without orders from your Government. We have, then, respectfully applied to that Government, but have not been favored with any decision; so that it has long since appeared, to many, that there is no one in this kingdom to look after this property, the church in Welclose [sic]-square, but those two attornies, Messrs. Sheffields, and they only by sufferance, in the name of a person at Hull; who never having done anything for the church, for twenty years, has no just right, whatever, to authorise those Lawyers to proceed about the church, and divide some rent among themselves, to which they have not the least shadow of claim. Should this young man of Hull, die, what use may the two lawyers, in London, make of the church? Why, according to all appearances, just what use they please, so as money can he made of it, and no one to control them.

Eighth. Under all these circumstances, we deem it to be our duty, your Excellency, most respectfully but firmly to demand of your Excellency, and of your distinguished Government, that the Church be given up to the British public, through our society, and by my superintendance.
1st. Because the public have expended upwards of £5,000 during the last twenty years, through our society.
2nd.  Because there has been no one to look after the church but our society, with my superintendance, and we can conscientiously declare we have done our duty to the church, and to the poor Danes, who have been dependent on its bounty.
3rd. Because of my cruel sufferings as the victim of the lawyers, who profess to have acted under the deceased elder and survivor, in Hull.
And 4th., Because we are bound, before God, and the public, to take charge of this property solemnly and sacredly, upon the following terms.

First. I should consider it my bounded duty to have the church placed in safe and secure hands, as trustees, who should faithfully convey their trust to those who might survive them; and the church be thus preserved under proper management for posterity. 
Second. As the only person in this country who has had charge of the poor Danish pensioners for twenty years, I consider it my right and my duty to stipulate that they should continue to receive the usual pensions from the proceeds of the church; and such religious attentions as were necessary.
Third. That this church should be kept in due repair for divine worship, without any rent to be demanded from any quarter, but that funds be provided in the church, for the poor pensioners, and the annual repairs and expenditure. 
Fourth. That with those views, every attention should be paid to the church, as our property, to be maintained for divine worship, and as a sacred mausoleum of the Danish dead; and that some few of the more respectable Danes, whose families desired it, might be carefully and solemnly interred in tbe vaults beneath the church; where I had stipulated with the deceased elders that my dust shoudl be finally consigned, and to which they had given me their solemn and unanimous consent. These terms being agreed to, I should be willing to enter into any legal security that they should carried into effect, on the church being duly transferred to us; and should thus cease all further agitation on the subject, and rejoice and praise God, to think that for the good of posterity, and the security and comfort of poor Danes, we had thus succeeded, after all the immense expences [sic] we have incurred about the business, and all the dreadful suffering we had endured, to ensure the just right of this church; and the due and constant worship of Almighty God in it, when our Excellency and your humble memorialist are removed by death to the silent tomb. I must now leave those appeals with your Excellency, and all persons you may deem it right to consult about them, hoping and expecting to receive the favorable decision of your Excellency, (as I am bound to agitate until this is settled.) I remain your Excellency's most humble and obedient servant, George Charles Smith, Superintendent Manager of the British and Foreign Seamen and Soldiers' Friendly Society, Commercial Road, Stepney, Feb. 1846.

P.S. The British public will now wait and see if Count Reventlow and the Danish Authorities will peaceably yield to the rights and claim now advanced for it. Five thousand pounds have been paid by the British public for the church, through our society, our claim is established, and if the funds of he church were swallowed up by the Danish Government, at Copenhagen, their claims must cease. And if the house of Wolff's sunk one thousand pounds of the Danish church funds; and the surplus rents are of no avail to pensioners, all claim of the only surviving Wolff, at Hull, is gone; and with him ceases all right of Sheffields to let the church to Hyatt and his colleagues; and all right from Jeffery Square to hold the church from us a day longer. Hear this all people and nations!

He married Theodosia Skipwith in 1809 and had a large family. His eldest son Theophilus Ahijah Smith (1809-79) worked with him, founding a seamen's mission at Le Havre and further temperance societies (including involvement in the Church of England Temperance Society in 1839); he was assistant secretary of the Protestant Association 1840-47, secretary of the Female Aid Society 1847-61, founder and secretary of the 'Midnight Meeting' movement for prostitutes [see here for an account of one at St Matthew Pell Street in the 1870's], and returned to the Protestant Association from 1865 until he was permanently crippled in a railway accident three years later.

Among Bo'sun Smith's publications, as well as his voluminous magazine writings, were The Boatswain's Mate, a dialogue, 1812; The Prose and Poetical Works of the Rev. G. C. Smith, 1819, a collected edition of twenty-four pieces; Intemperance, or a General View of the Abundance, the Influence, and the horrible Consequences of Ardent Spirits, 1829.

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