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    Such is the logic of the Declaration as well as the truth of Holy Writ. But did the fathers who made the nation recognize this and act accordingly?-They did. Indeed, the enunciation of this principle in a public document, antedates the Declaration of Independence by about three weeks. For, June 12, 1776, the House of Burgesses of the Colony of Virginia, 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 of that declaration of rights reads in part thus:WIP 4.5

    “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 exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.”WIP 5.1

    Then on July 4 following, came the Declaration of Independence with its notable principle that the Creator has endowed men with certain inalienable rights; and the people accepted and used the Declaration of Independence as having in this principle enunciated the absolute supremacy of religious right. For no sooner was the Declaration published abroad than the Presbytery of Virginia openly took its stand with the new and independent nation; and, with the Baptists and Quakers of that State, addressed to the General Assembly a memorial in which they said in substance, ‘We have now declared ourselves free and independent of Great Britain in all things civil; let us also declare ourselves independent of Great Britain in all things religious.’ This they did because the English Church was still the established religion of the State of Virginia. This excellent people, in their memorial, called for freedom of religion in Virginia, and in so doing said:-WIP 5.2

    “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.... 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....WIP 5.3

    “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.”WIP 5.4

    The result of this memorial was that the Episcopal Church was disestablished in Virginia, dating from Jan. 1, 1777. This was the disestablishment of a particular sect, or denomination. This was no sooner done, however, than a strong movement was made by certain denominations to secure the establishment of “Christianity” as such, without reference to particular sects, under cover of a bill introduced in the General Assembly of Virginia to establish by general tax “the support of teachers of the Christian religion.” This movement was opposed by the same churches, And others who had accomplished the disestablishment of the English Church in Virginia. Accordingly, they presented again a memorial to the General Assembly, repeating much of their former memorial, and adding considerable to it, in which they said:-WIP 6.1

    “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, and security of the life, liberty, and property of the citizens, and lo 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. To illustrate and confirm these assertions, we beg leave to observe that to judge for ourselves and to engage in the exercise of religion agreeable 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.”WIP 6.2

    Jefferson and Madison espoused the cause of religious right, as represented in these memorials. By their efforts, and also the “strenuous efforts of the Baptists,” the “Bill establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,“ was defeated in 1779. Then Jefferson prepared with his own hand, and proposed for adoption is a part of the revised code of Virginia, an “Act for Establishing Religious Freedom,” of which the following is a part:-WIP 6.3

    “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 a 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; ...WIP 7.1

    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 express, 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. 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 rights.”WIP 7.2

    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.WIP 7.3

    By this time the war for independence had become the all-absorbing question, and forced into abeyance the movement for the establishment of “the Christian religion.” At the first opportunity, however, after peace had come to the country, the subject was again forced upon the General Assembly of Virginia in the fall of 1784, by the introduction of the original” Bill, Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion.” 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 question, and his pen was active. His place in the General Assembly was most worthily filled by Madison as a leader in the cause of religious right. Against the bill” establishing the provision for the teaching of the Christian religion, he said:-WIP 7.4

    “The assessment bill exceeds the functions of civil authority. The question has been stated as though 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.”WIP 8.1

    The bill was put upon its third reading and passage, and its opponents succeeded in checking it only by a motion to postpone the subject until the next General Assembly; meanwhile to print the bill and distribute it among the people that their will in the matter might be signified to the next General 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,“WIP 8.2

    “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.”WIP 8.3

    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, and with a double emphasis. I have quoted considerable already; and I know that reading in a public address is always tedious; yet in this case, because these things are so largely forgotten, necessity compels, and I must beg your indulgence. This masterly document on the subject of religious right, holds the same high place as does the Declaration of Independence on the subject of rights in general. The material passages of it I beg you to consider. So I read:-WIP 9.1

    “We, the subscribers, citizens of the 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:-WIP 9.2

    “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, can not 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.WIP 9.3

    “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 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 case, 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 whatsoever?WIP 10.1

    “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 can not 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.WIP 10.2

    “Because the bill implies either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths, 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 throughout the world; the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.WIP 10.3

    “Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had the 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?WIP 10.4

    “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 our 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 philanthropy, in their due extent, may offer a more certain repose from his troubles.WIP 11.1

    “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 can not 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; nay, 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.WIP 11.2

    “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 an usurpation, 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, turn their councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative or violate the trust committed to them; and, on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, redound to their own praise, and establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity, and the happiness of the commonwealth.”WIP 11.3

    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:-WIP 12.1

    “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.”WIP 12.2

    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 one hundred and seventeen articles of the revised code which were then reported, Madison selected for immediate action the one which related to religious freedom. 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 to amend, produced only insignificant changes in the preamble, and on the l6th of January, 1786, Virginia placed among its statutes the very 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 arc’ of the natural rights of mankind.’”WIP 12.3

    Of this blessed result Madison happily explained:-WIP 12.4

    “Thus in Virginia was extinguished forever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human mind.”WIP 12.5

    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.”WIP 12.6

    This statute of Virginia is the model upon which the clause respecting religious right has been framed 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.WIP 13.1

    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.”WIP 13.2

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