Thomas Jefferson Papers

83. A Bill for Saving the Property of the Church Heretofore by Law Established, 18 June 1779

83. A Bill for Saving the Property of the Church Heretofore by Law Established

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that the several tracts of Glebe land, the churches, and chapels, the books, vestments, plate and ornaments, all arrears of money and tobacco, and all property real and personal of private donation, which on the seventh day of October, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy six, were vested in any persons whatever for the use of the English church till then established by law, or were due or contracted for, bona fide, on that day, or which since that time have legally become so vested, due, or contracted for, shall be saved in all time to come to the members of the said English church, by whatever denomination they shall henceforth call themselves, who shall be resident within the several parishes as they stood distinguished by metes and bounds on the same day, those of each parish to have the separate and legal property of the said articles belonging to their respective parishes, and to apply them from year to year, by themselves, or by agents to be appointed by themselves as they shall hereafter agree, for and towards the support of their ministry; and that no future change in the form of their church government, ordination of their ministry, or rituals of worship, shall take away or affect the benefit of this saving.

The surviving vestrymen in every parish shall have authority to carry into execution all contracts legally and bona fide made by themselves, or their predecessors, before the first day of January, in the year 1777, and to provide for the payment of all arrears of salaries due to ministers or readers for services performed before that day, by a levy, if they have not already on hand money or tobacco sufficient, and for these purposes may sue or be sued as might have been heretofore where vestries were full.

Where any parish hath been altered in its bounds, the inhabitants thereof shall nevertheless remain liable for their proportionable part of all monies or tobaccoes due, and all contracts legally made, before such division or alteration, to be apportioned on them and levied by the vestry of the respective parish into which they are incorporated by such division or alteration.

And whereas vestries although authorised by law to levy on their parishoners so much only as was sufficient to answer the legal demands on their parish, actually existing, yet frequently levied more, so that there remained on their hands a depositum to be applied to the future uses of their respective parishes, and it may have happened that in some instances such depositums were on hand on the said first day of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy seven, after all legal demands satisfied, which were then existing, or which by this act are made legal; and also debts may have been owing to some parishes, Be it therefore enacted, that such depositums and debts shall be applied to the maintenance of the poor of such parishes, where it hath not already been done, in case of the poor rates to be levied for that purpose in future; and in the case of any such parish since then divided or altered, or lying in different counties, such easement shall be divided and apportioned in the same way as burthens in a like case are herein before directed to be apportioned. But where any parish has no glebe such depositums and debts, or the proportion thereof, belonging to such parish, shall be applied towards purchasing a glebe, the property and application of which shall be in the same persons and for the same uses, and according to the same rules as would have been by the former part of this act, had the said glebe been purchased before the passing hereof.

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 59.

This Bill intended to reenact, in more explicit form, the protective clauses inserted in the Resolutions of 19 Nov. 1776 and in the Act of 1776 for exempting the different societies of dissenters, &c. (see Vol. 1, 530–1; Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 165). Bill No. 83 was first introduced by John Harvie as a separate Bill on 12 June 1779, but on 14 June its second reading was postponed to 1 Aug. Nothing further was done until, on 31 Oct. 1785, Madison presented it along with others of the revisal; it was postponed 14 Dec. to the next session and brought up again on 1 Nov. 1786, but apparently no further action was taken on it (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1779, 1827 edn., p. 34, 44, 46; Oct. 1785, 1828 edn., p. 12–15, 92; Oct. 1786, p. 16–17; see also the Act passed 12 Jan. 1802 “concerning the glebe lands and churches within this commonwealth,” Shepherd, description begins Samuel Shepherd, The Statutes at Large of Virginia, from October Session 1792, to December Session 1806, Inclusive … (New Series,) Being a Continuation of Hening description ends ii, 314).

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