Prince George's Petition

April 16, 2005

I checked, and according to Google this one is not yet on line. Since I wanted to type it in for my own reference, and since it is trival to cut-and-paste from Wordperfect to the blog, I give you the most signed and most distributed petition during the 1785 debate (scroll down to VA) over the Virginia General Assessment (failed) and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (passed.)

Petition copied from Thomas Curry, The End of Christendom, pp 123-4

NOTE - this was written before they invented spelling. I kept the 18th-century spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

Prince George County Petition, November 28, 1785
Petitions can be found in Religious Petitions Presented to the General Assembly of Virginia, 1774-1802 (Virginia State Library, microfilm, 3 vols)

To the Honourable, the Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Delegates The petition of the Inhabitants of Prince George County Humbly Sheweth That whereas it hath pleased your Honourable House to publish a Bill obligeing the Inhabitants of this Common Wealth to pay the Teachers of the christian Religion, and have requested their opinion concerning it; Your petitioners therefore do most earnestly declare against it: believing it to be Contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel, & the Bill [of] Rights. Certain it is, that The Blessed author of our Religion supported & maintained his Gospel in the world for Several hundred years, not only without the aid of civil power, but against all the powers of the Earth. The Excellent purity of its' precepts, & the unblamable Behaviour of its Ministers (with the devine Blessing) made its Way thru all opposition: nor was it better for the church when Constantine first established Christianity by human Law, tho, there was Rest from persecution. But how soon Was the church overrun with Error, Superstition and Immorality. How little were Ministers then like what they were before either in principle or purity? but it is said that Religion is taking it's flight, & that Deism, with it's bainfull Influence is spreading over the State; If so, it must be owing to other causes and Not for want of Religious Establishment. Let your laws punish the Vices and Immoralities of the times, and let there not be wanting such men placed in authority who by their pious Examples shall recommend Religion: & by their Faithfullness shall scurge the Growing Vices of the age: Let Ministers manifest to the World that they are Inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them that office: that they seek the Good of mankind, and not worldly Interest: let Their Doctrine be scriptural & their Lives upright; then shall Religion (if Departed) speedily return, and Deism be put to open shame & it's dreaded Consequencies speedily removed.
But what valuable purpose would such assessment answer? would it Introduce any More useful and faithful Men into the Ministry? Surely not, those whome devine Grace hath called to that work, will esteem it their highest Honour to do his pleasure: on the contrary, it Might call in many Hirelings whose cheif Motive would be temporal Interest. that religious Establishment & Government are Linked together and that the latter cannot stand without he former is soemthing new: Witness the State of pennsylvanie wherein no such Establishment hath ever taken place: Their Government stands firm, & which of the neighbouring States hath better Members, of brighter Morrals & more upright Characters.
That it is against our bill of Rights, which sayes all men by nature are born equally free, so that no person in this Commonwealth shall enjoy exclusive privileges or emoluments, except for services rendered to the state, shall not those then who are not professors of the christian Religion, who are in the state at the passing of this Bill, and others who have been Invited since by the benefit held out, when they shall be obliged to support the Christian Religion, think That such an obligation is a Departure from the Spirit and meaning of it.
Finally, if such Tax is against the Spirit of the Gospel, if Christ for Several Hundred years, not only without the aid of civil power, but against all the powers of Earth and Hell supported it; if Establishment has never been a Means of prospering the Gospel: if no more faithful Men would be introduced into the Ministry by it: if it would not revive decay'd Religion and stop the Growth of Deism: or Serve the purpose of Government: and if against the bill of Rights: which your petitioners believe: they trust the wisdom and uprightness of your Honourable House will leave them Intirely free in Matters of Religion and the manner of supporting its Ministers: and they shall ever pray . . .

Posted by Red Ted at April 16, 2005 12:28 PM | TrackBack