THE REVEREND David Rice, widely known as “Father Rice,” was one of the most important figures in the early years of the Presbyterian church in Kentucky. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, Rice, was encouraged in his early manhood by the Reverend Samuel Davies to obtain a sound education, and when Davies became president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), Rice matriculated there and graduated in 1761. A year later he became a minister, and for thirteen years cared for a parish in Bedford County, Virginia. During this period he was instrumental in founding the college that would become Hampden-Sidney.1 In 1783, when Rice was fifty, he moved with his large family to Danville in the district of Kentucky where three hundred residents had petitioned him to establish a church. Immediately after his arrival, he became involved in founding Transylvania Seminary. He was chosen to be chairman of the board, and the first classes were held in his cabin home. Among others serving on the board were George Rogers Clark, John Crittenden, and two future Kentucky governors, Isaac Shelby and Christopher Greenup.2
Throughout his long ministry Rice was opposed to slavery, and even though he failed in his effort to have Kentucky admitted as a free state, his memorable pamphlet, Slavery Inconsistent with Justice and Good Policy, became an anti-slavery classic.3 He was equally adamant in opposition to any use of alcoholic beverages, which he condemned in the strongest terms. Although Father Rice believed in revivals, he nevertheless criticized the extreme emotionalism that came to be associated with them. One Methodist minister, recalling Father Rice, said that at revivals when the “Methodism and enthusiasm … would get very high—which they often did after sermon—he would rise to his feet, look over the assembly with great solemnity, and exclaim, 'High sail and little ballast!' then gather up his hat and cane, and take his departure.”4 Father Rice was a force for unity in his denomination, but worked in vain to moderate the sharp controversies that divided and weakened it.5
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Publication information: Book title: Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy. Contributors: Boynton Merrill Jr. - Author. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 203.
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