Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

proved this eleventh amendment, which took the place of the third article of the Declaration of Rights in the 1780 constitution.

As the public worship of God, and instructions in piety, religion, and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people, and the security of a republican government; therefore, the several religious societies of this commonwealth, whether corporate or unincorporate, at any meeting legally warned and holden for that purpose shall ever have the right to elect their pastors or religious teachers, to contract with them for their support, to raise money for erecting and repairing houses for public worship, for the maintenance of religious instruction, and for the payment of necessary expenses; and all persons belonging to any religious society shall be taken and held to be members, until they shall file with the clerk of such society a written notice declaring the dissolution of their membership, and thenceforth shall not be liable for any grant or contract which may be thereafter made or entered into by such society: and all religious sects and denominations demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good citizens of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

Source: Benjamin Perley Poore (ed.), The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States ( Washington, D.C., 1877), I, 975.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

A. B. Darling, Political Changes in Massachusetts, 1824-1848 ( New Haven, 1925).

J. C. Meyer, Church and State in Massachusetts from 1740 to 1833 ( Cleveland, 1930), pp. 184-220.


81
Vidal v. Girard's Executors (Extract) January Term, 1844

Stephen Girard, French-born Philadelphia financier and philanthropist, died in 1831 leaving the bulk of his estate for the founding of a school for poor white orphan boys. The will stated that "no ecclesiastic, missionary, or minister of any sect whatsoever, shall ever hold or exercise any station or duty whatever in the said college; nor shall any such person ever be admitted for any purpose, or as a visiter, within the premises appropriated to the purposes of the said college." The bequest was contested by some of Girard's heirs, and the case was eventually heard by the United States Supreme Court. There Daniel Webster, counsel for the heirs, argued that religion, as it sustained morals, had public utility and that undenominational Christianity was part of the common law of Pennsylvania. In a decision written by Justice Joseph Story ( 1779- 1845), the Court unanimously upheld the will, despite partial agreement

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