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Thomas, David. Title of his Book
General Baptist Committee Organized, 1784
Marriage Laws and Bill for General Assessment, 1784 74-77
Overseers of the Poor
Bill for Religious Freedom: Leland
The aim kept steadily in view in the following pages is to set forth in all good faith the part played by the Baptists in bringing about Religious Freedom in Virginia; not to give a history of the Baptists themselves. That has been done only in so far as seemed needful to make plain the causes of their sudden rise and the sources of their influence among the people. The description of their political method is, I hope, clear; but that description would have been much more accurate and elaborate, as I believe, had some of the original manuscripts still in existence been accessible. The original petitions now slowly yielding to the tooth of time in the archives of the Virginia State Library would, through the signatures attached to them, have thrown great light upon the political conditions of the counties whence they came, as well as upon the membership of those General Assemblies to which they were addressed and of those which came immediately after. These manuscripts should have been published long ago.
It is hardly probable that I have reached all material now accessible, and I shall be glad of information throwing further light upon the subject; particularly so as I hope hereafter to make yet more plain what was accomplished by the Baptists in comparison with the action of the other denominations in the same struggle for freedom in religious matters.
My work on this subject was practically done before I became aware that the “Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Freedom in Virginia," by Rev. C. F. James, was appearing in the columns of the Religious Herald, and before I could lay my hands on the edition of Semple's History, by Rev. G. W. Beale, whom I hasten to thank for valuable aid in the preparation of the map prefixed to this sketch. I beg to make my acknowledgments also to Prof. H. B. Adams, Dr. J. C. Ballagh, and Mr. T. R. Ball, of the Johns Hopkins University; Prof. C. L. Cocke, of Hollins Institute, Virginia; Dr. J. L. M. Curry, of Washington, D. C.; Hon. A. R. Spofford, and Mr. Hugh Morrison, of the Library of Congress, and Mr. W. W. Scott, of the State Library of Virginia, for aid and courtesies most opportunely extended.
The map illustrating the growth of the Baptists between 1770 and 1776 is distinctly a trial map and does not lay claim to final accuracy. I have reproduced the crude outlines of the old Lewis map in the hope of impressing upon my readers the difference between the Virginia of the Revolutionary times and the Virginia of to-day. In spite of the help of Dr. Beale, I do not feel at all sure that the location of some of the churches is not wrong by many miles. Some of the churches, too, were not actually constituted until after 1776, but they were in process of formation and had their political effect before the end of that year.
Were it the custom of these “Studies," I should have asked permission to dedicate this sketch to my good friends, Professor Charles L. Cocke, Superintendent of Hollins Institute, Virginia, and Dr. J. L. M. Curry, Secretary of the Peabody and Slater Funds, with both of whom it has been my pleasant lot to work in the great field of school instruction, and who, through long and honored lives, have illustrated, the one as the foremost champion of female education in the South, the other as statesman, educator, and the dispenser of a vast educational charity, the highest type of noble Baptist manhood. 1899.
WM. TAYLOR THOM.