Thomas Jefferson and John Walker to the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Anne
[Before 23 July 1774]
To the Inhabitants of the parish of Saint Anne.
The members of the late house of Burgesses having taken into their consideration the dangers impending over British America from the hostile invasion of a sister colony, thought proper that it should be recommended to the several parishes in this colony that they set apart some convenient day for fasting, humiliation and prayer devoutly to implore the divine interposition in behalf of an injured and oppressed people; and that the minds of his majesty, his ministers, and parliament, might be inspired with wisdom from above, to avert from us the dangers which threaten our civil rights, and all the evils of civil war. We do therefore recommend to the inhabitants of the parish of Saint Anne that Saturday the 23d instant be by them set apart for the purpose aforesaid, on which day will be prayers and a sermon suited to the occasion by the reverend Mr. Clay at the new church on Hardware river, which place is thought the most centrical to the parishioners in General.
MS not located. Text from Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, “Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends i, 418, who gives no source.
John Walker was TJ’s fellow member from Albemarle in the House of Burgesses. The Parish of St. Anne embraced the southern portion of Albemarle co., and TJ was a vestryman of the parish, “though it does not appear that he ever acted” (Meade, Old Churches and Families, ii, 48–9). TJ’s Autobiography gives this general account of the proceedings in the counties:
“We returned home, and in our several counties invited the clergy to meet assemblies of the people on the 1st of June [actually at various times in June and July], to perform the ceremonies of the day, and to address to them discourses suited to the occasion. The people met generally, with anxiety and alarm in their countenances, and the effect of the day thro’ the whole colony was like a shock of electricity, arousing every man and placing him erect and solidly on his centre.”
Though the document is conjecturally dated in June by Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, “Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends the Albemarle fast day was evidently fixed by TJ and Walker for 23 July, which was a Saturday. The delay was probably more expedient than necessary, for though TJ did not return to Albemarle very promptly after the Williamsburg proceedings, the fixing of the fast on 23 July was very likely owing to a desire to make a strong impression on the popular mind just before the county election on the 26th. Rev. Charles Clay was minister of St. Anne’s parish, 1769–1785; a zealous patriot, he was a lifelong friend of TJ; see Meade, Old Churches and Families, ii, 48–50; Subscription of Feb. 1777, and Testimonial to Clay, 15 Aug. 1779, qq.v.