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The Rights of the People

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    “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. The first and greatest of all the rights of men is religious right. Religion is the duty which men owe to their Creator, and the manner of discharging it. The first of all duties is to the Creator, because to him we owe bur existence. Therefore the first of all commandments, and the first that there can possibly be, is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord thy God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment.” Mark 12:29, 30.ROP 82.1

    This commandment existed as soon as there was an intelligent creature in the universe; and it will continue to exist as long as there shall continue one intelligent creature in the universe. Nor can a universe full of intelligent creatures modify in any sense the bearing that this commandment has upon any single one, any more than if that single one were the only creature in the universe. For as soon as an intelligent creature exists, he owes his existence to the Creator. And in owing to him his existence, he owes to him the first consideration in all the accompaniments and all the possibilities of existence. Such is the origin, such the nature, and such the measure, of religious right.ROP 82.2

    Did, then, the fathers who laid the foundation of this nation in the rights of the people-did they allow to this right the place and deference among the rights of the people which, according to its inherent importance, is justly its due? That is, Did they leave it sacred and untouched solely between man and his Creator?ROP 82.3

    The logic of the Declaration demanded that they should: for the Declaration says that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Governments, then, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, can never of right exercise any power not delegated by the governed. But religion pertains solely to man’s relation to God, and to the duty which he owes to him as his Creator, and therefore in the nature of things it can never be delegated.ROP 83.1

    It is utterly impossible for any person ever, in any degree, to delegate or transfer to another any relationship or duty, or the exercise of any relationship or duty, which he owes to his Creator. To attempt to do so would be only to deny God and renounce religion, and even then the thing would not be done; for, whatever he might do, his relationship and duty to God would still abide as fully and as firmly as ever.ROP 83.2

    As governments derive their just powers from the governed; as governments cannot justly exercise any power not delegated; and as it is impossible for any person in any way to delegate any power in things religious; it follows conclusively that the Declaration of Independence logically excludes religion in every sense and in every way from the jurisdiction and from the notice of every form of government that has resulted from that Declaration.ROP 83.3

    This is scriptural, too. For to the definition that religion is “the recognition of God as an object of worship, love, and obedience,” the Scripture responds: “It is written, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11, 12.ROP 83.4

    To the statement that religion is “man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God,” the Scripture responds, “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.” Romans 14:22.ROP 84.1

    And to the word that religion is “the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it,” the Scripture still responds, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10.ROP 84.2

    No government can ever account to God for any individual. No man nor any set of men can ever have faith for another. No government will ever stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer even for itself, much less for the people or for any individual. Therefore, no government can ever of right assume any responsibility in any way in any matter of religion.ROP 84.3

    Such is the logic of the Declaration, as well as it is the truth of Holy Writ. But did the fathers who made the nation recognize this and act accordingly?-They did. And the history of this subject runs parallel, step by step, with the history of the subject of the fixing of the civil rights of the people in the supreme law-this history occurred in the same time precisely as did that; it occurred in the same place precisely as did that; it was made by the same identical men who made that history; and ‘the recognition and declaration of this right were made a fixture in the same identical place by the same identical means as was that of the other. This being so makes it impossible to be escaped by anybody who has any respect for the work of those noble master-builders, or for the rights of the people.ROP 84.4

    Let us trace the history of this right of the people through the time which we have traversed in tracing the history of the rights of the people in the abstract.ROP 84.5

    Like the other series of events, this too began in Virginia. While Virginia was yet a Colony and subject to Great Britain, and while the Church of England was the established church of the Colony, the colonial House of Burgesses, June 12, 1776, adopted a Declaration of Rights, composed of sixteen sections, every one of which, in substance, afterward found a place in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The sixteenth section, in part, reads thus:-ROP 84.6

    “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exorcise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.ROP 85.1

    July 4 following, the Declaration of Independence was made, wherein, as we have already seen, this principle is embodied in the statement that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is precisely the view that was taken of it, and the use that was made of the principle as it appeared in the Declaration of Independence, as soon as that Declaration was published to the world. For no sooner was the Declaration published abroad than the Presbytery of Hanover, in Virginia, openly took its stand, with the new and independent nation, and, with the Baptists and Quakers, addressed to the General Assembly of Virginia a memorial reading as follows:-ROP 85.2

    To the Honorable, the, General Assembly of Virginia: The memorial of the Presbytery of Hanover humbly represents: That your memorialists are governed by the same sentiments which have inspired the United States of America, and are determined that nothing in our power and influence shall be wanting to give success to their common cause. We would also represent that dissenters from the Church of England in this country have ever been desirous to conduct themselves as peaceful members of the civil government, for which reason they have hitherto submitted to various ecclesiastical burdens and restrictions that are inconsistent with equal liberty. But now, when the many and grievous oppressions of our mother country have laid this continent under the necessity of casting off the yoke of tyranny, and of forming independent governments upon equitable and liberal foundations, we flatter ourselves that we shall be freed from all the incumbrances which a spirit of domination, prejudice, or bigotry has interwoven with most other political systems. This we are the more strongly encouraged to expect by the Declaration of Rights, so universally applauded for that dignity, firmness, and precision with which it delineates and asserts the privileges of society, and the prerogatives of human nature, and which we embrace as the Magna Charta of our commonwealth, that can never be violated without endangering the grand superstructure it was designed to sustain. Therefore we rely upon this Declaration, as well as the justice of our honorable Legislature, to secure us the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of our own consciences; and we should fall short in our duty to ourselves, and the many and numerous congregations under our care, were we, upon this occasion, to neglect laying before you a statement of the religious grievances under which we have hitherto labored, that they may no longer be continued in our present form of government.ROP 85.3

    “It is well known that in the frontier counties, which are justly supposed to contain a fifth part of the inhabitants of Virginia, the dissenters have borne the heavy burdens of purchasing glebes, building churches, and supporting the established clergy, where there are very few Episcopalians, either to assist in bearing the expense, or to reap the advantage; and that throughout other parts of the country there are also many thousands of zealous friends and defenders of our State who, besides the invidious and disadvantageous restrictions to which they have been subjected, annually pay large taxes to support an establishment from which their consciences and principles oblige them to dissent; all of which are confessedly so many violations of their natural rights, and, in their consequences, a restraint upon freedom of inquiry and private judgment.ROP 86.1

    “In this enlightened age, and in a land where all of every denomination are united in the most strenuous efforts to be free, we hope and expect that our representatives will cheerfully concur in removing every species of religious as well as civil bondage. Certain it is that every argument for civil liberty gains additional strength when applied to liberty in the concerns of religion; and there is no argument in favor of establishing the Christian religion but may be pleaded with equal propriety for establishing the tenets of Mohammed by those who believe the Alcoran; or, if this be not true, it is at least impossible for the magistrate to adjudge the right of preference among the various sects that profess the Christian faith without erecting a claim to infallibility, which would lead us back to the church of rome.ROP 86.2

    “We beg leave farther to represent that religious establishments, are highly injurious to the temporal interests of any community. Without insisting upon the ambition and the arbitrary practices; of those who are favored by the government, of the intriguing, seditious spirit which is commonly excited by this as well as by every other kind of oppression, such establishments greatly retard population, and consequently the progress of arts, sciences, and manufactures. Witness the rapid growth and improvement of the northern provinces compared with this. No one can deny that the more early settlementts and the many superior advantages of our country would have invited multitudes of artificers, mechanics, and other useful members off society to fix their habitation among us, who have either remained im their place of nativity or preferred worse civil governments and æ more barren soil, where they might enjoy the rights of conscience more fully than they had a prospect of doing in this; from which we infer that Virginia might have been now the capital of America, and a match for the British arms, without depending on others for the necessaries of war, had it not been prevented by her religious establishment.ROP 87.1

    “Neither can it be made to appear that the gospel needs any such civil aid. We rather conceive that when our blessed Saviour declares his kingdom is not of this world, he renounces all dependence upon State power, and as his weapons arc spiritual, and were only designed to have influence on the judgment and heart of man, we are persuaded that if mankind were left in quiet possession of their inalienable religious privileges, Christianity, as in the days of the apostles, would continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence, and under the all-disposing providence of God.ROP 87.2

    “We would also humbly represent that the only proper objects of civil government are the happiness and protection of men in the present state of existence, the security of the life, liberty, and property of the citizens, and to restrain the vicious and encourage the virtuous by wholesome laws, equally extending to every individual; but that the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it can only be directed by reason and conviction, and is nowhere cognizably but at the tribunal of the universal Judge.ROP 87.3

    “Therefore we ask no ecclesiastical establishments for ourselves; neither can we approve of them when granted to others. This, indeed, would be giving exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges to one set of men without any special public services, to the common reproach and injury of every other denomination. And for the reason recited, we are induced earnestly to entreat that all laws now in force in this commonwealth which countenance religious denomination may be speedily repealed; that all of every religious sect may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship; exempted from all taxes for the support of any church whatsoever, farther than what may be agreeable to their own private choice or voluntary obligation. This being done, all partial and invidious distinction will be abolished, to the great honor and interest of the State, and every one be left to stand or fall according to his merit, which, can never be the case so long as any one denomination is established in preference to the others.ROP 88.1

    “That the great Sovereign of the universe may inspire you with unanimity, wisdom, and resolution, and bring you to a just determination on all the important concerns before you, is the fervent prayer of your memorialists.”-Baird’s Religion in America, Book III, chap. 3, par. 9-16.ROP 88.2

    The Episcopalian being the established church of Virginia and having been so ever since the planting of the Colony, it was of course only to be expected that the Episcopalians would send up counter-memorials, pleading for a continuance of the system of established religion. But this was not all-the Methodists joined with the Episcopalians in this plan. Two members of the Assembly, Messrs. Pendleton and Nicolas, championed the establishment, and Jefferson espoused the cause of liberty and right. After nearly two months of what Jefferson pronounced the severest contest in which he was ever engaged, the cause of freedom prevailed, and December 6, 1776, the Assembly passed a law repealing all the colonial laws and penalties prejudicial to dissenters, releasing them from any further compulsory contributions to the Episcopal Church, and discontinuing the State support of the Episcopal clergy after January 1, 1777.ROP 88.3

    A motion was then made to levy a general tax for the support of “teachers of the Christian religion,” but it was postponed till a future Assembly. To the next Assembly petitions were sent by the Episcopalians and the Methodists, pleading for the general assessment. But the Presbytery of Hanover, still strongly supported by the Baptists and the Quakers, was again on hand with a memorial, in which it referred to the points previously presented, and then proceeded as follows:-ROP 89.1

    “We would also humbly represent that the only proper objects of civil government are the happiness and protection of men in the present state of existence, the security of the life, liberty, and property of the citizens, and to restrain the vicious and to encourage the virtuous by wholesome laws, equally extending to every individual; but that the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can only be directed by reason and conviction, and is nowhere cognizable but at the tribunal of the universal Judge.ROP 89.2

    “To, illustrate and confirm these assertions, we beg leave to observe that to judge for ourselves, and to engage in the exorcise of religion agreeably to the dictates of our own consciences, is an unalienable right, which, upon the principles on which the gospel was first propagated and the Reformation from popery carried on, can never be transferred to another. Neither does the church of Christ stand in need of a general assessment for its support; and most certain we are that it would be of no advantage but an injury to the society to which we belong; and as every good Christian believes that Christ has ordained a complete system of laws for the government of his kingdom, so we are persuaded that by his providence he will support it to its final consummation. In the fixed belief of this principle, that the kingdom of Christ and the concerns of religion are beyond the limits of civil control, we should act a dishonest, inconsistent part were we to receive any emoluments from human establishments for the support of the gospel.ROP 89.3

    “These things being considered, we hope that we shall be excused for remonstrating against a general assessment for any religious purpose. As the maxims have long been approved, that every servant is to obey his master, and that the hireling is accountable for his conduct to him from whom he receives his wages, in like manner, if the Legislature has any rightful authority over the ministers of the gospel in the exercise of their sacred office, and if it is their duty to levy a maintenance for them as such, then it will follow that they may revive the old establishment in its former extent, or ordain a new one for any sect they may think proper; they are invested with a power not only to determine, but it is incumbent on them to declare, who shall preach, what they shall preach, to whom, when, and in what places they shall preach; or to impose any regulations and restrictions upon religious societies that they may judge expedient. These consequences are so plain as not to be denied, and they are so entirely subversive of religious liberty that if they should take place in Virginia we should be reduced to the melancholy necessity of saying with the apostles in like cases, ‘Judge ye whether it is best to obey God or men,’ and also of acting as they acted.ROP 89.4

    “Therefore, as it is contrary to our principles and interest, and, as we think, subversive of religious liberty, we do again most earnestly entreat that our Legislature would never extend any assessment for religious purposes to us or to the congregations under our care.”-Id., par. 21-23.ROP 90.1

    In 1779, by this memorial, and, more, “by the strenuous efforts of the Baptists,” the bill was defeated, after it had been ordered to the third reading.ROP 90.2

    At this same time in 1779 Jefferson prepared with his own hand and proposed for adoption “as a part of the Revised Code” of Virginia, “An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom,” which ran as follows:-ROP 90.3

    “Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind-free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it; that, though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because, he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with, or differ from, his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt actions against peace and good order; and, finally, that truth is great, and will prevail if to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.ROP 90.4

    Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.ROP 92.1

    “And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable, would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.”-Id., par. 27, note.ROP 93.1

    This proposed law was submitted to the whole people of Virginia for their “deliberate reflection” before the vote should be taken in the General Assembly for its enactment into law as a part of the revised code.ROP 93.2

    From this time forward the war for independence became the all-absorbing question, and this movement for the establishment of “the Christian religion,” was compelled to stand in abeyance until the war had ended. At the first opportunity, however, after peace had come again to the country, the subject was again forced upon the General Assembly of Virginia, in the fall of 1784, by the petitioners, under the lead of “The Protestant Episcopal Church,” for the establishment of “a provision for teachers of the Christian religion.” “Their petitions, favored by Patrick Henry; Harrison, then governor; Pendleton, the chancellor; Richard Henry Lee, and many others of the foremost men, alleged a decay of public morals; and the remedy asked for was a general assessment.”-Bancroft, History of Constitution, Vol. I, p. 213.ROP 93.3

    At this point the Presbyterian clergy swerved and “accepted the measure, provided it should respect every human belief, even ‘of the Mussulman and the Gentoo.’”-Id. The Presbyterian people, however, held fast to the principle. And the Baptists, as ever in those days, “alike ministers and people,“ held steadfastly to the principle and “rejected any alliance with the State.”-Id.ROP 93.4

    Early in the session Patrick Henry introduced a resolution to allow the presentation of a bill in accordance with the wishes of the petitioners. Personally Jefferson was out of the country, being minister to France; but his bill for “Establishing Religious Freedom,” which had been submitted to the people in 1779, was still before them; and, though personally absent, he took a lively interest in the contest, and his pen was busy. His place in the General Assembly was most worthily filled by Madison, as the leader in the cause of religious right. Madison declared against the bill, that-ROP 94.1

    “The assessment bill exceeds the functions of civil authority. The question has been stated as if it were, Is religion necessary? The true question is, Are establishments necessary to religion? And the answer is, They corrupt religion. The difficulty of providing for the support of religion is the result of the war, to be remedied by voluntary association for religious purposes. In the event of a statute for the support of the Christian religion, are the courts of law to decide what is Christianity? and as a consequence, to decide what is orthodoxy and what is heresy? The enforced support of the Christian religion dishonors Christianity.”-Id., p. 214.ROP 94.2

    “Yet, in spite of all opposition, leave to bring in the bill was granted by forty-seven votes against thirty-two”-Id. Accordingly there was introduced “A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion;” which provided a general assessment on all taxable property for the purpose named; that each person as he paid his tax should say to what particular denomination he desired it to be conveyed; and that in all cases wherein persons declined to name any religious society, all such tax received from these was to be turned to the support of schools in the counties of said persons respectively.ROP 94.3

    The bill was successfully carried to the third reading, and was there checked only by a motion to postpone the subject to the next General Assembly, meantime to print the bill and distribute it among the people for their consideration, that their will in the matter might be signified to the next Assembly, which then could act accordingly. “Thus the people of Virginia had before them for their choice the bill of the revised code for ‘Establishing Religious Freedom,’ and the plan of desponding churchmen for supporting religion by a general assessment.”ROP 94.4

    “All the State, from the sea to the mountains and beyond them, was alive with the discussion. Madison, in a remonstrance addressed to the Legislature, embodied all that could be said against the compulsory maintenance of Christianity, and in behalf of religious freedom as a natural right, the glory of Christianity itself, the surest method of supporting religion, and the only way to produce harmony among its several sects.”-Id., p. 215.ROP 95.1

    This noble remonstrance, which “embodied all that could be said” upon the subject, should be ingrained in the minds of the American people to-day; because all that it said then needs to be said now, even with a double emphasis. This masterly document, which on the subject of religious right holds the same high place as does the Declaration of Independence on the subject of rights in general, is here given in full, and runs as follows:-ROP 95.2

    “We, the subscribers, citizens of the said commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration a bill printed by order of the last session of General Assembly, entitled ‘A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,’ and conceiving that the same, if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said bill:-ROP 95.3

    “1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth ‘that religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.’ The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated in their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men. It is unalienable, also, because what is here a right towards men is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of civil society. Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the universe; and if a member of civil society who enters into any subordinate association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority, much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular civil society do it with a saving of his allegiance to the universal Sovereign. We maintain, therefore, that in matters of religion no man’s right is abridged by the institution of civil society, and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists by which any question which may divide a society can be ultimately determined than the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass upon the rights of the minority.ROP 95.4

    “2. Because, if religion is exempt from the authority of the society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the legislative body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited. It is limited with regard to the coordinate departments; more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free government requires not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained, but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great barrier which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by any authority derived from them, and are slaves.ROP 97.1

    “3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment upon 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 freemen 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 threepence only, of his property, for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsover?ROP 97.2

    “4. Because the bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensable in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. ‘If all men are by nature equally free and independent,’ all men are to be considered as entering into society on equal conditions, as relinquishing no more, and, therefore, retaining no less, one than the other, of their natural rights. Above all, are they to be considered as retaining an ‘equal title to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience.’ Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man. To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. As the bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? Can their piety alone be intrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet preëminences over their fellow-citizens, or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.ROP 98.1

    “5. Because the bill implies either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truth, or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the contradictory opinions of rulers in all ages and throughout the world; the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.ROP 98.2

    “6. Because the establishment proposed by the bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world. It is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a religion not invented by human policy must have preexisted and been supported before it was established by human policy. It is, moreover, to weaken in those who profess this religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author, and to foster in those who still reject it a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.ROP 98.3

    “7. Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil polity. Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its teachers depend on the voluntary regard of their flocks-many of them predict its downfall. On which side ought their testimony to have greatest weight-when for, or when against, their interest?ROP 99.1

    “8. Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of civil government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of civil government only as it is a means of supporting religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be necessary to civil government? What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found in established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property, by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another.ROP 99.2

    “9. Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy which, offering an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and religion, promised a luster to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is this bill, of sudden degeneracy! Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of citizens all those whose opinions in religion do not bend to those of the legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other is the last in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer of this cruel scourge in foreign regions, must view the bill as a beacon on our coast warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthrophy, in their due extent, may offer a more certain repose from his troubles.ROP 100.1

    “10. Because it will have a like tendency to banish our citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonored and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.ROP 100.2

    “11. Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the Old World in consequence of vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord by proscribing all differences in religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American theater has exhibited proofs that equal and complete liberty, if it does not wholly, eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If, with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of religious freedom, we know no name which will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the bill has transformed ‘that Christian forbearance, love, and charity,’ which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies which may not be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of law?ROP 100.3

    “12. Because the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false religions, and how small is the former? Does the policy of the bill tend to lessen the disproportion?-No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the region of it, and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of leveling, as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the bill, with an ignoble and unchristian timidity, would circumscribe it with a wall of defense against the encroachments of error.ROP 101.1

    “13. Because attempts to enforce, by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the government, on its general authority?ROP 101.2

    “14. Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens; and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in tins case may be determined, or its influence secured. The people of the respective counties are,’ indeed, ‘requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the bill, to the next session of the Assembly.’ But the representation must be made equal before the voice either of the representatives or of the counties will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.ROP 101.3

    “15. Because, finally, ‘The equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion, according to the dictates of conscience,’ is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the declaration of those rights ‘which pertain to the good people of Virginia as the basis and foundation of government,’ it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather with studied emphasis. Either, then, we must say that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority, and that in the plenitude of that authority they may sweep away all our fundamental rights, or that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred. Either we must say that they may control the freedom of the press, may abolish the trial by jury, may swallow up the executive and judiciary powers of the State; may that they may despoil us of our very rights of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary assembly, or we must say that they have no authority to enact into a law the bill under consideration.ROP 101.4

    “We, the subscribers, say that the General Assembly of this commonwealth have no such authority. And in order that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous as asurpation, we oppose to it this remonstrance, earnestly praying as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may, on the one hand, and their councils from every act which would affront his holy pregative or violate the trust committed to them, and, on the other, side them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing redound to their own praise, and establish more firmly the his liberties, the prosperity, and the happiness of the commonwealth.”-Blakely’s American State Papers, pp 27-38;Two Republics, pp. 687-692.ROP 102.1

    Washington being asked his opinion on the question as it stood in the contest, answered that “no man’s sentiments were more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles” than were his, and further said:-ROP 102.2

    “As the matter now stands, I wish an assessment had never been agitated; and, as it has gone so far, that the bill could die an easy death.”-Bancroft, Hist. Const., Vol. I, p. 215. 8The following passage from Wakeley’s “Anecdotes of the Wesleys,” is also worth recalling in this connection:-
    “Martin Rodda was an English preacher in America during the war, and by incautiously meddling with politics exposed himself to the displeasure of those in power. At a certain time he was brought before General Washington, who asked who he was. Rodda told him he was one of John Wesley’s preachers. ‘Mr. Wesley’, rejoined his excellency. ‘I respect; but Mr. Wesley, I presume never sent you to America to interfere with political maters, but to preach the gospel to the people. Now go and mind your own proper work, and leave politics alone.’”-Anecdote, Washington and Wesley, p. 119.
    ROP 102.3

    The foregoing remonstrance was so thoroughly discussed and so well understood, and the will of the people on the subject was made so plain and emphatic, that “when the Legislature of Virginia assembled, no person was willing to bring forward the Assessment Bill; and it was never heard of more. Out of a hundred and seventeen articles of the revised code which were then reported, Madison selected for; immediate action the one which related to religious freedom [on pages 90-93]. The people of Virginia had held it under deliberation for six years. In December, 1785, it passed the House by a vote of nearly four to one. Attempts in the Senate for amendment produced only insignificant changes in the preamble, and on the 16th of January, 1786, Virginia placed among its status the every words of the original draft by Jefferson, with the, hope that they would endure forever: ‘No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; opinion in matters of religion shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect civil capacities. The rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind.’”-Id., 216.ROP 103.1

    Of this blessed result Madison happily exclaimed:-ROP 103.2

    “Thus in Virginia was extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.”-Id.ROP 103.3

    The effect of this notable contest in Virginia could not possibly be confined to that State; nor was such a thing desired by those who conducted it. It was understood and intended by those who then and there made this contest for religious right, that their labors should extend to all mankind this blessing and this natural right. The benefit of it was immediately felt throughout the country; and “in every other American State oppressive statutes concerning religion fell into disuse, and were gradually repealed.”-Id. This statute of Virgina is the model upon which the clause respecting religious right has been founded in the constitutions of all the States in the Union to this day. In every instance this statute has been embodied in its substance, and often in its very words, in the State constitutions.ROP 103.4

    Nor was this all. It had also “been foreseen that ‘the happy consequences of this grand experiment would not be limited to America.’ The statute of Virginia, translated into French and into Italian, was widely circulated through Europe. A part of the work of ‘the noble army of martyrs’ was done.”-Id. 217.ROP 104.1

    Yet the work of those who accomplished this grand victory was not then fully done, even in their direct efforts relating to their and our own country.ROP 104.2

    As we have seen, this victory was completed January 16, 1786. Just a month before this, December, 1785, the proposition made by Maryland to Virginia to call together commissioners from all the States to consider and “regulate restrictions on commerce for the whole” was laid before the very Legislature which passed the “Bill Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia.” This proposition of Maryland, as we have seen (chapter 2) created the opening, which was instantly seized by Madison, through which to push to successful issue the desire for the creation of the nation by the forming of the Constitution of the United States. And in pushing to successful issue the desire for the creation of a national power, there was carried along, also, and finally fixed in the Constitution of the United States, the same principle of religious right that had been so triumphantly fixed in the code of Virginia.ROP 104.3

    The sole reference to religion in the Constitution as formed by the convention, and submitted to the people, is in the declaration that-ROP 104.4

    “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”ROP 104.5

    The national government being one of delegated powers only, no mention whatever of religion, nor any reference to the subject, in the Constitution, would have totally excluded that subject from the cognizance of the government. And this sole mention that was made of it, was a clear and positive evidence that the makers of the Constitution intended to exclude the subject of religion from the notice of the national power. So the people understood it when the Constitution was submitted to them for their approval. And the assurance of “the perfect liberty of conscience, prevented religious differences from interfering with zeal for a closer union.”-Bancroft, Hist. Const., Vol. II, p. 239.ROP 105.1

    As we have seen, the contest for religious right in Virginia in 1785-86, had awakened a deep interest in the subject in the other States, and when the principle of this natural right had triumphed in Virginia, the effect of it was felt in every other State. And when the Constitution came before them with a clear recognition of the same principle, this was a feature immensely in its favor throughout the country.ROP 105.2

    After five States had ratified the Constitution, “the country from the St. Croix to the St Mary’s now fixed its attention on Massachusetts, whose adverse decision would inevitably involve the defeat of the Constitution.”-Id., p. 258. Massachusetts ratified the Constitution, and in the doing of it she considered this very question of religious right.ROP 105.3

    One member of the convention objected against the proposed Constitution that “there is no provision that men in power should have any religion; a Papist or an infidel is as eligible as Christians.”ROP 105.4

    He was answered by three members, that “no conceivable advantage to the whole will result from a test.”ROP 105.5

    Another objected that “it would be happy for the United States if our public men were to be of those who have a good standing in the church.”ROP 105.6

    To this it was answered that “human tribunals for the consciences of men are impious encroachments upon the prerogatives of God. A religious test, as a qualification for office, would have been a great blemish.”ROP 106.1

    Again it was objected that the absence of a religious test would “open the door to popery and the Inquisition.”ROP 106.2

    And to this it was answered: “In reason and the Holy Scriptures, religion is ever a matter between God and individuals; and therefore no man or men can impose any religious test without invading the essential prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ministers first assumed this power under the Christian name; and then Constantine approved of the practice when he adopted the profession of Christianity as an engine of State policy. And let the history of all nations be searched from that day to this, and it will appear that the imposing of religious tests has been the greatest engine of tyranny in the world.”-Id., pp. 263, 271, and Blakely’s American State Papers, p. 46; Two Republics, pp. 695-6.ROP 106.3

    As the action of Massachusetts, by its example, made sure the adoption of the Constitution; and as this particular point of religious right was specially discussed in that convention; and was decided in favor of the Constitution as it stood with reference to that subject; it is certain from this fact alone, if there were no other, that it was the intent of the Constitution and the makers thereof totally to exclude religion in every way from the notice of the general government.ROP 106.4

    Yet this is not all. In the Virginia Convention objection was made that the Constitution did not fully enough secure religious right, to which Madison, “the Father of the Constitution,” answered:-ROP 106.5

    “There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom.”-Blakely’s American State Papers, p. 44; Two Republics, p. 695.ROP 106.6

    Nor yet was this all. By the people of the United States this was not deemed sufficient. Knowing the inevitable tendency of men in power to fall in love with power, and to give themselves credit for inherent possession of it, and so to assert power that in nowise belongs to them-knowing this, the people of the United States were not satisfied with the silence of the national charter, nor yet with this clear evidence of intention to exclude religion from the notice of the national power; they demanded positive provisions which should, in so many words, prohibit the government of the United States from touching religion. They required that there should be added to the Constitution, articles of the nature of a Bill of Rights; and that religious right should in this be specifically declared. A letter of Jefferson’s dated Paris, February 2, 1788, tells the whole story as to this point; it is therefore here presented:-ROP 107.1

    “Dear Sir: I am glad to learn by letters which come down to the 20th of December, that the new Constitution will undoubtedly be received by a sufficiency of the States to set it a-going. Were I in America, I would advocate it warmly till nine should have adopted, and then as warmly take the other side to convince the remaining four that they ought not to come into it till the declaration of rights is annexed to it; by this means we should secure all the good of it, and procure as respectable an opposition as would induce the accepting States to offer a bill of rights; this would be the happiest turn the thing could take. I fear much the effects of the perpetual reëligibility of the President, but it is not thought of in America, and have, therefore, no prospect of a change of that article; but I own it astonishes me to find such a change wrought in the opinions of our countrymen since I left them, as that three-fourths of them should be contented to live under a system which leaves to their governors the power of taking from them the trial by jury in civil cases, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce, the habeas corpus laws, and of yoking them with a standing army. That is a degeneracy in the principles of liberty to which I had given four centuries instead of four years, but I hope it will all come about.”-Bancroft, Hist. Con., Vol. II, pp. 459, 460.ROP 107.2

    To see how fully this letter stated the case, it is necessary only to read the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These ten amendments were the bill of rights which the people required to be added to the Constitution as it was originally framed. The first Congress under the Constitution met March 4, 1789, and in September of the same year, these ten amendments were adopted. And in the very first of these provisions stands the declaration of the freedom of religious right under the United States Government. Thus it reads:-ROP 107.3

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”ROP 108.1

    Thus the people of the United States, in their own capacity as such, made the supreme law of the land positively and explicitly to declare the total exclusion of religion from any consideration whatever on the part of the national government.ROP 108.2

    Nor was the matter permitted to stand even thus on that question; for in 1797 the treaty with Tripoli was made and signed by President Washington, and approved by the Senate of the United States, in which it is declared that-ROP 108.3

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.”ROP 108.4

    This being a material part of a treaty “made under the authority of the United States,” it thus became a material part of “the supreme law of the land.”-Article VI of the Constitution, par. 2.ROP 108.5

    Such is the history, such the establishment, and such the perfect supremacy of religious right in the United States. Thus, for the people of the United States and for the world, “religion was become avowedly the attribute of man and not of a corporation.”-Bancroft, Hist. Con., Vol. II, p. 325.ROP 108.6

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