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compulsive measures for the promotion of His cause :—that the gospel wants not the feeble arm of man for its support:--that it has made, and will again, through Divine power, make its way against all opposition:-and that should the Legislature assume the right of taxing the people for the support of the gospel, it will be destructive to religious liberty. Therefore, this Convention agrees unanimously, that it will be expedient to appoint a delegate to wait on the General Assembly, with a remonstrance and petition against such assessment. Accordingly the Rev. Reuben Ford was appointed.”
The Legislature met on Monday, October 17th, 1785, and received, from all parts of the State, memorials and petitions expressing decided opposition to the bill for a general assess
The bill and the memorials were considered in committee of the whole house. Mr. Madison brought forward Mr. Jefferson's bill, prepared in 1779, and advocated it. Of him Mr. Jefferson, who was not present to advocate his bill, thus writes, vol. 1st, p. 33—“He came into the house, in 1776, a new member and young; which circumstance concurring with his extreme modesty, prevented his venturing himself in debate, before his removal to the Council of State, in November, *77. From thence he went to Congress, then consisting of few members. Trained in these successive schools, he acquired a habit of self-possession, which placed at ready command the rich resources of his luminous and discriminating mind, and of his extensive information, and rendered him the first of every Assembly afterwards of which he became a member. Never wandering from his subject into vain declamation, but pursuing it closely, in language pure, classical and copious, soothing always the feelings of his adversaries by civilities and softness of expression, he rose to the eminent station which he held in the great National Convention of 1787; and in that of Virginia which followed, he sustained the new Constitution in all its parts, bearing off the palm against the logic of George Mason, and the fervid declamation of Mr. Henry. With these consummate powers were united a pure and spotless virtue which no calumny has ever attempted to sully. Of the powers and polish of his pen, and of the wisdom of his administration, in the highest offices of the nation, I need say nothing. They have spoken, and will forever speak for themselves.”
The Rev. John B. Smith, President of Hampden Sidney College, one of the committee of Hanover Presbytery, had permission to be heard before the committee of the whole house, and spoke on three successive days against the general assessment bill. In him were combined the powers of logic and declamation. Self-possessed, he was fervid in debate. Mr. Henry's argument and declamation in favour of a general assessment, joined to his personal character, had, for a time, drawn Mr. Smith, and that acute reasoner, William Graham, to favour the bill. But further reflection on the ultimate bearing of the bill, led them to take the opposition to the Governor. Deservedly influential and popular, Smith knew, when he appeared before the committee of the whole, that he represented the whole Presbyterian population in the State; and that he spoke, on the subject, the opinions and decisions of the numer ous Baptists. He plead the principles of natural law, and the purity of morals and religion involving the welfare of the State. Madison knew that he spoke the opinions of all the dissenters, and of many that were not dissenters from the religion of the State, and he plead the principles of natural law and of political rights, that men's thoughts were free in religion as in politics.
The bill for a general assessment was lost in the committee of the whole; and Mr. Jefferson's bill was reported to the house. And on the 17th of December, 1785, an engrossed bill, entitled,—“An act for establishing religious freedom,' passed the house. Mr. Henry says,—"in the preamble to this act, some variations have been made from the original bill, as reported by the revisors, which renders the style less elegant, though the sense is not affected."
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free ;-that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incorporations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his almighty power to do ;--that the impious presumptions of legislators and rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greater part of the world, and through all time ;—that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing, from the ministry, those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;-that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics and geometry ;—that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellowcitizens, he has a natural right;—that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it ;--that though indeed those are criminal who do not withstand such temptations, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;-that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being, of course, judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;—that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;—and finally, that truth is great, and will prevail, if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, error ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
“2d. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
“3d. And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own; and that, therefore, to declare this act to be irrevocable, would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.
The yeas and nays upon this bill were as follow:- Ayes, Joseph Fry, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Joseph Eggleston, Samuel William Anderson, Hickerson Barksdale, John Clark of Campbell, Samuel Hawes, Anthony New, John Daniel, Henry Southall, French Strother, Henry Fry, William Gatewood, Meriwither Smith, Charles Simmes, David Stuart, William Pickett, Thomas Helm, Christopher Greenup, James Garrard, George Thompson, Alexander White, Charles Thruston, Thomas Smith, George Clendennin, John Lucas, Jeremiah Pate, Ralph Humphreys, Isaac Vanmeter, George Jackson, Nathaniel Wilkinson, John Mayo, Jun., John Rentfro, William Norval, John Roberts, William Dudley, Thomas Moore, Carter Braxton, Benjamin Semple, Francis Peyton, Christopher Robertson, Samuel Garland, Benjamin Logan, David Scott, William Pettijohn, Robert Sayres, Daniel Trigg, William Hartwell Mason, Griffin Stith, David Bradford, James Madison, Charles Porter, William Harrison, Benjamin Lankford, John Clarke of Prince Edward, Richard Bibb, Cuthbert Bullet, Daniel Carrol Brent, Williamson Ball, Andrew Moore, John Hopkins, Gawin Hamilton, Isaac Zoane, John Tayloe, John Whittaker Willis, Andrew Kincannon, and James Innes.--67.
Noes, Thomas Claiborne, Miles King, Warlick Westwood, John Page, Garland Anderson, Elias Wills, William Thornton, Francis Corbin, Willis Riddick, Daniel Sanford, John Gordon, Edward Bland, Anthony Walke, George Lee Turberville, William Garrard, John Francis Mercer, Carter Basset Harrison, Richard Cary, Jr., William Cary, and Richard Lee.-20.
After an experiment of more than half a century, the bill for religious freedom holds its place among the fundamental laws of the Virginia statute book. Religion and morals have not suffered. Four colleges, two theological seminaries, and the University, have been added to the public institutions for instruction. Authorised ministers of the gospel have increased about ten-fold; and professors of the religion of the gospel in the same proportion. Churches, academies, and schoolhouses are multiplying throughout the extended State. All parties agree that “the mind is free;' that even prisoners, slaves, and convicts enjoy freedom of conscience.
JAMES WADDELL, D. D., AND THE CHURCHES IN THE NORTHERN
Could we catch a view of the fleeting things of life, as they were passing in Pennsylvania, at the time the preaching of Davies was causing unusual excitement in Virginia, and could we visit Nottingham, the residence of Dr. Finley, and look into the school of the worthy pastor, then gaining its eminence as “a log college,” we should see the germs of some eminent men, and might trace the characteristics of their future life. In one amiable, ambitious boy, the confident of his school-mates, would be found the physician and philanthropist, Benjamin Rush; in another bold and open-hearted lad, Governor Martin of North Carolina, of Revolutionary memory; in another persevering youth, Ebenezer Hazard, noted for his collections of documents of interest to coming generations; and in the cheerful faces around would be observed the amiable Judge Rush and the warm-hearted physician William Tennent, and also the Rev. William M. Tennent, of Abington. In that young man, tall, spiritual, with musical voice, his left arm thrown back under his coat, sometimes reciting as a scholar, and sometimes acting as tutor to the younger boys, we should recognise James Waddell, who fills a page in Virginia literature, immortalizing William Wirt, the author of "The Blind Preacher;" and who, occupying a large space in the history of Hanover Presbytery, cannot be passed over in any history of the United States, -one of the men of his own generation, and a man for all generations.
He was born in the province of Ulster, Ireland, July, 1739. His parents, who were of Scotch origin, and of the Presbyterian faith, emigrated to America in the autumn of 1739, and settled in Pennsylvania. Here he remained under the care of pious parents till he was about fourteen years of age, enjoying with his sister Sally, and two brothers William and Robert, the affectionate instructions of a pious mother, whose prayers often thrilled his heart and left their recollection forever. The particular circumstance, in addition to his natural talents, that turned the attention of his parents to seek a liberal education for him, in preference to his brothers, and hedged him into a professional life for usefulness, and a livelihood, was a painful
When a small boy, he went hunting with his