Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity, by its own native excellence, and under the all disposing providence of God.

We would humbly represent, that the only proper objects of civil government, are the happiness and protection of men in the present state of existence; the security of the life, liberty and property of the citizens; and to restrain the vicious and encourage the virtuous by wholesome laws, equally extending to every individual. But that the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can only be directed by reason and conviction; and is nowhere cognizable but at the tribunal of the universal Judge.

Therefore we ask no ecclesiastical establishments for ourselves; neither can we approve of them when granted to others. This indeed would be giving exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges to one set (or sect) of men, without any special public services to the common reproach and injury of every other denomination. And for the reasons recited we are induced earnestly to entrust, that all laws now in force in this commonwealth, which countenance religious domination, may be speedily repealed -- that all, of every religious sect, may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship; and exempted from all taxes for the support of any church whatsoever, further than what may be agreeable to their own private choice, or voluntary obligation. This being done, all partial and invidious distinctions will be abolished, to the great honour and interest of the State; and every one be left to stand or fall according to merit, which can never be the case, so long as any one denomination is established in preference to others.

Source: William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia ( Philadelphia, 1850), I, 323-324.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

T. Buckley, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787 ( Charlottesville, Va., 1977).

H. J. Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia ( Richmond, Va., 1910).

E. F. Humphrey, Nationalism and Religion in America, 1774-1789 ( Boston, 1924), pp. 66- 104, 359-406.

R. Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia: Community, Religion, and Authority, 1740-1790 ( Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982).

A. P. Stokes, Church and State in the United States ( New York, 1950), I, 366-397.


21
Massachusetts Constitution (Extract) March 2, 1780

Unlike the Anglican Establishments in the South, New England Congregationalism commanded substantial popular approval for its state support, despite efforts of Baptists, Quakers, Episcopalians, and politicalu liberals to challenge the Congregational position. In Massachusetts and Connecticut there was no sudden overturning of the religious system, but rather a gradual relaxation of Congregational privilege with extension of

-57-

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