Carpenters' Hall

The Rector Who Changed His Mind

Rector Jacob Duché of Christ Church, Second St. above Market St., offered prayer at the First Continental Congress.

On Wednesday, September 7, 1774, at the delegates' second session, the Reverend Jacob Duché offered the first prayer in Congress. Known for his patriotic fervor, Duché was rector of Christ Church, the city's largest Anglican congregation located just two blocks away at Second & Market Sts. His text was Psalm 35, which begins, "Plead thou my case, O Lord, with them that strive with me, and fight thou against them that fight against me." Poignant in its own right, the psalm spoke directly to the Congress which only the day before received news, later proved incorrect, of British troops firing on Boston civilians. Dr. Duché followed the psalm with ten minutes of spontaneous prayer asking God to support the American cause. One delegate said he was "worth riding 100 miles to hear."

Unfortunately, his enthusiasm waned as Americans lost one battle after another. In October, 1777 — with General Howe's army occupying Philadelphia — he wrote Washington urging him to surrender. Soon afterwards Dr. and Mrs. Duché sailed home to England.

The First Prayer In Congress," the painting by T. H. Matteson, was completed 74 years after the Congress, in 1848. The painting is incorrect on two counts. Only 36 of the 56 delegates are pictured. Also the painting shows the room as it was in 1848, not 1774. Two major changes occurred in the 1790's. Partitions dividing the Hall into an east and west room with a central hallway were removed. Also, a sparkling fan window in the new Federal style was installed over the rear doorway.


Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
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