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One of the Committee for Religion of this session was Mr. Garrard. This is evidently the same man mentioned by Semple in his history of the Ketocton Association: "In this church arose James Garrard, late Governor of Kentucky. While in Virginia, he was distinguished by his fellow-citizens, and elected to the Assembly and to military appointments.' He was a member also of the General Assembly of 1785, and voted for the bill for Religious Freedom.
The Association met next at Dover meeting-house, Goochland county, in October, 1782. Thirty-two churches were represented. "Finding it . . . considerably wearisome to collect so many from such distant parts, and having already secured their most important civil rights, they determined to hold only one more General Association, and then dividing into districts, to form some plan to keep a standing sentinel for political purposes. . . . . . . . Jeremiah Walker was appointed a delegate to attend the next General Assembly with a memorial and petitions against ecclesiastical oppression." 188 Walker was pastor of the Nottoway Church in Amelia (now Nottoway) county. He seems for some reason to have had several of these petitions sent up as coming from sundry inhabitants of that county.
This determination of the Association to "keep up a standing sentinel for political purposes" shows clearly both that the Baptists themselves were fully conscious that their propaganda contained a powerful political element, and that the public appreciated the fact also.
The Journal of the House of Delegates shows that on November 22, 1782, the Committee for Religion reported favorably on a part of a petition from Amelia county, asking the repeal of that part of the law defining lawful marriage which kept dissenting ministers from marrying people beyond the limits of their own counties-and a bill to that effect was ordered by the House; but reported unfavorably
182 Semple, 315.
on the part of the petition asking for the repeal also of the clause limiting the number of dissenting ministers who were to be licensed in each county to perform the marriage ceremony-and the House agreed to this part of the report
At the spring session of the Legislature in 1783, in response to a petition to authorize marriage by the civil authorities, the House, on May 30, ordered a bill to be brought in for "the relief of settlers on western waters." On June 25, this bill for "marriages in certain cases was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time; it was passed and became a law on June 27. The bill provided that the county courts on the western waters might license sober and discreet laymen" to perform the marriage ceremony in the absence of accessible ministers under certain conditions, and it legalized "all such marriages heretofore made."
On May 30 and 31, memorials of the Baptist Association praying for the repeal of the vestry law and for the repeal and amendment of parts of the marriage act were presented and referred. On June 19, the bill "to amend the several acts concerning marriages" was deferred until October; on June 23 the bill concerning the vestries was likewise deferred until October."
The General Association met for the last time at Dupuy's meeting-house, Powhatan county, on the second Saturday in October, 1783, with thirty-seven delegates present. It was "Resolved, That our General or Annual Association cease, and that a General Committee be instituted, composed of not more than four delegates from each district Association, to meet annually to consider matters that may be for the good of the whole Society, and that the present Association be divided into four districts: Upper and Lower Districts, on each side of the James River. .
134 Hening, xi, 281.
Journal of the House, under respective dates.
Reuben Ford and John Waller were appointed delegates to wait on the General Assembly with a memorial. Then dissolved." 136
On November 6, 1783, "a petition of the ministers and messengers of the several Baptist churches" for repealing or amending existing vestry and marriage laws and asking for religious freedom were presented to the General Assembly and referred to the Committee for Religion. On November 8 a petition came up from Lunenburg county (probably from Episcopalians) asking for "a general and equal contribution for the support of the clergy"; a similar petition from Amherst county was presented on November 27; nothing was done. On November 15, the Committee reported on these petitions, and bills were ordered to be brought in revising the laws as to vestries and election of overseers of the poor and as to marriages. These bills were presented from the Committee for Religion on December 16. No action was taken at this session."
On May 26, 1784, a memorial of the Baptist Association asking relief from the vestry and marriage laws and praying for perfect religious freedom was presented to the General Assembly and referred to the Committee for Religion of which Madison was a member. On June 8, the Committee reported, among other things, "that so much of the memorials from the United Clergy of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia, and the Baptist Association, as prays that the laws regulating the celebration of marriage, and relating to the constitution of vestries, may be altered; and that in general all legal distinctions in favor of any particular religious society may be abolished, is reasonable. That so much of the memorial from the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the United Clergy of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia, as relates to an incorporation of their Societies is reasonable; and that a like incorporation ought to be extended to all other religious Societies within 137 Journal of the House, loc. cit.
this Commonwealth which may apply for the same.' Bills were ordered accordingly.
On June 25, the bill to incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church was put off to the second Monday in November.19
The General Committee met for the first time on Saturday, October 9, 1784, with delegates from four Associations present. William Webber was appointed Moderator, and Reuben Ford, Clerk, and these positions they held, except for a few sessions, till the dissolution of the Committee in 1799. The important articles of their Constitution were: "1. The General Committee shall be composed of delegates sent from all the district Associations that desire to correspond with each other. 2. No Association shall be represented in the general committee by more than four delegates. 3. The Committee thus composed shall consider all the political grievances of the whole Baptist society in Virginia, and all references from the district Associations respecting matters which concern the Baptist society at large. 4. No petition, memorial, or remonstrance shall be presented to the General Assembly from any association in connexion with the General Committee-all things of that kind shall originate with the General Committee." 1 We have here the usual machinery of political party organization with which our people have been familiar for many generations.
The Committee went vigorously to work. They drew up a memorial to the General Assembly for the repeal of the vestry law and for the modification of the marriage law, which they committed to their Clerk, Rev. Reuben Ford, for presentation; and they determined to oppose the proposed laws for a general assessment and for the incorporation of religious societies. The memorial was presented to
Journal of the House, loc. cit.
Journal of the House. Semple, 69-70. Compare this with the note from Thomas cited on p. 32.
the General Assembly, November 11, 1784, and was referred to the Committee for Religion, of which both Madison and Henry were now members. On November 17, the House ordered bills to be brought in regulating the laws as to marriage and the vestries; and ordered also a bill "to incorporate the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church." The House adopted the resolution "that acts ought to pass for the incorporation of all societies of the christian religion, which may apply for the same." Madison voted against it." it.141
The bill amending acts concerning marriage was read the third time on December 16, and sent to the Senate, and soon after became a law. It enacted "that it shall and may be lawful for any ordained minister of the Gospel in regular communion with any society of Christians, and every such minister is hereby authorized to celebrate the rites of matrimony according to the forms of the Church to which he belongs." This put all ministers on the same footing before the law.
On December 28, the Senate passed the bill as amended incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church. By this law each vestry could hold property up to the value of a certain yearly income, could sue and be sued, like any other corporation, and could hold the glebe lands and the churches. This act soon after became an object of bitter
For the present, however, the legislative subject that occupied the Baptists, and others, most engrossingly, was the bill brought in on December 2, read the second time the next day, and re-committed to the Committee of the Whole. It was entitled "A bill establishing a provision for the teachers of the Christian religion." It provided for a general assessment and that all persons should declare, when giving in their taxes, to what denomination they wished their assessments to go. If no such declaration were made,
142 Hening, xi, 503.
See Journal of House.