Thomas Jefferson Papers

Testimonial for Charles Clay, [15 August 1779]

Testimonial for Charles Clay

[15 August 1779]

Parish of Saint Anne. Albemarle.

The reverend Charles Clay has been many years rector of this parish, and has been particularly known to me. During the whole course of that time his deportment has been exemplary as became a divine, and his attention to parochial duties unexceptionable. In the earliest stage of the present contest with Great Britain, while the clergy of the established church in general took the adverse side, or kept aloof from the cause of their country, he took a decided and active part with his countrymen, and has continued to prove his whiggism unequivocal, and his attachment to the American cause to be sincere and zealous. As he has some thought of leaving us, I feel myself obliged, in compliance with the common duty of bearing witness to the truth when called on, to give this testimonial of his merit, that it may not be altogether unknown to those with whom he may propose to take up his residence. Given under my hand this 15th. day of August 1779.

Th: Jefferson

MS (Mrs. Nannie E. Steele, Cheyenne, Wyo., 1944); photostat in Vi. Entirely in TJ’s hand, this is apparently the copy given to Clay.

It is not known whether Clay left Albemarle co. at this time; according to available records he remained the incumbent of St. Anne’s Parish until 1785, when he transferred to Manchester Parish, Chesterfield co. (Goodwin, Colonial Church in Va., p. 260). Clay had preached the fast-day sermon in Albemarle in July 1774 and the funeral sermon for TJ’s mother in the spring of 1776; TJ organized a subscription for his support after the disestablishment of the Church in 1776, and paid a glowing tribute to Clay’s patriotism (see TJ and John Walker to the Inhabitants of St. Anne’s Parish, under date of 23 July 1774; TJ’s Account Books, 5 Apr. 1777; Subscription to Support a Clergyman in Albemarle County, printed above at end of Feb. 1777). Bishop Meade quotes a fiery passage from one of Clay’s patriotic sermons in 1777 (Old Churches and Families, ii, 49).

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