The Temple Church being in the combined care of the Honourable Societies of Inner and of Middle Temple [‘the Inns’], the American Friends of Temple Church in London is established as an independent non-profit organization in order, through the space, personnel and activities of the Temple Church in association with the Directors of the American Friends:
1. To deepen and broaden the institutional and personal amity between (i) the judges and attorneys of the USA and (ii) the Inns and their members;
2. To expand understanding of and to advance the Rule of Law through the international public discussion of pressing socio-legal and ethical concerns in our increasingly multicultural jurisdictions;
3. To support the Inns’ current project of the Restoration & Renewal of the Temple Church, for the better fulfilment of (1) and (2) above.
The Temple’s Round Church is one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in London. It has been, for centuries, an iconic space in British and American history. We who serve in the Temple Church value its long past; and we value, just as highly, its present and steadily expanding role in the life of legal London and of the whole Common Law world. All of us who work here are building on a long and dramatic past in order to serve the future. The Church is a vital part of the Inns’ imaginative vision of public outreach. To live in harmony, diverse and divergent communities – nowhere more widely disparate than in London – need to share an acknowledged foundation to their common life. The Church is a living testament to the values which have for centuries inspired justice and fairness, and can inspire such values today.
It is a privilege for us and a delight that our links with America are so strong; and as we look forward to an ever closer comity and collaboration with the all the Friends of the Temple Church, we realise that the American Friends are the natural place to start – and we then look forward to branching out more widely, as the years go by.
The Round was in use by 1163, and was consecrated in 1185. It is probably the earliest Gothic building in England. It is modelled on the round Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. To be here was to be ‘in’ Jerusalem, at the centre of the world. From the start, the Church’s ceremonial entrance was the Great Norman Doorway, elaborately carved, into the Round Church. Through this Doorway King John and the rebel barons will have been striding angrily in and out of the Church as they negotiated Magna Carta in the Temple. Hero of Magna Carta was William Marshal: he mediated between King and barons, ensured that the King sealed the Charter, and then rescued it from oblivion to serve all the centuries to come. William Marshal was buried in the Round Church, where his effigy still lies.
Through this Doorway Raleigh, Amadas and Gosnold will have walked as they planned, in Middle Temple, the new colony of Virginia. The adventurers left to cross the Atlantic; Coke and Sandys stayed in the Temple and drafted here the first colonial constitutions.
Nearly 150 years later, those heroes of the American freedom will have known the Church well who studied in Middle or Inner Temple and would later put their signatures to the creation of a new republic: six members of Inner/Middle Temple would be signatories to the Declaration of Independence; seven, to the Constitution.
In 1608 King James I entrusted the Church to Inner and Middle Temple, two of London’s ancient colleges of attorneys and judges, the Inns of Court. The Church enjoys the status of Royal Peculiar. The Inns have maintained the Church with pride and generosity ever since. In our ever more complex and interconnected world, the Inns want their Church to look outwards, to deepen and broaden our links with other jurisdictions, and to represent as the Inns’ ambassador the ideals and principles of the Rule of Law.
From the Old World to the New
In 1584 Walter Raleigh despatched an expedition across the Atlantic; one of the ships was commanded by Philip Amadas. In 1602 Benjamin Gosnold explored New England and discovered Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, which he named after his first daughter. Gosnold would in 1606 work with Sir John Popham on the foundation of the two Virginia ‘colonies and companies’. The companies’ charter was drafted by Edwin Sandys and Edward Coke. It guaranteed to the colonists and their children all rights and liberties ‘to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been abiding and born, within this our realm of England’. The first five of these men were members of Middle Temple; Coke was a member of Inner. All were fired by dreams of Virginia.
In February 1609/10, William Crashaw, appointed by Inner Temple to be Reader (Preacher) at the Church, preached a sermon in praise of the Virginia Colony. Near its end he addressed Virginia itself:
And thou Virginia, whom though mine eyes see not, my heart shall love; how hath God honoured thee! Thou hast thy name from the worthiest Queen that ever the world had: thou hast thy matter from the greatest King on earth: and thou shalt now have thy form from one of the most glorious Nations under the Sun… But this is but a little portion of thy honour: for thy God is coming towards thee, and in the mean time sends to thee, and salutes thee with the best blessing heaven hath, even his blessed Gospel. Look up therefore, and lift up thy head, for thy redemption draweth nigh; and he that was the God of Israel, and is still the God of England, will shortly I doubt not bring it to pass, that men shall say, Blessed be the Lord God of Virginia; and let al l Christian people say, Amen.
The great clauses of Magna Carta were about to inform the constitutional life of the New World: The General Assembly of Maryland, 1639. The inhabitants of this Province shall have all their rights and liberties according to the Great Charter in England.
The Body of Liberties, Massachusetts, 1641.
No man’s life shall be taken away, no man’s honour or good name shall be stained, no man’s person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any ways punished ... unless it be by virtue or equity of some express law of the Country warranting the same.
Acts and Orders for the Colony … of Providence, 1647. That no person, in this Colony, shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseized of his lands or liberties, or be exiled, or any otherwise molested or destroyed, but by the lawful judgement of his peers, or by some known law, and according to the letter of it, ratified and confirmed by the major part of the General Assembly lawfully met and orderly managed.
Constitution of the United States of America, from the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, 15 December 1791. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law … The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.
America’s Church in London
Six members of Inner or Middle Temple were among the signatories to the Declaration of Independence in 1776: Thomas Heyward, from 1778 Judge of the High Court of South Carolina; Thomas Lynch; Thomas McKean, President of Delaware and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in 1777; Arthur Middleton; William Paca, later Governor of Maryland; and Edward Rutledge, later Governor of South Carolina. John Dickinson, ‘Penman of the Revolution’ and later President of Delaware and of Pennsylvania, famously refused to sign, since he was still seeking reconciliation with Britain as well as liberty.
Seven Middle Templars signed the American Constitution in 1787; John Blair, Chief Justice of Virginia; John Dickinson; Jared Ingersoll, first Attorney-General of Pennsylvania; William Livingstone, Governor of New Jersey; John Rutledge, chairman of the drafting committee and second Chief Justice of the United Sates; Charles Pinckney, Governor of South Carolina; and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Minister to France and twice Presidential candidate.
John Rutledge was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1760. He advised his younger brother Edward about life in London: ‘There is generally a good preacher at the Temple Church, and it would be more to your credit to spend a few hours of that day there, than is generally spent in London.’
For the Church it is a delight that the strongest of all our international connections are with the USA, its attorneys and judges. The occasional visit from individuals has become a steady stream. The 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, 2014-15, was of course a high point: the Amity Visit to Washington DC in November 2014, when the Temple Church Choir sang in the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress; Magna Carta Day itself at Runnymede, when the Choir sang first (with others) to HM The Queen and the whole assembly and then (by themselves, and a special privilege) at the Rededication of the ABA Memorial in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal and Attorney General Loretta Lynch; and successive services and talks in the Church itself, all through 2015.
Since then the choristers have been back to the Library of Congress; and in London we have welcomed the California and the Chicago Bar Associations, and the ABA Section of International Law; we look forward to seeing the New York State Bar Association here in 2021; and each year we welcome more Americans living in London for our services to celebrate Independence Day and then Thanksgiving.
By tradition the American Ambassador to London has been elected an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple. Chief Justice Roberts is also a Bencher of Middle, as are Associate Justice Gorsuch, former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, and William Hubbard, President of the ABA at the Anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. Associate Justices Breyer and Kennedy (now retired) are Benchers of Inner.
We put high value as well on visits from other jurisdictions: from China, Japan, Latin America, Poland, Romania and Russia and elsewhere. Some delegates, from jurisdictions whose legal systems are fragile, have spoken movingly of the hope and inspiration they draw here from the long, slow evolution of the Rule of Law from 1215 to the present day.
The Church remains – over 800 years since Magna Carta and 400 since the first colonial charters and constitutions – at the heart of legal and constitutional London, and so of the promotion of the Rule of Law worldwide.
The American Bar Association visited London in 1924. ‘No greater courtesy and hospitality was ever shown any body of men than was shown to the Americans by the English Lawyers and indeed by every one high and low whom we met.’ – R.T.W. Duck Jr, The Virginia Law Register, NS 10. 5 (Sept 1924), from 305-309.
The speech of Charles Evans Hughes, US Secretary of State and President of the ABA was recognized as a ‘masterpiece’: ‘We come to tighten the bonds of friendship. This meeting of those who share a common tradition and cherish a common purpose cannot fail to tighten our sense of responsibility, as we find our hearts deeply stirred.’ – The American Bar Association, London Meeting, 1924: Impressions of its social, official, professional and juridical Aspects (New York: Frank Shepard, 1925), 26.
London’s kindness and courtesy were more than repaid after the War. The Church was badly damaged in the Blitz. By 1950 the ABA had raised $43,298, in donations from over 3,000 American lawyers, towards the restoration of the four Inns of Court from their War-time damage. The Temple Church was to be one of the beneficiaries.
The Committee wrote:
‘We trust this sum will be accepted as a token, although inadequate, of the respect which the American Bar entertains for the Inns of Court as institutions, their sense of indebtedness for the contribution of the Inns to the growth of the common law, and their regard for their comrades of the British bench and bar.’
The funds were well spent. The Temple Church was lovingly repaired; its historic interior is as uplifting as ever. We look forward to welcoming any friends from the USA who would enjoy being with us when they are in London. We will hope in particular to see our American friends back in the Temple and in the Church - entering through the re-beautified West Porch, its Norman Doorway and their glorious view along the Church - almost exactly 100 years after that meeting of 1924.
Friday 9 December
The Church is usually open Mon–Fri, 10.00am–4.00pm
Fridays, 1.10pm–1.50pm: Talk: From the Templars to Today – The Temple Church
For exceptions, see below
Admission for Sightseeing
£5.00 | £3.00 | Free to children, the Inns’ members, Inns and Chambers staff, and their guests.
For more information click here
Next Choral Service: Choral Evensong Wednesday 23 February 2022, 6.00pm
All our services are live-streamed on the Church’s YouTube Channel