The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Historical Data Against "Vouchers"

["Vouchers" is used here as it is popularly used today to refer to the use of public funds to support attendance in private schools, especially those which are religiously sponsored.

Research, editing, writing by Jim Allison


Background Documents of Importance. (Revised laws and Bills written by Thomas Jefferson between 1776 and 1779, that have some connections to religion, education and schools, support for or lack of support of same)

79. A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge. (Written late Autumn 1778, presented to the General Assembly December 15, 1778) This bill was the first part of Jefferson's general system of education.

80. 80. A Bill for Amending the Constitution of the College of William and Mary, and Substituting More Certain Revenues for Its Support (1779) This bill was the second part of Jefferson's general system of education. (1779)

81. A Bill for Establishing a Public Library. This bill was the third part of Jefferson's general system of education. (1779)

82. A Bill for Establishing Religious Liberty . A bill for religious freedom passed January 16, 1786. It was written by Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson stated he wrote it in 1777), first presented to the general assembly in 1779 and steered into passage by James Madison in 1785-86.


1776 -- 1779

One of the sections of the revision of the laws of Virginia which Jefferson prepared and which was introduced in the Virginia legislature in 1779 was a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, This bill for establishing a system of public elementary and secondary schools paralleled Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom. The education bill recognized that if no person were to be compelled to support ''any religious place whatsoever'' then education must be available freely to all and should contain no religious instruction. In a day when elementary instruction was highly charged with religious materials, Jefferson proposed a purely secular curriculum.

Source of Information:

The American Tradition in Religion and Education , By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 119.


1780 -- 1789

October 9, 1780

I am fully of your opinion respecting religious tests; but, though the people of Massachusetts have not in their new constitution kept quite clear of them, yet, if we consider what that people were one hundred years ago, we must allow they have gone great lengths in liberality of sentiment on religious subjects; and we may hope for greater degrees of perfection, when their constitution, some years hence, shall be revised. If Christian preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure religion itself, as the emoluments of it. When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. . . .

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by Benjamin Franklin to Dr. Richard Price, October 9, 1780. Works of Benjamin Franklin (Sparks ed.), VIII 505-506, in Bigelow ed, VII, 139, 140. Church and State in the United States , Volume I, Anson Phelps Stokes, D.D., LL.D., Harper &Brothers (1950) pp 298


Patrick Henry and others felt that Virginia was going to "hell in a hand basket" that morality was declining, crime was rising, etc., (sounds like today doesn't it) so they came up with a bill which they felt would cure all the ailments of Virginia. That bill can be found at A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion (1784) http://members.tripod.com/~candst/assessb.htm


Between 1784 and approx 1786 James Madison and Patrick Henry fought, hot and heavy, over two important issues. The first issue involved revision of the Virginia Constitution of 1776, which had never been submitted to the people for ratification.

The second issue was a general tax assessment for the support of the Christian Religion. Madison lost the Constitution revision fight but won the second battle by stopping the general assessment.

In response to the general assessment bill, James Madison and others (Jefferson was in France at this time) whipped up opposition. The Bill backed by Henry would have (1) legally established Protestant Christianity as the official religion of the nation of Virginia, and (2) would have provided for the taxing and use of public funds to support the various Protestant Christian denominations, along with the maintenance of, upkeep of, building of church buildings and grounds, cemeteries of said churches, ministers, and teachers of those denominations.


July 3, 1784

Several Petitions came forward in behalf of a General Assessment which was reported by the Committee of Religion to be reasonable. The friends of the measure did not chuse to try their strength in the House. The Episcopal Clergy introduced a notable project for re-establishing the independence of the laity. The foundation of it was that the whole body should be legally incorporated, invested with the present property of the Church, made capable of acquiring indefinitely, empowered to make canons and by laws not contrary to the laws of the land, and incumbents when once chosen by vestries to be irremoveable otherwise than by sentence of the Convocation. Extraordinary as such a project was, it was preserved from a dishonorable death by the talents of Mr. Henry. It lies over for another Session.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by James Madison to Thomas Jefferson. July 3, 1784. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 Volume I, 1776-1790. . Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 322-23)


December 8, 1784

The proposition for a Convention has had the result I expected. If one could be obtained I do not know whether it would not do more harm than good. While Mr. Henry Lives another bad constitution would be formed, and saddled for ever on us. What we have to do I think is devoutly to pray for his death, in the mean time to keep alive the idea that the present is but an ordinance and to prepare the minds of the young men. I am glad the Episcopalians have again shewn their teeth and fangs. The dissenters had almost forgotten them. I still hope something will be done for Paine. He richly deserves it; and it will give a character of littleness to our state if they suffer themselves to be restrained from the compensation due for his services by the paltry consideration that he opposed our right to the Western country. . .

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, December 8, 1784. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826, Volume I, 1776- 1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 353-54)


January 9, 1785

. . . It luckily happened that the latent opposition wanted both a mouth and a head. Mr. Henry had been previously elected governor and was gone for his family [the opposition on several issues] From his conversation since I surmise that his presence might have been fatal. . .

[this particular bill that Madison is commenting about was not the general assessment, yet much of what he said would have applied to it as well.]

An act for incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church. This act declares the ministers and vestries who are to be triennially chosen in each period a body corporate, enables them to hold property not exceeding the value of £800 per annum, and gives sanction to a Convention which is to be composed of the Clergy and a lay deputy from each parish, and is to regulate the affairs of the Church. It was understood by the House of Delegates that the Convention was to consist of two laymen for each clergyman, and an amendment was received for that express purpose. It so happened that the insertion of the amendment did not produce that effect, and the mistake was never discovered till the bill had passed and was in print. Another circumstance still more singular is that the act is so constructed as to deprive the vestries of the uncontrouled right of electing clergymen, unless it be referred to them by the canons of the Convention, and that this usurpation actually escaped the eye both of the friends and adversaries of the measure, both parties taking the contrary for granted throughout the whole progress of it. The former as well as the latter appear now to be dissatisfied with what has been done, and will probably concur in a revision if not a repeal of the law. Independently of these oversights the law is in various points of view exceptionable. But the necessity of some sort of incorporation for the purpose of holding and managing the property of the Church could not well be denied, nor a more harmless modification of it now obtained. A negative of the bill too would have doubled the eagerness and the pretexts for a much greater evil, a general assessment, which there is good ground to believe was parried by this partial gratification of its warmest votaries. A Resolution for a legal provision for the "teachers of Christian Religion" had early in the Session been proposed by Mr. Henry, and in spite of all the opposition that could be mustered, carried by 47 against 32 votes. Many Petitions from below the blue ridge had prayed for such a law; and though several from the presbyterian laity beyond it were in a contrary Stile, the Clergy of that Sect favoured it. The other sects seemed to be passive. The Resolution lay some weeks before a bill was brought in, and the bill some weeks before it was called for; after the passage of the incorporating act it was taken up, and on the third reading, ordered by a small majority to be printed for consideration. The bill in its present dress proposes a tax of blank per Ct. on all taxable property for support of Teachers of the Christian Religion. Each person when he pays his tax is to name the society to which he dedicates it, and in case of refusal to do so, the tax is to be applied to the maintenance of a school in the county. As the bill stood for some time, the application in such cases was to be made by the Legislature to pious uses. In a committee of the whole it was determined by a majority of 7 or 8 that the word "Christian" should be exchanged for the word "Religious." On the report to the House the pathetic zeal of the late Governor Harrison gained a like majority for reinstating discrimination. Should the bill ever pass into a law in its present form it may and will be easily eluded. It is chiefly obnoxious on account of its dishonorable principle and dangerous tendency.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, January 9, 1785. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826, Volume I, 1776-1790 . Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 355, 360-61)


About the same time the Continental Congress was debating elements of the Land ordinance of 1785, the foundation of the eventual Northwest Ordinance. The following took place during those debates.

April 23, 1785.

Congress assembled. Present as yesterday.

Congress proceeded in the consideration of the Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of Lands in the Western Territory. An on motion of Mr. [David] Howell, seconded by Mr. [Hugh] Williamson, . . .

Congress resumed the consideration of the Ordinance under debate yesterday: . . .

The following paragraph in the Ordinance being under debate: " There shall be reserved the central Section of every Township, for the maintenance of public Schools; and the Section immediately adjoining the same to the northward, for the support of religion. The profits arising therefrom in both instances, to be applied for ever according to the will of the majority of male residents of full age within the same." A motion was made by Mr. [Charles] Pinckney, seconded by Mr. [William Grayson, to amend the paragraph by striking out these words, "for the support of religion;" and in their place to insert, "for religious and charitable uses." On which it was moved by Mr. [William] Ellery, seconded by Mr. [Melancton] Smith, to amend the amendment by striking out the words "religious and," so that it read "for charitable uses. "

And on the question, shall the words moved to be struck out of the amendment, stand? the yeas and nays, being required by Mr. [Charles] Pinckney,

NEW HAMPSHIRE          AY DELAWARE          ay
Mr. Foster
        Long
ay
ay
Mr. Vining
        Bedford
ay
ay
MASSACHUSETTS         ay MARYLAND         NO
Mr. Holten
        King
ay
ay
Mr. McHenry
        J. Henry
        Hindman
no
no
ay
RHODE ISLAND         no VIRGINIA         ay
Mr. Ellery
        Howell
no
no
Mr. Monroe
        Lee
        Grayson
ay
ay
ay
CONNECTICUT;    Non-Vote NORTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Johnson Mr. Williamson
        Sitgreaves
ay
no
NEW YORK, DIV.     Non-Vote SOUTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Smith
        Haring
no
ay
Mr. Pinckney no
PENNSYLVANIA         ay GEORGIA        Non-Vote
Mr. Gardner
        W. Henry
ay
ay
Mr. Houston ay

So the question was lost, and the words were struck out.

And thereupon, the motion of Mr. [Charles] Pinckney for the amendment was withdrawn.

A motion was then made by Mr. [William] Ellery, seconded by Mr. [Melancton] Smith, to strike out the following words in the foregoing paragraph: [and the section immediately

adjoining the same to the northward, for the support of religion, the profits arising therefrom in both instances, to be applied for ever according to the will of the majority of male residents of full age within the same." A division of the motion was called for by Mr. [Rufus] King: And on the question, shall the former pert stand? namely, "and the section immediately adjoining the same to the northward, for the support of religion." The yeas and nays being required by Mr. [Melancton] Smith and Mr. [Rufus] King,

NEW HAMPSHIRE          ay DELAWARE          ay
Mr. Foster
        Long
ay
ay
Mr. Vining
        Bedford
ay
ay
MASSACHUSETTS         ay MARYLAND         no
Mr. Holten
        King
ay
ay
Mr. MchenrMcHenry        j. Henry
        Hindman
no
no
ay
RHODE ISLAND         no VIRGINIA         ay
Mr. Ellery
        Howell
no
no
Mr. Monroe
        Lee
        Grayson
ay
ay
ay
CONNECTICUT    Non-Vote NORTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Johnson Mr. Williamson
        Sitgreaves
ay
no
NEW YORK, DIV.     Non-Vote SOUTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Smith
        Haring
no
ay
Mr. Pinckney no
PENNSYLVANIA         ay GEORGIA     Non-Vote
Mr. Gardner
        w. Henry
ay
ay
Mr. Houston ay

So the question was lost, and the words were struck out.

A motion was then made by [Mr. Melancton] Smith to strike out the following words "and the section to religion."

NEW HAMPSHIRE          ay DELAWARE          ay
Mr. Foster
        Long
ay
ay
Mr. Vining
        Bedford
ay
ay
MASSACHUSETTS         ay MARYLAND         no
Mr. Holten
        King
ay
ay
Mr. MchenrMcHenry        j. Henry
        Hindman
no
no
ay
RHODE ISLAND         no VIRGINIA         ay
Mr. Ellery
        Howell
no
no
Mr. Monroe
        Lee
        Grayson
ay
ay
ay
CONNECTICUT    Non-Vote NORTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Johnson Mr. Williamson
        Sitgreaves
ay
no
NEW YORK, DIV.     Non-Vote SOUTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Smith
        Haring
no
ay
Mr. Pinckney no
PENNSYLVANIA         ay GEORGIA     Non-Vote
Mr. Gardner
        w. Henry
ay
ay
Mr. Houston ay

Words are struck out.'

A motion was made by Mr. [William Samuel] Johnson, seconded by Mr. [Rufus] King, farther to amend the paragraph by inserting after the word "Schools," the following words,"And the Sections immediately adjoining the same to ·the northward, for charitable uses;" so that the paragraph read thus; "There shall be reserved the central Section of every Township, for the maintenance of public Schools; and the section immediately adjoining the same to the northward, for charitable uses." And on the question to agree to this amendment, the yeas and nays being required by Mr. William Samuel Johnson,

NEW HAMPSHIRE          ay DELAWARE          ay
Mr. Foster
        Long
ay
ay
Mr. Vining
        Bedford
ay
ay
MASSACHUSETTS         ay MARYLAND         no
Mr. Holten
        King
ay
ay
Mr. MchenrMcHenry        j. Henry
        Hindman
no
no
ay
RHODE ISLAND     Non-Vote VIRGINIA         ay
Mr. Ellery
        Howell
no
ay
Mr. Monroe
        Lee
        Grayson
ay
ay
ay
CONNECTICUT    Non-Vote NORTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Johnson Mr. Williamson
        Sitgreaves
ay
no
NEW YORK, DIV.        no SOUTH CAROLINA     Non-Vote
Mr. Smith
        Haring
no
no
Mr. Pinckney no
PENNSYLVANIA     Non-Vote GEORGIA     Non-Vote
Mr. Gardner
        w. Henry
ay
no
Mr. Houston ay

So the question was lost.

Source of Information:

Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. 28 , pp 291-296


April 27, 1785

The Bill for Genl. Assesst. Has produced some fermentation below the mountains and a violent one beyond them. The contest at the next Session on this question will be a warm and precarious one.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, April 27, 1785. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826, Volume I, 1776-1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 355, 369)


May 29, 1785

James Madison wrote a letter to James Monroe a bit irate because he had learned that the Continental Congress had briefly considered passing a bill that would have included using public funds to support religious schools in the various townships that were being created by what would become the Northwest Ordinance (land ordinance of 1785) that had been under debate. (that aspect of that ordinance was voted down)

Madison wrote:

TO JAMES MONROE.

Orange May 29 1785.

DEAR Sir,--Your favor of May -- came to hand a few days ago. . . It gives me much pleasure to observe by 2 printed reports sent me by Col. Grayson that, in the latter Congress had expunged a clause contained in the first for setting apart a district of land in each Township for supporting the Religion of the majority of inhabitants. How a regulation so unjust in itself, foreign to the Authority of Cong", so hurtful to the sale of the public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated Bigotry, could have received the countenance of a Committee is truly matter of astonishment. In one view it might have been no disadvantage to this State in case the Gen' Assess' should take place, as it would have given a repellent quality to the new Country in the estimation of those whom our own encroachments on Religious Liberty would be calculated to banish to it. But the adversaries to the assess' begin to think the prospect here flattering to their wishes, The printed Bill has excited great discussion and is likely to prove the sense of the Comunity to be in favor of the liberty now enjoyed. I have heard of several Counties where the late representatives have been laid aside for voting for the Bill, and not of a single one where the reverse has happened. The Presbyterian Clergy too who were in general friends to the scheme, are already in another tone, either compelled by the laity of that sect, or alarmed at the probability of further interferences of the Legislature, if they once begin to dictate in matters of Religion,

I am, Dr Sir, Yours affecly.

James Madison

The letter herewith inclosed is from Mrs. Carr sister of Mr. Jefferson.

Source of Information:

The Writings of James Madison Volume II, 1783-1787 , Edited by Gaillard Hunt, G P Putnam's Sons, New York London 1901, pp 143- 145)

June 20, 1785

As part of this campaign to defeat this bill Madison wrote his Memorial and Remonstrance (June 20, 1785)


August 20, 1785

He sent a copy of his Memorial and Remonstrance (The complete text of this document may be found at James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance.) as a ENCLOSURE to Jefferson in a letter he wrote Jefferson dated August 20, 1785.

Also included in that letter:

The opposition to the general assessment gains ground. At the instance of some of its adversaries I drew up the remonstrance herewith encloses. It has been sent thro' the medium of confidential persons in a number of the upper county [s] and I am told will be pterry extensively signed. The presbyterian clergy have at length espoused the idea of opposition, being moved either by fear of the laity or jealousy of the Episcopalians. The mutual hatred of these sects has been much inflamed by the late act incorporating the latter. I am far from being sorry for it as a coalition between them alone could endanger our religious rights and a tendency to such an event had been suspected.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, August 20, 1785. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 Volume I, 1776-1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 374)


Contained in this jewel one can find many valuable nuggets, one of which is the following:

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?


January 22, 1786

. . . After the completion of the work at this session was despaired of it was proposed and decided that a few of the bills following the bill concerning crimes and punishments should be taken up as of peculiar importance. The only one of these which was pursued into an Act is the Bill concerning Religious freedom. The steps taken throughout the Country to defeat the General Assessment had produced all the effect that could have been wished. The table was loaded with petitions and remonstrances from all parts against the interposition of the Legislature in matters of Religion. A general convention of the Presbyterian church prayed expressly that the bill in the Revisal might be passed into a law, as the best safeguard short of a constitutional one, for their religious rights. The bill was carried thro' H. of Delegates, without alteration. The Senate objected to the preamble, and sent down a proposed substitution of the 16th. article of the Declaration of Rights. The H. of D. disagreed. The Senate insisted and asked a Conference. Their objections were frivolous indeed. In order to remove them as they were understood by the Managers of the H. of D. The preamble was sent up again from the H. of D. with one or two verbal alterations. As an amendment to these the Senate sent back a few others; which as they did not affect the substance though they somewhat defaced the composition, it was thought better to agree to than to run further risks, especially as it was getting late in the Session and the House growing thin. The enacting clauses past without a single alteration, and I flatter myself have in this country extinguished for ever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter written by James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, January 22, 1785. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 Volume I, 1776-1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 402-03)


February 8, 1786

. . . I thank you for the communication of the remonstrance against assessment. Mazzei who is now in Holland promised me to have it published in the Leyden gazzette. It will do us great honour. I wish it may be as much approved by our assembly as by the wisest part of Europe.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, February 8, 1786. The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 Volume I, 1776-1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 410)


To sum up, the end result of all of this was that the Bill backed by Henry and others was defeated and Madison managed to get Jefferson's bill for religious freedom passed in its place. (Passed Jan. 1786)


As Rhys Isaac observes, "The Act for Establishing Religious Freedom remade Virginia. In its universal language, indeed, it was remaking America and the world."(4) Lauding his friend's achievement, Jefferson told Madison that "the Virginia act for religious freedom has been received with infinite approbation in Europe and propagated with enthusiasm," appearing in French and Italian translations and being inserted in the new Encyclopedie. "In fact," he added, "it is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests and nobles; and it is honorable for us to have produced die first legislature who has had the courage to declare that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions." (5)

Footnotes

(4). Rhys Isaac, "'The Rage of Malice of the Old Serpent I)evil': The Dissenters and the Making and Remaking of the Virginia Stature for Religious Freedom," in The Virginia Statute Religious Freedom , ed. Peterson and Vaughn, p. 139. Also see Thomas E. Buckley, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776-1787 Charlottesville, 1977), pp. 38-167.

Source of Information:

The Republic Of Letters, The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776-1826 Volume I, 1776-1790. Edited by James Morton Smith. W. W. Norton &Company. N.Y. (1995) pp. 394)


NOW BACK TO JEFFERSON

1782-1787

Notes on Virginia

QUERY XIV

The Administration of Justice and the Description of the Laws?

The plan of the revisal was this. The common law of England, by which is meant, that part of the English law which was anterior to the date of the oldest statutes extant, is made the basis of the work. It was thought dangerous to attempt to reduce it to a text; it was therefore left to be collected from the usual monuments of it. Necessary alterations in that, and so much of the whole body of the British statutes, and of acts of assembly, as were thought proper to be retained, were digested into one hundred and twenty-six new acts, in which simplicity of style was aimed at, as far as was safe. The following are the most remarkable alterations proposed: . . To establish religious freedom on the broadest bottom.

[pp 236-237]

Another object of the revisal is to diffuse knowledge more generally through the mass of the people. This bill proposes to lay off every county into small districts of five or six miles square, called hundreds, and in each of them to establish a school for teaching, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The tutor to be supported by the hundred, and every person in it entitled to send their children three years gratis, and as much longer as they please, paying for it. These schools to be under a visitor who is annually to choose the boy of best genius in the school, of those whose parents are too poor to give them further education, and to send him forward to one of the grammar schools, of which twenty are proposed to be erected in different parts of the country, for teaching Greek, Latin, Geography, and the higher branches of numerical arithmetic. Of the boys thus sent in one year, trial is to be made at the grammar schools one or two years, and the best genius of the whole selected, and continued six years, and the residue dismissed. By this means twenty of the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish annually, and be instructed, at the public expense, so far as the grammar schools go. At the end of six years' instruction, one half are to be discontinued (from among whom the grammar schools will probably be supplied with future masters); and the other half, who are to be chosen for the superiority of their parts and disposition, are to be sent and continued three years in the study of such sciences as they shall choose, at William and Mary College, the plan of which is proposed to be enlarged, as will be hereafter explained, and extended to all the useful sciences. The ultimate result of the whole scheme of education would be the teaching all the children of the State reading, writing, and common arithmetic; turning out ten annually, of superior genius, well taught in Greek, Latin, Geography, and the higher branches of arithmetic; turning out ten others annually, of still superior parts, who, to those branc hes of learning, shall have added such of the sciences as their genius shall have led them to; the furnishing to the wealthier part of the people convenient schools at which their children may be educated at their own expense. The general objects of this law are to provide an education adapted to the years, to the capacity, and the condition of every one, and directed to their freedom and happiness. Specific details were not proper for the law. These must be the business of the visitors entrusted with its execution. The first stage of this education being the schools of the hundreds, wherein the great mass of the people will receive their instruction, the principal foundations of future order will be laid here. Instead, therefore, of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious inquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history. The first elements of morality too may be instilled into their minds; such as, when further developed as their judgments advance in strength, may teach them how to work out their own greatest happiness, by showing them that it does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed them, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits. Those whom either the wealth of their parents or the adoption of the State shall destine to higher degrees of learning, will go on to the grammar schools, which constitute the next stage, there to be instructed in the languages. The learning Greek and Latin, I am told, is going into disuse in Europe. I know not what their manners and occupations may call for; but it would be very ill-judged in us to follow their example in this instance. There is a certain period of life, say from eight to fifteen or sixteen years of age, when the mind like the body is not yet firm enough for laborious and close operations. If applied to such, it falls an early victim to premature exertion; exhibiting, indeed, at first, in these young and tender subjects, the flattering appearance of their being men while they are yet children, but ending in reducing them to be children when they should be men. The memory is then most susceptible and tenacious of impressions; and the learning of languages being chiefly a work of memory, it seems precisely fitted to the powers of this period, which is long enough, too, for acquiring the most useful languages, ancient and modern. I do not pretend that language is science. It is only an instrument for the attainment of science. But that time is not lost which is employed in providing tools for future operation; more especially as in this case the books put into the hands of the youth for this purpose may be such as will at the same time impress their minds with useful facts and good principles. If this period be suffered to pass in idleness, the mind becomes lethargic and impotent, as would the body it inhabits if unexercised during the same time. The sympathy between body and mind during their rise, progress and decline, is too strict and obvious to endanger our being missed while we reason from the one to the other. As soon as they are of sufficient age, it is supposed they will be sent on from the grammar schools to the university, which constitutes our third and last stage, there to study those sciences which may be adapted to their views. By that part of our plan which prescribes the selection of the youths of genius from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the State of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use, if not sought for and cultivated. But of the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been sai d, to be chiefly historical. History, by apprizing them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views. In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary. An amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth; and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price. The government of Great Britain has been corrupted, because but one man in ten has a right to vote for members of parliament. The sellers of the government, therefore, get nine-tenths of their price clear. It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people; but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such members as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.

Lastly, it is proposed, by a bill in this revisal, to begin a public library and gallery, by laying out a certain sum annually in books, paintings, and statues.

[243-246]

QUERY XV

The Colleges and Public Establishments, the Roads, Buildings, &c.

The college of William and Mary is the only public seminary of learning in this State. It was founded in the time of king William and queen Mary, who granted to it twenty thousand acres of land, and a penny a pound duty on certain tobaccoes exported from Virginia and Maryland, which had been levied by the statute of 25 Car. II. The assembly also gave it, by temporary laws, a duty on liquors imported, and skins and furs exported. From these resources it received upwards of three thousand pounds communibus annis. The buildings are of brick, sufficient for an indifferent accommodation of perhaps an hundred students. By its charter it was to be under the government of twenty visitors, who were to be its legislators, and to have a president and six professors, who were incorporated. It was allowed a representative in the general assembly. Under this charter, a professorship of the Greek and Latin languages, a professorship of mathematics, one of moral philosophy, and two of divinity, were established. To these were annexed, for a sixth professorship, a considerable donation by Mr. Boyle, of England, for the instruction of the Indians, and their conversion to Christianity. This was called the professorship of Brafferton, from an estate of that name in England, purchased with the monies given. The admission of the learners of Latin and Creek filled the college with children. This rendering it disagreeable and degrading to young gentlemen already prepared for entering on the sciences, they were discouraged from resorting to it, and thus the schools for mathematics and moral philosophy, which might have been of some service, became of very little. The revenues, too, were exhausted in accommodating those who came only to acquire the rudiments of science. After the present revolution, the visitors, having no power to change those circumstances in the constitution of the college which were fixed by the charter, and being therefore confined in the number of the professorships, undertook to change the objects of the profe ssorships. They excluded the two schools for divinity, and that for the Greek and Latin languages, and substituted others; so that at present they stand thus:

A Professorship for Law and Police;
Anatomy and Medicine;
A Natural Philosophy and Mathematics;
Moral Philosophy, the Law of Nature and Nations, the Fine Arts;
Modern Languages;
For the Brafferton.

And it is proposed, so soon as the legislature shall have leisure to take up this subject, to desire authority from them to increase the number of professorships, as well for the purpose of subdividing those already instituted, as of adding others for other branches of science. To the professorships usually established in the universities of Europe, it would seem proper to add one for the ancient languages and literature of the north, on account of their connection with our own language, laws, customs, and history. The purposes of the Brafferton institution would be better answered by maintaining a perpetual mission among the Indian tribes, the object of which, besides instructing them in the principles of Christianity, as the founder requires, should be to collect their traditions, laws, customs, languages, and other circumstances which might lead to a discovery of their relation with one another, or descent from other nations. When these objects are accomplished with one tribe, the missionary might pass on to another.

[247-248]

QUERY XVII

The different religions received into that State?

The first settlers in this country were emigrants from England, of the English Church, just at a point of time when it was flushed with complete victory. over the religious of all other persuasions. Possessed, as they became, of the powers of making, administering, and executing the laws, they showed equal intolerance in this country with their Presbyterian brethren, who had emigrated to the northern government. The poor Quakers were flying from persecution in England. They cast their eyes on these new countries as asylums of civil and religious freedom; but they found them free only for the reigning sect. Several acts of the Virginia assembly of 1659, 1662, and 1693, had made it penal in parents to refuse to have their children baptized; had prohibited the unlawful assembling of Quakers; had made it penal for any master of a vessel to bring a Quaker into the State; had ordered those already here, and such as should come thereafter, to be imprisoned till they should abjure the country; provided a milder punishment for their first and second return, but death for their third; had inhibited all persons from suffering their meetings in or near their houses, entertaining them individually, or disposing of books which supported their tenets. If no execution took place here, as did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or spirit of the legislature, as may be inferred from the law itself; but to historical circumstances which have not been handed down to us. The Anglicans retained full possession of the country about a century. Other opinions began then to creep in, and the great care of the government to support their own church, having begotten an equal degree of indolence in its clergy, two-thirds of the people had become dissenters at the commencement of the present revolution. The laws, indeed, were still oppressive on them, but the spirit of the one party had subsided into moderation, and of the other had risen to a degree of determination which commanded respect.

The present state of our laws on the subject of religion is this. The convention of May, 1776, in their declaration of rights, declared it to be a truth, and a natural right, that the exercise of religion should be free; but when they proceeded to form on that declaration the ordinance of government, instead of taking up every principle declared in the bill of rights, and guarding it by legislative sanction, they passed over that which asserted our religious rights, leaving them as they found them. The same convention, however, when they met as a member of the general assembly in October, 1776, repealed all acts of Parliament which had rendered criminal the maintaining any opinions in matters of religion, the forbearing to repair to church, and the exercising any mode of worship; and suspended the laws giving salaries to the clergy, which suspension was made perpetual in October, 1779. Statutory oppressions in religion being thus wiped away, we remain at present under those only imposed by the common law, or by our own acts of assembly. At the common law, heresy was a capital offence, punishable by burning. Its definition was left to the ecclesiastical judges, before whom the conviction was, till the statute of the I El. c. I circumscribed it, by declaring, that nothing should be deemed heresy, but what had been so determined by authority of the canonical scriptures, or by one of the four first general councils, or by other council, having for the grounds of their declaration the express and plain words of the scriptures. Heresy, thus circumscribed, being an offence against the common law, our act of assembly of October 1777, c. 17, gives cognizance of it to the general court, by declaring that the jurisdiction of that court shall be general in all matters at the common law. The execution is by the writ De haeretico comburendo. By our own act of assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more gods than one, or deni es the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offence by incapacity to hold any office or employment ecclesiastical, civil, or military; on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years' imprisonment without bail. A father's right to the custody of his own children being founded in law on his right of guardianship, this being taken away, they may of course be severed from him, and put by the authority of a court into more orthodox hands. This is a summary view of that religious slavery under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of their civil freedom. The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subject to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have no authority over such natural rights, only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God, The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. If it be said, his testimony in a court of justice cannot be relied on, reject it then, and be the stigma on him. Constraint may make him worse by making him a hypocrite, but it will never make him a truer man. It may fix him obstinately in his errors, but will not cure them. Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free inquiry been indulged at the era of the Re fermation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, the potato as an article of food. Government is just as infallible, too, when it fixes systems in physics. Galileo was sent to the Inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error, however, at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established, on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in, and to make it an article of necessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion! To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable! No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a censor morum over such other. Is uniformity attainable! Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, f ined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the nine hundred and ninety-nine wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free inquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves. But every State, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments! Our sister States of Pennsylvania and New York, however, have long subsisted without any establishment at all. The experiment was new and doubtful when they made it. It has answered beyond conception. They flourish infinitely. Religion is well supported; of various kinds, indeed, but all good enough; all sufficient to preserve peace and order; or if a sectarises, whose tenets would subvert morals, good sense has fair play, and reasons and laughs it out of doors, without suffering the State to be troubled with it. They do not hang more malefactors than we do. They are not more disturbed with religious dissensions. On the contrary, their harmony is unparalleled, and can be ascribed to nothing but their unbounded tolerance, because there is no other circumstance in which they differ from every nation on earth. They have made the happy discovery, that the way to silence religious disputes, is to take no notice of them. Let us too give this experiment fair play, and get rid, while we may, of those tyrannical laws. It is true, we are as yet secured against them by the spirit of the times. I doubt whether the people of this country would suffer an execution for heresy, or a three years' imprisonment for not comprehending the mysteries of the Trinity. But is the spirit of the people an infallible, a permanent reliance! Is it government! Is this the kind of protection we receive in return for the rights we give up? Besides, the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.

[252-257]

Source of Information: Thomas Jefferson's Notes on Virginia. The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson , edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden. Random House, New York, (1993) pp 236-257)


1790 -- 1800

Of the eleven states that ratified the First Amendment, nine (counting Maryland) adhered to the viewpoint that support of religion and churches should be voluntary, that any government financial assistance to religion constituted an establishment of religion and violated its free exercise.(78) Some had done so from their earliest foundations; some arrived at that stance after the American Revolution. The Maryland constitution permitted a general assessment to support religion, but Marylanders firmly rejected a proposal to enact one. Of the ratifying states, only Vermont and New Hampshire adhered to the view that states could or should provide for tax-supported religion. On a whole range of other applications, however, Americans inherited traditions of government interference in religious matters.

Footnote:

(78) Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina ratified.

Source of Information:

The First Freedoms, Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment , Thomas J. Curry. Oxford University Press, (1986) pp 220)

When the original thirteen colony/states began writing their own constitutions in 1776, four of those colony/states [Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania had never had an establishment of religion. The greater part of New York, had never had an establishment of religion. However, there were four counties in the area around New York City that did have an establishment. The other eight colony/states did have some form of an establishment of religion.

An establishment of religion, in terms of direct tax aid to churches, was the situation in nine of the thirteen colonies on the eve of the American revolution. (1)

Within a period of seventeen years, that had been reversed. By approximately 1791, nine of eleven states that ratified the amendments of 1789 had ended that support.

As Leonard Levy sums it up:

The First Amendment bans laws respecting an establishment of religion. Most of the framers of that amendment very probably meant that government should not promote, sponsor, or subsidize religion because it is best left to private voluntary support for the sake of religion itself as well as for government, and above all for the sake of the individual. Some of the framers undoubtedly believed that government should maintain a close relationship with religion, that is, with Protestantism, and that people should support taxes for the benefit of their own churches and ministers. The framers who came from Massachusetts and Connecticut certainly believed this, as did the representatives of New Hampshire, but New Hampshire was the only one of these New England states that ratified the First Amendment. Of the eleven states that ratified the First Amendment, New Hampshire and Vermont were probably the only ones in which a majority of the people believed that the government should support religion. In all the other ratifying states, a majority very probably opposed such support. But whether those who framed and ratified the First Amendment believed in government aid to religion or in its private voluntary support, the fact is that no framer believed that the United States had or should have power to legislate on the subject of religion, and no state supported that power either.(2)

Footnotes

(1) Religion Under the State Constitutions, 1776-1800, John K Wilson, Journal of Church and State, Volume 32, Autumn 1990, Number 4, pp 754.

(2). The Establishment Clause, Religion and the First Amendment, By Leonard W Levy, page 146-147.

1800 -- 1820

The following is a myth which appeared in some of David Barton's publications, and a few other religious right type publications. It is exposed in the article "Jefferson wanted Bible in school?". . The Myth:

Thomas Jefferson supported Bible reading in school; this is proven by his service as the first president of the Washington D. C. public schools, which used the Bible and Watt's Hymns as textbooks for reading.


A summation of Jefferson's views on education and religion by Leonard W. Levy can be found in the article Jefferson, Religion, and the Public Schools.

http://members.tripod.com/~candst/tnppage/jeffschl.htm

Just a short excerpt from the above article:

"In matters of education, however, Jefferson was a complete secularist, never deviating in any significant degree. In 1778 he submitted, in a Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, a comprehensive plan for public education at the primary and secondary levels.(16) Religious instruction was completely absent from the proposed curriculum at a time when it was a prominent feature in schools everywhere else. The omission was deliberate; Jefferson wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia: "Instead therefore of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children, at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious enquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European and American history."(17)

Religion was also conspicuous by its absence from Jefferson's plan of 1817; his Bill for Establishing a System of Public Education enumerated only secular subjects. In an effort to eliminate possible religious influence in the public schools, Jefferson specified that ministers should not serve as "visitors" or supervisors, and provided that "no religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced" in violation of the tenets of any sect or denomination.(18) Clearly, Jefferson opposed the use of public funds for the teaching of religion in the public schools.

Jefferson's first proposal on higher education came in 1779. His Bill for the Amending of the Constitution of the College of William and Mary stated that the college consisted of "one school of sacred theology, with two professorships therein, to wit, one for teaching the Hebrew tongue, and expounding the holy scriptures; and the other for explaining the commonplaces of divinity, and controversies with heretics." There were six other professorships divided among a school of philosophy, one of classical languages, and another for teaching Indians reading, writing, and "the catechism and the principles of the Christian religion." Jefferson proposed to abolish both the school of theology with its professorships of religion and the school for teaching Indians. In place of the school for Indians he proposed that a missionary be selected by a newly constituted faculty who would not teach religion but investigate Indian "laws, customs, religions, traditions, and more particularly their languages." Jefferson's missionary was to be an anthropologist charged with reporting his findings to the faculty and preserving his reports in the college library. In place of the school of theology and the professorships of religion, Jefferson proposed simply a professorship "of moral philosophy" and another "of history, civil and ecclesiastical."'(19)

[see full article at above cited URL for footnotes.]


February 21, 1811

Veto Messages.

February 21, 1811.

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

Having examined and considered the bill entitled "An act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia," I now return the bill to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, with the following objections:

Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.'' . . .Because the bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.

James Madison.

Source of Information:

A Compilation of The Messages And Papers of The Presidents, Vol. II , Bureau of National Literature, N Y, pp 474-475)


January 16, 1814

I have long had under contemplation, and been collecting materials for the plan of an university in Virginia which should comprehend all the sciences useful to us, and none others. The general idea is suggested in the Notes on Virginia, Qu. 14. This would probably absorb the functions of William and Mary College, and transfer them to a healthier and more central position: perhaps to the neighborhood of this place. The long and lingering decline of William and Mary, the death of its last president, its location and climate, force on us the wish for a new institution more convenient to our country generally, and better adapted to the present state of science. I have been told there will be an effort in the present session of out legislature, to effect such an establishment. I confess, however, that I have not great confidence that this will be done. Should it happen, it would offer places worthy of you, and of which you are worthy. It might produce, too, a bidder for the apparatus and library of Dr. Priestley, to which they might add mine on their own terms. This consists of about seven or eight thousand volumes, the best chosen collection of its size probably in America, and containing a great mass of what is most rare and valuable, and especially of what relates to America.

Source of Information:

Letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Cooper, January 16, 1814, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Library Edition, Ed Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol XIV , Issued under the Auspices of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington D C, 1903, pp 54-63)


1817

In Jefferson's final effort to obtain passage of his cherished educational proposals he drew up a bill for public education in 1817 which embraced much of the earlier bill, but it was even more specific in its religious provisions. In the very first article Jefferson would prohibit ministers from serving as county visitors whose job was to provide for the establishment of ward schools throughout the county. He thus tried to prohibit all religious control or influence in the public schools. The eleventh article effectively ruled out all religious instruction . . .

Source of Information:

The American Tradition in Religion and Education , By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 120-21)

"Ministers of the Gospel are excluded [from serving as Visitors of the county Elementary Schools] to avoid jealousy from the other sects, were the public education committed to the ministers of a particular one; and with more reason than in the case of their exclusion from the legislative and executive functions."

Source of Information:

Thomas Jefferson: Note to Elementary School Act, 1817. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Library Edition, Ed Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 17 Issued under the Auspices of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington D C, 1903, pp 419

"No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."

Source of Information:

Thomas Jefferson: Note to Elementary School Act, 1817. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Library Edition, Ed Albert Ellery Bergh, Vol. 17 Issued under the Auspices of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington D C, 1903, pp 425)

[For those of you who may think this is giving a green light to the teaching of religion in the schools, stop and think about it. It would be impossible to create something that could be taught that would not be inconsistent with some tenets of some religious sect or denomination.]


1818

Finally, the legislature approved a proposal to establish a state university at Charlottesville and approved the appointment of a board of commissioners to draw up a plan for the University of Virginia. Jefferson wrote the report which was submitted to the commissioners at their meeting at Rockfish Gap in August, 1818. A careful study of this report which was adopted by the commissioners and later approved by the legislature will show that the dominant aim was to establish a state university on secular foundations. The statement of aims and the details of curriculum reflect Jefferson's social and political ideas of democracy and make no mention of religion.(15) Realizing, however, that opposition would be raised to the state university as a center of atheism because of the omission of professors of religion and theology, Jefferson included a special defense of the proposals of the commissioners in order to anticipate and mollify opposition:

"In conformity with the principles of our Constitution, which places all sects of religion on an equal footing, with the jealousies of the different sects in guarding that equality from encroachment and surprise, and with the sentiments of the Legislature in favor of freedom of religion, manifested on former occasions, we have proposed no professors of divinity...."(16)

Instead of a professor of theology. it was proposed to leave instruction in moral philosophy to the professor of ethics and also to provide instruction in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as depositories of the original religious writings. Summing up his position, Jefferson concluded:

"Proceeding thus far without offence to the Constitution, we have thought it proper at this point to leave every sect to provide, as they think fittest. the means of further instruction in their own peculiar tenets." (17)

This was Jefferson's original intention in 1818 for keeping the University of Virginia free of religious instruction and sectarian control in conformity with the principles of religious freedom of the Constitution of Virginia. Thereupon followed long years of struggle and disappointment in the effort to obtain legislative and public support for the institution. As a result the university did not begin instruction until 1825. . .

Footnotes:

(15) Roy J. Honeywell, The Educational Work of Thomas Jefferson (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1931) pp. 256; Saul K. Padover, The Complete Jefferson (Duell, Sloan &Pearce, New York, 1943) p. 1098

(16) Honeywell, op. cit. 256; Padover, op. cit. p. 1104

(17) Honeywell, op. cit. 256; Padover, op. cit. p. 1104

Source of Information:

The American Tradition in Religion and Education, By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 123.


One further point should be made with respect to Jefferson's attitude toward religion at the University of Virginia. Some recent writers have been pointing out that the Board of Visitors of the university had made some provision for religious exercises to be held within university buildings. Reference can be made, for example. to the original report of the Rockfish Gap Commission in 1818 which included the following statement:

"It is supposed probable, that a building of somewhat more size in the middle of the grounds may be called for in time, in which may be rooms for religious worship, under such impartial regulations as the Visitors shall prescribe, for public examination, for a library, for the schools of music, drawing, and other associated purposes."(22a)

Furthermore, the regulations of 1824 contained the following reference to the main building:

"One of its larger elliptical rooms on its middle floor shall be used for annual examinations, for lectures to such schools as are too numerous fur their ordinary school room, and for religious worship, under the regulations allowed to he prescribed by Law."(22b)

Footnotes

(22a) Honeywell, op. cit. 249.

(22b) Ibid., p. 275

Source of Information:

The American Tradition in Religion and Education , By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 128)


The rooms mentioned above were never used for such purposes. See the Letter Jefferson wrote A.S. Brokenbrough, April 21, 1825 (contained later in this article) for reasons.


March 13, 1820

. . . I must explain to you the state of religious parties with us. about 1/3 Of OUT State is Baptist, 1/3 Methodist, and of the remaining third two parts may be Presbyterian and one part Anglican. The Baptists are sound republicans and zealous supporters of their government. The Methodists are republican mostly, satisfied with their governmt medling with nothing but the concerns of their own calling and opposing nothing. these two sects are entirely friendly to our university. the anglicans are the same. the Presbyterian clergy alone (not their followers) remain bitterly federal and malcontent with their government. they are violent, ambitious of power, and intolerant in politics as in religion and want nothing but license from the laws to kindle again the fires of their leader John Knox, and to give us a 2d blast from his trumpet. Having a little more monkish learning than the clergy of the other sects, they are jealous of the general diffusion of science, and therefore hostile to our Seminary lest it should qualify their antagonists of the other sects to meet them in equal combat. Not daring to attack the institution with the avowal of their real motives, they peck at you, at me, and every feather they can spy out. but in this they have no weight, even with their own followers. excepting a few old men among them who may still be federal &Anglomen, their main body are good citizens, friends to their government, anxious for reputation, and therefore friendly to the University... ..

(1). [MS., University of Virginia.]

Source of Information:

The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson , edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden. Random House, New York, (1993) pp 636-37)


1821 --1830

October 4, 1822

Should the religious sects of this state, or any of them, according to the invitation held out to them, establish within or adjacent to, the precincts of the University, schools for instruction in the religion of their sect, the students of the University will be free, and expected to attend worship at the establishment of their respective sects, in the morning, and in time to meet their school in the University at its stated hour. (20)

Footnote:

(20). Padover, op. cit. p 110; Honeywell, op. cit. p 274-75; Andrew A. Lipscomb (ed.) The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington D.C. 1903) XIX p. 449

Source of Information:

The regulations adopted by the Board of Visitors on October 4, 1824, containing the above provisions. The American Tradition in Religion and Education, By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 127)


October 7, 1822

On October 7, 1822 the minutes of the Board of Visitors of the University described a proposal made by "some pious individuals'' which the Visitors accepted, but at the same time they insisted upon the principle of keeping the university independent and free of religious instruction or control. Present at this meeting of the Visitors were Jefferson as rector, Madison, James Breckenridge, Joseph C. Cabell, and John N.Cooke. The proposal was a part of the annual report of the Visitors required by law to be made to the legislature:

The want of instruction in the various creeds of religious faith existing among our citizens presents therefore, a chasm in a general institution of the useful sciences. But it was thought that this want and the entrustment to each society of instruction in its own doctrine, were evils of less danger than a permission to the public authorities to dictate modes or principles of religious instruction, or than opportunities furnished them by giving countenance or ascendancy to any one sect over another. A remedy. however, has been suggested of promising aspect, which, while it excludes the public authorities from the domain of religious freedom, will give to the sectarian schools of divinity the full benefit the public provisions made for instruction in the other branches of science ....It has, therefore, been in contemplation, and suggested by some pious individuals ... to establish their religious schools on the confines [borders] of the University, so as to give to their students ready and convenient access and attendance on the scientific lectures of the University;.... Such establishments would offer the further and greater advantage of enabling the students of the University to attend religious exercises with the professor of their particular sect, either in the rooms of the building still to be erected. and destined to that purpose under impartial regulations, as proposed in the same report of the commissioners, or in the lecturing room of such professor . . . . But always understanding that these schools shall be independent of the University and of each other. Such an arrangement would complete the circle of useful sciences embraced by this institution, and would fill the chasm now existing, on principles which would..leave inviolate the constitutional freedom of religion, the most inalienable and sound of all human rights, over which the people and authorities of this state, individually and publicly, have ever manifested the most watchful jealousy: and could this jealousy be now alarmed, in the opini on of the legislature, by what is here suggested, the idea will be relinquished on any surmise of disapprobation which they might think proper to express.(18)

Footnote

(18) Padover, op. cit. Pp. 957-958. Lipscomb, XIX 414-416.

Source of Information:

The American Tradition in Religion and Education, By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers. Westport, Conn. (1950) pp 124-25)


November 2, 1822

In our university you know there is no Professorship of Divinity. A handle has been made of this, to disseminate an idea that this is an institution, not merely of no religion, but against all religion. Occasion was taken at the last meeting of the Visitors, to bring forward an idea that might silence this calumny, which weighed on the minds of some honest friends to the institution. In our annual report to the legislature, after stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets, on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there, and have the free use of our library, and every other accommodation we can give them; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences. I think the invitation will be accepted, by some sects from candid intentions, and by others from jealousy and rivalship. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality, The time of opening our university is still as uncertain as ever. All the pavilions, boarding houses, and dormitories are done. Nothing is now wanting but the central building for a library and other general purposes. For this we have no funds, and the last legislature refused all aid. We have better hopes of the next. But all is uncertain. I have heard with regret of disturbances on the part of the students in your seminary. The article of discipline is the most difficult in American education. Premature ideas of independence, too little repressed by parents, beget a spirit of insubordination, which is the great obstacle t o science with us, and a principal cause of its decay since the revolution. I look to it with dismay in our institution, as a breaker ahead, which I am far from being confident we shall be able to weather. The advance of age, and tardy pace of the public patronage, may probably spare me the pain of witnessing consequences.

I salute you with constant friendship and respect.

Source of Information:

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Doctor Thomas Cooper, November 2, 1822. The works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes Volume XII , Federal Edition, Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford, G. P. Putnam's Sons: The Knickerbocker Press (1905) pp 270-73)


March 19, 1823

*Note: Everett was a Professor at Harvard University. He complained in his letter to Madison about one sect monopolizing theological positions in his school.

Our University has lately recd a further loan from the Legislature which will prepare the Buildings for ten Professors and about 200 Students. Should all the loans be converted into donations, at the next Session, as is generally expected, but for which no pledge has been given, the Visitors, with an annuity of $15,000 settled on the Institution, will turn their thoughts towards opening it, and to the preliminary engagement of Professors.

I am not surprised at the dilemma produced at your University by making theological professorships an integral part of the System. The anticipation of such an one led to the omission in ours; the Visitors being merely authorized to open a public Hall for religious occasions, under impartial regulations; with the opportunity to the different sects to establish Theological schools so near that the Students of the University may respectively attend the religious exercises in them. The village of Charlottesville also, where different religious worships will be held, is also so near, that resort may conveniently be had to them. A University with sectarian professorships, becomes, of course, a Sectarian Monopoly: with professorships of rival sects, it would be an Arena of Theological Gladiators. Without any such professorships, it may incur for a time at least, the imputation of irreligious tendencies, if not designs. The last difficulty was thought more manageable than either of the others.

On this view of the subject, there seems to be no alternative but between a public University without a theological professorship, and sectarian Seminaries without a University.

I recollect to have seen, many years ago, a project of a prayer, by Gov. Livingston father of the present Judge, intended to comprehend & conciliate College Students of every X" denomination, by a Form composed wholly of texts & phrases of scripture. If a trial of the expendient was ever made, it must have failed, notwithstanding its winning aspect from the single cause that many sects reject all set forms of Worship.

The difficulty of reconciling the Xn mind to the absence of a religious tuition from a University established by law and at the common expence, is probably less with us than with you. The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Gov' and exempt from ire cognizance; that a connexion between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast, which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new seas arise with absurd opinions or overheated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with a toleration, is no security for public quiet & harmony, but rather a source itself of discord & animosity; and finally that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between Law & religion, from the partial example of Holland, to its consummation in Pennsylvania Delaware N.J., &, has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory. Prior to the Revolution, the Episcopal Church was established by law in this State. On the Declaration of independence it was left with all other sects, to a self-support. And no doubt exists that there is much more of religion among us now than there ever was before the change; and particularly in the Sect which enjoyed the legal patronage. This proves rather more than, that the law is not necessary to the support of religion.

With such a public opinion, it may be expected that a University with the feature peculiar to ours will succeed here if anywhere. Some of the Clergy did not fail to arraign the peculiarity; but it is not improbable that they had an eye to the chance of introducing their own creed into the professor's chair. A late resolution for establishing an Episcopal school within the College of William & Mary, the' in a very guarded manner, drew immediate animadversions from the press, which if they have not put an end to the project, are a proof of what would follow such an experiment in the University of the State, endowed and supported as this will be, altogether by the Public authority and at the common expense.

Source of Information:

To Edward Everett From Madison, March 19, 1823. Letters and Other writings of James Madison, in Four Volumes Vol. III, Published by Order of Congress., J. B. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, (1865), pp 305-309. * James Madison on Religious Liberty , Robert S. Alley, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y. (1985) pp 83-84


June 5, 1824

I must still add to this long and rambling letter, my acknowledgments for your good wishes to the University we are now establishing in this State. There are some novelties in it. Of that of a professorship of the principles of government, you express your approbation.

They will be founded in the rights of man. That of agriculture, I am sure, you will approve: and that also of Anglo-Saxon. As the histories and laws left us in that type and dialect, must be the text books of the reading of the learners, they will imbibe with the language their free principles of government. The volumes you have been so kind as to send, shall be placed in the library of the University. Having at this time in England a person sent for the purpose of selecting some Professors, a Mr. Gilmer of my neighborhood, I cannot but recommend him to your patronage, counsel and guardianship, against imposition, misinformation, and the deceptions of partial and false recommendations, in the selection of characters. He is a gentleman of great worth and correctness, my particular friend, well educated in various branches of science, and worthy of entire confidence.

Your age of eighty-four and mine of eighty-one years, insure us a speedy meeting. We may then commune at leisure, and more fully, on the good and evil, which, in the course of our long lives, we have both witnessed; and in the mean time, I pray you to accept assurances of my high veneration and esteem for your person and character.

Yours, T. J. Jefferson

Me pasi pisteuein .

Source of Information:

Excerpt from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Maj. John Cartwright--5 June 1824. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (The Memorial Edition) , Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, eds, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, Washington, D. C. (1905) 16:50)


September 20, 1824

Dear sir, --On the receipt of yours of August 8, I turned my thoughts to its request on the subject of a theological catalogue for the Library of the University; and not being aware that so early as was wished, as I now find was the case, I had proceeded very leisurely in noting such authors as seemed proper for the collection. Supposing, also, that although theology was not to be taught in the University, its Library ought to contain pretty full information for such as might voluntarily seek it in that branch of learning. I had contemplated as much of a comprehensive and systematic selection as my scanty materials admitted, and had gone through the five first centuries of Christianity when yours of the 3d instant came to hand, which was evening before the last. This conveyed to me more distinctly the limited object your letter had in view, and relieved me from a task which I found extremely tedious; especially considering the intermixture of the doctrinal and controversial part of Divinity with the moral and metaphysical part, and the immense extent of the whole. I send you the list I had made out, with an addition on the same paper of such books as a hasty glance of a few catalogues and my recollection suggested. Perhaps some of them may not have occurred to you, and may suit the blank you have not filled. I am sorry I could not make a fair copy without failing to comply with the time pointed out.

Source of Information:

Letter to Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, Sept. 20, 1824. Letters and Other writings of James Madison, in Four Volumes Vol. III, Published by Order of Congress., J. B. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, (1865), pp 450-451).


December 22, 1824

The peculiarity in the Institution which excited at first most attention, and some animadversion, is the omission of a theological professorship. The public opinion seems now lo havtosufficiently yielded to its incompatibility with a STATE [emphasis in original] Institution, which necessarily excludes sectarian preferences. The best provision which occurred was that of authorizing the Visitors to open the public rooms for Religious uses, under IMPARTIAL [emphasis in original] regulations (a task that may occasionally involve some difficulties,) and admitting the establishment of Theological Seminaries by the respective sects contiguous to the precincts of the University, and within the reach of a familiar intercourse distinct from the obligatory pursuits of the students. The growing village of Charlottesville, also, is not distant more than a mile, anc coandins already congregations and clergymen of the sects to which the students will mostly belong.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter to Rev. Frederick Beasley from James Madison, December 22, 1824. Letters and Other writings of James Madison, in Four Volumes Vol. III , Published by Order of Congress, J. B. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, (1865), pp 474- 475).


April 21, 1825

In answer to Your letter proposing to permit the lecture room of the Pavilion No. 1.to be used regularly for prayers and preaching on Sundays, I have to observe that some 3 or 4 years ago, an application was made to permit a sermon to be preached in one of the pavilions on a particular occasion, not now recollected. It brought the subject into consideration with the Visitors, and altho' they entered into no formal and written resolution on the occasion, the concurrent sentiment was that the buildings of the University belong to the state, that they were erected for the purposes of an University, and that the Visitors, to whose care they are committed for those purposes have no right to permit their application to any other. And accordingly, when applied to, on the visit of General Lafayette, I declined at first the request of the use of the Rotunda for his entertainment, until it occurred on reflection that the room, in the unfinished state in which it then was, was as open and uninclosed, and as insusceptible of injury, as the field in which it stood. In the Rockfish report it was stated as probable that a building larger than the Pavilions might be called for in time, in which might be rooms for a library, for public examinations, and for religious worship under such impartial regulations as the Visitors should prescribe, the legislature neither sanctioned nor rejected this proposition; and afterwards, in the Report of Oct. 1822. the board suggested, as a substitute, that the different religious sects should be invited to establish their separate theological schools in the vicinity of the University, in which the students might attend religious worship, each in the form of his respective sect, and thus avoid all jealousy of attempts on his religious tenets. Among the enactments of the board is one looking co this object, and superseding the first idea of permitting a room in the Rotunda to be used for religious worship, and of undertaking to frame a set of regulations of equality and impartiality among the multiplied sects. I state these things as manifesting the caution which the board of Visitors thinks it a duty to observe on this delicate and jealous subject. Your proposition therefore leading to an application of the University buildings to other than University purposes, and to a partial regulation in favor of two particular sects, would be a deviation from the course which they think it their duty to observe. Nor indeed is it immediately percieved what effect the repeated and habitual assemblages of a great number of strangers at the University might have on it's order and tranquility.

All this however in the present case is the less important, inasmuch as it is not farther for the inhabitants of the University to go to Charlottesville for religious worship, than for those of Charlottesville to come to the University. That place has been in long possession of the seat of public worship, a right always deemed strongest until a better can be produced. There too they are building, or about to build proper churches and meeting houses, much better adapted to the accomoaccommodationcongregation than a scanty lecturing room. Are these to be abandoned, and the private room to be preferred. If not, then the congregations, already too small, would by your proposition be split into halves incompetent to the employment and support of a double set of officiating ministers. Each of course would break up the other, and both fall to the ground. I think therefore that, independent of our declining to sanction this application, it will not, on further reflexion, be thought as advantageous to religious interests as their joint assembly at a single place. With these considerations, be pleased to accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

Source of Information:

From Thomas Jefferson to Arthur Brockenbrough, April, 21, 1825. The original of this letter is at U. VA. Reference number 47770. Church and State in the United States, Volume II , Anson Phelps Stokes, D. D., LL. D. Harper & Brothers N.Y. (1950) pp 633-34)


February 17, 1826

. . . In the selection of our Law Professor (1) we must be rigorously attentive to his political principles. You will recollect that before the Revolution, Coke Littleton was the universal elementary book of law students, and a sounder Whig never wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties. You remember also that our lawyers were then all Whigs. But when his black-letter text, and uncouth but cunning learning got out of fashion, and the honeyed Mansfieldism of Blackstone became the students' hornbook, from that moment, that profession (the nursery of our Congress) began to slide into toryism, and nearly all the young brood of lawyers now are of that hue. They suppose themselves, indeed, to be Whigs, because they no longer know what Whigism or republicanism means. It is in our seminary that that vestal flame is to be kept alive; it is thence it is to spread anew over our own and the sister States. If we are true and vigilant in our trust, within a dozen or twenty years a majority of our own legislature will be from one school, and many disciples will have carried its doctrines home with them to their several States, and will have leavened thus the whole mass. New York has taken strong ground in vindication of the Constitution; South Carolina had already done the same. Although I was against our leading, I am equally against omitting to follow in the same line, and backing them firmly; and I hope that yourself or some other will mark out the track to be pursued by us.

Footnote:

(1) For the University of Virginia.

Source of Information:

Excerpt of letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, February 17, 1826. The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden. Random House, N.Y. (1993) pp 663.)


1828

I have indulged the hope that provision for religious instruction and observance among students would be made by themselves or their parents and guardians, each contributing to a fund to be applied in remunerating the services of clergymen of denomination corresponding with the preference of contributors. Being altogether voluntary, it would interfere neither with the charastic peculiarity of the University, the consecrated principle of the law, nor the spirit of the country.

Source of Information:

P. A. Bruce, History of the University of Virginia (MacmilMacmillanYork, 1920) II, 370. The American Tradition in Religion and Education, By R. Freeman Butts. Greenwood Press, Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, (1950) p 130

[As rector of the University of Virginia, following Jefferson, James Madison wrote this excerpt in a letter written in 1828. Prior to this a chaplain had never been appointed at the University of Virginia, following this letter, in 1829, one was appointed following the guidelines laid out in the above letter.]