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arch-persecutor. In few counties have the Baptists been more numerous than in Chesterfield.'

On August 10, 1771, William Webber and John Waller arrived in Middlesex on a course of meetings. That night about nine o'clock, with two others, James Greenwood and Robert Ware, they were lodged in the jail, which swarmed with fleas. They preached the next day, Sunday, in jail; and preached every Wednesday and Sunday to crowds. On the 24th they were taken into court and ordered to give bond for good behavior and not to preach in the county again for one year. On refusing, they were remanded to prison and fed on only bread and water for four days. They were liberated, on giving bond for good behavior, after forty-six days of confinement.

In August, 1772, James Greenwood and William Lovel were preaching in King and Queen county. They were seized, put in jail, kept there for sixteen days, until Court convened, and then discharged on giving bond for good behavior. On March 13, 1774, "the day on which Piscataway Church was constituted,” John Waller, John Shackleford and Robert Ware were imprisoned in Essex county, remaining in jail until Court day, March 21, when Ware and Shackleford gave bond for good behavior for twelve months. Waller refused, was imprisoned fourteen days longer, then gave bond, and went home.**


85 Semple, writing in 1809 the history of the Middle District Association, says on this subject: “ This makes five Baptist churches already mentioned in the county of Chesterfield. And most of them large and respectable. It is worthy of remark, that generally the Baptist cause has flourished most extensively where it met with most severe opposition in the offset. In Chesterfield jail seven preachers were confined for preaching, viz., William Webber, Joseph Anthony, Augustine Eastin, John Weatherford, John Tanner, Jeremiah Walker and David Tinsley. Some were whipped by individuals, several fined. They kept up their persecution after other counties had laid it aside. They have now in the county more than 500 in communion, among whom are four magistrates, two majors, and five captains.” Semple, 207.

Semple, 17.



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About a month later, on the second Saturday in May, 1774, the Association met at Hall's in Halifax county. "Letters were received at the Association from preachers confined in prison, particularly from David Tinsley, then confined in Chesterfield jail. The hearts of the brethren were affected at their sufferings, in consequence of which it was agreed to raise contributions for them. The following resolution was also entered into: “Agreed to set apart the second and third Saturday in June as public fast days in behalf of our poor blind persecutors, and for the releasement of our brethren.'' The effect on the public mind of such fast days so ordered must have been great.

Other similar cases of imprisonment might be cited. Between 1768 and 1775 inclusive, there seem to have been about thirty-four imprisonments. “About thirty of the preachers,” according to Leland, “were honored with a dungeon, and a few others besides. Some of them were imprisoned as often as four times, besides all the mobs and perils they went through. The dragon roared with hideous peals but was not redthe Beast appeared formidable, but was not scarlet-colored. Virginia soil has never been stained with vital blood for conscience sake.” 88


Semple, 56. These radical Baptists did a very curious thing in their Association held in the autumn of this year, 1774. They appointed Samuel Harriss, for the Southern District, and John Waller and Elijah Craig, for the Northern District, “ Apostles” to superintend the churches and report to the next Association. Semple gravely observes: “These Apostles made their report to the next Association rather in discouraging terms, and no others ever were appointed. The judicious reader will quickly discover that this is only the old plan of bishops, etc., under a new name. In the last decision it was agreed that the office of apostles, like that of prophets, was the effect of miraculous inspiration, and did not belong to ordinary times” (p. 59). Thus exit the Baptist “ Apostles,” but the Baptist Church made a narrow escape. The episode illustrates the immense power of the forms of institutions to persist and to compel imitation.

* Leland, Writings, 107. Rev. C. F. James, in his “ Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia ” (see Religious Herald, Jan. 5, 1899, Richmond, Va.), has collected these

Dr. Hawks, the historian of the Episcopal Church, comments thus: “The ministers (says Leland) were imprisoned, and the disciples buffeted. This is but too true. No dissenters in Virginia experienced for a time harsher treatment than did the Baptists. They were beaten and imprisoned; and cruelty taxed its ingenuity to devise new modes of punishment and annoyance. The usual consequences followed; persecution made friends for its victims; and the men who were not permitted to speak in public, found willing auditors in the sympathizing crowds who gathered around the prisons to hear them preach from the grated windows." 30

It is to be observed that these arrests were made on peace warrants. The Baptists contended that this was a subterfuge; that the real persecutor was the Established Church; that there was no law for their arrest; and that they had all the rights of Dissenters in England under the toleration act. A very significant comment upon this claim was made


names in a paragraph, as follows: “In December, 1770, William Webber and Joseph Anthony were imprisoned in Chesterfield jail, and in May, 1774, David Tinsley, Augustine Eastin, John Weatherford, John Tanner, and Jeremiah Walker were imprisoned in the same jail. In Middlesex county, William Webber, John Waller, James Greenwood, and Robert Ware were imprisoned in August, 1771. (Semple, pp. 17, 18.) In Caroline county, Lewis Craig, John Burrus, John Young, Edward Herndon, James Goodrich, and Bartholomew Chewning were imprisoned, but the year is not given. (See Taylor's Virginia Baptist Ministers, vol. i, pp. 81, 82.) In King and Queen county, James Greenwood and William Lovel were imprisoned in August, 1772, and John Waller, John Shackleford, Robert Ware, and Ivison Lewis in March, 1774. (See Semple,

Dr. Taylor, in his sketch of Elijah Craig, says he was imprisoned in Orange county, but does not give the year. According to Taylor's Virginia Baptist Ministers, there were confined in Culpeper jail, at different times, James Ireland, John Corbeley, Elijah Craig, Thomas Ammon, Adam Banks and Thomas Maxfield.”

Dr. G. S. Bailey says “ The father of Henry Clay was thus imprisoned, as a Baptist minister, in Virginia, as I was informed by Rev. Porter Clay, a brother of Henry Clay.” Cf. Trials and Victories of Religious Liberty in America,” p. 40.

** Hawks, Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, p. 121.

P. 22.)



by the House of Delegates in its action in 1778. On November 14 of that year, a petition of Jeremiah Walker, one of the most prominent of the Baptist preachers and at that time in good standing with his people, was presented praying for the reconsideration of " his being taxed with prison charges " for the time he was in jail in Chesterfield county in 1773 and 1774 " for preaching." The petition was referred to the Committee for Religion. On November 20, the Committee brought in a resolution, That the petition of Jeremiah Walker for refunding the value of prison fees levied on him for the time “whilst confined in the jail of Chesterfield county for a breach of the peace," be rejected. The resolution was read, amended, agreed to, and the petition rejected, the House endorsing the view that Walker's offence had been a breach of the peace. This action was taken in the midst of the Revolution when all the help of all the Baptists was needed.

It is to be observed, also, that these persecutions took place chiefly in the older counties, that is, in the counties lying along the great rivers of tidewater Virginia and in the northeastern part of the colony. This is just the country and the society that bred the men who led the Revolution, and we remember that among the staunchest patriots were some who at first were strong for the mother country and for the Mother Church. This is the section of country also in which were found the most worthless as well as some of the best of the ministers of the Established Church. There was, accordingly, a sharp clash of ecclesiastical interests as well as of theological opinions in these parishes. A review of the course of these events, however, renders it exceedingly doubtful if, as a class, the ministers themselves of the Established Church took an active part in the persecutions, though the Baptists believed so." But the


40 Journal of House of Delegates, November 14 and 20, 1778.

Semple, 119, cites the friendly offer of a clergyman of one of the parishes in Caroline to be security for Waller and Craig while in Fredericksburg jail, if they wished to give bond.


Church Establishment, as an institution bound up with the political organization of Virginia society, was largely responsible for them.

Along the mountain border there were but few instances of persecution after the first year or two, and almost none in what were then the southwestern counties, nor any south of James River as a whole, Chesterfield county excepted.

Under such conditions of mind of the Virginia public and of the Baptists themselves, let us see what was the progress made by them, and the causes as well as the results of their growth.

The year 1770 may be taken as the starting point for this examination. In that year, the Separate Baptists of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, after about ten or twelve years “ of joint association meeting, decided to divide and to hold thenceforward their associations in their respective colonies. “... At the commencement of the year 1770," says Semple, "there were but two (three) " Separate churches in all Virginia north of James river; and we may add, there were not more than about four on the south side." In addition to these, in 1770, as we have already seen, there was one church in southeastern Virginia, and the Regular Baptists had ten churches, chiefly in the northeastern part of the colony.

This year, 1770, furnishes also the first petition from the Baptists to the Colonial Legislature for religious relief. The Journal of the House of Burgesses for May 26, 1770, contains “ A petition of several persons, being Protestant dissenters of the Baptist persuasion, whose names are thereunto subscribed, was presented to the House and read, setting forth the inconveniences of compelling their licensed preachers to bear arms under the militia law and to attend musters, by which they are unable to perform the duties

"Backus, History of Baptists of N. E., iii, 274; Bitting, Strawberry Assn., 9, note.

Semple, 47. Compare Semple, pp. II and 25. Semple, 25.

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