Thomas Jefferson Papers

Subscription to Support a Clergyman in Charlottesville, [February 1777]

Subscription to Support a Clergyman in Charlottesville

[February 1777]

Whereas by a late act of General assembly freedom of Religious opinion and worship is restored to all, and it is left to the members of each religious society to employ such teachers as they think fit for their own spiritual comfort and instruction, and to maintain the same by their free and voluntary contributions: We the subscribers, professing the most Catholic affection for other religious sectaries who happen to differ from us in points of conscience, yet desirous of encouraging and supporting1 the Calvinistical Reformed2 church, and of deriving to our selves, through the ministry of it’s teachers, the benefits of Gospel knolege and religious improvement; and at the same time of supporting those, who, having been at considerable expence in qualifying themselves by regular education for explaining the holy scriptures, have dedicated their time and labour to the service of the said church; and moreover approving highly the political conduct of the Revd. Charles Clay, who, early rejecting the tyrant and tyranny of Britain, proved his religion genuine by it’s harmony with the liberties of mankind, and, conforming his public prayers to the spirit and the injured rights of his country, ever3 addressed the God of battles for victory to our arms, while others impiously prayed that our enemies might vanquish and overcome us:4 do hereby oblige ourselves our heirs executors and administrators to pay to the said Charles Clay of Albemarle his executors or administrators the several sums affixed to our respective names on the 25th day of December next, and also to make the like annual paiment on the 25th. day of December in every year following until we shall withdraw the same5  or until the legislature shall make other provision for the support of the said Clergy. In Consideration whereof we expect that the said Charles Clay shall perform divine service and preach a sermon in the town of Charlottesville on every 4th. Saturday till the end of the next session of general Assembly and after that on every 4th. Sunday or oftener if a regular rotation with the other churches which shall have put themselves under his cure will admit a more frequent attendance.

And we further mutually agree with each other that we will meet at Charlottesville on the 1st. day of March in the present year and on   in every year following so long as we continue our subscriptions and there make choice by ballot of three Wardens to collect our said subscriptions to take care of such books and vestments as shall be provided for the use of our church to call meetings of our Congregation when necessary and to transmit such other business relating to our said Congregation as we shall hereafter confide to them.

  • February. 1777.6
  • Th: Jefferson, six pounds.7
  • Philip Mazzei sixteen shillings & eight pence
  • Randolph Jefferson two pounds ten shillings
  • Nicholas Lewis three Pounds ten Shillings
  • Saml Taliaferro [Twenty?] Shillings
  • Hastings Marks Twenty Shillings
  • Peter Marks Twenty Five Shillings
  • Richard Gaines ten Shillings
  • Lewis Cradock ten Shillings
  • Edward Butler ten Shillings
  • Benjamin Calvert 10/.
  • Richard Moore 10/.
  • John […] 10-A S Bryan twenty shillings
  • Thos. Garth Fifteen Shillings
  • James Minor Twenty Shillings
  • William Tandy twenty shillings.8
  • Jno Joüet £1.10.
  • Thomas Key 2.0.0
  • Richd. Anderson 2.0.0

MS (MHi); in an unidentified hand, with autograph signatures. This MS was copied almost literatim, but with one important change (see further on in the present note) from another MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 3: 406); the latter MS is in TJ’s hand and contains a shorter list of signatures, all but one of them crossed out (see note 7, below). Thus the TJ MS served as a draft for the present document, but the draft itself had been temporarily used and then rejected because it provided for “Protestant Episcopalian” services (to be held at the same times, conducted by the same clergyman, &c.) instead of the “Calvinistical Reformed” services called for in the present subscription paper.

Each of these documents by itself is puzzling; when considered together, part of the puzzle is solved, but questions still remain. They present, of course, TJ’s own answer to the question left unsettled in the Act for Exempting Dissenters of 1776, i.e., “Whether a general assessment should not be established by law, on every one, to the support of the pastor of his choice; or whether all should be left to voluntary contributions” (TJ’s Autobiography, Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, “Letterpress Edition,” N.Y., 1892–1899 description ends i, 54; see Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 165, and Notes and Proceedings on Discontinuing the Establishment, 11 Oct. to 9 Dec. 1776, in Vol. 1). TJ obviously preferred leaving “all to voluntary contributions” and in his own parish organized the subscription for the support of the Revd. Charles Clay, the friend and patriot who had preached the Albemarle fast-day sermon in July 1774 (see TJ and John Walker to the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Anne, printed above under 23 July 1774; and Testimonial to Clay, 15 Aug. 1779, below). Furthermore, TJ not only pledged the largest sum among the subscribers but continued payments for others as well as himself over several years (Account Books, 9 Mch., 18 Aug. 1778; 28 Apr., 15 Aug. 1779). This, however, does not clear up the question why the subscription was first framed for the support of Protestant Episcopalian services and rejected in favor of one in support of “Calvinistical Reformed” services. Since both papers named the same clergyman, it can only be supposed that Clay in his patriotic ardor proposed to (or temporarily did) withdraw from the Anglican faith in order to enter the Presbyterian or German Reformed ministry. The voluminous record of the later friendship of Clay and TJ throws no light on the episode.

1Deleted in the TJ MS at this point: “a church in our opinion so truly Apostolical as.”

2The TJ MS reads: “Protestant Episcopalian.”

3This word not in the TJ MS.

4The tribute to Clay’s patriotism, from “and moreover approving highly” to this point, was interlined in the TJ MS in a minuscule hand.

5The order of the wording of this passage is different in the TJ MS, but the substance is the same except for an incomplete phrase (“until we shall withdraw our subscription in open ves”) preceding the long blank in the text.

6Date in TJ’s hand.

7The five signatures on the TJ MS are those of Th: Jefferson, Jno. Harvie, Randolph Jefferson, Thos. Garth, and Philip Mazzei. All but that of Harvie, who subscribed “Four pounds” for the support of a Protestant Episcopalian clergyman, are crossed out and reappear, pledged for identical amounts, in the subscription as revised. Harvie’s name, it will be noted, does not reappear, suggesting that some hope was held out for obtaining the services of an Episcopalian as well as a “Calvinistical” clergyman.

8This name and sum are in TJ’s hand.

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