James Madison Papers



1For many years everyone interested in the Declaration of Rights, including JM, believed that Mason’s first draft of it was a paper in his hand, bearing the caption, “Copy of the first Daught [sic] by GM.” This paper has been reproduced in facsimile at least twice—once between p. 240 and p. 241 of Vol. I of Kate M. Rowland, Life of George Mason, and again in Virginia Cavalcade, I [1951], 15–18. The copy in the biography, however, omits a few marginal notes by Mason. A transcript of this “first Daught,” made by someone unknown and also lacking those marginal notes, came into the possession of JM and is now among his papers in the Library of Congress. He accepted its caption as bona fide, and in his old age he had his brother-in-law, John C. Payne, who often served as his amanuensis, go through it and mark the variations between its text and that of the draft recommended by the committee to the Convention. This exercise appeared to reveal that the Convention, during its debates on the committee’s draft, struck out many of its alterations of Mason’s “original” and returned in the final version to what he had first proposed. It is now known, however, that the “Copy of the first Daught by GM” was compiled by him in 1778 from his true first draft—of which the article on religion is quoted above—, from the committee’s proposal, and from the draft finally adopted by the Convention (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , I, 235–40). In Mason’s fictitious first draft, the article on religion corresponds in its wording exactly with what the committee proposed to the Convention (q.v.) except that Mason had a “the” before “safety of society,” near the close of the article. On the docket of JM’s copy of Mason’s misleading document, William C. Rives, JM’s first biographer, wrote a fairly lengthy commentary, interesting today as evidence of his unquestioned acceptance of that document as being what it purported to be.

2Unlike Mason’s proposed Declaration of Rights, the article on religion had now been assigned the final place in the document. Furthermore, because the committee added articles to those proposed by Mason, the article on religion had become No. 18, rather than No. 9.

3From this emphasis upon “toleration” only, it is evident that, if JM attempted to have the committee accept his amendment (q.v.), he was unsuccessful.

4JM put a cross above this word, and another cross in the left-hand margin, followed by “suggested by JM & [includes?] clause finally agreed to.” This “clause,” of course, is “all men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise of it [religion].”

5If this had been adopted by the Convention, it would in effect have disestablished the Anglican Church. The proposal serves to make clear that this amendment must have been the earlier of the two amendments, even though both are written on the same sheet with no designation by JM as to which preceded the other.

6By “&c,” JM evidently meant that after “under” should follow the words of the committee’s version—“colour of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of society. And that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, toward each other.”

7Between the words “therefore” and “religion,” the committee’s version reads, “that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of.”

8Between the words “Unless” and this semicolon, the committee’s version reads, “under colour of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness, or safety of society.”

9This second amendment appears to have been introduced in the Convention by Edmund Pendleton (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , I, 247). Julian Boyd in Papers of Jefferson, I, 345 n., states that, probably before 27 May and possibly even before 14 May when Jefferson reached Philadelphia for the meeting of the Second Continental Congress, he had sketched a constitution for his state and sent it to a member of the Virginia Convention. This draft included the guarantee that “All persons shall have full & free liberty of religious opinion, nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious service or institution [but seditious behavior to be punble … by civil magistrate accdg to the laws already made or hereafter to be made]” (ibid., p. 344, brackets are Jefferson’s; see also, pp. 330–31, 364–65 n.). Although Madison may have seen this proposal before he prepared his amendments, he did not need it to convert him to the side of religious freedom. He had been its passionate advocate as early as January 1774 (JM to Bradford, 24 January 1774).

10This final form of “A Declaration of Rights” appeared in the Virginia Gazette (Purdie), “Postscript,” on 14 June 1776, and in the Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Hunter) on 15 June 1776.

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