The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Establishment, Part I

In any discussion it is always wise to define terms. When a discussion is historical in nature, those terms must be defined and understood as the people of the period used them.

Researched, edited and assembled by Jim Allison

One excellent tool to use in creating that understanding is the Oxford English Dictionary. Not only does the Oxford English Dictionary list all the possible definitions of any given term, it also cites literary references demonstrating how the term was actually used by writers of different periods beginning with the earliest known usage of the term. Another excellent tool is The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. This handy resource provides a short history of what language a term originally came from and when its changing usages occurred.

To being our discussion of Establishment as it pertains to religious freedom, let's look at some definitions of terms as found in these two references:
Establish v. about 1380 Establishen, to fix, settle, set up; borrowed from Old French Establiss-, stem of establir, from Latin stabilire make stable, from Stabilis STABLE Steady; Establishment n. 1481, a settled arrangement, earlier, property, income (before 1480) Formed from English establish + -ment. The phrase the Establishment, meaning the established church is first recorded in English in 1731.

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. The Origins of American English Words, Robert K. Barnhart, Harper Collins Publishers, (1995) p 253

Respect n. Probably about 1380. Respecte relation, reference, regard, borrowed from Old French Respect, and directly from Latin Respectus (genitive respectus, regard; literally, act of looking back at one, from respect-, past participle stem of respecere look back at, regard, consider (re- back + specere look at). — v. 1548, to regard, consider, take into account, probably from the noun reinforced by middle French respecter look back, delay, respect, and Latin Respectare frequentative form of respicere look back at, regard

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. The Origins of American English Words, Robert K. Barnhart, Harper Collins, (1995) p 657

ing a suffix meaning action, result, product, materials, etc.

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. The Origins of American English Words, Robert K. Barnhart, Harper Collins, (1995) p 387

an meaning not, meaning to, toward, before, meaning being or belonging to.

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. The Origins of American English Words, Robert K. Barnhart, Harper Collins, (1995) p 24

Religion probably before 1200, religion, a religious order or community.

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. The Origins of American English Words, Robert K. Barnhart, Harper Collins, (1995) p 650


Just a general quick listing of head liners from the Oxford English Dictionary under religion prior and up to 1790:

1. a. A state of life bound by monastic vows; the condition of one who is a member of a religious order, esp. in the Roman Catholic Church.
†2. man, etc., of religion, one bound by monastic vows or in holy orders
†c. House, etc. of religion, a religious house, a monastery or nunnery.
2.a. A Particular monastic or religious order or rule.
†a. A religious house
†b. collect. People of religion
†c. A member of a religious order
3.a. Action or conduct indicating a belief in, reverence for, and a desire to please, a divine ruling power; the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this. Religious rites.
†b. A religious duty or obligation
4a. A particular system of faith and worship
†b. The religion. The reformed religion, Protestantism
†c. religion of nature the worship of nature in place of a more formal system of religious belief.

Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 13, Clarendon Press, Oxford. (1989) pp 568-69

There are a few others but I think the point is made. The word had a variety of meanings during that time frame.

The following material is from the Oxford English Dictionary. Only those sections pertinent to legal religious issues have been included. Examples subsequent to 1790 have not been included.

Establishment [dates only to 1790]

establishment (i sta'bltjmant). [f. as prec. -MENT. Cf. OF. establissement (late establishement), Fr. etablissentent.]

I. Action or means of establishing.
1. The action of establishing; the fact of being established: in various senses of the vb.
1596 J NORDEN Progr. Pietie (1847) 117 An establishment of concord amongst ourselves [is] to be sought and be prayed for.
1688 Col. Rec. Penn. 1. 226 That such Sanction and Establishment may be as Effectual and binding as Law.
1739 BUTLER Serm. Wks. (1874) 11. 225 The bare establishment of Christianity in any place is a very important and valuable effect.
1788 W. GORDON (title) History of the rise, progress and establishment of the United States, of America.
2. esp. The 'establishing' by law (a church, religion, form of worship). (See ESTABLISH v. 7.
&134;a. In early use, the settling or ordering in particular manner, the regulating and upholding of the constitution and ordinances the church recognized by the state.
&134;b. 17th-18th c. occasionally the granting of legal status to (other religious bodies than t connected with the state).
c. Now usually, conferring on a particular religious body to position of a state church.
a. 1640-1 LD. DIGBY Sp. in Rushw. Hist. Coll. (1721) IV 172 A Man..that made the Establishment by Law the Measure of his Religion. 1706-7 Act 5 Anne c. 5 Securing Ch. Eng., Acts of Parliament now in Force for the establishment and Preservation of the Church of England
b. 1731 E. CALAMY Life (1830) 1. v. 401 The allowance of the law is of necessity a sufficient establishment [of dissenting worship]. 1792 COKE & MOORE Life Wesley II. IV.(ed. 2) 355 Mr. Wesley's great desire to remain in union with the Church of England would not allow him to apply for legal establishment.
c. 1662-3 Addr. of Commons to King 27 Feb. in Cobbett Parl. Hist.(1808)) IV 262. In time, some prevalent sect will ...contend for an establishment.
1788 PRIESTLEY Lect. Hist v. lvii. 449. There is no place where there are more forms of religion openly professed, and without the establishment of any of them than in Pennsylvania.
1792 BURKE Wks. VI. #18 The perpetual establishment of the confession of faith, and the Presbyterian church government.
&134;3. a. Established or stable condition; settlement, permanence; also, settled condition of mind, calmness, confidence. Obs
1561 T. NORTON Calvin's Inst.1. 15 For it is merueilous, how great establishment groweth hereof.
1641 J JACKSON True Evang. T. III. 228. A succession of three good Princes together doth notably contribute to establishment, and felicity of a Kingdome. a
1674 CLARENDON Hist. Reb. XVI. (1704) III. 603 If God shall be pleased to add Establishment perpetuity to the Blessings he then Restored.
1674 Holy Spirit (1693) Our Permanency and Establishment in the truth.
1777 PRIESTLEY Mart & Spir. (1782) I. Introd. 6 Truth will.. gain a firm establishment in the minds of all men.
&134;b. Manner in which anything is established; 'footing'. Obs.
1799 WELLINGTON in Owen Disp 106 The improved establishment on which he had placed their garrisons.
&134;4. A means of establishing; something that strengthens, supports, or corroborates. Obs.
1561 T. NORTON Calvins's Inst. 1. 17 So many and so notable miracles are even as many establishments of the law.
1581 MARBECK Bk.. of Notes 210 Truth is the piller and establishment of the church.
5 b. Settled income, provision for a livelihood.
1727 SWIFT Gulliver's Travels (1731) 104 His Excellency, who had the sole Disposal of the Emperor's Revenue, might easily provide by gradually lessening your establishment.
1776 GIBBON Decl. & F. I. xviii. 484 For each of these Princes a suitable establishment was provided.
1776 COWPER Wks.(1837) XV. 34 It will afford me some sort of an establishment, at least for a time.
II. Something that is established.
7. a. A settled arrangement; a settled constitution or government. Also, a legal enactment. Obs.
1481. CAXTON Godfrey (E.E.T.S.) 42 Heide a counseyl of the prelates of ytalye at playsance, where he made...establischemens tamende the maners of the Clergye.
1596 SPENSER State Irel. (J ), Bring in that establishment by of which all men should be contained in duty.
1605 VERSTEGAN Dec. Intel]. iii. (1628) 63 Aduanced to the honourable titles of Earls and Lords, With Establishment for the continual remaining of these titles. a
1655 VINES Lord's Supp. (1677) order or establishment.
1714 Not that I would encourage any man to break a wholsom order or establishment.
1714 Fr. Bk. of Rates 5 That so much talk'd of Establishment, call'd the Tariff of 1664.
1793 SMEATON Edystone L. §134 Our establishment respecting of seamen was as follows.
b. spec. in Fr. Hist. (transl. of Fr. etablissement).
1818 HALLAM Mid. Ages (1872) I. 244 When St. Louis enacted that great code which bears the name of his Establishments.
&134;c. The 'estimates' for public expenditure. Obs.
1672 EARL Essex in Essex Papers 31 Aug., Upon the closing of the Establishment for this Kingdome [Ireland], five hundred Pounds a year were reserved with intention that if I should find cause to move the King in behalf of this of City of Dublyn, it should be restored to them agen. . I desire of that I may have an order to insert them [£500] into the Establishment.
8. a. The ecclesiastical system established by a law; more fully Church Establishment. Hence the Establishment often occurs as a distinctive name for the established church (esp. of England, Scotland, formerly Ireland), in contradistinction to the non-established churches or sects.
[1667 J. CORBET Disc. Relig. Eng. 28 The Setling of a Nation may be made up of an Establishment, a Limited Toleration, and a Discreet Connivence, etc.]
1731 E. CALAMY Life (1830) 1. v. 469 There was a variety of sentiments amongst those out of the Establishment, as well as those under it.
1786 W. Pitt in Ld. Stanhope Life (1879) 1. 252 It is certainly a delicate thing to meddle with the Church Establishment in the present situation of Ireland.
1795 J. AIKIN Manchester241 Chaderton contains a chapel of the establishment.

Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 5, Clarendon Press, Oxford. (1989) p 405


7. From 16th c. often used with reference to ecclesiastical ceremonies or organization, and to recognized national church or its religion; in chiefly pass. In sense 2. (esp in phase by law established, i.e. prescribed or settled by law) but sometimes with a mixture of senses 3-5 Hence in recent use: To place (a church or a religious body) in position of a national or state church.

1558 Act I Eliz. C. 2. §27 Laws wherein..any other service is limited, established or set forth to be used within this realm. 1592 Sc. Acts in Parl. Jas. VI, §114 The trew and Halie Kirk, presentlie established within this realme.

1642 King's Protest. 19 Sept. In Rushw. Hist Coll. (1721) V 21, I will . . defend and maintain The True Reformed Protestant Religion established in the Church of England.

1660 Chas II Declar.Eccl. Affairs 25 Oct. 8 The . . esteem we have for the Church of England, as it is established by law. 1731 CALAMY Life (1830) I. i. 73 Opposition to the church by law established.

1731 Swift Presbyterian's Plea Merit Wks, 1776 IV. 260 Which [Presbyterian] sect was . . established in all its forms by .. an ordinance of the lords and commons.

Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 5, Clarendon Press, Oxford. (1989) p 404

established (I'stxbltft), ppl. a. [f. as prec. † -ED'.] In senses of the vb. Established Church: see CHURCH 5 c, and ESTABLISH v. 7. established clerk, servant, etc.: one on the 'establishment', in permanent employ. establishedlist, the list of those in permanent employ.

1642 T. LECHFORD (title) Plain Dealing.. A short view of New-Englands present Government.. compared with the.. Established Government of England.

1672-5 COMBER Comp. Temple (1702) 81 All Establisht Protestant Churches do approve, and use prescribed Forms. 1682 CLAVERHOUSE in M. Morris Life vi. (1888) 93 [The king] was relenting nothing of of maintaining the established government.

1753 SMART Power Supreme Being (R.), Rul'd by establish'd laws and current nature.

1790 BURKE Fr. Rev. 135 We are resolved to keep an established church, an established monarchy, an established aristocracy, and an establisheddemocracy.

Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 5, Clarendon Press, Oxford. (1989) p 404

[5[ c. established church: the church as by law established in any country, as the public or state-recognized form of religion. Chiefly used of the Churches of England and Scotland respectively

1660 Chas. II Decl Eccles. 25 Oct. In Cobbett Parl.Hist. (1808) IV. 135 We need not profess the high affection and esteem we have for the Church of England as it is established by law.

1700-1 Act Settlement, 12 & 13 Will. III, c 2. s. 3 Shall join in Communion with the Church of England as by Law established.

1731 E. CALAMY life (1830) I.1.72 It cannot be said of me that I left the Established Church, because I was never joined to it.

Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 3, Clarendon Press, Oxford. (1989) p 201

Some writers have claimed that the meaning that Sir William Blackstone gave to various words were the meanings that the founders used when they framed the Constitution and later, the Amendments that have become known as the Bill of Rights.

One should consider the following:

Blackstone wrote and published his Commentaries on English Law between 1765-1769.

Blackstone didn't invent the common meaning or common usage of Establish, or Establishment, Respect or respecting, Religion, an, Prohibit or prohibiting, Free, Exercise.

Nor did he invent the common meaning or common usage of the words Christian, Christianity, National. Some of these meanings go back to the 1300's, 1500's, 1600's, and evolved from there.

In the Oxford English Dictionary you can find under Conscience the following

(6) a. Practice of, or conformity to, what is right, equity; regard to the dictates of conscience; conscientiousness. Obs. or arch. 1767 BLACKSTONE, COMM. VOL II, p 328 A... had the legal...possession of the land, but B... was in conscience and equity to have the profits and disposal of it. {In this case one of Blackstone's uses of a term was credited as giving that word at least one of its meanings.]

Under the word Church in the same series of books (Oxford English Dictionary) you will find the following:

b. parish, church, mother church, the cathedral church of a diocese, the original or principle church of a parish: under church, district church.

Under that you will find the following (The first date for the above is given as 1386)

1765-1774 BLACKSTONE, COMM. VOL I, p 112. If any great lord had a church within his own demesnes, distinct from the mother church, in the nature of a private chapel

[Editor's note: In looking through the same series of books (Oxford English Dictionary) I have found no references to BLACKSTONE or his Commentaries under any of the following words: Establish, establishment, respect, respecting, an, thereof, national, religion. There is only the one reference under church, and the section on church is seven pages long and the one reference under conscience.]

Additional information on this matter:

Sources of the Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights Guarantees-----No Establishment of Religion

First Document Protecting-----Rights of the Colonists (Boston)

First American Guarantee-----Same

First Constitutional Guarantee-----N.J. Constitution, Art. XIX

Source of Information:
The Great Rights of Mankind, A History of the American Bill of Rights, by Bernard Schwartz, Expanded edition, Madison House, (1992) pp 198-199)

This examination of the meaning of Establishment is continued in Establishment, Part II

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