Thomas Jefferson Papers

85. A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving, 18 June 1779

85. A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that the power of appointing days of public fasting and humiliation, or thanksgiving, throughout this commonwealth, may in the recess of the General Assembly, be exercised by the Governor, or Chief Magistrate, with the advice of the Council;1 and such appointment shall be notified to the public, by a proclamation,2 in which the occasion of the fasting or thanksgiving shall be particularly set forth. Every minister of the gospel3 shall on each day so to be appointed, attend and perform divine service and preach a sermon, or discourse, suited to the occasion, in his church, on pain of forfeiting fifty pounds4 for every failure, not having a reasonable excuse.5

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 59–60. MS (Vi-U); clerk’s copy. MS (DLC) in clerk’s hand, endorsed by TJ: “A Bill Concerning Public Fasts.” On verso is a series of notes in TJ’s hand on the proceedings of the House of Commons on controverted elections. MS (DLC) is referred to below as MS Bill.

Bill was presented by Madison on 31 Oct. 1785 and on 14 Dec. was postponed to the next session; it was brought up at the Oct. 1786 session and was committed to the committee of the whole, 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 , Oct. 1785, 1828 edn., p. 12–15, 92; same, Oct. 1786, p. 16–17).

1Instead of the words “throughout this commonwealth … of the Council” the MS Bill reads: “throughout this State, shall be in the General Assembly during their Sessions, and in their recess, in the Governor or Chief Magistrate for the time being with the advice of the Council.”

2The MS Bill reads: “Resolution of the Assembly or by a Proclamation of the Governor respectively.”

3The MS Bill reads: “Every Episcopal Minister prefer’d to any Parish in one of his Churches and every other Licenced Minister of the Gospel, at one of the meeting Houses at which he is appointed or accustomed to perform divine Service shall‥‥”

4The MS Bill has a blank space at this point.

5The MS Bill adds the following: “one half to the use of the Commonwealth and the other to the Informer, to be recovered with costs by action of debt or information in any Court of Record.”

Index Entries